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BTC Staff Survey: 2018 Retrospective / 2019 Preview

From time to time, the Before The Cyborgs staff comes together to answer questions relating to the current events of that particular week.  This week with 2018 now behind us, we ask: What was the most underrated movie of 2018? What was your favorite performance of 2018? and finally What is your most anticipated movie of 2019?


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Nate Lam (@NateTheCyborg)

Steve Yeun (Burning)

In Burning, Steve Yeun plays Ben – a Gatsby esque figure who engages and precariously odd hobbies to occupy his boredom. He speaks in vague statements veering towards the profound but often open to interpretation. At one point, he remarks “There is no right or wrong..just the morals of nature” but where he sits on that moral scale is what makes Yuen’s performance so memorable. The multi-layered mystery behind the character is expertly disguised by Yuen whose actions much like everything at the crux of Burning is open-ended. Are his half smile smirk and affable personality just a mark of someone naturally charismatic or is that merely a front hiding a far more sinister self? The film never gives you a definitive answer and Yuen’s effortless charm never gives anything away. Where some many movies want you to know where everyone stands at any given time, Burning is content being shrouded in ambiguity. Mirroring the multifaceted nature of people in real life Yuen delivers a performance that in a just and fair world should land him multiple prestigious awards; but as Burning teaches us things are rarely fair or just.

Mike Pisacano (@RMRCyborgMike)

Elsie Fisher- Eighth Grade

Relatively unknown 15-year-old Elsie Fisher delivered the most authentic, relatable, and heartbreaking performance of 2018 in musician/stand-up comedian Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age directorial debut, Eighth Grade. Fisher’s performance captures every microcosm of teenage social anxiety in excruciatingly painful ways that instantly endears her to us, because everyone of us has been her at some point. Her naturalistic performance could unfairly be written off as a byproduct of Fisher actually being an awkward, flustered teenage girl in real life, and while that certainly does help in order to sell the realism of her character, there are numerous instances of emotional gravitas that are far beyond the capabilities of the average teenager simply playing themselves, which can only be rationalized as raw, legitimate acting talent. The strongest example is in the scene where she is cornered by an older boy to play “truth or dare” in his car, she actively makes us feel her shame and discomfort, as well as her desperation to get out of the situation. Being tasked as a young actor with realistically portraying the effects and trauma of being an attempted sexual assault victim, while at the same time not exploiting it, is such an unbelievably impossible task for even the most skilled performer to convey believably. Her performance is filled with such heart that we can’t help but feel every bit of her anguish and to see that awkward, misunderstood kid that we all once were through her performance. There was no performance in 2018 that felt as personal, emotional, or as real as Elsie Fisher’s in Eighth Grade.

Michael Vecchio (@MaestroMichael2)

Christian Bale/Viggo Mortensen (Vice and Green Book)

Both Christian Bale and Viggo Mortensen have been on the Hollywood scene for quite some time, and yet just when one would think there would be no more surprise roles for the two, “characters” like Dick Cheney (Vice)  and Tony Vallelonga (Green Book)  present themselves. The word characters is placed in quotations because indeed these roles are based on real-life people, but Bale and Mortensen have done more than just imitate these respective men but totally embody them.

Beyond just a physical transformation (which is impressive even on its own), both actors have captured the psyche of Tony and Dick. While it is easier to make comparisons to Dick Cheney in Bale’s case, it’s clear that even without much video reference we may have to the real Tony Vallelonga, Viggo Mortensen has really captured the essence of what this man was like. Both actors are tremendous in their roles, totally masking themselves physically and emotionally behind the facade of these two “characters”. As they compete against each other at the 2019 Golden Globe Awards, it will indeed be difficult to determine who is “better”; in the end, however, audiences are undoubtedly the winners after viewing these two fine performances and the immersion of the actors into the body of another.


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Mike Pisacano (@RMRCyborgMike)

Most of 2018 felt like it was primarily dominated by films that were focused on making a statement or responding to the ugliness of the current world around us, and while those films are necessary now more than ever, it can become exhausting when a majority of our escapism entertainment is dedicated to remind you of the horrors of our reality. Sometimes it’s just as much of a necessity for films to remind us of the joys and beauty of everyday life. Hearts Beat Loud rivals Paddington 2 and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for being the most wholesome, heartfelt feel-good movie of 2018 that we all desperately needed. Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons have such a rich, charming chemistry with each other as a father/daughter music duo who learn to confront their own personal roadblocks through their artistic passion. If it had received more attention, this could have become one of those breakout Sundance indies like The Big Sick or Sing Street, with just as great of a soundtrack.

Michael Vecchio (@MaestroMichael2)

Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Zadoorian, The Leisure Seeker is not a great movie nor does it break any new ground in its genre, but still with heavyweights Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland this predictable movie is enjoyable and emotionally satisfying. The two stars play an older couple who take one last road trip in their treasured RV “The Leisure Seeker”, before the husband succumbs fully to the devastating disease of dementia. With sensitive performances, the stars tackle these challenging themes with charm.

There’s laughs and tears to be had on this journey,  and although there is not anything profoundly outstanding to this screenplay, the movie is definitely buoyed by Mirren and Sutherland’s typically commendable work. The Leisure Seeker is the kind of film to watch for a matinee or on TV, but despite its average nature its heart is most definitely in the right place. And add in two acting titans and audiences will find themselves entertained enough on this final road trip.

Nate Lam (@NateTheCyborg)

Annually I answer this question by promoting the many notable foreign movies out there because it seems every year they slip under the radar due to lack of availability or simply lack of exposure. This year half of the  films on my personal top 10 came from abroad and as an early prediction I envision that the films nominated in the Best Foreign Feature category will be critically superior to those in The Best Picture Category. Many of my favorite international selections were already covered on our year end list but here are a few more that just missed the cut:

The Guilty: A tense Danish thriller that showcases what is possible with the bare minimum of resources.

An Elephant Sitting Still: A heartbreaking four hour opus from Chinese director Hu Bo who tragically took his life after the completion of this movie. A harrowing look at those on the fringes of Chinese society, the film demonstrates the raw talent of the filmmaker as a storyteller and visual artist. Sadly we will never see how much higher he could have cultivated that potential but his last and only film function as a tribute to his undeniable talent.

Revenge: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Reinforcing the lesson of the year that men are trash and women are badass, watch as one exacts sweet sweet revenge on the men that wronged her. A visceral experience to be applauded by up and coming director Coralie Fargeat.


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Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Michael Vecchio (@MaestroMichael2)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth outing as director will once again feature a most intriguing backdrop: the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles, where a charmingly sadistic ‘prophet’ named Charles Manson and “family” begin their crimes. Though not solely based on the infamous Manson murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will attempt to give us a glimpse into another fascinating chapter of American history and the secondary characters who populate the scene. If the film is like past Tarantino projects we can expect a pastiche of themes and genres borrowed from earlier works, and an homage to the past with a clear revisionist Tarantino touch.

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker whose works have always captivated audiences and with a cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and even Al Pacino, this has the elements of being another solid entry into his celebrated filmography. Whether or not it will compare to his great classic films remains to be seen, but we can safely assume that this film will likely leave us with something to remember.

Nate Lam (@NateTheCyborg)

Note: My original selection was going to be Greta Gerwig’s (AKA Mike’s not so secret celebrity crush) upcoming adaptation of Little Women but given its uncertain release date and the unfortunate departure of Emma Stone (AKA my not so secret celebrity crush) I opted for an equally worthy selection.


Last year, Jordan Peele took the world by storm with his hauntingly poignant horror thriller Get Out receiving acclaim from critics and audiences alike. 2019 will see his follow up feature Us. Following a family who seemingly encounters blood thirsty clones of themselves, Us appears to balance more traditional horror elements with the same psychological manipulation he found success with Get Out.

As it stands Peele remains a bit of an enigma, can he cement himself as a marquee filmmaker? Is  he more than a comedian who struck gold once? Us will go a long way in finding answers to those questions but as it stands my faith for this film is sky high with strong suspicions that this will find its way onto our best of list next year.   

Mike Pisacano (@RMRCyborgMike)

Toy Story 4

Pixar’s flagship franchise was given what seems like the most perfect possible conclusion that any series could have ever asked for. Even just the thought of seeing an adolescent Andy playing with his beloved toys one last time before giving them away to another little girl and going off to college is enough to bring a tear the eyes of anyone who grew up with this series and were once themselves that innocent, imaginative child playing with Woody and Buzz toys. The announcement that they would be making a fourth film after that beautifully emotionally finale seems like nothing more than a soulless cash grab, but as more has been revealed about the plot and the direction that they plan to be taking this film, it sounds as though it has potential to be another enjoyable and emotionally resonant entry into the Pixar canon, though maybe not necessarily of the same calibre as the original three films. Disney is no stranger to milking their franchises to death, see Star Wars, Marvel, and the plethora of live-action remakes, but Toy Story is almost more of a sacred cow to them as opposed to a cash cow. Being the film that ushered in a new era of animation, made Pixar Studios the household brand name that it is today, they are actively aware of the reputation that the series holds, and much like the previous sequel, have taken their time to craft a continuation of the story that is worthy of the series’ legacy.

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