Thursday, January 10, 2019

Alejandra's Favorite Movies of 2018

by Alejandra Gonzalez
I’ll be totally honest: when we were invited to share our end-of-year list of favorites, I almost passed on submitting mine because 2018 felt like a huge failure on my part in terms of keeping up with releases. I never got around to some of the year’s most talked about films such as Eighth Grade or Blindspotting, but somehow had the time to end my year with Second Act, to paint a better picture of my 2018 in film. Still, some of the movies I did watch I really loved, so I felt it necessary and worth talking about them. So, without further ado, Ale’s favorite movies of 2018:

10. A Quiet Place - There is no way to deny that when I first heard about A Quiet Place, I thought the concept to be pretty gimmicky and didn’t see a way where the premise could be executed successfully. Despite my skepticism, I was sure not to miss the movie because I knew it would be the only thing I heard about for weeks. While I was right about the film being a hugely popular, I was wrong about the way I thought I would feel about it. Horror is a genre in which so much of the tension is generally built through sounds and music, but A Quiet Place proves the effectiveness of silence. It not only builds that tension extremely well, but also on the other hand develops intimacy between the characters that makes what the family goes through that much more devastating. That’s not to say that the importance of sound and voice is not also expressed in A Quiet Place. In one of my favorite scenes of the year, Lee invites his pregnant wife Evelyn to a dance as the two share earbuds that are singing the sweet song of Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon." The moment is incredibly intimate, and a refreshing instance away from the silence, together. If it’s true that a sequel will soon exist, I can’t wait for the world to have it.

9. Avengers: Infinity War - Is it allowed if a movie is mainly on my end-of-year list because of my general experience with it? Without a doubt, Infinity War jumped to the very top of my MCU favorites because of its ability to keep me wildly entertained for almost three hours and also sentimentally invested for just as long. There’s a certain emotional quality to Infinity War that I think is stronger than in any of the other movies before it besides maybe Guardians of the Galaxy. Still, what makes the film stand out to me as memorable is the theater experience I had while watching it. There was not an empty seat in the theater, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard that many people cheer, gasp, or laugh together at once while watching a movie. Once Infinity War was over, the air was thick and you could probably hear a pin drop. Nobody could believe what had just happened and it felt like a very intimate moment without a single word from anybody in the room. That, and I have such fond memories of our Infinity War episode right here on the site. I don’t know if that counts as cheating, but because of Infinity War, this year I was reminded how unifying the theater experience can really be and it made me fall in love with going to the movies all over again.
8. Mandy - Probably one of the most talked about films within the online horror community this year, Mandy is an amalgamation of ethereal visuals, tender love and passion, and off the wall brutality that showcases Nic Cage at his very best. I know that last part is probably one of the most uttered phrases in film history, but it is extremely true when it comes to Mandy. I never expected the story to move me the way it did, as films dealing with revenge are typically very difficult for me to watch. But the love and devotion behind Red’s actions were both heartbreaking and incredibly investing in ways I found to be very refreshing. The whole thing feels like an epic metal album being played out on screen, which I know is something else that is frequently said about Mandy, but only because it is true. If nothing else, Mandy provides such an interesting visual experience and is memorable for that alone.

7. Blockers - Without a doubt my favorite comedy of the year. I have a feeling that many will overlook the incredibly heartwarming and hysterical Blockers when making their year end lists. Already completely on board with the cast and director, I knew this would at the very least be a good time at the movies but never expected it to legitimately move me. The film follows a group of parents tracking down their daughters after learning that they’ve made a sex pact on the way to their prom. As you can imagine, it doesn’t go as planned and what transpires is one of the most sincere movies of the year. The comedy isn’t obnoxiously over the top (well...except for the one butt-chugging scene I could have done without) and it handles tonal shifts extremely well when it knows to be serious, which is a problem many comedies seem to have. My very favorite thing about Blockers is the way it handles sex and coming of age in a very intimate but openly positive way. Even beyond that, it introduces a lesbian romance in a way that doesn’t feel tragic or fetishized and ends up being one of the sweetest LGBTQ representations I’ve seen in a long time on screen.
6. Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again - Totally indifferent to Mamma Mia!, I did not have the highest expectations for Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again. Because I am such a massive ABBA and Cher fan, I thought it couldn’t hurt to check out and am forever grateful that I did. What absolute, pure joy this movie was. I’ll admit that I was terrified by the first 20 minutes or so of the film, which were so painfully corny that even I couldn’t handle it. The thing is, that doesn’t really change as the movie goes on, but it feels like the film just accepts what it is and has all the fun in the world being just that. It goes a little bananas towards the end with a ghost Meryl Streep apparition, but I totally appreciated the theatrics and it allowed for emotional investment on my part in the film. Lily James is a complete vision in this, and I loved thinking that Adam Riske was probably enjoying this even more than I was. I can’t wait to see if this made his list, too.

5. Upgrade - Probably the biggest unexpected gem in my year in movies is Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade. Already a mega fan of Logan Marshall-Green of The Invitation, I was curious to see what he could do here and what Whannell could do outside of the horror genre. I knew it would be great, but I was surprised by how much I loved it because I am typically not a fan of “technology-is-so-bad-and-will-kill-us-all” stories that have become increasingly popular with things like Black Mirror. Upgrade is so much more than that and is incredibly witty and fun, but dark and still genuinely frightening. I never knew for one second where it was going to go, and because of that Upgrade provided me with one of the most immersive and entertaining theater experiences of the year. Anyone who is a fan of films like RoboCop or Johnny Mnemonic should watch this based on the way it looks alone, but even those who may not be fans of the genre will find something special in Upgrade.

4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? - This was another one of my most anticipated films of the year. I had heard dozens of my friends rave about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? after it screened some festivals and was promised it would make me weep openly. This is not a major accomplishment, as making me cry is just about the easiest thing any movie can do, but beyond that, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? taught me so many lessons about kindness and positivity that my 2018 desperately needed. On the surface, the film is about Fred Rogers and his experience creating Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but at the heart is about compassion and acceptance of ourselves and others. This was vital for audiences in 2018, especially amidst a world where it seems that every day we see acts of hatred broadcasted widely. As much as I love them, I never thought that a documentary would make my top 10 of any year, which is a testament to the power of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?.
3. Annihilation - It brings me incredible relief to find that Annihilation did not get lost as a victim to beginning-of-the-year syndrome on so many of the year end lists I’ve seen so far. Annihilation is a film that’s so hard to describe because it is so many things. It’s terrifying, it’s curious, it’s dignifying, but most of all, it’s powerful. It reminds us that change is inevitable and that things never really end, but are constantly evolving into something different. It was so empowering for me to see a sci-fi film lead primarily by women that I love. It almost felt like a female-lead The Thing to me, which was a thought I had in the middle of watching Annihilation that really informed how I received the movie. And even better for me, the only man with a significant role in Annihilation was none other than my beloved Oscar Isaac! The film is also responsible for not one but two of the most terrifying scenes I’ve seen this year in theaters. I never thought I could ever grow to fear bears and doppelgangers this much while learning to fear change this much less, but I guess that is the magic of Annihilation.

2. A Star Is Born - As what felt like my most anticipated movie for one million years, I thought for sure there was still no way A Star Is Born could ever live up to that masterpiece of a trailer. Never happier to have been proven completely wrong, the film is not only an accomplishment in filmmaking and storytelling, but also in understanding love and relationships in a very, very real way. That being said, I can say confidently that I’ll probably never watch A Star is Born again. Kidding, but I do think it will be a very long time before I can watch the film without risking my emotional stability. Even listening to the incredible soundtrack is difficult for me, which is a shame because I could honestly argue that Gaga’s songwriting has never been better. After three other versions of the film, it is generally understood that it doesn’t end well for our star crossed lovers, but something about 2018’s version weighs much heavier on me. A lot of the discourse around the film claims that it focuses too much on Jackson and not enough on Ally, but I think that’s one of my favorite things about it. A Star is Born is honest about what it’s like to love someone else when you are suffering from such intense conflicts with yourself. Everything around you, as beautiful and powerful as they may be, becomes obscured and that is the real tragedy of Cooper’s A Star Is Born. The film is definitely one of 2018’s greatest accomplishments, and I can’t wait to have it on my shelf.
1. Suspiria - If anyone would have told me before November 2nd of this year that Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria would be my favorite movie of this year (and in recent memory!), I would have never even let them finish their sentence. I’m not very proud of it, but Argento’s Suspiria is my truest movie love, and because of that I didn’t even want to consider a “remake” that could compare. I walked into the movie with my mind already made up about it, but it is a true testament to how powerful 2018’s Suspiria is that I couldn’t help but be completely entranced and enamored by it only a few minutes in. It’s no news now, but Guadagnino’s film is only very loosely based on Argento’s magnum opus, which I think worked to the film’s benefit because it eliminates the ability to really compare the two at all. 2018’s Suspiria is a steady crescendo of crazy and comes to a climax with one of the most uncomfortable “what the fuck” inducing moments in film this year. One of the craziest parts of the whole thing is that it made me fall head over dancing heels in love with Dakota Johnson, who I never really noticed before.It was brimming with a sort of sensuality that was never obvious but had me completely seduced from the get go. Suspiria was with me for days afterward, and the feeling it instilled inside of me is something that there are no words to describe. I needed Suspiria to teach me that movies are still magical and full of surprises, even when you think you know it all.


  1. Dakota Johnson is AMAZING in Suspiria. Hands down one of my favorite performances of the year.

  2. Can't agree with you on "Suspiria" (just too weird a beast for me to like, although Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson are excellent), but that's a solid Top 10 list. Four of your choices match my own, but who's keeping track? :-P