The best movies of 2018
Writer: Casey Lee
Did you see any of these movies in 2018?
2018 has been a year of many transformations and extending of the traditional in movies.
With 2018 coming to an end, we look back at some of the noteworthy movies that has impacted cinema and also gave audiences a memorable experience.
A Quiet Place
While we would like to list out the best movies of 2018 from around the world, we figured that making a list like this would be more relevant to us when it's only movies that were released in our cinemas this year.
So, before we go headfirst into another year of movies in 2019, let's not forget (and maybe even watch if you haven't already) these movies that shaped our 2018.
While sub-par and low budget jump scares are still a staple in horror throughout the year, 2018 has seen some inventive directors trying to reshape the horror landscape. The most effective of them would be using the genre of horror to tell a harrowing story of family and staying together without saying a word. Not only is this a turning point for actor-turned-director John Krasinski, "A Quiet Place" sets a new tone for using deaf actors that can be effective, if not more so, than regular speaking actors in non-speaking roles.
Hantu Kak Limah
While Hollywood explores horror in new directions, Malaysian horror also had its own awakening. While "Hantu Kak Limah" marked the end of Mamat Khalid's trilogy, but it was the beginning of the golden run in Malaysian box offices. Bringing back the original cast (with a few notable absences), new names, nostalgic homages and streams of jokes told back-to-back, "Hantu Kak Limah" was a through and through fan service, being possibly Mamat Khalid's most successful outing at the box office. And things only got better for the local movies that were released after. In some way, "Hantu Kak Limah" set the momentum, and would probably be seen as a watershed moment in Malaysian box office successes.
Mission: Impossible Fallout
With the amount of action seen in superhero movies that are glutting the cinemas nowadays, it only makes it harder and harder for the bona-fide action star to punch out memorable action movies without wearing a cape. However, 2018 once again proved that the only way to make explosive action movies is to just up the stakes with real-life stunts, or be Tom Cruise. Between the close quarter combat in toilets, aerial acrobatics with helicopters and breaking one's ankle onscreen, "Mission: Impossible Fallout" still holds the torch of the sacrifice to pull off dangerous cinematic stunts for the satisfaction of adrenaline junkies.
While 2018 might seem like the year when the competition between MCU and DCEU is becoming closer (with Sony being the new name in the competition), 2018 would be defined by the entry that defined the power of superhero movies in this current cultural climate. Often dismissed as escapist power fantasy for comic book nerds for decades, "Black Panther" created a new identity that even superhero movies can be a defining moment in pop culture as well as politics. Even in Malaysia with different racial politics, the influence is still felt during the sizzling election period, making "Black Panther" not be the best superhero movie of the year, but unequivocally its most important.
One downside of being a foreign market during the award season is that we don't get to see the award contenders until the year when the awards are being presented. That doesn't mean that some of those contenders don't slip through the cracks, and for Malaysia was fortunate enough to see one of those contenders on its proper release date. Closely denied his first Best Picture win at this year's Oscars with "La La Land", director Damien Chazelle returns stronger than ever with his biographic interpretation of Neil Armstrong. Rather than staying with the conventional route of making a feel-good biopic on the space race that led to the astronaut's famed moon landing, "First Man" is more down-to-earth, humanising a hero to remind us that even those we idolise is someone with his own terrestrial problems, told with the incredibly effective lense of Chazelle.
A Star is Born
It has been a smashing year for musicals with sequels to a musical franchise that still holds the stage, a biopic of one of music's greatest legends with an extended concert, and one of the most anticipated revival of a musical from more than 50 years ago. However, the greatest accomplishment for musicals is the fourth remake of "A Star is Born". True to its title, this is a star-making turn for those who were involved, with Bradley Cooper making his directorial debut, Lady Gaga turning in one of the greatest singer-to-actor performances, and the numerous songs that would be hot on the race for Best Original Song in the Oscar. What would have otherwise been fine to be a mild success, turned out to be more heartfelt and dramatic, and becoming a black horse in the Golden Globes.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
2018 is one of the best years in the cycle of animation greats coming to the field with their latest efforts. While it could have been another year of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studio competing among themselves again, a new studio seems to have entered the fray to challenge the bleeding edge of animated storytelling. With only middling box office successes from adapting properties, and doing even worse with original ideas that spawned "The Emoji Movie", an animated reboot of the Spider-Man franchise seem to be in poor hands. Instead, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" not only made breakthroughs in blending comic book aesthetics with CG style, but it actually found a way to retell an origin story that most have grown jaded to.
One Two Jaga
Aside from making box office successes, Malaysian cinema has also seen some of its best independent outings by filmmakers returning home to make their mark. Starting with the unexpected screening of Dain Said's debut feature, other Malaysian filmmakers had to make their international rounds on the festival circuit before coming home. While there is still more to come before the year is up, one that has riled up the buzz for future Malaysian talents is "One Two Jaga". Not only is it another showcase of Nam Ron when he sits on the director's chair, but it is one told with bravery for the subject matters it involves that would have ruffled a few feathers, and could have been put under lock and key if it was told during a different time.
With more and more titles coming into Malaysia from Korea and Japan, it was only a matter of time before we could potentially see some of the best that Asian cinema has to offer. Despite having shown plenty of his films before, we missed the golden opportunity to watch Hirokazu Kore-eda's Palm d'or winning film. Still, that did not leave us in the lurch as we had another Palm d'or competitor that some would argue was stolen by "Shoplifters". Director Lee Chang-dong's adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story is a masterful exercise in patience and prolonged hopelessness, while being layered with political and social undertones, making this the best that Korea has put out this year to make it in the Oscar shortlist.
It has been a competitive year for Malaysian Chinese filmmakers with some of the established names bringing out their latest outings, starting with Chiu Keng Guan's "Think Big Big", and Adrian Teh making waves with "PASKAL: The Movie". However, if there's anything we love to see more is bright and young talents entering the fray and showing the veterans that they cannot rest on their laurels. "Guang" shines a new light on autism, the endearing and bitter experience of living with them, and uses refined technical techniques to tell it, setting the bar that we will expect from Quek Shio Chuan and his contemporaries in the future.
Cinema Online, 19 December 2018