6 Movies for Your 2018 Watchlist

According to my Letterboxd, I watched 53 movies last year. There may be about five I didn’t bother to log so that makes almost 60, but still not nearly as much as I wanted. I realize my OC tendencies affect even how I picked and experienced movies.

Before allowing myself this mindless leisure, there’s a thorough decision-making on what to watch that will depend on whether I’m in a certain mood, if my ambience is appropriate enough to match whatever the genre is, on what end of the spectrum my stress level is leaning towards, or what my mental space felt like.

Most times, I end up not watching anything at all. But last year, I tried to go through long-time standbys on my watchlist. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.

Lady Bird (2017)

I managed to fit this in two days before the year ended, and twice in the same day! I couldn’t contain the strong, immediate urge to see it right then, which rarely happens in that capacity so it was obviously calling out to me. And it was everything!

Almost every review I’ve read on Letterboxd involved appreciation for the film for finally creating a character who can be an honest and genuine representative of what being an 18-year-old girl is.

Lady Bird felt like a whole, complete person (not in the sense that she’s perfect, but that you can forget that she’s a made-up character) because the movie explored a lot of general aspects from where we can look at her overall identity. And, it didn’t necessarily tell us what it is, but instead, let us piece it together from those viewpoints—like her relationship with her family, the mother-daughter dynamic most especially, her friendships, crushes and romantic relationships, and her school persona.

The portrayal was also very specific in that Lady Bird’s impulsive reactions and behavior were motivated by certain events and little things that get magnified in a teenage mind, which is actually what made the movie so universal.

I gave it a 4 out 5 rating because, as many said, while it’s amazing, it’s still kind of different from similar stories of non-white people. I caught on that when I watched it because, even with a familiar background—all-girls Catholic high school, middle-class family, etcetera—it still felt somewhat foreign.

I now realize it should have been 5 stars because it’s amazing for what it is already, and honestly so much better than most films like it. Can’t wait to experience this in the theaters!

Mustang (2015)

On her IG story long ago, Youtuber Estée Lalonde told a conversation she had with her boyfriend about The Handmaid’s Tale. She was explaining to him the book and he replied something like, “do you think it will ever happen in this lifetime?”

He was doubtful because obviously the book is in a dystopian world where basically women are slaves for men’s pleasure (I haven’t read it so I can’t say much). Then Estée said, with bulging eyes, “It’s happenING!!!” Emphasis on the present tense, happening.

I have that same baffled reaction to Mustang. This movie was so intense, compelling, disturbing, scary, chilling at times, but also beautiful in a way. It’s about five sisters living in an orthodox village in Turkey, as one by one, they’re married off by their relatives.

In the first 8 minutes, we see the kind of patriarchal and misogynistic society they live in, and the bond and solidarity between the sisters because of it. At first it would just be shock and disbelief about the absurdity of this kind of world, but then the film would take you deeper into it when the girls lose their liberty and be deprived of one of the most basic rights.

It gets harder to watch as the girls try to grapple with their situation and each find ways to get out of the toxic environment. But the moments when they come together in each other’s aid, and when they get away with doing something their elders wouldn’t allow, it’s such a proud moment not because they got away with a rebellious act, but because in some level, they refuse to lose themselves and their integrity to the conditions imposed on them.

And Lale, despite being the youngest, have a resilience that I can only hope to achieve for now.

There’s so much female power in this film, it’s seriously electric. I feel it so much just now trying to remember it. This was so well-made—the acting, writing, direction, even the editing and pacing. I don’t know what else to say, it’s just necessary viewing.

Amadeus (1984)

“All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing… and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn’t want me to praise Him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?”

— Antonio Salieri (Amadeus, 1984)

Reading the summary would’ve made me want to watch it, but I read this line first in a review and I just knew I had to see it. I actually first encountered this movie in a music class in high school, but we only watched a few selected scenes to have a visual of Mozart as a 3-year-old musical genius. I didn’t know or bothered to know what movie it was. Little did I know this was one of the greatest out there.

It’s historically inaccurate but this was based on a statement the real-life Salieri said in passing about killing Mozart when he was an old man (or at least that’s what I’ve read it was based on).

Not including the fact that this rivalry never happened and that many people might believe this, everything else was phenomenal.

Of course, the music was a big part of it, but it’s also the way the story was strung together–the costumes, the production, the the strong characters of Salieri and Mozart, and especially the writing. They rarely make and write movies like this anymore.

My favorite was F. Murray Abraham as Salieri. He owned the character, both as the younger one and the old man narrating everything. There were so many scenes that truly justified his win as Best Actor in the Oscars the next year, like this, this, and this, but the one where he had a catharsis looking at Mozart’s raw music sheets was something else. I mean, how??

I’m so late with this but I can’t not appreciate. ❤

Boy (2010)

This is the first film I intentionally sought because of Taika Waititi. After Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I was sold on his dry humor. That was purely delightful, and this was the same but with a mix of emotion.

It’s 1984 and a young boy called Boy (named after his father, Alamein) lives in a farm with his grandmother, cousins, and younger brother. He had an ideal image of his dad, who was absent from their life since their mom died, and kept boasting of him with imagined stories to his friends. When his grandmother had to leave for a week, Boy was left in charge. Suddenly, his dad comes home with two other men looking for money he buried long ago. Through a series of events, Boy discovers that his dad isn’t the kind of Michael Jackson-esque man he dreamed up.

This had such a different tone than what usual coming-of-age movies have, but it’s good different, refreshing. It had all the common elements but I had a silly giggly feeling throughout and hours after watching.

Fish Tank (2009)

Mia is the epitome of a rebellious 15-year-old. Her concept of home is one where her mom constantly drank and partied, and yelled at her, and that she always wanted to escape from. Her relationship with her younger sister is closer to indifference than anything else. When she meets her mom’s new boyfriend, Conor, things change with her behavior around him, and they form a bond as he supports her interest in dance.

The teenage angst was so real and intense in this one. They accurately nailed the unexplainable click in a teenager’s mind in Mia’s character. There were at least two scenes in this movie that showed it so obviously.

One moment she’d seem to be her natural self, dancing in a parking lot, then the next, when her mom shows up, she’d be back to her masked, serious, can’t-be-bothered character. Or, in another scene, her mom was so sure she’d say no to a road trip Conor invited her to, but she decides after a long pause that she’d come.

It’s a given that some teenagers go through this very intense angsty phase, and no one really understands it nor knows how to deal with it. We just accept that sometimes, in very unpredictable moments, they decide to be jerks and purposely act to piss off everyone, but it’s such a common symptom that I’ve never seen acknowledged by anyone.

I love that in this movie, it’s visibly portrayed. We’re given hints of what motivates it so we can imagine what’s happening in her mind, what gears are turning, when she does it. I’m still so close to that experience that I understand how it happens, and how it’s mostly unintentional.

Towards the end, the movie turned so intense so quickly when Mia’s angst becomes vengeful. But this movie makes it hard for its audience to hate Mia for her actions because of the reasons that led to it. It makes you think what (we assume are) little things can do to their complicated head.

This just made me realize I may be obsessed about teenagehood. This might not appeal to everyone but if that’s something you’re curious about, there are so many things about it that this movie gets right and you’d find interesting.

Columbus (2017)

I watched this movie because of Haley Lu Richardson and her character, Casey, who is passionate about architecture but has a lot of constraints about pursuing it. Casey meets Jin, the son of an architect she was supposed to see at a speaking event in her hometown. As they form a bond that initially revolved around Columbus’ architecture, they’re eventually led to confront their contrasting personal situations and principles concerning family, life, career, etc.

The premise of the movie is one that I naturally seek out. Anything involving people who have a strong passion for something, I know I’m going to like, and this was no exception. They say this is Before Sunrise in 2017. It does have that same heartwarming, almost feel-good quality, and Kogonada also captures the subtle profundity of casual, everyday conversations like Richard Linklater does.

It’s just odd that the conversation that stuck out to me wasn’t between the two protagonists but rather the one between Casey and her co-worker Gabe, who was explaining to her the marginalia he found about how discussion around attention spans is really about interests.

I’ve yet to rewatch this in a less-sleepy state, but for now, it’s an okay recommendation.

Now, on to my 100++ 2018 watchlist!