Jacob's Best Movies and Television of 2018
My favorite films of 2018:
You Were Never Really Here
The Old Man & The Gun
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
First up – Billions and Killing Eve are both great shows that I really enjoyed watching this year, but I just do not have a lot to say about (besides rich people being crazy and Sandra Oh being an incredible actress). Special achievement awards to American Vandal for being hilarious and for Angie Tribeca coming in right under the wire at the end of the year with season four. Onward!
Joe Pera Talks With You
My favorite tv show of 2018 by a wide country mile, and really and truly one of my favorite pieces of entertainment ever. I cannot believe how wonderful it is and how much it accomplishes with its 11 minute episodes and presumably small budget. All nine episodes have about the running time of a feature length film. I watched them all in one night sometime in September. It was one of the best nights of my year.
This show is just a miracle. Joe Pera is delightfully strange, but incredibly relatable. His comedy is relatively clean and has a folksy slant to it that is utterly charming and unique. No one else in comedy is talking about the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the fall and the strangeness of not being able to fall back to sleep on a rainy night. The writing and acting on this show has beautiful softness and nuance. It feels like Mr. Rogers or Winnie The Pooh.
The episode about Baba O’Reilly – ‘Joe Pera Reads The Church Announcements’ is the best episode of any television show this year. There is an incredibly sweet romance between Pera and the hilarious Jo Firestone that plays out in a way no romance on tv ever does. It’s a big blanket of comfort and joy. But it’s also really funny. You can show it your parents and not have to leave the room. They will love it. It is incredible piece of entertainment and something very special.
The final season of The Americans is the best one. Everything comes to the terrifying, inevitable end it was always going to come to. This has show’s run was remarkable. It never got bad, it never got boring (though it came close a few times) and the writing and acting were always top notch. This last season is a slow, agonizing, thrilling conclusion that makes perfect sense but is tragic nonetheless. The big moment in the finale that uses U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ is phenomenal. The big parking garage scene is one of the best scenes in anything this year. I will miss The Americans very much. I was so wrapped up in each episode of this final season that it felt like event television. It was all I could think about. It’s heart wrenching. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys really gave these characters their all and it shows on the screen. The Americans is up there with The Sopranos and Breaking Bad as one of the best shows of this era.
I think it is safe to say that season two of Atlanta is one of the best seasons of tv ever made. It’s magical. It makes so much sense–the world, it’s rules, the wild ups and downs of the people who live in it. It all makes sense. Donald Glover has created a show that tells its stories so smoothly that every beat lands perfectly. There is some real weird, specific humor and slice of life drama in this season. Really real. Paper Boi’s night from hell, Earn’s struggles get by and make ends meet. Not to mention the tremendous Teddy Perkins episode and Hiro Murai’s amazing direction. Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beets all had great years, and are probably going to have great 2019s. Atlanta is some of the best and most unique tv out there.
Star Wars Rebels
Dave Filoni is an incredible story teller. It is clichéd to say but he gets Star Wars, but truly – he gets how to tell stories that make sense in Star Wars. I put off watching Clone Wars and Rebels for a long time. I wrote them off as kids shows with cheap animation; knock off Star Wars content that was not for me. I was so outrageously wrong. Clone Wars is incredible, and makes the prequel films/characters/story so much better. It is some of the best Star Wars content, and Rebels is too. I would argue that the fourth season, and specifically the last few episodes and the finale is as good as Star Wars movies at their very best. It is as good as Star Wars gets.
Rebels was never bad but it got exponentially better. So much to the point that it is a much different show in seasons three and four than it was in season one. Season four is extremely dark and emotional. Ostensibly for kids but full of violence, loss, sadness, and mature story telling. The series finale really floored me – as I said above, it is right up there with my favorite Star Wars movies. I get emotional thinking about it.
Ahsoka Tano is a character I did not know existed until I finally got over my dumb crutches and started watching the animated shows. It turns out that she is now one of my favorite characters in all of both the Star Wars canons. The ending of Rebels sets up so many exciting, emotional future story possibilities – it is just masterful story telling. George Lucas’ work lives on in a show like Rebels, and hopefully future Star Wars projects like The Mandalorian.
The finale is just a perfect episode of television and a perfect, huge in scale and imagination ending to an excellent series. I wish every Star Wars fan would watch it. It makes me hopeful about the future.
Barry is an incredible surprise that shows the influences of a number of other acclaimed modern shows and also completely does it’s own thing. It’s really weird and near dear to me. The reasons why will not come as a shock–the writing, acting, and directing are spectacular. Everyone showed up big time.
Bill Hader gives a stunning performance that left me completely dumbfounded–I did not know he was capable of this, and I feel dumb for under estimating the guy. He is hilarious, vulnerable, and emotional. The way he gets the acting bug and ignores the more grisly aspects of his job are really compelling, endearing character traits. You want to keep watching to figure out what this guy’s deal is.
Henry Winkler and Bill Hader both earned their Emmys–Winkler is tremendous, delivering line after line that is hilarious. Stephen Root and D’Arcy Carden too–all these characters feel thought out and as real as 30 minute tv characters can feel.
In an episode later in the season, the show’s influences and tricks all converge into one of the best scenes of the year. Notes of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, a little bit of Enlightened–it is absolutely heartbreaking, and Bill Hader knocks it out of the park. With one season under its belt it is already a show I am fascinated by and cannot wait for more of.
Better Call Saul
This show seemed like a bad idea on paper and here it is four seasons in, as excellent as ever. Maybe better than Breaking Bad. Certainly more nuanced. There is less violence and terror, more creeping tension and personal back sliding. Around the early mid point I wondered where the season was going, how all the subplots would resolve and work out – but worry not. This is the show’s best season yet. Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito are excellent as ever. I am fascinated as to how the showrunners wrap this up, whether or not it’s playing into a grand idea for future Breaking Bad spinoffs (now that we know about the Jesse movie), but the journey is intense and thrilling.
In this season the threads and world building take off. Mike and Gus are very close to their Breaking Bad selves as they build the laundry meth lab that Gus, Walt and then Jesse will later spend so much time in. Mike’s storyline and Jonathan Banks’ performance are particularly moving. The very ending of the season knocks the wind out of you. You’ve known the entire show that this small but defining moment will come to fruition, and yet when it happens it stunned me.
I am a big fan of anything involving historical exploration expeditions. I want more movies and television to depict historical exploration. But add in existential horror, dread, cannibalism, brutal violence, a landscape as punishing and unforgiving as hell – and you’ve got something as unique and memorable as The Terror. I was sold on it by hearing it compared to The Lost City of Z and Master and Commander: Far Side of The World. It contains elements of both of those, plus The Thing. It is absolutely terrifying.
These men quickly realize they are in in a bad situation. Small semblances of hope are taken away from them. Bodies add up. Trust and sanity begins to fray. It’s a straight up descent into hell, but hell is cold, white and looks the same in every direction.
There is a very CGI polar bear that looks very CGI – but it completely works. After all, it’s more of a mythical arctic beast of death than a polar bear. It is terrifying, and that is the point. The build up and conclusion to this story is incredible. This show could go a long way as an anthology series examining how fear and intense situations leads to violence and calamity and that seems to be the plan.
Weird, bleak and oddly comforting. Corporate is a nightmare dystopia about the American workplace. It is very funny. Lance Reddick brings his A-game and is constantly outstanding. A number of great comedians like Aparna Nancherla make up the supporting cast. Thankfully is has an upcoming season two – shows this weird are to be treasured.
Maniac is my favorite Netflix original production. It is wondrous. It is decidedly not for everyone, and 100% for me. I would not go to bat for it if a friend told me they were completely indifferent toward it. It’s really weird and kind of difficult to follow. But if you follow it all the way it takes you on a very weird and rewarding journey.
Tons of Lost/The Leftovers/The Good Place/Phillip K. Dick elements combine to tell a story about two very sad people who connect during a medical trial gone wrong. The medical trial goes wrong because the scientists running it are a bunch of weirdos. The computer they created to run the trial has feelings and is depressed, so everything goes haywire. It is kind of very hard to describe! But that’s the gist.
Emma Stone and Jonah Hill are both excellent and give varied, exciting performances. They both get so much to do and the show takes them through several characters, eras, settings and increasingly zany scenarios. When Emma Stone is shooting bad guys left and right like she’s John Wick by the 9th episode I was so incredibly on board and glad I had stuck it out through the somewhat meandering first few episodes.
Cary Fukunaga directed the living hell out of each episode. The news that he is directing Bond 25 broke the weekend Maniac was released. I was excited for him to get the job before I watched Maniac and watching it only increased my optimism. He is a magnificent director. The last scene of Maniac is incredibly moving and beautiful – all the shows theme boil down to the importance of connecting with another person. Finding a friend who cares about you to face the world with. The original score by Dan Romer is also something very special. As the song “Annie and Owen”, which sounds like a beautiful Howard Shore piece written for The Lord of The Rings plays, I feel an enormous balloon swelling in my heart. This show is a weird, strange journey that I really enjoyed going on.
Succession is completely wild. Almost every character is extremely unlikeable. The family members treat horribly. Everyone is a conniving, vicious monster. The tone is both very dramatic and constantly joking. Not all the jokes land, but the ones that do are great. The drama is also great. This show could probably run for five or six seasons. Rich people’s wild drama makes for great TV.
The acting is excellent across the board-Brian Cox is grumbling, weak and old but also absolutely ruthless. When he gets his big explosive scenes later on in the season, I recoiled. He throws down. He’s like a lion–he uses words like violence and he shows no mercy to anyone. Every other member of the family is a capital-C Character, and the journey the season takes you on is a pretty great thrill ride with plenty of peaks and valleys.
The Good Place
The Good Place continues to reinvent itself and breeze along. It is consistently hilarious – great jokes from some of the comedy writers working in tv is a reliable reason to tune in – but also thematically fascinating and dense. It reminds me of some of the best elements of Lost, obviously, but also of The Leftovers – I am a sucker for tv about characters dealing with the weird ups and downs of life. There is some real wondrous and beautiful writing in the back half of season two and the front half of season three. Also D’Arcy Carden is a tv MVP of the year between this and Barry.
Season three of Daredevil is the best season of Netflix/Marvel television and it is a damn shame that Netflix swiftly cancelled it as a harbinger of the streaming wars to come. So many threads come to fruition in this season. The acting and action is excellent, the stakes are high, the big climatic moments are earned and satisfying. It would be very sad if we never see Charlie Cox’s Daredevil again. The climatic moments of the finale are truly some of the best in the MCU even though I guess they only sort of in the MCU. Rest in peace, Daredevil.
The term ‘magical realism’ is thrown around a lot and can mean different things depending on the context, but in the case of Lodge 49 it means what it seems like it means. This show is weird, trippy, realistic and magical. When something good happens, something bad happens. There is an internal logic and balance to it that is quite beautiful. It has lots of elements and spiritual threads similar to Halt and Catch Fire and Enlightened – two of my favorite favorites. It seems like AMC’s spiritual successor to the finished and outstanding Halt and Catch Fire. I raved about that show in my Best TV List of 2017–it is all on Netflix, and it is an incredibly rewarding show.
This show confused me at first. It took a few episodes to click for me. That can be a tricky thing with television that I feel keeps some people from starting shows. It is just a big commitment to give ten hours of your precious time to something that may or may not be worth it. But when you find a show that is worth it, you know you spent your time well. This show, once I found a way in and appreciated all the weird things it was doing, is an utter delight.
The premise is pretty loose–the wonderful Wyatt Russell plays a sad, broke, lonely man recovering from a foot injury that prevents him from surfing. He and his sister are saddled with the debt of their father who drowned. They never found the body, because open-ended horror is deeply affecting. The main characters stumble through life’s struggles getting by on small victories and connections. And then the main character joins what seems like a cult.
That is a tremendous trick this show plays–when Russell’s Dud joins the titular Lodge, it seems very mysterious. It seems like all the inner workings and answers of its nature are being kept from him and the viewer, and that he will learn dark and strange truths the further he gets in. But that isn’t what this show is about. The Lodge is a place where people go and drink beer and spend time with each other. It is more, but it also isn’t. That is the nature of it. It is a fortress of connection, and that’s all it is. It brings these weird people together and magic ensues. In that way, it reminds me of Community and Greendale Community College – and that is why I adore this show.
Sonya Cassidy and Brent Jennings do outstanding work as the supporting cast, and Wyatt Russell is excellent. There are two scenes in the finale that floored me – one where two characters promise to stay connected even as their connection frays and disappears, and another where a characters lays out her desperation with heartbreaking honesty, and is rewarded for it.
This show is just magical, and it was miraculously renewed. There is also just a ton going on – the Wikipedia describes it as a “modern day fable” and well, that is accurate. There are some subplots about ancient alchemy – it is real weird, and good. I cannot wait to see where it goes.
I admittedly fell off big time with Adventure Time and only came back to it during it’s final season. This was obviously a mistake–many people have told me the seasons I skipped were also excellent, and I have no doubt they are right and that I am a big dummy for not watching them. I believe this because the final six episodes of the final season of Adventure Time absolutely floored my ass. I cried like a loved one had died the night before my first day of work at a new job when I watched the series finale.
I am a sucker for any end of series montage that shows the lives of the characters and the world they live in continuing on into the future. So many series end this way, and I would not call it a trope or an annoying thing that is overused. I love it. In the final episode of Adventure Time it used to tremendous effect – the characters we love will keep having adventures.
The most incredible aspect of the finale episode is the original song “Time Adventure” by Rebecca Sugar, which the shows characters sing in harmony to ward off an evil entity with overwhelming positivity and togetherness. I can’t imagine listening to this song without feeling a tug at the heartstrings. It reinforces that the show and its stories will always be there, and you can come back to them anytime and find the same familiar joy in them. It’s just a really beautiful song that caps off a wonderful and wholly positive series.