Greeting and welcome to my end-of-year list…part 1. After last year’s fiasco of creating a blog that was so stuffed with videos it didn’t load, and this year offering at least as much to talk about, I’ve decided it was time to split this into multiple blogs. Now let’s talk movies. I didn’t see anything in December, just like no December releases made it into last year’s list. For that reason, I want to give a brief shout-out to Star Wars: The Last Jedi from last year. It was not eligible to mention last year, since I waited a month to see it, but it was full cool ideas and made Star Wars feel new. I really appreciated that. On to the list!
#1: Sorry to Bother You
You know a movie was special when your mind is screaming as you leave the theater. I remember the trip back to the car, my head foggy, and wanting to yell “WHAT? WHAT DID I JUST WATCH?”. Sorry to Bother You is the story of a down-on-his-luck dude name Cassius Green, who becomes a telemarketer. Then he gets good at it and becomes an elite “Power Caller” at his job, rocketing to the top of his profession, which is a dark, murky place. It’s an absurdist comedy about the dark side of capitalism, with a great visual language that sometimes literalizes metaphor and sometimes blurs the line and makes you wonder which one you’re looking at. I’m surprised more people didn’t see this one. I wanted to talk about it at work, but nobody seemed to know about it. It should have been a huge watercooler movie, especially here in the U.S.
#2: Wont You Be My Neighbor
Look, documentaries about the lives of famous people are a dime-a-dozen. They always wax poetic about how this person was “larger than life” or was a “complicated genius” or some other cliché about famous people. But Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, is a lot more interesting that I imagined. He wasn’t secretly crazy, he didn’t blunder into anything, and he was pretty much unlike anybody famous I’ve ever heard of in a movie like this. Almost everything he did on TV was calculated and smart-as-hell. The guy was an OG childhood development researcher, and his show was a public service based on social science. This movie may legit make you cry. It’s so, so good. And it makes you so depressed about where the world has gone. Absolutely worth watching and one my favorites this year.
Best horror movie I’ve seen in years, at least since The Babadook. Hereditary often feels directed like a clockwork machine. It’s the kind of movie I felt like I needed to watch twice to look for clues. In Hereditary, a grandma dies, who was very secretive and controlling. This sets off a chain reaction of events that put a lot of strain on this family and starts fraying at their sanity. And that’s before it even gets scary. I don’t want to spoil much. It’s a slow-burn style horror movie, where the pay-off is huge and terrifying and cool-as-shit. If you like horror at all, see this ASAP.
#4: Black Panther
There’s probably not much I really have to say about this movie that you don’t already know. But lets break it down anyway. This was a Trojan horse disguised as just another Marvel movie. What it really is, is the impressive debut of a new sci-fi story entirely. It conjures Dune very strongly for me, but it’s inverted. The Fremen here don’t need saving. If anything, they’re fighting over whether to save or destroy the rest of humanity within their secret kingdom. I loved that coronation scene, with the different tribal representatives and M’Baku marching in. Holy shit. That was about when I realized that no, this wasn’t something I’ve seen before. Not really.
But what made this thing work, what made the ambition pay off, was the cast. Everybody here is kicking so much ass. Half the characters in Black Panther are pop culture icons now, and for good reason. Andy Serkis’ Klau is hilarious. M’Baku became a sex symbol (and Duke runs away with any scene he’s in). Okoye became an iconic aspirational figure. And Killmonger, of course, was basically kinda right all along? I won’t pretend this was some flawless diamond of a movie, but it was a legitimate cultural phenomenon. I can imagine spinning off a whole Wakanda connected universe just based on this movie. Kids are going to remember Black Panther like Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that’s well deserved.
#5: Crazy Rich Asians
I know this is an unlikely choice. But it gets a lot of bonus points for making both me and my mom laugh a lot at the same movie. It’s a great romantic comedy. I mean, it’s full of common tropes and some elements are very predictable. But the layer of icing on top of that formula is a mile thick. They spent some serious money on this movie, and it’s often really funny. It’ll make you laugh and maybe even cry. It made me feel really, really good. When I really look at what I saw this year, this made me feel better than Infinity War, Ready Player One, etc. No fancy analysis for this one, I just had a great time at the movies.
Best 2017 Movie I Saw in 2018: Coco
It’s hard to think about this movie for too long without getting weepy. It was basically designed to make Latin Americans and Latinos cry. Coco is a fairy tale about the only family in Mexico that hates music. They forbid music because their patriarch, a musician, left the great-grandma, Mama Coco, without a trace. But their young boy, Miguel, longs to be a musician and believes he’s related to a great mariachi icon. His journey takes him to the Mexican Land of the Dead, where he learns the value of family and ancestral memory. This movie hit he hard, folks. Especially since Mama Coco looks like my actual grandma and probably looks like a lot of people’s grandmas. Everybody should watch this. But if you’re Latin it’s practically required. Being Latin American or Latino will probably make this a top-3 animated movie for you.
Instead of a trailer, here's Un Poco Loco.