#2018InReview: ‘Black Panther’ cruises to top honors among 2018 films

By RON WYNN | Nashville Voice

The tug of war between artistic and commercial considerations remains a constant, especially when discussing big Hollywood productions.

One reason why there are so many remakes, reboots and comic book movies is that they are reliable sellers. For all the complaints about the constant recycling of plots and the reappearance of scripts that were done (often better) decades ago is that these still seem to attract audiences the second and third times around.

Certainly there remain tons of great documentaries, independent and foreign films, but none of those are ever going to get the promotion or distribution given to the big studio blockbusters.

Most filmmakers understand that if they’re going to play the Hollywood vehicle game, then they’re forced to also consider whatever decisions that they (the studios) feel should be made rather than necessarily adhering to the original vision that they had.

As far as issues of diversity and inclusion, Hollywood in 2018 was a lot better than it was in 1958, but nowhere near as good as it should be, and probably will never be, for a very simple reason.

Moral values and social issues have never been a high priority in Hollywood, and will never top profits as the driving force in cinematic decisions. “Black Panther” should have forever obliterated the myth that black films can’t be marketed overseas, but my guess is that it hasn’t.

Old stereotypes seldom die, they just resurface in different ways, and there still remain lots of folks who would much rather see political and cultural issues explored either in symbolic fashion through a comic book lens or just ignored altogether, at least in terms of film content.

As someone who’s never used commercial success or lack of it as a way to evaluate film (or any of the arts, I often find myself well at odds with the mainstream in terms of what’s valuable.

That’s fine; a look back at most of the real innovators in film, music, literature, whatever will show that they pursued their own vision and if it sold, great. If it didn’t, that’s the breaks, and they’d continue on their path.

What follows are our choices for our 10 favorite films of the year. Those who agree, wonderful. Those who don’t, equally wonderful. Feel free to select your own 10. I’d love to see them.

1. “Black Panther”
A film that managed to both make a ton of money and (relatively) satisfy all except those with unrealistic notions of what commercial cinema is going to achieve (or even attempt) in terms of radical political and cultural expression.

2. “The Hate U Give”
About as gritty and frank as you’ll get in terms of detailing the societal problem of questionable police conduct and how it affects both its victims and their families and friends.

3. “Sorry To Bother You”
Smart satire that documented the very real problem of systemic racism, but did it from a different and unexpected angle.

4. “Black KKKlansmen”
A breakout performance from John David Washington, and the best Spike Lee feature film in a good while. Unfortunately, it got caught up in a still unresolved conflict over whether its main figure in real life was part of “Cointelpro.”

5. “The Avengers: Infinity War”
In spite of some personal misgivings over how this ended, it was one of two really good comic book films among a batch of otherwise forgettable ones.

6. “Widows”
Some wonderful performances, but the studios ensured this would be overlooked by releasing it in a holiday season where most audiences are looking for diversion rather than dramatic tension and intensity.,

7. “Creed II”
While the insertions from “Rocky IV” seemed more unnecessary nostalgia than vital parts of the overall presentation, this second in the latest series of “Rocky” films added more personal glimpses and some outstanding fight scenes.

8. “Green Book”
Some superb acting and cinematography are its pluses. The minuses, at least for those of us who grew up in this era and actually knew people who had and used Green Books, were telling the story from the perspective of someone who wasn’t even primarily affected by the situation. I’m hoping to eventually see a story about this that spotlights those who used it to survive.

9. “Mission Impossible – Fallout”
Predictable, but highly enjoyable, assuming you’re a fan of the series.

10. “The Guilty”
A simple plot that’s elevated into a thrilling suspense tale through clever pacing and superb acting and dialog.

Film we wish had come out in time for 2018 considerations:
“If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Best decision of 2018:
Tyler Perry decides to retire “Madea”

Trend to watch for 2019:
How much impact Netflix’s decision to expand its film division will have in terms of options for those who don’t want to deal with Hollywood studio restrictions and interference.

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