Love, Brandon: Top 10 Films Of 2018

I’m not last, but posting the day after Aaron Neuwirth is a tough act to follow. He’s the most informed of us here and is able to see an impressive amount of films released in a given year. For me personally, 2018 felt like I didn’t see as much as I would have liked to in order to have formed a good opinion for a Top 10 for the masses (I still haven’t seen A Star Is Born). As a matter of fact, I almost bowed out of doing a Top 10 films of 2018. But I realized, at the end of the day my “I didn’t see as much as I’d have liked to” is still probably a lot larger sample of films watched in the year than a lot of people. And thus, this is my favorite of the boatload of films I did see. And crazy enough, I realized I had seen plenty when 2018 contained films from some my favorite filmmakers or collaborations that wound up not making the cut (Coen Bros-The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Wes Anderson-Isle of Dogs, Diablo Cody/Jason Reitman/Charlize Theron-Tully). And as much as I loved Mandy, that didn’t make it either. Worth noting too, that this is the first time in the Disney-Lucasfilm era that a Star Wars film didn’t make my list (And I did like Solo). But, enough rambling, here are my 10 favorite films of the year 2018.

10. Bumblebee

Proving truly that the sixth time is a charm, Bumblebee really took me by surprise. As a fan of the Laika films and the scaling back of things, there was a little sense of optimism I had entering it. Every Transformer film prior to this I had gone in with an open mind that “Hey, maybe this will be the one I really like” and even with that first one, at best I’d feel like it was a nice mild escape (And some of those were pretty bad). I’m not a Bay-hater either, so you can toss that out, as I enjoy a lot of his non-Autobot output. This film was truly the one for me. From the opening moments on Cybertron I was instantly hooked, whisked away to my favorite thing in the world once again as a kid. The action was not only pretty clear, but the Transformers were actually recognizable. I think the moment I caught a glimpse of Arcee was when my heart just sank and this suddenly felt like a really special film to me. Hailee Steinfeld was terrific as always here and I enjoyed the low-key and very touching ET-like story with Bumblebee. At moments it really felt like Spielberg was in the director’s chair or I was watching some lost film from the early 80s I’d never seen. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug (Music in this movie is aweseome, too), and I’m going to let it win out on this pick, because I never in a million years imagined I’d walk out of seeing Bumblebee so excited and over the moon about a Transformers movie. There are better films that I picked this one over to be on this list, but they may not have given me the positive rush I was given when viewing Bumblebee.

9. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

You’ve heard all the hype, all the praise and its true, all of it. This is the kind of bonkers stuff that I’d love to see superhero movies try more often. This is our 9th appearance of Spider-Man on the big screen and 10th in the Spider-Verse in 16 years, but holy crap was this fresh. The animation alone demands your viewing dollars. Its an impressive display of all different walks of comic art life come together to harmonize as one. The film has some of the coolest action scenes and some of the funniest scenes all year. I’m glad its been well received too. The funniest thing is, had the Star Wars universe done something even near this, it’d been the end of the damn world, but Spidey fans have embraced it and would love for more.

8. Hereditary

Toni Collette has always been a tour de force. It shouldn’t surprise people, but she is worthy of every bit of praise she gets for Hereditary. This is a totally spooky, slow burning horror movie that effectively gets in your head during your watching and lingers well after it. Its a confident film that really knows where it is headed at every turn. Ari Aster’s movie even delivers shocks, including one of the biggest “Holy shit!” moments of the cinema-going year. The movie coupled some effective marketing that played into your mind even before you watched it too. Its a patient film, but never really feels like a slow burn as it delivers dread, scares or elevates drama at the right beats to keep things moving along.

7. Annihilation

I had written about Annihilation earlier in the year (HERE), but I’ll note that its one I’ll go back to a lot for further study. This love letter to Andrei Tarkovsky (Among others) really promises that it will continually unlock its doors or provide new meaning the more you venture into it. Personally, I look forward to and want that in a movie. That’s why some of my favorites are Blade Runner (Ditto, 2049), Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some people want spoonfed surface level stuff all the time and its not for them. And that’s okay. I enjoy a film that asks my mind to wander, to piece, to research. Its what helps keep the film around and alive for me for many years to come. Though, with those types of films, the answers are truly there the first time, there are just more details and avenues to be found later on.

6. Mission: Impossible: Fallout

Have we reached the peak with Mission: Impossible? I was worried we were coming to it, fresh off the red hot and series best Rogue Nation. This one was breaking the mold, returning Christopher McQuarrie to helm, bringing in Henry Cavill (Face it, his blockbuster track record isn’t that savvy) and had such a fantastic trailer that there’s no way it could live up to that right? Well, never doubt Tom Cruise with this series, because it did. The action and stunts were up’d, the mystery, the suspense, the drama, all firing on all cylinders as if Rogue Nation never let off the gas. You can’t ask for better than this in blockbuster cinema, superhero or otherwise. This was the best blockbuster of the year and then there is everyone else. At some point this train is going to come to halt, but damn, I hope we keep on this track for a good while.

5. BlacKkKlansman

It feels wicked putting this at #5 as its one of the year’s best, but my front 5 took me the longest to order. Not too long ago I reviewed the film and you can take a look at that HERE. Spike Lee’s film provides drama, dark comedy, suspense and a nice bit of education. One thing I failed to mention in my review was how impressed and taken I was with the cinematography in the film. Spike is doing some things that only he could think of or pull back for reference. I can’t put my finger on everything, but it feels inspired by culture of its time meshed with some of his own frame of mind and the scene’s. Nobody was doing stuff like this with their look in 2018 and it should be commended. This feels like a jump for Spike more than I’d say something of a comeback (He’s always good, you just don’t always see his movies).

4. Blindspotting

Where are all the Blindspotting lovers at? This is one of the most unique and most powerful films of the year. It carries its own swagger and speaks its own language that flows in both fun and dramatic fashion. You can read full thoughts of mine HERE.  I’m hoping the future is bright from Carlos Lopez Estrada, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal as they are some of the most unique new voices to enter the fold in 2018. As much as you think you know how this movie is going to play out, you have no idea as the film constantly toys with you and gives you a real, honest picture. Its a wonderful movie and everybody needs to see it.

3. A Simple Favor

I was just recently reading a tweet from a fellow film writer I enjoy and she said this movie has EVERYTHING. And yeah, it really does. A Simple Favor may just be 2018’s most complete film. Its both confident and competent in every possible area; fashion, performances; editing, script, direction, camera, etc. The opening and closing credits are so slick and perfectly scored they should be up for awards themselves. Blake Lively is also SO DAMN GOOD in this, its surprising her name hasn’t really come up in awards buzz. When she was intimidating Anna Kendrick early on in the film it felt like she was literally popping off the screen and speaking to me. I was nervous for her in my seat. This cast has wonderful chemistry in both darker moments and the lighthearted comedic ones. I don’t want to get incredibly detailed here, but this is one of the must fun, thrilling and well done films of the year. I cannot wait to see it another 80 times!

2. Suspiria

2018 was a fantastic year for more weird and avante garde movies to attract the attention of more mainstream audiences. Granted, that brings out irate people because they don’t know how to watch or understand movies like these. I give them credit for trying to broaden their horizons, but hey, I wasn’t enamored with Aquaman so I suppose we are even. Suspiria was a film that had everything against it in having to retread through Dario Argento’s beloved classic, but truly became its own thing and even surpassed it in many fields. It became the best possible remake, wherein both films are completely different and only act as to compliment one another. This nightmare is delicious on so many levels that I cannot wait to continually peel back once the Blu-ray arrives later this month. The film also seems to really understand dance and not only the challenges and stress of instructors, practice and performances, but the toll and pains it puts a dancer’s body through it all. It is displayed in both horrific and grounded fashions in the film. All of this is set to a great work of art on its own in Thom Yorke’s score. Dakota Johnson continues to impress and Tilda Swinton continues to amaze. Suspiria is quite an amazing film and in many iterations of this list was my number 1. Hell, ask me tomorrow, it could be #1. A list written is only done in the moment when it has to be laid down to publish. Tastes and passions are never final and continually evolve.

1. Upgrade

Nothing spoke to my personal sensibilities and the kind of films I tend to love to watch over and over again like Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade. This one impressed the hell out of me on every level. Whannell takes the typical spare change Blumhouse budget of reportedly $3-5 million and makes it look like at least a $60-80 million picture. Leigh has also created and fully realized a futuristic world that you can guess at the inspirations for certain parts but ultimately feels completely original. And its not nabbing at your typical science fiction borrowing box, this one’s set dressing feels like it has learned the right lessons from things like Silent Running, Woody Allen’s Sleeper and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes while unleashing the adventure and energy of a Rolling Thunder to play in it. Nothing is over or underdone and it feels like a logical, believable, lived-in future world that many try so damn hard to create with some of the biggest budgets and fail. Every year for the last many, a bunch of independent filmmakers try and make something like Upgrade, but they don’t exactly understand or know how to make one. Whannell gets it. Its more than just a post production filter, obvious callbacks, knock offs or cute cheekiness that strokes an easy reference nabbing and simply pleased nostalgia. For Whannell its story and storyTELLING first. Those references I made just happen to be background for Whannell as filmmaker and are more a piece of his personal expression than “I like this, lets copy it”. They made him who he is, and this is the natural extension in the artist’s evolution. His action and gore scenes are some of the best, most innovative and immersive of the year and he’s done it in the most practical fashion. You really feel present in  the moment of those scenes as they swoop and make you feel the sting. Logan Marshall-Green puts in a hell of a physical performance here that should be commended every bit as much as people seem to be touting Tom Hardy for Venom (Yes, these movies are oddly similar, but that one doesn’t even touch this). I was so taken in by this movie I could probably ramble and spew praise on and on. What sets this above, and stepping outside of the movie for a moment, is that in my eyes Leigh Whannell in 2018 did the most with what he was given and was probably provided the slimmest amounts of resources to do so. Most of all, and most importantly, I loved his film through and through.

And that does it for me. Its always hard to whittle down to 10, but once you get there, accept it and look it over after keying everything it, you feel pretty satisfied and down with your list. I’ll always weeb and wobble placements (I should have had both Blade Runner 2049 and The Last Jedi much higher on my damn list last year but felt like I was letting fandom bias take over too much). As I stand with the rest of 2019 ahead of me, I’m looking forward to it all; the big blockbusters, small indies, superhero, remakes, sequels, originals and hopefully some more weird-crazy ones in any given genre! Let’s do this cinematic dance all over again!


6 Responses to “Love, Brandon: Top 10 Films Of 2018”

  1. Brian White

    Part of me feels like this is the best list yet this year because it’s so shocking.
    Part of me feels like I don’t know you as good as I thought I did. Ha ha.
    But all of me loves how bold and fresh this list is. While I do like your number one I had my bets down on your 5 and 6th section as you’re number one. So you surprised me in a very good way!
    However, your 3rd selection shocked the hell out of me. I love it! Now I don’t feel so bad about implementing the Target cartwheel in your brain to go blind buy this. So glad you loved it so much! I was unsure about how people were going to take it in my list.
    Like you too felt like I probably shouldn’t be writing a Top 10 list since I did not see all the movies I wanted to, but I’m so glad you did.
    Last but not least…you’re really getting good at that cutting out picture stuff. You win for thumbnail of the year. I absolutely adore it!!! Thanks!
    P.S. Gerard looks like he can be in the band Machine Head. #JustSayin

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Wow, what a list, Brandon! I’ve yet to see Bumblebee, A Simple Favor, or Blindspotting. UPGRADE, though! F-yeah! Kudos on the rest of your selections.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    I made a bet with myself that your list would go: 1. Suspiria 2. Annihilation 3. Blindspotting 4. Upgrade 5. Hereditary, so I got pretty close!

    The fact that Bumblebee got in over Mandy makes me see that your list is certainly made without any spite in mind, which is great, it’s your list.

    Great picks here. I look forward to re-watching A Simple Favor at some point, as Feig’s Blus are always packed, and maybe I’ll dig the ending more next time around.

  4. Brandon Peters

    Thanks guys!

    @Brian – Glad to put you on such a thrill ride reading my list! I’m am HOOKED on A Simple Favor so much right now. I was quite taken with it.

    @G – Thanks dude! Brian, said machinehead, I was thinking of a more classy, refined Static-X. BTW, that dude was once behind me in line at Jamba Juice in Burbank, so I know firsthand lol

    @Aaron – You know me all to well, that’s why I always try and hit up your recommendations to me as quickly as I can. And yeah, this of all my lists is maybe the one that I felt best how it fell into place. Its nice we have the problem every year of starting this with so many good films. Its funny how people claim certain years are bad when I AT LEAST start with 30 films to try and get down to 10 every December. People just need to seek out the better films or leave their comfort zones/streaming services more often.

  5. Gregg

    Is Hereditary out on video? I do regret not seeing A Simple Favor. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the story and acting. Annihilation, ehhh. I’d not heard of Upgrade so I’ll keep an eye out for that.

  6. Brian White

    Oh yeah 3G! Hereditary is out on video and is amazing!
    Simple favor is so quirky good like Despearate Housewives meets Gone Girl
    Annihilation…such a deep story…research it a bit and you’ll be midnblown
    You’ll probably like Upgrade. It’s a Brian and Gregg film