Film Club Narrows Down Favorites of 2018

2018 had lots of films… what does Film Club think stood out?

Jenna Prelle, Staff Writer

With the year over and Oscar nominations coming up, we asked the members of Frederick Film Club to tell us what films of the past year were great, which ones sucked, and what films might be future classics.


Mr. Brandon Coon, film club sponsor: One of my favorite movies from 2018 was a documentary, and I don’t like documentaries so this really grabbed me. It’s called Three Identical Strangers.

Susan Rose, junior: So out of all the movies I saw in 2018, I think one of the best was Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. It has such a good plot and and it was entertaining seeing all the spider people from the different universes. It was a typical plot like you knew oh they would be saved in the end but still it was entertaining seeing them build up to it and seeing how diverse the characters were. Also, the art itself is just beautiful and phenomenal. It was just a well-rounded movie.

Aron Navarrete-Jimenez, junior: I have to agree with Susan. What I loved about Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is it had amazing animation. Remember these are the guys that came from the dudes that animated The Emoji Movie.

SR: Yeah… but a lot of things that people don’t get is that, yes, they were a year apart, but these movies have been in production for years. The same animation team wasn’t working on The Emoji Movie that was working on Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.

ANJ: I get you, but I’m just saying that it’s crazy how they went from that to that. Even though this has been in production for a while. Not the same people but the same kind of production team I guess that just kinda put out one thing and then made something amazing with Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. So that movie’s great–it’s my favorite movie of 2018. The only thing I didn’t like was–well, I guess you wouldn’t see this in this type of movie, but in Spiderman movies like Spiderman 2, it shows the struggle it is to be Spiderman: Toby McGuire having a bad life because his responsibility of saving New York and stuff. It would’ve been cool to see some of those aspects with Miles’s life, having him be tangled up in something like that.

BC: I also enjoyed Spiderverse, but I think why we haven’t seen the acclaim or the box office with it is because it did go into the world of a comic book and it’s a niche market for a lot of people. It’s very narrowly defined and a lot of people were turned off by it, whereas we saw with some other stellar comic book movies this year. Incredibles 2 broke all sorts of animation records and Aquaman just passed the billion dollar mark and was just breathtakingly beautiful.

Ethan Ahlstrom, sophomore: I think was the most beautiful movie from last year is Isle of Dogs. All the symmetry, the colors, and the painstaking claymation made it that way.

ANJ: Solid point, and I kinda just love how it just brought in a separate world to American films because Isle of Dogs was in a different location and it had this whole dystopian kind of give to it which I really enjoyed. When it comes to most people they love dogs and having that world where there’s a world without dogs and them being kind of discriminated against compared to cats.

Mia Palmer, junior: I really liked Isle of Dogs as well, but I’ve also not seen most of these movies. I hope that Isle of Dogs is remembered as time goes by because I thought it was a fantastic movie and, out of all the stop motion I’ve seen, it was probably one of the most beautifully done.

Jannessa Kinsey, sophomore: I think you’re all wrong (laughs). Love Simon was my favorite movie. I loved it because it had a lot of representation for the LGBTQ community and I think it was very good for young teens to be able to watch it. And have like the experience that most gay teens don’t get to have by being represented like this.

BC: It was a stellar year for representation for minority communities too. You’ve got Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, and BlacKKKlansman. You have a lot of movies that are talking about race or making race less of a deal because it’s part of this bigger narrative. But I think no movie tackles representation in a more interesting way than Green Book. It’s a movie that is growing in popularity, and it’s comedy–it’s hard to get a period comedy in front of an audience. It shows a very interesting time of American life and has something surprising but interesting to say about race. It’s not just the racist white guy learns not to be racist, it’s deeper than that, it touches on more themes. I’ve seen critiques that it is a “white savior” film and it does have its issues with narrative perspective, yet it’s still a moving and well-made film. I mean, it won the Golden Globe for best picture for a reason, and I think it’s going to win more Oscars.

Conor McDaniel, senior: My favorite movie would have to be They Will Not Grow Old. Which I believe was a Peter Jackson project and was great because–maybe it’s not the best movie but it was definitely the most technically interesting. They went in and got all this old footage from the first world war, which was all black and white and grainy, and they completely restored it. Not only the color but the complexity restored the quality of it. People in the audience were even able to recognize grandparents or great-grandparents that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to recognize because the footage before was so indistinguishable. So I think that’s great, it was a good nod to the first world war. It’s a great way of remembering our history, and it was very good. I liked it.

BC: I disagree. It was good as a preservation project, but if you’re talking films, this was a banner year for documentaries. You have the beautiful Whitney Houston documentary, you had RBG. I think one of the best this year was Won’t You Be My Neighbor? It was just so beautiful, and if you grew up with Mr. Rogers, it touched your heart. It just had so much beauty to it. As well as Free Solo–it had the best cinematography of the year, which is weird to say about a documentary. We’re used to the single-cam interview style, but to get someone who is on solo climb–no ropes, no safeties–and to get details like going into the crevacises and seeing the dust on their fingertips, that took ingenious rigs. Even to film something where if you don’t know if the protagonist will die at the end if the documentary, that’s breathtaking brave filmmaking.

MP: Can you elaborate more on what that film is?

BC: Free Solo is about a rock climber who is the best free soloist in the world. In a free solo climb, you have no ropes, no nets–it’s nothing but you and the rock. So if you make a wrong move, you plummet to your death. And so they filmed his entire ascent up a mountain and it was beautiful. It looked like Aquaman or Black Panther as far as the cinematic details, but everything was real. There was no fakery to it, just a truly breathtaking documentary. That leads us to the movie [we’re screening] today which I think is the best documentary of last year, Three Identical Strangers. It’s hard to talk about without ruining the twist, but it starts off like a lot of documentaries where you have the warm and fuzzies about here are three people they’re identical triplets separated at birth and then they find another and they have all these things in common and they go on all the talk shows and what a great story. But then they start learning the underpinning of their situation and things start to spiral out of control. It leaves you with this feeling of just disquietude that this sort of thing could happen to anyone, and there’s something really wrong with the society that can allow what happened to them to happen to anyone. I know I’m being very vague because it’s hard not to spoil this movie.

SR: Speaking of artistic value, I thought Leave No Trace was really amazing. I would have never seen it without this club and it would’ve been a forgettable movie. But just seeing it, you could tell it was more than a quirky Indie movie. You had these amazing views of the forest and got to see the relationship between a daughter and her father build and just how they interact with each other and how the daughter want’s to break free from the life her father has given her. Isle of Dogs, Leave No Trace, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and things like that–those are more artistic films that are trying to serve a point rather than just doing a cash grab like Bumblebee, Ready Player One, or Aquaman. I feel like those are better than comic book movies, like the Marvel or DC movies that they make just for profit.

BC: But even with the big franchises, this was a year of risks, and a lot of risks paid off financially. Bumblebee was markedly not like any other Transformer movie, which is why it worked. You still have giant robot battles because that’s what you came to see, but it had a heartwarming story, brought out the acting in its characters, and built a world. Same with Aquaman– they broke that DC mold of dark and gritty and have something fun and entertaining. There’re movies like Mission Impossible Fallout– how it revitalized a franchise on its sixth movie and getting rave reviews from critics saying that it’s the best spy movie in the decade. You’ve got A Quiet Place, this very indie-like film that broke into the top ten box office just with its concept. This was a year of big risks, things that would seem crazy a few years ago. We’re looking at a movie landscape that’s not looking like it was ten years ago and that’s frankly exciting.

Owen Etter, sophomore: I agree. I didn’t see A Quiet Place, but I did read reviews on it and I looked at a film analysis of it and seeing that, I do agree that after skimming it a bit it was a risk and mainly because they revealed what the posters looked like in the first few seconds they ruined a bit of the suspense. They could’ve done better by keeping what the monster looked like a secret. Just like in Halloween, they refused to show his face at all and that’s how they kept the mystery for it. I remember while watching Halloween thinking that I just want to see his face, but they kept that suspense in it and I really liked that. But in A Quiet Place, they kind of ruined it by showing the monster.

ANJ: I’d say that A Quiet Place was pretty good. I agree with Owen’s points about how the suspense would’ve been better if they didn’t show the monster. Those risks that– there were a lot of them in 2018 and they set apart the good movies from the bad ones because those risks could jeopardize things. One that I saw that took a really weird and messed-up risk that worked out very well was Mandy. That is a really screwed-up film with a lot that you have to question what’s really going on most of the time. You have Nicolas Cage who had an amazing performance in that movie compared to his other movies. The whole story was just extremely confusing and the ending was satisfying but leaves you feeling like what the hell happened. So those risks work if you have the skills to pull them off. I just loved the risks that came from 2018 films.

BC: Probably the riskiest movie this year was Sorry to Bother You. For Boots Riley to go from the music scene and create a film that speaks on so many levels about the modern experience, the millennial experience, that black experience–it was so refreshingly weird. Armie Hammer should be cast as the smiling villain from now on. Just the visuals and the way the plot came together. It’s like the anti-Green Book, addressing the same issues but in a way that’s completely different.

ANJ: I thought it was okay–the ending was really weird.

BC: Yeah, it’s not a movie for everyone and that is why I think talking about all these movies, there is going to be someone who turns their nose up at every one, but that’s great. We have a diverse film market that is not just the top ten superhero movies. Look at the movies that didn’t do so well in the box office. Solo tanked ‘cause it didn’t take any risks. Mary Poppin Returns was clobbered by Aquaman because it didn’t take any risks. Even good movies that had the nostalgia factor like Christopher Robin–and I loved Christopher Robin ‘cause I grew up on Winnie the Pooh–it didn’t make a splash in the box office because it was just a hook with stuffed animals. We’ve seen it before. The movies that really stood out this year showed us something new and took risks even if they were small or slight. That’s what the market needs. We’ve got way too much media for them now to not do that

SR: Going back to Christopher Robin and Mary Poppins and even Incredibles 2, I kind of agree with you that they didn’t take any big risks. Their main focus was nostalgia. It’s like, hey all you people who remember this from your childhoods, come see this movie.

BC: Halloween  

OE: Hey! Halloween was my favorite movie of the year. And I saw it before I ever saw the original.

SR: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean the film wasn’t a cash grab trying to heavily play off nostalgia even if it doesn’t hit our nostalgia. My dad wanted to see Mary Poppins because he saw it when he was a kid, but to me it was stupid. All it was was just like a forgettable plot that beats you over the head with the same exact thing over and over again because it’s been done so many times. I mean with Christopher Robin too, it’s a typical plot. That one I liked because of how I grew up with it, but it doesn’t make it a good film. Though I think the best thing about Christopher Robin was the cinematography and how beautiful it was. Even though it was a typical plot, the art of the film was wonderful.

BC: I don’t think nostalgia going to stop. In January and February of 2018, we had Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and they’re making another one. Infinity War, building off of all those marvel properties–I have some problems with the film, but it still set the world on fire. The sequel to it, Endgame, is sure to set the world on fire again. But I don’t know after that–I don’t know if just running off sequels and nostalgia is enough anymore. You’ve gotta do something new, you’ve gotta improve it. Like Halloween did take a risk with having an older Michael and Laurie and it kind of paid off–they didn’t make as much as they wanted but they’re still sequelizing it. Incredibles 2 paid off well. Ready Player One is a movie heavily driven by nostalgia, and I thought it was a solid movie–but again, most people forget about it when you talk about the great films of the year. It’s not the big blockbusters anymore that are catching people’s attention. Right now, the hottest movie in online discussion and critical circles is If Beale Street Could Talk. This is a film based off a 1970s James Baldwin novel, not a comic book or ’80s TV show.

SR: What is it about?

BC: It’s about a woman who–she is with her boyfriend and they’re trying to get married, but they’re not quite there yet because they can’t afford it. They’re both Black living in the burrows of New York and trying to get ahead, but he’s accused of a crime that he didn’t commit, and he’s sent to prison while she’s pregnant. So it develops how the family and community come together and go to extreme lengths to try and prove him innocent, basically taking a village to raise this baby and to help this young woman become herself. It is heartbreaking, it is beautiful, it has Dave Franco and it’s still good (laughs). That’s the thing, it’s finding these niche things, it’s finding these little things and stories to tell. We’re not hungry for sequels, we’re not hungry for big CGI or any of that anymore. The market is shifted toward telling the best story you can in the best way you can. Bird Box [which has recently come out] is having a lot of pushback because it’s a lot like A Quiet Place–we’re telling the same stories again. And the movies that I can think of coming in 2019 that have a lot of buzz like Us, the new Jordan Peel movie–they have that buzz because they’re doing something new. One of the films that didn’t even make our list that a lot of people didn’t see was A Star is Born. It’s a great movie and it has a beautiful soundtrack, but it’s the fifth time the same story has been told and it didn’t quite set the world on fire because of that.

MP: Just going back to superheroes for a minute, it is interesting because I feel like last year was one of the biggest superhero years ever. You have the most ambitious crossover in history with Infinity War and then you’ve got Black Panther, which was super anticipated and there was so much buzz around it for so long, and then you’ve got Aquaman which was… good (laughs) and then you’ve got Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. And you just have to wonder what comes next because you feel like, especially for Marvel right now, they’ve put everything out there and after they’ve done something as ambitious as Infinity War and Black Panther, what are we going to be excited for now? Like I don’t want Ant-Man… what is it, four now? Three? It’s just not as exciting anymore. It’s old news.

BC:  Glass is coming out today and it’s in the superhero genre. It’s a crossover. Maybe we should see how it does too. Maybe that will be indicative of your point.

SR: A quick note relating to that–like, yeah Marvel is kind of running out of ideas, but they always have these like old comics that they can fall back on and make movies about.

MP: Yeah, they do they have a reserve.

SR: I don’t think they’re going to run out of stuff for a while because they’re going to just keep pulling from that and how they’re coming out with Shazam

MP: –and Captain Marvel is coming out.

SR: With all those, I just feel like they won’t really run out of ideas with those reserves of comics.

BC: They may not run out of ideas, but when will we run out of desire to see them?

MP: That’s what I mean, like sure they’ll still have their ideas but all the Marvel movies are pretty much the same.

ANJ:  I’m sure that’s going to be a lot sooner than anticipated. I’m guessing within the early years of the 2020s because those things are starting to die out, since most of them are only for cash grabs as you guys have said. Like the DC movies and all that. Good storytelling is catching our eyes more. Movies like The Old Man With the Gun and Crazy Rich Asians. The Old Man With the Gun does something different because–

MP: It’s an old man with a gun.

(Everyone laughs)

ANJ: Right, you don’t really see that in media. While Crazy Rich Asians has a whole romance pattern where it’s like, ‘can I be with this person but their family hates me, let me prove them wrong and be the better person in this situation’. But it’s done in a new way. They’re good because their storytelling is good, their cinematography is good, and they are interesting. Superhero movies aren’t different anymore, so that’s why they’ll die out soon.

BC: It’s also the complexity of all of them. One reason Aquaman has been successful is that it’s a standalone film. They didn’t have to rely on the other DC films or rely on the plots of them to tell the story. They only mention events from Justice League once.  That’s why Bumblebee was successful–it didn’t have to go with those other Transformers movies since it was a prequel. It’s kind of going back to basics with a lot of these tired franchises. And a lot of older directors and concepts are stepping aside to let new voices in and letting them tell new stories. One of the most spectacular new voices was Bo Burnham of all people with Eighth Grade. Eighth Grade is truly uncomfortable because if you’ve ever been in eighth grade, it captures the experience of not fitting in and not knowing what’s going on perfectly. Jonah Hill’s Mid 90s was also very well put together, and so I think we’re seeing a new stable of actors and directors coming in and a very back to basics philosophy that I think is going to benefit us in 2019.