For those who either frequent this blog occasionally or know me personally, you already know that I am an ardent movie goer, and will often carve out time in my schedule to go and watch a film that I’ve been dying to see. I know what you might be thinking: “Walt, movies cost an arm and a leg. How often are you making trips to the movies? Isn’t that hobby much too expensive to afford for an entry-level office assistant’s salary?” Yes, I am aware of the steep prices of movie tickets, let alone adding the cost of movie theater snacks, but if it’s a hobby I’m passionate enough about and something that helps me maintain some level of sanity, I’d say it’s well worth it. Plus, with the advent of MoviePass (rest in peace, MoviePass) and AMC A-List, my inner film glutton can be satisfied with just a reasonable monthly fee. Though 2018 in film didn’t exactly top 2017 (#unpopularopinion), there were a lot of great films that came out this year.
1. American Animals
What I thought was going to be just another typical heist movie starring a renowned television actor backed by several hardly-known whatever actors ended up being so much more than that and greatly surpassed any expectations I had. American Animals is based on a true crime story that involved four college students plotting to steal several valuable rare books from the special collections section of Transylvania University’s library. Though this may sound like your standard B-List heist movie, the extra dimension added that made it graduate to an A-List movie was the weaving in of interviews from the actual people that were portrayed in the film. This provided some levity to the story that made it seem much more real and reminded the audience that this heist portrayed in the film was a real event that happened, and that the film isn’t just a mere over-dramatization of the events that transpired. Each cast member truly brought their A-game to the portrayal of these characters, putting them on the map for future successful films.
2. Can You Ever Forgive Me
I would like to first start off by admitting that I am a huge Melissa McCarthy fan. Though crass as her movies might be, there’s no denying that they are feel-good movies that are fun to watch on any night in. With that being said, it is easy to grow fatigued of the similar-but-still-subtly-different story lines of the movies she puts out year after year. That’s why films like Can You Ever Forgive Me are a nice pause from her other work, allowing her fans and other avid movie goers to see Melissa McCarthy showcase the true talent hiding underneath the crude jokes and tired-but-still-hilarious physical comedy she usually serves. Can You Ever Forgive Me tells the true story of washed-up author Lee Israel, who resorts to forging personal letters from world-renowned authors when her own writing career reaches a devastating plateau. Melissa McCarthy’s charm and sharp wit that she brings to her character provide an exhalation and comedic sigh of relief to an otherwise dark story.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
I will admit that I debated including this film on my list, mostly because it’s been so widely publicized that I didn’t think I’d be able to contribute anything to the conversation that hasn’t already been said by other people in media. But with all of that aside, Crazy Rich Asians was undeniably one of the most successful films that came out this year – and rightfully so – for multiple reasons. Being an Asian American myself, I have noticed the stark lack of representation of the Asian community in the world of cinema. This not only applies to the lack of Asian actors in Hollywood, but also to the shortage of Asian characters in cinema and television. The fact that this movie accomplishes both of those things while telling a captivating love story – that accurately depicts the dynamic of an Asian family and the Asian culture in general – was a feat that’s been a long time coming, particularly in the era we’re currently living in. I can go on and on about the fact that Asians are typically portrayed as over-dramatized caricatures in Hollywood, and the fact that this movie successfully and assertively turned that racial paradigm on its head, and how important that is in the multi-dimensional phenomenon of Asian representation in media, but I think you all get the point.
4. First Man
Another year, another highly stressful film about traveling into space. In the past, I’ve appreciated films like Gravity and Interstellar, but First Man provided something different for me. First Man revolves around the events leading up to the moon landing in 1969, including the near catastrophe of Gemini 8 and the T-38 Crash. What I appreciated most about this film, other than the undeniable talent of Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, was that it truly humanized the moon landing of 1969, and beautifully depicted the anxieties of the reality of traveling into space. I feel like the moon landing has been highly glamorized – and rightfully so – but I don’t think people truly realize just how stressful those events were at that time, not just for the astronauts going into space, but also for their close friends and family, and everyone else involved in these missions. This film does an amazing job at bringing the glamour back down to Earth (ha HA, see what I did there), while still holding the moon landing in its rightful high place of one of the most important historical events in American history.
2018 truly was an excellent year in terms of equal representation in the world of cinema. Just like Crazy Rich Asians – but not quite to the same magnitude – Searching also features a predominantly Asian cast in roles outside of the typical butt-of-the-joke characters that Hollywood has boxed them into. Searching tells the story of a father who goes through great lengths to find his daughter who suddenly goes missing, taking the audience on a roller coaster of a journey with the ample twists the story line often took. What makes this film different than any movie with the same premise (à la Taken and Taken 2) is the fact that every scene in the film is shot from the perspective of a webcam, providing a more personal touch, making the audience feel like part of the story. The tactic of using a front-facing webcam evokes a wide range of emotions to go along with the story, ranging from the nostalgia one feels when watching old home movies on a computer, to the anxiety one feels when a loved one doesn’t pick up multiple phone calls. While movies in the past have used groundbreaking technology to appeal to all five senses, Searching serves as a pioneer to the next generation of film making that deeply appeals to your emotions.
I must say that it was difficult narrowing my list down to just five standout films from this past year. Other notable films that came out this year include Three Identical Strangers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, A Star Is Born, A Quiet Place, and Christopher Robin. We are only three weeks shy of the new year, but 2019 already seems promising in the world of cinema – and I eagerly await the mileage I’ll undoubtedly be putting on my AMC A-List pass.
What have been your favorite movies this year? What movies are you eagerly awaiting to be released? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.