Best Movies 2018

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Here’s my list of the Top 10 Movies from 2018:

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10. BOOK CLUB – I really enjoyed this comedy starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen about four friends who decide to read 50 Shades of Grey for their monthly book club, and it changes the way they think about sex and relationships during their senior years. Also starring Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfus, and Craig T. Nelson. My favorite comedy of the year.

9. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?  – in a banner yeary for documentaries, this one was my favorite. Its recounting of the life of Fred Rogers, TV’s Mister Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, resonates deeply today, as Rogers’ message of inclusion and gentle understanding is sorely missed in today’s antagonistic and deeply divided society.

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8. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP – I enjoyed this Ant-Man sequel more than the original. Story is better, jokes and situations are funnier, and Evangeline Lily adds a lot as the Wasp and is a nice complement to Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. Oh, and then there’s that after-credits tie-in with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR which produced audible gasps from the audience.

7.BOY ERASED – Joel Edgerton wrote and directed this film which exposes gay conversion theory for the dangerous procedure that it is. Fine performances by Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe, and by Edgerton himself as an unqualified leader of the conversion camp.

6. THE FRONT RUNNER – Sure, I’m partial to political movies, but this tale of Gary Hart’s fall from being the Democratic front runner in the 1988 presidential election to dropping out of the race entirely due to an exposed extra-marital affair pushed all the right buttons for me. The film asks relevant questions which are still being asked today. Hugh Jackman is terrific as Gary Hart, as is Vera Farmiga as his suffering wife Lee.

5. EIGHTH GRADE – Awesome film which completely captures what it is like to be an eighth grader. On target writing and directing by Bo Burnham, especially the dialogue, and a fantastic lead performance by Elsie Fisher as eighth grader Kayla Day.

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Elsie Fisher in EIGHTH GRADE (2018)

4. THE GUILTY – From Denmark, this claustrophobic intense police drama is as compelling as they come, the type of film Alfred Hitchcock would have made. All of the action takes place inside a police dispatch office as an officer relegated to the emergency dispatch receives a call from a woman being kidnapped, and he has to deal with the situation in real time. You’ll swear you’ve seen all the action scenes, but that will be your mind playing tricks on you, as the camera remains focused on the police officer throughout. Excellent movie, and lean, as it clocks in at a swift 85 minutes.

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3. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – It was an outstanding year for Marvel, as three of my top ten films this year come from the Marvel Universe. This was the biggie, the ultimate showdown between the Avengers and their most dangerous adversary yet, Thanos. Amazing superhero movie, with a big bold ending which is no longer a spoiler, which is, the bad guy wins in this one. One of the most emotional endings to any superhero movie, causing audible gasps and groans multiple times as the film races to its inevitable conclusion.

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2. ROMA – An extraordinary movie, ROMA was unlike any other film I saw this year. Unassuming simple tale of a maid working for a family in Mexico in 1970-71. Features some of the best camerawork of the year, all of it in mesmerizing black and white. Slow at first, but stick with it. The final 45 minutes is among the most emotional moments on film I saw all year.

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1. BLACK PANTHER –  My pick for the best movie of the year is another Marvel gem. This one takes the superhero movie to a whole other level, dealing with racial issues as well as any mainstream drama. My favorite superhero film since THE DARK KNIGHT (2018). I loved the conflict between hero Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan),and one of the rare times in a superhero movie where the hero admits he’s wrong and the villain is right.  Outstanding in every way, easily my favorite movie of 2018.

So, there you have it, my picks for the Best Films of 2018.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (2018) – Documentary Defines and Shares Mister Rogers’ Legacy

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There are two things that WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (2018), Morgan Neville’s documentary on TV’s Fred Rogers, does well above all else.

It validates Rogers’ work during his thirty plus years on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, revealing him as more than just a kind and gentle host of a children’s TV show. His mission had a far deeper purpose.

And it delivers his ongoing message to today’s society, which is in desperate need to hear it and learn from it.

Fred Rogers, of course, was popularly known as Mister Rogers because of his time hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the iconic PBS children’s television show which ran from 1968-2001. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? chronicles how that show began and follows Rogers on his lifelong mission to connect with and care for young children.

Rogers went to school to become a minister but was both so intrigued by the new medium of television and disgusted by it in that it provided little to no proper programming for children, that he decided to put his ministry plans on hold and start his own TV show for kids. That show eventually became Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. And Rogers eventually became an ordained minister. Although he did not wear a collar, he would work as a minister his whole life, reaching out to children, spreading his message of love and acceptance during every episode of his show.

It wasn’t quite known how effectively Rogers was connecting to children until one day early on when WGBH in Boston invited Rogers to make a live appearance, and the line of children waiting to see him stretched outside around the building for blocks. From that time forward, Rogers became a mainstay on Children’s Public Television.

It almost didn’t happen, as the Nixon administration planned to dramatically cut funding for public television, and in one of the film’s more dramatic moments, we see Rogers testifying before Congress, where his powerful statement actually earns them the funding right there on the spot.

The movie also chronicles how bold Rogers was, as he was not afraid to cover controversial topics. He saw it as his mission to reach children and be there as the person who could explain these confusing and potentially upsetting things to them. The film shows clips from episodes on assassination following the Robert Kennedy assassination, on disasters after the Challenger explosion, and on divorce and death.

And with a regular character who was black, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood also consistently delivered a message on positive race relations.

But this was just a small part of what Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was all about. Rogers saw it as his mission to be an advocate for children and for his show to be that safe place where they could learn about life, and where they could be heard. Rogers speaks of the importance of listening, and also of quiet, and we see many of the quiet peaceful moments of his show juxtaposed with the loud, insane moments of other children’s’ shows and cartoons. As one interviewee said, “there were plenty of quiet moments on the show but no empty ones.”

And that’s one of the things that this documentary does the best. It makes clear that Rogers had a mission and a purpose, and that during the years his show ran, the mission was successful.

Yet the film shows Rogers lamenting near the end of his life that he feared that people still didn’t get his show and what he was all about, that he was seen as just an oddball Pollyanna character who talked slowly to children.

And he felt this way partly because of the backlash fueled by Fox News in the early 2000s where some claimed that Rogers actually harmed children by telling them they were special, because this kind of talk led to children growing up feeling entitled and becoming whiny adults. Rogers also faced protests from groups who felt offended by his acceptance of gays. These attacks by the political right were rather ironic since Rogers was both a Republican and an ordained minister.

It’s this part of the film that connects successfully to today, as here in 2018 we live in a time of massive political divisions and hatred, fueled by partisan fighting and ever-more-violent rhetoric. Rogers no doubt would be appalled to see what is going on today. He also no doubt would have been putting together his show to help children understand what is going on and help them be able to deal with it.

Director Morgan Neville has created a deep and resonating documentary with WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? It’s not a superficial anecdotal film, where we learn why he wore a sweater, or why he changed his shoes. It’s about the man and his mission to reach as many children as possible and to tell them they are loved.

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? makes it clear that Fred Rogers was a remarkable and special individual, and when he passed away on February 27, 2003 at the age of 74, the world lost one of its staunchest child advocates, and children lost a treasured and dear friend. Indeed, the centerpiece of his show was his simple message that all children were loved, and everyone was special, that one didn’t have to do anything remarkable to be special. We are all born that way.

You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you. There’s only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are. —Fred Rogers.

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