by Simon Ong
Editor’s note: We’re delighted to kick off The Short Loop’s arts and culture section with Simon Ong’s annual Top Ten list. A screenwriting student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Simon sees upwards of 50 new movies every year, from indie flicks to blockbusters, and his recommendations have long carried a lot of weight with me and his other Facebook friends (thus far the only audience for these lists!). We’re publishing his Top Ten in six installments. —Trevor
10. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Directed by Marielle Heller, screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
Based on the memoir of author-turned-forger Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells the story of Israel’s transformation from an unpublishable author to an FBI-wanted criminal as she begins to write and sell forgeries of letters supposedly written by famous authors and playwrights. Despite earning an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role in 2011’s Bridesmaids, McCarthy has since found herself in comedy roles that carry little prestige, typically relying heavily on McCarthy’s appearance for slapstick humor. McCarthy’s portrayal of Israel steps way outside of her wheelhouse and proves how versatile she can really be when give the opportunity. McCarthy’s isn’t the only performance that stands out as Richard E. Grant’s portrayal of Jack Hock, the freeloading alcoholic friend of Lee Israel, steals the show throughout the film. With the help of these performances, the film makes for an interesting exploration of the creative process. It dives into what it means to be vulnerable and truthful in one’s art and how hard that is to accomplish, while also looking at the road an artist goes down when choosing to hide behind a facade. All this, disguised as a true-crime biographical film, makes for a great watch.
9. Black Panther
Directed by Ryan Coogler, screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
As a long time comic book fan, I’ve followed the Marvel Cinematic Universe from its very beginning. With each new installment, I’ve feared that the franchise’s never-ending hot streak would come to an end. However in 2018, ten years since the franchise’s inception with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios did nothing but defy expectations. Of course there was the obvious success of Avengers: Infinity War in April, but Marvel’s real triumph this year was in Black Panther. Standing for representation of black characters and proving that white audiences will still buy tickets to movies led by black stars, Black Panther is also one of the most smartly written superhero blockbusters, unafraid to tackle complex issues of race and the impact and legacy of colonialism. Beyond that, Black Panther gave us one of the strongest ensemble casts in any superhero movie. After first appearing in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman is more comfortable in the role of T’Challa than ever. The women of Black Panther — Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and Angela Bassett are front-and-center and are the heart and soul of Wakanda. And, of course, Michael B. Jordan in his portrayal of Eric Killmonger gave us one of the most layered super-villains in comic book movie history.