Updated: Mar 30
Alright let’s do this one more time. I’ve been writing articles and recording podcasts for Story Screen for a little over two years now and my main goal has been to be a critical but positive voice for film. As Co-Head of Telecommunications (Co-Podcast boy, for short) I’ve continued to help build out our massive and growing catalogue of episodes under the Story Screen Presents banner (look for us on Soundcloud and iTunes). I have a degree in Screenwriting and have written many articles for our website ranging from fan-girling over Netflix’s first season of Queer Eye to an emotional and retrospective look at Kevin Smith’s Clerks.
When it comes to Story Screen, the thing I’m most proud of isn’t necessarily my creative content, but the family we’ve cultivated. 2018 had some bitter moments for me, but my Story Screen family has been there for me every step of the way. My content and my critical voice would be nothing if it weren’t for our editors and other members of, as Dominic Toretto would say, “la familia.” It’s easy finding people who share the same passions as you; it’s hard finding GREAT people to talk about those passions with.
Since my first list in 2016, I have always ended my little top ten blurb by explaining to people my philosophy when it comes to said list. What you’re about to read isn’t necessarily THE BEST films of the year; they are my FAVORITE films of the year. 2018 was a year where I needed plenty of time escaping from reality, and I’m eternally grateful for these movies for giving me other places to go, and to Story Screen for giving me a creative outlet. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it...
10. Sorry To Bother You
Boots Riley’s debut film Sorry to Bother You was the first film in 2018 that had me saying, “I think this is one of my movies of the year.” Simply put, you don’t see movies like this in mainstream cinema anymore. A quirky critique on capitalism and labor that crescendos and grooves to Riley’s more infamous skillset, his music. Between moments of pure gut-busting laughter, there is a very deep, thought-out message, undoubtedly spawned from Riley’s years of being an activist. The arc of the film is simple, it’s a “rags to riches” story, but how we traverse that journey is truly unique. Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and the rest of cast operate so seamlessly in this world, that it grounds its insanity into something that is relatable for most. My hope is that Riley continues to make more movies; his voice in cinema brings some much needed freshness.
This is my favorite least favorite movie. Unlike some of my colleagues at Story Screen, horror films aren’t exactly my bread and butter. I usually have the most fun with a horror movie when it’s of the more self-aware examples, like The Cabin in the Woods or The Guest. Now that isn’t to say I can’t acknowledge the craft and brilliance of OMEGA DOWNERS like mother! or It Comes at Night, I just have a sensitive soul and like to sleep at night. Hereditary is one of the best SOUL CRUSHINGLY BAD TIMES I’ve had with the horror genre. It is a film that is as thematically rich as it is deeply disturbing; I left the theater defeated and empty (in a good way, of course). I’ve found that when discussing this movie with friends, we spend much of our time trying to decipher and analyze its mysterious lore as opposed to its scariest moments. I’m sure watching the film a few more times would help entertain those conversations, unfortunately I’ll never watch this movie again. You can’t make me.
8. Eighth Grade
Do you remember how awesome it was to be in eighth grade? Where nothing awkward or terrible happened and your insane hormone filled body didn’t fill you with existential dread? Yeah, me neither. This is Bo Burnham’s first foray into the world of film after many years of being a musical comedy genius. Those familiar with Burnham’s work will find shades of his sense of humor here but boiled down to its most tender essence. Eighth Grade encapsulates the age-old dilemmas of being in your teens, while adding some modern sensibilities that make me feel both sympathetic and very, very old. (One day my YouTube vlog will blow up…one day). This of course couldn’t be achieved without a brilliant cast of young-ins, peaking with Elsie Fisher as protagonist Kayla Day, whose performance is so captivating, you wonder if she’s ever been an eighth grader herself…
7. If Beale Street Could Talk
Two years ago Barry Jenkins gave us Moonlight, a beautiful story that explores love from a very unlikely place. If Beale Street Could Talk feels like an extension of that expedition. The story is based off of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, but is unique among other film’s conversations about love. Taking place in Harlem during the 1970’s, the film’s thematic backdrop is America’s treatment of people of color during that time. A story that is almost reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, not in the sense of two families hating each other, but in how something as simple and beautiful as love, is far from arm’s reach because of the circumstances surrounding our lovers. The chemistry between KiKi Layne and Stephan James is magical and has notes of innocence, and unfortunately, naivety in their relationship. The film is equally powerful on its two thematic fronts: it is as brilliantly crafted a love story as it is a commentary of America in the 70’s.
Blindspotting was not what I was expecting. A story centered on an ever-gentrified Oakland, this passion project took years to come to fruition from writers and leads Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. A plague of hipsters encroach on the culture that our main characters Collin and Miles grew up in. The two make for an excellent comedic duo, but also shine during their moments of intensity. Miles fights for his identity as Collin fights for his freedom. The film’s “realness” is punctuated with some jaw-dropping larger than life moments of surreal set pieces, exploring the fear and anxiety of being a person of color in America. Between the two protagonists, the film critiques the stereotypes that are put on others, as well as the ones we put on ourselves. This film’s final showdown might be the single most powerful scene I’ve seen all year, and that’s that about that. Also, do yourself a favor and listen to the double album released for this film; it’s two solid rap albums.
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This movie meets the hype. When I first heard mumblings of an animated Spider-Man movie produced by SONY, that explores multiple dimensions and multiple Spider-Men, I thought it was a recipe for mediocrity. Sure, Spider-Man comics have explored multi-verses and cloning, but I was afraid cramming all that narrative into a few hours was guaranteed to be a convoluted mess. For me, Spider-Man was at his best when he’s being friendly in a neighborhood. I’m so happy to have been proven wrong. This movie is one of the best Superhero movies to date, and a film that gives the MCU a run for their money. It tackles the multi-verse and quantum physics in a way that’s accessible for all viewers. The visual fidelity of the film is something to marvel at (it’s honestly pretty dope in 3D, too). The score and soundtrack create a perfect synergy between comic book flair and New York City swagger. The film is also home to some of the smartest quips and dialogue I’ve heard in a big budget flick. Miles Morales is a great centerpiece for the film and it’s awesome seeing this character get his moment on the big screen. Spider-Man has been done many times before, but this movie’s vibe is so different than any of his other incarnations, while also feeling like a classic Spider-Man story. The take away from Spider-Verse is that anyone can wear the mask, that we all have the spirit and ability to be a hero, you don’t have to just be Peter Parker.
Mid90s was a lot more anxiety inducing than I thought it would be. Written and directed by Jonah Hill, the film exposes a lifestyle of young teens that I, (mostly Mr. Goodie Two Shoes Anderson) had not experienced at that young of an age. Sunny Suljic plays our main character Stevie, and watching how his newfound camaraderie turns into a troubling descent is a spectacular arc in the film that I did not expect. The film is very honest, not trying to capitalize on its use of nostalgia, but instead trying to live in it. There are many examples of period pieces nailing their era, but Mid90s is operating on a different level, its sparseness and quiet moments are what really sell these character moments from a cast of mostly non-actors. Lucas Hedges delivers another commanding role, this time as an abusive older brother, and continues to leave me in awe with his performance. The movie is short and sweet, and it tackles an era that I don’t think has received its do yet in this style.
3. Thunder Road
I watched Jim Cummings’ Thunder Road without knowing anything about it. I didn’t see the trailer; I didn’t know it was the extension of a well known short film by the same name. All I had received was a stellar review from a trusted bud. Thunder Road is a treat. The plot revolves around Officer Jim Arnaud (played by Jim Cummings), a generally nice dude who loses everything, and is emotionally ill-equipped to handle such hardships. Cummings’ performance orbits between hilarious and awkward, but is always sweet; he’s always trying to do his best but may not have the capacity to know how. We’re given a character who’s trying his hardest to hold onto what’s slipping away through what I assume are sweaty palms.
Another movie that I knew nothing about going into, Border is fucking weird man. A true postmodern fairy tale, this film holds its cards very close to its chest before showing its hand. I would hate to spoil some of the big moments of the film, because its interplay with your expectations is one of the movie’s strongest suits. Border juggles its loneliness with its tenderness, as well as subverting your preconceived notions on the film’s protagonist, Tina, played by Eva Melander. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie like Border, which is so much more than the sum of its tropes. The film feels one step ahead of you at every turn, and feels almost self-aware of the many questions it raises throughout its plot. Border is worth your time, and it is probably my most pleasant surprise of the year.
Mandy is a psychedelic, metal, horror masterpiece. Its scenes will haunt you as well as hypnotize. Its score, a brilliant sonic arrangement by the late Johan Johansson, will make you lose track of time. Has this scene lasted a minute? Or hours? But at this rate you are entranced, unable not to seek what our hero seeks: revenge. The movie transitions from wispy tranquility to extreme brutality through a path that is fully earned and splattered with blood. The world feels rich with lore and history, mostly conveyed through cinematic language rather than dialogue. Our villains range from, as Red Miller (Nic Cage) describes, “crazy Jesus freaks” to hellish creatures, only reminding us they’re human when they’re slain. It’s an engulfing experience that is at its best when you succumb to its indoctrination. As the film progresses it sheds its sanity, so by the climax we are bewildered, insane, and share that crazy look Nic Cage gets in his eyes.
First Reformed is a brilliant character study. Director Paul Schrader examines how a man of faith exists in a world that is running out of both hope and time. Ethan Hawke’s performance is probably my favorite of the year, having a texture that achieves both a comforting softness as well as a burning intensity. The film’s subject matter bites at the fringes of one of the biggest points of political discourse right now, and puts the audience in a very unlikely vessel. I found myself foaming at the mouth for our protagonist to do the extreme, to accomplish a goal that feels too lofty for reality, a goal that simply shouldn’t involve radical violence. This isn’t a film concerned with ‘convincing’ you to be on the right side of politics, it’s concerned with how radically we need to dive to create change, and it critiques what happens to the human condition at such depths.
Red Dead Redemption 2
I’m a big nerd with opinions (obviously), and I wanted to throw an honorable mention at a story from a smaller screen. From developer Rockstar Games, this new entry into the Red Dead Redemption series is one of my favorite video game stories of all time. Similar to the first Red Dead Redemption, you play an outlaw who’s trying to survive in a world becoming more and more modern. The rise of society begins to close in on a lifestyle only suited for the wild west. In RDR2, you take control of Arthur Morgan, a senior member of Dutch Van Der Linde’s gang. You aren’t just surrounded by outlaws and gunslingers, in your camp are also simple folk and families, trying to make an old way of life survive. Arthur is a brutal outlaw, but he also attempts to keep his moral compass somewhat centered, as he’ll do anything for Dutch and his family. The game’s world feels alive, a few random encounters you see twice, and strangers you meet along the way carry their own unique adventures to go on. RDR2 is, (you guessed it) a tale of redemption; there is no glorification of being a gunslinger here, you’re a dying breed from a dead way of life, and the tale that unfolds is the stuff of legend.
I think 2018 ended up being a pretty good year for film. Earlier in the year I was worried, 2017 had some real BANGERS that I didn’t think could be topped so soon. 2018 was great year for smaller stories, stories with lower, more intimate stakes, and had some of my favorite characters that I think I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Not to take away from some of the big blockbusters as well, Black Panther might be my favorite Marvel movie to date, and I’m so pumped to see what we get after Avengers: Infinity War. There are so many movies that were on my list that I have to give shoutouts to: Isle of Dogs is another stop motion feature by Wes Anderson that I absolutely loved. The Favourite brought us a more crowd-pleasing Yorgos Lanthimos film, and I think it deserves all the praise it’s been receiving. Roma was beautiful, and if this was a list of “Best” movies it might be number one. The Rider is brilliant, and its critique on masculinity from writer and director Chloé Zhao are very welcome. Unsane captivated me with its terrifying premise, and Revenge ignited my senses with its saturated color and amazing score. I’m excited to continue this cinematic journey with Story Screen into 2019, and what I’d like to see in the New Year is more engagement from you guys, the readers, viewers and listeners. We’re a pretty nice group of movie nerds and we’d love to have those conversations with as many people as possible. Cheers to another year, and to more stories that can offer us a little vacation from reality when we really need one.
Co-Head of Podcasting
Robert has a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting and works in multiple genres. He's just your typical man-child who enjoys most things nerd culture. You can follow him on Twitter @RoBaeBae
#Newsletter #Article #RobertAnderson #Bestof2018 #SorrytoBotherYou #Hereditary #EighthGrade #IfBealeStreetCouldTalk #Blindspotting #IntotheSpiderVerse #SpiderMan #Mid90s #ThunderRoad #Border #Mandy #FirstReformed #RedDeadRedemption2