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.
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.
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.
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.
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.