2018 Films: The Year in Review

So it's the end of the year, which means another retrospective on the best and worst films of 2018. While the year hasn't ended, I know I won't be able to see any more films that come out this year, but if you want, you can wait until 2019. Anyway, same rules apply when it comes to your lists, but I'll remind you that:

-The film has to have been released in 2018. This includes theatrical, direct to video, direct to a streaming service, or something similar.

-Exceptions include if the film was released towards the end of 2017, but you saw it in 2018. Additionally, if it was released in one country pre-2018, but was released in your country in 2018, then it also counts.

I'm going to further differ this year in that because I've left reviews in the "last movie you saw" thread, I'm not going to comment much here. So, with that said:

THE BEST

Thoughts: This hasn't been a good year for movies IMO - I mean, granted, I've got enough entries to make a top 20 rather than top 10 list, but very few of them have really stuck out in my mind. All of these entries bar #1 are at least "good," but only the top 6-7 are actually "great," with #1 being "excellent." That might not sound so bad, but when you consider the number of movies I've seen this year, that's a pretty low number.

Anyway, with that said, here's the top 20 films of the year:

THE WORST

Similarly, there aren't many movies that were outright bad for me (only the top 2). Everything else is simply average, and it was a case of me picking out which were the most average and/or irritated me the most. Only a top ten list in this case, with the ten worst movies of the year (that I saw) being:

So, feel free to post, agree, disagree, disgust. Just remember to keep it civil...and if your list doesn't sync with mine, you're objectively wrong. :P

I have a lot of catching up to do and I haven't quite seen enough of this years movies to feel confident in making a top/bottom five list but here some random thoughts about the ones I have seen:

Other Side of the Wind

Probably one of the best things that have come out for the last decade. It long had a sort of legendary status as the lost Orson Welles' movie, something of which only a select few people have ever seen a rough cut of. Netflix, bless their heart, has actually bought the rights to the material and restored it. While still being a bit rough in a few regards it's still an absolutely brilliant movie. The sort of excellence you only get when a master of his craft gets to elaborate on his craft, in the context of his craft. The legendary director telling a story about a legendary director and his last work. It's a thing of pure beauty and one of the few times I ever felt genuinely grateful for having seen a movie. I'm not the least bit ashamed of showering it with praise.

Ready Player One

Pretty fucking awful, you'd think a director like Spielberg would no better. Maybe I shouldn't blame it on him, having read parts of the book there was little chance of this being any good and still working as an adaptation so maybe the best approach to adapting it might have been "don't". It's an all around unpleasant blend of stale vomit from the Reagan Era and slightly less stale vomit from more contemporary popculture. Here's the Iron Giant! Here's Tracer from Overwatch! Here fucking Batman! And where it completely lost me: Here's an entire sequence referencing Kubrick's The Shining! I know Kubrick and Spielberg were friend when the former was still alive. I imagine that friendship wouldn't have survived this movie. It's a dystopian, late capitalist nightmare passing itself of as a lighthearted adventure movie that failed to endear itself to me on any level whatsoever.

Under The Silver Lake

I was probably a bit harsher on this in the Just Watched thread than I should have been. It takes a lot of its identity from other, better movies but it still stands as a funn little showcase of Californian Curiousities inside of what's a pretty engaging mystery thriller about conspiracies. It explained itself too much at one point but at its best it's actually quite fantastic. There was a wonderful scene of the protagonist confronting a rich song writer that was among the best I've seen this year. All in all it's a more than competent blend of some Pynchon, some Lynch, a bit of Altman... could it have been better? Probably. But for being only the third feature length work of the director it still stands as a pretty impressive effort. It's definitely worth a watch.

Assassination Nation

A frustrating movie, to say the least. It's very easy to imagine a better version of it because it definitely has all the individual elements of a great movie. A group of young women (And an admirably diverse one too... you gotta have some respect for a movie that includes a transwoman and treats her as "just one of the girls") becoming the victim of mob violence in Trumpist America and rising up to defend themselves. Should have been great, but wasn't. Where this should have been a cathartic movie just on its premise alone it fails for the same reason Spring Breakers (and, for that matter, basically any Harmony Korine movie) failed: A lack of sympathy for its own protagonists. Too often they still come off as a group of shallow teenagers, hardly any more introspective than the bloodthirsty bourgois suburbanites they're fighting. You wouldn't think it's possible to make a premise like "Hot chicks fighting Trump Supporters" underwhelming, but they did.

Isle of Dogs

I like Wes Anderson. Perhaps more so than he deserves. However, liking Wes Anderson I also can't help but feel that animation isn't exactly his strongest discipline. I liked both Fantastic Mr. Fox and this movie quite a bit but I don't feel like they measure up to his live action work. They're still visually beautiful and filled to the brim with witty dialogue but they lack the emotional impact his live action work, at its best, has. Nothing quite as strong as the ending of Grand Budapest Hotel or the suicide attempt in Royal Tenenbaums or the... entirety of Moonrise Kingdom. Still, I like Wes Anderson and I could never bring myself to dislike one of his movies. Isle of Dogs is charming, pretty and very, very funny. The only reason it didn't exceed my expectations is because Anderson is a director I expect a lot from.

Black Panther

For what it's worth, I enjoyed it more than any other MCU movie so far. Mostly tue to my love for anything to do with afro-futurism. Of course the Africa presented in Black Panther is one that's still very much based on western stereotypes about the continent and its people, sometimes almost tastelessly so, but I think it was relatively self aware about it. While Wakanda was very much the Disneyland version of what an African high culture might look like, the movie itself tackled some real themes relatively succesfully. Did it offer a well thought out tratise about nationalism, isolationalism, racial divides and colonialism? No, but it's a Hollywood Action movie, it's not like I expect it to. It ended up fairly entertaining

Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Coens are somewhere up there with Wes Anderson in that I know what to expect from them and that I know I'll probably enjoy it. So, yes, I really enjoyed Ballad of Buster Scruggs, especially seeing how I've been getting really into Westerns after playing Red Dead Redemption 2. Buster Scruggs is a very entertaining anthology movie, a lot of the singular sequences could have probably very well been feature length movies, an while some may be stronger than others I enjoyed myself all the way throughout.

Avengers: Infinity War

I made a thread about it. I stand by most of it though I will concede that I might have been too harsh to it too. Fact is, it was the payoff to a buildup I wasn't invested in and that mean I have little to say about it that the target audience would care about. To be perfectly honest, in some ways the movie has grown on me. I still can't say that I can get into it but I can't help but admire its sheer scale and grandiosity. It's not a story I care about but I can concede that it's well told. Plus, Josh Broling turn in a really good performance as Thanos. It's very respectable how much gravitas he lends to such a silly role.

Annihilation

What is it with Netflix and releasing all those brilliant movies this year? Anyway, Annihilation is right up my alley. A wonderful slow science fiction movie that feels like a blend between STALKER, the video game, Stalker, the Tarkovsky movie and Alien. It has that 70s SciFi Horror feeling to it, all about slow buildup, intense atmosphere and heavy themes. And even moreso, it's exttremely cool to have this kind of premise executed with an all female cast. Annihilation is another one of my favourites this year, I can't help but repeat myself: It's exactly the kind of thing I'm into.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

I have a soft spot for Star Wars so please just assume that the movie is about 20% worse than I'm making it sound like. Unlike many people I think that Star Wars is still good and unlike many people I hope Disney won't see the backlash the last two movies got as an indication that the franchise isn't profitable anymore. Solo was a fun space adventure movie that managed to tell the story of one the franchises most iconic characters in a way that had me invested from beginning to end. It wasn't anything great by any means but neither did I think it did anything fundamentally wrong aside from some awkward attempts at comic relief which... is a consistent problem with the Star Wars series.

Sorry To Bother You

An impressive debut by Boots Riley, a dystopian satire about late capitalism from the perspective of an African American callcenter worker. Sorry To Bother You is another wonderful movie, funny, creative and unapologetically subversive, it's not only sharply written and well shot, it's the deconstruction of modern America that Assassination Nation failed to be. Not only a great piece of entertainment, but also an effective example of leftist agitprop, a story about class struggle that's universally relatable and incredibly relevant.

Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Same thing applies as with the Star Wars series. Take this with a grain of salt. Anyway, I still can't make heads or tails of this movie. A lot about it worked, a lot about it didn't, but most of all it felt like an excercise of cramming too much story into too short a runtime. It's a movie in desperate need of a director's cut. Either way, I didn't hate it but god, did it have a bunch of absolutely baffling decisions and werid pacing. For fans it's still a recommendation but if you don't care about Harry Potter, this is gonna leave you confused and probably angry. And if you do, it very well still might.

Mandy

The movie I had hoped Panos Cosmatos would one day be able to make after I've seen Beyond the Black Rainbow. Black Rainbow already demonstrated a very interesting and very unique visual sensibility, the sort of thing Nicolas Winding Refn would be going for if he was more talented but it was still a pretty rough watch. Good direction but fairly weak script. Mandy isn't much more substantial thematically but it's a much faster paced, more entertaining movie. Nicholas Cage hunting down demonic bikers and crazed cultist with a forged battle axe and a crossbow. A very solid and incredibly stylish action movie that was well worth the wait.

And that was my year in movies. Still have to see: Upgrade, First Reformed, The House that Jack Built, Climax, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The Favourite, You Were Never Really Here, Blackkklansman, Bad Times at the El Royal and probably some other stuff I don't remember right now.

I like MCU, and MCU is the main reason I go to movies. If it was a Marvel movie, I saw it. I also tend to love Marvel movies period.

Except Venom, that was shitty. I mean, if you dont know Venom, you might not know it is shitty, but without Spider-Man, whats the point?

Into the Spider-Verse is also over-hyped. It was good, but too many people acting like it will revolutionize movies. It wont.

Non Marvel movies I saw, Bohemian Rhapsody and Aquaman...and Isle of Dogs, I have such a bad concept of time, that feels like an older movie.

I really liked Bohemian Rhapsody, it made me appreciate Queen alot more. But it fictionalized some things that I dont get why.

Aquaman made me really want to play DnD. I dont have the attachment to DC like I do Marvel, so I get less hung up on things they get wrong from the source. Though Aquaman definitely doesnt even try to justify how this undersea world works or stays secret.

Also more people to add to the 'In DC AND Marvel' list. Looking at you Dafoe.

Isle of Dogs was ok. It was also weird. I cant remmeber, but there was something the kid did out of nowhere that made me go 'Wtf!?'. It will be a movie in 5 years I go 'Oh yeah, that was a thing.'

Some of these movies came out previous year(s).

Avengers: Infinity Wars - It's another Marvel movie; it's okay, but completely devoid of any real creative spark or passion, and just continuing this bland, neverending series.

The Incredibles 2 - The most offensive by-the-numbers sequel I've seen since Home Alone 2. I couldn't even finish this fucking thing. They could've made something interesting with the characters being a bit older and in different places in their lives, but instead we pick up where the first movie left off just so we can see Jack-Jack do baby shit. Shame on you, Brad Bird.

Gone Girl - David Fincher knows how to make almost anything seem captivating (except for Benjamin Button ofcourse), even this rather typical movie-of-the-week type concept. And Rosemund Pike is absolutely fucking briljant.

Get Out - Fun, tense thriller with some pretty cool sequences.

The Handmaiden - A pretty long movie that feels surprisingly short, and is not as much of a dour, artsy experience as I thought it would be. Some hardcore sex scenes in this too, like.. damn.

Mission Impossible: Fallout - On the one hand a pretty terrific action movie, on the other I couldn't really give a shit about any of these boring characters.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - The last time I felt this way after leaving a movie theater was with Mad Max: Fury Road. It's just freaking incredible! It's not like something like this hasn't been done before, but never on a big budget. Or at least, I can't remember the last time it has. It takes a page out of One Punch-Man's book and just cuts loose and has fun with its superhero setting. Properties like Spider-Man, Batman, Superman are always handled so conservatively on the big screen, too afraid to scare off general audiences, but Spider-Verse just explodes all over the screen.

The artstyle is exhilarating and refreshing in the ocean that is Pixar/Disney/Illumination. The villains actually have a sense of threat and dread to them, and the last time that's happened in a superhero movie was Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles. And they've finally managed to make Scorpion look cool. Also it's just really fucking funny. I can't wait for this sucker to get released on blu-ray.

2018 is a weird one, because the best American film I saw released in the year was made in the 70's by a dead guy. Sorta puts things in perspective.

Have to say that China had a good year though: Ash is Purest White, An Elephant Sitting Still, Shadow, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Hidden Man, Dead Souls---all great. On the whole I think it is a good year, but there's no real way to know what a year has to offer until a couple years afterwards given all the stuff that acquires delayed distribution or finds homes on streaming sites and what have you.

The movies I saw in 2018 that stood out.

Black Panther - Right up there with the best of the MCU

Avengers: Infinity War - And so was this.

Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse: Someone besides Marvel made a good superhero movie... and somehow it was Sony?

Creed II - How in the world is a sequel to Rocky IV this good?

Searching - I don't like gimmick movies, but other than being a gimmick movie this is pretty good.

Bad Times at the El Royale - Some people don't understand that a movie being "too long" isn't always a bad thing.

But my film of 2018 crossed my radar when it was in limited release (and wasn't playing anywhere I could see it) but then showed up on my Netflix queue in December.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - I've missed good westerns. I've missed good anthology movies. This came out at a great time to scratch both itches. Not just the best movie of 2018, but my new favorite Cohen Brothers movie, and a western as good as most of the classics of the genre.

Oh, and a random mention of a "classic" movie. A movie that came back in 2018 which has been nearly impossible to see in the U.S. since the demise of VHS and video rental stores.

Split Second - A British dystopian sci-fi horror film starring Rutger Hauer. This film is... well it isn't awful, but it is brilliantly bad. You have to see it. Cheesy one liners, chilling villain that is a ripoff of several serial killers and movie monsters, uhh? great big guns and jokes about great big guns. Split Second turns cliche into something that is familiar and weirdly comforting somehow. And because of a DVD rights argument, a region 1 DVD copy is RARE. And then randomly this year around Halloween it popped up on Amazon Prime. I was so happy.

 

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