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Top Five Movies of 2018

By Carter Melrose

The best part about this year’s movie bundle? The movies were so bad and so disappointing there aren’t too many to consciously debate myself over. I mean, for example, I apologize for any of you sorry-sacks that had to watch even a single minute of Tom Hardy’s Venom or the over-hyped pretentious color-dumpster that was Anniliation.

This is what I know about money: it isn’t infinite and it should be used wisely. That is why, while you and your family are curling up to watch a quick flick after holiday dinner, I want it to be worth everyone’s time and money. So this list should help whittle down the poor choices and guide you in accurately choosing a movie that your dad might approve of, before inevitably falling asleep in his lazy-boy.

Honorable Mentions:

Sorry to Bother You - Dreamy feel, weird as hell ending (if not for ending it’d be easily in top 5), funny in an oddball way, and politically poignant.

A Quiet Place - Fun concept, kill-happy writers, rural-Iowa feel, and I cared about the characters (weird for a suspense film).

Creed 2 - The same as every boxing movie ever (in the best way), great villain characterization, bumpin’ soundtrack. Another redemption-story theme, but it feels so right.

Top 5 Movies of the Year:

5. Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse

Synopsis: Spiderman is the only Spiderman - until it turns out he’s not.

An animated film always seems to make it on my list. This one, however, is an automatically special animated film. The art style alone should add it to many people’s top 5 movies of the year lists. The images flow like stop-motion and the entire landscape looks as if you had just dipped your face into a comic book and the colors have started to run. The animation style was very versatile and surprised the viewer with the way it reacted to each environment; making a forest chase scene into a warm and cabin-like feel as the air calms you while the bad boys are hot in pursuit; while also making the dark city streets a mysterious and cold wasteland of misplaced color and back-alleys with stories of grandeur. Watch this movie for what you see alone.

In terms of what you hear? It’s a touching rework of the superhero mantra - in most circumstances, you need to have thousands of money bags or be born with a superior intellect to become a hero. This rework is the perfect tale of how, with enough heart and determination, anyone can be behind the mask. Regardless of nationality; regardless of upbringing. People can be heroes in their own life, they just need to act when the opportunity arises. That is something beautiful to drill into our children.

Lastly, the movie was hilarious. Superhero movies are moving towards that tactic - rerouting our attention to something that makes us laugh to divert us from the total lack of emotional connection being written into these scripts. This movie was able to accomplish both, which is rare.

4. First Man

Synopsis: The story of Neil Armstrong’s life and his time with NASA.

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Many who know me will call me out for favoritism here. But Damien Chazelle, director of both Whiplash and La La Land (my all time favorite movies), pumped a ton of heart into this biopic of the empty pursuit that was space travel in the early 60s. Having seen hundreds of space movies in the past, it is hard to believe someone could reimagine how to represent it. But Chazelle encompasses the little nuances of space by exemplifying the intense emptiness that was NASA’s journey. You could feel the pressure in your eardrums; you could hear the bolts of the spacecraft shift, screw and unscrew from their sockets. And, even though the viewer already knows the story, you could sense the constant danger from moment to moment.

A biopic is only as good as the big questions it asks about human nature in terms of retrospective thinking. This movie asks: aside from pride, how do we justify spending billions of dollars and expending hundreds of lives in a quest to discover the undiscovered? This and many other lingering questions give the movie a hypocritical feel, which is a very important emotion to have when making a good movie. We want Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong to get to the moon, but we also question whether it is even worth the trouble. It is a fantastic give and take.

Finally, Gosling plays a great high-strung and introverted Neil Armstrong. We didn’t only get to see who Neil Armstrong was; we also get to see why he was. The script hits the big landmarks in a very lasting way and Gosling finds a method to make us stew in his mind-space without saying nearly anything.

3. Eighth Grade

Synopsis: A young girl struggles to make friends in 8th grade.

I don’t think you can write a review of the movie without using the word ‘awkward’. Because that’s what this movie was; it was awkward and makes you want to check if you have food in your teeth. Those weird chemicals that made you strange around boys in middle school? You feel them oozing off the screen and into your popcorn bags. And as much as it feels familiar, this movie also feels just as unfamiliar. It displays a new type of childhood, one from a new generation of kids who don’t only have to worry about being cool in school, but online as well. A generation of kids with cell phones starting at the age of 10 who talk in memes and scroll more than converse. This movie highlights the crazy pressure this generation has to overcome - living split lives; one online and one offline. Having to manufacture yourself in a way that appears appealing to your acquaintances.  

Another relatable dynamic that this movie tried to conquer was the parent-child barrier. The idea that there is definitely going to be a moment when parents’ kids will hate them, and how to deal with that in a healthy way; how to be constantly pushed away but still know when to come back and be someone for them to lean on. The father in this movie has no clue on how to balance this unrelenting time and it hurts to watch him try. He, like most parents, wants to skip to the part when he and his children are best friends; this broke my heart when I watched. This general truth helps the adults who watch this movie find something to bite on as well.   

2. Free Solo

Synopsis: A man attempts to free-solo El Capitan in Yellowstone National Park.

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This documentary isn’t about someone climbing a rock face with no rope. It isn’t even about rock climbing at all. It is about the simple human pursuit of perfection and the type of people who somehow end up reaching it; if only for a moment.

Alex Honnold is someone who chases this elusive human-specific perfection. The craziest portion of this documentary comes when everyone in the crew and his family come together and tell him that he doesn’t have to do it. It puts the entire achievement in scope: virtually nobody will fundamentally care if he can free-solo El Capitan vs. scaling it with a rope; it is essentially the same thing. He has people in his life who care about him and his well-being and don’t want to watch him ricochet thousands of feet, painting his guts to be later cleaned by nature.

From the outside, the only reason he is attempting such a feat is that of pure insanity. But to Honnold, the general audience will never truly understand tasting the perfection he strives for; most people will never live as much as Honnold does before they die. And all by doing something that requires practiced excellence and precise control of self.

This documentary not only has in-but-out of this world visuals, but it also has a charismatic cast who all are dumbfounded, alongside us, by the journey Honnold has to take alone. Free Solo is a must see for those who strive for perfection.

1. The Hate U Give

Synopsis: With our main character watching, a young teenage African-American boy gets shot by a white cop.

I’m not one to normally push hard for audiences to see the most politically poignant film of the year. I am usually someone who wants everyone to just see the best art. This year, however, this film turned out to be both.

It is hypocritical, as a great film should be. It doesn’t just shout from the rooftops, “white people suck and seek only to ruin the lives of other races.” Instead, this movie has many scenes where you’re unsure of who is the evil and who is the hero. Life doesn’t work in blacks and whites, so we shouldn’t allow it to seem that way. This movie begs questions like: if everyone’s goal is to get out of “the hood,” how do we ever plan to fix it? These counterintuitive themes make this film less preachy and more self-inflexive. Some stories have been told too many times. This film decides that it’s time to tell it a different way, and it works almost from start to finish.

This movie does have its tropes and touches cheesy territory during many moments, but it does it with the best intentions. Not for the sake of lazy writing, but for the sake of writing something that sucks you into the world.

Lastly, this movie should be an expert manual on how to write drama. The portions you are supposed to be edging your seat, you feel the weight shifting in your thighs. The Hate U Give gave me the most pits in my stomach I’ve had all year, maybe in the past couple of years. This film isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but the themes and intense moments, add up to a fantastic film during a year of disappointing misses and blatant remakes of pander-flicks.