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Top movies of 2018: Kindness shimmers most

Another year of film, 2018, was packed with duds and absolute marvels.

Unfortunately, chances were given to films that could have been critical and commercial darlings, but instead they turned out to be flops. I could go on and on about how change is needed with franchising certain series and stand-alone films.

In 2018, though, films reminded us about the good that people do, the leaps people take, and the risks filmmakers make to create art everyone can enjoy.

Choosing my top 10 films of 2018 has been one of my most challenging assignments. I only play fair to how I feel in the moment. This means that a film I saw in February that I thought was so-so could easily pull ahead, after time, consideration and more thought, to a No. 1 spot.

Honorable mentions to 2018’s best goes a handful of other films: A Quiet Place, Overlord, Boy Erased, BlacKkKlansman, Bumblebee, Black Panther, Deadpool 2, Searching, Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Free Solo, Revenge, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Destroyer, Avengers: Infinity War, Crazy Rich Asians, The Incredibles 2 and First Man.

Without further ado, these are the top 10 films that made me a happy movie-goer.

  1. Love, Simon

In a progressive time in film and society, a movie that has a statement to make can get a bit overwhelming and dragged on. However, Love, Simon creates a sense of innocence and honesty when a closeted, young high schooler goes through a forced coming-out moment by way of social media.

I didn’t expect to be moved by a young adult film like this, but believe me, Love, Simon is a movie that puts you in the shoes of this young man, breathing new air into a genre and story we’ve seen plenty of times.

Though I never reviewed it, I did express my thoughts to my peers and friends and I suggest that everyone watch a beautifully told story.

Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel all give wonderful and genuine performances that help an empathetic script become real and grounded.

Love, Simon shows itself to be not only an important LGBT film, but also, in general, just a damn great film.

  1. Eighth Grade

My top 10 list contains some similar themes, especially since I’m fond of the coming-of-age genre. Eighth Grade speaks truth to why this genre is so outstanding.

Comedian Bo Burnham has a new career as a screenwriter and/or director. I hope he goes down this road because he made a film that, I feel, other directors have tried to make, but not as well as Eighth Grade.

Funny and awkward, at the necessary times, Elsie Fisher’s Kayla Day journeys through her last week of Eighth Grade, which has already been a mess of a year, just before she enters High School.

Eighth Grade is the comedy equivalent to Requiem for a Dream. It’s such a great movie, done with top tier skill, but I really only need to see it once. I relived voice cracks and acne breakouts once, I don’t need to be constantly reminded of the ugliness that was puberty.

In any case, Burnham’s ride through one of all teenagers’ worst social nightmares is hilarious, sweet and authentic to its core.

  1. Hereditary

Movies with artistic value can be divisive as hell. Case in point: Hereditary.

The Rotten Tomatoes 63 percent audience score — compared to the 89 percent critic score — proves horror films are going through a new wave of art that dramas and thrillers share.

The controversy that comes with Hereditary stems from its slow burn of a family experiencing a tragedy together, and how it breaks them mentally and physically. The ending may have a significant part of why the audience hates it as well.

I say to those haters that, while director Ari Aster takes a risk with Hereditary’s story, it’s a leap of faith to those who accept Hereditary as a horror/family drama filled with great performances and plenty of uncomfortable scenes.

I dare you to keep your nails from digging into your chair after Alex Wolff’s Peter drives Milly Shapiro’s Charlie through empty road. On top of that, Toni Collette gives the performance of her career as a mother going through grief and paranoia.

Truth is, Hereditary creeped me to the bone.

  1. Upgrade

Venom could have been a refreshing take on the anti-hero genre, especially with such a unique character. It wasn’t. Upgrade is the Venom movie audiences should have seen.

Set in the near-future where technology thrives incredibly well, Logan Marshall-Green’s Grey Trace has an opportunity to use STEM, a form artificial intelligence implanted in the head, to get revenge on those who murdered his wife and left him paralyzed.

Like Hereditary, Upgrade is a slow burn film, setting up the background and personalities for our characters. Then from one to 100, the violence peaks and it becomes a thriller, and almost horror-like.

Why is Upgrade, a movie that didn’t even open well in it’s opening weekend, get the No. 6 spot on my top 10 list?

Upgrade is a thoughtful and simple film that brings up tough questions about artificial intelligence backed up with stylish and bloody violence and a fantastic performance by Marshall-Green.

We’ve been exposed to AI-centered films before, but I can’t think of one in the past decade that feels depressing, exciting and curious all at once.

  1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Smack dab in the middle of the summer, Mission: Impossible – Fallout decided to flip the bird to all other action movies this year and cemented itself as one of the best movies this year.

Tom Cruise, now at 56 years old, pushes his stunts even further in Fallout than he has in past installments of the Mission: Impossible series.

I can only describe Fallout as pure fun and adrenaline. If Henry Cavill ‘reloading’ his arms doesn’t make you pump your fist, then I’m not sure you’ve ever smiled before.

HALO jumps, dangling from a helicopter and a motorcycle chase through Paris without a helmet are only a few of the daring scenes that Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie dazzle us with.

Fallout asks the audience to remember characters we can’t pinpoint, and it even drags on a story that feels like it tries to be smart. Though, that’s just me nitpicking. It’s the action and set pieces that are front and center.

Fallout is one of my favorite action movies of all time. There, I said it.

  1. Ben Is Back

Ben Is Back probably won’t be on your top 10 list, but for me, it hit me emotionally, especially for how close addiction is to some of those around me.

Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges star in Peter Hedges’ sad, but timely Christmas movie about a young adult who comes back home from rehab for his opioid addiction. Tides turn when his past comes back in an aggressive way towards him and his family.

Roberts and Hedges play mom and son. Their relationship goes through a strain that I can only describe as a sledgehammer trying to break a slab of glass. Both of their performances are praise-worthy though, most likely, both will be overlooked by the Academy. It’s a shame, because of all the parent-child relationship depicted on screen this year, Ben Is Back shows the most raw bond.

Roberts’ Holly Burns is mother of the year in Ben Is Back.

  1. Blindspotting

Bay Area family, Blindspotting is the 2018 movie that best represents our home and those who live in it.

Director Carlos López Estrada and screenwriters/stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal created a piece of art for those who are ever interested in knowing both sides of a story.

Casal and Diggs are buddies in real life which made the friendship between Miles, played by Casal, and Collin, played by Diggs, feel so natural.

While on probation, Collin witnesses a cop murder someone on the streets of Oakland. He starts being haunted by that image and by his moral obligation to say something. On top of that, Miles’ erratic behavior doesn’t make it easy for Collin to stay on a good track record.

Out of all the movies that touch on racial issues, Blindspotting takes a different route. It’s funny, charmful, powerful and tense.

Seeing as it takes place in Oakland, I may be biased. But there’s no disagreeing the script is penned beautifully, with grace in its modern language and its contemporary situations.

During one of the last scenes, a rap song is performed, riding on a line of spoken word. Talk about compelling.

  1. Annihilation

I saw director and screenwriter Alex Garland’s Annihilation in theaters, thinking it was astonishing, trippy and beautiful. I then saw it again the next day to confirm what I had just seen.

It’s like a vacation to an unknown paradise with my inner demons as my plus-one.

Like Garland’s predecessor Ex Machina, Annihilation is a science fiction film that is more than what you get. It has something to say about you and the ‘impossible.’

It’s filled with metaphors upon metaphors and it’s up to the viewer to fill in the blanks on what they may allude to. What makes Annihilation a masterpiece of science fiction is its visuals and its thematic material.

I didn’t think there could be anything better than the bear scene in Annihilation —  one hell of a roller coaster ride into madness — but then a metallic, biological orb started filling up the screen and folding over on itself. My eyes were twitching, and I couldn’t stop feeling the shivers.

One of my favorite genres is science fiction, but I’m even more ecstatic when the filmmakers care for it and mold it into a mystery that doesn’t make the audience feel stupid. Annihilation does that and more.

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Another Spider-Man movie? Why do we need this?

After experiencing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I take my words back and slap myself with them.

The animation is stripped straight from a comic book. The story follows a smooth flow, even with its plethora of Spider-characters and villains take the screen. Screenwriters Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman give TLC to Miles Morales, a character who holds his own alongside the shadow of Peter Parker.

The animators deserve the biggest shout-out. It’s one thing to make a great movie in live action, but the animators have imagined a new way to tell this genre of film. I have never seen anything like Into the Spider-Verse.

Like me, I’m sure movie-goers were worried when another Spider-Man movie was in the works. It didn’t even matter if it was animated or not. Spider-Man is a product of Hollywood and Marvel.

I’m wrong. Everyone is wrong.

  1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

In the theater, I could see kids, adults and the elderly all share the screen and cry happy tears in synchronization.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary directed by Morgan Neville. It tells the story of Fred Rogers’ life, lessons and his iconic show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Of all the movies I saw in 2018, easily over 80, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the only film that reminds me to just be kind to another person.

At one point, Neville asks the audience, like Rogers asked to a different audience, to think silently for 10 seconds or so about the people who have helped you; to the people who you love. I thought about my mom and my dad. Both have given me life and a reason to live and love.

In today’s world of conflicts and anger, sometimes a little kindness can go a long way. Someday, the world will get that message.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the best movie and my favorite movie of the year. I cried at least eight times during its runtime. I owe it this much.

In 2019, bigger blockbusters and critically acclaimed indie films will hit the screen and more political blows will anger and confuse people. Prepare to for the worst and the best. But through thick and thin, remember to be kind and love everyone, regardless of oppositions.

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