Best Movies of 2018

It came to me that a good way of viewing this year would be to look back a decade ago and compare this year to 2008. If you go by what was #1 in the box office that year, what you'll find are about 20 films that were for the most part original ideas. They might not have been all great ideas, but they were mostly original. Maybe, one or two were adaptations of books, but there were so many original ideas in the multiplex that were succeeding. If you look at what was #1 in 2018, week after week all were either remakes, comic book films or sequels. You can almost count the original films on one hand. It is perhaps a sign of the times that this past year both Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep did sequels for the first time in their careers. A big deal was made about Washington doing The Equalizer 2, his first sequel in a nearly 40-year long career. Most people overlooked the fact that Streep who has been in the business just as long also did her very first sequel with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

It's not as if original ideas aren't out there. There are fewer, but what few there are, they got trampled by what's now the Disney machine. Disney owns the Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars brands, and those brands have consumed the movie-going audience so completely, mainly because they take up so much space in the multiplexes, practically crowding out the competition, especially any original competition. Therefore, any original ideas that manage to breakthrough should be celebrated. Of the handful that broke through, two have gotten love from a couple of award shows. The first is John Krasinski's A Quiet Place, a successful and somewhat clever horror film. The second is Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians.

Krasinski has probably had the best year of his life. Not only did his film A Quiet Place make over $188 million in the domestic box office, making it one of the highest-grossing horror films in history, just behind The Exorcist (1977), but he also was cast as Jack Ryan in the Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan. Krasinski's banner year didn't stop there because he cast his wife, Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place, and she's also having one of her best years as she was cast in Mary Poppins Returns, which is doing really well in the box office. It surpassed the aforementioned Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which made $120 million domestically. With $158 million, as of January 20, 2019, Blunt's film also entered the top ten of all-time musicals, according to Box Office Mojo.

Speaking of top tens, one of the biggest stories of the year was Crazy Rich Asians. It made $174 million domestically, placing it in the top ten of romantic comedies, again according to Box Office Mojo. The last romantic comedy to do as well was nearly 10 years ago with The Proposal (2009). This makes sense given as mentioned earlier there has been a lack of original ideas atop the charts. Romantic comedies typically have to be original in their inception. Of course, Chu's film was an adaptation of a series of bestselling books, but what's most notable is the fact that Crazy Rich Asians is the first film in 25 years, ever since The Joy Luck Club (1993), to feature a predominantly Asian cast, distributed by a major American studio, in this case Warner Bros.

Asian representation has been supremely lacking in major Hollywood productions, especially this kind of representation. There really haven't been predominantly Asian casts or Asian actors in leading roles that aren't vehicles for guys like Jackie Chan. What exacerbated the problem were the numerous examples of whitewashing or what some call yellow-face. Yellow-face is when a role in a film that's meant to be an Asian person is portrayed by a white person or a person of European descent. It's actually a tradition that goes back decades, but the Asian community has been more vocal in its protests against it over the past five years or so.

Crazy Rich Asians was released on August 15. That same month, three other films with Asians in the lead were released. They include The Meg, Mile 22 and Searching. That same month, Netflix also added two Asian-led productions to its service. One was To All the Boys I've Loved Before. The other was Kim's Convenience. With the success of Crazy Rich Asians, combined with all these other things created the hashtag, #AsianAugust. Two of the most critically acclaimed films this year were also predominantly Asian films, South Korea's Burning and Japan's Shoplifters. Hopefully, this will turn the tide in Asian representation in Hollywood.

However, when it comes to representation in Hollywood, the real dominating story was that of African-American representation. The ultimate champion was Black Panther, the super-hero movie that broke all the records. It made $700 million domestically, making it the #1 film in that genre and of the whole year. In terms of all-time records, it bested Titantic (1997) to become #3 behind Avatar (2009) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). It made $1.34 billion in the global box office, putting it at #9 of highest-grossing movies worldwide. It didn't quite make the dent that Avengers: Infinity War did globally. Infinity War topped off at $2.04 billion, but the cultural dent that Black Panther made was much stronger.

Wilson Morales of the African American Film Critics Association pointed out on December 30 that Black Panther was one of five films this year to make more than $100 million in the domestic box office that was directed by an African-American. Ryan Coogler directed Black Panther, an effort that made him the runner-up for Time magazine's Person of the Year. Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time was the second. DuVernay also became the first black woman to direct a film that grossed $100 million or more. Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer 2 was the third. Steven Caple Jr's Creed II was fourth and Peter Ramsey's Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the fifth.

It wasn't all about box office though when it came to movies about African-Americans or made by African-Americans. Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman won the Grand Prix at the 71st Cannes Film Festival where it premiered. The American Film Institute named it one of the best of 2018. Based on some other indicators, it's possible that this film could be the first film by Spike Lee to be nominated for Best Picture. Lee himself was first nominated nearly 30 years ago for Do the Right Thing (1989) in the category of writing but never for directing and never for Best Picture.

There's also a lot of buzz recently around John David Washington who is the son of Denzel Washington and who plays the titular character in Lee's BlacKkKlansman. The buzz is pointing toward the possibility that John David Washington could be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars. When it comes to Oscar nominations, it can be hard to predict but Mahershala Ali who won two years ago for Moonlight is pretty much guaranteed to be nominated again for his role in Green Book.

There is a question of whether or not Regina King, the Emmy-winning actress in If Beale Street Could Talk will get nominated. If she doesn't, then the only other actor of color who could get an Oscar nomination this year is Rami Malek who played Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek is Egyptian. Egypt is considered a Middle Eastern or Arabic country. The Middle East is part of Asia, so Malek could be the sole Asian representation this year among the acting nominees.

When it comes to the acting nominees, the front runners are Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born, as well as all three women from The Favourite. Olivia Colman who plays Queen Anne is in contention for Best Actress. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz who are both previous Oscar winners are in contention for Best Supporting Actress. The front-runner for Best Supporting Actress is a bit up in the air, but other than Colman and Gaga, Glenn Close in The Wife could be the potential upset in the Best Actress category.

Finally, what's been the talk of the online film community, as well as within Hollywood is the presence of Alfonso Cuarón's Roma. It's a personal, semi-autobiographical film, set in Mexico in the 1970's. It's all in Spanish and all in black-and-white with all unknown actors and even non-actors. No major studio picked it up or would make it, despite Cuarón's acclaimed status. Netflix did make it and even gave it the widest theatrical release of any film it has backed. Now, Roma could get a Best Picture nod, making it the first time a Netflix original has gotten that honor. We'll see on Tuesday, January 22, if it does.

Best Movies of 2018

Best Theatrical

BLINDSPOTTING by Carlos López Estrada
ANNIHILATION by Alex Garland
PRIVATE LIFE by Tamara Jenkins
THE RIDER by Chloé Zhao
BEN IS BACK by Peter Hedges
OH LUCY! by Atsuko Hirayanagi
GAME NIGHT by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
NIGHT COMES ON by Jordana Spiro
MONSTERS AND MEN by Reinaldo Marcus Green
SMALLFOOT by Karey Kirkpatrick
SATURDAY CHURCH by Damon Cardasis
BOY ERASED by Joel Edgerton
1985 by Yen Tan
THE STRANGE ONES by Christopher Radcliff & Lauren Wolkstein
THE SEAGULL by Michael Mayer

Best Overlooked DVD / VOD

QUEST by Jonathan Olshefski
DAYVEON by Amman Abbasi
ICARUS by Bryan Fogel
THE PASS by Ben A. Williams
PRINCESS CYD by Stephen Cone
PLAY THE DEVIL by Maria Govan
A FANTASTIC WOMAN by Sebastián Lelio
MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER by Hiromasa Yonebayashi & Giles New
MI MEJOR AMIGO by Martín Deus
MARIO by Marcel Gisler


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