Here are my picks for the Ten Best Documentaries of 2018:
10. Bad Reputation -- The career of Joan Jett is covered from her early days in the Runaways to her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a great reminder of what a pioneer she was, and what a kick-ass rocker she still is.
9. John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls -- Agree with his politics or not, John McCain was a man who gave his all to America, both as a war hero and as a politician. This HBO doc delves into the horrific years he spent as a POW, showing how that gave him a fighting spirit that came in handy in the halls of the Senate and after an eventual brain cancer diagnosis. A beautiful tribute to a true patriot.
8. RBG -- Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg literally changed America for the better, taking on laws that discriminated on the basis of gender. This career-spanning film is one of the best superhero movies of 2018, even if the central hero wears a robe instead of a cape.
7. Science Fair -- People like to paint teenagers as lazy or apathetic. This movie, about some of the best and brightest young folks competing at the International Science and Engineering Fair, gives lie to that myth. These kids give you hope for the future.
6. Fahrenheit 11/9 -- It's no surprise that Michael Moore takes on Donald Trump in his look at life in America following the 2016 election. What is surprising is that he's just as hard on Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Democratic party as a whole. Moore's assertion is that the entire system is broken and the only way to fix it is for each and every one of us to get involved. This is one of the most important and politically-astute films of our time.
5. Whitney -- Whitney Houston's premature death was a monumental show business tragedy. Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald tracks her meteoric rise and the descent into drug use that permanently derailed her. The scope of that loss hits you like a sledgehammer.
4. Won't You Be My Neighbor? -- If you only think of Fred Rogers as the host of a children's show, this movie will broaden your mind. It's a captivating examination of how he subtly broke down barriers, all while sending a message of love and acceptance. Won't You Be My Neighbor? makes you want to be a better person.
3. Three Identical Strangers -- Edward Galland, David Kellman and Robert Shafran were identical triplets, adopted out to three different families shortly after birth. None knew the other two existed. A freak coincidence brought them together. This documentary searches for the reason why they were separated. The explanation will be just as shocking to you as it is to the subjects. A great example of cinematic detective work.
2. Free Solo -- Alex Honnold climbed Yosemite National Park's El Capitan -- a 3,000-foot rock formation -- without any ropes. A camera crew was there to record how he did it. Prepare to grip your armrests for 100 minutes as you watch him in action. Added bonus: you also get a glimpse into the psyche of someone who would stare death in the face and never blink.
And my choice for the Best Documentary of 2018 is:
1. Minding the Gap -- Director Bing Liu started off making a documentary about his skateboarding buddies Zack and Kiere. A couple years into the project, he found out Zack was beating his girlfriend. This completely changed the shape of the film, as Liu – who grew up watching his mother's boyfriend repeatedly abuse her – suddenly had to grapple with his past, as well as his feelings for someone who was like a brother to him. Bolstered by the candidness of all three central figures, Minding the Gap is a raw, intimate peek into the fascinating lives of everyday people.