Staff Picks 2018: Cultural Movie of the Year
Here we give our picks for what will be the defining film of 2018. Singers and superheroes made waves at the box office, but who will we remember in five or ten years time? These are our picks for the Cultural Movie of the Year.
I mean, it’s gotta be Black Panther… right? It’s the highest grossing movie of the year, and it’s now the first superhero movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The fact that we are still talking about this movie almost an entire year later is wild. It’s a February movie. Nobody cares about February movies! But we all did, and apparently we still do. Now I will be the first to admit that Black Panther is overhyped, maybe even overrated. I definitely don’t think it’s one of the ten best films of the year, or that it should even be nominated for Best Picture. It’s not even the best superhero movie to come out this year (I’m looking at YOU Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). But when we look at back at 2018, we will know it as the year of Black Panther. There’s no way around that. —David Merkle
This year belongs to Bo Burnham. Eighth Grade skewered the absurdity of growing up in the digital age so effectively that my friends and I, left writhing with self-awareness, almost wished we hadn’t watched it. Watching 13-year-old Kayla preach self-confidence into a webcam for her (likely nonexistent) YouTube subscribers while putting on makeup just to take a “woke up like this” Snapchat was cringey. Recognizing myself in her was cringier. But by exposing the ways in which we perform daily, whether online or in real-life, the stupidly multi-talented musician/standup comic/screenwriter/director/social critic Bo Burnham reminds us that we’re all ridiculous. And that relieves a hell of a lot of pressure. —Bessie Rubenstein
For me, the cultural movie of 2018 was A Star is Born. This movie had so much hype and publicity, I was actually surprised that it lived up to my expectations. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have such amazing chemistry throughout the entire film, and the music is incredible. Furthermore, this film does a great job shedding light on difficult subjects, such as how fame affects individuals and their relationships, and the seriousness of mental illness and addiction. The acting in this movie is fantastic, and it was really fun to see Lady Gaga on the big screen. After this film, I hope we will be seeing much more of her. —Emma Steiner
I clearly feel passionately about this film. TLDR; it’s amazing. Please watch.
I don’t think enough people are talking about this film. Not only is it exquisitely written, acted, and directed (psst, that score ain’t shabby either), Eighth Grade is also speaking for, and to, an audience rarely portrayed with any degree of accuracy: the newly pimpled, horribly awkward, still-in-middle-school adolescents. In Eighth Grade, nothing is glossed over: no fantastical adventure where kids fight a medieval force, no prom with a budget of $50,000. Eighth Grade is unapologetically honest, not only showing you the cringe, but making you sit uncomfortably in it as protagonist Kayla (Elsie Fisher) walks out to a pool party in her bathing suit, talks to her crush, and Googles tips on giving a good blowjob. Eighth grade, for many of us, has always been a year looked back on with disdain. No longer a child, but not yet a highschooler, eighth graders find themselves in a state of purgatory, smack in the middle of two identities: who they were, and what they want to be. Pile on puberty, changing schools, parents, teachers, other eighth graders... it’s an odd mixture of hormones and an emerging sense of self-awareness that is pure agony. But beyond capturing the nausea that bubbles up in all of us when we think of this odd era of our lives, Eighth Grade does something much more important, and, in my opinion, difficult to pull off: Eighth Grade is, unapologetically, Gen Z. It is filled to its ears in Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (not so much Facebook). It’s voice (“Gucci!” “and like yeah” “Lebron James!”) is already dated, more specific to Summer 2017 when the film was shot rather than Summer 2018 when the film was released. Yet, despite the fact that we’ve moved on from “Gucci!,” this film captures so much that is invisible in other films. It doesn’t make a mockery of social media, no gag where the parent mispronounces Snapchat as “Snapplechat,” and no hacking of Instagrams for any sort of reputation takedown. In this film, social media has power. It is the audience from whom no one can escape, a proper enemy of any preteen’s self-esteem. It is the embodiment of insecurity, otherness, and imperfection. But despite the pitfalls of an internet-led lifestyle, there is so much that can be offered through the same electronic avenues: community, knowledge, empowerment, safe-havens. Eighth Grade explores these places as well, showing the true face of the internet, not as something that’s destroying a generation, but merely as a tool that can offer so much… especially to those who need it.
Writer-director Bo Burnham, when asked about his film’s “R” rating, stated that the film captures the truth of what preteens go through-- that eighth graders live in an R-rated world. And he’s right. Too often, the voices and struggles of kids, middle schoolers, and teens pushed aside because of an unwillingness to listen, because of a desire to watch and believe in an idyllic fantasy rather than see something real. But the anxieties and demons of a thirteen-year-old are just as valid, and perhaps, even more devastating, than those of an adult. Gen Z has their whole life on display for the world to see. Were you so vulnerable, when you were that age? —Emily Figueroa
To check out our other 2018 Staff Picks — including Weirdest Movie of the Year, Worst Movie of the Year, and Best Movie Nobody Saw — check the Staff Picks 2018 page under the Opinion tab!