2018 Year in Review: Favorite Films of the Year

With Awards Season in full swing and many “Best Films” of the year being shared, here at The Girly Nerd, it is high time to share what were my favorite films in 2018. And there were an abundance of amazing ones. Common denominators certainly were abound: Netflix, post apocalyptic drama, super heroes, the return of the rom-com, welcome and meaningful diversity, and the beauty of stories and recapturing our childhoods and what truly matters. Without further ado here are my favorites for 2018, with some special acknowledge of standout performers and outstanding directors.

10. Dumplin’ dumplin_004.0

Dolly Parton once said “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose” and that is definitely the mantra that Dumplin’ employs so beautifully as Willowdean, the daughter of a former beauty queen, along with some fellow “revolutionaries” join their local pageant to prove a point about what pageants are, only for everyone involved to discover something profound about themselves and life. Dumplin’ is about embracing who you truly are, learning to forgive and not to judge others, and living and loving your best life, brought to life with great humor and heart.

9. What Still Remains what-still-remains

An evocative, thought provoking post apocalyptic drama, What Still Remains examines an extreme but profound “what if” scenario. What if you were living in a desolate world where so much of the population was gone and some that remained were lost in the most inhuman way imaginable. Would you in turn lose your humanity, in order to “survive” or would you maintain it because losing that would be equally devastating- because essentially you would be losing yourself. In this story that is what Anna encounters, when fellow survivor Peter brings her to his village which seems welcoming but underneath it all, does what cults do- twist religion and abandon the concept of free will and choice. Led by a nuanced and often chilling performance by Colin O’Donoghue, we see with Peter how the charismatic can be hiding something truly sinister within themselves (and casting someone as striking and charming as he is talented as O’Donoghue is brilliant), as well as the devastation of dark choices that cause us to lose our own humanity and try to take away those of others. Perhaps their world is bleak, but we must never lose ourselves or hope that something brighter is within reach.

8. Black Pantherblack-panther-movie-characters

The world of Wakanda is an extraordinary one and I have no doubt that most who were captivated by this world, found themselves chanting “Wakanda Forever” as the credits to Black Panther rolled and beyond. We first met the new king of Wakanda T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and right away were drawn into his story and fine character. But Black Panther not only expands his story but the entirely of this world with even more remarkable characters, my personal favorite being T’Challa’s sister, and true genius Shuri. The accomplishments and exemplary thing about this film are two-fold. Not only is the story engrossing, acting wonderful, aesthetics gorgeous, and themes resonant, but we see representation with real, full and non stereotypical characters. This should be and hopefully will begin to be commonplace. But above all Black Panther is simply a wonderful and captivating film. A comic book film it may be with extraordinary circumstances, and heroes and villains alike. But at its heart, it’s resonant story about integrity and honor and learning how the world and the motivations of others are more complicated than we perhaps thought.

7. A Quiet Placejohn-krasinski-a-quiet-place-1200x675

Can you imagine a world where sound was your damnation? Where if you make any kind of loud noise, your life will most likely be lost, hunted down by a monster? That is the haunting concept of A Quiet Place, which is an extraordinarily artistic and evocative take on the classic thriller, post apocalyptic world. In truth, this film is about the power of love between family, most especially that between parent and child.  Anyone who is a parent is no doubt deeply moved by this tale of a family in a desolate world where sound, and the monstrous creatures that attack when they hear it, is their daily enemy. One of their children is deaf, and that combined with their necessary situation, provided such an effective usage of sound and sign language. When we are in young Regan’s perspective the film is almost completely silent to represent her point of view and it is truly affecting. The anxieties of the family are high when the birth of another child is imminent and they are separated. Not only on the edge of your seat in the traditional thriller way, A Quiet Place accomplishes what many films of the same nature do not. It deeply moves us. Director John Kraskinski said this was a love letter to his daughters, and with his on and off screen wife Emily Blunt, they created a story of true love, sacrifice and hope abound with the significance of always striving to learn and invent, and most especially to not just listen with our ears, but with our hearts and minds. A Quiet Place is a quietly profound film.

6. Crazy Rich Asianscrazy ricj

Funny, sweet, hilarious and another welcome and profoundly diverse film, I could not say it better than the wonderful Michelle Yeoh about what this films accomplishes so wonderfully, “To be represented- we’re not just a token for diversity. Real representation means you have a meaningful character with hopes and dreams and in Crazy Rich Asians that’s what we all have.” Diversity is not a trend, and something that should be done haphazardly or without much thought. It should be done, (and is in this film it is) in a beautiful and meaningful way. The world is a large place and everyone should be able to see themselves at some point on screen in a significant way that has us crying or laughing and having that moment of true recognition. What is also special about Crazy Rich Asians is that it’s about both diversity and universality, and it’s a celebration of that. We have seen this kind of romance story before with love having to overcome class differences, and pressures from family. What’s different is who is portraying these characters. It’s both specific in culture but also universal thematically. It’s about family, love and traditions that are specific to the Asian culture but can be relatable to all. But even if it weren’t it still would remain praiseworthy. Crazy Rich Asians is the type of film that I truly love and hope to see more and more in years to come.

5. Avengers: Infinity Waravengers

A film that is the culmination of over 10 years and 18 films is bound to have a great deal riding on its shoulders. And the first part of this climatic cinematic event, in one of the most spectacular cinematic universes of story and character was just that- absolutely spectacular! Marvel is most certainly a master of creating dynamic films filled with real emotion and amazing action, and with so many characters filling the screen, the task of balancing all of them, giving them sufficient screen time, all while managing to create a coherent and compelling story that was 10 years in the making, is indeed a tall order. And boy did they deliver. The first two Avengers films were amazing films, as are so many of the other individual films for every character, but there was something special about this one. What was most compelling was the way this truly centered on the villain- Thanos- as he is hell bent on erasing half of the universe, and like most villains feels he is totally justified.  You feel every moment and are on the edge of your seat, and the film flies by until it reaches the climatic battle which was one of the most, again, compelling spectacles to ever grace the screen- and for one very significant reason. It wasn’t just about the amazing effects and cool imagery. It was because it felt human. And when Thanos wins with a snap of his fingers of that coveted Infinity Gauntlet, we felt the depth of this “victory” down to own very souls.

4. Mary Poppins Returnsmp retirns

Magical, colorful, a feast for the eyes and ears, and a wonder for the heart and soul, Mary Poppins Returns accomplishes something that seemed impossible. It created a new and wondrous version of the practically perfect nanny and her adventurous and wise ways, infused with heart, poignancy and above all, magic. And I will be perfectly honest- when I first heard about the film I was adamantly against attempting to recreate the perfection that is the 1964 classic. But as time moved on and I saw who was involved, from the top notch casting of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, to director Rob Marshall who has proven to immensely talented at bringing musicals to life with vitality with Chicago and Into the Woods, and lastly to composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman whose songs for the TV series Smash play on repeat in my home on a regular basis, I went from opposition to cautious optimism, to out right hope and excitement. And that shift in feelings was more than warranted. It may not reach the levels as the original in story and song, but more than succeeds in bringing warmth and heart into characters new and old as well as simply being stunning in its visuals and orchestration.

Emily Blunt more than makes the character her own with wit and cheekiness and the oh so important subtle emotion when dealing with Michael Banks and his children who have lost their mother and may lose their home. Lin-Manuel Miranda is the perfect blend of charming and sweet, much like Bert was with an added depth and connection to Jane Banks that was both unexpected and lovely. Ben Whishaw feels so much like his late father (portrayed originally by David Tomlinson) that it’s uncanny, while Emily Mortimer was a lovely blend of tried and true giggly effervescent Jane and social activist that would make her Suffragette mother proud. The greatest songs are without a doubt, the lovely and soft “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” the rousing  “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and above all “Nowhere to Go But Up” which literally soars and is the film’s, most timeless tune. The cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Landsbury will make your heart happy, the music smile and the story cry. Mary Poppins Returns is magical in every way and shows us that things are never truly lost because they will always remain in our hearts.

3. Sun Dogssundogsjennifermorrison

Some of the finest films are simple stories, well told. Sun Dogs is a beautifully crafted film with moving performances, immaculate direction, and affecting themes in a story that is poignant, humorous and touching all at once. A lovely marriage of story and artistry, this film that takes place in a post 9-11 world, where the earnest Ned Chipley, who has dealt with a mental deficiency since birth, wants more than anything to join the Marines, help keep the country safe, and above all save lives. And when he thinks he stumbles onto a possible terrorist threat, he and a young girl named Tally go on a journey of self discovery, that is often mirrored in that of his parents and indeed the audience. Fine performances by Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Ed O’Neil and Allison Janney, you feel deeply for all of these characters, and will simultaneously laugh and cry. Sensitive issues it may be, but they are handled with tender care and respect. You feel and sympathize with Ned, but you don’t pity him. His earnestness is so heartfelt even when everything is not what it seems. And above all the themes combined with these characters draw you into the story in a way that is truly gripping.

The full length feature directorial debut of Jennifer Morrison (whose talent is superb and surely has a fine directing career ahead of her), the direction of the film is sublime in its subtlety and specificity, visually interesting and reflective of the film’s main themes. (In fact, look out for a more in depth film study on this one soon.) As Morrison said, “Sun Dogs shines a light on the idea that every person has a purpose in life. I believe that we are all misfits in one way or another. We feel misunderstood. We fail. We struggle. We hope. It’s what makes us unique in our search for meaning.” And therein lies the true heart of the film. Through Ned, and indeed all of the characters, we see and can relate to feeling lost or needing someone to believe in us, hold our hand and be there in sincere understanding or compassion. Moreover, the phrase, “Hello, how are you today?” takes on new meaning as we learn that even the simplest of gesture can save someone’s life in more ways than one. We all are searching for that meaning in life and our purpose and in Sun Dogs that is expressed in a truly beautiful and meaningful way.

2. Christopher Robinchristopher robin

Can a film have heartbeat? Does a film have the ability to simply and effortlessly tap into childhood nostalgia and the remembrance of life’s true wonders and beauties in a way that reaches your very soul? In the case of Christopher Robin, the answer is unequivocally a resounding YES!! The Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne, 1977 Disney film, and other incarnations of the classic characters have always held a special place in my heart, but this latest film perhaps made me feel more than all the others combined, as we once again ask, is it possible to say an audible “Awww” throughout an entire movie? The heart of Christopher Robin lies within its ability to tap into feelings beyond comparison, with visuals that are so realistic you actually believe that Pooh and his friends truly are real and have returned to Christopher’s life when he needed them the most, with fine performances by Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell as well as the immaculate voice work and artistry  of every single person who brought Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the 100 Acre Wood to life.

Visually and thematically, Christopher Robin is brilliant and beautiful in its simplicity, subtlety and unabashed sweetness. With muted colors that reflect the time period, and a subtle use of vibrancy seen in Pooh and his friends and single red balloon, as well as a gentle direction and similar themes to director Marc Forster’s equally stunning Finding Neverland, this film can makes us smile and cry and touch our hearts with its poignant wisdom about life, friendship and family. We all must grow up and mature, but we need not lose that ability to find joy in life’s simplest treasures and never lose our child like wonder. We may be lost but we can always be found when we open our hearts to tthat wonder and joy, found as easily as a bright red balloon in a vast sea of gray. And that is something truly special.

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society guernsey

Acclaimed author Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic,” and is that ever the case. And although King’s works and Guernsey couldn’t be more different, his assessment is attune to what the book and this subsequent original Netflix film expresses. But Guernsey indeed takes this even steps further in an exquisitely delicate and moving depiction of a group of people who come together under the darkest of circumstances in the shadow of the Nazi occupation of World War II, showcasing the ways they manage to find joy and comfort despite everything. Make no mistake, the fear and loss this society formed out of self preservation experiences is profound, but when a young author connects with this group of individuals young and old, they all find something they truly needed: a collective family who understand the importance and resplendent joy of the written word, and truly human connections.

Guernsey is the type of period movie, so exquisitely filmed that your eyes are in a constant state of awe from the London golden parties to its cobblestone streets. And most especially, you will wish you could transport to every single beautiful local in this seaside British town. Indeed, from the cinematography, to the costumes, to the score, Guernsey is a wondrous delight, while the performances and story, much like Christopher Robin, have the ability to awaken and move the soul in a profound way. For we see how books can bring people together- reach across time and space and not only make us feel, but help us feel connected to others. Isn’t that what the finest books, or films, or music, or art can accomplish- create an unique kind of radiant magic that can help create unbreakable bonds of love, family and friendship. In a world filed with darkness, this is a glowing beacon of light and hope. The Guernsey Society may have created a group to save their lives in the literal sense, but the way it truly saved them can never truly be measured. And that is why this film sits at the top of this year’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, When We First Met
Yet to See: Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Incredibles 2

Stand Out Performers:
Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place & Mary Poppins Returns)
Michael Angarano (Sun Dogs)
Awkafina (Crazy Rich Asians)
Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Lily James (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)
Colin O’Donoghue (What Still Remains)
Ben Whishaw (Mary Poppins Returns)

Outstanding Directors:
Jennifer Morrison (Sun Dogs)
John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Marc Forster (Christopher Robin)
Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns)
Mike Newell (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television Performances, Relationships, Moments, and More

Performances:
Actresses:

5. Teresa Palmer (A Discovery of Witches) diana 1.gif

Diana Bishop is an incredibly strong, intelligent and loving character. Thrust into danger with power awakening inside her, Diana overcomes past fears and denials as she learns to embrace the extraordinary magic within her, subsequently awakening a fierce strength as well. While falling deeply in love illuminates all of these qualities tenfold. And Palmer showcased all of these qualities with grace, nuance and beauty. She maintained an authentic balance of fierce confidence are understandable fears and it was lovely to watch.

4. Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) alex

Susie is tough as nails, brash and harsh with just about everyone. It would be easy to come off as a one note character. But there is more to this character and Borstein showcases the layers to her character so well, most especially in moments where we see how much she cares about Midge, and when others show true care and affection towards her. When her fellow workers in the Catskills shower her with love and relief after believing she had been missing, you both laugh and are touched watching a woman who clearly had not experienced many moments like this. Borstein perfectly portrays a woman who doesn’t always know how to show or accept affection, but its meaning is not lost on her. It’s written all over her face.

3. Melissa Roxburgh (Manifest) melissa

Michaela Stone boarded Flight 828 unsure of her future, wracked with guilt over a car accident that resulted in her friend’s death, but with her brother’s advice and her mother’s unfailing love and wisdom in her ears. She departed the plane feeling more hopeful and ready to accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, only to have that all come crashing down learning that not only have 5 years have passed, but her mother has passed away, and her boyfriend had married her best friend. Heartbreak is then met with strange voices and callings and dangers abound. Through it all Roxburgh has showcased Michaela’s heartbreak, anger, confusion, and determination to find her place and inner strength with grace and authenticity. Her performance is indeed one of the show’s finest aspects.

2. Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) mrs-maisel-thank-you-goodnight-1515699518

Miriam Maisel is a witty, effervescent, strong, intelligent, caring, verbose, beautiful, incredible and dynamic woman and it takes a brilliant performer to portray such a dynamic character. Brosnahan more than accomplishes this task. She has a radiant presence that is also very grounded in moments where Miriam is standing up for herself in a male dominated profession, when she falters when dealing with her father’s knowledge of her stand-up, and dealing with a turning point in her life professionally and personally. Midge Maisel is a realistic, marvelous gal we all can relate to and aspire to be like and it’s due to Brosnahan’s wonderful performance.

1. Mandy Moore (This Is Us) mandy

Many Moore is an incredible talent, whom I have been a fan since the beginning of her career. And it’s been a true joy and honor to bot only watch her continue to grow as a performer but also achieve great success. In This is Us, Moore is given the chance to shine and showcase her tremendous range and abilities. In 2018, we saw these exemplary talents on full display throughout many stages of Rebecca’s life:as a young and hopeful ingénue, falling in love, a happy wife, supportive mother, and grieving widow. The latter gave us the most devastating moment and brilliant performance of this season (perhaps even series) when the knowledge that Jack has died becomes reality when she walks into that hospital room and the camera focuses only on her. We feel every blinking moment of disbelief, every breath, and every tear, and cry of devastation. She gives a deeply affecting performance in her moments of grief, but beautifully balances those with soft moments of brave vulnerability and tender understanding, with countless members of her family. Moore’s performance is a exquisite balance of quiet beauty and authentic fierceness and an absolute wonder to watch.

Special Recognition: Amber Stevens West (Happy Together) amber

As Claire, Stevens West is bright and lovely, funny and sweet, a wonderful scene partner for Wayans Jr. and undeniably and effortlessly likable. Sitcom characters can often feel unrealistic but Stevens West brings a kind of natural grace and warmth that makes Claire feel real and relatable.

Actors:

5. Damon Wayans Jr. (Happy Together) damon

Not many performers can make me laugh as much, and indeed smile as much, as Wayans Jr. Always the scene stealer in Happy Endings and New Girl, as Jake in Happy Together, he infuses each scene with the same natural charm, hilarity, and sweetness now as the leading man, which greatly pleases me. It is so easy to love his performance bringing forth age old idea how laughter is truly infectious.

4. Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) tony

Shalhoub has always been brilliant in my humble opinion, most especially as the OCD detective Adrian Monk. I was so pleased see him grace our screens again, in a completely different sort of role. A sort of long suffering, straight as an arrow, loving, but not without his quirks or strong opinions that go against what a modern audience, would deem right. And Shalhoub manages to make not only Abe Weisman lovable, but real and empathetic. Most especially in Season 2, when Abe’s wife leaves without him noticing, he discovers his daughter’s stand up, and has tribulations with his new job he is forced to re-examine his life and viewpoints and comes out all the better for it. Shalhoub is absolutely wonderful and provides some of Mrs. Maisel’s finest moments in 2018.

3. Josh Dallas (Manifest) josh

Forever in as our hearts as Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time, #CharmAttacks may not happen as much, but 2018 brought back Dallas to our screens in a dynamic and most welcome way- in a different kind of role, though with some humorous similarities (time jumps and not aging), with much more serious, darker and mysterious material. Ben Stone is a loving husband, father and brother, who loses 5 years with his family, who grieved and moved on when they believed him to be dead. He finds himself “replaced” somewhat by another man with his wife and daughter, is trying to wrap his head around the strange callings he and fellow passengers share and tirelessly wants to discover the truth behind the underlying government conspiracy that won’t leave them be. He only wants to protect his family and is pulled in every direction imaginable. We knew Dallas could portray a loving father beautifully, and this continues on Manifest as a very rational man who doesn’t hesitate to take action. Dallas’s performance is strong and stalwart with a quiet and melancholy vulnerability, and like Roxburgh’s performance, one of the finest attribute’s to Manifest.

2. Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us) jack 1

Ventimiglia has always portrayed Jack Pearson brilliantly, and 2018 was no different and in fact, showcased some of his finest work as we finally saw the cause of Jack’s untimely death, as well as learning more about the root of his need to protect others- it stems from protecting his younger brother at an early age from his abusive father, going well into adulthood when said brother is drafted into the Vietnam War. The combination of the new and illuminating, and very different look at a part of Jack’s life with the looks at his early love story with Rebecca and unconditional support of his children provided quite the poignant drama, made every so moving by the warmth, nuance and quiet strength in Ventimiglia’s performance.

1. Matthew Goode (A Discovery of Witches) matthew

Goode is a performer I have loved for years in both film and television, with Leap Year and Downton Abbey being two personal favorites. As the centuries old Matthew Clairmont, the brooding but passionate, strong and enigmatic vampire, Goode feels tailor made for the role and portrays his character as if it was written specifically for him- as is he is literally leaping of the page and onto our screens to give us chills and capture our hearts. Clairmont may be immortal, but what Goode brings to the part is undeniably human. He must be at times mysterious and dangerous and others times gentle and romantic. It’s a delicate balance but Goode brings charisma, warmth, and nuance brilliantly creating a captivating character and perfect partner in a love story of epic proportions. He is invigorating to watch.

Special Recognition: Andrew J. West (Once Upon a Time) andrew

It was a tall order to fill the shoes of an established character but now as a grown adult, and although the storyline was not perfect, West’s performance was admirable as it is clear he both studied Jared Gilmore’s performance as Henry in order to maintain the feel for the character, while bringing his own maturity and warmth. It helped to create a seamless transition and this is to be admired.

Casts:

3. The Series of Unfortunate Events Cast olafbaudelaires

What can I say about the cast of this unique series except that I never want to look away from such exceptional talent and we all out fortunate to witness this story unfold in such extraordinary hands. They all manage to bring levity to the serious, heart and pathos to the absurd and move and excite us with each tantalizing episode. Neil Patrick Harris is a true master of disguise as Count Olaf and it is a truly masterful performance while the Baudelaire siblings Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Pressley Smith bring so much heart and inspiration to the children who must employ their wits and bravery in this perpetual series of unfortunate events in their lives.

2. The Good Place Cast good place

The most unusual mix of characters continue to delight and move us in this colorful, absurd and yet grounded series about the afterlife and what it means to be human and every single person brings their own form of humor and charm, each with defining characteristics, so much so that while this is for the entire cast we must take special note of D’arcy Carden who as Janet performed an episode where this entity embodied every single character and embodied their speech patterns, mannerisms so spot on that it felt like you were actually watching them. It was incredible! But indeed, Kristen Bell is a riot as the guarded and tough but deep down vulnerable Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi makes his indecisiveness endearing instead of frustrating, Jameela Jamil’s Tahani seems out of touch and snobbish, but is hilariously endearing as we see her insecurities and good heart shine through, Manny Jacinto as the dim but sweet natured Jason is undeniably likable, and the incomparable Ted Danson makes a demon feel like the most innocent creature in the universe in what may be my favorite performance of his career. The show is called The Good Place, but the cast is absolutely Great!

1. The Timeless Cast

timeless 2

In the final season of the time traveling series, every single person shined and played a significant part in the plot of the last episodes, but each performance also helped make their respective characters and indeed the show its remarkable self- so much so that they all must be recognized. Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey, Claudia Doumit, Goran Visnjic, and Annie Wersching were all incredibly powerful performers, knowing when to give and take with their scene partners, show the proper range of emotion from fear to delight to regret and hope. A show is only as good as the actors who breathe life into the written words, and this cast made a story out of time and space always remain firmly on the ground and still make us believe in a possible future. We laugh and cried and rooted for the end of Rittenhouse and for our Time team to not only save the day but find love, salvation and happiness. And these performers created indelibly timeless performances.

Favorite Returns:

Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Josh Dallas (Once Upon a Time) captain swan 3snowing

Could the fairy tale series really close the last page of its storybook without once again seeing the characters whose journey started it all? Thankfully, that answer was an unequivocal no and we once again saw Emma Swan and her parents Snow White and Prince Charming. And when we saw each character both re-appear and we took our last look at these iconic characters I have no doubt each audience member leapt from their seats, smiled and then wiped away a few tears. The show would not have been its magical self without them so it’s only fitting they provided beautiful, significant and heartwarming moments that made the series end what it should be: a final showcase of adventure, love, and hope.

Use of Music:

2. “The Good Queen” and “Leaving Storybrooke”- Mark Isham, Cindy O’Connor, Michael D. Simon (Once Upon a Time)

The music of the fairy tale show has always been one of the consistently beautiful and most universally loved part of the series, and in the final episode, that proved no different. In particular, the final two music queues were not only gorgeous but moving in the way they reflected what was on screen, but also brought back some of the show’s most beautiful and steadfast musical themes in new variations. The beginning of “The Good Queen” was light, lovely and regal, but I opening admit to bursting into tears when Emma and Killian’s appearance brought forth a final and triumphant variation on “Emma’s theme” followed by an exquisitely light and jovial variation of Emma’s and Killian’s theme meant to be for their baby Hope. And “Leaving Storybrooke” was a touching tribute to everything that came before and a final bow to this show, it’s sleepy little town and its inhabitants who came to mean so much to us hearing the “Storybrooke,” “Snow and Charming,” and “True Love” themes in new and lovely ways. These final moments were made ever more beautiful by the perfect musical ending.

1. “Time After Time”- Joseph William Morgan (Timeless)

Not only is the cover of this 80’s song perfect in the beautiful, melancholy and yet hopeful tone, but it also brings so much to scenes that would be already emotional from the images alone. Moreover, the song is the ideal choice to encapsulate what the show and the characters have been through. Yes the time travel aspect seems an obvious connection. But it’s more than that. The lyrics to the song reflect not only how they felt in their adventures through time, but how they all came to mean something profound to each other.”Caught up in circles/Confusion is nothing new/Flashback, warm nights/Almost left behind/Suitcases of memories/Time after Time/ If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me/Time after time/If you fall I will catch you/I will be waiting/Time after time.”These lyrics are a gorgeous reflection of what the “Time Team” is. Through all the confusion and nearly losing one another, they will always be there to catch each other if they fall, in love and friendship, time and time again. Always.

Relationships:

2. The Baudelaire Children (A Series of Unfortunate Events) tumblr_p1vp8zj1i61thu2vbo2_500

As I wrote in the 2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television of the Year, when you watch the story of the Baudelaire orphans “you find yourself deeply invested and rooting for these children who are wise, mature and intelligent beyond their years not only in terms of being well read and clever but emotionally as well. The three all have their special strengths that they utilize as they continuously must escape the clutches of Count Olaf surrounded by people who will not always listen, while trying to maintain their own courage, faith and humanity.” In the second season they face darker and darker times and encounter some of the most dangerous, and unfortunate events yet, and while things grow more murky and the children struggle to keep their hope, they manage to remember that there can be people who are altruistic and generous, that bravery may be difficult but not impossible, and to cling to each other because the bond of the family who truly love you is unbreakable.

1. The Time Team (Timeless) timeless 3

Although Season 2 may have featured a little less of the Season 1 “Time Team” in fact the still employed them a great deal. That is because the time team became more than a trio as the fight to take down Rittenhouse not only included Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus but now expanded to include fellow scientist Jiya, inventor Conor Mason, Agent Christopher, and former enemy Garcia Flynn, all working together and proving that heroism and salvation is never impossible and that family is not only defined by blood, but by those who we are willing to give our blood for.

Couples:

5. Randall and Beth Pearson (This is Us) randall beth

Although 2018 brought some unanswered questions and angst to the couple, Randall and Beth remain a beautiful example of a healthy, supportive and communicative relationship. They also have their fair share of romantic and oh so cute moments that show a real sweetness and understanding between the two. They are best friends who are crazy about each other and who wouldn’t want to aspire to that.

4. Jake and Claire (Happy Together) jake claire.gif

Another absolutely adorable couple who clearly are each other’s best friends, what make Jake and Claire such a joy to watch is not only the natural chemistry between the actors, but the way they fit together so well. They share similarities and differences that balance each other and bring out the best in each other. They also just bring so much humor and warmth to our screens.

3. Lucy Preston and Wyatt Logan (Timeless) lyatt

Every since The Pilot and Wyatt helped Lucy with her seat belt and called her ma’am, I just knew that we would be in for a great story. And while 2018 brought them turmoil, sadness and drama, after they finally admitted how much they mean to each other, the year ended with one final mission and coming together with forgiveness and true love. There may have been other’s they cared for, but for Lucy and Wyatt the only one they truly want to spend their lives with is each other. They found a family through their time travel adventures, and their love created one that honored those they lost. It was a beautiful to watch their love story reach its happy end.

2. Rebecca and Jack Pearson (This Is Us) jack rebecca

A unique aspect of This Is Us is seeing all of these characters and relationships at different stages of their lives. In 2018 we saw Rebecca and Jack at multiple ones, the most significant being when they first met and fell in love and when a fire resulted in Jack’s tragic death. It resulted in a wide spectrum of emotion not only for the characters but the audience as well as this couple proved to be the epitome of devotion, understanding and profound love. Moreover, what was beautiful to watch was the magical mystery of finding the one who is truly meant for you- an instant connection filled with both passion and sweetness, bringing forth feelings you have never felt before. Rebecca was able to find some form of happiness in her later life, but Jack and Rebecca were the love of each other’s lives- and that kind of love lasts forever.

1. Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont (A Discovery of Witches) bismont 4

A destined love story that can bring together people who were have always been on opposite sides, and one filled with passion, danger, tenderness, and beauty on epic proportions and quiet moments of real connection- that is the love story between Diana and Matthew that is part Shakespearean and part supernatural but all together lovely and mystical. The chemistry between the actors is palpable and a significant part of what makes this couple one of the greatest to grace our screens in years, along with the exquisite showcase of the way love makes us stronger and ignites our very souls.

and lastly, because I would never fail to include them if I could, with a tie for the top spot…

1. Emma Swan and Killian Jones (Once Upon a Time) captain swan

Their moments on screen together in 2018 may have been ever brief, but they were still was infused with the same radiance as moments with this exquisite couple of fairy tale beauty and relatable modernity always are. That is because a mere few moments with them shine brighter than all the stars that aligned that brought them together. In these moments they arrived late to a coronation dressed to the nines in true Emma and Killian fashion, with some wonderful additions- Killian in traditional pirate garb with a pink protector on his hook and Emma’s red jacket over a soft pink gown, a diaper bag thrown over her arm. That was because the most important addition for this couple was their baby daughter Hope, as well as a glow of happiness from another happy beginning. With simplicity and beauty and showcasing what makes them so special, in their last appearance on screen, Emma and Killian proved once again to be one of the finest couples to ever grace our screens.

Favorite Moments:

Special Recognition: Max tells DJ about Missing His Dad (Fuller House)

If there was one thing I thought that had not been touched upon enough in the first seasons of Fuller House it was how the death of their father affected the Fuller children. So I was pleasantly surprised that in perhaps the most touching moment of the series we see the middle child Max express how seeing other children with their fathers waiting to see Santa Claus brought out feelings that he had buried a great deal, and that he really misses him. Young Elias Harger is mostly giving sassy one liners, but this young boy has the ability to do more and I hope we see more grounded moments like this in the future.

5. Abe Weismann sees daughter Miriam performing stand up (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

abe

Some of the best moments of the second season of Mrs. Maisel came from the incomparable Tony Shalhoub’s Abe Weisman, most especially when he sees his daughter perform her stand-up comedy show. The first came as a complete shock to him and his daughter when he unexpectedly sees her take the stage at a club in the Catskills, and finds himself shocked, angry and confused. The second is when Midge performs on a telethon and as he hears laughter coming from a nearby apartment and he sees a young couple watching her, laughing at her performance. And there is this beautiful moment of recognition of not only her talent and the joy she is bringing to others, but that he may have been wrong in judging her. There is no doubt a long road still ahead, but this was a wonderful first step in their relationship.

4. Rebecca sings and Jack cries (This is Us) jack cries

In an episodes that shows the couple taking a road trip and slowly and surely falling in love, the final scene is a truly moving moment that showcased why these two souls were meant to be together. Earlier on their trip the two danced and Jack revealed that he never cried as he had to learn to bury his emotions when dealing with his father, while Rebecca went to a music producer full of hope that they may sign her to a record deal. When he picks up her, disappointed that her trip proved fruitless, we see that it did not for they had bonded and connected in a way that has changed their lives forever. As he called her “Bec,” something she had never been called that fell off his tongue naturally, he asks to hear her song. And while her insecurities are still fresh, she begins to sweetly sing her song, and Jack is so moved that tears fall from his eyes. This was the moment that was the end of life as they knew it. And that it came from something as simple as a song and few tears shed from a heart being touched is simply beautiful.

3. Matthew and Diana pledge their love for each other (A Discovery of Witches) bismontbismont 2

It did not take long for this witch and vampire to fall in love and when they did, they fell completely and deeply, forging an unbreakable bond- and two lovely moments epitomized this bond, the gravity of what they meant seen through the brilliant chemistry between Goode and Palmer and the aesthetics and specific aspects of their scenes. In the first, Matthew kisses her deeply for the first time after she recuperated from an overwhelming use of her magic, letting her know his feelings through his kiss and his action of taking her hand as they head to his home for safety. The second is when they undeniably express their love for one another, Matthew coming back to her and pledging that from that moment one they shall be one, intertwining their hands together and capturing her lips in a ardent kiss. It was an exquisite expression of love and devotion that only the finest performances and film making can accomplish.

2. A Final Mission/Montage (Timeless) timeless 4

When the series finale jumped ahead to see what the future held for the Time Team family, it was filled with heartfelt and moving moments from seeing how far Rufus and Jiya have gone in their careers, still happy and in love, to Lucy and Wyatt, happily married, living their best lives career wise and with twins named Amy and Flynn. How could one not shed tears over this. But it was their final mission to make sure Flynn still went on his journey in the same way- and yet it’s different, for there is more hope there. And as the musical montage began it was utter perfection. As said in the 2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television of the Year, ” The show’s ending montage set to Joseph William Morgan’s cover of the song “Time After Time” resulted in many a tear, as we watched the beautiful journey of all of these characters through time: The love, the loss, the strength, the courage, the perseverance, the belief in each other, and the hope for a beautiful future where history is not forgotten, but preserved, and learned from laying the foundation for whatever is yet to be. And above all you see that history is made up not only of events but people. In this case it’s a about professors, scholars, soldiers, scientists , inventors, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons. Heroes.  This moment was a exquisite showcase of what makes this show so profound, special, and above all Timeless.”

1. Emma and Killian’s happy ending with daughter Hope (Once Upon a Time) cs hope

In the final episode of the series, it was only fitting that much of the centerpiece of its final moments focused on the character whose journey started it all. Emma Swan and her husband Killian Jones may have gotten their happy beginning at the end of the previous season, but the show could not end with seeing their happy ending, as it not only encapsulates the end of an exquisite fairy tale but also what the show has always embodied. For it is ever apropos for two characters who found True Love and overcame even the darkest of times – and for the show’s main character- to name their daughter after the show’s most steadfast theme: Hope. In a world of their own, Emma and Killian loving looked down at their baby girl and gently leaned their heads against each other, as Emma took a contented breath in a well deserved moment of utter solace and joy with Hope in their hearts and their arms. It was a gloriously beautiful and perfect moment and last page in a truly magical storybook of the happiest ending of all.

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television of the Year

Getting back into Year in Reviews after a break last year, 2018 in television was one filled with wonder with shows new and old. Some ending, some just beginning to intrigue us, some continuing to delight us after a few seasons. One thing all these have in common is that they brought a lot of warmth, heart, intrigue, tears and happiness to our screens. These are my Top 10 Favorites for 2018.

10. Christmas Made for TV Movies of Hallmark and Lifetimechristmas moviesChristmas films on television have been a staple of the season and more and more seem to be made every year. We know they can be predictable, filled with common romantic tropes, and may be a little corny. But in today’s day in age, these can be welcome and lovely things and that is often what these films provide: sweet and heartfelt escapism wrapped in cozy and festive warmth. In this year’s abundance of holiday fare, 5 in particular stood out.

A Veteran’s Christmas re-pairs Eloise Mumford and Sean Faris who co-starred in another favorite Christmas With Holly. This story follows a Marine recently returning home, unsure of her place and missing her dog who was part of her canine unit, who stumbles into a small town and falls in love with a kind judge and the entire town who embraces her. It’s a tender and sweet story and the two actors play beautifully off each other. And any true dog lover will no doubt shed tears at its happy conclusion.

Christmas Pen Pals stars Sarah Drew and Niall Matter who have a sweet chemistry and play former college sweethearts who both sign up for a holiday Pen Pal project in their hometown. It’s a lovely little story with a very romantic tone and fine acting.

Christmas Perfection with Caitlin Thompson and James Henri-Thomas is cute as can be, romantic and truly, truly funny. For the Captain Swan fans out there, I felt like I was watching a CS AU come to life to a degree so I was in heaven. But even without that comparison, it’s an absolutely delightful gem following a woman who is obsessed with having everything perfect including a little Christmas village she puts up every year. When she and her best friend argue over her need for perfection she suddenly wakes up in her village, where it’s Christmas every day, her parents are back together and everyone is Irish! What follows is pure, silly, but perfect Christmas perfection.

Once Upon a Christmas Miracle is based on a true story of a young woman who needs an organ transplant and miraculously find a donor from a stranger whom she then forms a strong connection with. It’s a sweet and moving story, made ever the more lovely because it’s based on two real people. True kindness and sacrifice can come from anywhere and it’s a beautiful reminder than can restore your faith in the humanity of others.

And lastly, Christmas at Pemberley Manor is a light take on the Pride and Prejudice story made enjoyable by its warmth, sweet take on the classic story and likable actors Michael Rady and Jessica Lowndes. In keeping in the Christmas mood I must also recommend the other past Christmas films with Rady, whom is wonderful in all he does, Christmas in Homestead and A Joyous Christmas. While Lowndes is equally lovely in the ever romantic December Bride which pairs her with When Calls the Heart’s ever talented and handsome Daniel Lissing.

9. Happy TogetherhappyIt’s been a while since I’ve found a comedy that is light and sweet and truly makes me laugh out loud. What I want most when watching a sitcom however is to feel happy watching it, and just like its namesake, I most certainly do. A great deal of this show’s charm is due in no small part to the its leads, the hilarious and charming Damon Wayans Jr. (whom I just adore in everything he does) and Amber Stevens West, an equally funny and effervescent scene partner. The two play a happily married couple who are simply adorable in that they feel like a real couple in their natural chemistry and attempts to seem cool for their house guest, an Australian pop star they open their home up to when he wants to feel normalcy in his life. Rounding out the laughs come from Stephanie Weir and Victor Williams who play West’s parents, two doctors with no filter and a lot of time on their hands now that they’re retired. The show is wacky but heartfelt and always leaves me feeling good. I hope more audiences discover this show because it’s a sheer delight.

8. Fuller Housefuller

Getting back into form, the fourth season of the Netflix family comedy was filled with lots of heart, more wacky adventures from the “She-Wolf” pack, DJ and Steve finally trying to make it work as a couple complete with a fun little musical number (DJ and Steve 4ever!) and hilarity and tenderness with Kimmy acting as Stephanie’s surrogate. Other highlights included Danny going back to Wake Up San Francisco with Rebecca, replacing the egotistical male co-host, Jesse embracing being a stay at home father, and Charlie’s Angels’s themed “70s” cruise on the SS Papouli (a sweet nod to the great grandfather from the original series). What makes Fuller House work is that it does not take itself too seriously, but rather unabashedly embraces its corniness. But what made this season enjoyable was that, like it did in Season 1, when it had its more serious moments, there was so sign of parody or goofiness- in particular when Kimmy gives birth with Stephanie right beside her to welcome her baby into the world, and when DJ’s middle boy Max, known for his one liners and over top antics, shares a very grounded and moving moment about deeply missing his father. Fuller House remains a welcome little gem.

7. The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselmaiselFull disclosure, when the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was released at that end of 2018, I binged watched the first and second season in extremely quick succession, so this praise is a bit about both seasons. Forever a fan of Amy Sherman Pallidino’s Gilmore Girls, I am not surprised how much I adore this similarly fast talking, delightful, colorful and sweet, meaningful and poignant, funny and effervescent, female empowering, and yes completely marvelous, series. Each episode is like stepping into a candy colored, bubbly musical time machine to the 1960s which is fun and lively, but not without turmoil or drama. At times it feels heightened in true Pallidino style, at other times completely grounded in very real, relatable truths about life. The best comedians are ones that observe life and can find humor in the everyday, and that is what Miriam, aka Midge does, who stumbles into comedy after her husband leaves her out of the blue and she learns to picks herself up and discovers even more about herself along the way. She has to fight to be accepted and that is something that a modern audience can still relate to. Led by incredible Rachel Brosnahan, the show’s second season continues on what season 1 so well established, but continues to grow and evolve as Midge struggles in finding her place while not losing what is important to her, while her family is dealing with their own issues that relate not only to Midge but their own journeys in life. It’s lovely and fun, moving and marvelous! p.s can we please bring back the name Midge, because it’s too cute.

6. This is UsThis Is Us - Season 2For fans of This is Us, 2018 will always be the year that finally revealed how Jack Pearson died, and it was as heartbreaking and tough to watch as we imagined. The cause was something so trivial as a malfunctioning crock pot, but the reason was something that is embedded into Jack’s character- putting others and what they care about above himself, even sacrificing his own safety. And the fact that it was delayed, giving the Pearson’s (and the audience) a false sense of peace and relief made it all the more devastating. And it’s the moment that Rebecca’s learns and sees her husband is gone that will remain one of the most heart wrenching (and brilliantly performed of the series). But Jack’s death wasn’t the only thing that was profound about This is Us in 2018. On the contrary, each and every interweaving and multi-generational storyline was captivating to watch, from the beginning of Rebecca and Jack’s love story, to his time in Vietnam with his brother, to Kate and Toby’s journey to have a child, and their individual journeys dealing with job woes and depression, to Randall and Beth’s struggles as they foster a child and begin and end careers, to Kevin’s evolving film career and desire to learn more about his father, and to the mysterious twists and time jumps, the lives of the Pearson family remain ones that are ever relatable and moving.

5. The Good PlaceThe Good Place - Season 2The Good Place is one of the cleverest, funniest, sweetest and most profound shows on television, with one of its finest qualities being that in its absurdity lies relatable truths and complexities about choices, free will, and the human condition- with both characters that are and are not human, which is remarkable. It tugs at our heartstrings and makes us laugh so hard we cry. The cast is absolutely stellar and hilarious while managing to infuse authenticity in the more grounded moments with each other- in both season 2 and 3- especially as this group travels back to earth and must learn about themselves and what it means to be, most especially, an empathetic person. Like Michael Shur’s previous shows, this series, infuses heart and realism, in this case despite the concept, and everyone who watches is all the better for it. The Good Place is utter joy.

4. ManifestManifest - PilotIntriguing, melancholy, gripping, and thought provoking, the comparisons to LOST were inevitable, but let it be said that Manifest is its own show and one that mixes and perfectly balances unexplained phenomena, crime procedural and family drama, matched with an impressive cast led but the wonderful Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh as brother and sister Ben and Michaela Stone, who returned home to a world that had changed so much. Of course we all want to know what happened to Flight 828 that caused them to somehow become lost in time to the rest of the world and lose 5 years. Ben and his son return to a family that grieved and grew and learned to move on, Michalea heartbreakingly returned to learn the man she was planning to marry, has now married her best friend. Ben’s son Cal, who had been suffering from cancer, returns home and miraculously begins responding to treatment. But in truth it’s not just the Stone family drama that leaves us so captivated. It’s also the questions of what caused this anomaly and is there some grand conspiracy behind everything? But most especially one of the most profound aspects of Manifest is that it leaves the audience with the question of “what if?” What if you returned to a world much changed and how to do begin to live your life again where it feels like you have been left behind or no longer fit? And if you are beginning to feel a purpose (which we see in the callings each of the passengers experiences) in a way that cannot rationally be explained, do you follow or fight it? The contrasting perspectives of Ben and Michaela, and the ways they all seem connected showcase these questions beautifully and intriguingly so, and make this show not only one of the best new shows, but best overall shows of the year.

3. A Series of Unfortunate EventseventsThe Netflix original series based on the children’s books of the same name is dark and filled with gruesome scenarios that befall the unfortunate Baudelaire orphans, and yet it remains sweet and touching. If you are a fan of the series Pushing Daisies, you will no doubt enjoy this one as well as it is not only similar in tone and visuals, but it also shares director and executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld. The first season was incredible and so too was 2018’s second season. The highlights of the series include a steampunk-esque visual feast for the eyes, its intelligent writing, which actually gives you vocabulary lessons in each episode in a way that is so entertaining you crave it, hilarious absurdity, and an amazing cast of both leads (led by incredible Neil Patrick Harris and the fantastic group of Baudelaire siblings Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Pressley Smith) and guest stars (which in Season 2 includes Nathan Fillion, Tony Hale and Sara Rue.) The story of the Baudelaire children may be an unfortunate one but you will not want to “look away” as the theme song and narrator (the wonderfully sardonic Patrick Warburton) often advises the audience to do. Instead you find yourself deeply invested and rooting for these children who are wise, mature and intelligent beyond their years not only in terms of being well read and clever but emotionally as well. The three all have their special strengths that they utilize as they continuously must escape the clutches of Count Olaf surrounded by people who will not always listen, while trying to maintain their own courage, faith and humanity. The contrast of the absurd situations, breathtaking visuals and profound meaning of this material is astonishing. And having watched Season 3 already, it’s an indisputable truth that A Series of Unfortunate Events will also be on next year’s list for the best in television.

2. A Discovery of WitcheswotchesWith the exception of the show that is at #1 on this list, it’s been a long time, since a series has so quickly and thoroughly captivated me from the very beginning. Between the amazing cast, beautifully locales and exquisite cinematography, there is so much to be mesmerized by. Although I have watched similar media at times, I would never call myself someone who LOVES witches or vampires or the supernatural the way some do, but perhaps that is because, while A Discovery of Withes is undoubtedly about witches, vampires and demons existing right alongside side us who are completely unaware of their existence, in truth these really feel like a metaphor for what every human can experience, relate to, or sympathize with: fear, prejudice, courage, friendship and above all else love. For this show is about learning to cast aside those fears and prejudices and learn that we all equal, because we all can universally understand the desire and right to be accepted and loved. And this series is most especially a love story- a kind of Romeo and Juliet love story between a witch and a vampire, two species who have always been on opposite, adversarial sides, who are instantly drawn to each other and form a unbreakable bond and love that transcends all, and defies obstacles, and proves that LOVE knows no bounds. The love story between Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont is already a beautiful and profound one that I am certain will continue to enthrall in the coming seasons as there will be one for each of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy. Both strong, passionate characters, who are surrounded by equally enthralling characters, Diana and Matthew love and protect each other with and open heart, a mutual respect and admiration, and a strength to overcome all that might separate them, because blood may be crave worthy, and fear may be easier than bravery, but love is what truly satiates every thirst or desire, fuels our inner courage, and ignites our very souls.

1. TimelesstimelessTimeless is a magical show. And although 2018 brought the series to a close, it will live on in a way that is immeasurable. This series is the perfect blend of adventure, history, humor, drama and mystery with amazing characters and relationships. Timeless brings history to life with both well known figures, but also nuances and individuals who are not, illuminating eras and inspiring people, while managing to enthrall its audience, never going for cheap shocks but rather interesting twists. It’s a labyrinth of wonder and the way it continued in 2018 with its second season was the most magical part of television in 2018. Season 2 may have done some things a bit differently with a bit less focus on the “Time Team” unit together on missions, but the individuals highlighted such as Hedy Lamarr, Alice Paul and Robert Johnson, and evolving relationships still remained the heartbeat of the show, encapsulated in the series finale movie where saving Rufus was paramount, Wyatt and Lucy finally came together in love and Flynn went on his incredible final journey of heroics and redemption- all of which were not only captivating but so moving. The show’s ending montage set to Joseph William Morgan’s cover of the song “Time After Time” resulted in many a tear, as we watched the beautiful journey of all of these characters through time: The love, the loss, the strength, the courage, the perseverance, the belief in each other, and the hope for a beautiful future where history is not forgotten, but preserved, and learned from laying the foundation for whatever is yet to be. And above all you see that history is made up not only of events but people. In this case it’s a about professors, scholars, soldiers, scientists, inventors, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons. Heroes.  This moment was a exquisite showcase of what makes this show so profound, special, and above all Timeless.