Favorites: Influential and Controversial Films of 2018

Here at 25YLSite, we handle a lot of heavy lifting. Analysis, interpretation, deep discussion, introspective interviews…you name it, we’ve got it. “Favorites” takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites—whether it’s moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever!—in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: Holiday Godfrey’s top influential and controversial films of 2018.

2018 was a year, a whole year, of worldwide insanity. So let’s not focus on that for a moment and instead focus on what we loved about 2018. More specifically, let’s focus on my favorite influential and controversial movies of 2018. While this year has been a startlingly fine year in horror, I can’t complete this list without acknowledging other outstanding films no matter their genre. I’ll order these by release date (USA) to alleviate myself from the stress of ranking them. So let’s break em’ down.

Black Panther (February 16, 2018)

Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, and Danai Gurira in Marvel Studios Black Panther.

I’m happy this film had the earliest release date in my list, because it really lets the hammer fall. This film was about as divisive as cinematically possible, and while that fact may be lost in the echo chamber, I applaud it. Any film that draws people together for discussion, wins. This film had so many different schools of thought, that you’re going to want a Masters to properly discuss it. Hollywood white-washing everything it puts its hands on has been a constant since it’s inception. It has put out a few comedies and dramas here and there that are black-centric. Hold the damn phone though, and wait for 2018, because then comes along a film that raises the hackles of everyone that is for the white-washing, and all of us aren’t clinically insane that oppose it. The reason for concern is obvious. How is a field dominated by white people going to pull off a film dedicated to the strength of a people they know nothing about? I’ve seen every argument for this film’s writing and directing that I think is possible. Is Black Panther only showcasing the depravity of American black culture, or is it showing the strength that comes from it? Is this film propaganda? Does this film try to glorify the wrong parts of a society because it has no basis in reality? Is it divisive or unifying? Is it just Hollywood’s answer to white-washing amidst the ever growing Black Lives Matter movement? No matter where your opinion falls on this film, it was most certainly one of the most influential films of the year.

A Quiet Place (April 6, 2018)

John Krasinski in A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place was the directorial debut of John Krasinski and I’ll tell you what: he did a fine job for his first directed film. The film depicts a family trying to survive an apocalypse of monsters clearly suffering from misophonia. While the family struggles early on to keep their younger children in line, their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf and the entire family knows ASL as a result. The film was done in such a way that I could respect its inclusion of the deaf community, by using an actress that was actually deaf and not trying to act their way through a deeply defined community of people and their culture. The entire cast also learned ASL as best they could in the given production time. The cochlear implant that Regan has could very easily be a point of contention for a lot of people, but that’s an entirely different article. While the film may not have displayed deafness or a person that is deaf with complete accuracy, it still did display them, and didn’t use them as the “person with a disability that’s going to get everyone killed” trope that writers and directors so often lean on. The biggest missed mark I saw with this film was the fact that the film’s score wasn’t used for stark contrast of action. There are monsters roaming around that are drawn in by sound, and one of your main characters is deaf; there is a glaring misuse of narrative here when it comes to scoring this film. Otherwise the film was a hit with me, and I want to see more like it in the future.

Hereditary (June 8, 2018)

Toni Collette in Hereditary.

Hereditary was the first film to actually scare me in over a decade. While I’m not a power house of emotional strength, that’s still saying something. I watched this film with my brother and mother while I was feeling under the weather. I still had to get up halfway through it and get a beer because I couldn’t continue watching it completely sober. I hold this film very close to my heart (though I’ve outright refused to watch it a second time so far) because it depicts a family and their mental health coming undone at the seams. You can argue whether or not their mental undoing is from purely psychological issues or an actual Satanic curse. Either way, it’s happening, and it’s stone-cold terrifying. The acting in this movie is stunning and chillingly accurate in response to thinking that you’re losing your mind, or watching a loved one do so. I found a striking pattern with this film and who found it boring or horrific. My friends that come from a more chaotic and disruptive family background found this film to be extremely unsettling, while those that didn’t seemed to find it boring or unrealistic. I didn’t do a double-blind study that was peer reviewed, so forgive me for collecting data that was naturally available to me instead of reaching out to Bill Nye to write this bit of the article. I want to see more films that portray a family trying to survive mental illness, that aren’t constantly reminding you that all the crazy is inside your head. Maybe it isn’t all inside your head? Probably your family is falling apart though due to your off the charts psychosis. Just maybe not though.

Mandy (September 14, 2018)

Nicholas Cage in Mandy

The cinematography of this film makes it shine so excruciatingly bright, you’re going to need shades. The film is weird; it’s straight up weird. I like weird films though, but a lot of people find them daunting, or weird just for the sake of being different, pretentious even. I don’t mind being told that I’m pretentious for liking good movies. This film is certainly going to be one that people will say is just being “artsy and strange” for fun. As this film does have a narrative that is driven by anger, “crazy evil,” revenge, and love, it isn’t the easiest watch in the world. Some films you can sit down and throw back a few beers and take it easy while watching. This is not really that kind of film. I don’t advocate drug use; this film is one of those that you need the opposite of a downer to watch though. Extreme art, gore, horror, definitely straying into the exploitation genre, Mandy is a monument to crazy, and I can only hope that films will follow suit in the coming years, to depict within the realms of social commentary the same style of the terrifying and confusing; films that shed further light on the social and political wars that are waged around us.

Halloween (October 19, 2018)

Jamie Lee Curtis returning to her role of Laurie Strode in Halloween 2018.

This film was an absolute delight for me to anticipate, watch in the theater with friends, and then tear apart with my friends once we got out of the theater. While a good portion of fans found the film to be lackluster, and definitely not worthy of being called “a true sequel,” it did something more important. The release of this new Halloween film got anyone that wasn’t paying attention to the absurd amount of amazing horror that came out in 2018 to take a gander at the genre, because who in their right mind hears there is a new Halloween film out and doesn’t take heed? Are we going to sit around and argue about Laurie Strode’s character not being handled properly, or the fact that Julian (Jibrail Nantambu) stole the entire show with comedy in what is supposed to be a horror film? Yes, we are, but that means that people are indeed arguing over a horror movie, so let’s all get together and argue together!

Bohemian Rhapsody (October 30, 2018)

Rami Malek portraying Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

While I’ve written on this film previously, the article was written a bit too close to its initial release date to be able to convey the enormous affect this film had on its audiences. Queen once again rose to the top of the music charts so rapidly, that they probably had Panic! At The Disco shaking so hard their falsies fell out. Even as of today Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart is still dominated by every other Queen hit ever written. Some more gatekeeperish Queen fans are disgruntled by the massive tidal wave of new Queen kids running amok throughout their social media platforms. I don’t have a problem with it myself; the more people that love Queen the better. Plus #FreddieMercury has been trending so highly lately that I’ve gotten to see a ton of old pictures of him and the band I’d never seen before. Keep on going ga-ga guys.

Bird Box (December 21, 2018)

Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes sharing a tense moment in Bird Box.

This movie flew out of left field and slapped the entire internet in the face to be completely frank. One day I was minding my own business simply being nosey on social media, like the rest of you, when I was nearly suffocated by blindfold memes. I was at work when a much younger associate of mine asked if I had seen the movie everyone wouldn’t shut up about. I told him no, that I planned on watching it when I got home, and asked him if he knew who was in it. He said Sandra Bullock, and then butchered John Malkovich’s last name, as he had never heard of the actor before. I was actually appalled that no one had thought to tell me the film had Malkovich in it, because I would have watched it the second I knew of its existence, based solely on that information. This brand new film is on my list because it possesses elements of film that I enjoy—not a ton of elements, but enough. I realized while watching it that I loved the score, so of course I googled who composed it, then laughed for 15 minutes when I found out that of course it was Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. (This was the score I wanted for A Quiet Place, if there was a need for that film to even have a score, this would have been the path I wish was taken with it.) However, I wasn’t a fan of the movie’s overall “biblical apocalypse” vibe. Going down the biblical path in my mind is lazy and unimaginative. That theme gives a built in answer to “Why is this terrible event taking place?”—a question that I feel deserves more creative answers than, “You didn’t read Leviticus enough, so now get ready for some Revelations.” While for me this film was more of an amalgamation of other films (A Quiet Place, The Happening, The Mist) instead of a standalone thriller, it has been quite the meme machine, and is roping in even larger audiences for the horror/thriller genre by throwing Sandra Bullock and her kids in a boat blindfolded and claiming profound art. Whatever keeps people watching horror though, will get a thumbs up from me.

I obviously didn’t include every film that I loved this year; I included the ones that I thought really made people engage in conversations, and might influence film in the coming years. Any films you think I’ve missed, and want to yell at me for, feel free to drop them in the comments.

P.S. I actually love Panic! At The Disco, they were just near the top of the charts when Queen started to dominate again.

Written by Holiday Godfrey

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