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.
Politics follows predictable historical cycles, but even political science experts must be amazed by how quickly mainstream public opinion has switched from “Gay people have a problem that needs to be fixed” to “Someone’s sexual orientation is no big deal.” At the start of Obama’s presidential term, his safe political play was to oppose equal treatment of gays under the law; eight years later, the opposite had become the case.
Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is easiest to describe to a newcomer if they are familiar with “Riverdale.” It’s like “Riverdale” but with witchcraft and likeable characters. Those two elements are what make “Sabrina” the more interesting show, but it shares “Riverdale’s” foundation of moody cinematography and an ephemeral sense of time and place. As a horror-tinged show (though not a scary one), those elements work perfectly on “Sabrina.”
Netflix’s “Big Mouth” – which recently released its second season — marks the latest sea change in Things You Can Do on Television, as it chronicles 12- and 13-year-olds entering puberty. But unlike “The Simpsons” in the 1990s and “Family Guy” in the 2000s, there has been little hand-wringing from parents’ TV groups about “Big Mouth,” which opens with episodes where Andrew (John Mulaney) ejaculates in his drawers at a school dance and Jessi (Jessi Klein) has her first period on a field trip while wearing white shorts. Fortunately for its creators, “Big Mouth” also exists in the most prolific age of TV history: There’s so much out there that watchdog groups can’t keep up.
In “All American” (9 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays on The CW), Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) gets a chance to move from gang territory to a safe neighborhood to play football, coached by a former NFL player, Billy Baker (Taye Diggs). After taking three buses to Beverly Hills, he hits it off with the coach’s daughter, the star receiver’s girlfriend, and even the coach’s son after some initial tension. Cue the theme music.
Ah, a tale of a kid who feels like an outsider. It’s not exactly untapped territory for a movie, yet comedian Bo Burnham, in his assured debut as a writer-director, approaches this material with tones and angles that haven’t been put together quite like this before. In “Eighth Grade,” Burnham writes from the heart about his own experiences as an eighth-grader, but the character emerged on the page as a girl, Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher, who has a tremendous career ahead of her), and in present day.
People who lack emotions, ironically, can spur conflicted emotions in filmgoers. As Amanda (“Ready Player One’s” Olivia Cooke) says in “Thoroughbreds,” since she doesn’t feel emotions, she has to work harder to be good. As a viewer who does feel emotions, I dislike her for lacking something that defines humanity, but then I chastise myself. After all, Amanda’s brain chemistry is not her fault, and if she hasn’t committed any evil actions, perhaps she should receive even more praise than someone whose actions come from morality.
The films of the “American Pie” trilogy open with Jim caught in an embarrassing – and to the audience, hilarious – sexual situation by his parents. Nearly two decades later, “Blockers” – which features three high school senior girls making a prom-night sex pact — starts by showing how similar mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) and daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) are. They sleep in the same position, and brush their teeth next to each other in the same bathroom mirror. The generation gap has narrowed in the years since those iconic awkward exchanges between Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy.
Writer and showrunner Joe Pokaski, no doubt drawing on what he learned as a writer on “Daredevil,” has crafted another winner for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Cloak & Dagger” (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on Freeform), which had a two-episode premiere this week. Based on a comic that debuted in 1983, it’s not as good as “Daredevil” – that’s a high bar – but it does borrow that show’s slow-burn mentality to immerse a viewer in these teens’ lives and particularly crummy parts of New Orleans.
The idea of “summer movies” is already past its time, as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” prove that “summer” is now year-round in the movie business. Still, old habits die hard – such as my annual Summer Movie Preview post. Here are one blatantly obvious and nine not-so-obvious films on the summer schedule that I wouldn’t mind seeing: