M.N. Miller’s Film Year in Review 2018 in Review, Potpourri, and some Jibber-Jabber

2018 was a thrilling year in film. Below are some musings, thoughts, observations, and some random geek-swagger of what I took away from the year that was; admittedly while offering completely biased opinions on what I felt strongly about this past year.

Worst Trend 2018

Films that end with cliffhangers

Kin, The Darkest Minds, Robin Hood: all films that put such little effort into their scripts that are so utterly pointless, offer no real value, and attempt to set up a franchise without a care for the current movie they are making make me want to scream, “Don’t waste my mother-******* time”, like Al Pacino in Heat. Even Netflix’s How It Ends doesn’t offer a real ending, but an opened-ended finish to pave the way for a streaming series. Reward your audience with a good movie first, then steal their money with a franchise later; it’s the polite way to do business.

Best Trends of 2018

Female filmmakers come to the forefront

Leave No Trace, The Rider, Night Comes On, Recovery Boys, You Were Never Really Here, Can You Ever Forgive Me, RBG. All directed by women.

Films about racial tensions and divides come to light

Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You, The Hate U Give, Monsters & Men

The result?

Of my top 15 films this year, 67% of those films’ directors are either female or part of a minority class.

Award Groups Playing it Safe

Tepid and politically-correct

Major awards groups not awarding films like BlacKkKlansman, Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You, The Hate U Give, and If Beale Street Could Talk and going with safer choices is head-scratching. I liked the film Green Book quite a bit, but this film played it safe compared to the above list of bold, imaginative films that have so much to say.

Best use of real-life subject acting in films

The Rider

Director Chloe Zhao fashions a story around Brady Trudeau, a man from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and a cowboy, who was training horses; years later he was thrown from a horse, which caused a head injury that would leave him prone to seizures, and a metal plate in his head. Just watch Trudeau; he is never not in the moment. Acting is about listening, and whether he looks out into the Dakota plains or into the eyes of his best friend as he simulates for him one last ride, he is always in the moment.

Worst use of real-life subject acting in films

15:17 to Paris

The subjects of the film are no question heroes. Unfortunately, they are like walking cardboard cut-outs, making every syllable seemed forced and even lethargic. It’s honestly cringe-worthy, but I don’t blame the actors; they are trying their best. I take exception to Eastwood for letting them fail so badly.

Documentary Resurgence

The Year of the Popular Documentary Film

I think it’s clear we are now in the golden age of popular documentary filmmaking. Whether it’s streaming films on hard to watch subjects like Recovery Boys and The Bleeding Edge, or more watchable fare like Three Identical Strangers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Andre The Giant, or Whitney, these films are finding an audience.

Oddest Film of the Year

Blue Iguana

An odd film, Blue Iguana doesn’t know if it wants to be an 80’s throwback or a spoof. What is clear is it is such a homage to that mercurial decade I half expected Chuck Norris to show up with a sweaty headband. Calling this film irritating doesn’t do it justice.

Best Use of Product Placement

Searching

Searching perfectly uses product placement in the story like no other film I have ever seen. The father searches for his daughter through name-brand online search engines, apps, and social media sites, without taking the viewer out of the world you’ve become immersed in. The film builds so much spine-tingling suspense that you literally sit on the edge of your seat without knowing it; just imagine if the product placement took you out of that?

Worst Use of Product Placement

Like Father

Product placement has always been a huge pet-peeve of mine. It ruins movies for me, and it takes you right out the experience you immersed yourself in. The gold standards of bad product placement have always been The Day the Earth Stood Still, where the meeting place for aliens is in a McDonalds parking lot, or when Brad Pitt bough a Pepsi from a vending machine to see if he could escape zombies undetected in World War Z.

That was until I watched Netflix’s Like Father. If you put any scene from this movie next to a scene from a Royal Caribbean commercial, you couldn’t tell the difference.

The most obvious twist

The Wife

A mystery that is more than obvious from the beginning; from the film’s trailer and even, frankly, its title. The mystery is the only way the film would work, so what suspense is there to be had?

The best twist of the year

Nope

I think twists aren’t twists if you mention or even hint at them, so I won’t dare spoil that here.

Most Underrated Comedy

The Package

You wouldn’t think this Netflix comedy would amount to much, but you would be wrong. It’s an absurd, gross-out, go-for-broke comedy that leaves nothing on the table. Most studio features wish they could be this ballsy. So damn funny it doesn’t just push the envelope, it completely tears it apart. The laughs, let’s put it this way, cut deep.

Most Underrated Performance #1

Daveed Diggs, Blindspotting

Daveed Diggs’ final act, while confronting the white cop he saw gun down a defenseless man, is mesmerizing. It’s a byproduct of a group that has felt unfair treatment and feelings of social injustice that comes pouring out in one explosive, ultimately moving, scene.

Most Underrated Performance #2

Carey Mulligan, Wildlife

A showcase performance for Mulligan, whose performance is hypnotic, leaning on her son for mature guidance, a victim of the era she was born into, and trying to break free of the predefined role society has chosen for her.

Most Underrated Performance #3

Claire Danes, A Kid Like Jake

Danes is a revelation, playing a character that flips the script on gender-based parenting norms. Her character is abrasive, annoying, even abusive, as she deals with the anxiety of not knowing how to raise her child. Alex is so much more than the standard “lean against a door frame, then look concerned, disapproving, or supportive of a man’s trouble” role that most actresses are saddled with

Best Film Debut

Rafael Casal, Blindspotting

Casal, in his first film role, displays a split-second rage, reminiscent of a young Al Pacino. His performance is a hurricane, a true force of nature. He may not walk away with any recognition this awards season, a travesty in my opinion, but five years from now everyone will remember Miles from Blindspotting as one of the great characters of the decade.

Best Villain

Natasha Josefowitz, Three Identical Strangers

Even though she is in the film for a brief cameo, she provides a revealing look into someone who has no moral compass and doesn’t even know it.

Best Villain, Second Take

Riley, Eighth Grade

No scene this year caused so much angst inside a theatre that I was in than when Riley (played by Daniel Zolghadri) propositions young Kayla. Everyone in their seats instantly became her adoptive parents and was powerless to help.

Best Cameo

Harry Bellefonte, BlacKkKlansman

The great Harry Bellefonte, in a powerful turn, retelling the lynching of Jerome Turner to a group of young activists. The scene is so moving it causes a visceral reaction for the right and wrong seasons.

Best Cameo, Second Take

Brad Pitt, Deadpool 2

He might be on-screen for less than 2 seconds, but the visual makes for one of the most memorable cameos in recent memory. Gleefully absurd.

Breakout Performance

Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace

McKenzie’s eyes are a gateway to what her character is thinking, and the very definition of “less is more.” With one stoic look you can see she is torn between wanting to take care of her father and her own natural autonomy and desire for more from life. Her performance doesn’t have a false note in it.

Breakout Performance, Second Take

Lakeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You

You may know him now, but before his breakout role, you probably have watched him and couldn’t place him. Whether it’s playing a closeted dying gay man of faith in Come Sunday, a troubled resident in Short Term 12, a frightening vision of African-American oppression in Get Out, civil rights activist in Selma, or Snoop Dogg in Straight Outta Compton, Stanfield has the unique ability to disappear into any role he takes on. His talent is undeniable; a method actor at heart, and now should become a household name.

M.N. Miller

M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: