Leah Singerman’s Top Ten Films of 2018
Everybody has their own criteria for what makes a movie great, and this is mine. When I watch a film, I rate it on two scales. The first: how did I feel while watching this movie? The second: did this movie teach me something or help me to teach myself?
My favorite films of 2018 largely made the cut because they taught me something about the world from a perspective outside of what I’m used to. This year I was delighted to see a continued push for representation of traditionally sidelined stories in Blockbusters, Netflix originals, and indie films. My top 10 movies this year sometimes led to laughter, sometimes to tears, and always to a sense of hope and excitement for the increasing diversity of stories reaching audiences in America and around the world.
Leah Singerman’s Top Ten Films of 2018
10. Eighth Grade
Eighth Grade was the kind of movie that I couldn’t watch but I couldn’t turn off. Telling the story of eighth-grader Kayla’s last week of middle school, the film rolls slowly and painfully through events both banal and life-changing, landing somewhere between slice-of-life and dramatic resolution in the end. Heartbreakingly, cringingly real displays of emotion- excitement about new friends, embarrassment and shame about love and sex- put the watcher in the shoes of both the child and the parent and had me questioning the nature of growth, love, and fear.
Dumplin’ makes up an important part of the rom-com comeback taking place on Netflix. This new kind of rom-com is of a different breed, favoring character over caricature and immersing itself in a specific time, place, and feeling. Set in a small town in Texas, Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean Dixon’s revolutionary journey through a beauty pageant competition as a girl with a nontraditionally beautiful body type. Dumplin’ sends overtly positive messages about body image, but it goes even deeper as well to confront real-life issues like loss, friendship, and self-love.
8. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was another win for the 2018 Netflix rom-com. Though it rests on a traditional rom-com style masquerade plot, it also offers a refreshing twist on some of the most overdone rom-com tropes. One of my favorites is the fact that the main character, Lara Jean, speaks up for herself, is incredibly smart, and doesn’t need a makeover to be seen as beautiful by the movie’s boys. Lara Jean’s openness in being who she is makes it a joy for the viewer to watch boys fall for her. The main characters’ strengths and appreciation for each other’s individuality make this film fresh, funny, and an overall highly enjoyable story to watch.
7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is set in the ’90s and tells the story of a teenage girl, Cameron, and her experiences in Christian conversion therapy camp after she’s discovered to have a girlfriend. Focusing on systematic, intentional harm toward a marginalized community, this film not only entertains but also educates the mainstream public about LGBTQ experiences and issues. Moments of profundity share the screen with sweet friendships, classic teenage moments, and even the belting of some great ’90s tunes.
6. Sorry to Bother You
An excitingly inventive foray into a magically realistic present-day Oakland, Sorry to Bother You offers mystery, comedy, and social commentary. The story revolves around Cassius, a black man who learns to use his “white voice” to get ahead in his career amidst a sea of controversy around labor union organization at his workplace. The film expertly layers plot, character, and symbols that entice the viewer to keep looking for clues both to the story and to its commentary about American race, class, and culture. It’s a treat for the mind and for the funny bone, with an ending that is simply unforgettable.