Song of the Day #3,860: ‘All the Stars’ – Kendrick Lamar & SZA

This week I’ll count down my favorite movies of 2018, two per day, from #10 down to #1.

This was the hardest top ten movie list I’ve made in years. I saw 70 films this year and enjoyed the great majority of them. It isn’t until you reach the bottom ten or so that I really disliked anything I saw (unlike actual movie critics, I have no obligation to see something I don’t think I’ll like).

Any of the films in my 11-20 slots could have easily found their way into this top ten, and might do just that if you ask me to revisit the list over time.

Because I had such a bounty of good films to choose from, I tried to make this list as representative as possible of the different kinds of movies I loved in 2018. Different genres, different budgets, different perspectives, different voices. None of these ten films are remotely alike, except that they all moved me in one way or another.

#10 – First Reformed
Writer-director Paul Schrader literally wrote the book on transcendental style in cinema, and in First Reformed he delivered a powerful, thought-provoking example of the style. The film is both a fascinating formal exercise and a searing portrait of a man in spiritual decline.

Schrader gave us the original “God’s lonely man” in Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle, and here he takes the concept even further, centering his movie on a priest suffering a crisis of faith. Ethan Hawke delivers one of the best performances of his career, repressing his usual loquacious charm behind the hard lines of his furrowed brow. This is a very personal film but it’s also quite political. It tackles the commoditization of spirituality by juxtaposing a popular mega-church against the historic Dutch Reformed Church of which Hawke’s Ernst Toller is the pastor. And it’s a damning treatise on how humans are destroying the Earth. First Reformed is breathtaking, exasperating and confounding. It’s also a true work of art.

#9 – Black Panther
This tale of T’Challa, king of Wakanda, the richest and most technologically advanced country on Earth, starts in Oakland, California. It ends there, too. Writer-director Ryan Coogler chose to focus his Black Panther on the dichotomy between godlike African royalty and generations of African-Americans growing up under the thumb of institutional racism, and in doing so he crafted the greatest superhero movie of our time. Black Panther delivers the thrills and humor of any good Marvel title, but in telling such a painful and personal story it works as grand drama as well.

Michael B. Jordan’s villainous Killmonger wants to take his place on Wakanda’s throne so he can use the country’s advanced weaponry to liberate Black people all over the world. A not-small part of me wanted him to succeed, and I’m a white guy. I can only imagine the complex emotions this film stirred in people of color. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa is the film’s moral center, appropriately horrified by Killmonger’s plans but also hurt and angry at how his ancestors have turned a blind eye to the suffering of people who look like them.

All of this gripping socio-political intrigue takes place in a sleek action film that blends the sensibilities of James Bond and Kendrick Lamar. What a glorious movie!

[Pre-Chorus: Kendrick Lamar]
Love, let’s talk about love
Is it anything and everything you hoped for?
Or do the feeling haunt you? (Haunt)
I know the feeling haunt you (Haunt)

[Chorus: SZA]
This may be the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
This may be the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer

[Verse 1: Kendrick Lamar]
Tell me what you gon’ do to me
Confrontation ain’t nothin’ new to me
You can bring a bullet, bring a sword, bring a morgue
But you can’t bring the truth to me
Fuck you and all your expectations
I don’t even want your congratulations
I recognize your false confidence
And calculated promises all in your conversation
I hate people that feel entitled
Look at me crazy ’cause I ain’t invite you
Oh, you important?
You the moral to the story? You endorsin’?
Mothafucka, I don’t even like you
Corrupt a man’s heart with a gift
That’s how you find out who you dealin’ with
A small percentage who I’m buildin’ with
I want the credit if I’m losin’ or I’m winnin’
On my momma, that’s the realest shit

[Pre-Chorus: Kendrick Lamar]
Love, let’s talk about love
Is it anything and everything you hoped for?
Or do the feeling haunt you? (Haunt)
I know the feeling haunt you (Haunt)

[Chorus: SZA]
This may be the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
This may be the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer

[Verse 2: SZA]
Skin covered in ego
Get to talkin’, I get involved, like a rebound
No control, no off switch
And the way that you bringin’ me down
It’s a turn on, get it away from me
Know you mean wrong, keep away from me
And it’s all wrong, get it away from me, yeah
I just cry for no reason
I just pray for no reason
I give thanks for the life, for the day
For the hours and another life breathin’
I did it all ’cause it feel good
You’d leave it all if it feel bad
Better live your life, we were runnin’ out of time

[Pre-Chorus: Kendrick Lamar & SZA]
Love, let’s talk about love
Is it anything and everything you hoped for?
Or do the feeling haunt you? (Haunt)
I know the feeling haunt you (Haunt)

[Chorus: SZA]
This may be the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
This may be the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer
All the stars are closer

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,860: ‘All the Stars’ – Kendrick Lamar & SZA

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I guess I need to see First Reformed. As for Black Panther, we were thrilled to see it win the the top SAG award for Ensemble, and I would be equally thrilled to see it take home the Oscar for Best Picture.

  2. Amy says:

    I haven’t yet seen First Reformed, and though I suppose I will because I feel I should, it’s so much more inviting to see The Black Panther (or a few other equally powerful but also FUN movies on my list) before settling in for a couple of hours of a movie that appears to be dark and brooding and oh so serious. Is there any humor in it at all? In life, there are light moments even in the darkest situations.

    • Clay says:

      It has about the same number of laughs as Schrader’s script for The Last Temptation of Christ. 🙂 I’m totally with you on wanting a spoonful of sugar with my medicine, but I found First Reformed remarkably easy to watch and thought it moved very quickly despite its deliberately austere style and pace.

  3. Peg says:

    I need to see First Reformed as well. So sorry he wasn’t nominated for actor. Although I am not a fan of action comic book movies, I thought Black Panther was truly an exception and I’m happy to see it nominated.

  4. Madison says:

    Love both of these movies for such different reasons. I need to give First Reformed a second viewing, it feels like it would just get better each time. I’m hoping my Black Panther bet will take it all the way to a win at the Oscars, because everything else (other than Roma) winning feels way too predictable and/or upsetting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.