Tag Archives: Moonlight

March Madness of Movies — The Champions

These matchups were vote on by the MovieMinis Staff.

After a month of intense, nail-biting competition, we finally have the winners in our four brackets for the March Madness of Movies.

Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century

Peter Jackson won the Best Director Oscar for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That film has cemented itself in cinematic history as one of the best epics, one of the best fantasy films.

But, more recently, we got another cinematic landmark, this time in the action genre (while also in the fantasy realm). Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially a two hour action scene. That it works, that it feels like a full movie with thematic heft — let alone the fact that the action is masterful — is a testament to how truly astonishing George Miller’s directing job was.

Winner: George Miller — Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Superhero Villains of the 21st Century

Black Panther‘s Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) will be long remembered. What he means as a character, as a villain, within a film that, itself, means so much, transcends cinema.

But there’s just something different, however, about The Dark Knight‘s The Joker (Heath Ledger). The master of mad dogs, The Joker is a villain of chaos, a terrorist who causes you to cower and to flee before you really have reason to. His visage is iconocraphic, a remnant of a harrowing time of fear in our a real world.

Winner: The Joker — The Dark Knight

Best A24 Films

This was the closest matchup in the entire competition. We needed a tiebreaking vote between Moonlight and Lady Bird, and the vote took up an entire day with it coming down to the final one.

At the end of the day, Moonlight came out on top. As the Best Picture winner that defied everyone, it sits as our champion in this bracket triumphantly.

Winner: Moonlight

Best Cinematography Since 2010

Sorry Roger Deakins. You got your Oscar for Blade Runner 2049, but we couldn’t give you the win here.

Hoyte van Hoytema won quite easily for Her, a sci-fi love story that is far more tender, vulnerable and powerful precisely because of how van Hoytema’s photography evokes a lonely, beautiful world.

Winner: Hoyte van Hoytema — Her

Featured image via Warner Bros.

March Madness of Movies — The Final Matchups

These matchups were vote on by the MovieMinis Staff.

Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century

The last results offered us the winners of each subcategory — Ryan Coogler took best superhero directing for Black Panther, Peter Jackson took best franchise directing for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, George Miller took best original/prestige/non-franchise studio directing for Mad Max: Fury Road and Pete Docter and Bob Peterson took best animated directing for Up.

Those four finalists offered us fascinating matchups as the subcategories were pitted against each other for the first time. Coogler took on Jackson and Miller took on Docter and Peterson. While Coogler was able to take down the goliath that was Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight, he couldn’t best the Oscar winner Peter Jackson, whose achievement with The Lord of the Rings final film continues to hold strong.

And in the bizarre matchup of Miller vs. Docter/Peterson, animation just couldn’t quite compete, as Up was pummeled by Fury Road.

Now for the final matchup — two absolute epics, handled masterfully by their directors. While only one won the Oscar, there are plenty of arguments out there that the other should’ve as well.

Best Superhero Villains of the 21st Century

This final matchup is not much of a surprise. With the way seeding and layout ended up, the paths were clearly laid out for the two contenders. That’s no disrespect to any of the other contenders. Both Magnetos of the two X-Men trilogies were always going to have strong showings. Bane, from The Dark Knight Rises, surprised many with both seeding and performance.

But it was inevitably going to come down to Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) from Black Panther and The Joker (Heath Ledger) from The Dark Knight — Marvel’s best villain and DC’s best villain. The strengths of the two are a bit different. While Jordan’s performance isn’t necessarily outstanding — remember, this bracket is judged on performance, writing and directing of the character — the writing and directing, in the backstory and themes that Killmonger’s journey evokes, are nearly unparalleled. With The Joker, Ledger’s performance is, quite obviously, the standout. The dialogue is brilliant, and the choice of a lack of backstory and the ways in which Christopher Nolan visual frames The Joker are superb. But Ledger’s performance is one of the best, of any character of all time.

Best A24 Films

Similarly to the bracket above, the paths were clear for our two finalists. They simply had to traverse those paths. What the matchups prior to this final were meant to represent was the ridiculously briliant resume of A24 and how, in almost any matchup in any round, it was incredibly hard to decide between films. Had the other two finalists, 20th Century Women and Ex Machina, been pitted against one another, it would’ve been another extremely tight matchup.

But here we are, with the expected Moonlight vs. Lady Bird, the two landmark A24 films that have found a place in cinema’s history so quickly. And as was the case with this bracket, these two will be nearly impossible to choose between.

Best Cinematography Since 2010

While big budget directing was rather up in the air, this bracket might’ve been even more so. We do have our two top seeds, but they both had to battle hard to get to this point and could’ve easily been knocked out for other contenders that would’ve made for a fascinating finale.

Look at the two of the final four that didn’t make it — Hoyte van Hoytema for Dunkirk, who lost a tie-breaking vote, and Mihai Malaimare Jr. for The Master, who lost by one vote. These are two cinematographers who, with this film, offered stunning iconography, specifically in 70mm film.

But we have Hoyte van Hoytema for Her and Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049, and it’s an equally as stunning matchup, but with digital lensing. Arguably, this matchup feels a bit more right than any other would have. In the finale, we have Roger Deakins, one of the best cinematographers of all time, and Hoyte van Hoytema, a DP who is quickly rising to that status.

Stay tuned for the championship results, which will be posted this week on Friday, April 6!

 

Featured image via A24/Warner Bros.

March Madness of Movies: Best A24 Films — Round 3

These matchups were vote on by the MovieMinis Staff.

“Best A24 Films” is yet another of our brackets where the final four aren’t simply the four #1 seeds. There was no world where Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight doesn’t make it to here. And while Room was a Best Picture nominee and The Lobster is a cult favorite, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird made too heavy of an impact to be taken down by anything.

And that’s appropriate. When one thinks of A24, they likely go straight to Moonlight and Lady Bird as the best two. Even A24 themselves took such offense to the idea of those two films being pitted against each other in the first round of a Twitter A24 bracket that they tweeted out in opposition from their official account.

In regard to the bottom right of the bracket, The Florida Project firmly earned its #1 seed and Good Time is a very popular film among our staff. They both posed serious threats to Ex Machina, but Alex Garland’s feature debut film pushed through. In truth, Ex Machina won A24 one of its first Oscars and was a key film in defining the company’s brand.

The bottom left of the bracket offered a lovely surprise. While it was a #2 seed, 20th Century Women could’ve easily lost out to #1 seed A Ghost Story or other fan favorites like The Witch and Under the Skin. Mike Mills’ film, however, assuredly earned a final four spot.

But it may all be for naught, as both 20th Century Women and Ex Machina will have trouble making it passed Moonlight and Lady Bird. If any film could, it would likely be Ex Machina, so we’ll simply have to wait for the votes.

Stay tuned for the round 4 results, which will be posted next week on Friday, April 6!

 

Featured image via A24.

March Madness of Movies: Best A24 Films — Round 2

These matchups were vote on by the MovieMinis Staff.

While every other bracket had some kind of outside seed make it into the elite eight, “Best A24 Films” stuck to the script with every #1 seed and #2 seed advancing through round 2.

But this is not say that that’s bad or boring in any way. On the contrary, this makes this upcoming round as hard as it could possibly be, contenders nearly impossible to decide between.

As a top eight, of sorts, of A24, these films are unbelievable. From Oscar winners to indie gems to near arthouse experiments, these eight films are about as strong as it gets from a studio, especially from such a young one.

#1 seed Moonlight has, expectedly, made it this far, and will face off against #2 seed Swiss Army Man. While Moonlight did win Best Picture, Swiss Army Man was its own kind of transformative film, at least for a few on staff.

#1 seed Lady Bird has also, expectedly, made it to round 3, and will take on #2 seed The Lobster. If there’s ever an indie name to cheer on, it’s eccentric writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos — that is, unless he’s facing off against Greta Gerwig. Either film will be a worthy choice.

#1 seed A Ghost Story held on through two rounds, but now faces its toughest challenge in Mike Mills’ absolutely lovely and sublime #2 seed 20th Century Women. Can the strength of Greta Gerwig not only help Lady Bird, but also 20th Century Women?

And finally, #1 seed The Florida Project will compete against #2 seed Ex Machina. In regard to material, these two films could not be more different, so it seems like this one will likely come down to taste.

Hopefully, the results of the next round will not be too painful.

Stay tuned for the round 3 results, which will be posted next week on Friday, March 30!

 

Featured image via A24.

March Madness of Movies: Best Cinematography Since 2010 — Round 1

These matchups were vote on by the MovieMinis Staff.

In “Best Cinematography Since 2010,” 13 of the 16 matchups went to higher seeds, with upsets only coming from middle competitions. #5 seeds Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Call Me by Your Name and Wally Pfister for Inception bested #4 seeds Luca Bigazzi for The Great Beauty and Rodrigo Prieto for Silence, respectively, while #6 seed Roger Deakins for Sicario beat out #3 seed Dick Pope for Mr. Turner; although Roger Deakins winning is never really an upset kind of story as he’s always such a strong contender. Mukdeeprom and Pfister have big competition ahead in #1 seed Hoyte van Hoytema for Her and #1 seed Andrew Droz Palermo for A Ghost Story, while Deakins will take on #2 seed van Hoytema for Dunkirk.

While Emmanuel Lubezki had four entries initially, he only has two remaining, for #3 seed Gravity and #2 seed The Tree of Life. He’ll have a very tough road ahead of him, facing #2 seed Linus Sandgren for La La Land and #3 seed John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Both Bradford Young and Hoyte van Hoytema had three entries to start. Young’s only remaining one is his #2 seed Arrival, which will take on #3 seed Roger Deakins for Skyfall. Deakins for Skyfall is what took out van Hoytema’s #6 seed cinematography for Interstellar.

Deakins is quite clearly the strongest on this list, even if he didn’t have the most entries to begin with. All three of his are still in competition, and his #1 seed Oscar-winning work for Blade Runner 2049 will test its strength against #4 seed Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis. The final matchup will be a powerhouse of spellbinding drama photography: #1 seed Mihai Malaimare Jr. for The Master vs. #4 seed James Laxton for Moonlight.

Stay tuned for the round 2 results, which will be posted next week on Friday, March 23!

 

Featured image via Lionsgate/Warner Bros.

March Madness of Movies: Best A24 Films — Round 1

These matchups were vote on by the MovieMinis Staff.

“Best A24 Films” went mostly as expected. The only higher seed to lose out was Locke, but that seems understandable as #6 seed The Spectacular Now is a more popular film and Locke earned its #3 seed based on a few very strong individual votes.

What’s interesting about this round is the matchups it results in. #1 seed Moonlight may be safe, but it would be wrong to deem #4 seed American Honey as easy competition. #2 seed Swiss Army Man is adored by our staff, but as seen by #6 seed The Spectacular Now’s upset, it shouldn’t be underestimated. #1 seed A Ghost Story and #4 seed A Most Violent Year could not be more different, so voting is unpredictable; the same can be said about #2 seed 20th Century Women and #3 seed The Witch.

On the other side of the bracket, #1 seed Lady Bird will take on #4 seed Obvious Child, which worked passed a tie-breaking vote against #5 seed The End of the Tour in the previous round. #2 seed The Lobster, an unorthodox but beloved film, will go head to head with #3 seed Room, a Best Picture Oscar nominee. #1 seed The Florida Project will compete with #4 seed It Comes At Night in a battle of rather different genres. Finally, #2 seed Ex Machina will match up against #3 seed Good Time, two films that range from liked to loved by our staff.

How incredibly tight these matchups were and how unbearably difficult they will be in this coming round goes to show how fantastic A24 has been as a production/distribution studio. There are many different kinds of films on this list, but they all coalesce into a very cohesive sense of the A24 brand.

Stay tuned for the round 2 results, which will be posted next week on Friday, March 23!

 

Featured image via A24.

March Madness of Movies: Introducing the Brackets

Now that it’s March and the NCAA will be hosting its annual March Madness tournament soon, we at MovieMinis thought to have our own tournaments, but, of course, with movies.

In the bracket style of March Madness, we will run through four different topics in what we’re calling the March Madness of Movies.

But rather than stick to general topics, such as Best Superhero Movie or Best Animated Movie, we wanted to get specific, to vote on aspects of film that could potentially make for a much more fascinating tournament.

The four topics we ended up on are:

  • Best A24 Films
  • Best Superhero Villain of the 21st Century
  • Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century (cutoff at a $75 million production budget)
  • Best Cinematography Since 2010

In this write-up, we’re introducing the brackets, and in subsequent weeks, we will release the results of each round.

For each bracket, we laid out tons of potential contenders, and after a week of painful voting, we seeded each bracket. We must note that, in working through the seeding process, we were reminded of a terrible reality in the film industry.

In the potential contenders for Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century, with a cutoff at a $75 million production budget, there were only nine films directed by women, many of them with male co-directors. Only one ended up making our bracket, certainly not as a representation of talent, but as a magnification and emphasis of the problem. For perspective, there were literally hundreds directed by men, and the men were mostly white. This is a rampant problem in Hollywood. Women and people of color — and above all, women of color — are not only not given many chances, but when they are, failure, in any way, results in horribly unfair consequences; in essence, they’re less likely to get another chance than a white man is. This problem applies to cinematography too. In the potential contenders for that bracket, there was a proportionally similar compilation. While female cinematographers received votes, none made our bracket — again, not as a representation of talent, but as a magnification and emphasis of the problem. Hollywood must change, and part of that change comes from not ignoring the problem anymore. We need more big budget films directed by women and people of color, and we need more films, in general, lensed by women and people of color. We need women and people of color involved in every level of pre-production, production and post-production. For more statistics on female directors of big budget films, read Terry Huang’s piece on The Black List blog.

With that in mind, let’s move into how the brackets shaped up:

Best A24 Films

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Moonlight and Lady Bird earned #1 seeds. Joining them were The Florida Project and A Ghost Story. Those four films will face off against #8 seeds Green RoomMorris From AmericaDe Palma and Menashe.

The next set of top films, the #2 seeds, were Swiss Army Man20th Century WomenThe Lobster and Ex Machina, which will face off against #7 seeds The LoversWhile We’re YoungKrisha and Spring Breakers.

The #3 seeds were a mix of widely awarded films and incredibly acclaimed genre/indie pictures: LockeRoomThe Witch and Good Time. The #6 seeds that they’ll compete against leaned more toward the indie darling: The Spectacular NowThe Bling RingUnder the Skin and Enemy.

Finally, in the middle of the pack were #4 seeds American Honey, Obvious ChildA Most Violent Year and It Comes At Night, as well as #5 seeds AmyThe End of the TourThe Disaster Artist and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Best Superhero Villain of the 21st Century

This bracket is made up of four subcategories — MCU villains, DC villains, X-Men villains and villains from other properties — and we pulled eight contenders from each subcategory to compete. Instead of leaving them in their own sections, however, we then mixed them up and seeded from there. And we kept it to just eight per subcategory because it seemed more interesting than a likely lopsided MCU bunch had we not had that limit.

And this bracket is not just about performances. It’s about the villain, the character. That involves the writing and the directing of that character too.

With that said, the first three #1 seeds were rather simple to come to: Heath Ledger’s The Joker from The Dark Knight, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger from Black Panther and Ian McKellen’s Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto from X-MenX2 and X-Men: The Last Stand

Perhaps surprisingly to some who dislike the character, our staff showed strong support for Tom Hardy’s Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, who took that final #1 seed.

Those four will take on #8 seeds Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw from X-Men: First Class, Ed Skrein’s Francis/Ajax from Deadpool, Mark Strong’s Frank D’Amico from Kickass and Kurt Russell’s Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The #2 seeds went to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from various MCU films, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2, the other Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender) from the most recent X-Men trilogy and the second The Dark Knight inclusion, Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two Face.

The #7 seeds who will battle these four are Zach Galifianakis’ The Joker from The LEGO Batman Movie, Hugh Jackman’s X-24 from Logan, James Franco’s Harry Osborn/New Goblin from Spider-Man 3 and Michael Shannon’s General Zod from Man of Steel.

Two of the #3 seeds went to the last two Captain America films; Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo from Civil War and Sebastian Stan’s The Winter Soldier (not Bucky Barnes) from The Winter Soldier. Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins and Jason Lee’s Buddy Pine/Syndrome from The Incredibles earned the other two #3 seeds. 

Competing against them are #6 seeds James Cromwell’s Professor Robert Callaghan from Big Hero 6, Dane DeHaan’s Andrew Detmer from Chronicle, Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask from X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Sentinels that Trask unleashed onto the X-Men, also from X-Men: Days of Future Past.

In the middle of the pack, earning #4 seeds, were Cillian Murphy’s Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow from the entire The Dark Knight trilogy, Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin from Spider-Man, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass from Unbreakable and Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther. They’ll match up against #5 seeds Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt/Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger, Brian Cox’s Col. William Stryker from X2, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes/Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century

This bracket was split up into four different subcategories. Those were “Superhero Directing” (in the upper left), “Franchise Directing” (in the lower left), “Prestige/Original/Non-Studio Franchise Directing” (in the upper right) and “Animated Directing” (in the lower right). We took some liberties with this. Mad Max: Fury Road is a part of a franchise, but we concluded that it felt more in line with its current group than it would’ve among the franchise contenders.

In Superhero Directing:

Christopher Nolan easily earned a #1 seed; many even believe that he should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for his efforts on The Dark Knight. He’ll face off against #8 seed Tim Miller for the subversive Deadpool.

Coming in behind Nolan in the #2 seed was Ryan Coogler for Black Panther, a cultural phenomenon that many believe could become the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture.

The #3 seed went to Joe Russo and Anthony Russo for Captain America: Civil War; the Russo brothers also placed in the #7 seed for Captain America: Civil War. James Gunn will take on the Civil War Russos with #6 seed Guardians of the Galaxy.

The middle match-up comes from 2017 films: the #4 seed James Mangold for Logan and the #5 seed Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman.

In Franchise Directing:

Peter Jackson quite easily snagged the #1 seed for his directing job on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He’s the only Best Director winner out of five nominated efforts in this bracket. Facing of against him is #8 seed Martin Campbell for the first Daniel Craig James Bond film Casino Royale.

Sam Mendes, director of another Craig Bond film, Skyfall, made the bracket as the #6 seed. He’ll compete with #3 seed Matt Reeves for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Like Bond, Matt Reeves made his subcategory twice, earning the #2 seed for War for the Planet of the Apes. He’ll take on our perhaps surprising Star Wars inclusion, #7 seed Gareth Edwards for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Finally, with some of the most acclaimed films of the subcategory, #4 seed Alfonso Cuarón for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will battle #5 seed Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049.

In Prestige/Original/Non-Franchise Studio Directing

David Fincher’s Zodiac has become regarded as on the best films, in general, of the 21st century, so he glided into a #1 seed pretty smoothly. But his contender is a tough one: #8 seed Alfonso Cuarón for landmark sci-fi film Children of Men.

George Miller earned the #2 seed for his masterful work on Mad Max: Fury Road, and will face of against legendary director and #7 seed Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Scorsese made this subcategory twice, taking the #3 seed for his directing job on The Aviator. His opponent is #6 seed Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, who also made this subcategory twice, placing as the #4 seed for Inception. He’ll take on #5 seed Peter Jackson for King Kong.

In Animated Directing:

Quite predictably, Pixar dominated this bracket, with #1 seeds Pete Docter and Bob Peterson for Up, #2 seed Brad Bird for The Incredibles, #3 seed Lee Unkrich for Toy Story 3, #4 seed Andrew Stanton for WALL-E, #6 seeds Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen for Inside Out and #8 seeds Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina for Coco.

But other animation directors made it through with their beloved films. Rounding out the eight were #5 seeds Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders for How to Train Your Dragon, and #7 seeds Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams for Disney’s Moana.

Best Cinematography Since 2010

Even with setting the parameter of cinematography since 2010, there were still an overwhelming number of potential contenders and our votes were widely varied, resulting in a bracket that truly represents a mix of our opinions.

The #1 seeds did stand out, however: Mihai Malaimare Jr.’s lensing of The Master, Andrew Droz Palermo’s work on A Ghost Story, Roger Deakins Oscar-winning efforts on Blade Runner 2049 and Hoyte van Hoytema’s unforgettable photography on Her.

In fact, both Deakins and van Hoytema made this bracket three times. Deakins also earned a #3 seed for Skyfall and a #6 seed for Sicario. van Hoytema’s other two were Christopher Nolan films, a #2 seed for Dunkirk and a #6 seed for Interstellar.

Bradford Young also made this bracket three times, taking a #2 seed for Arrival, a #7 seed for A Most Violent Year and a #8 seed for Mother of George.

But, of course, 3-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki placed more than everyone with four spots: a #2 seed for The Tree of Life, a #3 seed for Gravity, a #5 seed for The Revenant and a #7 seed for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

The rest of the bracket is filled with stunning photography. Oscar winner Linus Sandgren earned a #2 seed for his work on La La Land. Other cinematographers of 2016 took spots as well, with James Laxton earning a #4 seed for Moonlight and Rodrigo Prieto earning a #4 seed for Silence.

Work from 2015 films rounded out the #3 seeds: Dick Pope for Mr. Turner and John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road. The other #4 seeds were Luca Bigazzi for The Great Beauty and Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis.

While Hoyte van Hoytema may have two Nolan films on this bracket, Nolan’s former cinematographer, Wally Pfister, earned a #5 for his Oscar-winning work on Inception. Rather recent photography also seeded #5: Rob Hardy for Annihilation and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Call Me by Your Name.

In fact, a couple of Roberts placed here. Robert D. Yeoman placed in the #6 seed for The Grand Budapest Hotel and the #7 seed for Moonrise Kingdom. Robert Richardson also seeded #6 for Django Unchained, while Robert Elswit was another Paul Thomas Anderson cinematographer to place, earning a #8 seed for Inherent Vice..

Finally, the last few contenders are #7 seed Masanobu Takayanagi for Hostiles, #8 seed Darius Khondji for The Lost City of Z and #8 seed Seamus McGarvey for Godzilla.

 

Follow along throughout March as we vote on these brackets and determine the best of each topic!

 

Featured image via Marvel Studios/Warner Bros./A24.

25 most anticipated films of 2018

As each year ends, it’s customary to look back on our favorite films, to spend hours on lists of the best that we saw. But it’s also a hell of a time to look forward at the films releasing in the coming year and start to build anticipation. The ones that immediately pop into mind are the blockbusters, the landmark events of the year like Solo: A Star Wars Story and the early Black Panther. They’re beyond exciting, not only for us, but for millions of people. The real fun for us film writers, though, comes with the research, with digging deep to find which prestige, Oscar-nominated or, simply, personal favorite storytellers (actors, directors or writers) have movies coming out that are currently under-the-radar to most people — and then going even deeper to find the films that even us film writers would miss on a first go around of digging.

What immediately became apparent after finishing our research and sitting down to pick our top 25 is that 2018 is going to be a spectacular year for film — hence our honorable mentions list being so long.

We thought 2017 was a never-ending ride of greatness, from Get Out back in February all the way to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread today. 2018 should be just the same. Whether it be the aforementioned blockbusters, or the return of both Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle, or Martin Scorsese pairing up with Netflix, or French female filmmakers taking on science fiction, 2018 films need to get going already.

25. Bios

Dick Thomas Johnson/Courtesy

Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

Written by: Craig Luck, Ivor Powell

Starring: Tom Hanks

Release date: Possibly 2018, currently in pre-production, expected start shooting early 2018

This film might’ve been ranked higher on the list were it further along in production and guaranteed for 2018. With production meant to start in early 2018, there’s a definite possibility, considering the star power of Tom Hanks, that we could see it toward the end of the year, especially as an awards contender, which is why we’re including it. But there’s also a definite possibility that it won’t, as we never really know in regard to a film like this until the cameras start rolling.

Regardless, the team behind BIOS, a sci-fi story that follows a robot “built to protect the life of his dying creator’s beloved dog” on a post-apocalyptic Earth, is a heavyweight one. There’s the obvious, consistent, dependable brilliance of Tom Hanks. Then, there’s a Black List (a list of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood) script from writers Craig Luck and Ivor Powell. And finally, there’s director Miguel Sapochnik, best known for the final two episodes, Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Winter, of season 6 of Game of Thrones. He also directed the season 5 action heavy episode Hardhome. All three are all timers for the series, but Battle of the Bastards is a special piece of visual storytelling, as it features what is arguably the best directed, most viscerally brilliant war sequences in all of TV or film. The episode is truly a landmark piece of direction, one that rightfully won Sapochnik the Emmy and Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Drama Series. It was only a matter of time before he got the opportunity to direct a massive, visual-heavy film, and BIOS sounds like a film that could prove Sapochnik as an equally brilliant film director.

— Kyle Kizu

24. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Sony Pictures/Courtesy

Directed by: Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman

Written by: Phil Lord

Starring: Shameik Moore, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Liev Schreiber

Release date: December 14, 2018

Finally, Miles Morales is coming to a theater near you. Sony Pictures hasn’t always done right by the webhead (2.5/5 ain’t bad), but bringing on the tonally unique duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller to oversee an animated theatrical Spider-Man release that introduces general audiences to Miles f$@#ing Morales as well as the breadth of alternate-earth Spider-Men is, well, amends enough. Although the first teaser only dropped recently, a photorealistic NYC in the background juxtaposed with the imaginative and malleable hand-drawn imagery of the protagonist himself makes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse an aesthetic and, hopefully, narrative treat for comic book fan and casual moviegoer alike.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

23. A Wrinkle in Time

Disney/Courtesy

Directed by: Ava DuVernay

Written by: Jennifer Lee

Starring: Storm Reid, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Zach Galifianakis, Andrè Holland

Release date: March 9, 2018

If there’s one incontrovertible truth about Ava DuVernay’s career thus far, it’s that all of her films are imbued with an unbridled sense of passion from a creative standpoint, and A Wrinkle in Time appears to continue that trend. Ever since its first trailer set to the tune of the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), DuVernay’s take on Madeleine L’Engle’s iconic fantasy novel has seemed visually distinct, naturalistically cast and rousingly written and executed. The past few years have provided us with some fairly poor YA novel adaptations, but from what we’ve seen thus far, A Wrinkle in Time is set to break the mold.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

22. At Eternity’s Gate

Josh Jensen/Courtesy

Directed by: Julian Schnabel

Written by: Jean-Claude Carrière, Julian Schnabel

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac

Release date: Expected in 2018, currently filming

What’s poised to be a incisive look at renowned painter Vincent van Gogh’s life while he lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France, benefits greatly from its principal starrers, Willem Dafoe and Oscar Isaac as van Gogh and fellow famous painter Paul Gauguin, respectively. Combine Dafoe’s range with Isaac’s intensity and both with director and co-writer Julian Schnabel’s unabashed reverential directorial stylings à la The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and an eternity is just how far away this film’s release feels.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

21. Creed II

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.

Written by: Cheo Hodari Coker, Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren

Release date: November 21, 2018

Though admittedly hesitant to re-enter the ring after its predecessor’s knockout performance and conclusion (puns intended and necessary), we’d be fools to not want to see Adonis Creed again on the big screen for another fight of his life in Creed II. Now with Dolph Lundgren in the mix, hopefully Ivan Drago finally gets what’s coming to him.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

20. Proxima

Gage Skidmore/Courtesy

Directed by: Alice Winocour

Written by: Alice Winocour

Starring: Eva Green, Lars Eidinger

Release date: Expected in 2018, currently in pre-production

Alice Winocour, co-writer of the Oscar-nominated Mustang, for which she also won Best Original Screenplay at the Cèsar Awards (essentially, the French Oscars), will dive into science fiction with her upcoming film Proxima. However, the film sounds as though it’s heavily based in reality. Proxima will follow a mother just before her departure on a year-long mission at the International Space Station, as she physically trains for space and prepares to say goodbye to her young daughter. The story seems incredibly emotional, and has basis, as she says, in Winocour’s own feelings of separation from her daughter when she shoots a movie — ringing a similar bell to the inspiration behind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Such a basis should bring such genuine weight to the story, one that will explore a side of an astronaut’s life that not many films get into, and offer Eva Green material for a powerhouse performance. And to see a female astronaut who is also a mother as the lead character is necessary and empowering visibility. Oh, and the film will be in French.

— Kyle Kizu

19. Newsflash

Gage Skidmore/Courtesy

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Written by: Ben Jacoby

Starring: Seth Rogen

Release date: November 22, 2018

David Gordon Green has had a rather interesting career, breaking out with the incredibly small independent film George Washington, flourishing in the comedy genre with Pineapple Express, giving Nicolas Cage a platform to actually excel in Joe and devastating us with the powerful, human Stronger. Just a month before Newsflash, Gordon Green will release Halloween, another film in the Halloween franchise, and showcase yet another side of his directorial skill set with horror.

He can really do everything, which intensifies our anticipation of the recently announced Newsflash, a film about Walter Cronkite, who, on November 22, 1963, reported on live TV about the assassination of JFK.

The obvious thematic relevance of the film — the power of journalism (this time broadcast) — is enough to grip onto. But the specifics of the story offer it utterly dynamic potential; it could end up as much a story about the power of journalism as it is a study of that terrible moment in American history as well as a character study of Cronkite himself. The choice of Seth Rogen to lead the film is, initially, a bit jarring — but not in a bad way, as it very quickly turns into excitement at the thought of Rogen expanding his dramatic chops, after a very serviceable performance as Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs, and showcasing the charisma we all know he has. Newsflash could very well play a similar role in 2018 that The Post is playing in 2017.

— Kyle Kizu

18. Mission: Impossible 6

Christopher McQuarrie/Paramount/Courtesy

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Written by: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Angela Bassett

Release date: July 27, 2018

We appreciated the first. We drank to forget the second. We reluctantly saw the third. We cheered for the fourth. And we were in awe of the fifth. If Mission Impossible has proven anything up to this point, it’s that, much like lead actor Tom Cruise, this franchise has got legs. Mission: Impossible 6 has Christopher McQuarrie back at the helm (a series first) along with much of its predecessor’s cast in what is to be, hopefully, another enthralling action-adventure defined by its practically-performed death-defying stunts. Most of the film’s plot is still under wraps, but one thing is certain: Henry Cavill will be sporting a mustache that — if digitally removed — gives him uncanny valley face.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

17. On the Basis of Sex

Dick Thomas Johnson/Courtesy

Directed by: Mimi Leder

Written by: Daniel Stiepleman

Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates

Release date: 2018, currently in post-production

The story of On the Basis of Sex, following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fight for equality and journey to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, is fascinating and deeply needed in this moment in time, as well as reason enough, alone, for this film to make this list. But the pieces around the story are absolutely brilliant. Felicity Jones is one of the more emotionally powerful actresses working today; just look at her raw, moving performance in The Theory of Everything. Armie Hammer is resurfacing — to our delight — as a true acting talent, also channeling raw emotion in this year’s Call Me by Your Name. And the director behind it all, Mimi Leder — who has been sorely and unjustly underappreciated in Hollywood, but has become one of TV’s greatest directors, especially after her work on The Leftovers — will show everyone what they’ve been missing when she nails this film.

— Kyle Kizu

16. If Beale Street Could Talk

Allan Warren/Courtesy

Directed by: Barry Jenkins

Written by: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Regina King, Pedro Pascal, Dave Franco, Ed Skrein, Emily Rios, Aunjanue Ellis, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry, Finn Wittrock, Michael Beach, Colman Domingo, Stephan James

Release date: 2018, currently in post-production

Moonlight’s ethereally cathartic narrative and characters earned it the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, so it should come as no surprise that we’re eagerly awaiting writer-director Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk. If Jenkins can invoke the same emotionally complex yet superficially subtle and restrained atmosphere when adapting James Baldwin’s novel of the same name for the silver screen, then the filmmaker could be looking at another critical darling in his filmography in the not-too-distant future.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

15. Suspiria

Elena Ringo/Courtesy

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino

Written by: David Kajganich

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper

Release date: 2018, currently in post-production

A remake of legend Dario Argento’s supernatural Italian classic gallo film from one of the most talented directors working today, who just blew us away with Call Me by Your Name and has built some kind of career with films like I Am Love and A Bigger Splash? With a cast of Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton and Mia Goth? With the first original score from Thom Yorke, the frontman of Radiohead? With an appearance from the original film’s star, Jessica Harper?

There’s no way that this film won’t be a gorgeous, gory descent into madness.

— Levi Hill

14. High Life

Nicolas Genin/Courtesy

Directed by: Claire Denis

Written by: Claire Denis, Jean Pol-Fargeau, Nick Laird, Zadie Smith

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth, Juliette Binoche

Release date: Expected in 2018, currently in post-production

Another French filmmaker is leaping into science fiction. Claire Denis, director of Beau Travail, White Material and 35 Shots of Rum, will simultaneously make her English language debut with High Life, a sci-fi story that Denis has been developing for nearly two years now. The concept, alone, is the stuff of sci-fi dreams: Monte, a criminal who chose to participate in a government project rather than serve jail time, is sent out into space with other convicts to find alternative energy as well as to participate in human reproduction experiments. Now headed toward a black hole, Monte must connect with his daughter Willow, who was born out of one of the experiments.

That Denis is experimenting, herself, with science fiction after a career of careful character studies is riveting — and likely means that this film will also end up being a complex character study in the setting of space. But that she’s doing it with such an original story and a lead actor like Robert Pattinson, who just turned everyone’s head with his performance in Good Time, makes High Life one of the most compelling projects of the upcoming year.

— Kyle Kizu

13. Roma

Gage Skidmore/Courtesy

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

Written by: Alfonso Cuarón

Starring: Marina de Tavira, Daniela Demesa, Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio

Release date: 2018, currently in post-production

Not much is known about Roma, except that it’s Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón’s first film set in Mexico since his breakout masterpiece Y Tu Mamá También and his direct follow up to Gravity, the film for which he won that Oscar. With a cast of, to American audiences, unknowns and Cuarón’s distinct ability with setting, showcased in Children of Men, Roma will have an authenticity unlike many other films. We’re beyond excited to see whatever this incredible filmmaker can concoct.

— Levi Hill

12. Untitled Adam McKay directed, Christian Bale starring Dick Cheney biopic

Gage Skidmore/Courtesy

Directed by: Adam McKay

Written by: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Bill Pullman

Release date: 2018, currently in post-production

Who knew that Adam McKay, the man behind Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Step Brothers, is a magnificent drama director. Perhaps it should’ve been more obvious that McKay could make a film like The Big Short, a searing and sharp film dissecting a complex moment in recent history; his success in comedy shows that he’s a deeply intelligent storyteller as comedy is the hardest genre to pull off and pull off well. That McKay is continuing in this direction, this time dissecting ex-vice president Dick Cheney, is exciting on multiple levels. But that he’s also teaming up with Christian Bale, who is, arguably, the greatest method actor of our time outside of Daniel Day-Lewis and whose transformation for this role has been mind-boggling, and Amy Adams, one of the most underappreciated actresses in the game and someone who should have Oscar gold on her mantle already, is a near dream. Throw in Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and what will surely be a script that does not hold back at critiquing that administration’s failures, and this film, rumored to be titled Backseat, will certainly be a knockout.

— Kyle Kizu

11. Wildlife

Eva Rinaldi/Courtesy

Directed by: Paul Dano

Written by: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould

Release date: Premiering at Sundance Film Festival in January 2018, will see a 2018 release date if, as expected, it is picked up by a distributor

Time will tell how Paul Dano’s directorial debut shapes up, because it’s premiering at Sundance within a few weeks. But Dano, as an actor who always chooses interesting projects, getting behind the camera is an intriguing proposition. Throw in the excellent starring duo of Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, and Wildlife, based on a true story adapted by Dano and his talented actress-writer-wife Zoe Kazan, might be the Sundance breakout of 2018 — at least on paper.

— Levi Hill

10. Ad Astra

Maximilian Bühn/Courtesy

Directed by: James Gray

Written by: James Gray, Ethan Gross

Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland

Release date: January 11, 2019, with an expected limited release in late 2018

After Two Lovers, The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z, James Gray has proven himself as a respectable filmmaker, a traditionalist with such refined filmmaking talent. The move, alone, into heavy sci-fi is fascinating; Ad Astra will follow an “Army Corps engineer (Brad Pitt) [searching] across the galaxy for his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who had disappeared on a mission to find alien life 20 years prior.” The concept sounds harrowing, like the perfect opportunity for more gripping traditional storytelling in such a visually wondrous setting. Shot by Hoyte van Hoytema (Her, Interstellar, Dunkirk) and produced by Plan B Entertainment team Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (12 Years a Slave, Selma, The Big Short, Moonlight), Ad Astra is shaping up to be an absolute heavyweight production, and one that will surely have a limited release in December 2018 to compete for awards or change its official release date to late 2018.

— Kyle Kizu

9. Widows

Chris Cheung/Courtesy

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Written by: Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen

Starring: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Release date: November 16, 2018

Seriously, though, look at this cast — including the now Oscar-winning Viola Davis, she’s-everywhere Carrie Coon, the very underrated Michelle Rodriguez, the reforming-back-into-drama Liam Neeson, the breakout Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, and the multi-faceted and always interesting Colin Farrell — and tell us you’re not excited. Throw in Steve McQueen, the director of the Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave — who, to us, in only three films, has proved to be one of the most exciting directors today — and Gillian Flynn, the author and adapting screenwriter of Gone Girl, and Widows might just be the most prestigious film coming in 2018.

— Levi Hill

8. Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Even with all of the production troubles that Solo: A Star Wars Story has gone through, this film is still an entry in the Star Wars franchise, which is, perhaps unfairly, enough to anticipate it anyway. To be fair to the film, Alden Ehrenreich is a wonderful choice to play a young Han Solo — his performance in Hail, Caesar! a testament to his talent — and the rest of the cast is filled with major players, Donald Glover being a badass choice for young Lando Calrissian. Co-writer Lawrence Kasdan deserves a lifetime of trust after writing The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark and, while a seemingly safe choice, Ron Howard is by no means a bad director. We’ll be there opening night.

— Kyle Kizu

7. Annihilation

Paramount Pictures/Courtesy

Directed by: Alex Garland

Written by: Alex Garland

Starring: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez

Release date: February 23, 2018

Alex Garland stunned with his feature debut Ex Machina, which is already being hailed by most as one of the best sci-fi films of the 21st century. The film was not only written with careful, complex intelligence, but it was also directed with visuals that matched the story’s intrigue. To see Garland venture into sci-fi yet again, especially into what seems to be horror-sci-fi, considering that he’s also written 28 Days Later and Sunshine, is salivating. Based on a beloved novel and with a star-studded cast, Annihilation is, despite its shift to a February release date, a film that we cannot wait for, and one that we know, at least, will be a visual treat.

— Kyle Kizu

6. The Irishman

The Peabody Awards/Courtesy

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Steve Zaillian

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Jesse Plemons, Anna Paquin, Ray Romano

Release date: 2018, currently filming

While Bright might have been Netflix’s first foray into big budget filmmaking, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman looks to be the first unqualified success into big budget filmmaking. Starring Scorsese regulars from his ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s heyday, like Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, and featuring the gangster narrative trappings Scorsese has made classic after classic in, The Irishman seems to be Scorsese doing everything he loves, and Netflix’s willingness to allow Scorsese an unchecked or unquestioned vision might just convince more filmmakers to follow in his footsteps.

— Levi Hill

5. First Man

Gage Skidmore/Courtesy

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Written by: Josh Singer, Nicole Perlman

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jon Bernthal, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

Release date: October 12, 2018

With La La Land, Damien Chazelle ventured to the stars metaphorically and musically. So, it was only appropriate that he make a movie that actually visits the stars. Re-teaming with Ryan Gosling, Chazelle will direct the story of Neil Armstrong. The character work should be fantastic, not only on an acting and directing side, but also based in great writing as Chazelle is directing a script from Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman and Spotlight and The Post co-writer Josh Singer. But no matter the story, after two spectacular films in a row, anything Chazelle does is something to look forward to.

— Kyle Kizu

4. Incredibles 2

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Directed by: Brad Bird

Written by: Brad Bird

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk

Release date: June 15, 2018

14 years in the making (and not a moment too late), Incredibles 2 is the latest in Pixar’s fairly recent string of sequels to its critically-acclaimed films. As we catch up with the Parrs immediately after the conclusion of The Incredibles, hopefully we’re treated to answers of some of the first film’s long gestating questions such as: “What are the limits of Jack-Jack’s powers?” or “Will Edna Mode ever officially get back into the super heroic fashion business?” but most importantly, “Where WAS his super-suit?”

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

3. Black Panther

Marvel/Courtesy

Directed by: Ryan Coogler

Written by: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown

Release date: February 16, 2018

Housing a sterling directorial record comprised of 2013’s harrowing Fruitvale Station and 2015’s uplifting and invigorating Creed under his belt, Ryan Coogler enters the ever-expanding comic book genre with the newest, and arguably most exhilarating, solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Black Panther. While Captain America: Civil War solidly introduced T’Challa into an eclectic world beset by self-aware robots, mirror dimensions and wall-crawlers, Coogler’s Black Panther has distinguished itself so far by its fixation on the racial and cultural foundations at the core of the character. With trailers scored to the beat of RTJ and Vince Staples, a cast primarily made up of people of color and ideas like afro-futurism, monarchic injustice and the relationship between heritage/identity in play, it’s not physically possible to articulate how hotly we’re anticipating this cinematic landmark.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

2. Isle of Dogs

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Directed by: Wes Anderson

Written by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray

Release date: March 23, 2018

Wes Anderson has become one of the most idiosyncratic working directors, but, also, one of the most successful. His last film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was his biggest box-office success, as well being his first film to gather not only an Oscar nomination for Best Picture,  but win multiple craft awards.

Adding new faces like Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Courtney B. Vance and Scarlett Johansson next to Anderson regulars like Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and Frances McDormand, Isle of Dogs takes Anderson back to stop-motion animation, where he’s scored an Oscar nomination for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Yet unlike Fox, Dogs looks to be a darker, if still charming tale.

Set in a near apocalyptic, dystopian future, Isle of Dogs premise is fascinating: all dogs of Japan are cast away to a deserted island due to a “canine flu” that has wiped away a good portion of the population. The young son of the Japanese president wants to get his dog back, though, so against all of his family’s wishes, he makes an epic journey to the island to get his trusted companion back. Along the way, the young boy is aided by fellow dogs.

With Anderson’s typical blend of whimsy, and potential heartache, Dogs looks to be a story that will surely make us all weep over the animals that give their lives to us.

— Levi Hill

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Marvel/Courtesy

Directed by: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Hiddleston

Release date: May 4, 2018

It’s all been building up to this, the arrival of Thanos to Earth. Ever since 2012, we’ve been waiting for that big purple guy in the post credits scene of Marvel’s The Avengers to show up. We saw glimpses of him in Guardians of the Galaxy and during the mid-credits scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron. And now, he’s here.

But he’s also arriving to a vastly different landscape than what was there in 2012. Both Iron Man and Captain America have seen fascinating character development throughout their trilogy of films, culminating in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. The Guardians of the Galaxy crew will finally join our heroes in the fight, crossing paths with our other galactic and now, apparently, hilarious hero Thor. Spider-Man and Black Panther are welcome additions to the team, with the former being a wonderfully interpreted younger version of Peter Parker and the latter being a badass, refreshing, layered hero from a different background that we will see more of in our #3 on this list, prior to Infinity War’s release. And while more female-led films need to come, Infinity War will bring together the many powerful women of Marvel: Black Widow, Gamora, Mantis, Nebula, Scarlet Witch, Okoye and, hopefully, Valkyrie.

As the trailer for Infinity War showed, this film has been 10 years in the making and it’s hard not to be swept up in the epic culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a phenomenon in modern cinema. Each film, alone, has been anywhere from modestly enjoyable to the pinnacle of blockbuster filmmaking, and Infinity War is the climax of everything. While there are other event films coming out in 2018, this is the event film, the film everyone will be talking about.

And we’re hopeful for it. There may be upwards of 30 — yes, 30 — characters in this film. But jumping over from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War are directors Joe and Anthony Russo, as well as screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and if anyone can handle this massive undertaking, it’s them.

Some major characters will surely die, which is devastating, but also ups the stakes massively and takes Marvel to a darker place that they’ve been far too afraid to explore.

Our heroes’ fight will be a valiant one to the end, the epitome of epic and an absolute treasure on the big screen.

— Kyle Kizu

 

Honorable mentions:

As said above, there are too many intriguing films coming out in 2018 to just list our top 25. We struggled to cross films off, so we felt that we had to mention many of the hardest ones to cut, compiling a list that, itself, would be a great top 25.

After delivering the best male lead performance of 2017, Timothèe Chalamet will be back, garnering an equally heavy role as a recovering meth addict with Steve Carell playing his father in Beautiful Boy. Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant Sicario will, strangely, receive a sequel with Soldado, which sees the return of Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro and writer Taylor Sheridan. Lynne Ramsay’s Cannes-premiering You Were Never Really Here, which already has outstanding reviews and won Joaquin Phoenix the Best Actor award at the French film festival, will finally screen in Spring 2018. Steven Spielberg will take on the “holy grail of pop culture” with Ready Player One. David Robert Mitchell, writer-director of It Follows, will team up with A24 for an underbelly Los Angeles-set neo-noir starring Andrew Garfield. Terrence Malick will return to the setting of war in his, apparently, more traditional film Radegund — that is, if he finishes his edit when expected, which is never expected. Gareth Evans, director of The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2 — deemed two of the best action films of the 21st century — will shift over to English language film with the religious cult drama Apostle, starring Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen.

We could go on and on throughout the whole list because each one genuinely is something we’ll be first in line to see. From David Lowery following up A Ghost Story with Old Man and the Gun, to Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie facing off in Mary, Queen of Scots, to Drew Goddard directing for the first time since The Cabin in the Woods with Bad Times at the El Royale, to two extraordinarily talented female directors in Jennifer Kent and Michelle MacLaren both making films titled The Nightingale, to Marielle Heller following up The Diary of a Teenage Girl with Can You Ever Forgive Me?, to performance capture master Andy Serkis stepping behind and in front of the camera for Jungle Book, to Terry Gilliam’s decades-in-the-making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, these honorable mentions should still be on everyone’s radar.

 

Beautiful Boy

Soldado

You Were Never Really Here

Ready Player One

Under the Silver Lake

Radegund

Apostle

Fahrenheit 451

Halloween

Venom

Black Klansman

Maya

The Beach Bum

Mary, Queen of Scots

Old Man and the Gun

Bad Times at the El Royale

Mary Poppins Returns

The Nightingale (Michelle MacLaren)

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent)

The Favourite

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Jungle Book

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Destroyer

Outlaw King

 

Featured image via Marvel/Disney/Paramount/Universal.

Top 10 coming-of-age films since 2010

The coming-of-age genre has always been an exciting framework through which some of the more fruitful and engaging stories of any given year are told. But those stories also shed some light and visibility upon a section of people that too many films often get wrong or simply don’t care for: the young. Youth is a complex time in one’s life and deserves complex deconstruction that embraces the humor, awkwardness and explicitness that comes with it. And in the past few years, the genre has exploded with landmark tale after landmark tale. From a fantastical take such as Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom to the literal interpretation of the genre with Boyhood, coming-of-age has been a playground, both literally and figuratively, of the utmost profundity.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Marvel/Sony/Courtesy

Spider-Man: Homecoming truly does wear its John Hughes inspiration on its sleeve, but in a way that feels so right and so natural to the character of Peter Parker. More than most superhero films, Homecoming focuses on youth and what a young teenager might look like as he deals with the responsibilities both of high school as well as of being a hero. The journey is truly about Parker realizing that he has to pass his classes and that he should be having fun with friends, a mindset through which he may realize that, as a hero, he can’t do everything, especially everything that an older hero like Tony Stark can. The film never sacrifices that notion, ending on the perfect note. Director Jon Watts also not only embraces those subjects, but injects the verve of adolescence into the energy of the film itself — the pacing is dynamic and the tone is always genuine, sweet, hilarious and fun. Spider-Man: Homecoming is inarguably a coming-of-age film and a superhero film.

— Kyle Kizu

9. 20th Century Women

A24/Courtesy

What’s so striking about Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women is that it not only crafts a coming-of age-story specific to the 1970s, but that it also deftly handles multiple characters’ journeys. Focusing on a post-Vietnam age, with the hippie movement almost in full force in California, the film places topics of gender, sexuality and individuality at the forefront, which, with a plethora of youthful characters, means some tensions on those fronts. Yet, the film is never exploitive nor indulgent, instead bringing an authenticity and agency to the young women, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig’s characters, and intertwining all of their journeys to lead to a particularly poignant and tranquil end.

— Kyle Kizu

8. American Honey

A24/Courtesy

Directed by Andrea Arnold, American Honey finds a balance between a road movie and a coming-of-age tale, both of which show a part of America rarely seen on the big screen. Detailing the poverty that strikes much of the midwest and southern parts of the United States, American Honey is not a traditional coming-of-age story where someone finds themselves at the end. Instead, the film is about people, especially young people, who are lost in the world. Through Sasha Lane’s star-making turn as the lost Star, the audience embarks on a journey of forgotten and disrespected millennials, guided by a traveling sales crew leader Jake (Shia LaBeouf’s best performance yet). What the millennials are selling to unsuspecting buyers might be fake, but the honest portrait of teenagers unsure of who they are in this world couldn’t be more real.  

— Levi Hill

7. Moonrise Kingdom

Focus Features/Courtesy

While it can be argued that every Wes Anderson movie is a coming-of-age story (even for the middle age sort), Moonrise Kingdom takes its spot next to Rushmore as one of the most idiosyncratic, but beautifully crafted coming-of-age films. The film, in a way that only Anderson can, takes the feelings of first-love and creates a relatable, if unrealistic tale about a community chasing after two young eloping lovers (Kaya Hayward and Jared Gilman). Throw in a starry cast including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton, a wonderful score from Alexandre Desplat, the typically gorgeous production design found in an Anderson film and a story about how love comes in many shapes and age groups, and Moonrise Kingdom is a whimsical and delightful coming-of-age story.

— Levi Hill

6. Dope

Open Road Films/Courtesy

Dope is refreshing in many ways, not the least that it gives its coming-of-age trappings an unique point of view. Relying on a star-making turn from Shameik Moore, Dope’s main success comes from its ability to subvert stereotypes. Unlike most Hollywood produced coming-of-age stories, Dope is strictly about an intelligent, young African American high school student as he juggles college applications, the SAT and academic interviews — all in the hopes of getting into Harvard. Even when it turns into a fast-paced caper film of Malcolm (Moore) being in the wrong place at the wrong time — explicitly opening dialogue around urban Black stereotypes and such — writer-director Rick Famuyiwa refreshingly plays against expectations. Malcolm is a brilliant, quick-witted, handsome young man and he’s not going to let society tell him differently. Because of this, Dope stands apart from 95% of modern-day youth stories.

— Levi Hill

5. The Edge of Seventeen

STX Entertainment/Courtesy

Kelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut, The Edge of Seventeen, is vibrant, hilarious, truthful and different. The film overcomes its potential genre pitfalls by embracing the bluntness of its main character Nadine (an outstanding Hailee Steinfeld). While Nadine may be shy among strangers, the film itself, with pitch perfect editing, writing and performances from its ensemble, tackles high school life with a similar head-on strength that she shows when among friends. Whether it be through typical high school hijinx, through the oddly specific situation of Nadine’s best friend dating her brother and through the grief in all of Nadine’s family after her father’s death, The Edge of Seventeen takes youth seriously both in its fun and its struggles, realizing that every side of youth is intertwined.

— Kyle Kizu

4. Moonlight

David Bornfriend/A24/Courtesy

Moonlight is a singular coming-of-age tale. While it may explore sexuality and individuality as many other films do, the way in which those aspects are understood and the particulars of those aspects, that this is a story about a gay Black man, stand apart. Structured almost like a play in three literal acts (it was based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue), Moonlight crafts a story that’s both quiet and pulsating, as it’s in the silence, in the soft glances and pained reactions, where the film says most. It allows us to absorb, through its cinematography, its breezy sound design, its unbelievable performances and more, the complex pains of a young boy/young man, Chiron, constantly having to reconcile himself with his city, his family, his community and himself when all seem to actively work to suppress. The film is simultaneously about Chiron understanding his sexuality and about him understanding his masculinity. We see him hide behind masks throughout, but we also see him yearn to be himself, which renders his quiet vocalization of truth at the end, to the one man he loved, so utterly powerful.

— Kyle Kizu

3. Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

More so than maybe any film on this list, there’s a universal specificity to what Lady Bird accomplishes. All coming-of-age stories are deeply personal, as they chart (typically) an individual’s realization of their own personhood — who they are going to be in this world. But Lady Bird doubles down on this, acting as a photo album of a year (a senior year in high school) for Christine “Lady Bird” Mcpherson (Saoirse Ronan) in the sleepy town of Sacramento, California. Within this year, she dates some boys, meets new friends, joins theater, leaves theater, loses her virginity, learns of her dad’s depression, gets accepted to a college 3000 miles away and argues with her domineering, but ultimately caring mother (the Oscar-worthy Laurie Metcalf). While some of this may sound sad, or almost too specific, writer-director Greta Gerwig makes sure that this personal story is filled with grace and warmth. Whether in a small scene of her father giving Lady Bird a cupcake on her birthday morning, or when she crushes on a boy at a garage show, or when she argues with her mother about if she should just go to the nearby UC Davis rather than a school in New York, Lady Bird captures that very important year in all of our lives with more authenticity than nearly any other film.

— Levi Hill

2. Boyhood

IFC Films/Courtesy

Boyhood is a landmark film for a multitude of reasons. While the 12-years-in-the-making component is one of the first — if not the first — for a fictional feature, it’s how the story reconciles these 12 passing years. Using the same actors, with most of the same locations, writer-director Richard Linklater wisely focuses on how time, and thus age, affects us all. In a literal sense of coming-of-age, we see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) go from childhood to the fringe of adulthood. Linklater never magnifies the scale more than exactly what time gives us. Instead, for nearly three hours, the audience is asked to quietly ruminate on life experiences. To split time between divorced parents. To watch your mom go in a different career. To move from one city to the next. To make new friends. To have your first feelings of love. To smoking weed for the first time. To going off to college. In Boyhood, 12 years of a lived life happen, which create the most epic, yet intimate film on this list.

— Levi Hill

1. Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

Call Me by Your Name is not just about the central relationship. Yes, it’s a stunningly tender portrait of two young men exploring their sexuality together, but it’s also a very raw look at two young men grappling with their individual insecurities and their inadequacy. And writer James Ivory and director Luca Guadagnino accomplish this through their focus on the quiet, minute, almost untraceably intimate moments that end up building to something so tangible and real.

The actors adopt this method, finding truth in every aspect of their performance. Timothée Chalamet, as Elio, is a revelation, evoking playfulness, but behind a guarded exterior. We see the struggle Elio traverses in realizing his attraction to Armie Hammer’s character, Oliver, and — through Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s erotic cinematography — we’re guided along as he slowly opens up to the idea. Next to that, Hammer’s character is purposefully elusive, rendering the moments of contemplation, particularly one in a hotel room, all the more emotional.

And at the end, Call Me by Your Name unveils its coming-of-age narrative. Through Michael Stuhlbarg’s character, as Stuhlbarg delivers the most profound monologue of the year, we understand that Elio and Oliver helped each other be themselves and feel good about themselves. Stuhlbarg’s monologue emphasizes the difficult notion that, too often, we hide from our feelings, especially those of pain — and as Elio grows and becomes an adult, he has to make sure to feel even if it hurts.

— Kyle Kizu

 

Featured image via IFC Films.

2018 Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are finally here. The competition truly started over a year ago in January 2017, when Call Me by Your NameGet Out and Mudbound premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. So to say that it’s been a long road to this day is an understatement (especially because the Academy felt like dragging it on even longer than usual by pushing back the broadcast into March).

One of the most exciting periods, though, is that roughly month and a half between Oscar nominations and the Oscar broadcast, as other areas of the awards season play out and hint — sometimes aggressively, sometimes incredibly ambiguously — at how Oscar night might go.

Tracking the awards season and predicting the Academy Awards is almost a science. But last year, when Moonlight stunned with a Best Picture win, that science proved more vulnerable than we had thought.

This year, it’s all up in the air. While precursors might suggest something, nothing is truly set in stone until a name or a film is called (and even then, we have to double check).

This year, predicting the nominations is a bit more complicated. We have to be smart and still know when there’s an obvious winner, but we also have to think far outside the box for categories that are even remotely fragile — especially Best Picture.

So, without further ado, here are our Oscar predictions for the 90th Academy Awards:

Best Motion Picture

Best Lead Actor

Best Lead Actress

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

Best Director

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Animated Feature

Best Production Design

Best Cinematography

Best Costume Design

Best Film Editing

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Best Sound Mixing

Best Sound Editing

Best Visual Effects

Best Original Score

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Documentary Feature

Best Original Song

The Shorts

 

Featured image via Universal Pictures.

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