buzz’s top ten movies of 2018

By Isabelle Dyer

10. Incredibles 2

“Incredibles 2,” although rare for a sequel to live up to the original, delivered audiences as much joy and action as the first “Incredibles.” Even though it took over a decade to become a reality, “Incredibles 2” lived up to the massive expectations put upon it. Although some fans questioned the need for a sequel, director Brad Bird struck magic once again with this film. “Incredibles 2” continued the exploration of ordinary family dynamics via superheroes, picking up right where the first film left off. The sequel places more focus on Elastigirl, showing the many challenges involved with balancing work and home life, even when you have superpowers. The story also follows Mr. Incredible dealing with baby Jack-Jack’s newfound powers – and there are a lot of them – adding comedy to the sequel.

Michael Giacchino’s jazzy score is endearingly retro, but “Incredibles 2″ is simultaneously current with the new animation bringing it to life. But, ultimately, it’s the loveable characters that viewers want to see more of, and they’re all back and better than ever, including crowd favorite fashion designer Edna Mode. Other “Incredibles 2″ treats include a returning Frozone and a ragtag team of wannabe Supers. Bird is a keen observer of what it means to be part of a close and happy family, super or not, so this sequel will make audiences laugh, feel nostalgic, and appreciate their own families.

– Isabelle Dyer

9. Beautiful Boy

“Beautiful Boy” tells the harrowing story of Nic Sheff who became addicted to methamphetamines when he was a teenager. He was 12 years old when he first got in trouble for drugs, and at age 19 he began regular trips to rehab. Staring Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell, “Beautiful Boy,” based on books by both Nic and his dad David Sheff,
reminds everyone how dangerous drugs are and how lucky those who don’t battle drug addiction are.

This movie is a must-see, especially for young people. Right now, drug addiction is the biggest killer in the U.S. It kills over 50,000 people a year, and there’s a stigma behind it that makes it hard for people to talk about. Thankfully, “Beautiful Boy” moves past that stigma and shows the terrible effects drug addiction has not only on the individual but on their family and friends as well.

One of the reasons this movie is so striking is because it forces the viewer to see themselves in the story. If you’re a young person, you’re going to be thinking about how grateful you are that you don’t have to deal with addiction like Nic did. If you’re a parent, you’re going to hug your children a little tighter, grateful you didn’t have to watch your child slowly lose themselves like David Sheff did.

This movie is so important, and Chalamet and Carell did a beautiful job capturing the reality of drug addiction that so many people face.

– Carolina Garibay

8. Black Panther

The hype for “Black Panther” began way before the movie was actually released. Finally, there would be a black Marvel superhero, and not just for diversity’s sake. With key themes such as history, culture, and liberation, “Black Panther” continued to impress viewers with stunning animation and a phenomenal soundtrack to accompany it. The movie takes place in a fictional country called “Wakanda” in Africa, an amalgamation of various African cultures meshed into one cohesive group, which holds the secret of the source of a very powerful metal called Vibranium.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the original heir to Wakanda’s throne, is usurped by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a distant castaway cousin. T’Challa, like his forebearers, wishes to keep Vibranium a secret from the rest of the world; Killmonger on the other hand, wants to use the Vibranium and give it to the rest of the world (primarily, the black diaspora) to further liberation. Thus begins the storyline for multiple battles and confrontations throughout the movie.

Featured in the movie are multiple empowering women role-models for kids, or even adults, to look up to. Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s sister, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong), one of the royal guards, show empowering and smart female characters.

“Black Panther” is empowering, action-packed, and political in a sense as well. Possibly one of the most forthcoming and memorable solo Marvel movies, “Black Panther” won’t be forgotten easily.

– Maddie Kuhl

7. Death of Stalin

Satire is an art form. So is dark humor. When you put them together, you get Armando Ianucci’s brilliantly funny 2018 masterpiece “The Death of Stalin.” In the year 1953, premier of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin has died, and his power-hungry cohorts battle amongst themselves to fill his shoes. But these rascals are no chess-playing global strategists. They are irresponsible, incompetent, and self-involved bums who trip over their own shoelaces. And they all have British accents. We soon realize that the battle for the soul of a nation will not be won without
a few hoops to jump through. Hilarity ensues.

The film’s strength comes from its goofy, exaggerated style. There’s no doubt about it; the real Stalin was an evil genocidal maniac who terrorized his nation for decades. Rather than honor his legacy with solemnity, “The Death of Stalin” tears apart every aspect of his brutal regime with absurdity. It’s essentially a giant middle finger to authoritarian politics. The corruption, the nepotism, the disappearances in the middle of the night are all exposed by humor. Intelligent humor. The thoughtfulness of every single line shows through.

In one exchange, Nikita Khrushchev (played perfectly by Steve Buscemi) asks, “why don’t we call a doctor,” when he sees Stalin’s limp body sprawled out across the floor. “All the best doctors are dead,” replies another. The film is brimming with this kind of poignant commentary. In a world tainted by cheap jokes and empty one-liners, it’s refreshing to see cleverness work its way back into the comedy genre.

– Mark Toledano

6. Hereditary

Before “Hereditary” scares you, it will scar you. Despite being released in our age of realist drama, “Hereditary” still manages to stand out in how real it can be. Its harrowing depiction of familial tragedy will disturb you to point of wanting to leave your seat but at the same time force your eyes to stay. The film masters the art of keeping you at a perfect arm’s length from knowing fully what’s going on, gluing you to the screen begging for answers.

The complex and harrowing mental states of a brilliantly written psychological horror film find no better vessels than in this film jam-packed with the brilliant performances. From Toni Collete, who plays a grieving and desperate mother of a torn family, to Alex Wolff, who plays a teenager suffering under the weight of his own careless actions, crawling slowly through the course of the movie into a state of absolute mental deterioration, there is not a single forgettable performance.

In one of his special introductions to the movie at the Art Theatre, Professor Jonathan Knipp from the Media & Cinema Studies department here at UIUC claimed there is “not a single wasted frame” in the entire movie. And the more one thinks about this claim, the more it rings true. Upon rewatching the film, you come to realize there is not a single shot or piece of dialog that doesn’t tie back into the main thrust of the film. In two hours, “Hereditary” creates a rich and tightly knit supernatural world that will continue to spill secrets to the viewer up to their fourth or fifth watching.

And, yes, it’s very scary.

– Nilly Kumar

5. BlacKKKlansmen

“BlacKkKlansman” is Spike Lee’s most critically and commercially successful film in a decade, but the film’s greater accessibility does nothing to water down Lee’s most provocative and experimental tendencies. “BlacKkKlansman” offers genre thrills next to dire looks at the resurgence of white supremacy, creating laughs that soon get stuck in the throat.

The absurdity of the true story the film’s based on carries it far; black police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish coworker (Adam Driver). Stallworth’s phone calls with various KKK members are hilarious, with even Grand Wizard David Duke falling for his absurd white-man pantomime. But even the stupidity of the racists does nothing to combat how dangerous they are, and Lee reminds us how they’ve only prospered since the film’s 1970s setting, in dialogue and an epilogue showing footage from last year’s events in Charlottesville.

Lee is often accused of not being subtle enough, and this film is happy to hit the viewer over the head. But a subtler approach wouldn’t fit a story that’s both this ridiculous and this connected to the current state of the world. And the film’s most powerful moments see Lee giving up on plot and just preaching to the audience, having Harry Belafonte describe a lynching inspired by “Birth of a Nation” and Corey Hawkins lecture about black revolution as civil-rights leader Kwame Ture. A more restrained version of this film might be tighter, but it wouldn’t hit on a gut level like this version does.

– Bill Taylor

4. First Reformed

More entertaining films may have come out this year, but no other 2018 film can compare to the artistry and power of Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed.” Schrader has made a haunting drama about the destruction of the environment and the corruption of God’s word, complete with by far the year’s best lead performance.

Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) oversees a failing church and drinks himself to death, but a meeting with a pregnant churchgoer (Amanda Seyfried) and her paranoid husband sends him on the path to ecological terrorism. Schrader wrote “Taxi Driver,” and there’s a lot of Travis Bickle in Toller’s crusade against corporations polluting the Earth. But Bickle is all too easy to write off as insane, while Toller really has a point in his rage, making it easy for the audience to follow him as he takes increasingly violent measures.

“First Reformed” can be a tough sit, but it’s worth watching if only for Ethan Hawke’s performance. Hawke’s persona in Richard Linklater movies and real life is that of the motormouth know-it-all, so it’s a shock to see him this restrained. It’s Hawke’s strongest work to date, conveying spiritual torment with as few mannerisms as possible, which makes Toller’s later outbursts genuinely disturbing in a way they wouldn’t be in a louder performance.

Schrader has made an overwhelming film, from its weighty questions to its full-frame compositions which dwarf the characters, and an incredibly compelling one as well. Toller’s tale may be bleak, but there’s much to be learned from it.

– Bill Taylor

3. Eighth Grade

“Eighth Grade” is perfectly cringe-worthy. Directed and written by Bo Burnham, it features a warm-hearted eighth grader, Kayla Day, played by a big-eyed Elsie Fisher. Eerily accurate details of “Eighth Grade” are sure to pull things from any viewer’s subconscious: the days of falling for the skinny white boy wearing Nike Elites and a snapback, multiple colored braces, high school shadow days, and starting a DIY Youtube channel on a grainy Macbook front camera.

There is an air of seriousness, however, in the 14-year-old wonderland. “Eighth Grade’s” commentary on the connection between obsessive social media rituals and anxiety attacks are not to go unnoticed. And though Kayla Day suffers from a serious case of social anxiety, she brushes it off as being shy. Her fix being thick eyeliner tutorials, boys from science class, and pining for high school.

The juxtaposition between panic attacks and trips to the mall, pressures from boys and friendship bracelets, might be all too familiar for some of the viewers. “Eighth Grade” has the potential to hit home in this way.

While parents and teachers might brush off a young teen’s issues, they’re very real. That’s what makes “Eighth Grade” so thoughtful.

– Casey Daly

2. Sorry to Bother You

“Sorry To Bother You” is one of the most original movies of this year and possibly even of all time. It follows a telemarketer, Cassius Green, trying to be financially stable. While on the way, he is faced with the dilemma of selling out by moving to the top of a reputable telemarketing company or leaving his friends/girlfriend behind in the process. The movie confronts the issues of capitalism, protest, and the differences between white and black America in a chaotic dark comedy.

On top of that, it’s set in an alternate reality world, adding an unsettling uniqueness which will help the movie stand the test of time. The one thing that threw everyone off was the middle of the film. An extra plot is added on and trust me: it will mess with your mind and possibly cause you to lose your appetite. Sometimes a plot twist can be predicted, but in the case of “Sorry To Bother You,” nothing that the trailers reveal will help you grasp what ends up happening. This only makes the movie more memorable than it is. Some people say that the movie acts too crazy to be considered a film to be taken seriously, which I strongly disagree with. This movie really flew under the radar and should’ve received more praise and recognition than it got.

– Jillian Little

1. A Quiet Place

While 2018 had its share of great films, one film arguably stands well above the rest. Already an A-list actor and beloved human being, John Krasinski took his talents a step further by starring in, directing, and writing a modern day masterpiece, “A Quiet Place.”

While many might classify “A Quiet Place” as a horror movie, it is actually very reminiscent of the themes of vintage Alfred Hitchcock films, as Krasinski composes much more of a suspense-filled work. This constantly building suspense intrigues viewers in a way that makes the movie seem to fly by. And with just the right amount of character development, “A Quiet Place” also creates beneath the overarching suspense, an emotional connection between viewers and the film’s Lee Abbott (Krasinski), Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), and their children.

Spoilers aside, the plot simply revolves around the idea that the protagonists cannot make sounds, or else something bad will happen. Due to this storyline, the film has an incredibly limited amount of spoken lines, but through body language, dialogue seems to occur the entire film.

The writing of this film is nearly perfect for what it is, with just the right amount of information given to properly enjoy every aspect of the story. Visual effects are also great, with dramatic scenes and moody lighting to draw the audience into an immersive experience.

Honestly, although the film has a near-perfect star rating, it doesn’t do it justice. Simply put, “A Quiet Place” was the greatest movie of 2018, and could certainly even hold its ground if pitted against the best movies of the past decade. This film has a timeless value to it that will help it stand the test of time, and definite replay value to solidify its place into history.

If you have not seen this film, your best bet is to do so immediately. Seeing is believing, and only after you witness this spectacular film will you realize the magic that only John Krasinski can create. And as a review will not capture the experience nor the belovedness of “A Quiet Place,” check it out yourself, as it is certainly not one to miss.

– Ben Tschetter