2018 in Review: Our Favorite Moviegoing Moments of the Year

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Kevin Lally, Executive Editor

One of the most astonishing movie sequences of the year comes near the end of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. In a single continuous shot, a family outing at the beach turns ominous when the children wade out too far. Cuarón’s camera follows lead actress Yalitza Aparicio, as the household’s maid and nanny, into the ocean on a determined rescue mission. In real time, you are there with the actors in this fraught situation.

Earlier in the film, Cuarón stages an equally impressive set piece inside a department store, where the family’s grandmother is helping the pregnant Aparicio shop for a crib. Suddenly, outside the store’s huge picture windows, a massive riot breaks out between student protestors and the police, a confrontation that terrifyingly spreads into the store. In this and many other chapters of Roma, Cuarón’s mastery of every visual element onscreen is nothing less than staggering.

Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible—Fallout is one tour-de-force sequence after another. Let’s take an accounting: Early in the film, in what appears to be largely a single take, Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill jump out of a transport jet in the middle of a thunderstorm, landing on the roof of Paris’ Grand Palais. Minutes later, they’re engaged in a violent fight inside the Palais’ gleaming white men’s bathroom. Minutes after that, a shootout erupts in the Palais’ nightclub. Three big set pieces in quick succession, and the movie is just getting started. Maybe the next entry in the franchise should take a cue from Jean-Luc Godard and call itself Breathless.

One of the big selling points of the M:I franchise is Tom Cruise’s willingness—no, eagerness—to do his own stunts, lending the action a non-CGI reality. But for 100% pure reality, Cruise could never top the audacity of Alex Honnold, the subject of Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s intimate and gripping (literally) documentary Free Solo. The title refers to that rare and daring breed of mountain climbers who ascend monumental peaks with nothing but their bare hands—no protective ropes or pulleys. The film follows Honnold’s quest to tackle Yosemite National Park’s iconic, 3,000-foot-high granite monolith El Capitan. Honnold’s climb has many teeth-clenching moments, but none so scary as his encounter with “The Boulder Problem,” a section of the route that requires him to propel his leg out in a “karate kick” to reach the next edge. We’ve already seen Honnold fail this test in practice runs while attached to ropes, so the suspense is unbearable. At a recent packed screening at the AMC Lincoln Square IMAX, the directors noted that what the eccentric Honnold flinches at while watching the film are the scenes between him and his incredibly accommodating girlfriend (“How could I talk to her like that?”), while the harrowing scenes of his El Capitan free solo climb put a huge smile on his face.

Finally, a different kind of thrill came from Lady Gaga’s (or rather her character’s) breakout scene in A Star Is Born. Gaga’s Ally, a waitress and aspiring singer, and Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine, a rock star, share an instant connection the night they meet, which leads to Ally performing a song-in-progress for Jackson as they sit outside in an empty supermarket parking lot. Not long after, Jackson is coaxing Ally onstage with him, having worked up a full arrangement of the song. However improbable Jackson’s fast handiwork is, it’s the moment Ally, with her soaring vocal, becomes an instant sensation and Gaga a movie icon. The song, a little earworm called “Shallow,” is the odds-on favorite to win both the Oscar and the Grammy.

Daniel Loría, SVP Content Strategy & Editorial Director

I tend to avoid attending press and industry screenings unless I’m writing a story for the magazine. Watching movies together is a big part of my marriage—I hate coming back from a screening and not being able to talk about a great movie with my wife for six weeks. Seeing films at a commercial cinema with a real audience (instead of industry colleagues) also gives the experience a different flavor. Our trip to iPic’s Fulton Market location in New York to see A Star is Born was a textbook example of a great date night at the movies. That’s a film that works best on the big screen with great sound. iPic’s luxury seating and impressive wine list drove the experience home. 

As much as I agree with Alamo Drafthouse’s “Don’t talk, don’t text” policy, there are certain exceptions to the rule. The most prominent of those exceptions took place at the AMC Magic Johnson in Harlem, where we went to see Widows about five or six weeks into its run. It was a Saturday afternoon, and there couldn’t have been more than 20 people in the auditorium. It was one of the loudest and liveliest screenings I’ve ever attended. Everyone, all 20 of us, bought into the movie—every twist and turn was met with an audible boo, cheer, or biting remark. That’s the sort of experience you’ll never get from watching a movie at home on a Saturday afternoon.

I make it a point to visit as many cinemas as possible whenever I’m at our company’s headquarters in Paris. On one such occasion, I stopped by the Studio des Ursulines, one of several iconic art houses in the Latin Quarter, to see a repertory screening of Moonrise Kingdom. The Studio des Ursulines was home to France’s avant-garde cinema in the 20s and 30s. It’s the where Luis Buñuel premiered Un Chien Andalou, standing behind the screen cranking a record for the soundtrack, his pockets filled with rocks in case the audience revolted. 

Today, it regularly hosts screenings for children and families. I was delighted to learn that my colleague at Webedia Movies Pro made a special pilgrimage to that specific theater for his son’s first trip to the movies. That’s such an important component of building a moviegoing habit—being able to share the experience with your parent, partner, or children. It’s what led me to work in this industry in the first place.

Rebecca Pahle, Associate Editor

My favorite moviegoing experiences often happen at film festivals. The audience has been waiting in line for hours and is hyped on the possibility of discovering a new gem. And, at Montreal’s genre-centric Fantasia Film Festival, people meow like cats at the beginning of the screenings. They have ever since the fest’s first year in 1996. The meowing is, per tradition, followed by ostentatious shushing. No one knows why this happens. More than anything else, it’s this tradition that sells the fest’s irreverent, community feel: You can always tell how many regulars are in attendance by how loud the meowing is once the lights go down.

One Saturday in January of 2018, several hundred moviegoers trekked through the slushy streets of New York’s East Village, en route to the historic Anthology Film Archives. The goal: Sitting in a theatre for twelve hours (brief breaks interspersed throughout) to watch six movies from the heyday of Hong Kong action cinema. What movies? We wouldn’t know until the title cards came up. Would they be weird? Probably. Would some people give up and leave? Yes. By the time the final movie rolled its credits, would the remaining movie marathon soldiers feel a little punch-drunk, like maybe they were hallucinating? Absolutely. That’s Hong-Kong-A-Thon! for you.