By: Joseph Kathmann
There's an east wind coming
2018 was a year of changes for Hollywood. Now over one year removed from Harvey Weinstein's (overdue) downfall and the rise of the #MeToo era, the industry has recognized (thanks, in part, to audience acclaim and commercial success of their more progressive films) that the time for change is now. For the first time ever, a film with a nearly all black cast will be the top grossing film of the year in Black Panther. The first American-made film to feature an all Asian cast in 20+ years dropped in Crazy Rich Asians and was another domestic box office hit, showing the industry that, yes, we want more diversity in our big budget films. One of the pioneers for change, Spike Lee, after years of being on the outside looking in with the industry, dropped BlacKkKlansman to huge critical acclaim, and was rewarded with his first EVER Best Director Oscar nomination. Films like A Star is Born, Incredibles 2, Ocean's 8, Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee, and the aforementioned Crazy Rich Asians all featured strong female protagonists, and all were within in the domestic top 25 for box office gross. And that doesn't even mention groundbreaking films with strong female leads like The Favourite and Roma, the later of which has the potential to cap off a year of progress in Hollywood by being the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture. And let's not forget Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with its proudly black protagonist! If that doesn't warm up your insides, then I really can't help you.
That said, we still have a long way to go. Films like Bohemian Rhapsody took a torrid stance on the struggles of gay men and women throughout the country, Green Book hashed out a tired old "white savior solves systemic racism" storyline, and is depressingly relevant on this year's award's circuit with old white men, (the same year BlacKkKlansman was released, no less) Clint Eastwood is still making movies grossing over $100 mil, (seriously, people, why did you go see The Mule?) and Sicario 2...... happened. But, change doesn't happen overnight. Remember when Halle Berry because the first black woman to ever win Best Actress in 2002 for Monster's Ball and everyone thought that would blow the door wide open for more diversity at the Oscars? To this day, she remains the only black woman to win Best Actress at the Oscars. Ever. And since her, only three other black women have even been nominated for the role. There have only been two Latinas nominated for the award in the 21st century, which makes the nomination of the third, Roma's Yalitza Aparicio, that much more significant. But, if there was ever a year where the winds of change started to be felt, it would be 2018. Here's to hoping 2019 is even more diverse! (Still need to hire WAY more female directors, Hollywood....) So, without further ado, let's talk about the best and worst 2018 had to offer!
WELP. So much for this mentality. Green Book is now 2018's standardbearer for the Academy's best film of the year. Don't you worry, more on that soon. But I think it's safe to say my optimism was also wrapped up in some naiveté. Looooooooooong sigh.
For individual reviews of the films mentioned, click on the pictures.
The Best Trailers of 2018
Any trailer that uses a Perfume Genius song gets an automatic entry into this list. But, also, this trailer does a great job balancing the line of making you want to see the movie while not over-explaining it.
Now, the Avengers theme is stuck in your head. Took Marvel like 10 years to realize they had a great theme for the Avengers, but better late than never, right? Also, dat beard dough.
A Star is Born
It's always a plus when a trailer utilizes the music from the movie itself, but this trailer also has something of a story arc with its female lead, Lady Gaga. She is introduced around 45 seconds in and finally takes over the trailer about a minute later. You don't often see that when a trailer is tripping over itself to over-explain things.
Main reason this trailer makes the list is because the song choice, "The Man" by The Killers, is basically the best song choice ever to sum up Dick Cheney. Also, this trailer f************cks. Even if the movie itself doesn't.
There's nothing quite like a trailer synced to Pink Floyd. Add to it the emotional weight of the scenes chosen, while simultaneously not telling you much of anything about the film itself, and you have the embodiment of what a great trailer should be.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
"Your mission. Should you choose to accept it. I wonder: did you ever choose not to?" Now let's have a badass mashup with the Mission: Impossible theme and Imagine Dragon's "Friction" in sync with the sound effects in the film. If that doesn't get your blood pumping, I don't know what will. Plus, Angela Bassett says "plutonium." To be honest, that alone is reason enough for it to be number 1.
My Favorite Movie Moments
BlacKkKlansman - Going Undercover
I love the moment later in this film where Stallworth reveals himself to David Duke, but this moment was on YouTube and is pretty great too. This makes for a harrowing side-by-side with any clip from Green Book's white savior narrative, as the grittiness of this scene, and the rawness of the crusade against hatred, is what so many white folks want to ignore in place of going on a car ride through the south and discovering you're not actually racist.
Shoplifters - What Makes You A Mother?
The emotional climax of Hirokazu Kore-eda's masterpiece, this intimate, touching, genuine interrogation sequence will devastate you, while simultaneously making you question the societal norms placed on family and what constitutes as much. Nobuyo's (Sakura Andô) tearful breakdown at the end of the clip still makes me ball.
Black Panther - Killmonger Takes the Thrown
If there was a single sequence that sums up the power of Ryan Coogler's directing influence over a film, it's the final 30 seconds of this clip. Featuring two of the best shots I saw all year back-to-back from the great cinematographer Rachel Morrison, combined with the hip hop beats of composer Ludwig Goransson, this brief showcase of Wakanda's world being turned upside down was one of the best of 2018.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout - HALO Jump
One of the most badass sequences I've ever seen, this shot is one of the most difficult shots ever made. Period. Director Christopher McQuarrie had to train a camerman for weeks just to film it, plus the insistence on shooting the sequence at dusk, and that it is an actual single take (at least through the first lightning strike) makes this the single best moment I've seen in an action movie since the opening of Saving Private Ryan.
Widows - Rapping Scene
Steve McQueen's filmmaking gets me every time watching this scene, then I'm flabbergasted when I go and remember that this film didn't receive a SINGLE Oscar nomination. The uncontrollable camera makes you nauseous as you nervously anticipate the fate of the two characters at the center of this scene. All of which is hammered home by Jatemme's (Daniel Kaluuya) DOMINATING presence. Love it.
Roma - The Corpus Christi Massacre
While everyone (justifiably) marvels at the brilliance of Roma's beach sequence, which also could be number 1, I wanted to instead highlight the climax of the film, a sequence which director Alfonso Cuarón himself has said was the most challenging sequence he's ever shot. The sheer number of extras in that pan to the street, (thousands) all doing seemingly random things in a controlled manner, is unfathomable. Combine that with the colossal emotional juncture of this sequence, and that's why it's my number 1 favorite movie moment of 2018.
The Best Films No One Saw
All films on this list grossed under $25 million domestically.
You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay's uniquely weird murder-mystery was one of the most underrated films of 2018. Definitely not for everyone, but showcases the beauty of what great visual storytelling can do.
Gustav Möller made a huge splash with his first film, a claustrophobic murder mystery that unfolds in a single room, leaving your imagination to run amok with the events occurring through Asger's (Asger Holm) earpiece.
Leave No Trace
Debra Granik's first feature film in 8 years, Leave No Trace is a wonderful tale about a father raising his daughter in the unknown of nature.
Nadine Labaki's Oscar-nominated film was arguably the most emotional piece of cinema I saw all year, propped up by a terrific performance from its lead and real-life Syrian refugee, Zain Al Rafeea. Be ready to ROCK the ugly cry here.
Sorry to Bother You
Easily the weirdest yet most topical film I saw all year, Boots Riley's directorial / writing debut was a gripping, poignant statement about our society. With horsemen sprinkled on top.
Bo Burnham's feature / writing debut has resonated with me more than almost any other film I saw in 2018, featuring a script that should have been nominated for an Oscar, (it won at the Writer's Guild Awards, mind you) and easily the year's best debut performance from its lead, Elsie Fisher. It's the only film that will overlap in my overall Best of 2018 list, but it is more than deserving of that accolade.
The Worst Films of 2018
Hey, remember when this movie was supposed to make Jennifer Lawrence edgy? That worked out really well.
Issues on the set aside, the latest installment in The Predator franchise just another forgettable action movie with no sense of purpose, wasting its great cast in the process. JACOB TREMBLAY WAS IN THIS, PEOPLE. HOW DO YOU SCREW UP HAVING JACOB TREMBLAY IN YOUR MOVIE.
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
J.K. Rowling's follow-up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them wastes the best parts of the original (the core cast and their dynamics) as well as the introduction of Dumbledore (Jude Law) to regress back to the 90s and highlight the hilariously irrelevant villain, portrayed forgettably by the even more irrelevant Johnny Depp. This series bet it all on him, and has already lost in spectacular fashion.
Holmes & Watson
The lazy, mindless reunion of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly was so bad there was even some incoherent editing littered about. If you want a single film to sum up the state of many modern American comedies, look no further.
The 15:17 to Paris
Clint Eastwood's first terrible movie of 2018 had a nice premise behind it - a film about a real-life dramatic event starring the people that lived said event - executed in a hilariously bad way at the hands of a once great director that has failed to recognize that enough is enough.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
One of the worst movies I have EVER seen, this #MAGA wet dream, sorry excuse for a film did nothing but propel the racist narrative that "all Mexicans are rapists," wrapped up in a poorly made film starring people that clearly were #InItForThePaycheck. In a year where Hollywood took a lot of steps forward, this dumpster fire was a giant step back.
The Best Films of 2018
Ryan Coogler's powerful entry to the Marvel universe was the most culturally relevant film of 2018, smashing barriers while also giving us an incredible film.
A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper's directorial debut featured the best music of the year in a wonderful rendition of a classic Hollywood story.
Crazy Rich Asians
Look at Awkwafina's outfit and tell me how this film was not one of the zaniest, over-the-top romcoms of the 21st century, all wrapped up in the first American-made film featuring an Asian cast in over 20 years. Also, Henry Golding's smile is littered throughout this, so that's a huge plus.
Steve McQueen's gut-wrenching heist film went criminally underappreciated. A wonderful bit of filmmaking wrapped up in a topical statement about politics and society with a great cast and unpredictable story.
Spike Lee's most popular film since his groundbreaking Do the Right Thing, BlacKkKlansman was the best statement on the state of our current society in 2018, spoken by the king himself.
The most charismatic film of the year, Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War is tells a classic, gut-wrenching love story starring two people who's suave is borderline insufferable.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
The best action movie I've ever seen, director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise's 6th installment to the Mission: Impossible franchise raises the bar for the genre with some of the most technically difficult sequences ever shot.
Bo Burnham's directing and writing debut had some of the most grounded moments of the year, featuring a lovable lead in a terrific and relatable coming-of-age story.
The best American film of the year, the latest (and greatest) from director Yorgos Lanthimos features a shamelessly flamboyant and wonderfully weird power dynamic story and the best trio of performances of the year.
Hirokazu Kore-eda's masterpiece will linger with you long after the end credits roll. An emotionally devastating film wrapped up in an incredibly powerful message about family featuring some of the most genuine performances I've ever seen.
Not only the best film of the year, but possibly the best film I have ever seen, Alfonso Cuarón's latest accomplishment is the very definition of a cinematic masterpiece. A triumphant family epic told on an unprecedented scale with some of the most intricate and complex longtakes I have ever seen.
That's all, folks! As my 2018 film list draws to a close, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you, to everyone, for following my blog and supporting this naive Millennial's trip through the magical world of film. I have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon, so here's to a wild 2019. Bring it on.
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Women Reign Supreme
With the Oscars looming large, it's time to talk about the best performances I saw throughout the year! This year's list is filled with women: in fact, there's only two men in my entire top 10, and one of them shares the spot with the female lead of their respective film. No doubt this is the result of one of the strongest years for female actors I've ever seen. Certainly the strongest since I started writing this blog. Now, let's give more female directors the chance to shine, shall we???
For my reviews of each film discussed, click on the actor's picture.
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Let's just get this one out of the way first. Yes, Rami Malek was really good as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Yes, he saved the film. If only the film he saved was any better. Ok, got that out of our system? Good. On we go, then.
Olivia Cooke, Thoroughbreds
A criminally underrated film that quietly went wide in early 2018, Olivia Cooke's deadpan, no holds barred, no shit taking performance in Thoroughbreds still haunts me today. Also you should watch this movie.
EXTRA Honorable Mention