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The Best Films & Film Trends Of 2018

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).

There were hundreds of films released in 2018. But with awards season in full swing, it can be hard to remember any of the films that aren’t being talked about in terms of the Oscars. Thankfully, we have film contributors to remind us of some of the highlights from the past year — award-winning or not.

Ryan Jay, nationally syndicated radio host and TMJ4 resident reviewer, and David Luhrssen, of the Shepherd Express, share their top film picks, filmmaking trends, and the increasing competition between television and film:

Television Quality & Competition

In addition to original programming from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, television series have gotten a lot of critical attention and prestige. The Netflix film Roma even got the first-ever Oscar nomination for best film by a streaming service.

With countless hours of content available from the comfort of your own home, Luhrssen says the golden age of television is happening now. "There's never been such an enormous number of really superb television programs — whatever that even means, stuff for the screen. I think we need to redefine what we're talking about at some point," he notes.

Jay adds, "It is as prestigious to do television ... as doing an award-nominated performance on screen in a big film."

Credit Photo by Carlos Somonte / Netflix
Marco Graf and Yalitza Aparicio in Roma (2018).

More Diversity In Film

Black Panther is again in the public spotlight almost a year after its release with many award nominations. Luhrssen believes the continued attention to the monumental film is an indicator of a change in Hollywood. "I think it's going to continue the momentum toward African-American filmmaking, toward African-Americans playing a more prominent role in Hollywood," he says.

Jay notes, "I think when we're talking about Black Panther, it's important to also recognize a film like Crazy Rich Asians in 2018 and talk about diversity in general and gender. It's a really important thing for diversity that our art reflects who we are as a world, as an audience."

2018 was also a very strong year for LGBTQ film releases including Love, SimonDisobedienceCollette; The Miseducation of Cameron Post; Boy Erased; Can You Ever Forgive Me?Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite.

"Twenty-five years ago, it would've been inconceivable to think about what we're talking about right now," says Luhrssen. "And all over the place on television programs there's more and more of a matter-of-factness about somebody's sexuality. It's not a major plot point necessarily."

Jay says, "We sometimes, as a world, take a couple of steps forward and art sometimes leads the way, but then take a couple of steps backwards and so we're still all a work in progress — and I think that includes Hollywood."

Luhrssen's Top Films

Luhrssen's top two films for 2018 are Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite.


"I think [Bohemian Rhapsody] was historically condensed and simplified, of course. But I very much relate to this movie, I was a person of that time," notes Luhrssen. "I also found it to be extremely entertaining, great music, and it certainly reached a very large audience."

READ: 'The Favourite': A Beautiful, Thought-Provoking Film On The 'Quirkier Fringe Of Masterpiece Theater'

"I think it was very ambitious trying to market [The Favourite] to a mass audience, [but] I hope it finds a larger audience in time. It had a very unique sensibility visually. It tells a very different kind of story within the traditional British period setting, which I enjoy," says Luhrssen.

Jay's Top Films

Jay's top films of 2018 are Welcome to Marwen and Mary Poppins Returns.


"My favorite film of the year was probably the worst-reviewed across the board," admits Jay. "[Welcome to Marwen is] a story I had never seen told before and it's also a fantasy ... I love fantasy and I think there were some great ones in 2018."

READ: 'Mary Poppins' Music 'Is So In My DNA' Says Songwriter & Composer Marc Shaiman

"[Marry Poppins] is a kind of musical that we haven't seen in decades," says Jay. "It's a time gone by that's been reborn and [the actors] brought so much to it. It was just an outstanding film."

Favorite Documentary

The pair's favorite documentary of 2018 is Won't You Be My Neighbor?


READ: 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?': A Welcome Invitation Back Into The World Of Fred Rogers

"That's the kind of documentary that, while you're watching it, you know it's one of the greatest documentaries ever made," says Jay.

Luhrssen says that while a lot of mainstream movies didn't hit the mark, "the documentary form is alive and well."

"It's important in a way that we get something that is factual content, it's kind of the fiber of our film going diet and a film like the Mr. Rogers one is just very moving and a symbol of hope, I think, for where we might go as a world," he says.

Luhrssen also recommends watching the documentaries RBG and Itzhak.

Not-So-Great Films

Luhrssen's least favorite films of the year include Peppermint, Sicario: Day of the Soldato, and Mile 22. "I don't like soft-core violence porn, and all three of those movies fall on the low end of that for me," he says.

Jay's least favorite might shock some: "I'm going to be controversial here and say Roma because it was one of the most celebrated films of the year and I hated it. I think it is beautifully shot, Alfonso Cuarón is one of my favorite directors and I love all of his previous work, but this film I just couldn't have cared less about," he says.

Luhrssen adds, "It wouldn't make [Roma] the worst film of the year list for me, but I was bored. Beautiful to look at, kind of interesting ... good luck on Oscar night with it but I don't think it's going to make it."

You can see Dave Luhrssen's complete list of favorite films here, and Ryan's Jay's Top Ten Movies of 2018 here.

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Ryan Jay is one of Lake Effect's regular film contributors. He's a nationally syndicated radio host and resident reviewer on Channel 4's The Morning Blend and Friday and Saturday News.