Top 10 films of 2018
10. Incredibles 2 (dir. Brad Bird)
The release of the much-anticipated sequel to “The Incredibles” showcases our generation’s desperate need for a feel-good, nostalgic movie — something to bring back the carefree energy of our childhood — and “Incredibles 2” does not disappoint. Set immediately after the ending of the original movie, “Incredibles 2” follows the Parr family as they try to navigate a new environment where the family’s powers are on full display in a world where “supers” are still illegal.
Like all Disney-Pixar movies, “Incredibles 2” develops important social commentary under the sophisticated guise of a kids’ movie. The primary storyline, in which Helen is the main super of the household, represents a shift in expectations for women and how our society handles this change. In a year marked by prominent feminist messages and female empowerment, “Incredibles 2” addresses the complex relationship that grows from a woman returning to work while her husband stays home to take care of the family.
“Incredibles 2” is every bit as super as its lead family and then some. The movie brought back a franchise most of us thought long-gone and proved that sentimentality can be every bit as successful as a steroid-driven action movie. Nominated for a Golden Globe, “Incredibles 2” finds its way into all of our hearts and will stay there for years to come.
— Emma Chang, Senior Arts Editor
9. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
In a year saturated with franchise blockbusters, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” managed to both dominate the mid-summer box office and raise the bar for future action movies. “Fallout” arrived with an energy and dedication to meticulous stunt work that immediately lent the film comparisons to 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The comparisons are more than valid: “Fallout” is and should be the new standard against which action set pieces are held.
The sixth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” series could only be built upon a collective awareness of Tom Cruise as the actor who constantly challenges his physical capabilities. That’s why the narrative of “Fallout” doesn’t matter as much as most movies. The intricacies of the backroom espionage are not the reason the film captivates so many.
The action set pieces in “Fallout” are comfortably some of the strongest in the franchise and arguably some of the most jaw-dropping ever made. It’s hard to recall a moment in film from 2018 as thrilling as the one-take HALO skydive near the beginning of “Fallout.” Of course it is equally impossible to forget an uncommonly jarring bathroom fight scene or Cruise leaping from building to building (and actually breaking his ankle in a shot that made the film’s final cut). Above all, “Fallout” serves as a reminder for why we go to the movies in the first place. It is an unrelentingly tense yet undemanding joyride of an action blockbuster that is as adrenaline-fueled as it is intelligent and boundary-pushing.
— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Arts Writer
8. Eighth Grade (dir. Bo Burnham)
I saw “Eighth Grade” at the Nantucket Film Festival this summer and the whole time I couldn’t help thinking, is that Mike Birbiglia sitting two rows in front of me? So I spent the entirety of the film looking at Mike Birbiglia, monitoring his every reaction in time with my own. Was Mike Birbiglia laughing? I shall laugh. Was Mike Birbiglia crying? Here come the tears. Was Mike Birbiglia trying to get a popcorn kernel out of his rearmost molar? The entire audience felt swarmed with the awkward energy emanating from Bo Burnham’s cringe-fest of a coming-of-age film. We squirmed in unison as Kayla (a brilliant performance from newcomer Elsie Fisher) comments, selfies and DMs her way through the horrific awkwardness of middle school social situations. “Eighth Grade” is the coming-of-age film of today. It's “Pretty in Pink” plus Instagram and minus racism. The millennial comedian’s writing and directing debut is nothing short of genius. John Hughes would be proud.
— Becky Portman, Daily Arts Writer
7. Avengers: Infinity War (dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)
Although heralded as the biggest crossover of all time and the culmination of the ten year Marvel Superhero Saga, this bursting at the seams adventure epic is merely the prologue to an even bigger conclusion coming this spring. But while the marketing may have been misleading, the film itself is the ultimate realization of what the Marvel universe can be when maximized to its full potential: a comic book brought to life. No movie has ever felt more like a comic book than “Infinity War” in the way it weaves between storylines and the sheer number of characters and locations it throws at the audience. In the case of “Infinity War,” bigger is better, it’s hard to imagine a film that is larger in scale. Is it totally and completely satisfying? Not really. But in channeling the spirit of other fantasy and sc-fi epics like “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars,” it becomes the first Marvel movie to tap into the inner power of epic mythology and present itself not just as an event film but as the event itself. To quote Nick Fury in Joss Whedon’s original “Avengers,” what “Infinity War” represents isn’t a Marvel movie with stakes, but a promise of a Marvel universe with the one thing it's been missing: catharsis. Come this May, audiences around the world will have the opportunity to see if it was worth it.
— Ian Harris, Daily Arts Writer
6. Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler)
In a year that saw dozens of heroes uniting to stop a universe-spanning calamity, “Black Panther” still became not just the best MCU movie of the year, but the best film Marvel Studios has put out to date. At its best, Coogler’s latest plays like a Shakespearean epic crossed with the visual panache of “The Matrix” with a little bit of James Bond thrown in for good measure. That’s a diverse set of influences for anyone to wrangle together, yet Coogler still molds them into something that feels wholly original from top to bottom. The action is crisp, the cinematography and production design is beautiful; it’s nothing short of a triumph of worldbuilding, art direction and storytelling. Everybody on both sides of the camera gives it their all with each scene.
It’s hard to pick a true stand-out from the cast, as Chadwick Boseman absolutely nails the balance between relatability and regality in the title role while Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Winston Duke round out one of the best supporting casts of the year (M’Baku laughing at his own joke might be the single most endearing moment in 2018 entertainment). Yet the undeniable scene stealer is Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger in what might be the MCU’s first Oscar-nominated performance. In a film all about what it means to have power, Jordan portrays just the opposite: a man inundated with feelings of powerlessness and driven by a sense of righteous fury, grounding the performance in a humanity that many other MCU villains sorely lack. It’s Ryan Coogler’s world, we’re just living in it.
— Jeremiah Vanderhelm, Daily Arts Writer
5. A Star is Born (dir. Bradley Cooper)
The only imaginable explainable for why the A+ epic “A Star is Born” might not be ranked on your top ten list this year is if you haven’t yet had the privilege of witnessing (and being dazzled by) Cooper and Gaga’s on-screen magic. If, for some reason, the very combination of pop-legend Lady Gaga and dreamboat/genius Bradley Cooper isn’t enough to make you split for the theater, let’s review a few of the key rationales for why this film is a non-negotiable must-see for awards season (and for life in general). First, there is the obvious: the soundtrack of gold. The perfect balance of upbeat numbers, throaty rock ballads and heart-breaking love songs, the music is the much-appreciated cherry on top of an already fabulous flick. Second, the chemistry. Cooper and Gaga seriously bring it, and it works. We haven’t felt this wowed by a movie romance since Jack and Rose in “Titanic.” Finally, this film is electric. When the lights go black in the theater and Bradley Cooper starts belting out “Black Eyes,” the energy that vibrates from the screen to the audience is tangible, chill-inducing even. Truly though, anyone with a warm, beating heart can appreciate the charm of “A Star is Born,” a five-star film more than worthy of a top-ten ranking.
— Sammie Nelson, Daily Arts Writer
4. The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
The prospects for “2018 in film” were greatly improved in the month of Dec., and a portion of that excellence attributed to Yorgos Lanthimos’s historical feature “The Favourite,” a medieval farce starring Olivia Colman as a bratty Queen Anne, supported by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz as two cabinet cousins. Played straight and severe, “The Favourite” finds funny in a grandly costumed satire about interpersonal cabinet relations while war rages on across the English Channel. Colman is a befuddled, blundering queen whose personal absurdities Stone and Weisz must dance around for the benefit of both their country and their pocketbooks. Beginning at the bottom as a peasant in the movie, Stone grabs the film by the neck and puts on a display with the same level of talent and tact that landed her on the top of the mountain in 2016. A spectacle of costume and character, “The Favourite” is a must-watch for anyone aiming to see the year’s best.
— Stephen Satarino, Daily Film Editor
3. BlacKkKlansman (dir. Spike Lee)
Spike Lee, the most veteran of directors behind the films in our list, returns with a 2018 joint that’s on-par with his best work to date. “BlacKkKlansman” is the dramatic retelling of the story of Ron Stallworth, the first Black police officer in Colorado Springs, who went on to lead an operation to infiltrate his town’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan. The real "Ron Stallworth" in the film is played by John David Washington (son of Denzel), though the "Ron Stallworth" in the film is really acted out by two different people, the police department using the white Adam Driver as the face of the undercover-duo when meeting with members of the Klan. Lee creates an atmosphere of a world on the brink of either fire-and-brimstone or a moment of empowered change, and the film’s surprisingly true-to-life premise sets up for a harrowing finish, ripe with intensity and implication.
— Stephen Satarino, Daily Film Editor
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dir. Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr., Rodney Rothman)
An awe-inspiring labor of love for all involved, Sony Pictures’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” seamlessly fuses numerous animation styles and mediums to create 2018’s most visually groundbreaking film. In a superhero genre oversaturated with statuesque white men, “Spider-Verse” follows half-Latino, half-Black high schooler Miles Morales as he slings webs across the rooftops of a near-future New York brimming with multiculturalism. Spider-Man’s new look never feels like tokenization, and the film is effortlessly modern as it weaves hip-hop and R&B into a classic orchestral movie score. The result is a film that is sleek, in-touch and absurdly fun to watch.
It’s hard not to look at “Into the Spider-Verse” as pioneering when it upends so many classic superhero film conventions. It’s delightfully self-aware, often winking at the audience as it pokes fun at the superhero genre with fourth wall breaks and hilarious cameo performances from John Mulaney (“Saturday Night Live”) and Nicolas Cage (“Mandy”). Despite the film’s underperformance at the box-office — more a testament to the stigma surrounding animated movies than to the film’s quality — it has fared well through awards season thus far, taking home the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film. With any luck, the film’s warm critical reception should help to lend legitimacy to animation as a medium that extends beyond just children’s entertainment.
— Max Michalsky, Daily Arts Writer
1. Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón)
Before I saw “Roma,” I didn’t know I could be moved by piles of dogshit in a carport. I never noticed how the arrangement of family members around a television screen after dinner can constellate the dynamics of familial love. I didn’t think about how much it means when someone takes the time to wake you up in the morning — how intimate, how full of love, that is. But I don’t often know what image or scent or sound will lay sudden siege to my memory when I revisit sites of significance to my past. Nor do I know how to make these sudden sieges of memory legible to people other than myself. How to articulate gratitude to the inhabitants of these memories, to express gratitude for the ways they loved me without thinking. Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”) vindicated me of these frustrations.
In “Roma,” Cuarón’s intricate, semi-autobiographical ode to his family’s housekeeper Lido (to whom he dedicates the film) as well as her role in his upbringing amid the socio-political tension of late 20th-century Mexico City, speaks the language of memory and of honor to the women who shape our upbringings more fluently than any filmmaker in recent memory. Penning the story of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), Lido’s fictive counterpart, Cuarón amplifies quiet sufferings and desires, arranges before our eyes the unlikely keys to memory, and wisely selects certain doors to unlock and others to leave shut out of respect, reminding us that in a terrible, beautiful world, extraordinary love is just as possible as extraordinary evil. It’s as simple as that: “Roma” will remind you that there is a reason to live in this world, and people — specifically our mothers, biological and surrogate alike — to love and love back and thank. It is a welcome, well-timed reminder.
— Julianna Moranno, Daily Arts Writer