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  • Ben Hunter

2018 Year End Cinematic Review

Updated: Dec 21, 2019



Well, I decided to come back. My love for the art of cinema runs deep. But Hollywood has basically torn my drawls as my Dad would say. I’m done with awards, could care less about the Oscars, and celebrities annoy me. Everything is political now. Everything. Our nation is divided. It’s all about what side you stand on. Who you voted for. “And you better swipe left if you support that Cheeto Für in the White House!” So naturally, it’s spilled over into all aspects of culture. "There's nothing wrong with that WOMAN defending her dignity in that game store! YOU SHOULD CALL HER MA'AM!!" "There's not enough women directors in Hollywood, that means there's a problem! EQUALITY!" "Let’s go see some local stand-up comedy tonight … wait, how do they feel about the whole NFL kneeling thing? … Yeah no. Let’s go to something else, FREAKING FASCISTS!!!” With movie after movie, song after song, acceptance speech after TV interview on the soap box, consistently throwing fuel on the fire to "remind" us to change. Because in order for such change, it has to be uncomfortable. So push push push for it in everything we experience, even and especially within our entertainment. Push. The. Agenda.


Everything. Is. Political.


We can’t even watch something as supposedly innocent and as straight down the line as it can get as something like Star Wars without it getting political. “Oh you think that Asian chick from The Last Jedi was terrible huh? What, you don’t want to see more strong, independent women in film?!” As if there hasn’t been any to stand out in the last 3 decades. That everything needs to be tit for tat otherwise we’re not making progress as a society. And a simple conversation about how I “didn’t care much” for the new Ocean’s movie, means I’m a whinny man baby who doesn’t want to “let go of the power” as evidenced by my and the rest of our temper tantrums on Ghostbusters (2016). Maybe the movie just sucked? And not everyone is so sensitive about the subject and thinks women are represented just fine on the big screen. It wasn’t always like this, there wasn’t an uproar for “more diversity” when all the campy Batmen were saving the day all throughout the 90’s. Or whenever Tom Cruise was running for his life on motorcycles. But I guess we have to be “woke” to recognize the “problem”.


So Patricia Arquette has to utilize her Oscar speech time to make a statement about the wage gap. So Meryl Streep & JLo can vigorously applaud in agreement, thus starting the next argument to further the divide. And let’s not even get started on the sexual harassment that goes on in Hollywood, that supersedes the pedophilia and other issues that don’t fit neatly into the revolution. "You have to go because it’s a revolution!" … Wait, but that other person gets to stay? You gave him a pass and he’s been working ever since. Shouldn’t he go too because of these new standards? People getting thrown under the bus to save their skins, when they clearly were a part of the scandal to begin with. Hashtags to open eyes, and counter hashtags to close them, calling the hypocrisy. It literally broke me down.


Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot

I sat on the side of my bed, frozen, heartbroken. This is the ugliness of my industry. I finally see what I chose to ignore all this time because I loved my line of work no matter what. What I’ve heard before but didn’t think was a life shattering problem. But what do I do now? I had no motivation to continue. I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t just walk away. I’d been working for well over a decade! Do I just throw all that away? Things still look bleak even today. It was a crossroad I found myself at and truly one of the hardest times.


So I just … lived. I couldn’t solve it in one day. The next day, I have to go to work and pick up a few things from the grocery store on the way home. I laugh and relax with my YouTube personalities and something on Netflix that I don’t know what the creators’ political beliefs are. The day after, I work and an interesting trailer releases. I forget what the political beliefs are of the people behind it because I remind myself as I always say, “good filmmaking is good filmmaking”. I go to bed that night comfortably. It’s the weekend and out of habit I check what’s playing at my local movie theater hot spots, “so I don’t miss anything and be forced to cram everything in at the end of the year in time for the next one of these blog posts”. The next weekend I do the same. And then again the next weekend. Then I watch something knowingly that the people behind it make me cringe in real life.


Then I converse with others and remind myself that we in Hollywood are working to entertain you. When you press play on the next episode on Netflix, when you download that song on iTunes or Spotify, when you buy that movie ticket, or game day ticket, or press play on that YouTube video … you’re effectively hiring us, to entertain you. Our lives outside of that game, that movie, that song, that episode, etc. should in theory be irrelevant. It’s when we bring politics into the workplace, THAT’S when you fire us! Yeah, somethings are meant to shine a light on particular subjects to have the conversations. But amongst the resistance (which is necessary for life to continue, even a plane needs resistance to stay in the air), we have to remember the basics: that’s your sister Ben. That’s your brother, and a few of your cousins. You’re going to dislike them because you don’t see eye to eye about politics or whatever the subject may be? You can’t just ignore them and walk away like you would anyone else. THAT’S YOUR FAMILY!! I’ve heard technically, politics should be about 3% of one’s life. I know that’s more textbook than not. But that should give perspective. Focus more on what unites us than what doesn’t. It’s not a walk in the park, but try to remember the basics. Even people on “your side” will surprise you with something you can’t get on board with sometimes. And figuratively, I’ve now finally unfrozen from the side of my bed.



I pick up my screenplay that I haven’t touched in over a year. Tears are in my eyes. “Did I write that?” Tooting my own horn at the same time as smacking myself in the face. “Did I write that?!!! (face palm)” And it’s time to write my next year end review (2017), and would you look at that, I still found 20 films that year to call the best! All this time, out of habit, I made sure to keep up with my movies so as to not fall behind. I still enjoy these things even if the industry gets ugly. Or the celebrities overuse their platforms and it gets to their heads (and explodes mine). It’s not perfect. I don’t hold awards season in the high regards that I used to, especially the Oscars. And nor should I. The films themselves are what matters. I think I even heard George Clooney say that … in an awards acceptance speech. But life still manages to go on after all the infighting and unfollowing, the hash tagging, and article sharing.


I then continue to live with a brighter outlook on life, loving and hating what’s become of my line of work. But deep down I know, everything’s going to be okay.


Well, I decided to come back. My love for the art of cinema runs deep. It gets harder and harder to find the 20 films to say these deserve recognition that year, and this year was probably the hardest of all my years doing this. I almost gave up at 15, to round it off to a nice round number. But I sat and sifted through probably a good 15 more films to finish off strong and complete as always. And I can honestly say …


… It was still worth it!


Here are my favorite films for 2018.


10. LEAVE NO TRACE

Heard good things and had to check it out. The family aspects are what reaches out and grasps us. The climax reminded me to take care of my daughter should I have one someday. And to continue treating my 2 nieces as my own in the best of care. I said out loud, “boy, he isn’t taking care of her, protecting her, look at what he’s putting her through.” An interesting take on the father-daughter dynamic in a different, outdoor setting. Seeing what the spoils of war put a retired soldier through. Nicely portrayed by Ben Foster. It even caught a little buzz outside of us artsy folk as I heard things from people who don’t care much of film except to have a good time kind of crowd. So I had to be sure to check it out. And I’m glad I did.


9. UNSANE

This should give hope to all aspiring filmmakers out there, especially if you’ve seen Tangerine. Acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, after his success, Logan Lucky, goes back to a more grassroots function and shoots an entire film on an iPhone. And one that’s watchable and entertaining! So unlike Tangerine, I was able to make it all the way through. And I got to see what Claire Foy (Girl in the Spider’s Web, First Man) actually looks and acts like in a typical manner, real life role, which was interesting. It all takes place in one location, an insane asylum, and Foy is fighting the narrative around her as well as in her mind that she isn’t crazy, that she’s un-sane. Not really uplifting come the end, but intriguing and coherent and fits in with its horror/thriller/suspense narrative. Definitely kept me on the edge of suspense as I had to know how it was going to play out. As I said, could’ve been more happily ever after, but where’s the fun in that I guess. Even nice to see Juno Temple branch out a little more with her abilities. Still worthy of deeming one of my top 10.


8. CAM

“What film? I’ve never heard of that one.” Am I right? Well, it’s on Netflix. I came across a trailer push in the trades I believe, and this was one of them. Immediately stood out to me as a film up my alley. Innovative and interesting to say the least. It starts out intriguing and progresses into a mystery, all while keeping the appeal with sizzle. I’d have ended it differently but, again, worthy to be deemed one of the best for me this year. Definitely deserves to be recognized, even if it is technically a TV movie (a much better one than some getting praise now).


7. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is definitely a masterpiece. Still influencing films to this day. Just listen to Fallout’s score. But somehow it still keeps the light hearted nature of the Mission films. It just hits home on the action and adventure. I made sure to see it twice while it was still in IMAX. Classic elements of the franchise with new avenues to take it. All-encompassing a powerful new feeling of excitement! A huge success, financially and critically, and the director is coming back to write and direct the next 2 installments. Something the franchise avoids for stale-ness and ignored it for this film. Great job all around, especially all the work Tom Cruise put in with stunts and behind the scenes producing to pull this off.


6. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

Well, if you had doubts if Joaquin Phoenix could play the Joker, think no more! This dark and edgy narrative takes a new tone for him even after The Master. Phoenix plays a hit man who gets caught up in trying to protect a little girl in the midst of everything. I watched it earlier in the year and it still stuck with me. Not for the everyday, commercial-going crowd, but definitely one of the best!


5. A QUIET PLACE

Stop walking around the city with a blindfold on! Just thinking about this film should make you take the blindfold off and realize how much of a gimmick that is and how amazing this one is. Truly having to find a quiet place to survive. It does the trick to keep you on edge in a horror way all while not crossing over into the “horror” realm completely (it’s PG-13). So it’s more the illusion and appearance of what will be and not so much seeing it and creeping you out. Hitchcock was forced into and perfected this technique. Nicely done by the onscreen couple in the movie and real life. Even if they unintentionally promoted wholesome, traditional values by mistake and didn’t realize it.


4. AMERICAN ANIMALS

Another sleeper hit that I didn’t see on hardly any year end lists but mine. A group of college boys try to pull off a heist and chaos ensues. Based on the actual event with the real life boys IN THE MOVIE helping to tell the narration but none of this being a documentary. Really interesting! With some of the editing, it made it all that much more captivating and it definitely stuck out as a film few hold a candle to. Easily worthy of the top 5!


3. HEREDITARY

Horror has been good to me these past couple of years. It was my number 1 a few years ago. And 2 of my top 5 this year. Up until the end of this season, this was my number 1. It debuted in the middle of the year, so there was a lot of time for other films to debut. But again, it wasn’t until the end of the year that it was topped so, good on you horror for stepping it up! I’ve come to appreciate Toni Collette’s scream now. It’s very believable and sympathetic. I called this one “The Haunted Art-House” as it was an arthouse horror flick about a family that ends up haunting a house essentially. More than just commercial scares. Which is why most people didn’t care much for it as it ends “artsy” and not “feel good”. But it leaves you thinking and figuring it out still afterwards. Take that as a good thing or bad. It made for great conversation with co-workers of mine who love horror.


2. THE FAVOURITE

Masterpiece! Simply a masterpiece! Yorgos Lanthimos is really stepping his game up over these years. This is the crescendo. On the way out of the theater, I shockingly had to tell the random lady next to me that I finally figured out and understood the ending. We had an interesting exchange. But most people won’t really appreciate it as much as us film geeks. Yeah, I know, but when you watch as many as us, it takes more than a few explosions and a love scene to win us over. The dynamic between the three leads was incredible. The story puts away any personal dispersions you may have in real life of the actresses because, as I say, good storytelling is good storytelling. This can easily be deemed the best of the year and I’d be okay with that. If you’re up for a challenge and something out of the ordinary, give this a try. Put your thinking cap on and see if you can figure out the ending. No Googling!


1. VOX LUX

Looks like I’m alone again. Both critics and the general public gave it an F. I’m glad I made time to see it twice while still in theaters. Will definitely purchase when it’s on home video, which I’m sure will be very soon as there’s no reason to hold it hostage and keep it in theaters. Again, the ending, but the same with The Favourite and this was a lot more everyday dialogue digestible. I loved it, absolutely loved it. The artsy response to A Star Is Born. Unlike its commercial, easily digestible counterpart, it’s actually necessary. A different take on a similar story that doesn’t have you thinking it’s similar but innovative. You can compare the two or not. But a gripping take on the world of show biz and how this town can chew you up and spit you out. And since I’m on this theme that I started from the beginning, since the story captivated me, I didn’t care to think of anything Natalie Portman has said off camera about this and that and last year at the Golden Globes, or what baby number Jude Law made with girlfriend number 4058472. I only thought of things that contributed to my enjoyment. And that’s if I thought of anything at all other than the story itself while watching. Listen to your body, that’s the best way to tell. The best of the year!


"… Whoa come one now. Really Ben?? *THIS* should’ve easily made the cut! …"


Well, I always recognize 20.

11. The Rider

12. All Is True

13. Cold Skin

14. 22 July

15. The Death of Stalin

16. The Night Eats the World

17. Beast

18. The Mule

19. Widows

20. Beautiful Boy


HONORABLE MENTIONS



-Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot -The Wife

-Juliet, Naked 

-Deadpool 2

-Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer*

(*See Crazy, Rich, Asians below) 


WHATEVERS

First Man

If Beale Street Could Talk


*Sigh* … Okay, let’s get this over with.


BLACK PANTHER


Alright, remember all that political crap I started out with? Well, this has become the face of the movement, or at least some of its facial features. The social justice crowd, eager to spread the message, found something new to latch onto and make it a part of the crusade. And as I’ve been saying all along, because it clearly didn’t suck, it becomes a whole lot more than what it is. And so, because it didn’t suck, the movement can then point the finger at any nay-sayer and deem them racist or discriminatory in general. Thus, elevating the film to an EVEN HIGHER status as some kind of god-like nature, blessing us with its mercy to share its goodness in this heavily divided political time.


So it makes no surprises whatsoever, when “all of a sudden”, The Academy announces with little explanation, that they’re going to introduce a new category of awards this upcoming Oscar ceremony, “Best Achievement in Popular Films”. And that was it, a new category to be on the lookout for this next ceremony, cool! So many critics jumped on this with questions. What constitutes a popular film? Can a film be both a popular one and critically acclaimed (Dunkirk, Argo, Avatar, etc.)? The biggest explanations we received was because The Academy was trying to avoid coming off as racist with the whole #OscarsSoWhite backlash that happened a few years back and is still lingering with everything political now. Which perfectly epitomizes all of this. “There are not enough blacks and other minorities represented, so there must be a problem, something has to change. Oh look, an all-black film in this new trend of multiple superhero films now coming out. Yes! Exactly what’s needed! THIS is the pinnacle of the revolution!” If it’s not 50/50 or tit for tat, there’s a problem. So we blow things out of proportion to suit our political interests. Even if they’re stupid ideas to begin with (popular film Oscars). Which is exactly what happened. The Academy couldn’t answer any of the questions, a lot of which from reporters all on board with the agenda, and so right away they announced the doing away with the popular film category. We saw right through it, a cheap attempt to try and give Black Panther an Oscar. This film just HAS to be recognized, somehow someway. Get Out was given a screenplay Oscar the year before (but by gosh why not more than that??!! #OscarsSoWhite!!). “Will Smith wasn’t recognized for that African surgeon football movie he did, #OscarsSoWhite!! Michael B. Jordan wasn’t recognized as the boxer in Creed but his white co-star Sylvester Stallone was!! #OscarsSoWhite!! All we want is some !@#$%^&* recognition for our hard work! This must be because of racism and no other reason whatsoever! VIVA LA REVOLUTION!!”


And Black Panther is an awards heavy film now. Worthy to be deemed one of the best of the year.


It just couldn’t be that minorities make up a fraction of the population and their representation on screen reflect such. Or even if that isn’t the case, it couldn’t just be that most women like to see strong men on screen and dream about being saved and woo’d by them, rocking their world. That men dream as well of being that guy who saves the girl. Both wouldn’t care seeing a woman as that hero, but it’s not some injustice if this doesn’t happen. No no no, it’s discrimination! No other explanation could even possibly suffice. And any explanation given in response is an alignment with such discriminatory views.


THIS. CRAP. HAS GOTTEN OUT OF HAND!!

I liked Black Panther. It was a fun action flick and a great next step for Marvel/Disney to explore. But in no way do I take it anymore than that (besides, I thought Aquaman was better). And I can’t just say that because I’m a traitor to my race apparently if I don’t drop to my knees and kiss the ring. Black Panther is just a run of the mill, commercial action flick, nothing more. Get Out is a run of the mill, commercial horror flick, nothing more. Wonder Woman is a run of the mill, action flick, nothing more (though I hated it but I’ll give you that you had a good time at the movies). But because it’s the first (first in a while actually, but that means it’s the absolute first) therefore it’s groundbreaking and monumental. God’s gift to mankind that was so merciful and gracious to bless us with its presence.


Stereotypical hero situations and dialogue that don’t raise the bar. Character and world traditions that raise questions but, “should fall by the wayside where they belong” because, this is a revolution Ben! What, you’re not on our side? What’s wrong with you?! And again, I can’t just not like it as much as you without being called a racist or trying to stop the movement. We can’t just agree to disagree. Everything is political, when it doesn’t have or need to be. And that’s so heartbreaking to witness all of this.


AND IT’S A SHAME THAT I HAVE TO SAY THAT!!!



A STAR IS BORN


A well executed film project that misses the mark.

This angers me just as much if not more than the political invasion that’s spilled into everything now. That’s because it’s existed before such invasion. It is the number one problem I have with Hollywood and it shows no signs of changing as Hollywood apparently doesn’t think it’s a problem at all. Everyone gets a ton of money, so it doesn’t matter. And we all get to see Lady Gaga act in movies now, she’s now legit. Not just in the music world. All is well with the force.


And the actress who’s been acting for 14 years on the scene, in background role after background role after supporting role after supporting role as “that girl from …” in role after role gets overlooked. She can sing she can dance and most of all, she’s pledged her life to the craft and the discipline of film first and foremost. In fact, she turned down a career in music to pursue an acting one. And lo and behold, after a decade and a half, she gets to audition and lands a role for La Vie En Rose … and wins an Oscar! That’s the first time most people have seen her. Now she’s everywhere. We can’t get enough of her! Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Nine, Midnight in Paris, Allied … She’s earned her spot. A star … is born! But imagine never having seen Marion Cotillard. She stayed in the French circuit, because she never could catch that big break, couldn’t even audition for La Vie En Rose


… BECAUSE YOU GAVE THE PART TO LADY GAGA!!