Revolution was in the air in 2018, and it showed at the movies.
Three years into one of the most troubling, depressing, aggroying periods I have seen the United States of America endure and put itself through (been here almost 20 years, folks – let’s get it the fuck back together), filmmakers, in turn, continued to dial it up a notch and push the post-aughts convo forward by showcasing stories that not only felt personal but reflected the country’s own ongoing personality evolution. Know what film did this with so much unapologetic in-your-face-ness?
Vox Lux, actor-cum-Film Independent Spirit Award-nominated director Brady Corbet’s second film.
The film features an up-to-HERE! polarizing performance by Academy Award winner Natalie Portman as the 2017 adult version of Celeste, an American pop star with immense global appeal, as she deals with motherhood a very happening career. There also is the physical and emotional ricochet from the school shooting she survived as a teenager in 1999, as well as her original sin, a.k.a., her cashing in on the notoriety that writing a pre-viral song with her older sister brought them, mostly her (by her design); and the now-amplified blowback of a terrorist attack in Europe that tangentially involves her because the perpetrators wore her iconography during their shooting spree on a Croatian beach, an event they recorded for the world to see.
This story was a total Stefon party: It kinda sorta really truly had it all.
It was a historical throwback to the pre-Y2K era and to that pre-Y2K moment of there’s still hope and enthusiasm to be had, you guys…, and a mirror to the face; and featured complicated familial dynamics (between Portman and Stacy Martin as adults, and between Martin and Raffey Cassidy, who plays the 14-year-old Celeste and, later, Albertine, Celeste’s own teenaged daughter). So check.
It also was a meditation on the dawn of the school shooting as OK thing to have happen and on which to report with increasing frequency (the shadow of Columbine looms), yet not increasingly alarming frequency (thus both admonishing us for not coming up with safer and better and putting our inability to let reason prevail on display and on blast. And while-you-watch realization of that concept as a concept? Check, check.
Every single time something jarringly exciting and big and life-changing would happen to Celeste, another something else – simply put something awful – would happen to the country and have the opposite effect.
As Celeste’s star rose, the country tumbled deeper into existential crisis, their shared desperation propelling them to cross paths ever so often and with ever new possibility. It was bold for Corbet to frame that trajectory, with incredible style and confidence in his audience and within the confines of the gun-control conversation. It may not have quite clicked for most everyone (what does, anymore?), but it got us talking, which is precisely the point of film.
Here’s the rest of the best, in alphabetical order:
A Quiet Place
A Simple Favor
For giving Blake Lively a role into which she could sink her perfectly perfect pearly whites, scratch a little, and plug her husband Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin without messing up a single strand o’ hair or missing a beat. Twice. Give it up for director Paul Feig, who managed not only to stretch his Hitchcockian muscle with elegance and thrilling panache but also to make said mixology a completely natural character trait to showcase. That brotherfucker!
A Star Is Born
Avengers: Infinity War
Breaking In: Unrated Director’s Cut
For giving Gabrielle Union the lead. About time.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Crazy Rich Asians
For inviting ’em to the party (do not let another 25 years go by, Hollywood). Because they brought it to the party. And because the fun worked on the big screen, on a plane, and when I showed it to a friend On Demand. This is what happens when folks get to tell their stories and show the world who they are, and, in turn, the world get to celebrate humanity.
For the complexity of a trio of historical women gone maybe, rather quite perhaps real, and their wants and their needs – and for the entertaining ways in which they schemed against one another and tortured one another and tongued each other….
For beautifully bridging our differences in crisp black and white by simply showing us that our days are not as different as we think, and that your days are kinda like mine, and that my days are sorta like theirs. It is a glimpse into a mundane reality so true, so universal, yet so unseen here in America, and a dance between two female souls as volatile as it is soothing, we may as well think of Alfonso Cuarón’s characters as aliens. Except they are not; they are our sisters and brothers. They are you and me. They are us.
For giving John Cho a taut, modern thriller to lead, and for remaining focused on the primal instinct of his character, a desperate father using the modern technology we all use (and misuse) to find his missing daughter, instead of the actor’s John Cho-ness.
Sorry to Bother You
Taylor Swift: reputation Stadium Tour
For holding up a mirror to America and urging us to be kinder to one another, if not for one another, then for Whitney Houston whose greatness proved too much for a world bent on destroying beauty.