The Yearly Cinematic Celebration Begins with David Ehrlich's Top 25

As always, Indiewire's senior film critic manages to stay on brand and still offer a few end-of-the-year shockers.

Ehrich Top Countdown
David Ehrlich

Hey guys, it’s David Ehrlich back with another video. For the last several years, we’ve used these artful compilations of the 25 best films (according to IndieWire’s senior critic) as a means to kickstart our brains into the required end-of-the-year formulations. Depending on how many films align with our own viewing pleasure can either be encouraging or send us into a frantic scramble to cram more cinema into our eyes before January strikes.

Elsie Fisher from Eighth Grade acts as Ehrlich’s avatar, tapping into the void and nervously seeking appraisal and validation from Film Twitter. Tell me something good. After these 13 minutes, you’ll come away believing in the redemptive power of cinema. Headphones are recommended.

Lady Gaga and Queen dominate Ehrlich’s playlist this year. Of course, he’s keeping it hardcore and wading out far from the shallow by including A Star Is Born amongst 2018’s superior cinema. Bradley Cooper’s film will no doubt be featured prominently on many critics’ Best-Of listicles and will consume the Academy Award conversation going forward.

Ehrlich’s use of Freddie Mercury’s voice feels a little more malicious. He called Bohemian Rhapsody “abysmal” in his review and the killer splicing of that titular song to images from movies Bryan Singer couldn’t possibly concoct on his best day is a vicious dig. Queen are masters of their art, and Ehrlich displays throughout his countdown how their audible power can be used for the better. The opening lines of “Is this the real life?/Is this just fantasy?/Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality” set to the A Star is Born montage is a dynamite highlight of Cooper’s themes. Bohemian Rhapsody itself never thought beyond “rad song, bro.”

Then the tune bleeds into the skater doc Minding the Gap, and magically Queen has something to say about this band of Rust-Belt drifters: “I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy/Because I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low/Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.” With each breath from Mercury, the film is rearranged for maximum emotional impact.

Needle drop after needle drop, Ehrlich slays. Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice” from the Tully soundtrack takes us through Let the Sunshine In, Cold War, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The voice of the famous offspring tracks with the inescapable melancholy of those films and lulls us into a sense of false contentment. Crash-bang into the crescendo of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the image of Joaquin Phoenix covered in blood and brains from You Were Never Really Here: “Mama, ooh, didn’t mean to make you cry/If I’m not back again this time tomorrow/Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.” Time on this planet is limited, and it’s never too late to transform a life of violence into a positive human champion.

If you haven’t raised your lighter yet, for movie number 19, Ehrlich scores the biographical documentary Ryuichi Sakamoto Coda with the titular composer’s own Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence theme but than provides the extra delight by matching piano keys to the beat of Natalie Portman’s machine gun in his 18th selection, Annihilation. That slapped a bright smile across my face. Suddenly, I’m reconsidering my initial cold reaction to Alex Garland’s sci-fi environmental mystery.

That’s the gift of Ehrlich’s video countdowns. Through his careful craft of editing, he offers the viewer an opportunity to recontextualize their opinions. By the time he flips back to Lady Gaga for Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you’re reassessing and inevitably revising your Top Tens to include Ethan Hunt amongst the year’s very best action heroes. You have less than a month to watch every one of these movies.

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Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.