In 2018, the stories told, talent on view, compelling characters, emotions expressed, and genres stretched were just amazing. It was more than enough to make viewers track films from the theaters to streaming services. Or vice versa.
Check out the year in movies. Enjoy.
Ben Is Back – The plague of drug addiction hits the tony suburbs and writer/director Peter Hedges takes his audience to the front door of a home that is bearing the brunt. Julia Roberts soars as the distraught mom trying to save the life of a duplicitous son, expertly played by Lucas Hedges. Courtney B. Vance co-stars in this compelling and cautionary family/drama.
Black Panther – The late Stan Lee left behind a key to the future with Black Panther. As envisioned by the very intuitive director/writer Ryan Coogler, the African nation of Wakanda became the world’s number-one tourist destination ($1.3 billion at the box office). It’s supermen (Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya) and superwomen (Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright) were artfully displayed (by cinematographer Rachel Morrison) as they embodied Black power and pride.
Blindspotting – Of all the films that tackled racism and the PTSD a Black man experiences as a result, this very grassroots indie captured that feeling the best. Set in gentrifying Oakland, Calif., the ambitious script by lead actors Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal chronicles a time and place when inner-city Black neighborhoods are disappearing, and the inhabitants are stressed every day. Wonderful direction by Carlos López Estrada.
BlacKkKlansman – Leave it to filmmaker Spike Lee to find the most unbelievable but true story about a Black cop (John David Washington) who infiltrates the KKK with the aid of a Jewish police officer (Adam Driver). The undercover brother even hoodwinks David Duke! A nervy and very informative look at the dimwits who joined the Klan and the brave policemen who thwarted their moves. Considering the times we live in, the 1970s subject matter has a very contemporary appeal.
Crazy Rich Asians – This jolly film is the first Asian/American movie to get a major release in 25 years! A stellar cast — Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Awkwafina turn a rags-to-riches love story into the best romantic comedy of 2018. Director Jon M. Chu with writers Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim turn a golden opportunity into solid gold entertainment.
The Favourite – The stodgy English period genre gets whacked by this demented take on an 18th-century triad of deceitful women: Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and a very ambitious and cunning palace interloper Abigail (Emma Stone). Eccentric director Yorgos Lanthimos finally gets a project that can withstand his very demented style of direction. Evocative cinematography (Robbie Ryan) and production design (Fiona Crombie) paint an astonishing portrait of palace intrigue.
Green Book – A very unlikely story, based on true events, features the best acting duo of the year. The brilliant scholarly actor Mahershala Ali plays a concert pianist who is driven around the South, in 1962, by a burly Italian chauffeur/bodyguard played hysterically by Viggo Mortensen. The most unlikely director in the world, Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber), tells the tale with a nod and a wink and peppers it with social and racial themes, real drama and historical facts. An organic crowd-pleaser.
Night Comes On – Kids separated from their parents and relegated to foster homes and institutions should have their stories told. New actor-turned-director Jordana Spiro uses a script she co-wrote with Angelica Nwandu as a basis for her poignant ode to troubled youth. Dominique Fishback plays the train wreck of an 18-year-old older sibling in the process of leading her 10-year-old sister (Tatum Marilyn Hall) down the wrong path. The film features vulnerable characters you have to love.
Private Life – Every 10 years, writer/director Tamara Jenkins makes a feature film. It’s worth the wait. A neurotic couple, nearing middle age, tries to have a child. Previously, they were so caught up in their lives that by the time they decided to have offspring, they had to scramble, and hope IVF would pay off. Tough challenge for them. Great laughs for the audience. Kathryn Hahn plays the fretful wife with anxious humor and Paul Giamatti is the put-upon husband. A sweet, delicious adult comedy.
A Quiet Place – This is the absolute best use of sound effects ever devised for a horror film. A very innovative but scary take on a post-apocalypse world where demons’ attacks are instigated by the slightest sound. Ingeniously conceived by actor/writer/director John Krasinski who guides his wife Emily Blunt into the performance of her career as the protective mom.
Ryan Coogler – Black Panther
Peter Farrelly – Green Book
John Krasinski – A Quiet Place
Tamara Jenkins – Private Life
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite
Best First Films
All About Nina – Eve Vives
Blindspotting – Carlos López Estrada
I Am Not a Witch – Rungano Nyoni
Night Comes On – Jordana Spiro
A Star Is Born – Bradley Cooper
Best Foreign Language Films
I Am Not a Witch
Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat
Other Great Films
22 July, Alpha, Creed II, Eighth Grade, First Man, Halloween, Leave No Trace, Love, Simon, Mission Impossible – Fallout, Mobile Homes, On the Basis of Sex, A Private War, Searching, A Star is Born, A Prayer Before Dawn, Uncle Drew, Vice, What They Had, The Wife
Acrimony, Loving Pablo, Red Sparrow, Robin Hood, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Suspiria, Tomb Raider, White Boy Rick
Dwight Brown is an NNPA News Wire film critic.