My Top Twelve Songs of 2018

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Here at last is another post I’ve been putting off for far too long, my annual Top Twelve of my favorite songs of the previous year. I’m always notoriously behind on catching up with movies, so a list of my top 2018 films will have to wait a bit, but songs are shorter and easier to rank (for me at least).

And boy, has 2018 been a banner year for music! And that’s despite songs that seem to indicate the end of good music as we know it, like “This Is America” or the dreadful rise of Cardi B. It was harder than usual paring down last year’s musical offerings to a mere twelve, so please forgive the excessive length of the Honorable Mentions. Honestly, most of the honorable mentions could have knocked off songs from my 2017 list if they’d had to compete, so I’d say 2018 easily outclassed its predecessor, though perhaps I’m just being exposed to more music lately.

Beyond specific songs, 2018 helped me to pin down exactly what my preferred kind of music is, which had always been rather vague and definitionless for me. It seems that it includes adjectives like “progressive,” “chill”, “tropical,” and “house”; as a fan of Kygo and Avicii, I suppose I should have known that, but it’s nice to have a label for it now. Don’t be discouraged, though, if those genres aren’t your cup of tea, since I think my list below has a fairly well-rounded mix of styles to appreciate.

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On top of that, 2018 introduced me to artists that have become new instant favorites. Previous years have sort of been defined for me by one great discovery, an artist I listen to and love nearly every track of theirs (Florence and the Machine in 2016, Kygo in 2017), but 2018 had a record four! These favorites are Chvrches, Aurora, Tom Odell, and Rufus Du Sol, all of which blew me away with every song, and thankfully, they all put out new music this year. For anyone who hasn’t heard of them, do yourself a favor and check them out (perhaps in the list below), and for anyone who already loves them and is thinking “Boy, he’s late to the party,” at least I’ve finally come around to become a fellow fan. 2019 has already introduced me to other instant favorites like Sigma and Kensington, so I can’t wait to see what other discoveries await.

Do be aware that this list is entirely my personal preference, which could easily change based on my tastes and what songs I might stumble upon. (For instance, if I’d known of it, the awesome adrenaline shot that is Royal Republic’s “Getting Along” would have easily topped my list last year.) Also, I’m not including covers or rereleased songs, so my apologies to Morgxn’s “Home,” Lumidelic’s “Magic Garden,” and Bad Wolves’ version of “Zombie.” I’m aware too that this is only my personal slice of last year’s music; for a different top music list, check out Chris’s top 10 songs of 2018 at Movies and Songs 365. Lastly, if anyone has a personal favorite of their own, please share in the comments and widen my horizons further!

Thus and therefore, I present my Top Twelve Songs of 2018!

 

  1. “Paradise” by George Ezra

 

This infectious pop tune was one of the first new songs I heard in 2018, and it’s still on this list a year later. I’ve been a bit overexposed to George Ezra, thanks to my workplace seemingly playing his entire discography on repeat, but, while “Shotgun” might have become more famous,  “Paradise” is his irresistible best.

 

  1. “Back Down” by Bob Moses (also “Don’t Hold Back”)

 

It took quite a few listens for me to fully appreciate “Back Down,” but now that I do, I can’t see why its inclusion on this list wasn’t an instant no-brainer. With vocals reminiscent of the Alan Parsons Project, it resides in a strange sweet spot between head-bopping catchiness and soothing coolness. This is the first song I’ve heard of theirs on the radio, so I hope it’s helping them reach a wider audience.

 

  1. “Something Strange” by Vicetone, feat. Haley Reinhart

 

Oh, how I do love a heavy-handed piano! Reminiscent of Vicetone’s 2015 favorite “No Way Out,” “Something Strange” delivers an iconic piano riff that would be just as at home in an Avicii song, and it gets my head pumping every single time. Special mention also to Vicetone’s “Way Back” featuring Cozi Zuehlsdorff and “Walk Thru Fire” featuring Meron Ryan.

 

  1. “Ride or Die” by The Knocks (feat. Foster the People)

 

It didn’t get nearly enough airplay on the radio, but “Ride or Die” is the essence of a summer hit IMO, easy to sing along to while cruising down the road. I’m still not entirely sure what the phrase “Ride or die” means, but it’s so cool that I don’t even care. (Plus, movie lovers will appreciate the music video.)

 

  1. “Lucid Dream” by Owl City

 
 
Ethereal and dreamy in the best way, “Lucid Dream” is a return to the best of Owl City, conjuring imaginative mental images and a heavenly synth beat.

 

  1. “Soul Train” by Just Loud, feat. Debbie Harry of Blondie (as well as “Electrified,” “Ghost,” and “Angels and Demons”)

 

Just Loud was yet another great discovery this year, and while it might be too soon with just one EP out, I’m tempted to label the Afro-wearing singer the new incarnation of Prince. “Electrified,” “Angels and Demons,” and “Ghost” are also solid tunes, but “Soul Train” has a uniquely funky and classic sound and jams like few rock songs have since the 1970s.

 

  1. “Handyman” by AWOLNation

 

A subtly emotional anthem, “Handyman” was yet another early 2018 release with a memorable pensiveness that kept it popular on my playlist throughout the year. There’s something rich and satisfying about the lyrics, like “I’m not brittle; I’m just a riddle born of white, blue, and red,” but maybe that’s just the poet in me.

 

  1. “Forgotten Love” by AURORA (and “Gentle Earthquakes”)

 

Here at last is the first member of the big four that became instant favorites this year, and despite this one coming in at #5, Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes may be my favorite of the four. Her ballads are unlike any other music I’ve heard, and “Forgotten Love” is a prime example of the primal beauty her voice can summon, complete with a bridge in a supposedly made-up language that sounds like an ancient lost tongue. I could listen to this and all her songs on repeat . . . and often have.

 

  1. TIE: “Lost in My Mind” and “Underwater” by RÜFÜS DU SOL

 
And here’s another discovery of mine, the Australian alternative dance band RÜFÜS DU SOL, formerly known as Rufus. Whereas other times that I mention more than one song by the same artist, anything but the main song are secondary recommendations, but this one is an outright tie, because I just couldn’t decide between the pounding, hypnotic electronica of “Lost in My Mind” and the mesmerizing, swelling beat and chant of “Underwater.” Put simply, this is my kind of music.

 

  1. “Remind Me to Forget” by Kygo (and “Happy Now”)

 

At this point, I love these songs so much that the top 5 might as well be one massive tie, but I must give Kygo his due, as the one artist to make last year’s list and this year’s. He’s quickly become my favorite DJ, and “Remind Me to Forget” is a brilliant contribution to the genre of break-up songs. The happily bouncy “Happy Now” is also practically an undeclared tie for this spot.

 

  1. “Body Talks” by The Struts

 

There are some songs that feel like instant rock ‘n’ roll classics, and “Body Talks” deserves a place alongside the work of artists like Queen and Joan Jett. This is energetic modern rock at its finest and has led to many a head-banging jam session in my car. The version with Kesha is good too, but I think I prefer the one with just The Struts, likely because I heard it first.

 

  1. “Miracle” by Chvrches (as well as “Heaven/Hell,” “Graves,” and “Get Out”)

 

Chvrches was the first band I stumbled upon this year that made me wonder “Why have I not heard of this group yet?” Their synthpop style quickly captured my ears, and “Miracle” was my introduction. I’ve repeatedly second-guessed whether it should be #1 or not, but when I’m actually listening to it, the doubt disappears. The forceful drop, the chorus of “whoas,” the metaphorical single-take video – everything comes together into a luminous earworm I was glad to discover.

 

Now that the main list is through, here is the list of Runners-Up, listed in descending order as if the list were continuing (#13, #14, #15, etc.), and yes, I know there are a lot of them. All I can say is that this list could have been much longer;  I just couldn’t post a best songs list without giving these lesser favorites a plug. Many of these are vastly underappreciated, so check them out if you’re looking for a potential new favorite.

 

“High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco

“Just Got Paid” by Sigala, Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor, feat. French Montana

“I’ll Be Gone” by Avicii, feat. Jocke Berg

“Lullaby” by Sigala, feat. Paloma Faith

“Something Human” by Muse

“Lash Out” by Alice Merton

“Gold Rush” and “Northern Lights” by Death Cab for Cutie

“Make Way” by Aloe Blacc

“It Might Get Dark” and “Sky Beaming” by White Denim

“She’s Kerosene” by The Interruptors

“If You Wanna Love Somebody” by Tom Odell

“High on Life” by Martin Garrix, feat. Bonn and “Burn Out” by Martin Garrix & Justin Mylo, feat. Dewain Whitmore

“Uh Huh” by Jade Bird

“The One” by Michael Christian & AMB (especially the Maratone Dub Remix)

“Celebration” by Lumidelic

“Quarter Past Midnight” by Bastille

“All Your Love” by Flight Facilities, featuring Dustin Tebbutt

“Electricity” by Silk City & Dua Lipa, featuring Diplo & Mark Ronson

“Promises” by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith

“Saturday Sun” by Vance Joy

“Open Doors” by Awolk

“One Thing Left to Try” by MGMT

“Shallow” and “Black Eyes” from the A Star Is Born soundtrack

“Get Up” by Shinedown

“Hunger” and “Sky Full of Song” by Florence and the Machine

“Blackout” by Frank Turner

“IJskoud” and “Diamant” by Nielson

“Guiding Light” by Mumford and Sons

“Head Above Water” by Avril Lavigne

“My Blood” by Twenty-One Pilots

“More Than I Am” by Mountain Heart

“POP/STARS” by K/DA

“Far Away Truths” by Albert Hammond, Jr.

“Without Me” by Halsey

“Ran Away” by Hollow Coves

“Somebody’s Daughter” by Tenille Townes

“Give a Little” by Maggie Rogers

“Rescue Me” by Thirty Seconds to Mars

“99” by Barns Courtney

“White Flag” by Bishop Briggs

“Missing U” by Robyn

“joy.” by for KING & COUNTRY

“I Know You Can Dance” by Chris James

“Your Side of the Bed” by Loote

“Right of Passage” and “Setting Sail” by Eastern Odyssey

“New Birth in New England” by Phosphorescent

“Last Lion of Albion” by Neko Case

“Bit Logic” by The Bottle Rockets

“Tangerines and Daffodils” by The Voodoo Children

“Apollo” by St. Paul and the Broken Bones

“A Trick of the Light” by Villagers

“Come Tomorrow” by Dave Matthews Band

“New Compassion” by Haerts

“The Somnambulist” by Echo and the Bunnymen

“In Betweenin’” by Austin Brown

“Girls” by AJ Mitchell

 

And as with the last two years, I wanted to end this post with a short tribute to the musical artists we lost in 2018, including Betty Willis, Ray Thomas, Dolores O’Riordan, Lari White, Leah LaBelle, Dennis Edwards, Johann Johannsson, Avicii, Bob Dorough, Yvonne Staples, Matt “Guitar” Murphy,  Aretha Franklin, Ed King, Charles Aznavour, Tony Joe White, Marty Balin, Hugh McDowell, and Roy Clark. All of them will be sadly missed, but may they live on in the music they shared with the world.

 

 

Here’s to finding even more great music in the year to come!

 

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Searching (2018)

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Like, share, post, delete,
Play, search, hide, repeat—
On the screen, our lives connect,
While off the screen, they show neglect,
Not knowing how we each affect
Each other in ways indirect.

Liars, lovers, fathers, friends
Dwell online, but each depends
On flesh and blood that can’t suppress
The need to fill its loneliness.
_____________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

Hollywood is all too often invaded by gimmicks. The found-footage style, the zombie craze, the Alien-style plotline (come to think of it, most of them are horror gimmicks) – there’s more than enough copycats to go around, but there’s always that one that did it best and usually first, like Alien or Night of the Living Dead. Using only a computer screen for a movie may have been done before, as in the Unfriended films, but it’s hard to imagine it will ever be done better than in last year’s Searching.

John Cho plays David Kim, a California father whose daughter goes missing, sending him on a frantic search through her online life and uncovering just how little he knew about her. The computer screen “gimmick” is at its best in the opening scenes, which play out in a way reminiscent of the beginning of Up yet exemplify how the computer has become a partner and observer to so many aspects of our lives. I could easily see this beginning as a standalone short film, as it was originally intended, but instead, it simply sets the stage and grounds the story in characters we care about from the start.

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My VC was a little tired of the gimmick by the end, but I admire the variety of methods the filmmakers employed to restrict the story to a computer screen while not letting it become dull or overly repetitive. It often depends on David not closing his FaceTime camera window even after a phone call ends, but the story also unfolds through news footage, live recordings, home videos, file searches, and real-time texting. (I couldn’t help but wonder if the texting was at all inspired by the anime Durarara, which also used texts to depict long-distance conversations.) The way it does much of this without spoken words is like a new kind of silent film and is executed brilliantly to suggest emotions we aren’t actually seeing on someone’s face.

Beyond existing for itself, the innovation serves the mystery, a great one full of twists and turns that may not be prediction-proof but offer no shortage of red herrings to keep you guessing. And even once you know the film’s secrets, there’s still more to appreciate; one of the DVD’s bonus features revealed the level of extreme detail that went into creating every web page from scratch, many of which are full of in-jokes, foreshadowing, side plots, and M. Night Shyamalan references. (Even when David’s daughter and an anonymous friend share their favorite Pokémon with each other, those in the know will recognize deeper meaning behind their choices.)

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Considering how profitable Searching became, earning back several dozen times its limited budget, there’s no doubt that other films will aspire to emulate its style, but I feel that Searching might be cinematic lightning in a way. I doubt it will hit twice, with any unoriginal copycats likely to overstay their welcome. It’s an outstanding debut from director and former Google employee Aneesh Chaganty, one that uses its gimmick in the best way possible.

 

Rank: List-Worthy

 

© 2018 S.G. Liput
605 Followers and Counting

 

My 2019 Blindspot Picks

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Now that last year’s Blindspots have been wrapped up with a bow, it’s time to begin anew in the new year. (I was really hoping to post this a month ago, but better late than never.) I’ve really enjoyed this Blindspot series the last two years, finally exposing myself to some movies I’ve been meaning to see for far too long. I’m already behind for 2019, but once I catch up, I do hope I can keep to one per month and find some new favorites along the way. Thus, below are my 2019 Blindspot Picks:

 

Amadeus (1984)

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Best in Show
(2000)

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Dancer in the Dark (2000)

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How Green Was My Valley (1941)

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The Longest Day
(1962)

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

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Mr. Nobody (2009)

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Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987)

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Run Lola Run (1998)

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Selma (2014)

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Twenty Bucks (1992)

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Vertigo (1958)

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2018 Blindspot Ranking

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Well, it’s a bit later than planned, but I’ve finally finished my Blindspot series from last year, so with great satisfaction, it’s time to rank them before starting anew. While my 2017 Blindspots resulted in at least three films added to my Top 365 List, this year had some truly great films that didn’t quite make the cut to be List-Worthy, though that’s largely because I don’t include documentaries like #1. I did actually count #2 as List-Worthy at first, but on further thought decided it lacked the rewatchability factor. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these former Blindspots, especially #9 and up and can’t wait to begin this year’s picks.

 

  1. All is Lost (2013)

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Good work from Robert Redford, but boring and not helped by the lack of dialogue

 

  1. Some Like It Hot (1959)

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Very classic, but overlong and not quite as funny as I would have hoped

 

  1. Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011)

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Solid anime tearjerker; its simplicity is both a strength and a weakness

 

  1. Hush (2016)

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Effective slasher, with the uniqueness of a deaf woman fending off a sadistic killer

 

  1. Clue (1985)

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Uneven but fun mystery with a great cast; would have loved this even more when I was younger

 

  1. The Sandlot (1993)

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Great family film; again, my younger self would have made this a favorite

 

  1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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Weird, violent, and imaginative, a bit too much of all three, but beautifully told

 

  1. Sunshine (2007)

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Strong sci-fi thriller with some amazing music; a worthy Alien successor without any aliens

 

  1. Yi Yi (2000)

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Chinese drama that (for once) I can agree with the critics on; slow pace but a truly great film

 

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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Crazily imaginative sci-fi mixed with bittersweet romance

 

  1. Boyhood (2014)

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A modern classic and a highly relatable one for me who grew up alongside the main character

 

  1. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

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Deeply personal documentary that hits the heartstrings hard

2018 Blindspot Pick #12: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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The world can be cruel and compromising,
Goodness crumbling, evil rising.
Such a fact isn’t at all surprising;
Simply look around to see.

But harder to view is where the fantastic,
Magic subtle and not bombastic,
Turns the desolate and the drastic
Into beauty’s final fee.

And when the fee is finally paid,
The horrors that happen when humans degrade
Are quickly forgotten, and when they fade,
We welcome sweet reality.
______________________

MPAA rating: R (mainly for violence)

Sorry for the longer-than-expected hiatus lately. I’ve been in the midst of the busiest time of my class project, and just graduated from the program, so now I’m job hunting but also have a little more extra time to post again. I hate that my 2018 Blindspots have run so late into 2019, but I just have this one last review to finish off what I began a year ago! So before I announce the Blindspots for 2019, it’s time to cover Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed Spanish fantasy.

I didn’t realize when I picked them, but my 2018 Blindspots have introduced me to some directors that I only knew by reputation. I’d never seen a Charlie Kaufman-written movie before Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I’d only seen one other Billy Wilder film before Some Like It Hot. Surprisingly, I’d also never seen a Guillermo del Toro-directed movie either, so Pan’s Labyrinth was like a fresh initiation into the Oscar-winning director’s style. And what a style! Pan’s Labyrinth is as skillfully directed a film as I’ve ever seen, and it’s mind-boggling to me that del Toro wasn’t nominated for a directing Oscar that year, though it did win deservingly for Cinematography, Production Design, and Makeup. The movements of the camera, often changing scenes as it passes behind an object, lends the film a lucid fairy tale quality, despite the contrast of its more true-to-life content.

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The storyline is also engaging, split between the realistic and the magical. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is taken by her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to a military base in the woods in 1944 Francoist Spain. There, Ofelia’s merciless new stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi López) is hunting down armed rebels and eagerly waiting like Henry VIII for his wife to bear him a son. Meanwhile, Ofelia discovers a mysterious faun (Doug Jones) in a nearby labyrinth, who gives her three tasks in order to supposedly claim her rightful place as princess of the underworld.

At times, the juxtaposition of truth and myth don’t quite mix. When rebels are fighting and dying on the battlefield, it’s a bit hard to care about Ofelia’s forays into fantasy, which may or may not be real themselves. Yet these fantasy sections remain the most memorable, offering the film’s most lasting creature creations, and even these flights of imagination remain somewhat grounded in life-and-death stakes, harkening back to the grimness of the original fairy tales. You know it’s a fantasy when there are giant toads and transforming fairies; you know it’s a dark fantasy when a monster with eyes on its hands bites the heads off those fairies!

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Personally, I thought the film as a whole was much more graphic than it needed to be, whether it be some unflinchingly brutal battlefield violence or a firsthand look at how the Joker got his scars. Even so, Pan’s Labyrinth has craft to spare, particularly in its enchanting score and the ornate production design and makeup work of its fantasy elements, laudably brought to life with a bare minimum of CGI. The ending is especially moving, combining the climax of its real-life and fantasy stories into a bittersweet conclusion that artfully leaves its interpretation up to the viewer. It left me haunted in a way great cinema should, and even if not everything melded perfectly, Pan’s Labyrinth proved to be a very worthwhile Blindspot pick.

Best line:  (Captain Vidal) “You could have obeyed me!”   (Doctor) “But Captain, to obey – just like that – for obedience’s sake… without questioning… That’s something only people like you do.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2018 S.G. Liput
601 Followers and Counting

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

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The universe is vast and grand
And larger than we can explore,
Yet what if there were more than one
With possibilities galore.

In one dimension, you might be
Reclining underneath a tree.
In one, you’re driving;
One, in bed;
In one, surviving;
One, you’re dead.
In one, you may be ten feet tall
Or climbing up a building wall.
In one, your hair is blond or red;
Another, you have none at all.

You might be human or a fish
Or living in a Petri dish,
Or made of metal, made of wood;
You might be evil, might be good;
You might be famous or obscure,
Or wearing tentacles or fur.

Who knows what new alternative
Beyond dimension walls might live?
____________________

MPAA rating:  PG (probably the most family-friendly big-screen version of Spider-Man to date)

Many out there who are experiencing superhero fatigue might roll their eyes at the prospect of yet another Spider-Man movie. After all, they’ve already covered this Marvel character with an excellent trilogy with Tobey McGuire, two lesser reboot films with Andrew Garfield, and an MCU incarnation with Tom Holland, so how else could another film retread the same material? A better question after actually watching Into the Spider-Verse is “How can a film with so much prior history turn out to be possibly the most original and innovative movie of the year?”

I remembered the Spider-Man cartoon from the ‘90s had multiple versions of Peter Parker teaming up at times, but I never expected that kind of universe-spanning storyline to make it to the big screen, considering that the spider-mantle keeps getting handed off every few years. Animation was clearly the best medium for it, especially with the involvement of producers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie), the latter of whom also co-wrote the screenplay.

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The story is quite simply everything we know and love about Spider-Man mixed, mutated, and amalgamated in ways I never thought I’d see. By diving into the multiverse, full of different incarnations of the wall-crawler, it combines the familiar with the new to create something fun and unexpected. For one thing, there are at least seven spider-people total, along with alternate versions of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, and while the story focuses on Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a black teen bitten by a universe-hopping spider, there is so much going on in Into the Spider-Verse that I won’t even try describing it all, which is best anyway since I don’t do outright spoilers anymore.

Miles himself is an authentic and relatable kid, street-savvy but smart, who is pulled in way over his head when the hulking Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) opens up a portal to other dimensions, summoning varied Spider-people, from a spider-powered Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) to an over-the-hill Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) to a talking pig from a universe of funny animals (John Mulaney). While it gets as crazy as it sounds, the characters are marvelously written, each one with their own in-jokes, histories, and personal arcs, most notably the older version of Peter Parker, who is forced to mentor Miles in order to get back to his own universe.

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The character dynamics are great, yet I feel like I’ve barely scratched everything to love about this movie. I never knew much about Miles Morales’ origin story in the comics, but it’s hard to imagine it being better than this film version. There are touchstones to the familiar Spider-Man origin, but it plays out with clever and unique differences, which, along with the multitude of jokes and gags, especially reward the geeky knowledge of fan nerds like me. I don’t usually like familiar characters being reimagined for the sake of diversity, as Hollywood so often does, but the multiverse concept is the perfect way to handle it, introducing new versions of characters, whether it be a black Spider-Man or an anime-style girl and robot team, while leaving the familiar intact.

And let’s not forget the animation; it’s quite literally unlike anything we’ve seen before, a mixture of 2D and 3D with images that feel ripped from the panels of a comic book while also boasting amazingly fluid action scenes. Somehow, the mixing of animation styles (anime, exaggerated cartoon) merges with the main style seamlessly, which fascinates me to no end. Comics are an unmistakable visual influence, such as the dotted background texture of many scenes, and I liked how thought bubbles and such became more pronounced when Miles began experiencing the heightened senses of his spider-powers.

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Speaking of heightened senses, the animation in Into the Spider-Verse is likely to yield sensory overload, not unlike Lord and Miller’s earlier film The Lego Movie. The pace and visuals are similarly frenetic, though more sophisticated and not as hard to follow, especially during the eye-popping, reality-warping finale, which might be as close as I ever get to an LSD trip. Every scene is full of such life and detail that I honestly cannot wait to see it again.

While I loved everything –characters, animation, action, story, the touching Stan Lee cameo/tribute—I will say one thing didn’t thrill me, namely the soundtrack. Befitting the urban setting of Miles’ world, it’s largely hip hop and rap, the value of which still eludes me. (Seriously, what’s catchy about someone talking to a beat?) Post Malone’s “Sunflower” was the only song I halfway liked, but that’s likely a personal gripe, since I’ve heard other people laud the soundtrack. One brief scene featured a great little snippet of John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion),” which only made me wish the soundtrack had less rap and more ‘80s rock.

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My VC enjoyed the movie overall and agreed the visuals were amazing and Oscar-worthy, yet, though she recognized the trippy style as something outstanding, it simply wasn’t for her. Then again, she also tends to discount the value of animation, viewing it generally as lesser than live-action, to which I quote the talking pig: “You got a problem with cartoons?” I certainly don’t. This film just keeps getting better in my head the more I think about it, and I’m actually looking forward to the inevitable spin-offs and sequels it will spawn. If you have any fondness for the character of Spider-Man, I suspect there is something or many things you will love about this movie. Spider-Man may be a well-worn franchise by now, but Into the Spider-Verse just reinvented it in a way no one saw coming.

Best line:  (Miles, buying a Spider-Man costume) “Can I return it if it doesn’t fit?”  (Stan Lee) “It always fits, eventually.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy

 

© 2018 S.G. Liput
600 Followers and Counting!

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

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Danger after danger,
And mission after mission,
Facing constant opposition,
Can exact a taxing toll
On the few who fight for strangers
Who know nothing of their role.

Mission after mission
Must depend on these defenders
Who know nothing of surrenders.
They are safety’s heart and soul,
Keeping evil in remission
And the world under control.
_____________________

MPAA rating:  PG-13

Well, it took a little longer than I was expecting, but here at last is the final installment of my Mission: Impossible marathon, a chance to catch up with this franchise that started way back in August. I had intended to see Fallout at a second-run theater after watching Rogue Nation, but sadly I missed it and had to wait for the DVD. Hearing all the praise for this latest film only raised my hopes that it would match its predecessors, and, at least in the action department, it didn’t disappoint.

One thing I’ve enjoyed about M:I films since J.J. Abrams got involved back with Mission: Impossible III is the greater focus on continuity. They each had their own storylines and their own characters that were mysteriously never seen again, but there were carryovers beyond Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt alone. Ving Rhames is still around since the first film, and Fallout sees the welcome return of other characters too, like Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn, Alec Baldwin’s IMF Secretary, Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s wife Julia, Rebecca Ferguson’s British agent Ilsa Faust, and Sean Harris’s hissable villain Solomon Lane from Rogue Nation. As the only villain to not be outright killed by movie’s end, it made sense to bring Lane back for another round, though I really wish they could have gotten Jeremy Renner back again. While the constant action depends on the characterization established in past films, the IMF crew have their team dynamic down to a science, and they bounce off each other splendidly, with Ferguson fitting in well in her second outing as Hunt’s female equivalent.

See the source image

Of course, there are new faces too, most notably Henry Cavill’s FBI agent ordered to accompany the IMF team on their latest mission to recover three nuclear cores they neglectfully lost before a group of terrorists can use them. Honestly, Cavill is a passable Superman, but his muscles and deep voice are better served in this kind of role (plus, he’s got a beard and mustache, much to my VC’s delight), and his stoic delivery leaves his loyalties in doubt from the start. Yet it’s still the familiar faces that make M:I better than your typical action movie, particularly Cruise, whose character is faced with several moral tests along the way, making him question the value of one life over many.

So what about the claims that Fallout is the best film of the franchise and even one of the best action films of all time? I’d say that’s debatable, the former assertion more than the latter. I would agree that this is the most action-packed movie of the series, culminating in one of the most intense climaxes of them all. Cruise continues to dazzle with his absurdly ambitious stunts (watching him break his leg during the shoot is still painful), and the chases and fistfights are as good as they’ve ever been. There’s a one-take skydive that is particularly awe-inspiring and nail-biting. As far as action, it delivers in spades, but the plot takes a little while to settle in. This series is known for its twists, but the story gets a little muddled changing directions in the first half before we get to the villain goals and what must be done to stop them. At one point, there are three double-crosses in quick succession so it takes some effort to keep up.

See the source image

As far as rankings, I just can’t quite decide. I’ve said before that I like M:I:iii, Ghost Protocol, and Rogue Nation about equally, but for different reasons. M:I:iii has the most personal stakes and best ending, while Ghost Protocol has the best plot and team dynamic, and Rogue Nation has the best script and mixture of everything the series does well. I have no problem adding Fallout to the grouping, since it has the best climax, though I was a bit disappointed with how it backtracked on the happy ending of the third film. Fallout is once again a credit to the series and could act as a good conclusion if they decide to stop here. I don’t know if Cruise and company will continue churning out these action hits, but if they do, I’m game for whatever comes next.

Best line: (Walker, frustrated with the lack of a plan) “Hope is not a strategy.”   (Ilsa) “Oh, you’re new!”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (joining the last three sequels)

 

© 2018 S.G. Liput
600 Followers and Counting!

 

THE LIST (2019 Update)

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Behold, the fifth iteration of my own private compulsion, THE LIST, featuring my top 365 favorite films. My 5th blogiversary post yesterday detailed the latest additions and drop-outs, but I’ve put the newest insertions in bold so they’ll stand out more.

Last year’s additions didn’t leave much of an impression on the top 200, instead clustering in the bottom third, but it seems to me that the higher rankings of the most recent films added should give you an idea of just how much I loved them. Even so, the Top 100 remains pretty solid, with only four additions, three of which are being grouped with films that were already there. (Again, Dead Men Tell No Tales is mainly on here because it continues the original Pirates trilogy).

Perhaps because I haven’t had a lot of time to revise, the rankings of existing films haven’t been touched much (Your Name went up; Out of Africa went down, but no major shakeups). Seven additions are being grouped with their respective franchises, and I’ll admit to cheating with a tie here and there when faced with two very similar and closely ranked films (e.g., A Quiet Place with Hidden, April and the Extraordinary World with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). And once again, I just couldn’t bring myself to knock off Psycho, even though it’s been at #365 for the last two years, so I moved it up a little for good measure.

Without further ado, I present my Top 365 Movie List, all of them true favorites.  The rankings are all based on my personal tastes and opinions and could easily change with time. I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, and/or recommendations! After finding new favorites in unlikely places in 2018, who knows what might find its way on here a year from now? A very happy 2019 to all!

 

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
  2. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
  3. Forrest Gump (1994)
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  5. The Sound of Music (1965)
  6. Star Wars Trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983)
  7. Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016)
  8. Titanic (1997)
  9. Toy Story Trilogy (1995, 1999, 2010)
  10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  11. The Princess Bride (1987)
  12. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  13. Groundhog Day (1993)
  14. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  15. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
  16. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
  17. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  19. War Horse (2011)
  20. The Incredibles (2004) and The Incredibles 2 (2018)
  21. Cast Away (2000)
  22. Heart and Souls (1993)
  23. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003, 2006, 2007) and Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
  24. Tarzan (1999)
  25. Les Miserables (2012)
  26. The Avengers (2012), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  27. Ben-Hur (1959)
  28. Star Trek (2009)
  29. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005, 2008, 2010)
  30. The Family Man (2000)
  31. The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001)
  32. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  33. Oliver! (1968)
  34. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
  35. Spider-Man Trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007)
  36. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2004)
  37. Elizabethtown (2005)
  38. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  39. Chariots of Fire (1981)
  40. Babe (1995)
  41. The Blues Brothers (1980)
  42. Jurassic Park (1993)
  43. 84 Charing Cross Road (1987)
  44. National Treasure (2004)
  45. Ratatouille (2007)
  46. The Fugitive (1993)
  47. True Grit (1969, 2010)
  48. Evita (1996)
  49. The Lion King (1994)
  50. Inception (2010)
  51. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
  52. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017)
  53. Lilies of the Field (1963)
  54. Life of Pi (2012)
  55. Mary Poppins (1964)
  56. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  57. Glory (1989)
  58. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  59. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  60. Back to the Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)
  61. Aliens (1986)
  62. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
  63. Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
  64. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  65. Awakenings (1990)
  66. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  67. Paulie (1998)
  68. Home Alone (1990)
  69. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  70. Big (1988)
  71. Jumanji (1995)
  72. Somewhere in Time (1980)
  73. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  74. A Christmas Story (1983)
  75. Speed (1994)
  76. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  77. 1776 (1972)
  78. High School Musical Trilogy (2006, 2007, 2008)
  79. Wit (2001)
  80. Serenity (2005)
  81. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  82. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  83. Aladdin (1992)
  84. The Greatest Showman (2017)
  85. Saints and Soldiers (2003)
  86. La La Land (2016)
  87. Fantasia (1940)
  88. Shadowlands (1993)
  89. Hook (1991)
  90. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  91. The Truman Show (1998)
  92. The Ten Commandments (1956)
  93. Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (1999, 2002, 2005)
  94. October Sky (1999)
  95. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
  96. Holes (2003)
  97. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  98. The Martian (2015)
  99. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  100. About Time (2013)
  101. Taking Chance (2009)
  102. Star Trek into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016)
  103. Signs (2002)
  104. The Blind Side (2009)
  105. Star Trek: Generations (1994)
  106. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  107. The Santa Clause (1994)
  108. Starman (1984)
  109. My Fair Lady (1964)
  110. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
  111. Train to Busan (2016)
  112. On Golden Pond (1981)
  113. Brother Bear (2003)
  114. WALL-E (2008)
  115. The Green Mile (1999)
  116. Air Force One (1997)
  117. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2013)
  118. Shrek 2 (2004)
  119. Big Hero 6 (2014)
  120. Iron Man Trilogy (2008, 2010, 2013)
  121. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  122. The Matrix (1999)
  123. Ghostbusters II (1989)
  124. The Right Stuff (1983)
  125. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  126. Shuffle (2011)
  127. The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005)
  128. The Color Purple (1985)
  129. Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
  130. Ready Player One (2018)
  131. Shrek (2001)
  132. Inside Out (2015)
  133. The King’s Speech (2010)
  134. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
  135. The Hunger Games series (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
  136. Yentl (1983)
  137. Men in Black Trilogy (1997, 2002, 2012)
  138. Skyfall (2012)
  139. The Music Man (1962)
  140. Ghostbusters (1984)
  141. Regarding Henry (1991)
  142. Alien (1979)
  143. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
  144. The Polar Express (2004)
  145. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
  146. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
  147. Julie and Julia (2009)
  148. Airplane! (1980)
  149. Darkest Hour (2017)
  150. Extraordinary Measures (2010)
  151. Secondhand Lions (2003)
  152. A Christmas Carol
  153. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  154. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
  155. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  156. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
  157. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  158. United 93 (2006)
  159. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  160. Die Hard trilogy (1988, 1990, 1995)
  161. Castle in the Sky (1986)
  162. Source Code (2011)
  163. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
  164. Planet of the Apes Trilogy (2011, 2014, 2017)
  165. Overboard (1987)
  166. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
  167. The Nativity Story (2006)
  168. Cinderella (1950) / Cinderella (2015)
  169. A League of Their Own (1992)
  170. The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971)
  171. Tangled (2010)
  172. Zootopia (2016)
  173. The Untouchables (1987)
  174. As Good As It Gets (1997)
  175. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
  176. Ella Enchanted (2004)
  177. Splash (1984)
  178. Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013)
  179. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
  180. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)
  181. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
  182. Enchanted (2007)
  183. Up (2009)
  184. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
  185. What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
  186. Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  187. Wolf Children (2012)
  188. Pocahontas (1995)
  189. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  190. Rudy (1993)
  191. Mulan (1998)
  192. Your Name (2016)
  193. Hidden Figures (2016)
  194. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  195. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Vol. 2 (2017)
  196. Labyrinth of Lies (2014)
  197. Treasure Planet (2002)
  198. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)
  199. Mission: Impossible III (2006), Ghost Protocol (2011), Rogue Nation (2015), and Fallout (2018)
  200. The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012)
  201. Les Miserables (1998)
  202. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
  203. Spaceballs (1987)
  204. King of Thorn (2010)
  205. The Way (2010)
  206. The Prestige (2006)
  207. Déjà Vu (2006)
  208. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
  209. Cars (2006) and Cars 3 (2017)
  210. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
  211. Doc Hollywood (1991)
  212. Foul Play (1978)
  213. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  214. Frozen (2013)
  215. Woman in Gold (2015)
  216. Twister (1996)
  217. Coco (2017)
  218. Funny Girl (1968)
  219. Rocky (1976), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), and Creed (2015)
  220. Hello, Dolly! (1969)
  221. Joyeux Noël (2005)
  222. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
  223. To Sir, with Love (1967)
  224. April and the Extraordinary World (2015) / Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
  225. Out of Africa (1985)
  226. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  227. The Hobbit Trilogy (2012, 2013, 2014)
  228. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
  229. Hoosiers (1986)
  230. Gravity (2013)
  231. The Great Escape (1963)
  232. The Naked Gun (1988)
  233. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986)
  234. Soul Man (1986)
  235. Philadelphia (1993)
  236. Raising Arizona (1987)
  237. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  238. Ghost (1990)
  239. Misery (1990)
  240. Captain Phillips (2013)
  241. School of Rock (2003)
  242. Something the Lord Made (2004)
  243. Vantage Point (2008)
  244. Peter Pan (1953)
  245. The Terminal (2004)
  246. Superman (1978)
  247. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  248. Jane Eyre (1970)
  249. Casablanca (1942)
  250. Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011)
  251. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  252. The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2006)
  253. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Waterworld (1995)
  254. Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008)
  255. Annie (1999)
  256. The Elephant Man (1980)
  257. Cloud Atlas (2012)
  258. Anastasia (1997)
  259. X-Men (2000) and X2: X-Men United (2003)
  260. Surrogates (2009)
  261. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
  262. WarGames (1983)
  263. My Girl (1991)
  264. Chronesthesia (or Love and Time Travel) (2016)
  265. The Ultimate Gift (2006)
  266. The Way Back (2010)
  267. Memphis Belle (1990)
  268. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  269. Dances with Wolves (1990)
  270. The Judge (2014)
  271. The Terminator (1984)
  272. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
  273. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
  274. Rain Man (1988) and Dominick and Eugene (1988)
  275. Pinocchio (1940)
  276. City Slickers (1991)
  277. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
  278. Patema Inverted (2013)
  279. Forget Paris (1995)
  280. Eddie the Eagle (2016)
  281. A Silent Voice (2016) / Hear Me (2009)
  282. Doctor Strange (2016)
  283. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
  284. Dunkirk (2017)
  285. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  286. Superman II (1980)
  287. Murphy’s Romance (1985)
  288. Shenandoah (1965)
  289. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
  290. The Red Violin (1999)
  291. Arrival (2016)
  292. Bridge of Spies (2015)
  293. Hidden (2015) and A Quiet Place (2018)
  294. A View to a Kill (1985) along with most other Bond films I’ve seen, including Spectre (2015)
  295. Wonder Woman (2017)
  296. Con Air (1997)
  297. The River Wild (1994)
  298. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  299. Finding Forrester (2000)
  300. Unbreakable (2000)
  301. Starter for 10 (2006)
  302. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
  303. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
  304. Wayne’s World (1992)
  305. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
  306. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010)
  307. Steel Magnolias (1989)
  308. Searching (2018)
  309. Have a Little Faith (2011)
  310. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
  311. Music and Lyrics (2007)
  312. Sister Act (1992)
  313. The Abyss (1989)
  314. The Breakfast Club (1985)
  315. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  316. Places in the Heart (1984)
  317. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  318. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
  319. In Time (2011)
  320. Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  321. Minority Report (2002)
  322. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
  323. Scrooged (1988)
  324. A Monster Calls (2016)
  325. Wuthering Heights (1970)
  326. Coma (1978)
  327. The Peanuts Movie (2015)
  328. Trading Places (1983)
  329. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
  330. Remember the Titans (2000)
  331. The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
  332. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
  333. Sheffey (1977)
  334. Seven Samurai (1954)
  335. Citizen Kane (1941)
  336. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
  337. Galaxy Quest (1999)
  338. Serendipity (2001)
  339. The Others (2001)
  340. Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)
  341. Baby Boom (1987)
  342. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2003)
  343. The Conjuring (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016)
  344. Amazing Grace (2006)
  345. The Wind Rises (2013)
  346. Lion (2016)
  347. Ordinary People (1980) and Rabbit Hole (2010)
  348. The Last Days (or Los Ultimos Días) (2013)
  349. Cloak and Dagger (1984)
  350. Chicken Run (2000)
  351. Sneakers (1992)
  352. The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and Paper Towns (2015)
  353. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
  354. Hercules (1997)
  355. Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Beginnings and Eternal (2012)
  356. Silverado (1985)
  357. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  358. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
  359. Dave (1993)
  360. Psycho (1960)
  361. War of the Worlds (2005)
  362. A Bug’s Life (1998)
  363. Harrison Bergeron (1995)
  364. Time of Eve (2010)
  365. The Quick and the Dead (1987)

My 5th Blogiversary and 2018 List Additions

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It’s hard to believe, but a whole other year has passed, and I find myself once again celebrating a Blogiversary. Has it really been five years since I started my original top 365 movie countdown?! It doesn’t feel like that long, but perhaps that just means I’m having fun. That must be it, because 2018 has been an especially good year for movie-watching, and as with every blogiversary before, it’s time to recap all the high points of the past year with (what else?) a Top Twelve List of the movies worthy of joining my Top 365 List!

Since I now have five years of movie-blogging under my belt, I’ve had to become more choosy with what I christen as List-Worthy, which means only 25 films earned that distinction this year, the least of any year thus far. That’s not to say I haven’t seen many more great films than that, such as Black Panther, Boyhood, Yi Yi, In This Corner of the World, Tombstone, Marjorie Prime, 50 First Dates, Sunshine, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindNext Gen, The Sandlot, Still Mine, and Only the Brave, but for whatever reason, they fell just a tad short.

Yet, while last year’s 35 additions were mainly in the latter half of the list, this year’s favorites climb a little higher. I, of course, liked my Top Twelve from last year, but this year’s additions have some new films I truly loved. As usual, several of them are from me playing catch-up on 2017’s releases, but even more are from 2018, and I couldn’t help but notice that none of the additions are from the 20th century. Hmm, I’ve got to fix that next year and see more older films.

As always, this is my personal opinion, and everyone is free to agree or disagree. I welcome any comments or recommendations, and I look forward to finding more movies worth loving next year.

Anyhoo, let’s get to the list itself and reminisce on the cinematic rollercoaster that was 2018.

 

  1. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

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As much as I enjoyed this second Ant-Man movie, I’m surprised it ended up as low as #12. After Infinity War’s epic doom and gloom, the MCU needed a little levity, and Ant-Man and the Wasp delivered an all-around fun thrill ride with one of the more satisfying endings in the franchise, at least until the after-credits scene. Luis saying “Whazzup!” still cracks me up.

 

  1. April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

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This is only the first awesome animated film you’ll see on this list. Animation lovers mainly get their jollies from American or Japanese properties, so it’s nice to be reminded that Europe’s got game too. A steampunk adventure out of France that would make Miyazaki proud, April and the Extraordinary World offers an exciting blend of genres that feels fresher than the vast majority of recent animated fare.

 

  1. Coco (2017)

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Pixar hit it out of the park yet again with Coco, a fantasy tale of a Mexican boy visiting the Land of the Dead on Dia de Muertos. Boasting astounding new heights of CGI detail and a surprising amount of heart, Coco is proof that Pixar’s storytellers still know what they’re doing.

 

  1. Mission: Impossible III, Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation, and Fallout (2006 – 2018)

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Last year, I caught up on the excellent Planet of the Apes remakes and this year decided to again tackle a series I’ve been unconsciously avoiding, the increasingly acclaimed Mission: Impossible franchise. To my surprise, they were even better than anticipated, and all of them from the third on (after J.J. Abrams got involved) are outstanding actioners. I think M:i:III is still my favorite for having the most personal stakes and the most satisfying ending.

 

  1. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)

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Ah, the tearjerker makes its way onto the stage. As a fan of both fantasy and anime, as well as movies that earn the viewer’s tears, I was bound to love this film, and indeed its ending hit me harder than expected. Easily the most poignant film I saw all year.

 

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

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I may have seen this animated Spider-Man extravaganza for the first time only a couple days ago, but it keeps getting better in my head. The rap music wasn’t my favorite, but everything else about this trippy cross-over adventure was so well-done that I can’t wait to see it again.

 

  1. Darkest Hour (2017)

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Darkest Hour isn’t great just for having one of the most transformative performances on film, courtesy of Oscar winner Gary Oldman. It’s also among the best biopics I’ve seen, giving a well-rounded view of Winston Churchill, sometimes as a demanding bully but more often as a persevering patriot, as well as a vulnerable human being in his most dire period. Especially as a companion piece to Dunkirk, it’s a fascinating piece of history eloquently told.

 

  1. The Incredibles 2 (2018)

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This year, Pixar once again pulled off the unlikely, offering a worthy sequel to one of their best films. Continuing the story of the Parr/Incredible family as they try to make superheroes legal again and face a mind-controlling threat, this is a great family film and ranks among Pixar’s best sequels.

 

  1. Ready Player One (2018)

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This dystopian virtual-reality pop-culture treasure hunt was #1 on my list of films I hoped would be good at the beginning of 2018, and, thanks to Steven Spielberg and company, it was. True, it doesn’t quite measure up to the book, but the changes made sense as it offered up one geeky thrill after another.

 

  1. Train to Busan (2016)

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If you had told me a year ago that I would be putting a zombie film on my list, I would never have believed it. I am by no means a typical fan of the genre, but no film kept me on the edge of my seat like this South Korean thriller. It’s an adrenaline-pumping fight for survival where things repeatedly go from bad to worse, but it’s paired with an affecting tale of a father trying to live up to his daughter’s expectations while saving her life.

 

  1. The Greatest Showman (2017)

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I love musicals, and I insist that we need more original ones like The Greatest Showman. Not subtle or historically accurate enough perhaps to be considered Oscar material, it’s nonetheless a joyous film from start to finish, full of misfit empowerment, spectacular show tunes, and an undercurrent of family values. It leaves me smiling every time.

 

  1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

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Well, Marvel pulled it off, the crowning glory of the MCU thus far. Infinity War is staggering in its ambition, juggling so many characters that it so easily could have turned into a jumbled mess in less skilled hands (ahem, DC), yet I’ve little doubt that the Russos surpassed everyone’s expectations. The ending still stings, and my continued appreciation of this movie will likely depend on how well Endgame completes it in the coming year, but for now Infinity War still amazes. I’ve heard it called this generation’s Empire Strikes Back, and I don’t disagree.

 

 

So that’s the Top Twelve, but here are the other films that made it onto my Top 365 Movie List this time around. Keep in mind that I do group most franchises together, which is the only reason I made Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales List-Worthy, since it continued the original trilogy. I also group certain similar films together, so Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow will be paired with April and the Extraordinary World, while A Quiet Place will pair with Hidden.

 

A Monster Calls (2016)

A Quiet Place (2018)

Chronesthesia (a.k.a. Love and Time Travel) (2016)

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Searching (2018)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

The Last Days (or Los Ultimos Dias) (2013)

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Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) (brought back to join Thor: Ragnarok as a trilogy)

 

And as in past years, here are some unofficial awards for the List-Worthy films, which only list nerds like myself will find of interest:

 

Best opening scene: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best final scene: Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Coolest scene: Avengers: Infinity War

Biggest emotional impact: Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Oldest film: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Most recent film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Longest film: Avengers: Infinity War (149 minutes)

Shortest film: A Quiet Place (90 minutes)

Best soundtrack: The Greatest Showman

Best score: Thor: The Dark World

Best special effects: Avengers: Infinity War

Most mind-bending: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (even though it wasn’t quite List-Worthy)

Most family-friendly: The Incredibles 2

Most mature: either The Last Days or Train to Busan

Scariest: A Quiet Place

Funniest: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Best VC Pick: Tombstone

Best male performance: Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Best female performance: Not many to choose from, but probably Sigourney Weaver in A Monster Calls

Personal favorite poem written: Yi Yi

Most represented year: 2018, with ten films

 

And last comes the difficult part, figuring out which entries on my current List will have to be displaced by these new additions. This always hurts since I still love all these movies, but it’s a necessary evil for me as a list nerd. The following are the (still great) films that sadly bit the dust:

 

Almost Famous (2000) and Sing Street (2016)

A Star Is Born (1937)

The Age of Adaline (2015)

The Big Sick (2017)

Cannery Row (1982)

Counterpoint (1967)

Footloose (1984)

The Impossible (2012)

Innerspace (1987)

The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Lady (2011)

Spy Kids (2001) and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

Time after Time (1979)

X-Men: First Class (2011) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

 

I’ll be posting the updated List tomorrow. Again, I wish to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my poetry or film ramblings and leave a like, follow, or comment in the past year (and especially anyone who is still reading this long post)! I can’t wait to see what the year ahead holds. A very Happy New Year to all!

 

P.S. And here’s a little montage video I found to sum up 2018 in film:

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)

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Mother of mine,
What a trial you bore
When I, in my infancy, cried more and more!

Mother of mine,
How obliviously
Did I take for granted your keeping of me!

Mother of mine,
What a fool you held near,
No thought for a thank you, no room to revere!

Mother of mine,
How ungrateful was I
When I was at last old enough to defy!

Mother of mine,
What regret I now feel
For waiting so long for my thanks to be real,
That love all too often I tried to conceal,
That raising me had to be such an ordeal.

Mother of mine,
How I wish you to know
The love that I should have returned long ago!
_____________________

MPAA rating: Not Rated (should be PG-13 for some violence and mature themes, though nothing too explicit)

From early in 2018, I thought that Mirai would surely be the anime film of the year, but no, it’s not. That title goes to Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, a film I had no idea had already come out until I heard about it from Rachel of Reviewing All 56 Disney Animated Films and More! The description alone had me desperate to see it: a high fantasy tale of an immortal girl adopting a human baby. I tried to avoid spoilers at all cost, but everything I read about this cross between Lord of the Rings and The Age of Adaline, including its growing reputation as an all-out tearjerker, only heightened my excitement. With its 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, it looked like a film I was destined to love.

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Finally, I got to see it, and though my expectations were high, Maquia met them. This may be writer/director Mari Okada’s debut film, but her first movie is a humdinger in both its emotional impact and its fantasy world-building. The titular Maquia is an orphan of the lorph clan, a small race of people who live for centuries with no aging and record their lives and histories by weaving cloth called Hibiol. A neighboring kingdom invades, taking most of the lorph captive, but Maquia escapes in despair, only to stumble upon an orphaned baby boy she names Ariel. Although she is alone, knows nothing of motherhood, and was expressly warned never to love a mortal lest she endure true loneliness, Maquia raises the child as her own, and…sniff… you’ll just have to watch it for yourself.

Anime has some amazing mothers to its credit, from Hana in Wolf Children to the mom in the tenth episode of Violet Evergarden (another tearjerker of 2018), but there’s something special about Maquia. She shares no blood or background with Ariel, not even fully understanding the physical realities of motherhood, and yet in her efforts to be a good mother, she shines as few parents do in any medium. She struggles with the task, especially as Ariel grows older while she remains the same, becoming a constant reminder that he was adopted, but she takes to heart the lessons taught by others that moms will do anything for their children and that “moms don’t cry.”

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As much as I wish I could call it a faultless film, Maquia is not without some weaknesses. There’s an extended subplot concerning two of Maquia’s lorph friends, whose paths in life are far more oppressive than hers; enduring rape and imprisonment, they serve as a contrast to the love that Maquia finds, and while their struggles remained interesting and sympathetic, I wouldn’t say they were resolved in an entirely satisfying way. Plus, one jump in time left me unsure what was going on, dropping some uncomfortable implications and keeping its full context vague.

Despite these gripes, Maquia is a beautiful film on multiple levels, from its tender moments to its exceptional animation to its affecting soundtrack. Its rich fantasy world of warring nations and dying dragons offers several striking settings reminiscent of Middle-Earth, and its themes of love and parenthood go straight to the heart, demonstrating how children can have just as much of an impact on their parents as the other way around. Plus, there’s hardly any of the stylistic exaggeration typical of anime, making it a film that fantasy lovers who may not be into anime should be able to enjoy as well.

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I don’t cry easily these days. Only two anime have left me sobbing before, and Maquia makes it three. I’ve mentioned that some sad films like The Wind Rises seem to almost pull back from full-on tearjerker mode for whatever reason; Maquia does not. I wept bitterly, though for different reasons than something like Grave of the Fireflies. There’s a scene at the end that mercilessly kicks your heartstrings while kissing them tenderly, and it still haunts me. I said yesterday that Mirai made me want to hug my mom; Maquia did the same times eleven. That’s why, for me, this is the anime of the year. The film itself represents its theme of pain being an integral part of love, a bitterness made sweet by all that came before.

 

Rank: List-Worthy

 

© 2018 S.G. Liput
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