A Halfway There Checklist: The Best of the Year So Far

2018 saw me begin my thirtieth orbit around the sun in the sort of anniversary that weighs heavily on the spirit. This was preceded by a seismic shift in my day-in-day-out routine, where the necrotic dullness of my previous job has been replaced, now by a new cast of professionals that have kept me adequately on my toes. The ennui that mounted during the winter months, on the marrow-petrifying cold Chicago days that somehow would still pervade the month of June, have been more difficult to shake; unhappiness and listlessness still ooze through my pores as I attempt to find more energy to make the best of every day.

It’s been in the exceptional films of 2018 that I’ve managed to find a measure of solace and compassion. The best films of 2018 often spoke directly to my personal existential crisis, frequently providing me with a keener appreciation for my time on planet Earth. Optimism, in our current climate, may not be in vogue, but it’s a vanity that must persist if I’m going to survive. It’s a comment that I’m paraphrasing by Amanda Seyfried in Paul Schrader’s major new work, First Reformed, that lingers in my mind most: I may share all your beliefs of doom, but I cannot share your despair. Every hour need not be the darkest hour.

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Previewing the Chicago Critics Film Festival

Last year I was invited to join the rank and file of the Chicago Film Critics Association. As a Chicago-based quote unquote film critic, it is literally the highest distinction of its kind. I mean that mostly as a compliment. Or at least I try to think of it as such; I won’t deny that I get a certain measure of pride in seeing my name along a litany of other critics that I admire like Angelica Jade Bastien, Adam Kempenaar, Scott Tobias, and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. It’s my self-effacing nature to wonder how I figure within the group. But for now, I’ll enjoy the perks and privileges that I frankly never imagined would have been afforded to me.

I’ve covered the Chicago Critics Film Festival as an audience member, member of the press, and now, in its sixth year, as a fellow critic. Over the past five years, the festival has screened the likes of James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour, Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, and Kogonada’s Columbus. These films, by filmmakers of limited stroke and cache, were major personal discoveries and provided Chicago audiences with an early glimpse into some of the more notable titles to come out of Tribeca, Sundance, and other American film festivals.

This year’s programming includes some especially intriguing titles like Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls, David and Nathan Zellner’s Damsel, and Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. However, my most highly anticipated title is Paul Schrader’s new film, First Reformed, with the filmmaker in attendance for a post-Q&A session.

Below you’ll find links to select reviews of titles, updated throughout the duration of the festival. For schedule and ticketing information, refer to the Music Box website here.