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Brennan Tilley's Best of 2018

"In a year that I traveled to four festival, juried two others and programmed for three in Calgary I lost track of how many great movies I had the pleasure of seeing.  As the year winds down, these 15 films encapsulate 2018 for me.  I was going to arrange both my features and shorts lists alphabetically this year but that would have downplayed how much I love my top two features." - Brennan Tilley  

They select the movies for the Calgary International Film Festival, and now our team of programmers share their Top 10 films of 2018. Still not sure what films you need to catch up on from the past year? Take it from our curators – these are films that you'll want to seek out as we say goodbye to the year that was 2018.

SHORTS PROGRAMMER, BRENNAN TILLEY SHARES HIS TOP FILMS OF 2018

Feature Films

1. THUNDER ROAD (Jim Cummings)

The THUNDER ROAD short from 2016 was the first in string of films from Cummings that I adore and return to over and over.  For anyone that talks films with me there was no suspense as to my pick for #1 film of the year.  I remain in awe of the masterful blending of tone. There are laughs throughout while also delivering emotional gut punches right up to its conclusion.  It is the pinnacle of contemporary American cinema.

THUNDER ROAD was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

2. MINDING THE GAP (Bing Liu) 

Even amongst such a stellar crop, MINDING THE GAP stands apart as my favourite doc of the year.  It belongs in the conversation of films that altered what documentaries can be along with films such as Robert Drew's PRIMARY, Ross McElwee's SHERMAN'S MARCH and Errol Morris' THE THIN BLUE LINE.  The beautiful skateboarding sequences are characterized by fluidity and inertia. These two concepts remain in the fore as the documentary slides through time and topics such as racial identity, abuse, skateboarding, and friendship while showing how difficult it is to fully depart from the paths each person is on. MINDING THE GAP celebrates exuberant escapism while also driving its subjects and the audience to face raw truths.

3. BORDER (Ali Abassi)

The most surprising omission from any of the Academy Award shortlists announced mid-December was Border not garnering a spot for Foreign Language Film.  It did, however, score much-deserved consideration as one of seven films in the running for Makeup and Hairstyling. It is a genre-bending blend of romance, crime, family drama, and Nordic folklore. 

4. MANDY (Panos Cosmatos)

I knew that Cosmatos directing Nicolas Cage would lead to a film that exists in a realm beyond what I could imagine.  It is akin to the most pleasurable nightmare I have ever had.  A knock-knock joke that arguably lost its relevance before I was born is the only anchor to reality.

5. EIGHTH GRADE (Bo Burnham)

In making my list I wanted to compile the set of films that represent the year in film for me.  There were many contenders for this final slot but ultimately I decided to go with the film that is so distinctly 2018.  Much of the film is about a specific time in one’s life.  At the same time, it is also about a very specific time in history.  It is a story that is so of the moment it could not come from any other year.

Short Films

1. ALLEN ANDERS: LIVE AT THE COMEDY CASTLE - Circa 1987 (Laura Moss) 

Finally, a film that captures how I REALLY feel about Mondays
Watch on Vimeo

ALLEN ANDERS was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

2. BROTHERHOOD (Meryam Joobeur) 

The story of a family reunited that packs a wallop as it is revealed that there are more secrets than anyone realizes.

Brotherhood (2018) Teaser from Travelling distribution on Vimeo.

3. CAROLINE (Logan George and Celine Held) 

Another film with a connection to my Best of 2016.  Co-director Logan George starred in SETH, one of the comedic high points of the year.  The team of George and Held had a great 2018, also releasing BABS and its companion piece BRINGING BABS HOME.  CAROLINE won some impressive awards and is on Oscar shortlist but I paused to consider if I prefer BRINGING BABS HOME.  The pair’s Sundance-selected LOCKDOWN continues their hot streak into 2019.

CAROLINE was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

4. FAUVE (Jérémy Comte) 

The winner of our Jury Award for Best Overall Short. Praise for this film is effusive and varied.  It is a simple but terrifying story that each person identifies with differently.  It is a film that can be discussed and rewatched through a new perspective over and over.

FAUVE was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

5. MOTHER (Rodrigo Sorogoyen)

A parent’s nightmare escalating to a nearly unbearable level.  The only film on this list that I have not rewatched as the first viewing has stuck with me so strongly I want to leave the experience untouched.

6. MY EX-GIRLFRIEND IS A SHOVEL (Dezi Gallegos) 

Starting with a humorous premise, the film becomes a fresh take on how people process the end of a relationship.

MY EX-GIRLFRIEND IS A SHOVEL was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

7. ONE SMALL STEP (Bobby Pontillas and Andrew Chesworth)

A family film with undeniable charm.  It brims with heart and hope.

ONE SMALL STEP was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

8. PEGGY (Justin O’Neal Miller)

This film is a true joy to watch with an audience.  My view of the titular character has evolved through repeated viewings leading me to discover how rich of a portrait it is.  Winner of our Award for Audience Favourite, Narrative Short.  Through some sort of magic, I do not think I have heard of anyone not loving it.

PEGGY was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

9. PRINCE'S TALE (Jamie Miller) 

A  gorgeously composed portrait of an artist expressing his passion for performance.  Prince Amponsah is empowered by his ability to find self-expression, serving as an example to all on how to deal with hardship on one's own terms.  I was deeply moved by an inspiring story strikingly captured.

PRINCE'S TALE was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

10. T.R.A.P. (Manque La Banca)

No other film in 2018 caught me off-guard with its narrative twists and turns like T.R.A.P. did.  It is rare to find a film so heavy on both style and substance. Even though I almost certainly am still missing some of the political commentary within, I was engrossed in the ride.

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Read more of our yearly recap from our programming team! Here's the best of 2018 from Artistic Director, Brian Owens.

What’s next for Calgary Film? Check out our January 9 Doc Soup screening of THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET. Tickets on sale now!  

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