Another year is wrapped ladies and gentleman so, of course, it’s time to look back! 2018 was a year that, by most accounts…you know what, no quipy remarks here, 2018 sucked. Thankfully when the world outside sucks we always have the warm embrace of a good movie to retreat to. I’m sure that, at least partially, due to the craptastic nature of the real world the movie industry had a record breaking year pulling in over 41 BILLON dollars around the world and 11 Billion in the US alone. Outside of the business end of things, 2018 was a year that saw diversity in film surge and prove that you could be plenty profitable without a white guy in the lead or behind the camera with Black Panther grabbing the #1 spot of the year and Crazy Rich Asians bringing in over $150 million. It wasn’t just confined to live action either as the long awaited sequel Incredibles 2 focused almost solely on a female lead in Elastigirl and Miles Morales became the defacto Spider-Man for a whole new generation of kids (Sorry Tom Holland) when we all entered the Spider-verse. Star Wars had it’s first miss with Solo: A Star Wars Story (though that’s debatable, the movie was good and it made PLENTY of cash), Ryan Reynolds shook off the one-hit wonder thinkers with Deadpool 2. And finally, it was the year where the words “I don’t feel so good…” picked up a whole new, heart-breaking meaning as Avengers faced off against the Mad Titan, Thanos, and left us all slacked-jawed in the wake of “The Snap”……….dammit Quill.
Be sure to check out all of our end-of-year coverage, including Travis’ top 20 picks, right here!
Honorable Mention: Venom
It’s a cop out but I had to add the honorable mention for Venom
which I know will discredit me with plenty of people, but what can I say I had a TON of fun with this flick and at the end of the day that’s why I go to the movies. Obviously, there’s 100 things you can pick apart about this movie…the CGI was hit or miss (but decidedly more hit and way better then most DCEU flicks) and the story was far from logical, but it had one thing right and that’s all that mattered, Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock. His dynamic with the symbiote coupled with the way he threw himself headfirst into the role took something that really should have been forgettable at best and turned it into a blockbuster comic book flick and the start of a new franchise.
David Gordon Green’s sequel/reboot of the iconic horror franchise had a BIG hill to climb for the respect and admiration of fans old and new. But damned if he and Danny McBride didn’t do it. The casting of Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role of Laurie Strode was a good step in the right direction but was far from a guarantee of success, after all she’s come back for a few of the less then stellar sequels (though I loved H2O). No, it was their obvious love of the source material and reverence for the mythology that put this one through the uprights for fans. Everything about it felt perfect and while it was depressing to see Laurie Strode so many years later still traumatized by the events of the original film it did make sense. Not many films can reproduce the magic of an original film a year later, much less 40 but that is exactly what they did with Halloween
2. Bad Times at the El Royale
There’s always been something about movies involving a bunch of different storylines colliding in a shared space that I’ve loved. I also find old “Route 66” type motels fascinating, there’s a real aura about them. That being said I was kind of a mark for this flick, when you add in the charisma and sheer talent of Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth and newcomer Cynthia Erivo you have a movie that keeps you glued to the screen. Every thing about the flick had me hooked but above all it was the atmosphere, the allure of this decked out but out of date motel, like a time capsule from the days of Sinatra, the secret rooms, the shadowy “off the books” functions taking place within, all of it mixed together for a flick that didn’t just entertain but kept you guessing every moment right up until the bloody end.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
At this point there is literally nothing new I could say about this movie…. but I’m going to say some stuff anyway. The culmination of 10 year’s worth of blockbuster filmmaking Avengers: Infinity War
took our expectations and blew them out of the water. Even past the obvious spectacle of it all the movie was a masterclass in storytelling. The simple fact that they were able to cram SO much story and SO many characters and keep the film moving at a lightning pace while at the same time keeping it from feeling rushed deserves praise on its own. The snap heard round the world (or at least round the MCU) was a moment that will make lists of most iconic moments for years to come.
I remain so confused by the lack of love, either commercially or in year-end awards, for Steve McQueen’s and Gillian Flynn’s “Widows.” Here is a movie that tackles modern issues of race, sex, and class; that features stellar performances from a pitch-perfect ensemble led by Viola Davis and populated by Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, and Michelle Rodriguez; and that considers the different ways we lie to each other and to ourselves, and the moments that inspire us to change. It was very heavy! It was very good! It had a great moment where Colin Farrell basically tells Robert Duvall that he’s hoping for his death, and then Viola Davis tells Colin Farrell that she is hoping for his death! I don’t understand why more people didn’t care for this film when it was absolutely one of the year’s best.
2. PADDINGTON 2
Believing in goodness was very hard this year, and “Paddington 2” was like a soothing balm. Ben Whishaw’s continuously excellent performance as Paddington, the bear who believes that “If we’re kind and polite the world will be right,” remains flawless, and the film built around it — the gorgeous production design, the hilarious turn from a villainous Hugh Grant, and the delightful nature of Paddington’s time in prison and his friendship with Brendan Gleeson’s stern-faced baker Nuckle’s — was equally exceptional. When I wanted to believe the world can get better, “Paddington 2” provided all the hope I needed.
No film haunted me this year like Alex Garland’s “Annihilation,” adapted from the first novel in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. This was a movie that seemed misunderstood by everyone from the beginning — the studio didn’t know how to market it, international rights were dumped to Netflix, and the box office was nothing to talk about. But oh my, what a sci-fi spectacle — what an exploration of trauma and transformation, what a menagerie of nightmarish images (that goddamn bear!), what a consideration of how the world we thought we know can turn into something decidedly other. It’s the movie I’ve thought about most this year and that I will continue considering over and over again in my mind for years to come.
This seems to be the Oakland’s year as three young bay area filmmakers made films authentically black, and absolutely Oakland! We’ll get to the obvious one later on but an exceptional film that kinda slipped under the radar earlier this year was Blindspotting
. Life-long friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and starred in a movie that centers on the two as one is nearing the end of his probation in a rapidly gentrifying Oakland, and a police shooting of an unarmed black man just occurred. Of course, Diggs is expected to shine. I was surprised by Casal’s performance as Collin’s hot-tempered friend Miles as the two’s friendship changed through the film. Casal manages to give us the movie version of Tommy from Power as the film headed towards its explosion ending. The weird mix of incorporating spoken word rapping/poetry in crucial moments was an interesting experiment as well. While they make this film Oakland-specific, this is really about folks from the hood dealing with the hood being stripped of its “hood” as property values increase, juice shops pop up, and wannabes start acting like it’s “their city.”
2. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
As we are in the era of superhero movies as the modern blockbuster, it’s nice for a movie in this genre to come in and completely nail everything it is supposed to in a few, fresh creative way. I’ll admit, I was not expecting to like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
. For one, I like the MCUs rendition of one of my favorite comic characters (as movies finally got Spider-Man and Peter Parker right with Spider-Man: Homecoming
after so many years). I also didn’t want Miles Morales to be reduced to an animated movie as I think the first African-American/Latino webslinger deserves to be seen in a live action movie. I thought Sony could not do these characters right as I have not been a fan of just about all of their movies (Spider-Man 2
was good though). Boy was I WRONG in my worries and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
is an outstanding movie!!
It’s easily the best animated movie of the year, and possibly one of the best films of the year. As soon as I saw the comics code authority logo at the beginning of the film, I know this movie was “for me.” We should also differentiate between other movies surrounding superheroes. They are “superhero” movies, this is a “comic book” movie. This movie is essentially a comic book brought to life as we not only see thought bubbles but Spidey’s famous “thwip” and even a moment when a bagel is thrown and the word “bagel” pops up on the screen. With so many Easter Eggs moving 1000 miles a minute, this is a movie made by geeks for geeks. The film has such heart and soul and shouldn’t be as good as it is, but it is. I was surprised by how “black” the movie ended up being: graffiti while playing “This Or That” on a boombox, code-switching, and countless other things I didn’t expect in a comic book movie. The always needed (but soon will be missed) Stan Lee cameo is one that will touch at your heartstrings and I’m more than happy with how Miles was presented, authentically Miles. Ya did good Sony, very good!
1. BLACK PANTHER
I tried to be “neutral” when it comes to Black Panther
, but screw that. One of my favorite characters got his own big screen movie after his impressive cameo in Captain America: Civil War
, and suffice to say, Black Panther t
ook over the world delivering not only one of Marvel’s best films over the past decade, but most important ones.
The movie does a superb job building the world of Wakanda. Unlike most MCU movies, this is a complete film that really doesn’t depend on all the others and you don’t have to play catchup. Ryan Coogler and the production team made the fictitious advanced African country a living, breathing character and introduces to audiences the concept of Afro-futurism. Black Panther was unlike most superhero movies as it isn’t just bad guys destroying the world and heroes come and save the day. This movie speaks to the idea of colonialism, isolationism, the effects of slavery and white supremacy, and because it’s Coogler, he made sure to sprinkle a little bit of Oakland in it.
Marvel’s also had somewhat of a “villain problem” for most of their movies over the past 10 years. For the most part, they are one and done and mostly forgetable. However, Erik Kilmonger (and Thanos) proves to be the exception to the rule. A young black man, raised in Oakland after being abandoned just wants to use Wakandan technology to right the wrongs that have happened to black people all over the world. He was so sympathetic that many started saying #kilmongerwasright, and in the end, he proves to be the best type of villain: one who forever changes the hero as T’Challa ends up opening Wakanda to the rest of the world. You can’t talk about Black Panther
without discussing the women of Wakanda as this movie is all about how strong black women run things in a society that treats them as equals. The king’s bodyguards, the Dora Milaje are all badass warrior women and T’Challa’s sister Shuri is easily the scene stealer of the year. Keep your eyes on actress Leticia Wright as she’s gonna be a power player for years. Black Panther wasn’t just a superhero movie, it was a cultural event that captivated the world by storm and had people across the globe shouting “Wakanda Forever!”
3. BLACK PANTHER/SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Black Panther is one of those superhero films that comes along and changes things up a bit. As much as the MCU has a good amount of strong films, Ryan Coogler’s first venture into the shared universe welcomed us into Wakanda with open arms. It was a superhero movie with amazing characters, a rich world, a fantastic villain, and, besides being the first Marvel film to be led by a Black lead, it was also layered with sociopolitical commentary that rang so strongly throughout the film. In addition, Black Panther so seamlessly included its female characters so that they were a part of the story and powerful on their own. They led, they questioned, they fought, and it was beautiful to watch because it was something no other MCU film had ever done before.
I know I’m cheating, but I couldn’t keep Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse off my top 3 list, so it’s being paired with Black Panther. This film is a breakthrough in so many ways. It’s probably one of the best Spider-Man movies ever and its various animation styles add to its uniqueness. Miles Morales is the representation we all deserve to see more of and the film is able to so easily blend in all the verses together. It was a fresh take on a superhero film that broke boundaries while still having pathos and its own individuality, while maintaining its place within the larger and established Spider-Man universe. Besides all that and gifting us with Miles and his family, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is also a gorgeous film and you’d be remiss to miss out on watching it.
2. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
There’s something about Barry Jenkins’ film-making that is truly poetic. His focus on characters and the weight of their emotions on the narrative is wonderfully nuanced and striking. Jenkins’ use of close-ups and the way James Baldwin’s words were woven throughout the film so rhythmically was exceptionally beautiful and thoughtful, adding in a sense of deep intimacy that brought out the best in the story even when some of the characters were at their lowest. If Beale Street Could Talk is like a lovely portrait, visually stunning at first sight, but much deeper and richer the longer you look at it. Its ability to tell a detailed and still very relevant story, paired with fantastic performances by its cast, is what made it a standout in 2018.
Steve McQueen’s film is practically flawless and no matter how many times I think about Widows, there’s always something new to analyze, a new aspect to uncover, and another layer of depth to think about. It’s as much of a heist movie as it is a sociopolitical drama and a feminist journey that details women breaking free, discovering themselves, and learning to come into their own and relying on their strength without being held back. It’s been severely overlooked on so many best of lists for 2018 and not given as much attention by audiences either, and it’s deserving of so much praise for the way it handles all of the film’s characters and plots. Plus, it has the best ensemble cast of 2018, led by the phenomenal Viola Davis. Widows is thrilling, suspenseful, empowering, and deserves to be seen.
3. A SIMPLE FAVOR
Paul Feig’s modern-day film noir starts off my list of the best movies from 2018. I found this movie to be a devilish good time. A Simple Favor
has many different levels, and I really enjoyed all of them. Feig successfully takes a murder mystery and adds his usual comedic mastery to it. While A Simple Favor
does have its fair share of ridiculous moments, somehow Feig has you go along for the ride and not bother looking back or questioning it. The film is carried by the stellar performances of both leading ladies in Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. Lively looks like she is having a blast playing Emily, the foul-mouthed, no bullshit taking, head of PR for a popular fashion magazine. Kendrick’s Stephanie is an outwardly innocent mom of the year candidate whose son happens to be friends with Emily’s son, leading to a very unlikely friendship amongst two seemingly opposite people. Yet as time goes on, Stephanie may be a little more like Emily than anyone – maybe even herself – realized. When Emily disappears, Stephanie pulls out all the stops to figure out what happened to her best friend – updating all of the viewers on her Mommy Vlog of her progress along the way.
2. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
was a breath of fresh air to one of my favorite childhood Superheroes, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
took that to an entirely new level. In the name of full transparency, I did not know much about Miles Morales and his backstory – which only made some parts of the film even better in my mind. I grew up with the Spiderman animated series, a few of the comics, and of course Tobey Maguire – but when it came to Mile’s Spidey, I was out of the loop. Well I am all-in now.
The crazy thing is, I was legitimately excited for Spider-Verse after seeing the first round of trailers. Then I saw the post-credits scene after Venom and I was honestly not impressed. I thought it was trending to be too childish and wouldn’t be my cup of tea. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. The film works on every level. It is a fun ride that is full of laughs, awesome action, a compelling story, characters you actually care about, and the growth and development of a new hero that everyone can embrace. Not to mention even with all those core cinematic elements in place, the animation is second to none. Great job all around here.
1. A QUIET PLACE
A film’s ability to pull you into its world is such a difficult feat to accomplish and A Quiet Place
is able to do so as well as any film in recent memory. The whole film is a tense, and almost silent, thrill ride. Seeing A Quiet Place
in theaters was a blast and a truly unique experience. The entire audience was so drawn into the film that any slight noise in the theater turned heads. It seemed like everyone just forgot about their snacks and popcorn, adapting to the character’s desperation to keep quiet for fear of the monsters that may be lurking around any corner.
I could not have been more impressed with Krasinski, whose fingerprints are all over the movie from directing, starring, and helping pen the screenplay. Working with his real-life wife Emily Blunt, the two make you feel legitimately invested in the well-being of their family. A Quiet Place doesn’t waste any time, it has no real backstory or explanation of how the world got to the state that it is in, we’re just thrown right into this hellish reality. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat from the jump until the credits begin to roll. There is a sequel in the works, which I am a little weary of, but as long as the same creative minds are behind it – I have no reason to not go in with high hopes.
HONORABLE MENTION: OVERLORD
Overlord was a mix of a tense WWII war film with a high-octane zombie movie. Throw in some crazy Nazis, some honorable soldiers, a local villager as a possible love interest and you have yourself a damn good time.