The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Top Films of 2018

Torch Design/Jenna Woo
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The Science Fiction Film:


“Annihilation” directed by Alex Garland, brought in the new year last February with trippy visuals and a gene-bending plotline. Aliens, nature and human psychosis all plague the next team, composed of Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny, to enter into Area X. “Annihilation” is the best type of science fiction film it keeps you guessing, providing you with answers while simultaneously making you wonder more. The ending sequence between Portman’s Lena and the mysterious being of the Lighthouse was strangely hypnotic and entrancing.

The Cinematography Nods

“If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Roma”

Two masters of technical film made two great films this year. Barry Jenkins’ (“Moonlight”) “If Beale Street Could Talk” showcased what Jenkins knows like no other: The power of a close-up and how to light a scene with color. “If Beale Street Could Talk” brings James Baldwin’s stunning words into fruition, telling the tale of Fonny and Tish as they battle his unjust arrest and fight for their love. Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) shot his passion project “Roma” in black and white, offering long 360° shots and wide views of his beloved Mexico City. “Roma” turns its loving, considerate eye on Cleo, a maid for a middle-class family in the 1970s. The beach scene, near the conclusion of the film, is one of the most moving shots of 2018.

The Animated Film

“Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse”

The animated film – once thought of as the children’s genre – has had some great contributions to 2018’s film selections. One in particular was the late 2018 addition “Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse.” Its dynamic, comic book style animation and new characters including the instantly likeable Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has made Spiderman feel like something it has not in a while – fresh and exciting. From a great soundtrack with contributions from Post Malone, to the perfect posthumous cameo from Marvel creator Stan Lee, “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse”’s great message shines through: Anybody can be under the mask, anybody can be the hero of the story.

Fun Night at the Movies

“Widows” and “Bad Times at El Royale”

We all know the type of films these films are. They’re the ones that seem right at home

in a movie theatre with a large bag of popcorn on your lap. Last year both “Widows” and “Bad Times at El Royale” were the films that exemplified that the most. Both underrated in their own rights, I was surprised there wasn’t as much hype around the heist, political corruption and familial drama. The drama was directed Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), who also co-wrote the script with Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), and starred the powerhouse collection of Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo and more. As a compelling thriller about Chicago, gentrification and wealth disparities, the film has its lighter moments: Throughout the film, Davis carries her small white dog from location to location and Farrell attempts to hide his Irish accent. Meanwhile, “Bad Times at El Royale,” also starring Erivo and a cast that includes Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth and Jeff Bridges brought a great cast together to create a film that keeps the audience guessing about what exactly is happening in El Royale, the 1970s motel on the border of California and Nevada. I would recommend seeing this film, like I did — by not watching the trailer and letting the great soundtrack and perfectly timed editing guide you through the tumultuous social climate of the 1970s.

The Documentary Film


Easily the most forgotten genre of film, there were countless critically acclaimed documentaries that were released last year. Admittedly, I have yet to see many of them including but not limited to, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “Mind the Gap,” or “Three Identical Strangers.” However, I have seen director Sandi Tan’s compelling “Shirkers,” available on Netflix. “Shirkers” tells the story of Tan and her friends who set out to shoot on the first road movie in Singapore in 1992. They lose all footage to their older American mentor and teacher, Georges, who ran away with the 16mm film. Tan weaves a beautiful tale on the power of film and creativity to both inspire and destroy.

Best Scripts

“Sorry to Bother You” and “Eighth Grade”

“Sorry to Bother You” is written and directed by Boots Riley. The film stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun and Armie Hammer in a renegade story about an African American telemarketer who uses his “white voice” to succeed at his job. The script brilliantly expands and evolves into a story, including organized labor and science-fiction type experiments, in order to deliver a powerful message on capitalism. Meanwhile, “Eighth Grade,” directed and written by stand-up comedian Bo Burnham, was Burnham’s feature film directorial debut. Somehow the 28-year-old man was able to perfectly capture the mindset of the young Kayla (Elsie Fisher), as she navigates the dangers of her last week of classes before graduating eighth grade. The intimate style of filming, partially contributed by her vlogging clips as well as the sharp dialogue involving social media use, mental health and sexuality make this debut film very relatable.

Production Design

“The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos’ (“The Lobster”) newest film, “The Favourite,” has everything you need: A medieval love triangle, political maneuvering and sharp banter between Rachel Weisz and every other character in the film. In a film with many good aspects, from costume to performance to cinematography, there is one aspect most notable to the eye: The royal, ornate background with rich, deep colors that accompany Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) and Sarah Churchill (Weisz)’s attempts to repeatedly “one up” each other for Queen Anne’s affections. Filmed at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire and at Hampton Court Palace in Hampton Court, Surrey, the contrast in background and action elevated “The Favourite” to another level.

The Historical Fiction Film


“BlackkKlansman” follows the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African American detective in Colorado Springs’ police department as he attempted to infiltrate the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. Set in the early 1970s, the film takes certain liberties in recounting Stallworth’s history, replacing truth for drama. Despite this, director Spike Lee creates a compelling film, interwoven with important notes on today’s political and social issues that mirror those of the past. As iconic as ever, Lee’s dolly shot, supporting Washington and Harrier was a highlight of the film and the prefect end.  

Honorable Mentions: “Searching,” “We the Animals,” “Beautiful Boy,” “Support the Girls,” “Momentum Generation” and “Crazy Rich Asians”

Did Not See But Planning To: “Burning,” “Wildlife,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Shoplifters” and “You Were Never Really Here”

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About the Contributor
Samantha DeNinno, Culture Editor
Samantha DeNinno is a sophomore history major with a minor in Spanish. She started working at the Torch last fall as a copyeditor and staff writer before becoming the Assistant Entertainment Editor in the spring semester. This year, she hopes to capture the essence of St. John’s University and current world culture with more in-depth pieces, in both the print and online pages, through the use of increased participation from students, writers and faculty. Have any questions? Email Sam at [email protected] 

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