Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Films Of 2018 (w/Bonus #1 Destroyer Director Karyn Kusama Interview + Jason’s Final Farewell!)

This is it folks – all good things must eventually come to an end.  As such it’s with this final column that I Jason Coleman bid a fond farewell to both WhySoBlu.com and a career as a critic that has lasted over thirty glorious years.  So to make sure I go out with a bang below is jam-packed with goodies guaranteed to make your movie day.  First up is my Top Ten Films of 2018 and let me tell you film fans it was not easy to nail down.  A year with so many memorable and groundbreaking films made it hard to narrow the choices, but in the end my selections were made with both care and hopes of enlightening those who may have missed some great five-star films.  (Plus I’ve added three honorable mentions that on any other year would have made the top ten easy!)  After that a rare treat for fans – my exclusive one-on-one chat with the helmer of my #1 pick Destroyer Director Karyn Kusama (nothing but the best for this last hurrah!) for some added insight and finally my Final Farewell, a grand goodbye to readers highlighting the best of the best and shout outs to fantastic folks from all my years of cinema service.  So let’s get started – first up….Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Films Of 2018!


10. Kate Can’t Swim

Harking back to a time when dramas focused on characters and where things both said and unsaid were vastly important and utterly interesting, Kate Can’t Swim is simple storytelling made stellar. Almost an homage to the relaxed early work of Lawrence Kasden (The Big Chill and Grand Canyon are fine film parallels!), this tale of two couples who examine life, love and complex relationships together over a weekend may seem straightforward, but in the hands of helmer Josh Helman and his co-star and writing partner Jennifer Allcott basic becomes both bold and beautiful.  (Plus lead Celeste Arias is captivating as the confused Kate!)  The film that stood out most to me as a jury member for Slamdance, Kate Can’t Swim makes reality riveting.


9. Destination Wedding

Who would have ever thought that a Keanu Reeves movie that wasn’t Bill & Ted (or maybe the first Matrix!) would ever end up on my Top Ten list, but Destination Wedding earns its spot here fair and square.  An anti-rom-com featuring Reeves and gal pal Winona Ryder as a couple of caustic naysayers who hate everyone and everything (think When Harry Met Sally channeled through Clerks where the two leads are both negative Nancies!) and wind up in one awkward and distinctively unromantic tryst during a weekend wedding features some of the best air tight dialogue via writer/director Victor Levin since David Mamet hit the scene.  A barrage of bold, brash and bawdy humor between two true Debbie downers, this is one wedding where the invited get the gifts.


8. The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling

While this over four-hour dissection of the man who brought us Larry Sanders, namely the late great comedian Garry Shandling may be daunting for some, there’s nothing to fear here but the funny. Paying tribute to his hero and mentor, helmer Judd Apatow lovingly peels back the layers of the famed comedian warts and all and it’s a wild ride that also feels altogether incredibly personal.  This thorough outing examining the good, the bad and the ugly of the obsessive and attention to detail ridden comic is not just a mere doc – it’s an experience.


7. Marrowbone

A haunting flick with plenty of twists and turns to boot, helmer Sergio G. Sánchez unspools an effective old school ghost story that has all but disappeared from today’s crop of simple slice and dice fare.  Creating a somber and methodic mood with story (it unfolds like a fine flower!), setting (there’s both dark houses and lush landscapes!) and strange siblings (every member of the family is unique!), Sánchez in his feature directing debut shows the suspense skills of a Hitchcockian master craftsman – gothic just got good again.  (Plus check out Thoroughbred’s actress Anya Taylor-Joy here playing totally against type!)


6. Summer of 84

Taking the same sass they showed for film fun in Turbo Kid, the Montreal film collective team RKSS tackles the whole ‘is my neighbor a serial killer’ story here with a distinctively authentic 80’s vibe for a flick that has both fun and fright.  From the kids with their suggestive slang to the era inducing score that sets the stage, what makes this one even better than those who have come before is the film’s unapologetic desire to go to dark places in the midst of being popcorn fun.  RKSS never fails to surprise – turbo take me to their next project please.


5. The Dark

A film that prides itself on keeping the viewer off balance with scary surprises, Justin P. Lange’s The Dark is a movie dish that is best served by going in cold.  And while a full description even here would ruin the unknowing joy of the piece, it’s safe to say that the film dabbles in everything from horror and dark personal drama to even a love story you won’t see coming.  (Did I say too much?!) Nevertheless matched with a layered leading turn by standout actress Nadia Alexander, The Dark isn’t just a clever name – it’s also the best way to approach this outstanding outing head on.


4. You Were Never Really Here

With both filmmaker Lynne Ramsay and her man muse Joaquin Phoenix bucking every stereotypical aspect associated with the whole ‘hitman for hire’ genre, You Were Never Really Here injects new life into a tired tale.  From the skills and appearance of the films’ unlikely military man (think Scott Glenn via Man on Fire but disheveled, unkempt and out of shape!) to his clumsy weapon of choice (no need for guns – a hammer will do the trick!), Ramsey and Phoenix prove that not only can you teach an old dog new tricks, but such trope twisting tricks hit the spot.


3. The Apparition

While the initial premise of this French import by itself warrants a watch, there is so much more for the film fan that seeks it out.  Meaning the tale of a broken and fatigued war-torn journalist who is asked by the Vatican to accompany a religious team to authenticate a young girl’s claims of being visited by the Virgin Mary is a wonderful blend of a detective yarn and a spiritual story, but the outcome manages to have concrete answers steeped in both reality and faith based areas for maximum satisfaction – a film feat whose pairing proves divine.


2. Thoroughbreds

Most likely forgotten or passed over because of its early in the year release date, Thoroughbreds is probably the best film you haven’t seen.  A tale of two girls (the pitch-perfect Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy!) – one who feels everything, the other who feels nothing – who form an unhealthy friendship and decide to plan a murder is the most biting and caustically funny piece of dark comedy since Heathers.  Add to that an utterly memorable last turn by the late Anton Yelchin as their unwitting male stooge and Thoroughbreds is one stealthy cinematic animal that wins the race.


1. Destroyer

Even though star Nicole Kidman makes a stunning and notable transformation to play weathered and beaten down detective Erin Bell, it’s helmer Karyn Kusama who is truly the star of this five-star affair.  Constructing a film that simmers in a beautifully bogged down tone that matches Kidman’s dour demeanor throughout, contains a heist sequence that puts the audience right in the line of fire and that assembles a supporting cast to die for (see Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford and Beau Knapp, y’all!), Kusama knocks any doubts out cold – Destroyer destroys every other film of 2018.


Honorable Mention

Prospect – A top ten pick of a fellow WhySoBlu critic, this savory sci-fi story on an indie budget overcomes any and all monetary limitations with an inspired visual style that would make Ridley Scott swoon.  (Special thanks to Kyle Greenberg & Eric Bromberg at Gunpowder & Sky for letting me see it!)

Song Of Back And Neck – Triple threat (actor, writer and director!) performer Paul Lieberstein knocks it out of the feature film debut park with this soulful, sassy and poignant tale of a broken man whose crippling back pain actually hums a tune – and that’s only the first chorus.

Upgrade – For providing sheer old school 80’s movie fun (think Golan-Globas style for this generation!) and a remarkable turn by The Invitation alum Logan Marshall-Green as a manbot of sorts, Leigh Whannell’s flick gets upgraded here with a well deserved honorable mention.


And now here’s a little extra added bonus Q&A from none other than the illustrious helmer of my #1 pick for the top film of 2018 Destroyer adding some class to my grand finale….



Congrats on nabbing the #1 spot on my Top Ten Films of 2018 with Destroyer!

Karyn Kusama: Thanks – I don’t think I’ve ever been anyone’s number one so that’s awesome!

Working once again with the same screenwriting duo of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi whom you have collaborated with multiple times, how has their written work changed over the years and more importantly how has it helped inform your work as a director?

KK: I think what changes in their work from script to script is essentially the voice of the script is more specific.  Now for instance when they work with me we already set out to work together.  So on Destroyer they brought me in during the outlining phase so that they could talk me through the script scene by scene and sequence by sequence and we could be in a feedback loop with one another talking about how I would be handling it and what emphasis I would be giving things and that would end up in the script.  So when it comes to our collaboration they are so open and generous in acknowledging that they are really writing the movie with my imaginative space in mind and it’s a nice way to work.

There’s a thick, rich and totally permeating bleak tone running throughout Destroyer – how were you able to maintain it through the entire film?

KK: Part of what makes it work I hope, for those it works for, is that it’s a little bit of a pressure cooker.  Suspense isn’t quite the right word, but there’s a sense of dread and mystery around the character and that there is something deeper at work that is guiding her through the story.  So it was important that it feel tonally like a mystery or living somewhere in that suspense realm so the audience could just remain on the edge of their seats wondering what would happen next.

Nicole Kidman is a risky choice not only because she’s a known A-list actress, but also breathtakingly beautiful.  What were your thoughts behind casting her and how important was the facial makeup to the authenticity of the character’s emotional state?

KK: Initially all of us wanted to get to know Nicole better when she expressed an interest in the film and we wanted to know what drew her to it.  But within the first meeting it was very clear that she was so curious about the character, wanting to understand the character and understand what made her tick – so we felt extremely comfortable in that respect.  And as we developed the makeup looks and the costuming, I think that was part of the external process that augmented what Nicole was doing internally.  She transforms herself really from the inside out – her voice is different, her walk is different, her carriage is completely different.  So in a funny way all those makeup tests and all of that worked to understand what she would look like in the final film, that was all really useful in helping Nicole make some choices about the character herself.

Yeah – I always tell people the way she looks is the way the film feels…

KK: That’s so true – yeah, it’s quite a damaged feeling.

Even though the part of Erin Bell displays traits we have come to attribute to predominately male characters in revenge films – anger, apathy, self-destruction – Erin seems to have gotten to her current state by misusing her power as a woman – was this a conscious choice?

KK: It’s funny, I’ve been told by my film noir obsessed fans that they really appreciate the fact that she in some ways the grizzled detective AND the femme fatale.  And I’m happy to know that we could subvert a few tropes and it was exciting to me that that is how people experience the film.  I do think the complexity of the character is that so many of her troubles are self-generated – she really is her own biggest problem.  That to me feels very relatable and I don’t really assign a gender to getting into one’s own way.  That seems like something we are all capable of doing.

Your supporting cast is tasty featuring the likes of Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford and Beau Knapp – how important was it to surround Kidman with solid character actors?

KK: That was a crucial part of the process, to find people who would support Nicole and work alongside her and bring the same authenticity and grittiness to their roles that she brought to hers.  And they are all just great actors and that was what was so fun about working with them – everybody showed up and brought something authentic and eccentric.

I dug the matter of fact bravado surrounding the heist interrupted section of the film – what was that like to stage and shoot?

KK: It was a challenge.  This is a low budget feature and we only had thirty-three days to shoot the whole thing.  So we had to act very decisively and I had to really be in solid command of what I wanted to achieve on those days.  What was nice was the limited resources and the limited time actually helped create a very bracingly minimal sequence.  I wasn’t making a lot of unnecessary flourishes with the camera, I wasn’t essentially packing on the drama – the drama was actually right there on screen.  We were able to evoke I think what it feels like in the moment to be in a situation like that.  It’s chaotic, it’s fast and it’s so loud.  On a sensory level it’s almost something you want to shrink from and just bury your head in and not lift your head up for fear of flying bullets. So I think for me the overriding goal is always that it was a real feeling sequence and the nice thing about having no time and no money is we actually could work in a way that evoked that feeling.

The Invitation has a bit of that palpable bleak tone displayed so successfully throughout Destroyer – would you say it helped prep you for Destroyer’s harrowing film journey?

KK: Yeah.  The Invitation is obviously formally and in terms of its location a totally different movie, but what I love about both movies is they are both seeing the human psyche itself is the engine for all the dread and for all the suspense.  It’s sort of a question of ‘to what degree will our own minds and our own souls fail us and what chaos will ensue from that failure?’  So I do think The Invitation was a great primer for me in getting ready for Destroyer and it’s also linked by a genuine appreciation for the complexity of Los Angeles.  I hope that at some point we get to make another movie about LA because it’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving – at least for me. (Laughs)

The WhySoBlu gang recently did a podcast on the top female horror directors and your name of course came up, but it was also pointed out how diverse your body of work is.  As a filmmaker in today’s climate, especially one the most prolific female ones, how have you managed to both magnificently change genres and stay fresh?

KK: For me staying fresh does come with changing genres, so I appreciate the blanket term of genre film because it encompasses so much.  It’s action, it’s thrillers, it’s horror, it’s sci-fi and I feel there’s a lot of room to play in there.  And I don’t necessarily want to confine myself to only that, but it’s something I really enjoy watching and I definitely enjoy making it.  So these kinds of films often have the opportunity to embed within them the most interesting ideas and the most interesting questions about the world we’re living in right now.  As somebody who has my own very strong sense of personal politics, I feel like this is my way of making political films without having to really bang a drum to do it.  I can invest my ideas into the work, but not have to explain too much.

Finally what’s next for you?

KK: I mentioned how much we like working in LA and making movies about LA, so we’re working on a third film that should serve as a third installment of a trilogy about Los Angeles.  That’s still in the very early stages, so we’re in the midst of that.  And then there’s also a movie that Phil and Matt have written that I would direct at Fox potentially, as well as some TV shows and other features – I have a lot on my plate.





First off wanted to thank one of my all-time favorite directors Karyn Kusama for taking the time to chat and making my final article a truly memorable one.  Reflecting back over the years I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of my helmer heroes like Frank Henenlotter, Atom Egoyan, David Lynch, Danny Boyle, David Cronenberg, Tom Holland, Kathryn Bigelow and the great C.M. Talkington. (We will do a Love and a .45 event soon – I have not forgotten sir!)  But I’ve also been fortunate to not only see the work of fantastic up and coming filmmakers like Kenneth Castillo (nobody makes authentic flicks better…and faster!), Jeff Nichols (I was the one touting Shotgun Stories to everyone in earshot back in 2007!), Valerie Brandy (see Lola’s Last Letter!), Maria Alice Arida (Instinct is the best short film I’ve ever seen!), Eduardo Maytorena and Wayne Mitchell (go Soledad!), James Bird (and his muse Adriana Mather via Honeyglue!), Nick Sanford (loved helming the premiere for the tasty The Harvesters!), Rupert Glasson (more What Lola Wants work please!), Derek Kimball (Neptune is the epitome of five-star stuff!), Platon Theodoris (the movie oddity that is Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is wondrous indeed!), Emily Hagins (I bow!) and fearless Ford Brothers Howard and Jonathan (The Dead series rules dudes!), but also put money to mouth by helping finance the work from the likes of Christopher Soren Kelly for the sci-fi indie The Tangle, Megan Brotherton for proposed hilarious horror outing The Bachelorette Party and Erick Solis for the 80’s inspired Night Run.  And what so many years of film watching has made me very aware of is that there are a plethora of movies out there both big and small waiting to be discovered for those who are willing to move out of their multiplex comfort zone and seek out savory cinema – it has truly been my pleasure to do so.

Also I would not be here today if not for all the folks over the years that gave me a shot at putting pen to paper to give my humble movie opinions.  Big props to the editors at both The Kelowna Capital News and The Richmond News, Berge Garabedian and John Fallon from Joblo.com and Arrow In The Head.com (miss those amazing set visits!), Steve Nash from The213.net (my ‘Day with Belladonna’ piece is still #1!), Pete Weiss from Starpulse.com (birthplace of my Forgotten Friday Flick!) and finally the amazing and encouraging Brian White via WhySoBlu.com (going to Sundance, jury for Slamdance and Juan Fernández one-on-one – does it get any better?!) – thanks to each and every one of you for giving this critic a chance.

In the area of PR many individuals have helped by not only putting amazing product in front of yours truly, but also helping me highlight the talent within.  Big shout outs to first and foremost the amazing Annie Jeeves (my best experiences have always been via you!) and the folks at Cinematic Red, everyone at MPRM, Ginsberg/Libby, FonsPR, Brigade Marketing, Big Time PR & Marketing, PMK•BNC, Sunshine Sachs, and Sue Procko PR (especially former PR guy Ed “the man” Peters), Marina Bailey and company, Stacey Cusack, Daniela Sapkar, Karen Oberman, Emily Lu, Ted Geoghegan (who is also an amazing filmmaker to boot!) and everyone who is part of the hardworking gang at Katrina Wan PR – much love and appreciation to all of you for your many years of help and movie heart.

Finally I wanted to say the biggest gift I’ve gotten from my thirty years of doing this work is a long lasting friendship with Joblo.com critic James “Jimmy O” Oster.  Having met way back in 2007 at San Diego Comic-Con where we were both doing the junket for Death Sentence (not one of James Wan’s best, but it has a special place in my heart nevertheless!) we formed a friendship based on a sincere love of film, passion for the cinema and have been close ever since.  (We even created Flicks For Fans that puts on various cool events for the regular guy!)  So special thanks and much love to a career that has afforded me seeing many great films, meeting and helping so many talented folks get their time to shine and finally netted me the best friend I’ve ever had for over 10 years – makes it all worthwhile.  Also special shout out to my two beautiful boys Will and Jack who are named after movies (if you can guess which ones you get extra points!), my ex Heather who always kept me movie honest and my proud pop Michael who taught me the true connection between movies and love.  What a wonderful life indeed – the balcony for film critic Jason Coleman is now closed.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

4 Responses to “Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Films Of 2018 (w/Bonus #1 Destroyer Director Karyn Kusama Interview + Jason’s Final Farewell!)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Well, I wish this wasn’t so, as you’ve been an awesome addition to our fold, but I can only hope you’ll still talk horror flicks on the podcast with us.

    Re Top Ten:

    Thoroughbreds rules! Zen Diaries is a great tribute and an honest look at a troubled man. I wish I dug Summer of 84 more, as it has a lot going for it. Destroyer is a great number 1 for you for sure! You Were Never Really Here is another great. Destination Wedding was a lot of fun.

    Again, sad to see you cut it off here, but what a nice farewell. I remember when you sent me a message about finding a new place to write and was so happy to connect you with Brian right away and have it work out so well for all of us.

    I wish well for wherever you land next!

  2. Brian White

    I echo all of Aaron’s sentiments. I don’t want to ever see you go, but I understand 🙂 Your contributions have been unreal and invaluable to this site. I’m so appreciative for the time you were with us and wish you nothing but the best in your next adventures and hope our paths cross again.

    I’m taking all the above selections as MUST-WATCH films! Summer of 84 was the only film I saw up above in your Top 10, but I cannot wait to see Destroyer. I can’t wait for it to go nationwide!!!

    And thank you so much for this interview and send off too. I’m going to miss you man!

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Awesome final piece for WSB, Jason! I need to watch most of that list. I’m anxiously waiting for Destroyer to open in my city.

  4. Michael Coleman

    Jason it is typical of your work all these years with good movie judgement, great interviews with intelligent questions based on your widespread movie knowledge and recommendations of what to watch and what not. I have loved the focus on more independent rather than the “blockbusters” as there are more great movies to see in low budget independents. It has been quite a ride and I am very proud of you for outstanding contribution to fans like me. Thanks so much and say hello to Jimmy O for me.