The dominant genre of 2018 continued to be superheroes; even with the “X-Men” Universe and DC Extended Universe releasing only one film each, the three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were impossible to overlook. Still, this was a less blockbustery year than 2017, and by year’s end I had seen at least one really good film in every genre. From a throwback thriller to an arthouse gem, here are my 10 favorite films of 2018.
Just as I was thinking that 2018 has been a down year for comedies, along comes “Juliet, Naked,” which got a limited release in theaters and is now on home video. It’s the sixth Nick Hornby book to be adapted for the screen, and my personal favorite. (And no, I’m not forgetting “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy.”) Featuring the pitch-perfect cast of Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd, it left me misty-eyed with laughter and sadness – sometimes within the same scene – and features a funny yet sober examination of extreme music nerdery.
“The Greatest Showman” (2017), now available for home viewing, takes us back to a time when anything is possible if you dream big and are persistent. Did such a time ever exist? That’s beside the point, as is what happened behind the scenes at Phineas Barnum’s circuses. (Don’t do an extensive internet search if you don’t want your illusions shattered.) Last year’s most-hyped musical is – within its own confines – a joyous celebration of dreams and achievements, with brief nods to hardships.
“Pitch Perfect 3” (2017), now available for home viewing, is an unfortunately perfect example of a franchise that keeps going after it has run out of good ideas. Following the fun and catchy original (2013) and the ultimately winning sequel (2015), the third entry is a mishmash of a concept it doesn’t commit to, a jokey style that rarely results in laughs, characters who speak more about “family” than the “Fast and the Furious” crew yet don’t seem to like each other, and – most inexcusable – a soundtrack of forgettable tunes.
I was never involved in theater in school, but I learned to appreciate it during my years covering arts and entertainment for newspapers (even if my love of music, movies and TV was why I initially sought those jobs). Not to discount the pleasure of seeing a well-performed play or musical, but what I most remember is the theaters themselves and the groups of high school or college students or community members who performed in them.
“Score: A Film Music Documentary” almost seems like it’s cheating. Its score – by the very definition of the subject matter – is the greatest music cues from the history of film. And inevitably, that is a percentage of the doc’s appeal. But this is also an accessible 90-minute history lesson that vastly increased my knowledge of the topic while keeping me glued to the screen – it proves learning can be fun.
Geek culture is indisputably mainstream today (as evidenced by the 57 superhero shows on TV), but that wasn’t always the case. So when did the transition happen? It was a gradual process, but I like to point to the game show “Beat the Geeks” (2001-02, Comedy Central) as a fulcrum. Like many great geeky things, it didn’t last long, but it did signal that it was safe for geeks to come out of the woodwork, and safe for non-geeks to show their geek side.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” recently marked its 100th song, so it’s a perfect excuse – I mean, reason – to rank every song. (This list goes to 89 because the show counted some reprises and songlets, and I did not – although in some cases, I combined a related songlet or reprise in an entry with a more complete song.)
“Pitch Perfect 3” is far and away the weakest film in the franchise. It feels incomplete yet somehow oddly overstuffed, with some story elements that feel extremely out of place.
I was in the tank for “The Greatest Showman” from the first trailer, so take my brief remarks here with a grain of salt.