2018 Films Run the Gamut of Human Emotion
Annihilation is a messier movie than Alex Harland’s previous film Ex Machina, but it is also a more ambitious movie. It is grown-up science fiction cinema and expects the audience to keep up. The acting is great and has rightly been commended for giving actresses roles beyond caricature. The ideas and concepts of life, evolution, and existence aren’t new but remain thought provoking.
One can view Roma as the definitive rejection of today’s blockbuster. It’s slow and meticulous. Instead of circling heroes, the camera slowly pans around a simple room or lingers on small conversations. It’s focus is not on saving the world but the life of a woman that most would consider insignificant, yet it is clear from Cuaron’s direction that he considers Cleo and her life far from insignificant. A personal film and noticeably indulgent, Roma is nonetheless a striking work of art.
8. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Documentaries can be tricky. There’s always a point of view, but the best feel honest in the process. Morgan Neville’s Wont You Be My Neighbor? feels like an honest glimpse into the Fred Rogers’ life work of love and neighborliness. You will cry not because of manipulation, but because Roger’s life was kindness par excellence.
7. Isle of Dogs
Some filmmakers just have my number. Wes Anderson is one of them. Even his lesser efforts, and I would include Isle of Dogs in that category, scratch an itch that I just never get rid of. There’s a child-like whimsy in this tale of Japanese boy’s quest to retrieve his lost dog along with a crew of eccentric and emotionally damaged tramps that is still played straight even when ridiculous.
6. Mission: Impossible- Fallout
How is the sixth movie in this film series so good?! Seriously, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has been running for over twenty years now, yet director Christopher McQuarrie somehow has managed to not only keep things interesting but craft one of the best action films of all time. If you are one that recognizes the skill it takes to craft a great action film, Fallout delivers on all fronts.
5. Mary Poppins Returns
My wife and I cried through a good portion of Mary Poppins Returns. We are suckers for musicals and saccharine songs and big dance numbers. Mary Poppins not only overcame the prim English specter of the first film; it gave me a genuine heartfelt experience that stood on its own. Time will tell if any of the songs stand the test of time, but I expect they will be a part of my Disney playlists well into the future.
4. Avengers: Infinity War
Honestly, I want to put this higher. Besides my #1, Infinity War will definitely be watched more times by me than any other film on this list. I guess if anything, I’m just waiting to see how Endgame turns out, because if the Russo brothers can deliver a fitting end to this phase in Marvel’s cinematic conquering, it will be an amazing accomplishment unlike anything in film (scoff all you want, scoffers). As is,though, they have already delivered in Infinity War a great, poignant, and often hysterical superhero movie that had the whole world talking about a finger snap.
3. Eighth Grade
So my wife is seven months pregnant with our first child, our little girl Mercy. With that context, believe me when I say that this was the most unnerving, difficult to watch film I saw this year. The world is changing, and it is definitely not the late 80’s/early 90’s of my youth. Relative newcomer Elsie Fisher is phenomenal as eighth grader, Kayla.. This is a glimpse into the weird, scary, anxiety-ridden, techno-relational world that many kids live in. It will break your heart at times but also give some hope and a healthy distrust of the technology and social media our lives are increasingly lived out on.
I was sorely tempted to make my #1 all the films with black leads. There were more exceptional movies this year with male and female black leads than any year I can remember. From culture-defining films like Black Panther (arguably one of the most important modern black films) to others like Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman or Boot Riley’s bizarre Sorry to Bother You, it was a great year for film fans, period. Blindspotting is one that has stuck with me the most. It hits all the right notes, asks tough questions without giving pat answers or just finger pointing, and also manages to go against expectations at points. Just a really good film through and through.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
I only slightly hesitated in my thinking before just admitting to myself that this was my favorite movie of the year. It delivers the Spider-Man experience as we have never seen it before and maybe never will and brings to life all the elements that make Spidey the most beloved superhero around the world (Batman is more popular but not beloved!). Simultaneously, it gives us Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teen, who proves he is every bit as deserving of being Spider-Man as Peter Parker. And here’s the deal, while this movie is definitely made for a Spider-Man fan like myself, it is also a film not for me. Like Miles who constantly has to tell those around him who don’t get it that he knows his shoes are untied and its his choice, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse knows exactly what it is and some of it isn’t for everyone. I loved reading how one reviewer noticed the phrase “best of us” as one he as a black person instantly connected with on a personal level. I love that. I love that this film connects differently with different people, but it does connect, and in doing so connect us all…kinda, like a web. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse is the best of us, the best of film.