Despite the perpetual gloom of 2018, there is still a lot to be thankful for this year. It’s important to recognize those things that bring us joy, no matter how small, when life overwhelms us. In a world hell-bent on division, finding comfort in movies, television, and pop culture is the one way we can come together to appreciate the things we love and the fact that people can be passionate about whatever they enjoy. We have a diverse pool of opinions here at Film School Rejects and every year we come together to share with all of you what made us happy throughout the year.
Brad Gullickson: Anger
I am thankful for the films that fed my fire. 2018 continues to provide many avenues for anger, and while it may be unhealthy to exist in a perpetual state of rage, many movies found ways to channel that poisonous emotion and weaponize it. Today, I need my art to demand change, to scream it. First Reformed is Paul Schrader confronting despair and converting it to purpose. Mandy allows Panos Cosmatos to use the unique stylings of Nicholas Cage as his avatar, battling the atrocity of grief. Sorry to Bother You is Boots Riley’s riotous exclamation, where every laugh is sharpened to a point – you bleed laughter, and are left wheezing into oblivion. I am grateful for the artists that don’t aim to placate or satiate, but for those who are howling in condemnation beside me. These are just three cinematic examples of several this year that have pointed to injustice and called for action. Keep them coming.
Liz Baessler: ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’
Can you be thankful for a single TV show? I say you can. Back in July, despite no one asking me to, I started a campaign of thorough, lovestruck analysis of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I’ve been consistently banging on my drum ever since. (I’m also sincerely thankful that Film School Rejects has so unquestioningly given me a platform for my drum banging). That was reason enough to give thanks, but then the season 13 finale “Mac Finds His Pride” took audiences completely by storm, and suddenly everyone wanted to write thorough, lovestruck analysis of my favorite show. It was very validating since I feel a bit like I got there first, but mostly it was exhilarating to see the show I’ve respected for so long earn such widespread respect. I’m thrilled that it’s still proving itself to be relevant, surprising, and artistically audacious. (Also Rob McElhenney said he was floored by my review, which caused me to transcend and achieve a state of ultimate thankfulness).
Jacob Trussell: The Pervasiveness of Halloween 2018
In spite of the nightmare that this year has been on a socio-political level, it has been a tremendous year for horror fans. Sure we had an amazing year of horror films that just captured the world’s agony, but almost more importantly Halloween felt more pervasive than ever. You couldn’t turn on Hulu in October without being greeted with the spine-tingling vibes of Huluween, which also included a shorts film festival alongside its solid stock of horror films. Netflix and Amazon Prime also proudly displayed their Halloween content earlier in the month than ever before. If you’re not a strict cord cutter, AMC’s 24-hour horror marathon MonsterFest (now called FearFest) started earlier than ever with its old reliable stock of fright films. Best of all though? Shudder’s utterly on brand Ghoul Log, a spooky twist on the Christmas tradition. Halloween is a multi-million dollar industry now, and after horror’s recent resurgence, my cold black heart is thankful to see my favorite holiday getting the respect it deserves.
Charlie Brigden: Great Superhero Movies
Whether you loathe them or have an Ant-Man bedspread, superhero cinema is as strong as ever, boasting ridiculous box office totals and pulling the kind of star names that used to be reserved for a Robert Altman ensemble. But while the obvious one – Avengers: Infinity War – steamrollered over everything, I want to call attention to the other guys; I can’t really say underdogs because that would be ridiculous, but apart from Thanos vs the MCU we had some truly fantastic folks-in-tights movies. Black Panther is probably the best, with Ryan Coogler directing a huge black cast that opened the door not only on Wakandan culture but African culture for the real world, especially at a point where racism has been a part of our headlines for almost every day this year. Then there was the other Marvel movie starring Josh Brolin, the hilarious Deadpool 2 which flew past the pretty funny first movie to show some really great humor and genuine heart, especially with the great Julian Dennison. And then there was the best DCEU movie yet, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, which was one of the cleverest pictures of the year and had people breaking down at “Utility Belt: The Movie” (and also predicting the Alfred TV spin-off). That’s even without the ones I haven’t seen, like Incredibles 2 and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. People talk about superhero movie fatigue, but when they can be this good, maybe it’s time to look past the masks and capes and appreciate some of the genuinely great filmmaking in the genre.
Sheryl Oh: All the Heroines
We are increasingly seeing better heroines represented in media over the years; as we damn well should. Nevertheless, various specific depictions of girlhood and womanhood have been exceptionally important to me throughout 2018. Lara Jean Covey in the ethereally sweet To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Kayla Day in the quietly aching Eighth Grade, and Meg Murry in the time-bending (albeit less well-received) A Wrinkle in Time all teach me the value of sheer earnestness. The badassery of women in horror cannot be understated, as A Quiet Place and the Halloween reboot affirm. Moreover, the Crain sisters are a particular highlight of The Haunting of Hill House, navigating complex relationships amidst overwhelming trauma on the road to recovery. Women of color have had the chance to dominate blockbuster spaces this year, especially in Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians. The industry can always do better the more it creates, but for now, I am very grateful for where it’s been this year.
Val Ettenhofer: Transcendent musical performances
This year more than any other, I’m thankful for the live musical performances that were so epic that seeing them (even through a computer screen) felt like an out-of-body experience. With music more than any other medium, it’s tough to recognize the “new classics,” but if you look closely, there’s plenty of mind-blowing stuff out there. Exhibit A: Beychella. Beyonce’s Coachella-headlining performance reunited Destiny’s Child, celebrated historically Black colleges and universities, and created a festival stage performance of unparalleled size, scale, and creativity in her first post-twins performance. If that somehow doesn’t float your boat, there’s also Florence + the Machine outing herself as an actual goddess by singing “Sky Full of Song” in a duet with mother nature during a stormy event in New York. Plus, reincarnated ‘70s rocker Harry Styles belting out the final encore (“Kiwi”) of his first world tour three times in a row to a voice-box-busting audience in LA this summer. Or Childish Gambino debuting “This is America” on SNL at the exact moment that he also dropped the shocking, zeitgeisty video. Or Ariana Grande’s downright biblical VMA performance of “God Is A Woman,” complete with a lady-centric Last Supper tableau and three generations of her family. I could keep going, but you get the picture.
Madison Brek: Ethan Hawke and Nicolas Cage using the press tours for their respective 2018 films to give each other compliments
Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke, two of the greatest American actors of our time, each starred in excellent films this year. Hawke gave a quietly devastating performance as disillusioned priest Ernst Toller in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. And Cage gifted us with perhaps the performance of the year as Red, a man wronged by a murderous cult, in Panos Cosmatos’ midnight masterpiece Mandy. While simply the existence of these two films is enough to be thankful for, Cage and Hawke didn’t stop there. Instead, they made their mutual admiration public while independently doing publicity for these two films which have absolutely nothing to do with one another. In a September interview on First Reformed, Hawke told Newsweek: “I think Nicolas Cage is one of the few people in the history of acting that has really changed [the form]. I mean, he’s a true original—one of the greatest actors ever. His confidence and madness and dedication—you take his top 10 performances and I’d put ‘em up against anybody.” Shortly afterwards, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Cage responded: “Ethan is someone I have admired for a very long time, not only because he’s the compelling thespian that he is but also because he’s a multiply published novelist and a great filmmaker in his own right […] by the way, First Reformed, well, it certainly has my vote for both Best Actor and Best Director.” I’m thankful that Ethan Hawke and Nicolas Cage are thankful for each other.
Neil Miller: All of you
Emily stole my go-to for this annual piece, so I’m turning this around a bit. I’m plenty thankful for the team that has worked so hard all year to help FSR and One Perfect Shot continue to grow. But at the end of the day, we need people to read our work, to follow our tweets, and to consider not using ad-block because they think what we do is worth “paying for” with attention. In the past year, you’ve all been wonderful. Your emails and tweets continue to help us build a curated experience that will (hopefully) keep you better connected to all the pop culture things you love. We wouldn’t be able to do it without your passion and interest. So, thanks.
Emily Kubincanek: Our team
I’m thankful for the talented, passionate people I’ve had the privilege of writing with this year. There have been fantastic pieces throughout this year, from Liz Baessler’s amazing It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia finale piece to Madison Brek’s guide to Jimmy Stewart. I had the pleasure of writing a piece about Busby Berkeley with Meg Shields. We came together several times as a team to put together many fantastic series of articles, including our arguments for the best year in movies, great movies to watch on Filmstruck before it leaves, and an array of glorious horror lists. I’m very proud of everything we’ve put out this year. I’m happy to welcome the new members to our team of contributors. I’ve had the joy of watching our latest batch of interns grow into some truly amazing writers. Writing with passionate people makes sharing the things I love so much easier. We’re very lucky for the artists that create wonderful art for us to talk about and I am endlessly excited to see what next year brings, not just in terms of movies and TV shows, but the great work our writers will churn out in response. The GIF below is my sentiment in Jean Arthur form.