There’s a near-consensus among critics that 2018 was an unusually strong year for film, and I can’t disagree. My list for the year is heavily tilted to the 4-star and above, even with some glaring gaps in the mix – I missed BlacKKKlansman, for instance; I’m waiting to see Roma screened at the Castro in 70 mm, like the cinephile tool I am; I didn’t see the new Claire Denis, or the new Andrew Bujalski, or the new Hang Sang-soo, or the new Frederick Wiseman.
Increasingly, our mainstream cinema seems consumed with the act of storytelling itself. We can add American Animals to a list that already includes recent films as different as I, Tonya and Bisbee ‘17. This inward turn is nothing new for the avant-garde and the art-house, long characterized, from Bergman to Godard to Kiarostami, by the foregrounding of artifice.