Every week, IndieWireÂ asks a select handful of film critics a question pertaining to the contemporary movie landscape.
This weekâs question: What was the best movie of the 2018 summer movie season?
The responses have been grouped alphabetically by movie, from âAvengers: Infinity Warâ at the top to âWonât You Be My Neighbor?â at the bottom.
I have to go with the blockbuster. âAvengers: Infinity Warâ was the peak movie-going experience of the summer for me. I saw it twice in theaters, and again recently. Like with many films youâve seen multiple times, I was a bit concerned the spectacle of the film â 10 years in the making, and all that â wasnât there on third viewings and beyond. But it was, and I was just as excited to see Tony Stark and Doctor Strange exchange verbal warfare, the Guardians misfit their way around other superheroes, and Thor, Groot, and Rocket stick their landing in Wakanda as I was the first time watching it.
Maybe itâs the event of it all. Building a cinematic universe like Marvel did seems impossible looking back on it â in 2008, I was 14 and thought âIron Manâ was cool, sure, but when was the next âHarry Potterâ coming out? It may seem like weâve been slammed with superhero films for the past 10 years, but it feels more gradual to me, and Iâve only come to realize that watching âInfinity War.â Each meeting between superheroes, the ones whoâve met before, and especially the ones who havenât, felt organic. Though some of the story structure had an odd pace to it, with more action than time for characters to really engage with each other, it never slows down, and never feels boring.
But the biggest achievement, aside from fitting in 20-some odd characters, was Thanos. A character first introduced in the end credit scene of Joss Whedonâs âAvengers,â and who made only brief appearances in other films for six years, could have gone terribly. Considering Marvelâs history of subpar villains, this was a legitimate concern. Josh Brolin brought a giant CGI villain to life, though. His story with Gamora, the one part that might suffer a little from his six years behind the scenes, still managed elicit some genuine emotion. Of course, thereâs also the ending, the one that proved that though the nature of comic book stories demands an infinite series of resurrections, the spectacle, though quiet in the moment, is still a sight to behold.
Has anything else this summer plunged so deeply into our psyche as âBlackKklansman?
I donât know that Iâve ever had a moviegoing experience as transient as that, and certainly never in the summer. The film isnât content with letting audiences off the hook, and thatâs the best kind of revolutionary cinema we could ask for. I know thereâs been some controversy between âBlackKklansmanâ director Spike Lee and âSorry to Bother Youâ director Boots Riley, about the formerâs depiction of the police and the presentation of facts. I canât argue with any of that, but I donât think it should mar the (clearly fictional) actuality of Leeâs film. It is probing, and even if it exists mostly to make white audiences uncomfortable â is that a bad thing? That confrontation is exactly what we need, and exactly what makes the film vital. To me, âBlackKklansmanâ is not only the movie of the summer, but the movie of the year.
The best film of the summer was Spike Leeâs âBlackKklansmanâ â a gripping and urgent look at racism in America, told through the prism of an amazing true story about a black cop who infiltrated the KKK. Spike has had a fascinating career, turning out some true masterpieces and some ambitious failures. This time, heâs really got his mojo working. The movie manages to be entertaining at the same time that itâs provocative and angry. The finale, which brings the themes into modern day with a montage of the white nationalists at Charlottesville and Donald Trumpâs seeming embrace of them, delivers one of those gut-punch moments that send you out of the theater reeling. Being unmoved by this film is virtually impossible.
The only film I canât stop thinking about, canât wait to talk about and canât wait to hear what others think about this summer is âBlacKkKlansmanâ. Runner up award to âSupport the Girlsâ, which I hope will become a best movie of the fall.
Iâm happy to have such a strong lineup of films to choose from when considering the best movie of the summer. Whether landing on something smaller and relatable such as âBlindspottingâ or something grand and action-packed like âMission: Impossible â Falloutâ, both the arthouse and the multiplex had plenty to offer. That in mind, it is âBlacKkKlansmanâ that ultimately fits everything I want in a summer movie. The film is funny, bold, and incredibly well-crafted entertainment. It deals with sobering drama but has plenty of mainstream appeal. The movieÂ has character actors giving movie star performances. Itâs a big and loud film where that level of volume is used to say something about American culture.
This feature may not have death-defying stunts that involve jumping out of planes, but Spike Lee pulls off his own sort of stunt in embracing the high concept premise of a black man infiltrating the KKK in the 1970s, and making the film work as a way to easily comment on America today. âBlacKkKlansmanâ hit theaters exactlyÂ one year after Charlottesville riots for good reason, but that hasnât stopped the film from working on a level that speaks to the fun people can have in the movie theaters, even if they end up leaving with a bit of a gut punch, as they step back into reality, once the film ends. For all the enjoyable bombastÂ Iâve seen this summer, along with the terrific showcase of talents on a smaller scale, âBlacKkKlansmanâ was my most anticipated film of the summer and it very handily delivered.
The best movie of the summer (and right now my current best of the year) remains âBlindspotting.â In a summer thatâs seen several movies about the African American experience in 2018, âBlindspottingâ looks at so many in a fluid, lyrical way. Not only does it examine the stereotyping of black people in the U.S., but it also blossoms out to looking at the blending of appearance with culture, the boundaries of identity, and the increasing gentrification of California â specifically, Oakland in this case. I still think about individual scenes from this movie, from the argument between best friends Colin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal) to Diggsâ harsh, powerful speech in verse at the finale. Even small moments, like a flashback to a bar fight pop up in my head. This movie burrows into your bones and thatâs where it should stay.
Iâm going to cheat, just a little, and break one title away from the cluster of films that have crawled under my skin this summer, because that great film has the single best sceneÂ of the summer movie season. The scene in question is the climax of âBlindspotting,â a masterful piece of writing and acting that I canât get out of my head. It turns a film thatâs already blending buddy comedy, terse drama, and sharp-edged social commentary into something blooms from the cracks between poetry and music. I have thought about Daveed Diggs crying out âI am both picturesâ over and over again, and thereâs no sign of that stopping anytime soon. It took my breath away then; itâs doing the same thing now. There were some memorable films this summer, great films, but this is the one, thanks to that scene, that simply will not let me be.
âBlindspottingâ stands out for me because it exists wholly in the present, and it uses our times to explore a whole lot of issues, whether itâs race, class, gentrification, police brutality, the prison system, and how art affects our ability to cope with difficulties. Throughout, Miles and Collin are mostly there for each other, but this feels less like a testament to their bond than how theyâve both been driven to extremes from the pressures they face. The fact that this movie comes off as wish fulfillment is also a statement in itself at how they both (especially Daveed Diggs) represent voices who have been sidelined and silenced.
While the 2018Â summer movie season was filled with many great releases the one which stands out to me is âBlindspotting.â The film is a scintillating unapologetic look at the splintering of American culture as it strips the identities of inner-city families replacing them with gross generalizations. Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs are powerful on-screen delivering haunting performancesÂ that resonated with audiences everywhere.
Confession: When I first heard about âCrazy Rich Asians,â I steeled myself for disappointment. I was doubtful as to whether mainstreamÂ audiencesâthose who were accustomed to white stories, to familiar Caucasian facesâcould love a story like Rachel and Nickâs. Iâd alsoÂ heard about the controversy and criticismâHenry Goldingâs casting, for example, as well as the (extremely valid) observation of the filmâsÂ colorism. Or the possibility that its ostentatious wealthâthe lynchpin of the storyâmight inadvertently otherize Asians as a whole andÂ bolster the model minority myth.
Or perhaps a much more banal failure, a box office bomb. Countless films bomb every year, but only this failure would spell defeat for theÂ future of Asian American films in theaters. (Of course, itâs patently unfair to task one story with paving the way for representation of anÂ entire race (encompassing many ethnicities)âbut with narrative scarcity like the kind Asian Americans have had in mainstream media,Â this film undeniably carried a particular gravitas.) Itâs an unfortunate reality that financial success is Hollywoodâs choice indicator ofÂ quality, and with a film that meant as much as âCrazy Rich Asians,â I was afraid that the worst would happen: that no one would care atÂ all.
Iâve never been more ecstatic to be wrong. At the mere sight of an Asian face onscreen, I felt a surprising swell of emotion. I hadnâtÂ realized how starved I was for representationâhow long Iâd waited for a face like mine onscreen, and not as a sidekick or a caricature,Â but a lead role. Itâs also just a damn good movie: Funny, romantic, and full of heart. And while I understand the emphasis placed onÂ two Asian romantic leads and the conscious defiance of Asian male emasculation, my personal favorite relationship is not betweenÂ Constance Wuâs and Henry Goldingâs characters, but between Wuâs and Michelle Yeohâs. (I confess, the heterosexual romance relegatedÂ to secondary importance in favor of a more complex relationship between two women is a favorite trope of mine.) I havenât seen anÂ onscreen moment as thrilling as the pivotal scene, in which Rachel confronts Eleanor, the powerful matriarch, over a game of mahjong.Â Tiles clacking rapidly, Rachel deliberately gives Eleanor the winning game piece, and with it, her sonâs future, knowing that her deliberateÂ loss means more than her victory. As she explains in her opening lecture: She doesnât play not to lose. She plays to win.
As I left the theater, I realized that my initial malaise was, much like any tiger mother, not disappointment, but intense protectiveness:Â Over this story, and over all the stories whose futures hang in the balance. So many of the filmâs stars have cheerfully asserted in an effortÂ to market the film broadly that the themes of the movie transcend race, that they are universal, but Iâm inclined to argue the opposite:Â This is a movie grounded in race, and it is all the better for it.
Some of my favorite movies of the year so far have been released during the summer months: âCustodyâ (Xavier Legrand), âHereditaryâ (Ari Aster), âLeave No Traceâ (Debra Granik), âEighth Gradeâ (Bo Burnham)âŠtoo many to count. But I will go with Jon M. Chuâs box-office hit âCrazy Rich Asiansâ as the movie of this summer. Not only this generously textured, big-hearted rom-com injected some much-needed new blood into a neglected genre, but it also affirmed (yet again) that the audiences will actually pay to see diversity on screen, along with another fact that should be obvious: we donât need to make a distinction between âBestâ and âPopularâ films.
Sheer spectacle and deeper social value meet in âCrazy Rich Asians,â a solid romantic comedy with opulent production design and a throughly excellent cast. The movie works because it takes genre tropes it acknowledges as familiar and adds new perspective amidst bounding enthusiasm, rendering it keenly aware of its own context and placement, but wholly uncynical in its respect for the audience. It all makes for a rollickingly good time at the movies, and hopefully, its success means that Hollywood is closer to turning the page from its historically tepid portrayals of Asian characters and stories.
âEighth Gradeâ is the best movie of the summer because what is summer without a nightmare of a pool party! Itâs an electric, heartbreaking watch that definitely stands the test of time â but thereâs something in the heat of the sun, the chlorine of the swimming pool, the mallâs air conditioning and Kaylaâs ever so slightly melted eyeliner that makes it beam brighter than all other movies of Summer 2018.
Two words:Â âEighth Grade.â Two more words: pool parties. Why in the world does any sane parent allow their kids to be subjected to such traumatizing festivities every summer? Bo Burnham perfectly captures the skin-crawling, self-esteem-busting nightmare that is middle school, from the terrorizing mean girls to the stupefying crushes. Itâs the best movie of the summer (and one of the best of the year) for its ability to tap into a universal experience of adolescence with such honesty and relatable humor. But mainly, itâs that damn pool party scene, and how well it evokes the embarrassing awkwardness of my own pre-teen swims. Petition to cancel all future pool parties and host screenings of âEighth Gradeâ instead.
Iâm sure I wonât be alone in bestowing my Film of the Summer honors to Bo Burnhamâs âEighth Gradeâ. A film so beautiful Iâve been campaigning for its international distribution ever since I saw it for the first time back in June, thereâs glitter in the veins of this incredibly assured debut, and I stand firm in my belief that itâs required viewing for everyone whoâs ever been a teenage girl, or indeed known one.
Anchored by Elsie Fisherâs incredibly mature performance as the achingly average Kayla Day, âEighth Gradeâ is remarkable because it celebrates the fact itâs perfectly fine to not Be Somebody. Itâs okay to not get thousands of views on your Youtube videos, itâs okay to not know how to talk to boys, or to be into card games as well as Instagram. Burnham doesnât cast any judgments over the current fads and fascinates of teenagers today, instead wryly reminding the viewer of all things they were into at 14-years-old (for me it was emo music and Myspace).
Thereâs something so present about the film â it bubbles with energy, it wants so desperately to take you by the hand and lead you into this remarkable, secret world. Being a teenager really sucks for most of us, and Burnhamâs film doesnât dress it up to be glamorous in a way that many YA genre staples do. Instead, heâs more interested in the minutiae of the world when youâre growing up, and how those formative years donât have to be everything. Itâs okay to be messy, itâs okay to not like yourself and not have the answers. Thatâs a message I didnât get until I was long out of my teens, and I think if Iâd seen this film when I was 14, maybe I would have been a little bit more confident not being confident. Weâre all a little bit Kayla Day inside, and âEighth Gradeâ is the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug from someone whoâs happy as long as youâre happy. Pure summertime joy.
Between âMadelineâs Madeline,â âFirst Reformed,â and mother freaking âCrazy Rich Asians,â it was a remarkable summer at the movies. All of those films are likely to end up on my Best of 2018 list, but the film that moved me most was Bo Burnhamâs âEighth Grade.â As I said on Twitter, itâs like Burnham was granted three wishes from a genie and one was to perfectly channel the inner life of a 13-year-old girl. His other wish was to cast the most natural child actress ever (Elsie Fisher) to play the part. His 3rd wish? To get a heartbreakingly tender and dad-jokey Josh Hamilton to play the father.
So many scenes stick out for me: The near horror film of that pool party (for some reason, Iâm obsessed with the screen door Kayla couldnât open, forcing her to awkwardly wedge herself through itâif that exact same horror didnât befall upon me as a tween, a similar one must have). The pitch perfect scene in the car where Kaylaâs dad needs to stop driving while having that face on his face. The aggressively peppy self-help videos Kayla was posting, really for herself, as she had virtually no viewers. And so on. That the film inspired pangs of extreme identification from so many people, especially women, is a testament to its brilliance. âEighth Gradeâ is very much about this one achingly awkward girl and her doting father. But in its granular specificity, Burnham found the universal.
This summer, Bo Burnhamâs directorial debut took viewers back to an awkward and stressful time in their lives. âEighth Gradeâ is fresh in writing and direction, and honest and authentic in its portrayals. Burnham ends the era of teen movies where adults play teenagers with perfect skin, perfect figures. Elsie Fisher as Kayla only elevates the filmâs authenticity. Sheâs able to embody the natural qualities and insecurities experienced at that age â because she is a teenager. Her performance is one of the best of the year. She captures the awkward teenage self-consciousness in a raw and affecting way. Burnham created a film that stands out because it manages to remain relevant to audiences of any age, not just pertaining to that one year in middle school, but relevant to a culture that continues into adulthood. A culture with the same pressures to fit a certain standard and a culture of trying to impress others. While itâs hard to watch at times, âEighth Gradeâ is also such a mood boost. It has the perfect amount of comedic moments and reminds audiences of the importance of self-worth. With back-to-school season underway, itâs the perfect film to cap off your summer.
Bo Burnhamâs âEighth Gradeâ stands out as the film of the summer for me, a perfectly crafted examination of how excruciating life as a growing teenager can be. It excels in depicting a youth culture so bound up in social media and online personas without adding a lingering sense of judgement, instead highlighting precisely how similar we have all been to a character like Kayla (regardless of our access to technology as kids). The need to fit in and to belong in your environment is a painfully universal one, and Burnham has a keen eye for this world of anxiety and self-doubt. Elsie Fisher is also exceptional as Kayla and Iâm excited to see where her career will take her.
Burnhamâs comedic prowess is appropriately contained in the film, allowing for a bittersweet humour to shine throughout rather than selective crude laughs. It is a delicate and considerate film that allows us to re-live the traumas of adolescence in the most cathartic way, and an impressive debut from a new filmmaker.Â Special mention to the entirety of the wonderfully wholesome chicken nuggets scene shared between Kayla and new friend Gabe, I havenât stopped thinking or talking about it since I saw the film.
Between Jason Statham brawling a shark and dino franchises jumping the shark, the last few months on the big screen have provided a welcome distraction from the unrelenting horror of current affairs. Here to remind you that, nope, everything is still awful with our world is Paul âhomosapiens will not outlive this centuryâ Schrader, whose bracing âFirst Reformedâ weaponizes a world-weary priest to underline our troubled times. His fascination with the tortured protagonist found in âMishima: A Life in Four Chaptersâ and âTaxi Driverâ continues, as Reverend Ernst Toller confronts both the political climate and, well, the climate climate that planet Earth seems mired to. Itâs an age-old rumination: âIf God exists, how can there be so much suffering in this world?â Try as he might, Toller canât come up with the answers.
Dry diary entries eventually approach the pessimistic ramblings of a madman. Radio silence gives way to a foreboding non-diegetic drone. Chekhovâs gun becomes Chekhovâs suicide vest. Throughout, âFirst Reformedâ relays to us the headspace of its priest as he fails to reconcile with the commercialisation of his religious values, and the world at large. Itâs apt that, in a cinematic landscape where CGI superheroes biff each other every other week, here special effects emerge in the fleeting form of tacky green screen. Perhaps thatâs Hawkeâs doing. But the nihilistic note thudding away for almost two hours is silver-lined. At âFirst Reformedââs forefront is the symbiotic relationship between hope and despair, epitomised in its deliciously ambiguous ending. Summer is coming to a close, and our world is still in pain: Schrader is pleading with us to take action.
The best movie of the 2018 movie season is also the best movie of 2018: âFirst Reformed.â No single movie Iâve seen this year has been as thrilling and heartrending in equal measure. Rarely has a week, let alone a day, gone by this hot, hot summer without thinking about or parsing through Schraderâs meditation of martyrdom and what we do to the planet, in turn, and ourselves.
I guess technically âFirst Reformedâ is a summer movie. Even though when I think about it I get a chill. I can hear the crunch of frozen soil with each step that film makes toward our own self-assured destruction. Some say the last shot of the film is a moment of hope. I tend to think it is delusion, not on the characterâs behalf, but on the audienceâs. They find hope? Opiate of the masses.
In a much less bleak universe lives âCielo,â a documentary/portrait of the heavens as seen from Chileâs Atacama Desert, and the people who live beneath it. âCieloâ is no less humbled by the enormity of existence than âFirst Reformed,â but remains much more optimistic. âWe are invited to a party in the sky,â a teacher says, paraphrasing the words of spirit animals. âAn ant doesnât know it lives on a planet,â an astronomer observes.
Speaking of ants, the best wide-release movie of the summer, and probably the year, is âAnt-Man and the Wasp.â Those perspective shots are pure cinema. Not that I remember a single moment of the plot â they are trying to prevent something from blowing up? They are always trying to prevent something from blowing up â but I recall my state of mind emerging from the pure Soma Holiday I took while in this pictureâs two hour ambient glow. A pure amygdala massage and at such low prices.
Decidedly not summery in its tone or setting, Paul Schraderâs masterful âFirst Reformedâ nevertheless has haunted me throughout these summer months. St John of the Cross once described the experience of a âdark night of the soul,â a state of spiritual despair in the face of Godâs apparent absence (though such a night may ultimately lead to enlightenment and transcendence). Being both a pastor-theologian and a film critic, I think âFirst Reformedâ may have triggered just such a dark night in my own soulâI paradoxically feel both more intimacy and more distance from God since viewing it. Schraderâs first full utilization of the transcendental style he wrote about back in 1972, âFirst Reformedâ is deliberately quiet and slow-paced, an approach which wracks up the suspense and dread until the batshit crazy final moments. I canât get some of the images out of my mind, nor can I shake the feeling that God somehow spoke to me through it. I only wish I knew what the divine was trying to say.
The best movie of the summer was âHearts Beat Loud.âÂ Keegan DeWittâs contributions on the music front combined with Kiersey Clemonsâ powerful voice made for a 1-2 combo punch.Â I can go on and on all day be it Nick Offermanâs performance, getting Ted Danson behind the bar again, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, etc.Â The fact is, when all is said and done, this is Brett Haleyâs musical masterpiece.
For me, the best movie of the summer was Ari Asterâs breathtaking âHereditary.â It begins as a ruthless family drama, bringing into sharp focus the more harrowing elements we might pass down to the next generation. Then, as the tension ratchets up to a point where I felt physically ill, more identifiable horror elements are woven in, building sickening scares out of disturbing visuals nestled within patientâand thereby terrifyingly revealingâframing. And on top of all Asterâs mindful menace, thereâs Toni Collette, delivering the performance of an already storied career. As Annie, she is a fount of raw emotion, channeling grief and rage so purely that her glare pierces through the screen and into our very souls.
Aster and Collette gave us a terror that felt fresh yet familiar, reveals that caused lung-burning gasps of alarm, images that kept us up at night, and full-body chills even in the heat of summer. They gave us a modern horror marvel.
During the summer 2018 movie season, âHereditaryâ stands out as the most unique and fulfilling theatrical experience. In short, director Ari Aster delivers across the board, whereas many other filmmakers were primarily hyped for a narrative message rather than their cinematic form and directorial polish. On the surface, âHereditaryâ is blunt and brutal, and itâs the pacing and framing that punctuates each sequence, leaving the viewer feeling awkward and claustrophobic but still anxious to see where the narrative goes (at least in my experience).
On a deeper level, Asterâs film is relatable for the familial and gender dynamics â for the decisions that each male and female lead must live with. Like all challenging movies, itâs easy to diminish âHereditaryâ by taking a reductive approach. Meaning, some canât see beyond the horror formula, while others focus on the big twist and gory images. But just as Iâll always connect Darren Aronofskyâs âmother!â to a specific time and place (because it was that memorable), Iâll never forget experiencing âHereditaryâ in the early summer of 2018 (technically, late spring).
âHereditaryâ may not immediately lead one to think about 2018 society, but it will hold up over time as a challenging and finely-crafted motion picture.
Itâs too early for the best of anything but never too soon to cite the seasonâs greatest astonishment, with an asterisk: âMadelineâs Madelineâ more comprehensively reimagines the very essence of moviesâimage, sound, performance, and their dramatic implicationsâthan anything Iâve seen in quite a while. The asterisk is that I saw it early in the year, around the time of its Sundance premiĂšre; the astonishment of its theatrical release is doubled inasmuch as, on a second viewing, it yielded new wonders without dispelling the shock of earlier ones.
The best movie of summer 2018 is âMamma Mia! Here We Go Againâ, and yes, I AM SERIOUS. Look, this was a great summer at the movies, with films delivering on every level from documentaries to blockbusters. And many of these films we will be talking about all year and into award season, so there will be plenty of time to recognize films like âSorry to Bother Youâ, âWonât You Be My Neighbor?â, and âBlacKkKlansmanâ. But where else can we recognize âMamma Mia! Here We Go Againâ, if not in a poll of best summer movies? No movie this season typified âsummer movieâ more than this, and more, it IS summer.
With itâs sun-drenched locale and âfree-spirited young woman having lots of sex while backpacking through Europeâ story, watching âMammia Mia!â is a getaway in itself. I did not have more fun at the movies in summer 2018 than I did at âMamma Mia!â. Sure, âAvengers: Infinityâ traumatised everyone and âMission: Impossibleâ delivered on spectacle, but âMamma Mia!â provided the most FANTASY. Itâs got spectacular costumes, the weirdest dance numbers set to just the most awful music, and a cast of extremely attractive people jaunting extremely attractively around a Mediterranean paradise. And so it is with a completely straight face that I proclaim âMamma Mia! Here We Go Againâ as the best movie of the summer.
The best summer movie of 2018 was âMamma Mia! Here We Go again!â. Itâs fun, itâs light, it has a great narrative structure, amazing musical numbers, and it could have not been released in any other season.
I expect my esteemed colleagues will make eloquent and passionate recommendations for all my favorite major releases of whatâs ended up being an exceptionally strong summer. So Iâm going to take this opportunity to go to bat for my biggest surprise: âMinding the Gap.â How do I even begin to sum up the impact of this documentary? That itâs like watching multiple â7 Upâ movies at once, but the documentarian is one of the kids? That by the time you reach the most perfect end credits needle drop imaginable, the cumulative emotional power is almost unbearable?
That there are skateboarding sequences that seem almost supernatural in their demonstration of the poetic catharsis of movement (which I say as a lifelong skate video agnostic)? That a guy who wasnât able to buy beer when he started working on this movie has now announced himself as one of the most exceptional documentarians around? How about all of that, plus the fact that if you donât have access to one of its limited theatrical screenings, you can watch it *right now* on Hulu? Itâs not often you stumble on a movie that you can honestly call a miracle, but âMinding the Gapâ is one.
The best movie to come out this summer is also the best movie Iâve seen in 2018 (so far), and itâs now available on Hulu: âMinding the Gap.â I first saw this revelatory documentary at Sundance, and then again a few weeks ago when I took my girlfriend, Karin, to see it at the Traverse City Film Festival (where it promptly turned her into a sobbing mess). I was working for TCFF, and one of my many jobs was to write a lot of the film descriptions for the festival catalog and website. When it came to writing the blurb for âMinding the Gap,â I had no idea what to say. Itâs extremely difficult to explain what âMinding the Gapâ is or what itâs about, and itâs especially difficult to accomplish this without making the movie seem like itâs about skateboarding (which would have been a total non-starter for TCFFâs older-skewing audience). Hereâs the first sentence I eventually went with: âSome films evoke so much, getting so close to the core of the human condition, that they defy description.â
This is all a way of saying that I still havenât really figured out how to talk about this movie in a way that does it justice. There is a lot of skateboarding, but itâs used, both visually and aurally, in a beautiful, meditative way.Â In plain terms, âMinding the Gapâ is about a filmmaker who goes back to his rust belt hometown and makes a documentary about the lives of his two friends that he bonded with over their mutual love of skateboarding, examining how all three of them suffered from crippling home lives that have affected their hopes and dreams to this day. In un-plain terms, Minding the Gap is a decade-long chronicle of three young men, basically set up by circumstance to be outcasts, but all still trying their best to lead lives they can find hope and meaning in.
Karin and I ended up meeting the director, Bing Liu (whose work you can also see on Steve Jamesâ docu-series âAmerica to Meâ), later that night at a party, and what we thought would just be a quick âWe loved your filmâ meet and greet slowly evolved into the three of us (and two other friends) drinking together into the wee hours of the morning, with everyone spilling their emotional baggage about parents, relationships, and adulthood. Itâs now a little difficult for me to separate the film itself from the night Karin and I spent talking to Bing, but I also think thatâs kind of the point, because no other film would have prompted such an evening.