Years ago, as a camp counselor for the young teens of my church, we had a night of split activities for the boys and girls. As the girls went off to have their nails done, the gentleman stayed in the cafeteria/gym to have various types of physical challenges (most notably the push up contest, which one of my campers easily dominated).
Toward the end of this, the girls came in, complaining right away about a smell that none of the males could register. One of the camp’s leaders quickly quipped,
A older couple begins to quarrel. As the situation dies down, we see two young people look up from their books and notice each other. Had this happened in a movie these days, they would be texting, asking each other for their Snapchat profile. Since the film is long before the time of social media, the only thing these two strangers can really do is talk. The whole opening dialogue on the train sets up what to expect from Before Sunrise: It is not about the content of the conversations, but the outer connection of the two leads.
As the train stops, the boy comes up with an idea: Until his flight in the morning, why not spend time with this woman he just met? Of course, red flags would be popping up, but not when they both sense a strange connection of this sort.
Only after they agree to the idea and get off of the train do we find out their names: Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American tourist, and Celine (Julie Delphy), a french Art student.. Seldom in movie history has their been a more convincing couple. Knowing that they will probably not see each other again, they don’t go over their whole life story (at least in great detail). No, they talk about what one would call the little things in life (especially for people in their early twenties). The negatives of breaking up. Random life philosophies. Feminism…and so on.
The film’s success lies not just in the hands of the leads, but the hands of writer/director Richard Linklater. He is such a master of dialogue and human realism it has become his metier. Though I have seen a lot of them, it seems that a good amount of TV/film directed at a youthful audience yearning for romantic content is filled with over the top drama (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy) and not enough authenticity. It is always refreshing to see romances take the right amount of time for the characters to admit their feelings. Both Jesse and Celine share more honest answers with each other than nearly any other film couple I can think of. And that is why this film is refreshing: it’s real.
Parents, the film is rated R, but I leave it to you to find out if your teenagers (not younger) should seek this out. There is a casual amount of swearing and kissing, but no sex scenes (the only nudity is that of various statues in the city).
I somewhat am hesitant to call Before Sunrise a story about a summer romance (not just because it takes place in the winter). The film is the first of Linklater’s “Before” Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, all 9 years apart). While all are great in their own right, I respond the most to this, perhaps because it is where I am at personally now in my life.
Another great year of movies is in the books.
Toward the end of 2018, I realized I actually was able to see nearly all of the movies I wanted to in time (though there are a few I admit I am still on the look out for).
As was the case for the 2017 list, I decided to make a top 20 list , because numbers 11-20 were too good to ignore. If you really want to cut the list in half, gather all six infinity stones, put them in the infinity gauntlet, and…SNAP! (Too soon?)
As the title character in the next film would say, “Off we go!”…
The minds at Disney are no strangers to taking risks, and doing a sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins is one of their biggest risks yet. Still, even 54 years later, Mary Poppins Returns is a success due to new original music, fine performances, two amazing cameos, and the practically perfect Emily Blunt.
There is no doubt that The Favourite will not appeal to everyone, as it has a very dark sense of humor. In time, you will be able to see the film for its witty script and impeccable acting.
As 2018’s highest grossing film, Black Panther was also one of the best critical successes in the history of superhero films. Cultural relevance, sublime action, and wonderful acting were sure helpful, as it may become the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture.
Deep, thoughtful, and chilling are some of the best ways one can describe First Reformed. As many great movies do, it provides more questions than answers. Not to mention Ethan Hawke’s uncanny performance.
In one of the biggest surprises of the year, Crazy Rich Asians told us the story of characters that are relatable and worthy to cheer for. Based off of a book, there are more films to come, of which I am looking forward to with a big smile.
In his directorial debut, Jonah Hill’s Mid90s explores the lives of kids growing up in the search of someone to look up to. The result is one of the years most authentic films.
Lee Israel was an author who made money by forging fake letters from popular authors, and the portrayal by Melissa McCarthy of her in Can you ever forgive me? is a revelation (Richard E. Grant is great as well). She has had strikeouts in her film career, yet this is a home run that clears the stadium.
The heat is on blast in Steve Mcqueen’s Widows, with an all-star cast on the top of their game (led by the always wonderful Viola Davis). Just because it is being somewhat overlooked does not take away from its brilliance.
One of the most human love stories in the last couple years of cinema, If Beale Street could talk is one that may not have the outcomes most are wishing for. They are the outcomes that are the right ones.
Newcomer (and Golden Globe nominee) Elsie Fisher shines through all of Eighth Grade, another coming of age story that oozes with real authentic material. Gucci, indeed.
Your heart may have been rock solid if it wasn’t feeling warm after witnessing Green Book. Both Ali and Mortensen give Oscar caliber performances, giving us the ultimate bromance of 2018.
As of this writing, I have yet to meet anyone I have mentioned Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to come back to me saying it was a bad movie. Believe the hype, for this is the best Spidey cinema has produced, the best animated film of 2018, and easily a post credit scene better than anything the MCU has offered.
Sorry if the above image brings back bad memories, but that is how big of a movie Avengers: Infinity War was. Even before the “snap heard round the world”, the film was unlike any superhero film we have seen before. Endgame cannot come soon enough.
A Quiet place had a nice premise, as did the currently popular (but not entirely great) Bird Box, but no film this year left me with such dread as Hereditary did. This movie will leave a unique bitter taste in your mouth for sometime after the credits, and I mean that as a compliment.
In no way would BlacKKKlansmen have been as wonderful as it was if it weren’t directed by Spike Lee. Only he could do justice to a true story about an African America undercover cop (an awesome debut by John David Washington, son of Denzel) who joins the KKK. Yes, it gets political, but it is super intriguing.
Having a good directorial debut is one thing, but there is another level that Bradley Cooper is on in A Star is Born. He gives one of his best performances, does the fourth remake of a movie, and lets Lady Gaga show she has more than singing talent. Yeah, expect this to be mentioned more than once come Oscar night.
You can name any superhero you want, but none could hold a candle to the bravery of Fred Rogers, even if he is not completely well-known to kids today. Thankfully, the ever charming Won’t you be my Neighbor? is a chance to remind us not just of the man, but (more importantly) his ideals. A lovely day indeed.
Not since 2013’s Gravity has flying seem so realistic. Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong (an understated Ryan Gosling) walking on the moon, brings tension and grit to the highest of levels. Months later, the sound effects are still giving me the chills of space.
I have mentioned how Netflix’s original films are not always great, and while I have not seen all of them, I doubt many can come close to Roma. Director Alfonso Cuaron (director of the previously mentioned Gravity) delivers a passion project that is nothing short of sublime. It may be on Netflix, but the film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can see it on. Hands down 2018 most gorgeous film (even the cleaning of dog crap looked beautiful).
Throughout 2018, I wrestled up and down between my favorite film of the year, and then I came across a hidden treasure, Leave No Trace. The first film in eight years from director Debra Granik (her last film was the masterful 2010 film Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence), the simple story of a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (amazing new comer Thomasin McKenzie) who try to avoid civilization is both heartbreaking and beautiful. It hit me in the feels more than any other film last year. You may not have heard of it, but it is out on DVD, and is more than worth looking for. Scratch that, it is worth buying.