2018 was the best year in Black movie history from a revenue perspective, and that’s likely because black folks are being allowed to tell their own stories.
2018 was an incredible year for Black cinema.
It wasn’t that long ago that, even when a film starred a Black actor or actress, the material was written, directed and produced by folks whose intimacy with the culture stopped at the point where stereotypical tropes ended and those that exhibited positive or realistic aspects of Black life began.
But this year cannot be fronted on for creativity, artistic interpretation, cultural relevance and box office performances of Black movies in American theaters. 2018 has been the best year in Black movie history from a revenue perspective, and that’s likely because Black folks are being allowed to tell their own stories.
Increasingly, Black creatives are coming up with material in conjunction with major motion picture studios rather than being treated as creative sharecroppers who only nibble at the bounty their projects garnered.
We give a shoutout to some of our most entertaining and culturally relevant Black films of 2018.
Monsters and Men
Monsters and Men, directed and written by Reinaldo Marcus Green and starring Chante Adams, John David Washington, and Anthony Ramos, was a beautifully shot look into the lives of three individuals dealing with the fallout from a police shooting from multiple perspectives.
It was nominated for multiple awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. It was a tapestry look into the reverberating effects of death at the hands of the NYPD.
“There’s a common theme right now between this and BlacKKKlansman about me being a cop, but that’s a good thing,” John David Washington told The Shadow League. “I feel that just because a brother that looks like me has a uniform and badge doesn’t mean he’s not for the cause, not for our people, not for the community. We need to ask more questions, and cast less judgment. We need more information so we can discern for ourselves on a case by case basis.”
The Black Panther
Though Chadwick Boseman and director Ryan Coogler received a great deal of the accolades that reigned down on Black Panther when it dropped in February 2018, it was the sisters that provided most of the on-screen depth and brilliance.
Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and the venerable Angela Bassett were the very soul of the picture.
Black Panther shows us that women are not secondary to men in any regard, and are not just capable or equal to, but better than men in many pragmatic ways. It is the women in his life who save T’Challa time and time again throughout the film.
TSL: Black Panther has received multiple Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture. What were your initials reactions to when the news went viral?
Angela Bassett: “My initial thoughts were that I was thrilled! I was very happy it was nominated. Before I officially heard, there were rumblings that these types of movies, superheroes, comic books, don’t deserve, that these sort of movies don’t garner that type of serious recognition. That took me back. It was a superhero movie, but there was resonance on so many levels in that movie.”
“The superhero genre was how it was told, but there was nothing fluff about it. It was the type of film that dissertations can be written about from various angles. So I was very pleased to see that others thought it’s worthwhile. I think it should be celebrated. It’s worthy. I think the next step is that it wins.”
The Hate U Give
Though many believed it was about The Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give was actually about the dualism of being a Black person living in America, and how it manifests in every aspect of our lives to varying degrees. The Hate U Give shows us what happens when reality forces us to decide what we believe in, and forces us to reveal who we truly are.
“We so often get stories of Black life rooted in pain, fear, and struggle,” Amandla Stenberg told Ava DuVernay during a discussion at the Urbanworld Film Festival. “Of course, that is a part of this story as well, but its also about all of the different facets of our interpersonal connections and relationships as black people, how we relate to and love our communities, [and] how we react to events and find our strength.”
If Beale Street Could Talk
If Beale Street Could Talk, starring Stephan James, KiKi Layne, Stephan James, and Regina King, has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Supporting Actress (Regina King) and Best Screenplay (Barry Jenkins). It paints Black love with hues of light, sound, and emotion that stirs the soul.
The inherent fragility of Black existence within the American cultural sphere makes the gravitas of every hopeful endeavor on the behalf of Fonny weighted with even more purposeful love.
Here’s what film great Regina King had to say about her role during our recent interview.
“This particular piece, what makes it so unique is that we don’t get the opportunity to see ourselves loving on each other in this way on the big or small screen. And it’s really fantastic to see the reaction of everyone watching this film, white people included.”
“They are having the opportunity, watching for entertainment purposes, but leaving, looking, re-looking at a Black person. There’ll be a wave that will happen. I think not only do Black people need to see this film, I think Americans need to see it.”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Sneakily, stealthily, Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse was one of the best films of the year. Starring the vocal talents of Shameik Moore, Mahershala Ali, Hallie Stansfield and Nicolas Cage, into the Spider-Verse was easily one of the coolest things that I’ve ever seen on the big screen in my entire life. Culturally relevant, visually stunning and with definitive black thematic tones throughout.
Here’s what co-director Peter Ramsey had to say of the Black cultural gems that went into Spider-Verse.
“The thing is we adapted the story from the original comic written by Brian Michael Bendis back in 2011. The central relationship between Miles, his father, and his uncle were in the comics all along. That was one of the things that made Miles’ story so attractive to Phil Lord and Chris Miller.”
“Sony asked them to do an animated Spider-Man movie and they said ‘We don’t really want to do another Peter Parker movie, but we’d love to do a Miles Morales movie.”
“I read those comics when they first came out and I knew how much that particular story of his father and his uncle really resonate. I think it’s a universal thing with all families that sometimes we can be torn between family members and different things going on in one family. I think, with Black families, it seems to be very resonant because a lot of us lived in a situation where there are really different things that happen in one family.”