All photos sourced from Creative Commons.
With Eighth Grade, his feature film directorial debut, Bo Burnham gracefully makes the transition from stand-up comedy to indie filmmaking. The movie relishes the most awkward moments of our lives, honing in on the pain and discomfort of the young experiences that once felt like life or death. Elsie Fisher plays a young girl named Kayla struggling to find her place and make peace with herself; she uses her brutally honest youtube videos as a diary, allowing the audience to learn the lessons of youth with her. The film’s hilarity is balanced with the real, and sometimes horrifying, experiences young girls go through as they come of age. Burnham casts a searing spotlight on phone addiction, bullying and mental health, and even sexual assault. Eighth Grade is so effective that it can be painful to watch. It reminds us all of the cringeworthy moments that define our youth - perhaps best embodied in Kayla’s very own video sign-off, “Gucci!”
- Meredith Fuentes
S+H TOP 10 FILMS:
Crazy Rich Asians
Isle of Dogs
A Quiet Place
A Star Is Born
Avengers: Infinity War
Sorry to Bother You
Black Panther managed to rise above the rest of this year's batch of superhero films through its willingness to twist the traditional superhero formula. The movie boldly explores themes of isolation, obligation and colonization, venturing into the grey areas of morality that most superhero movies shy away from. Refreshingly, the villain has a legitimate argument that isn’t blown over by the hero proclaiming that his cause is the right one. The two excellently portrayed villains of Klaw and Killmonger are given their own narratives that seamlessly blend together through plot transitions that actually make sense. Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and the rest of the cast deliver epic performances; the writers and visual artists excel in their world-building for the never before seen country of Wakanda; and the film injects tasteful humor at all the right times. The trap beat transitions between scenes in the film coupled with its visuals (except for those CGI rhinos) evoke a sense of wonder and marvel at the amazing science fiction technology of this universe. Black Panther rises to the upper echelon of films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and going forward will be a landmark movie in the promotion of diversity within the film industry.
- Kevin Chan
Crazy Rich Asians
From its stunning settings to its beautiful costumes and characters, Crazy Rich Asians lived up to its best-selling source material. The casting choices allowed for comedy, intense drama, and a riveting plot to coexist coherently within the same film. Plus, the fashion, the settings, and the cultural clashes between the Americanized Rachel Chu and her boyfriend’s Singaporean socialite family make for a movie that is engaging on many different thematic levels: as a rom-com, a socially charged drama, and a wonderful moment of representation for Asian people. The film is only the beginning of what will surely be a phenomenal series.
- Zoe huettl
Wes Anderson’s second animated film is downright beautiful. Each shot is meticulously crafted—so much so that at times you may even be taken out of its immersive environment to appreciate how painstakingly constructed it all is. Rich in dark colors, perfectly balanced composition, and breathtaking cinematography only available to the stop-motion-animation format all help to make this film so enjoyable that one could watch without listening. However, to do so would mean to deprive yourself of Anderson's idiosyncratic dialogue, simultaneously hyper-straightforward and delightfully witty, delivered by a constellation (read: star-studded) cast. And with its critique of an overly-oppressive government, the film seems to be important now more than ever.
- Peter Pribyl Pierdinock
Isle of Dogs
A Quiet Place
An unexpected critical and commercial success came skulking and prowling in the form of A Quiet Place, a creature horror film directed by, co-written by and starring John Krasinski. It’s terrifying, but Krasinski doesn’t rely on jumpscares, nor does he try to shock with gore and carnage. Rather, the genius of A Quiet Place is literally in its title: the deafening silence that engulfs nearly every scene and leaves audiences holding their breath from the agonizing tension and suspense. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story follows a family that goes about each day trying to avoid being attacked by blind creatures with hypersensitive hearing. Watching the silent activities of the family is nerve-wracking enough, but then complications -- including the fact that the couple’s daughter is deaf, and the mother is about to give birth -- begin to trickle in. And when the monsters show up, it seems that things can’t possibly get any worse. You want to scream, but you can’t. And that’s the beauty of A Quiet Place: you, too, are stuck in this soundless hell. In this utterly original and masterful effort, Krasinski brings horror back to its most fundamental level, exploiting our most childlike fears and taking us back to the time when we used to hide from the monsters in our closets and the bogeymen under our beds.
- Sofia Bening
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper walk into a bar and…A Star Is Born. All ridiculous jokes aside (if we can even call that one), a cinematic craze was certainly born via this incredible remake. The film follows country star Jackson Maine, and Ally, a small town waitress whose strong will power and even stronger voice grabs Jackson’s attention one night at a drag bar. Despite his success and her secret desire to become a singer, Ally resists Jackson romantically and professionally, recognizing that his addiction to drugs and alcohol will cause her future despair. Finally, she agrees to work with him, but her instincts prove correct when his volatile personality brings her and her rapidly growing career on a taxing emotional journey, with soaring highs of deep love, and drastic lows of emotional abuse. I don’t recommend watching alone; you will cry. But even if you aren’t into the whole “crying in a movie theatre” thing, the soundtrack (especially “Shallow”) and Bradley Cooper’s goldendoodle (who costars in the film) are both enough of a lure to see the film.
- Emma Mccormick
A Star Is Born
Beautiful Boy’s poignant portrayal of the pain revolving around drug addiction creates a fully immersive experience of turmoil and heartbreak. The movie is based on two true memoirs by father and son duo David and Nic Sheff (played by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet respectively) recounting their experiences surrounding Nic’s crystal meth addiction. Chalamet embodies the desperation and helplessness of a meth addict who is only able to focus on when and how he will get more drugs. Carell captures the tortured emotion of a father who, on the one hand, understands that relapse is a part of recovery, but on the other, sees each of his son's backslides as a challenge to his familial obligations. Over the course of the movie, the audience is taken on an emotional rollercoaster, with every scene of love shared between Nic and his family quickly followed by Nic’s uncontrollable betrayal in pursuit of a high. This film manages to present a completely raw and authentic perspective on the struggles of addiction while still ending with a feeling of hope, and it is this honesty that makes it a noteworthy and necessary representation of the harrowing issue of addiction.
- Grace Lemon
To be honest, I’m not crazy into superheroes. Out of the zillion different Marvel and DC movies that have come out over the last decade or so, I’ve only seen a handful. But I saw Avengers: Infinity War twice in theaters within about a week. And although I can’t speak to whether or not it was loyal to the comic books or whether it dropped hints about Iron Man 9 or whatever, I can attest to the fact that this film is undeniably enjoyable. The plot is compelling without being convoluted, and Thanos, the villain at the center of the story, is fully three-dimensional. At times the sheer amount of characters the audience is expected to keep up with can be a bit much, and the overly self-aware humor can slip into cringey territory. But that’s all secondary to why we watch superhero movies in the first place: to see explosions, gnarly CGI monsters and dramatic fight scenes, and to be able to escape the hellish real world for at least a few hours. In that sense, the latest in the Avengers series delivers. Avengers: Infinity War is a fun, exciting, and engaging movie, and that’s all it ever needed to be.
- Matt marth
Avengers: Infinity War
In the era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and whatever DC Comics has been trying to get going), a superhero movie has to be exceptional to stand out. It has to offer something especially fresh and exciting in order to avoid being submerged by the endless waves of spinoffs and reboots being pumped out by Hollywood. Few would have guessed that “fresh and exciting” would come in the form of a sequel to a 14-year-old movie, and yet, Incredibles 2, like its ingenious predecessor, managed to once again breathe life into the most hackneyed movie genre there is. It embraced everything that superhero films try to avoid - campiness (its expansive roster of B-rate superheroes), whimsy (Jack-Jack’s duel with the raccoon in the backyard) and absurdity (the film’s whole plot). At a time when the majority of superhero movies take themselves far too seriously, the sense of earnest joy and adventure that permeates Incredibles 2 make it a refreshing addition to the superhero cannon and a worthy sequel to the beloved original.
- Steven Norwalk
Few movies have the power to stop you, confuse you and force you to reconsider your reality, but Sorry to Bother You does just that. Absurd and stunning in all the right ways, S2BY follows LaKeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson as they craft their tangled lives around one another and their work – leading to a finale that forces us to question who has the power, both in this movie and in our lives. Bizarre and hyper-relevant, this Boots Riley masterpiece places the audience in conversation with its content and leaves us wondering: who controls you?