The Best Movies of Summer 2018 — IndieWire Critics Survey – IndieWire

David Ehrlich
Aug 27, 2018 3:56 pm
Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics a question pertaining to the contemporary movie landscape.
This week’s question: What was the best movie of the 2018 summer movie season?
The responses have been grouped alphabetically by movie, from “Avengers: Infinity War” at the top to “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” at the bottom.

I have to go with the blockbuster. “Avengers: Infinity War” was the peak movie-going experience of the summer for me. I saw it twice in theaters, and again recently. Like with many films you’ve seen multiple times, I was a bit concerned the spectacle of the film – 10 years in the making, and all that – wasn’t 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 it’s the event of it all. Building a cinematic universe like Marvel did seems impossible looking back on it – in 2008, I was 14 and thought “Iron Man” was cool, sure, but when was the next “Harry Potter” coming out? It may seem like we’ve been slammed with superhero films for the past 10 years, but it feels more gradual to me, and I’ve only come to realize that watching “Infinity War.” Each meeting between superheroes, the ones who’ve met before, and especially the ones who haven’t, 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 Whedon’s “Avengers,” and who made only brief appearances in other films for six years, could have gone terribly. Considering Marvel’s 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, there’s 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 “BlackKklansman?

I don’t know that I’ve ever had a moviegoing experience as transient as that, and certainly never in the summer. The film isn’t content with letting audiences off the hook, and that’s the best kind of revolutionary cinema we could ask for. I know there’s been some controversy between “BlackKklansman” director Spike Lee and “Sorry to Bother You” director Boots Riley, about the former’s depiction of the police and the presentation of facts. I can’t argue with any of that, but I don’t think it should mar the (clearly fictional) actuality of Lee’s film. It is probing, and even if it exists mostly to make white audiences uncomfortable – is that a bad thing? That confrontation is exactly what we need, and exactly what makes the film vital. To me, “BlackKklansman” is not only the movie of the summer, but the movie of the year.
The best film of the summer was Spike Lee’s “BlackKklansman” — 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, he’s really got his mojo working. The movie manages to be entertaining at the same time that it’s provocative and angry. The finale, which brings the themes into modern day with a montage of the white nationalists at Charlottesville and Donald Trump’s 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 can’t stop thinking about, can’t wait to talk about and can’t wait to hear what others think about this summer is “BlacKkKlansman”. Runner up award to “Support the Girls”, which I hope will become a best movie of the fall.
I’m 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 “Blindspotting” or something grand and action-packed like “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”, both the arthouse and the multiplex had plenty to offer. That in mind, it is “BlacKkKlansman” 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 movie has character actors giving movie star performances. It’s 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. “BlacKkKlansman” hit theaters exactly one year after Charlottesville riots for good reason, but that hasn’t 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 bombast I’ve seen this summer, along with the terrific showcase of talents on a smaller scale, “BlacKkKlansman” 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 “Blindspotting.” In a summer that’s seen several movies about the African American experience in 2018, “Blindspotting” 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 – 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 Diggs’ 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 that’s where it should stay.
I’m 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 scene of the summer movie season. The scene in question is the climax of “Blindspotting,” a masterful piece of writing and acting that I can’t get out of my head. It turns a film that’s 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 “I am both pictures” over and over again, and there’s no sign of that stopping anytime soon. It took my breath away then; it’s 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.
“Blindspotting” stands out for me because it exists wholly in the present, and it uses our times to explore a whole lot of issues, whether it’s 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 they’ve 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 2018 summer movie season was filled with many great releases the one which stands out to me is “Blindspotting.” 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 performances that resonated with audiences everywhere.

Confession: When I first heard about “Crazy Rich Asians,” I steeled myself for disappointment. I was doubtful as to whether mainstream audiences—those who were accustomed to white stories, to familiar Caucasian faces—could love a story like Rachel and Nick’s. I’d also heard about the controversy and criticism—Henry Golding’s casting, for example, as well as the (extremely valid) observation of the film’s colorism. Or the possibility that its ostentatious wealth—the lynchpin of the story—might inadvertently otherize Asians as a whole and 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 the future of Asian American films in theaters. (Of course, it’s patently unfair to task one story with paving the way for representation of an entire race (encompassing many ethnicities)—but with narrative scarcity like the kind Asian Americans have had in mainstream media, this film undeniably carried a particular gravitas.) It’s an unfortunate reality that financial success is Hollywood’s choice indicator of quality, and with a film that meant as much as “Crazy Rich Asians,” I was afraid that the worst would happen: that no one would care at all.
I’ve never been more ecstatic to be wrong. At the mere sight of an Asian face onscreen, I felt a surprising swell of emotion. I hadn’t realized how starved I was for representation—how long I’d waited for a face like mine onscreen, and not as a sidekick or a caricature, but a lead role. It’s also just a damn good movie: Funny, romantic, and full of heart. And while I understand the emphasis placed on two Asian romantic leads and the conscious defiance of Asian male emasculation, my personal favorite relationship is not between Constance Wu’s and Henry Golding’s characters, but between Wu’s and Michelle Yeoh’s. (I confess, the heterosexual romance relegated to secondary importance in favor of a more complex relationship between two women is a favorite trope of mine.) I haven’t seen an onscreen moment as thrilling as the pivotal scene, in which Rachel confronts Eleanor, the powerful matriarch, over a game of mahjong. Tiles clacking rapidly, Rachel deliberately gives Eleanor the winning game piece, and with it, her son’s future, knowing that her deliberate loss means more than her victory. As she explains in her opening lecture: She doesn’t 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: Over this story, and over all the stories whose futures hang in the balance. So many of the film’s stars have cheerfully asserted in an effort to market the film broadly that the themes of the movie transcend race, that they are universal, but I’m inclined to argue the opposite: 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: “Custody” (Xavier Legrand), “Hereditary” (Ari Aster), “Leave No Trace” (Debra Granik), “Eighth Grade” (Bo Burnham)…too many to count. But I will go with Jon M. Chu’s box-office hit “Crazy Rich Asians” 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 don’t need to make a distinction between “Best” and “Popular” films.
Sheer spectacle and deeper social value meet in “Crazy Rich Asians,” 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.
“Eighth Grade” is the best movie of the summer because what is summer without a nightmare of a pool party! It’s an electric, heartbreaking watch that definitely stands the test of time – but there’s something in the heat of the sun, the chlorine of the swimming pool, the mall’s air conditioning and Kayla’s ever so slightly melted eyeliner that makes it beam brighter than all other movies of Summer 2018.
Two words: “Eighth Grade.” 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. It’s 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, it’s 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 “Eighth Grade” instead.
I’m sure I won’t be alone in bestowing my Film of the Summer honors to Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade”. A film so beautiful I’ve been campaigning for its international distribution ever since I saw it for the first time back in June, there’s glitter in the veins of this incredibly assured debut, and I stand firm in my belief that it’s required viewing for everyone who’s ever been a teenage girl, or indeed known one.

Anchored by Elsie Fisher’s incredibly mature performance as the achingly average Kayla Day, “Eighth Grade” is remarkable because it celebrates the fact it’s perfectly fine to not Be Somebody. It’s okay to not get thousands of views on your Youtube videos, it’s okay to not know how to talk to boys, or to be into card games as well as Instagram. Burnham doesn’t 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).
There’s something so present about the film – 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 Burnham’s film doesn’t dress it up to be glamorous in a way that many YA genre staples do. Instead, he’s more interested in the minutiae of the world when you’re growing up, and how those formative years don’t have to be everything. It’s okay to be messy, it’s okay to not like yourself and not have the answers. That’s a message I didn’t get until I was long out of my teens, and I think if I’d seen this film when I was 14, maybe I would have been a little bit more confident not being confident. We’re all a little bit Kayla Day inside, and “Eighth Grade” is the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug from someone who’s happy as long as you’re happy. Pure summertime joy.
Between “Madeline’s Madeline,” “First Reformed,” and mother freaking “Crazy Rich Asians,” 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 Burnham’s “Eighth Grade.” As I said on Twitter, it’s 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, I’m obsessed with the screen door Kayla couldn’t open, forcing her to awkwardly wedge herself through it—if that exact same horror didn’t befall upon me as a tween, a similar one must have). The pitch perfect scene in the car where Kayla’s 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. “Eighth Grade” 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 Burnham’s directorial debut took viewers back to an awkward and stressful time in their lives. “Eighth Grade” 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 film’s authenticity. She’s able to embody the natural qualities and insecurities experienced at that age – 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 it’s hard to watch at times, “Eighth Grade” 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, it’s the perfect film to cap off your summer.
Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” 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 I’m excited to see where her career will take her.
Burnham’s 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. Special mention to the entirety of the wonderfully wholesome chicken nuggets scene shared between Kayla and new friend Gabe, I haven’t 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 ‘homosapiens will not outlive this century’ Schrader, whose bracing “First Reformed” weaponizes a world-weary priest to underline our troubled times. His fascination with the tortured protagonist found in “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” and “Taxi Driver” continues, as Reverend Ernst Toller confronts both the political climate and, well, the climate climate that planet Earth seems mired to. It’s an age-old rumination: “If God exists, how can there be so much suffering in this world?” Try as he might, Toller can’t 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. Chekhov’s gun becomes Chekhov’s suicide vest. Throughout, “First Reformed” 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. It’s 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 that’s Hawke’s doing. But the nihilistic note thudding away for almost two hours is silver-lined. At “First Reformed”’s 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: “First Reformed.” No single movie I’ve 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 Schrader’s meditation of martyrdom and what we do to the planet, in turn, and ourselves.
I guess technically “First Reformed” 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 character’s behalf, but on the audience’s. They find hope? Opiate of the masses.
In a much less bleak universe lives “Cielo,” a documentary/portrait of the heavens as seen from Chile’s Atacama Desert, and the people who live beneath it. “Cielo” is no less humbled by the enormity of existence than “First Reformed,” but remains much more optimistic. “We are invited to a party in the sky,” a teacher says, paraphrasing the words of spirit animals. “An ant doesn’t know it lives on a planet,” an astronomer observes.

Speaking of ants, the best wide-release movie of the summer, and probably the year, is “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Those perspective shots are pure cinema. Not that I remember a single moment of the plot — they are trying to prevent something from blowing up? They are always trying to prevent something from blowing up — but I recall my state of mind emerging from the pure Soma Holiday I took while in this picture’s two hour ambient glow. A pure amygdala massage and at such low prices.
Decidedly not summery in its tone or setting, Paul Schrader’s masterful “First Reformed” nevertheless has haunted me throughout these summer months. St John of the Cross once described the experience of a “dark night of the soul,” a state of spiritual despair in the face of God’s apparent absence (though such a night may ultimately lead to enlightenment and transcendence). Being both a pastor-theologian and a film critic, I think “First Reformed” may have triggered just such a dark night in my own soul–I paradoxically feel both more intimacy and more distance from God since viewing it. Schrader’s first full utilization of the transcendental style he wrote about back in 1972, “First Reformed” is deliberately quiet and slow-paced, an approach which wracks up the suspense and dread until the batshit crazy final moments. I can’t 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 “Hearts Beat Loud.”  Keegan DeWitt’s contributions on the music front combined with Kiersey Clemons’ powerful voice made for a 1-2 combo punch.  I can go on and on all day be it Nick Offerman’s performance, getting Ted Danson behind the bar again, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, etc.  The fact is, when all is said and done, this is Brett Haley’s musical masterpiece.
For me, the best movie of the summer was Ari Aster’s breathtaking “Hereditary.” 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 patient–and thereby terrifyingly revealing–framing. And on top of all Aster’s mindful menace, there’s 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, “Hereditary” 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, “Hereditary” is blunt and brutal, and it’s 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, Aster’s film is relatable for the familial and gender dynamics — for the decisions that each male and female lead must live with. Like all challenging movies, it’s easy to diminish “Hereditary” by taking a reductive approach. Meaning, some can’t see beyond the horror formula, while others focus on the big twist and gory images. But just as I’ll always connect Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” to a specific time and place (because it was that memorable), I’ll never forget experiencing “Hereditary” in the early summer of 2018 (technically, late spring).
“Hereditary” 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.
It’s too early for the best of anything but never too soon to cite the season’s greatest astonishment, with an asterisk: “Madeline’s Madeline” more comprehensively reimagines the very essence of movies—image, sound, performance, and their dramatic implications—than anything I’ve seen in quite a while. The asterisk is that I saw it early in the year, around the time of its Sundance première; 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 “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, 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 “Sorry to Bother You”, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, and “BlacKkKlansman”. But where else can we recognize “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, if not in a poll of best summer movies? No movie this season typified “summer movie” more than this, and more, it IS summer.

With it’s sun-drenched locale and “free-spirited young woman having lots of sex while backpacking through Europe” story, watching “Mammia Mia!” is a getaway in itself. I did not have more fun at the movies in summer 2018 than I did at “Mamma Mia!”. Sure, “Avengers: Infinity” traumatised everyone and “Mission: Impossible” delivered on spectacle, but “Mamma Mia!” provided the most FANTASY. It’s 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 “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” as the best movie of the summer.
The best summer movie of 2018 was ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go again!’. It’s fun, it’s 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 what’s ended up being an exceptionally strong summer. So I’m going to take this opportunity to go to bat for my biggest surprise: “Minding the Gap.” How do I even begin to sum up the impact of this documentary? That it’s like watching multiple “7 Up” 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 wasn’t 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 don’t have access to one of its limited theatrical screenings, you can watch it *right now* on Hulu? It’s not often you stumble on a movie that you can honestly call a miracle, but “Minding the Gap” is one.
The best movie to come out this summer is also the best movie I’ve seen in 2018 (so far), and it’s now available on Hulu: “Minding the Gap.” 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 “Minding the Gap,” I had no idea what to say. It’s extremely difficult to explain what “Minding the Gap” is or what it’s about, and it’s especially difficult to accomplish this without making the movie seem like it’s about skateboarding (which would have been a total non-starter for TCFF’s older-skewing audience). Here’s the first sentence I eventually went with: “Some films evoke so much, getting so close to the core of the human condition, that they defy description.”

This is all a way of saying that I still haven’t really figured out how to talk about this movie in a way that does it justice. There is a lot of skateboarding, but it’s used, both visually and aurally, in a beautiful, meditative way. In plain terms, “Minding the Gap” 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 James’ docu-series “America to Me”), later that night at a party, and what we thought would just be a quick “We loved your film” 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. It’s 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 that’s kind of the point, because no other film would have prompted such an evening.
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