I've decided to do something a little different for my TV/movie review this year, and instead of reviewing all of the new TV and movies I saw in 2018, I'm going to just share the ones that I recommend. So here they are! My list of the best movies and TV of 2018. As with my best YA lists of each year (and even more so here), please note that I have not seen all of the movies and TV released in 2018!
Here we go.
Black Panther (PG-13)
What is there left to say about this one? It's such a vital step in pop culture to have a major film with an (almost) entirely black cast, focused on an African country that avoided imperialism and thus progressed while retaining all of their own culture. Not only that, but it's very well-done in terms of female representation! Plus, I'm a huge Marvel fan, so of course I loved it.
For those who don't know, this movie tells the story of a superpowered king who, as he takes the throne for the first time, must balance the needs of his secret, technologically advanced country with the needs of the world. It's really a beautiful movie with a pertinent and important anti-nationalist message as well as a great perspective on the impact of imperialism and the value of diverse cultures.
A Wrinkle in Time (PG)
This adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's book is a beautiful, heartfelt, and somewhat whimsical one, entirely worth watching. It has a diverse cast, including a black protagonist, and though the central message about love and self-worth is a bit simplistic, it's also lovely. The filmwork is modern and the cinematography is gorgeous and imaginative. To really enjoy this movie, you have to get into kind of an unusual mindset, but it's exactly my kind of movie. The one problem I had is with the slight implication at the end that Calvin can somehow use love to stop his father's abusive behavior, which is not something any child should take on themselves.
A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of an awkward teenage girl lacking in confidence who, along with her brother and a boy from school, is pulled into an intergalactic war between good and evil as she searches for her scientist father, who disappeared years ago.
A Quiet Place (PG-13)
This horror film tells the story of a family living alone in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by murderous creatures with no eyes but exceptional hearing. In order to survive, the family members have to remain silent, which is something that's extremely difficult to do, especially with the mother of the family soon to give birth. The ultimate message is one of the resilience of humankind and the problem-solving value of sacrifice and human diversity. And it has disability representation! (Deaf, to be specific.) I'm not sure how realistic the conclusion is--shouldn't someone have figured out how to stop the monsters sooner?--but I definitely enjoyed this movie.
Avengers: Infinity War (PG-13)
This movie is the first of two movies marking the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. It's also absolutely devastating (especially for my fellow ScarletVision fans) and really well-done. I have questions about many of the movie makers' choices, most particularly in using the people of Wakanda as sacrifices to protect Vision's life, but I think the majority of these questions will be answered in the next part of the story. I can't draw any conclusions about the message of this story until Avengers: Endgame comes out, but so far, there are themes about sacrifice, what constitutes real love, and the dangers of extremism.
For those who don't know, Avengers: Infinity War is about the long-expected arrival of Thanos, a vicious alien seeking out the Infinity Stones (which can grant him ultimate power over the universe) with the intention of wiping out half of all life in order to preserve the universe's resources. The Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers must come together in order to stop him--and let me tell you, it does not go well.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (PG-13)
Another lovely Marvel movie, this one giving us a bit of a humorous reprieve from the horror of Infinity War, tells the story of a bumbling, size-changing superhero trying to make up for the damage he did in 2016's Civil War, and how he and his more capable female companion team up to bring the woman's mother back from the subatomic level. It features an antagonist with chronic pain, which rather bothers me because with all the pain I've suffered, I don't think I'd ever choose to hurt someone else. I'm a bit tired of villains always being the ones with disabilities. But besides that, it's a fun film that features heartfelt relationships between parents and children, and not only does it make for a good watch, but it adds to the set-up of Endgame, coming next year.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (TV-14)
This Netflix adaptation of a lovely rom-com by Jenny Han, featuring a half Korean-American protagonist, is appropriate and just as sweet as the book. I relate a lot to Lara Jean, who's a quiet, bookish type without much of a social life, and I hope to have a romance as delightful as hers someday. The family dynamics in the book are also fantastic, though I personally don't know what it's like to have sisters. All around, this is a great movie to watch.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is about a teenage girl who writes secret love letters to all the boys she has a crush on and hides them away in her room. When the love letters get sent by her little sister, the girl agrees to have a fake relationship with one of the boys in order to keep the others from bothering her. But their fake romance may be complicated by her real feelings.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (PG-13)
This continuation of the Fantastic Beasts series, which is a pre-WWII Harry Potter prequel, tackles a broad tapestry of character threads coming together into the war against the dark lord Grindelwald. I know the general consensus hasn’t been positive for this movie, and I’m not denying there are some significant problems (i.e. Johnny Depp’s continued casting and J.K. Rowling’s continued failure to represent people of color in an appropriate way). But I still enjoyed this movie, and I’m hopeful that the rest of the series will do well (and that J.K. Rowling’s choices will improve a little).
This installment’s a bit wild, but the new information revealed doesn’t actually contradict existing canon—it just fills in blanks we didn’t know existed, deepening the complexity of the world. This movie in particular has a feeling of great sorrow to it, unsurprising in a series that already indicated its intent to delve further into Albus Dumbledore’s tragic past. But there’s more sorrow than just that here, including, in particular, Leta Lestrange’s story, which, like the story of Ariana Dumbledore, wounds my heart in a deep and personal way. To me, these stories are a true reflection of a world that can be as painful and heartbreaking as it is beautiful. That’s the case in family relationships as much as in anything else.
Lightening the sorrow a little, though, is the fact that Newt, who has been one of my preciouses ever since the first Fantastic Beasts, is as lovely as ever in this movie. I seriously adore him (really, I adore all them soft awkward fictional bois). I also have to give kudos to the rest of the characters and to James Newton Howard’s continued skill at composing movie scores.
Another Netflix adaptation of a YA contemporary novel, Dumplin' is about a fat girl living in Texas who decides to join her mom's beauty pageant as a protest. Along the way she makes new friends and learns to be more comfortable in her own body. This body-positive movie is super sweet, and I think it's worth watching. The first half was a bit triggering for my body image issues, but the second half made me want to go out there and strut my stuff, so it's all good!
The Haunting of Hill House (TV-MA)
I took a risk on this ten-episode Netflix mini-series after seeing all the positive reviews online (and being in a spooky Halloween mood), and I found it to be absolutely stunning. The TV-MA rating, I think, is mostly on account of the proliferation of f-bombs, though of course there's disturbing and grotesque content as well--I'm just not sure it surpasses the TV-14 level. This creepy mystery that comes together bit by bit as you follow the perspectives of different family members ultimately shows that you can't protect anyone, even yourself, from the suffering and darkness of the world, and that doing so will only increase the pain. To have the joy of life, you must also have the sorrow. There's also an interesting time-bending aspect and just a lot of brilliant writing.
The Haunting of Hill House, adapted from a Shirley Jackson book I have yet to read, tells the story of a family that, when the children were young, lived in a haunted house, leading to the death of their mother. As adults, the children are divided on whether or not the problem was ghosts or mental illness, and they each struggle with their own response to the trauma. When one of the children goes back to the house and appears to commit suicide there, the family comes back together to uncover the truth about what happened at Hill House and what's happening in their own lives now. I can't recommend it enough.
Doctor Who: Season 11 (TV-PG)
This isn't Doctor Who's best season. On the whole, it's a less vibrant and connected than previous seasons, and I think it honestly might be a good idea to switch out the writers for season 12. But the characters are the one part that's really well done, and I think this season's worth watching just for that. Jodie's take on the first female Doctor is everything I could want it to be, and all three of the new companions--Yaz, Ryan, and Graham--have interesting and distinct personalities that I quickly became fond of. The only issue I had with characterization was with Graham in the season finale. My favorite episodes were "Rosa" and "Demons of the Punjab"--both historical episodes with a lot of emotional and sociological weight.
For those who don't know, Doctor Who is a BBC series about an alien with a lot of longevity who travels through time and space saving people and worlds and even universes from less friendly aliens, usually alongside human companions.
The Flash: Season 5 Part 1 (TV-14)
Season 4 was not my favorite, but things are looking up for season 5, which brings some more of that good old time travelling nonsense along with meta-tech, a new addition to the superpower world. Nora West Allen is a spunky and adorable addition to the Star Labs crew, and their family interactions are as well-written as ever. I also appreciate the antagonist's more understandable motivations and backstory this season (as compared to last season especially).
For those who don't know, The Flash is a CW series about the DC superhero Barry Allen, who has superspeed, and his experiences in both his heroic and regular life. It's got a lot of heart, and I adore the characters.
Those are my choices for the best TV and movies of the year! What would your choices be? Share them with me, and I'll be back on Saturday with my list of the best YA books of the year. Happy holidays, friends!
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