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Top Nine Movies of 2018



Essays, Not Rants! 362: Top Nine Movies of 2018


Captain Marvel came out this weekend but I have other engagements and so cannot nerd out intelligently. Instead, please enjoy a curated selection of movies from the past year that I consider exceptional in one way or another.


As always, there are nine because there’s always space for one more.


9. Bumblebee

Look, I’m as surprised as you are. As much as I am a sucker for giant robots, the Transformers movies have hitherto all been cheap thrills with not much else going for them. Bumblebee, however, is a movie where all that’s got a whole lotta heart behind it. Its 80s set plot draws on John Hughes and The Iron Giant creating a surprising, warm, delight of a film.


8. Annihilation

When I watch a movie I want to feel something. Annihilation so throughly envelopes you in this feeling of uneasy sublimity that I left the cinema haunted. It’s a beautiful watch, but the beauty within is not always a pleasant one.


7. If Beale Streets Could Talk

In this film there is nothing more important than the situation its protagonists find themselves in. Gorgeous cinematography and a wonderful score lend themselves to making this specific, tragic story feel epic and yet personal.


6. Set It Up

I am a sucker for good rom-coms and Set It Up is so charming and so cute it’s hard not to fall in love. I’m sure I could find some intelligent-sounding reason for why this movie is on this list, but screw it, I just really liked it.


5. Crazy Rich Asians

I have a maddeningly complex relationship with this movie, owing to a complex relationship with Singapore and a dislike of the book it’s based on. And yet there’s so much about this movie I really like, from the changes to the book that improve it considerably to its excellent choice of music. So here it is.


4. Black Panther

Dude. This movie is proof of the wonder that happens when we let the underrepresented give us their fantastical vision. Unapologetically afro-futuristic, Black Panther is a tour de force in every department. It feels so fresh and, of course, is super cool.


3. Sorry To Bother You

This movie is weird. Delightfully, freakishly weird. Boots Riley’s movie comments on race, capitalism, and so much more in a surreal world that feels a little too real for comfort. It’s fun, it’s nuts, it’s terrific.


2. Eighth Grade

Coming-of-age movies are usually gentle affairs, kid gets older, learns something about life, so on. Eight Grade is a brutally honest take on all that, telling a story where something that seems so small in hindsight becomes as important as a superhero showdown with Thanos. It’s honest and full of heart, and truly special.


1. Into The Spider-Verse

This movie is a triumph. It’s rare that a movie does something quite this outlandish, incorporating so much of one medium (here: comics) to tell its story. It speaks to a masterful vision that it all comes together so well, creating a story that looks like nothing else. And what a story; Spider-Verse fully embraces the everyman nature of the Spidey mythos and soars.

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:kaukau: I'm not sure if I'd put Into the Spider-Verse at #1 or, because I'm a sucker for Spielberg, Ready Player One.  But objectively, it's probably Into the Spider-Verse.  It was an amazing film.


I also really liked Aquaman.  Part of that is my pre-established love for the character, but I genuinely did like the movie.  After all,I would have hated it if it didn't capture what I like about him.  Like what happened with Man of Steel.


As for Annihilation, I watched that one recently (finally).  I've been meaning to look through your blog to find the old post about it to share my thoughts, but anyway, I have a few different thoughts on it.  I think that the first act was terribly directed, the second average, and the third act genuinely pretty good.  The scientists were utterly unscientific and it suffered that problem of nobody doing a single thing that could be construed as logical.  And lest I hand-wave it as "They were only illogical because the Shimmer was making them illogical," they were acting illogically before the Shimmer happened.  I couldn't get over how unrealistic the military procedures were.  It all felt like the director knew nothing about the real world and had only ever seen it through movies.


Yet, the themes of the movie were pretty good.  A bit blatant, and not the slightest bit subtle, but they were poetic all the same.  Likening affairs to cancer, and then contrasting those with a creature that creates new things by combining them, was all retty interesting.  It god a bit Lovecraftian by the halfway mark, which few films really achieve.  The deep base in the abckground really helped enhance the sense that the Shimmer was Beyond and Incomprehensible.  So as science fiction, it was pretty good.  It did an exceptional job of doing what science fiction is supposed to do.  And even though I didn't care for it so much as a film, thinking that the book would probably be better, it at the same time managed to do a great job transitioning Lovecraftian ideas to the visual (and audio) medium, so in that sense it definitely succeeded as a film.  I'm still not sure what I actually think, but the friend who recommended it to me definitely had it right when he said that it definitely provoked thoughts that were along my wavelength.


And finally...I don't care what you say about Bumblebee.  I'm not giving that franchise any more of my money, even if it's good.  I just can't do it without feeling exploited.



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There's no reason to feel exploited by Bumblebee. It was made by an actual fan of transformers, and did well enough at the box office that Michael Bay is never going to be allowed to touch the brand again. Yes, Paramount executives are friggin' morons that will probably find a way to screw their new golden goose - but that's par for the course in Hollywood.


Like, seriously, Spiderverse was fantastic DESPITE Sony executives, not because of them. Tom Rothman, Avi Arad, and Amy Pascal are all morons (and in the latter case, a racist moron). The movie was good because the directors attached to it are the modern day Midas: everything they touch turns to solid gold, no matter how bottom-of-the-barrel the concept sounds.

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...and did well enough at the box office that Michael Bay is never going to be allowed to touch the brand again. Yes, Paramount executives are friggin' morons that will probably find a way to screw their new golden goose - but that's par for the course in Hollywood.


It's the lowest grossing of the franchise so far in both domestic and international box office. I think Bay's admitted disinterest in directing any more (low returns from Last Knight don't help) is a more important factor here than Bumblebee's unimpressive box office numbers. It didn't bomb, but "golden goose" might be a bit of a strong term here.


(Also he is producer so he's still very much touching the brand.)


It was better than the first three films, I'll give you that. Probably better than the last two but I never bothered seeing them and can't compare.

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