President Obama’s Top 15 Movies of 2018

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President Barack Obama has started doing an annual “year-end list” of various books, movies, and music he loved. Obviously, his number one book of the year was Michelle’s “Becoming”. His music choices…well, he had a song by Cardi B which makes you wonder, but he had some solid stuff from Hozier, Kurt Vile, and Courtney Barnett. Nice. With that type of diversity, I was looking forward to seeing what he had in store for us with his movie list.  

It’s fun listening to Presidents talk about their favorite movies. I remember when Bill Clinton was being interviewed by the late film critic Roger Ebert, and the excitement he had in his eyes as he talked about his all time favorite movie (High Noon)…was so much more interesting than hearing him do an MTV interview where he had to answer “boxers or briefs?”

Most people do a Top 10, but Obama picked 15. I love the fact that he picked that many. I was excited to check out his list, but thoroughly disappointed when I saw it. My wife made a good point when I rattled his list off to her while she was making tea.

“All those movies seem like they’re something to impress a particular political interest group. It’s not like he’s even having fun at the movies. The environment, women, racial issues, young people…so transparent.”

I thought about that, and she’s right. Also, why no comedies on his list? Game Night or the hysterical, animated Isle of Dogs…nowhere to be found. Why no Green Book? It’s simply…the best movie of the year. Anybody that does a list of 15 movies and doesn’t have it anywhere on there, better tell me they didn’t see the movie. Otherwise, I just think they’re an idiot. Now, onto his list, in alphabetical order.


Obama’s favorite movies of 2018:

“Annihilation”  — I will give him credit for picking an action/sci-fi movie, but this one? It was so disappointing. I only know one critic that liked it (and he’s a college student).

“Black Panther” — I can’t fault him for having this on his list, but…it’s just a superhero movie. Sure, it’s a well-done superhero movie, but nothing more.

“BlacKkKlansman” — This is very disappointing. It was an okay movie, that’s being overly praised by everyone that hates Trump (because of the scenes at the end, that don’t fit into the narrative). Perhaps the fact that 97% of this movie is fiction, bugged me a bit. Also, how can he have this on the list, and not have two of my favorites of the year — Sorry to Bother You? That terrific Boots Riley film covered race relations, and socio-economic issues, in hilarious fashion. One of my greatest thrills was meeting Riley at the Critics’ Choice awards and telling him how much I loved it (my wife commented that the fact that two older white people were praising his movie, probably threw him for a loop).

“Blindspotting” — I love this choice. A movie that was co-written by two friends who were the two leads in it (both from Hamilton). It made my Top 20, just not my Top 10.

“Burning” — This Korean movie was intriguing, and a lot of critics will have it on their list. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure it would even make my Top 40 of the year. It didn’t need to be 2 ½ hours long (but boy is Steven Yeun fun to watch. Now, had Obama picked Sorry to Bother You, it would’ve been two Yeun movies that made the list.)  

“The Death of Stalin” — This movie is flat-out awful. And it’s a shame, because the filmmakers made a great political satire called “In the Loop” (James Gandolfini) almost 10 years ago, that was brilliant.

“Eighth Grade” — This movie was interesting, and it totally captured an 8th grade girl, but…is watching an 8th grade girl ramble into a video camera for a blog nobody watches, something any adult would find…brilliant? It was an okay movie that’s getting overly praised by everyone.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” — Obama probably loved the book. I get it. It’s James Baldwin; but as a movie, this film was a mess. Despite being shot beautifully, the close-ups were annoying and didn’t work. The scenario and narrative didn’t work. Even the jazzy score got annoying after awhile.

“Leave No Trace” — Most critics had this on their list. Now, I love me some Ben Foster, and casting him as a returning soldier with PTSD was great. The young girl, Thomasin McKenzie got my vote in the Critics’ Choice awards for best performance from a youngster. There just wasn’t enough dialogue or story for this to even crack my Top 25.

“Minding the Gap” — This was a solid pick, and it’s refreshing that he has this on his list instead of Jonah Hill’s overrated mid90s skateboarding flick.

“The Rider” — This is an excellent choice by President Obama. It made my Top 5 of the year, and won lots of Spirit Awards last year. It was poetry on screen. Bravo to filmmaker Chloe Zhao.

“Roma” — This has to easily be the most overrated movie of the year. A few great scenes, but very repetitive (how many times do they have to show dog poop on the driveway?) and often very boring (how is it interesting watching dog poop being cleaned off a driveway?). I don’t care that the director wanted to do a love letter to the women who raised him. That doesn’t make for a compelling film.

“Shoplifters” — A nice choice, and I love when critics (or in this case, Presidents), pick movies like this. It helps the smaller films, foreign films, indie pictures…get more attention.

“Support the Girls” — This movie started promisingly, and Regina King was great in it. But it’s really a mess. The second half made me not even like the movie, but…perhaps Obama felt the big, bad white boss treated the African-American manager of a Hooters type restaurant horribly, so it’s a narrative that’s right up his alley [This just in! President Trump heard it was about a bunch of waitresses working at a Hooters type bar and he immediately arranged for a White House screening]

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — This is a heartwarming documentary, and it’s hard to fault anyone that puts it on their list. But this year, there were at least four documentaries better than this (Three Identical Strangers is one). But the documentary that deals with public television — it’s easy to see why he picked this over the better documentaries.

So after reading his list, I will say this. President Obama — stick to your day job. Speeches for $250,000 a pop. Oh, and either go see Green Book, or don’t be too scared to put it on your list because some folks have complained about it; or because the idea of a gay character in the movie may turn you off [fun fact: Obama was against gay marriage, up until he ran for his second term]. Read Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s great column about how wonderful the movie is, and perhaps that will change your mind. You can find it here:


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