The first time I watched Toy Story 2 with my dad, he rose from the couch abruptly to get a glass of water. Jessie, the cowgirl doll, was singing “When She Loved Me,” the bittersweet backstory of her previous owner’s love and the memories they shared, ending with the child outgrowing her and ultimately giving Jessie away to charity in a cardboard box. As I fumbled to pause it so my dad wouldn’t miss anything, I heard a quiet sob from the kitchen. Silence. Then another. I set the remote down; not fully understanding, I let the film keep playing.
While the past few years have helped bring complex and dizzying portraits of women and mothers to the forefront, I am simultaneously and inevitably drawn to the softness and generosity of onscreen father-daughter relationships in 2018. Whether in a tensely-plotted thriller like Searching or A Quiet Place, or a tender, thoughtful character study like Eighth Grade or Leave No Trace, the bond between father and daughter not only helps drive plot, but allows viewers to understand the characters and the ways they acknowledge one another more richly. After all, aren’t love, and paying attention the same thing?
2018 has been a wild year for film, from wildly entertaining sequels (see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Paddington 2) to Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest in dry, yet tragic, humor to a horror film featuring tongue clicking, a nut allergy, and dead pigeons. It has been year for powerful women, both in front of and behind the camera, from the women of Annihilation to Crystal Moselle and her look into the world of women skateboarders. It has been a year to interrogate representations of masculinity, from Joe in You Were Never Really Here to Reverend Toller in First Reformed. It has been a year of terror, love, laughter, and exhaustion, both literally and cinematically. The films of 2018 truly captured the strange and turbulent atmosphere that has thrown us all into a state of near-constant anxiety.
The Much Ado team has relished in this anxiety, seeing many of 2018’s best, and worst films with the help of film festivals such as Cannes, NYFF, and BFI, MoviePass (RIP), and AMC Stubs A-List. After much deliberation, Letterboxd rankings, and last-minute trips to the cinema, we present Much Ado’s top 25 films of the year.
From a cultural perspective alone, there’s a lot about Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade that fascinates me. To put it lightly, it’s simply surreal to witness Burnham – a classic YouTube star turned musical stand-up comedian known for his edgy humor – make his first foray into the film medium as a writer and director. It’s perhaps even more surreal that his debut, an indie dramedy about a pre-teenage girl’s last week of middle school, also happens to be one of the best films of 2018 thus far. Burnham’s behind-the-camera presence is more than just a marketing gimmick, his identity is embedded in the DNA of the narrative. It goes without saying that this film is one that could not have been made even ten, maybe even five years ago.
Whether in consequence of A24’s clever marketing or their inherent legacy as indie distributors, the film has been compared to the likes of Lady Bird. While the sentiment is nice, that implies an entirely different film than Eighth Grade is. Lady Bird and the coming-of-age genre are characterized by throwbacks, sweet self-reflective dramas following a character during a time of challenge, change, and transition in their life. While Burnham’s debut carries over some of those elements, make no mistake – for this is far from a nostalgic piece. In fact, Eighth Grade is a film about the everyday anxieties of the edge of fifteen, but its also about the daily horrors the current generation of kids are living in. While the past and even future are still part of its thematic journey, the predominant focus of Eighth Grade is what is happening now.
Basically, it awoke a burning need inside me. I love film dads. You hopefully love film dads as well. So, why not use my position as a writer on a well-respected film site to rank film dads and distract myself from the existential despair around me? For the sake of brevity (and so I’m not just regurgitating the beautiful tweet above), I chose to focus on 2018 film dads in a specific and simple list, ranked on a lot of different factors. I limited it down to one dad per movie, from movies I have seen and at least superficially enjoyed. There also may be spoilers for any film included on the list, so beware!
Well, girls, gays, and all other dad loving individuals – let’s get to it!
Midway through Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, our 13-year-old heroine Kayla (Elsie Fischer) is invited to a birthday pool party by the mother of classmate Kennedy, despite the too-cool girl’s protestations. Of all the stress-inducing phrases in the English language, “pool party” may be the most casually cruel. Kayla, kind and bright but self-conscious and friendless, is visibly terrified by the idea of having to don a swimsuit and play games with people who don’t even register that she exists. On the day of the party, Kayla paces around Kennedy’s bathroom, breathing heavily and barely suppressing a panic attack.