The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Robert and Terence discuss the best of 2018

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And here we are. Tonight is the night of the 91st Academy Awards, but before we all tune in to the big night, Terence and Robert have a few parting words for their favorite films of 2018. Some of them were recognized by the Academy… and some were not.

Regardless, they’re getting love from our two columnists here at CC2K:

Robert Hamer’s favorite films of 2018.


Terence Johnson’s favorite films of 2018.

Robert: You know, with everything that has happened with this awards season – the remarkable spread of precursor awardees, the possibility of a first-ever superhero Best Picture or the first-ever foreign-language Best Picture, the embarrassingly schizophrenic production of the ceremony itself – it really does feel like we’re watching an entire industry having a collective anxiety attack over the future of the medium.

Terence: They absolutely are. The ceremony is but a microcosm of that, but it is interesting the questions we keep having regarding audiences and how to reach them. The Oscar lineup, in a vacuum is a pretty good representation of the year and the future of the industry.

Robert: Which is probably why the “Old Guard” is so stumped. I mean, do they award the undisputed cultural phenomenon of the year, preserving the power of studios and the theatrical model of distribution… but also concede that superheroes are a “legitimate” genre of film and here to stay? Or do they go with the undisputed critical darling of the year and make a big splashy acceptance of foreign language cinema for the first time in their history… distributed by a platform they are terrified of and don’t want to hold up as the future of distribution, yet?

Do they go for one of the other critical darlings, like the lavish period piece… that’s also a kinky dark comedy? Or A Star Is Born, the box office hit that everyone just assumed at first would crush the awards race when it first came out, so hey, why not just give the pundits what they want? Or will they just say “screw it” and give Best Picture to Green Book, a movie that wasn’t a box office hit or a critical darling, and piss everyone outside of Fox News off? Or do they make Bohemian Rhapsody one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time?

But hey, I can’t complain too much — my favorite film of 2018 has ten nominations and has a real shot at the top prize. My second-favorite film of last year is the frontrunner for Best Animated Feature.

Burning didn’t even make their nominees for Foreign Language Film, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout missed out on nods that you’d think would be a given for it, like Film Editing and Visual Effects.

Terence: I wish I could go back and make my case for Burning to the Academy, tell them they wouldn’t find a movie with a stronger sense of what it is. Despite the fact that we, the audience, might not know everything that is going on, the film is expertly manipulating us and bending us to its will. There are other long movies in the Oscar race, but Burning is so superbly made, you don’t feel it. I also think that it has three brilliant performances at the center.If this movie was English language the actors branch would have eaten it up.

But, I am so used to my tastes and the Academy’s not lining up that I am becoming immune to them snubbing my faves…although Mission: Impossible – Fallout not getting in VFX or Editing is a true travesty.

Robert: The Academy has had a problem with Asian cinema for a long time, now. If it hadn’t won the Palme d’Or, I’m certain Shoplifters would have missed out on Best Foreign Language Feature. But then again, the conventional wisdom was also that they had a problem with superheroes, and that barrier was just broken.

Terence: Black Panther would be my choice among the nominees for Best Picture. I had such high hopes for that movie since it was announced and I think the first time I saw it I was so nervous that it might disappoint me that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should, but I saw it two additional times and it just clicked both times.

There have been good superhero movies but many of them shy away from race and gender politics and this movie ran head long into that, and it made the movie better. Also it was nice to see Marvel letting a whole bunch of minorities have their run at the craft categories and delivering some incredibly unique sounds and looks. I’d love to see that film in a double bill with your #2 and my #4 as both deliver superheroics with some commentary on race that’s unique.

Robert: There are so many reasons I adore Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but chief among them was its marriage of style informing its substance.

Here was an animated movie combining a diverse array of aesthetics (anime, CG, Looney Tunes cartoonism, etc) to inform its egalitarian perspective on heroism (“Anyone can wear the mask!”), that managed to invent and push new technical boundaries while also thinking outside of box of superhero genre trappings. For a film to do one or the other is an achievement, but a movie nailing both always feels like a miracle.

Whether or not it wins Best Picture, Black Panther has already made its mark on the popular culture. Possibly the most lasting and significant one is bringing the genre of afrofuturism to the mainstream. Public libraries are even adding as its own new section on their shelves! I’m actually amazed our President* hasn’t tried to stop that.

Terence: The animation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is among some of the best I’ve ever seen. Lots of movies attempt to “look like a comic book” but this movie does that and manages to push the medium forward. It’s no good just to rest on the fact that it looks cool, they actually did something with it

If there was a movie that idiot would try to stop I kind of think it would be Roma or Widows right? I have a deep appreciation for what Cuarón was trying to achieve with that film but it never rose above “like” for me. I found the Fellini-esque touches a bit out of rythmn with the film although it is beautifully composed.

With Chicago in the news (gee, thanks, to Jussie Smollett), Widows provides a wonderfully murky look at just how messed up things are and what people will resort to when pushed. Both of these films contain tracking shots that are among the finest I’ve ever seen, like the beach scene in Roma and the car ride through the neighborhood in Widows.

Robert: Some of the hardest-hitting filmmaking in Widows, in my eyes, weren’t the shots, but the cuts. Like the criss-crossing between Viola Davis and Liam Neeson in bed together with the failed heist opening, or how the scene of Veronica’s chauffer’s murder just ends abruptly on Jatemme nonchalantly watching TV.

Steve McQueen is very good at coaxing his audience into paying attention to what’s going on outside the main action of the story. Which he does achieve with his long takes, to be clear! The point of Belle running wasn’t to see us watch her catch the bus, but to experience all wall of catcalling she had to run through to get there. What Jack Mulligan was arguing with his campaign advisor mattered less than the fact that his limo could drive from dilapidated, predominantly-black housing projects to an upper-class, gentrified, predominantly white suburb in only a few blocks.

As for Roma, what can I say? Sometimes the critical consensus is right in line with mine. There are all sorts of criteria for judging the “best” movie. Maybe it’s the one that had the biggest emotional impact on you personally, or the nuts-and-bolts filmmaking prowess on display is especially impressive, or if this represents a major artistic leap for the director, or it captures the socio-political zeitgeist of its time, or provides a revealing snapshot of where the film industry is and where it’s going. And lucky us: Roma hits every single one of those. It’s pure cinema, a deeply personal vision carried out with the kind of scale, artistic freedom, and budget that are only afforded to a filmmaker just coming off an historic Oscar win for a box office smash hit. Cuarón did not squander his rare opportunity, and while there’s a lot to criticize Netflix for, it is to their enormous credit that they bet big on this and were willing to hold it up as a possible bright future for streaming services, and what they can provide to filmmakers frustrated by the studio “gatekeepers” of theatrical distribution (whether or not it will pan out that way, long-term, is… debatable).

As for real-world impact, it’s already striking a chord beyond just cinephiles and Oscar voters — its reach is empowering working-class people, too.

Terence: That’s one thing that’s great about film: its ability to reach in a way that other art forms can’t.

I think we will look back on 2018 very favorably, or at least I will. There was such variety in the types of movies that were really good and many movies pushing the industry into a more interesting place. Every year when I do my final 10, I try and gauge how good the year was by how fun it is to make the 10. I agonized over several films but once I decided, I looked at the list and thought “this was a great set of films that would make a killer film festival.”


Author: Robert Hamer, CC2K Staff Writer

Robert Hamer is CC2K’s resident opinion columnist. In addition to being a self-centered 30 year-old white man living in northeastern suburbia who obsesses over movies and nerd culture ephemera, he also works to ensure Donald Trump does not succeed in permanently destroying the United States.

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