Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
From a cannibalistic story of sisters to a socially relevant thriller, the year’s best movies brought screenplays to life and gave us material to reflect on.
No movie ate at me more this year than French filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s RAW. Her unspoiled film about a young vegetarian who grows an impulsive taste for human flesh isn’t portrayed in the hardcore manner its story suggests, and it’s all the better for it. It’s a rather sweet and imaginative coming-of-age tale with biting originality. [My full review/interview with Ducournau.]
2. THE POST
Steven Spielberg’s finest work in years, THE POST, stands the best chance at winning Best Picture at next year’s Oscars. It’s got the talent, the relevant story (more so than the already forgotten about SPOTLIGHT) and energy to do a clean awards sweep. [Full review coming soon, but read Courtney Howard’s on Fresh Fiction.]
3. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Love stories these days are either too cheesy or bitter to swallow. But every once and a while a good one sprouts up and has the power to blossom into something truly worthy of note. With a tender story, memorable performances and one scene centered around the concept of “better to have loved than not at all” that is the year’s best, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is no hang-up. It’s a towering achievement. [My full review.]
4. BLADE RUNNER 2049
Most may remember STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI as the most entertaining blockbuster of the year, I’d make an argument for Denis Villeneuve’s master class of filmmaking, BLADE RUNNER 2049. The sly wonder of a film is as pretty to look at as it is thought provoking. [My full review.]
5. THE SQUARE
The multi-language film (mostly Swedish) is one of those features that throws content at its audience and it’s up to the viewer for how they brew the stew. It’s a well-rounded exercise in discomfort. Whether you relate to the material or not, you will undoubtedly be entertained by its eccentric nature and will discuss it long after it’s over. [My full review/interview Ruben Ostlund.]
6. THE FLORIDA PROJECT
This movie shouldn’t be called a movie; it’s life documented with a sense of patience and realization that’s unfathomable. Sean Baker, director of 2015’s TANGERINE, is no fluke. He captures a slice of life that’s both moving and eye opening. [My full review and interview with Baker.]
7. LADY BIRD
Greta Gerwig (MISTRESS AMERICA) has a keen eye for storytelling and bringing out the best in the people she frames within her lens. Lady Bird is a clever spin on the coming-of-age genre. [My full review/interview with Gerwig.]
8. A GHOST STORY
Dallas native David Lowery’s experimental film may be too quiet for some, but good things come to those who wait. It’s purely observational and requires audience participation to connect the dots. But once you discover what’s hidden underneath the film’s sheets, you’ll be glad you took the plunge. [My full review and interview with Lowery.]
9. WONDER WOMAN
Patty Jenkins (MONSTER) directs a wonderfully wrought origin story. Her rendition of Wonder Woman is a movie that should be celebrated and honored, not for just being a good movie for the DC Extended Universe, but a good one in general. It’s a strikingly bold and confident piece of blockbuster filmmaking that also happens to be thrilling and emotionally powerful. [My full review.]
10. GET OUT
Jordan Peele has always had a talent for delving into societal truths. Whether he’s exploring our tendencies to misinterpret text messages or developing tactics for how black people can walk through white suburban neighborhoods, his amazing array of characters and strong points of view peel back the layers of tough topics with twisted irony. And GET OUT is no different. [My full review.]
The Next 10:
11. THE BIG SICK
12. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
13. THE LOST CITY OF Z
14. PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN
17. MUSTANG ISLAND
18. GERALD’S GAME
19. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
20. LAST FLAG FLYING
Worst movies and biggest upsets:
1. LEMON – a movie so abhorrent, it deserves to be squashed.
2. MOTHER! – I walked out.
3. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT – no comment.
4. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD — more of a chore than a sweeping adventure.
5. DOWNSIZING – I loved it until I absolutely hated it.
Bonus: THE BOOK OF HENRY – so bizarre, it almost should be seen to be believed.