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broodings from the burrow

January 2, 2019

top ten favorite films of 2018
posted by soe 1:34 am

Rudi and I got to more movies this past year than I ever have, averaging a new film every two weeks. That’s thanks in large part to AMC’s free Stubs Insider program, which offers $5 tickets on Tuesdays. We have two AMC theaters close by and a third within the District, so that offers a lot of screens to choose from. I also try to pay attention to free screenings, but those have grown in popularity, so I feel like they’re far harder to get into than they once were.

Anyway, what this means is that we actually saw more than 10 new releases in the theater, as well as catching some of the year’s earlier films on DVD/streaming, so I can do more than just list the only ten films we saw this year. Also worth noting is that these are the films I liked best, rather than the films I thought were the best pieces of art. I can appreciate the importance of a movie without ever needing to see it again. These, on the other hand, I’d re-watch, which is probably the best compliment I can offer.

10. The Greatest Showman: This came out in December 2017, but we didn’t see it until January. Unlike Mary Poppins, this had a stellar soundtrack, which I absolutely adored and which has now spawned a tribute album that I’m eager to listen to. The acting, however, varied, as did the pacing a bit.

9. Bohemian Rhapsody: This was a highly enjoyable, well acted biopic of Freddy Mercury and his time with one of the biggest bands of the 1970s. It truly gave you a sense of how interactive their songwriting and recording processes were.

8. The Post: We didn’t catch this until the summer outdoor movie season, but it was worth it to wait, since they asked Len Downie, a former editor of The Washington Post and a consultant to the film to come and introduce it at the Farragut Square (which sits only two blocks away from the White House and a couple more blocks from the newspaper’s offices) showing. The acting was stellar and it was great to see a counterpoint/companion film to All the President’s Men.

7. Mary Poppins Returns: It was hard to know where to place this one. I liked it, but didn’t love it, in part because I love the original. There were lots of homages to the Julie Andrews version, but this probably falls as far down as it does because it’s a musical and I have a hard time recalling any of the songs, let alone singing them. The acting was solid across the board, and Lin-Manuel’s accent, which drove me nuts in the previews, didn’t bother me during the movie. Also, I loved how colorful it was.

6. On the Basis of Sex: We just saw this last night as the first part of our New Year’s Eve movie extravaganza. A biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life between her first year of law school and arguing her first court case, which established the precedent for gender bias in federal law. Well acted, the film succeeds in making you love RBG even more. I’m going to see if the library has the documentary about her life that came out earlier this year and will also check out her autobiography. Also the costumes for the 15 years of the film were great.

5. Crazy Rich Asians: I hadn’t been especially excited by the book series when it came out, but the previews made me think this might be fun. It absolutely was, in part because so many of the characters are so over the top and in part because the setting (Singapore) is allowed equal billing to the actors. It inspired me to listen to the book and I’m looking forward to reading the second installment in the book trilogy and to watching the next movie. The soundtrack to this film is very good and surprisingly varied. Also, between her roles in this and Ocean’s 8, I will now investigate every film Aquafina stars in.

4. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse: This was the final film of last night’s movies (The third film we saw, If Beale Street Could Talk, was one of those films that I can appreciate, but that I didn’t especially like.). I had such high hopes for this film that I was really afraid it wasn’t going to be able to live up to them, but it did. The voice actors did a great job, the writing was solid, they used visuals and sound to their best effect, and they did all that without taking itself overly seriously. Really quite well done.

3. Black Panther: I haven’t hidden the fact that I really enjoyed this Marvel action film when it came out back in February. It did a great job of portraying both Black characters and female characters as strong, multidimensional characters without sexualizing any of them (which is not to say they weren’t sexy), and it featured a villain you were honestly sad to see lose, which I think puts it shoulders above most action-adventure films. I would watch films about pretty much any of the characters portrayed.

2. Christopher Robin: What happens when the human boy from the Hundred Acre Wood moves away, gets older, and grows up? And when he’s about to lose everything? Winnie the Pooh to the rescue. This was an utterly sweet and charming film with surprisingly good and lifelike special effects bringing stuffed animals to life. It absolutely never veered into sentimentality even though it would have been easy to do.

1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: This documentary about Mister Rogers was the exact antidote to 2018 we all needed. It showed how Fred Rogers came to be on television and a pioneer in child development and children’s programming, why he gave it up for a period of time, and why he came back to it. It also showed some of his shortcomings and how over time and through soul searching he mostly overcame them. I was already a big fan of his, but his hero status has been underscored of late by his advice to children that when there is a scary situation, they should look for the helpers because there always are some. 2018 was filled with stressful scenarios and, with a lack of national leadership, the sentiment (and its author) are well remembered.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

  • A Wrinkle in Time (this wasn’t the movie I wanted it to be, but it’s possible that even the movie I wanted wouldn’t have been the movie I wanted)
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • Ralph Wrecks the Internet
  • Love, Simon
  • Ocean’s 8
  • Juliet, Naked
  • Paddington 2

The Best Netflix Original Movies I Saw This Year (also in no particular order)
(It didn’t seem fair to include streaming films in with big-screen and big-budget films, but also not truly fair to categorize them as television.)

  • Dumplin’: Based on a book I loved, this is about a plus-sized Texas teen girl, who decides to enter the teen beauty pageant her mother runs in honor of her recently deceased aunt, who, she discovers, once wanted to enter it herself. Several other unlikely contenders also enter with her and they form an unlikely sisterhood with each other and with some of her aunt’s friends.
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: The letters a teen girl once wrote to each of the five boys she had had crushes on — including the longtime boyfriend of her older sister — somehow end up getting mailed and the main character has to come up with a plan for dealing with that. She decides her best course of action is to pretend to be dating one of them — but lines get blurred.
  • The Christmas Chronicles: The first holiday season after the patriarch of a Christmas-loving family dies, his preteen daughter and teenage son accidentally mess up Santa’s Christmas Eve deliveries — and end up halfway across the country to boot. This was the best of this year’s streaming and network Christmas original programming, in large part thanks to Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Santa Claus. This is destined to be a holiday classic.

The 2018 film I’m most annoyed at myself for missing was The Hate U Give. It came out when I had volleyball on Tuesdays and Rudi and I had conflicts. I’m already on the holds list for the library copy of the dvd, which I hope arrives shortly after it’s released on the 22nd of this month.

What were your favorite films you saw in 2018?

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