If anything, it was a year of progress.
There were some damn good movies made, but there were also good movies made about, and by, people that have long been excluded from an equal share of the spotlight, the industry, and the paycheque.
Historically under-represented segments of the movie-watching public (minorities and women) had the opportunity this year to see mainstream movies with characters on screen they could identify with. Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians were big-money blockbusters, but flicks like BlacKkKlansman, Sorry to Bother You, Support the Girls, Ocean's 8, We the Animals, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and If Beale Street Could Talk demonstrated to Hollywood that, yes, North American audiences will support projects starring and made by women, African Americans, Asians, LGBTQ and anyone else that has been traditionally excluded from the big-studio system. There's still much work to be done, but progress is always nice.
On that note, the first "Best of the Year" shout-out goes to Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, whose Netflix release Nanette kicked off a six-month conversation about trauma, comedy and power imbalances in entertainment/society. It's not especially funny (for stand-up comedy) but Nanette is a powerful watch.
Just this month, Gadsby laid down an even more focused schooling at the Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment breakfast. Gadsby spoke about the line that separates "good" and "bad" men, in any industry, and how the "good men" get to determine where that line is, then shift it to suit their needs.
You'll need to Google this one to see it, but it's eight minutes of some of the hardest game spitting we saw laid down in 2018. (Second place goes to Greta Thunberg, that 15-year-old Swedish girl who blasted 200 delegates at a UN Climate Summit about global warming).
Speaking of zero emissions, skateboarders also got their time on-screen in 2018, capping off a decade-long trend of popular acceptance. Skateboarding is the most difficult sport to do and among the most physically painful to learn (I imagine bull riding is up there, too), and after decades of being misunderstood and reviled, skateboarding will be an Olympic sport in Japan in 2020. And shout out to ex-Whistler loc, Gnarcore filmmaker, and HorrorFest favourite Ben Stoddard. Benny is the president of Canada Skateboard, this country's national federation for skateboarding leading into the games. Giv'r Benny!
Skate culture had some breakthroughs on the silver screen this year as well. Jonah Hill (Superbad, Moneyball, Strange Wilderness) stepped into the directorial ring with Mid90s, a coming-of-age story about a young kid who finds his tribe—for better or worse—with a group of local SoCal skate rats.
Loosely based on the stories and scene Hill remembers from his own youth, Mid90s offered audiences a glimpse beyond the standard vandals/deviants/criminals skateboard stereotype and into the connectivity of a subculture that gives a lot of kids a place to go.
But Minding the Gap goes way, way further. A documentary 12 years in the making, this one sees 29-year-old director Bing Liu turn the camera on himself and his closest childhood friends, skaters coming of age in the withering city of Rockford, Ill., to create a jaw-dropping film about class, race, domestic abuse and growing up in America.
Much like one of the characters in Mid90s, Liu grew up as the skateboard filmer buddy who rolled tape on every aspect of his tribe's daily lives. The 100-per-cent honest, historical access integrates seamlessly Liu's willingness and skill at asking important questions in the present (he took a 40-hour domestic-violence class to better know how to discuss it with his characters).
The result is a graceful-yet-raw film about regular young people struggling through a crumbling world—taking the beats and soldiering on. And the skating is really good, too.
Minding the Gap is my pick for Best Doc of 2018, but it was a very strong year for documentaries, so be sure to check the Mr. Rogers doc Won't You Be My Neighbor? for a reminder of the power of the human heart.
Also kickass: Free Solo captures a 914-metre, rope-less rock climb that might be the greatest athletic achievement of all time, and Three Identical Strangers is an almost unbelievable story about three identical twins separated at birth to test the nurture-versus-nature theory of human development. It's bonkers.
We'll get into Best Movie of the Year (and others) next week.