Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Image = Best of 2018 & Pre-Oscar Rants

2018 was not the most exciting year for film but it was an banner year for progress in Hollywood. Two of the most lauded films of the year are Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther – essentially just a rom-com and a super hero movie. What makes them unique is that they both made history featuring predominantly Asian and Black casts respectively – and oh yeah, they both also made a ton of money worldwide.

2 more wonderful things to note about 2018: 

1 – Documentaries like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG and Three Identical Strangers did record-breaking box office last summer. And I personally think that Fahrenheit 11/9 is the best work that Michael Moore has ever done.

2 – Small indie films such as Eighth Grade, Will You Ever Forgive Me? and First Reformed have had long theatrical runs and have received critical praise and been showered with both nominations and wins for countless awards. 

My 10 Best Movies of 2018:

Black KkKlansman
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Green Book
A Star is Born
Ben is Back
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Fahrenheit 11/9
If Beale Street Could Talk
What They Had
First Reformed

The Best Film of 2018 is BlacKkKlansman because it is the
one that affected me the most. Spike Lee was unabashed in dealing with the real issue of racism in this country and I think he deserves the highest recognition for it. And BTW - because he is way overdue for it. Spike has only been nominated for an Oscar twice in his illustrious career – and never for Best Director. How is that even possible? In 2016 he got an Honorary Oscar for some reason but it is time he win a real one for Direction.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is my Favorite Movie of 2018. It is a small indie gem and Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant are both brilliant in it. I was hoping it would be Richard E. Grant’s year to (finally!!!) be acknowledged with awards, similar to Sam Rockwell’s last year, but it is not panning out that way. 

Green Book is a perfect movie across the board (casting, direction, script, tone, message, etc.) and director Peter Farrelly proved that he can do a lot more than toilet bowl humor. I truly don't understand the cultural backlash that Green Book has gotten. It has been compared in a disparaging way to Driving Miss Daisy because many feel that Do the Right Thing was overlooked in 1989. I agree with that observation but I do not necessarily think it was Driving Miss Daisy's fault. In addition, I have friends of color who refuse to see Green Book which makes me sad because I did not see any “white savior” scenario playing out. This true story of an unlikely friendship renewed my faith in humanity and the bridges we can build when we take the time to understand one another's differences.

With A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper spent 4 years and a great deal of sweat equity envisioning & creating this epic movie with a beautiful result and great performances all around. Cooper took on a massive challenge to elevate his status as a filmmaker in Hollywood. ASIB was made in the tradition of Old Hollywood and films of the 1970’s because it takes it’s sweet time to tell a story. It is strange to me that ASIB has not been winning anything all season except for the song “Shallow.” Earlier in the season I predicted it might win everything. Although Glenn Close has been sweeping up awards so far, I still believe that it is Lady Gaga’s year and I am hoping that ASIB's recently launched “For Your Consideration” ad campaign helps Gaga on Oscar night. Lady Gaga dug deep to play Ally and never looks or acts like Lady Gaga for one moment in the film, even when Ally’s star is indeed born.  

Ben is Back was the biggest surprise of the year. I usually don’t like suspense – but this film shines a light on the reality of addiction and we got to see a very different side of Julia Roberts. Great job by father and son director and star Peter and Lucas Hedges. It was incredibly well-done and deeply affecting.

If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful love story and incredibly well cast. Every single actor delivers and it is a brilliant debut by KiKi Layne. It shows a refreshing portrayal of a poor black family onscreen. I was deeply touched by the unflinching support of this family for each other no matter what. I would nominate Bryan Tyree Henry for Supporting Actor for that one unforgettable scene with the equally compelling Stephan James about the reality of being a Black man in America. All of the acclaim has fallen on Regina King, who absolutely deserves it, but it is absurd that Beale Street is not in the Best Picture category, that KiKi, Stephan & Bryan are not nominated for anything this year and that director Barry Jenkins was overlooked as well. 

What can I say about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? First, see it if you have yet to and before the Tom Hanks biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is released later this year. Second, it is a balm for the soul in these troubled divided times.

Fahrenheit 11/9 should be required viewing for every American citizen, regardless of party affiliation. It tells the real story about how colossally the Democratic National Committee screwed up the Democratic nomination in 2016 and examines in painful detail what is actually happening when a zealot, like our current president, gains power.

Compared to other plays and movies I have seen about Alzheimer's recently, What They Had is a keen representation of dealing with Alzheimer’s and how it can tear apart a family. This film deals honestly with denial, fear and the tough choices a husband and adult children are forced to make when their matriarch falls ill. We need more films like this to educate people about the horror and reality of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

First Reformed is truly like no other film I have ever seen and a perfect showcase for Ethan Hawke’s unique talent. It is a modern commentary on the hypocrisy of organized religion being run by big business and a cautionary tale about climate change. Legendary auteur Paul Schrader, whose first screenplay was Taxi Driver in 1976, is nominated for Best Original Screenplay for the first time this year.

Other Observations from 2018:

Overlooked: Robert Forester & Michael Shannon in What They Had 
Biggest Disappointment: First Man
Worst Movie (possibly ever): Life Itself


No comments:

Post a Comment