The Best Films of 2018 – Honorable Mentions (11-15)

Before I start revealing my ten favorite movies of the year later this week, I want to take some time to talk briefly about five fantastic films that just missed out on making my year-end list – here are my Honorable Mentions:

No. 11 – Sorry to Bother You

STBYSorry to Bother You is Boots Riley’s directorial debut, a dystopian dark comedy that follows Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a young African-American in Oakland working as a telemarketer at RegalView. After a veteran co-worker (Danny Glover) teaches Cash that the secret to success in this business is using your “white voice,” Cash quickly excels as he strives for the coveted promotion to “Power Caller.” All the while, Cash’s friends – and his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) – plot to unionize the RegalView workplace in an effort to protest for better working conditions, which creates conflict with Cash as he continues to climb the ranks as a Power Caller. Life as a Power Caller begins to slowly unravel, and when a corporate conspiracy exposes itself, Cash is left to make a vital decision about his life.

In this film, Boots Riley takes a very simple concept (i.e., character comes from nothing, character gets success, character faces moral conundrum that pits that success against true happiness) and turns it into one of the most entertaining and unique movies I have ever seen. The dialogue pops, the characters are amusing, the acting is impeccable, and the satirical themes are absolutely spot-on. Riley’s story is one that brilliantly examines the concepts of “white privilege” and “capitalism” through its darkly comedic tone, and the satire reminded me a lot of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. However, Idiocracy made its comedy much more direct (and it really worked in that film), and after having seen both films, I much prefer Riley’s more natural comedic tendencies. This movie is a fantastic referendum on some very important social issues, and it just missed out on cracking my Top 10. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQKiRpiVRQM.

No. 12 – Roma

RomaRoma is a Spanish-language film directed, co-produced, written, co-edited, and shot by Alfonso Cuarón. Set in the early 1970s in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City, the film (described as a semi-autobiographical story based on Cuarón’s childhood) follows Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez (Yalitza Aparicio), a domestic worker who lives with and works for the family of Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and Sofia (Marina de Tavira).

Roma is slow movie (like, really slow), although this sort of movie doesn’t always work, the cinematic style of Roma undeniably impresses – this is predominantly because Cuarón is its creator. In Roma, Cuarón’s dialogue is poetically deliberate, his camerawork is stunningly cautious, and his pace is delightfully unhurried. The Oscar-winning filmmaker – who has written and directed an amazing collection of films, including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity – has developed a film in Roma that tells a story that is deeply genuine and features plot points that are both heartwarming and heartrending. Aparicio is utterly outstanding in the lead role of Cleo – as various life events cause Cleo to endure a wide range of feelings, including happiness, sadness, loss, helplessness, and hopefulness, you feel each and every one of them right along with her throughout the entire journey. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BS27ngZtxg.

No. 13 – Isle of Dogs

Isle of DogsIsle of Dogs is a stop-motion-animated film by writer/director Wes Anderson. The film is set in a dystopian-version of Japan in the not-so-distant future where all dogs – following a canine flu outbreak – have been exiled to an unenviable island. Against that backdrop, the story follows a young boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) as he joins forces with a few dogs on the island – including Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum) – to find his lost dog Spots.

At last, Wes Anderson is back – and by “back,” I mean “wow, Wes Anderson has finally returned to the wonderful storytelling and filmmaking that made me a fan of his in the first place.” I know Anderson’s last film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was nominated for nine Oscars and won four of them, but I hated it – I found the story to be bland, the dialogue to be stilted, and the film as a whole to be too heavily reliant on Anderson’s signature style. But in Isle of Dogs, Anderson has won me back over – it is essentially a combination of the distinctive stop-motion-animated style that made Fantastic Mr. Fox so remarkable and the sweet, funny, and selfless depiction of childhood innocence that made Moonrise Kingdom one of my favorite movies of all time. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt__kig8PVU.

No. 14 – Minding the Gap

Minding the Gap

Minding the Gap is a documentary by filmmaker Bing Liu. Filmed over the course of more than a decade, Minding the Gap chronicles the lives of Liu and his two friends, Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan, with the common thread being their shared love of skateboarding. Although the movie starts out with this simple premise, it slowly evolves into a deep and emotional exploration of the lasting traumatic effects of issues relating to race, economic hardship, and domestic abuse.

For me, the best documentaries are those that make you think and make you feel in a unique way – Minding the Gap definitely checks those boxes with ease. One of the most intriguing parts of this film is the fact that the director is personal friends with his film’s subjects – but Liu pulls no punches. Instead, he examines the complicated lives of Keire and Zack with raw emotion and undeniable honesty, and it is this aspect of purity in Liu’s filmmaking that makes Minding the Gap so emotionally affecting. Despite the remarkable exploration of his friends’ lives, the highlight of the film was when Liu turned the camera (and the plot of the film) back onto himself and his own upbringing – what a moment! This film is currently streaming on Hulu, and I encourage everyone to go check it out – you will not be disappointed. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5Vm_Awe3bw.

No. 15 – Crazy Rich Asians

asians6.0Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic dramedy (directed by Jon M. Chu and written by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim) based on the bestselling novel of the same name, which follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a Chinese American economics professor at NYU who travels overseas with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to meet his family. Unbeknownst to Rachel, Nick’s family turns out to be among the wealthiest in all of Singapore. Dating one of Singapore’s most eligible bachelors, Rachel finds herself having to fend off envious women within Asian high society. But the more imposing task for Rachel is vying for the approval of Nick’s domineering mother (Michelle Yeoh).

I will be honest – generally speaking, romantic dramedies aren’t my cup of tea. Unless they are done exceptionally well, I just can’t get into them. With all of that said, Crazy Rich Asians is definitely one of the best I’ve seen in the genre (ranking up there near my favorites, such as Love Actually and Crazy, Stupid, Love). Although I have not read the film’s source material, director Jon Chu’s vision in bringing this unique story to the screen was magnificent – this beautiful movie was the first from a major Hollywood studio in 25 years to feature an Asian director and a mostly Asian cast, all helmed by an Asian director. The story was refreshing, the visuals were colorful and arresting, and the movie’s cast of characters was absolutely entertaining – aside from the superb performances by the film’s leads, Awkwafina nearly stole the show as the wacky sidekick Goh Peik Lin, Rachel’s best friend from college. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ-YX-5bAs0.

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Top 15 Films of the Year – Honorable Mentions (16-20)

This Is The End

Now that the Oscars season is officially back into action, I have once again compiled a list of my favorite fifteen films from the previous year.  Over the next few weeks, I will be revealing each of the movies on my “Top 15 Films of 2013” list, but today I am announcing the five “Honorable Mention” films that were nearly worthy enough for inclusion of my year-end list.  Now, I present you with the five films that just missed cracking my Top 15 list:

No. 16 – This Is The End

This Is The End is a comedy film written and directed by Seth Rogen and long-time collaborator Evan Goldberg.  The film features a number of Rogen’s film buddies, includingThis Is The End 2 James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, playing fictional versions of themselves as the disastrous apocalypse takes place.  The movie was based on a short film called Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse (2007), and its feature-length adaptation was most definitely one of my favorites from 2013.  It was such a simple concept with a pretty distinctive plotline, and the performances by the actors were ridiculously humorous, keeping me entertained the entire time.  A vast amount of celebrities make hilarious cameos in the film, such as Rihanna and Channing Tatum, but my favorite was Emma Watson—but then again, I will support anything she is in!!  If you have not seen this movie yet, do society a favor and get to your nearest Redbox ASAP!!!  Okay, maybe that is extreme, but still, you will not want to miss this one.

No. 17 – August: Osage County

August: Osage County is a film directed by John Wells with a screenplay by Tracy Letts.  Letts adapted this film, a tale about an Oklahoma family reuniting after the passing of a August Osage Countyrelative, from his very own award-winning Broadway play by the same name.  My viewing of the film was a case of first impression because I had never seen the play, but I greatly enjoyed the dark, twisted storyline of the dysfunctional Weston family.  The film featured some scenes that will most definitely live in my memory for a long time, particularly the family dinner scene and the scene where Julia Roberts cusses out her sister and mother over a plate of fish.  Speaking of Roberts, she did an absolutely phenomenal job in her role as Barbara, and that performance was one of the highlights for me; furthermore, Meryl Streep, the greatest living silver screen actress, lit the film on fire with her wildly erratic behavior as Violet, the pill-popping matriarch of the Weston family.  The combination of a dark, but amusing script and some fantastic acting performances is the reason this was one of the better films of 2013.

No. 18 – Rush

Rush is a film directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay written by Peter Morgan about the infamous Formula 1 rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and NikiRush Lauda (Daniel Brühl) during the 1976 racing season.  As a sports fan, I am always on board to watch a sports-related film, but rarely do I come across one that is made with such an intricate filmmaking style as Howard’s Rush.  The sound was amazing, the cinematography was wildly intense, and the acting was top-notch.  I have rapidly become a big fan of Chris Hemsworth, and in this movie, he truly spreads his wings and establishes himself as a rising dramatic talent in Hollywood as the real-life James Hunt.  But my favorite performance from the film was Daniel Brühl’s role as Niki Lauda.  If you watch any interviews with the real-life Lauda on YouTube, you will see that Brühl absolutely nailed the accent.  His portrayal of the Formula 1 driver was spot-on and award-worthy, and I was relatively disappointed that he was snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.  I bought into everything on the screen when I watched Rush, and I would highly recommend this film.

No. 19 – Mud

Mud is a coming-of-age drama written and directed by established indie-filmmaker Jeff Nichols.  The movie is about Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a criminal on the run, and hisMUD-13103-PS.JPG friendship with a couple of 14-year-old boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who happen upon Mud’s hideout on a small island in the Mississippi River.  Matthew McConaughey had probably the best acting year of any performer in Hollywood, and although he is receiving widespread acclaim for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, his outstanding performance as the mysterious Mud is definitely not one to overlook.  Even with solid performances from McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Sam Shepard, Mud is highlighted by a breakout performance from Tye Sheridan.  Although he was just 14-years-old during production, Sheridan gave an exceptionally mature performance in his role as Ellis.  Even though Sheridan did not receive any major award nominations, his performance was the best part of Mud, and I expect great things from him in the future.

No. 20 – Prisoners

Prisoners is a thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski about the search to find two young girls that are abducted from their neighborhood in PrisonersPennsylvania.  Guzikowski’s script is dark and menacing, and each actor makes the most of the mystifying plot.  There are some first-rate supporting performances from Terrence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano, but Hugh Jackman steals the show with an extraordinary performance as a father willing to go to all lengths to find his daughter.  Last year, I voted for Jackman as Best Actor for his role in Les Misérables, and once again this year, he gave a performance that I truly felt was worthy of acclaim.  Even though he was ultimately not nominated for any major awards, he still gave a brilliant performance, and Prisoners is a frightening film you do not want to miss.