My 2019 goal is to always be fashionably late. As someone who’s known for being consistently too early to things, this is a hard one for me. But thankfully, I managed to out-late everyone by debuting my Top Films of 2018 list a full week into the new year. Claps all around to me. 2018 was a packed year, full of ups and downs and too many fucking shenanigans. It was also a year of so many good movies, and so many poignant ones that I really loved and related to. In a year of feeling like society took a million steps back, 2018 still managed to be a stand-out year for movies AND television.
I want to announce first that I did miss a couple films that have made many peoples’ Top 10 lists, including For Izzy, Blackkklansmen, Annihilation, Green Book. I had such a hard time curating my Top 5 list that I want to shout out a couple honorable mentions. Boots Riley’s directorial debut film Sorry To Bother You, starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and Steven Yeun, came out fall of 2018 and threw everyone for a loop. It was just the kind of bizarre, radical, and funny film we needed to see and it truly got a lot of people talking. Scooping up award after award this current awards season is Yorgos Lanthimos’ 18th century lesbian power movie The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman and her bitches, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Not only was it a visually stunning film with amazing hair/makeup/set design, it was also such a funny movie that really utilized all of the main actors’ comedic talents. Stunning! Now with those two out of the way, let’s get right into it!
#5 Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler)
This damn movie came out so long ago, and I feel like it’s been in our cultural zeitgeist for at least three years already even though it hasn’t even been a full year yet. That’s how big of an impact Black Panther has had. It is the third-highest-grossing film ever in the United States (ninth in the world), and such a feat in popular filmmaking. Starring some of Hollywood’s current best actors like Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther became a prophetic, empowering, and new industry standard film that I frankly think is being completely snubbed right now in awards. I think back to the three different times I left the theater after seeing this movie, and how I felt revitalized and inspired at this truly joyous and amazing Black film, and how I knew this would be part of the grand movement in Hollywood to push for more people of color in all facets of popular media. I honestly cannot look at any of the other films that came out last year and not think Black Panther deserves Best Picture, because it truly was 2018’s best movie.
Read my full review of Black Panther here.
#4 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman)
I fully understand why some of the years’ best movies always premiere in December of every year; it’s to keep it fresh in the audience’s mind as Hollywood approaches the awards season. So part of me always wonders: Is this movie in my Top 5 because it’s just fresh on my mind or because it actually deserves to be in my Top 5? The answer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is yes. Yes it’s fresh on my mind and it deserves to be in my Top 5. This film took what was honestly a tired and played out property at this point (SpiderMan: Homecoming literally just came out in 2017 too), rejuvenated it with a reimagined protagonist and story, and made it into one of the most innovative and visually jaw-dropping films I’ve ever seen. We have to remember that 2018 was also the year that the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe started to come to its end with Avengers: Infinity War, and the magnitude with which this series of movies has turned into just spectacles of mass destruction is getting exhausting. To see this Spider-Man be fully realized in an animated setting, one that combines good CGI with a love for comic books as a medium, is really exciting places this movie as #4 in my list.
Read my full review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse here.
#3 Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Anyone that knows me knows that I fucking LOVE movies about everyday life. For the family in Shoplifters, their everyday life is drastically different than mine (and probably a lot of people’s). But what I love most about this film is that it’s a steady and deliberate focus on the family members’ day-to-day activity. Kore-eda is careful to omit what can’t be revealed too early because, as it turns out, this family is just a little more peculiar than you would expect. It’s a small and charming tale, and there’s an undeniable tension that lingers throughout the film - the power of reverse dramatic irony unfolds through Shoplifters because the family members know something that we do not. And they hide things from each other too. Is it terrible of me to betray Burning and say that I think Shoplifters should win Best Foreign Film at the Oscars? (That’s a lie. I want Roma to win, but I just really love Shoplifters.)
Read my full review of Shoplifters here.
#2 Eighth Grade (dir. Bo Burnham)
This is truly a standout film for me this year. Written and directed by Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade is another slice-of-life story, this time about a middle school white girl. From that description, I wouldn’t have liked this movie very much, but Burnham manages to capture the absolutely relatable quality of surviving middle school as an awkward girl so well, and Elsie Fisher delivers such a knockout performance as Kayla (on par with that of Olivia Colman’s in The Favourite, as they were both nominated for the Golden Globe Award), that this has easily become one of my absolute favorites of the year. The film doesn’t try to showcase an idealized vision of what it means to be an awkward teenager whatsoever; it does the opposite in fact. The teens have acne, all different kinds of pubescent bodies, awkward hand gestures, and even more awkward interactions. The father-daughter relationship portrayed here is humorous and sad all at once, and Kayla’s want to be acknowledged backfires in the film’s climactic scene in the most bitter of ways.
Read my full review of Eighth Grade here.
#1 To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (dir. Susan Johnson)
Is this even a surprise? When TATBILB first premiered on Netflix, it was all I could think and talk about for at least two months after. The profound effect that this seemingly harmless romantic comedy has had on me is indescribable. Starring Lana Condor (check out her new show Deadly Class!) as Lara Jean Covey and Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky, To All The Boys has a unique premise in which Lara Jean’s secret love letters gets sent out to all her past crushes, including Peter. But the film takes an interesting turn and it becomes a story of Lara Jean, an Asian American girl, learning to be comfortable with the idea that someone like Peter would like her (and he loves her). One of the most wholesome films I’ve ever seen, there were countless times that I could physically feel my heart expanding at the utter cuteness between Lara Jean and Peter (and exalted even more by Condor and Centineo’s undeniable chemistry). I love this movie so so much, and I love even more that nearly every single Asian American girl I know went out of their way to tell me they wished they had grown up watching a movie like this (even more so than Crazy Rich Asians, although Searching came pretty close). It’s a bittersweet sentiment, but somehow that makes To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before that much more lovable.