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Top 10 Movies of 2018

In 2018, thanks to the wonder that was pre-crash MoviePass, I managed to see 35 films in theaters. This is a lifetime high for me, and while it’s still not the level of actual reviewers or cinephiles (or Star Wars fans that just saw the two SW movies over and over again) I have to say, I’m pretty hooked. I feel like going I’m through withdrawal now that MoviePass’s demise has left me having to decide which movies to pay for again. Movies are pretty great, and it’s even better going out and seeing them in a theater, making an event of it, really immersing yourself.

So of course, now that I’m cinematically literate, there was nothing left to do but make a definitive top 10 list of the movies released in 2018 (that I saw and liked). There may be some spoilers.

10. Green Book

Green Book was an interesting movie. The story of two men from completely different cultures coming together and teaching each other on a long road trip was fun all by itself. Add on top of it the stories of race: the uneducated white man getting more respect than the talented black man, the white man fitting into black places while the black man is rejected from white ones, and the white man’s struggle to comprehend black discrimination. There’s some power behind seeing a talented, educated man be personally invited and praised by the wealthy and elite and invited into their homes, and then be told he can’t use their bathroom due to the color of his skin.

My problems with this movie are also related: I feel like it focuses too much on the white man’s story and perspective of the black man’s struggles. Which, while it has its merits, still kind of feels like it misses a point. The fact that Viggo Mortensen gets nominated for “Lead Role” awards in a movie about a black man’s problems while Mahershala Ali gets “Supporting Role” feels wrong somehow, but that’s how the story was told. Still, overall the movie is fun to watch, both actors are amazing, and it makes you think and feel and hopefully makes you aware of discrimination, both historically and modernly.

9. Bohemian Rhapsody

What’s not to like about Queen? Bohemian Rhapsody does an excellent job of telling a dramatic history of the band and its forerunner, Freddie Mercury. Rami Malek does an excellent performance. Parts of the movie are like watching a hilarious “How It’s Made” video of some of the best music of the century, parts of it are literally just watching concerts and listening to awesome music. Most importantly, there’s the story of Mercury’s evolution, which is a story arc any writer could only dream of: a British-Indian man abandoning his heritage,  struggling to balance love for a woman with being gay, being manipulated by a manager turned lover, being scrutinized by the media, and eventually being able to be comfortable with who he is, all the while using his talent to push the band to create more and more musical innovations. It’s so good.

8. Crazy Rich Asians

I loved Crazy Rich Asians for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it’s a love story, and a pretty good one. The other day I was watching a RomCom and I thought to myself “Not enough of these start with the people having already met each other but having to get over an issue that actually deepens their love instead of sparking it.” But that’s actually what Crazy Rich Asians is. Second, the characters are all so unique and memorable, they all fit into the movie while also standing out. Even the characters that are marginal or antagonists are pretty lovable. Third, the movie is beautiful. Shots of Singapore are awesome, there’s so much color in the set dressing and the costuming, all of it works together in a way that accents the feelings of the movie. And finally, it’s completely unique. There were times when I actually felt like an outsider, something that can only happen when a movie is made by and for people that aren’t like me. Obviously, that means I can’t speak to how well Asian and Asian-American culture was actually portrayed, but based on reactions I’ve seen, it seems like it did pretty good. My one problem is that everyone in the movie seemed almost too attractive. 

7. Hearts Beat Loud

THIS MOVIE IS SO PURE. Hearts Beat Loud‘s tagline is “The Feel Good Movie We Need Right Now” and I don’t know if I can describe it any better. It has great acting, great music, a great story about relationships and love and real-life problems, great design and editing, great everything. I could try and go into details but it just feels like I can say “every bit of it feels good” and tell you the music will be stuck in your head for months and call it a day.

6. Black Panther

There’s not much that I can say about Black Panther that hasn’t been said before. It’s a Marvel movie, it tells a great story, it has really stylish fight scenes, amazing costuming and set design, lots of cool technology. It’s awesome to see an all-black cast really kill it in a blockbuster movie and makes you want to see more of it. It celebrates African and African-American cultures in interesting ways, and the main problems and climax of the movie ties into real-world problems. It managed to be everything Marvel films do well and also be different and shiny. 

5. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Boy, do I love me some Star Wars. While Solo doesn’t have the story depth of The Last Jedi, it does do some things very right: it takes us on a quirky adventure through a colorful universe with a bunch of strong personalities that have great chemistry. And that’s really what we loved about the original Star Wars films, wasn’t it? I love every character in the movie, from Han to Qi’ra to Dryden Vos and L3-37. A lot of it is everything you could want from a prequel: It shows some of the traits that you love exactly how you know them, and it develops others through the course of the film. Plus it has one of the best endings, both in terms of poetic storywriting for Han, and connecting the film to the larger story and leaving things open for EVEN MORE STAR WARS. It definitely deserves as much love as any other Star Wars film.

4. Sorry to Bother You

Man, this movie is going to stick in my head for a long time. I can only describe Sorry to Bother You as a trip. I honestly went into it thinking “wacky comedy, probably with some messages about race and white-collar work”. But I was not prepared for the genius lampooning of workforce exploitation and corporate hierarchies that it became. The sheer amount of metaphor they managed to stuff into what is ostensibly a comedy is astounding, and the movie manages to touch on not just labor issues, but also racial issues, poverty, and the corruption of money, all in a way that makes you wonder how such an outlandish movie can feel like it might actually happen. And all of that is before I mention that the filming, style, editing, and acting are all incredible. It’s a must-see if you’re okay with movies that are rated R for a good reason.

3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I honestly need to see this movie again before it leaves theaters. You may have heard that Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is a cinematic marvel, a first-of-its-kind blockbuster that innovates on animated styles in incredible fashion. Not only does it do a bunch of crazy things that all work and look amazing, but a lot of it has been documented on Twitter. Just look at this:


You can find a lot of cool stuff on the twitter of animator Nick Kondo, and even the composer Daniel Pemberton has written threads on how the movie was made, and that’s awesome. While watching the movie I had a thought strike me that “This kind of story could literally only be told in animation.” We can all cross our fingers that it means we’ll be seeing more animated movies in the years to come.

2. Avengers: Infinity War

The thing that makes Avengers: Infinity War amazing is that it’s a movie 12 years in the making. It crazy to me that with each new movie Marvel releases they’re adding something to a project that’s now 20 films long (not to mention tv shows, shorts, etc.). And sure, not all of those films hit it out of the park, but they’re all connected, and almost every film affects the next film in the world and story of The Avengers, and the films just keep getting better.

Infinity War is the penultimate film in a storyline that’s reached unheard-of length and has the investment of so much of the population. So it was a bold choice to make so much of the story about the villian, and I think it really paid off. Thanos dominates the story arc of Infinity War, and his arc is great. But the film weaves in the other intersecting storylines with Lord of the Rings-level epicness, as all the heroes lead separate team journeys in their own attempts to stop Thanos from completing his, traveling all over the earth and the galaxy. It’s masterfully done.

1. BlacKkKlansman

By the time I’ve reached the end of this list, I’ve questioned everything about it, as all of these movies are soooo good. But I think BlacKkKlansman deserves to be up here because it was the movie that most made me feel something. As an account of some of the racism that occurs in 1979 Colorado and its connection to the racism that occurs today, some might call it heavy-handed, but it feels like exactly what we need. It doesn’t beat around the bush or call out micro-aggressions or use metaphors, it shows pure “we hate blacks and Jews” KKK racism and reminds you that that’s still happening. On top of that, the story is really good, it’s shot really well, there’s multiple memorable lines and scenes, and the acting is incredible. It really wowed me.

Some honorable mentions that didn’t make the top ten: Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns, Tag, The Happytime Murders, and Juliet, Naked.

Acclaimed movies I didn’t get to see: Blindspotting, Annihilation, Eighth Grade, and Love, Simon, plus a bunch of others.

Feel free to roast me and my tastes in the comments below, or let me know what I should see this year. Here’s to 2019!

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