The Year in Film: 2018

My favorite film of the year has an ending that’s almost identical to my favorite movie from the year before. The final scene in Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” involves a remarkable reunion between two individuals who, both physically and emotionally, have been living separately. In 2017, Denis Villenueve’s “Blade Runner 2049” also concluded with a quiet, emotionally charged coming together of two people; both films conclude with the image of two hands pressing together against a plate of glass, allowing for a cold, isolated, yet profoundly human connection. Adding to the odd coincidence of the two works is how they both star Ryan Gosling, involve a protagonist who is struggling to reconnect with what makes him truly human and undergoes an odyssey of self identity. The final image the two films fade out on, both subtle and powerfully moving, seem to reflect, and possibly even inform one another. 2018 was a fine movie year, as the stinkers were popular nonsense and not of the “Suicide Squad” level of inanity. The great films, on the other hand, recreated profound memories, both universally shared and intensely personal (I’m referring to the first two picks on my list). Unique visions, clever storytelling and inventive filmmaking defined the rest of the finest.

The Best

  1.  First Man– The best film of its kind since “The Right Stuff,” though that’s still underselling what director Damien Chazelle has accomplished here. By making astronaut Neil Armstrong’s story a difficult, intimate portrait of an introvert working his way through grief, Chazelle and lead Ryan Gosling redefine what a true life movie hero looks like. Scene for scene, has the strongest writing, finest ensemble acting and most impeccable production design of the year. Chazelle doesn’t need 3-D, as he uses the language of cinema of place viewers into those scary cockpits and truly get into the minds of his characters. Captures its era (both hopeful and troubled) and manages to bring a fresh perspective on why humankind chooses to explore the unknown. I am in awe of this film.
  2. Roma– Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood, recreated as a cinematic dream of loss and tribute.
  3. Isle of Dogs– Wes Anderson’s original, unique and altogether brilliant stop motion, sci-fier.
  4. A Quiet Place– Who knew John Krasinski had this Rod Serling-worthy powerhouse in him?
  5. Sicario: Day of the Soldado– Equal to the original in ambition, scope, character and impact.
  6. Widows– Even without that fluffy scene stealer, this intense heist drama truly thrills.
  7. A Star is Born– Everything went miraculously right for debut director Bradley Cooper.
  8. Leave No Trace– Every bit as distinct, complex and unforgettable as “Winter’s Bone.”
  9. Eighth Grade– Bo Burnham’s frank comedy about the awkward years is hilarious and true.
  10. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot– Gus Van Sant’s sleeper is full of great performances compassion and beauty.

Runner-Ups: Shirkers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Beautiful Boy

 

The Worst

  1. Crazy Rich Asians– I love the attractive cast and wish everyone involved was in a good movie. The headlines that this was a history-making film were just depressing: the last American movie released by a major studio with a nearly all-Asian cast was “The Joy Luck Club,” which celebrated its culture in a way that eludes this film. Insanely overlong and devoid of a single likable character, this celebrates everything irritating about the 1% and unleashes an endless parade of bad rom-com cliches. Instead of reinventing love story convention, it went through the same old paces, added lots of gaudy sets and regurgitated embarrassing stereotypes. In the year that gave us a riveting John Cho in “Searching” and Sandi Tan’s groundbreaking “Shirkers” (it’s on Netflix, watch it tonight!), this was the one that was touted as a breakthrough for Asian film art. Yes, it’s pretty to look at but this is the Asian equivalent of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.”
  2. A Wrinkle in Time– Smarmy acting and Hallmark card dialog made this insufferable.
  3. Fifty Shades Freed– What began as mildly scandalous devolved into a limp ordeal.
  4. The Spy Who Dumped Me– No laughs, wit, excitement or any reason to exist.
  5. Venom– Kept changing its mind mid-scene about what kind of movie it’s supposed to be,
  6. I Feel Pretty– Not sure if it’s worse than “Snatched” but still a total loss for Amy Schumer.
  7. The Nun– How could they screw this one up? “Hotel Transylvania 3” was scarier.
  8. Rampage– Dumber than “Skyscraper,” which is the meanest thing I could possibly write.
  9. Pacific Rim: Uprising– I’m still not “drift compatible” with this moronic franchise.
  10. Terminal– Even Margot Robie’s icy beauty and Mike Myers’ odd turn couldn’t save this.

Runner Ups- Destination Wedding, Mid90’s, The Strangers: Prey At Night

 

Flawed but Occasionally Brilliant

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Other Side of the Wind

Sorry To Bother You

 

Rock Solid Fun

Ant-Man and the WASP

Avengers: Infinity War

Mission: Impossible- Fallout

Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Insanely Overrated

The Favourite

Hereditary

The Old Man & The Gun

Upgrade

 

Vastly Underappreciated

Chappaquidick

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

 

Nice Surprise

BlackKklansman

Halloween

The Mule

A Simple Favor

 

Guilty Pleasure Supreme

The MEG

 

Didn’t Like It But Will Admit: I May Have to See It Again

Annihilation

 

Big Disappointments

The 15:17 To Paris

The Front Runner

Game Night

Jurassic World: Forbidden Kingdom

Mama Mia!: Here We Go Again

Ocean’s 8

The Predator

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ready Player One

Red Sparrow

The Seagull

Skyscraper

Superfly

Tomb Raider

Tully

Vice

 

Frustratingly Almost Great

Bohemian Rhapsody

Boy Erased

The Hate U Give

 

Forgot I Even Saw This in the Theater

The Commuter

Den of Thieves

Insidious: The Last Key

Peter Rabbit

Winchester

 

Best Opening Credits

Deadpool 2

Mom and Dad

Proud Mary

 

Best Surprise Performances

Cedric the Entertainer/ First Reformed

Hugh Grant/ Paddington 2

Dylan McDermott/ The Clovehitch Killer

 

Great Sequels

Creed II

Deadpool 2

Incredibles 2

Paddington 2

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

 

Best Movie Poster

The Other Side of the Wind

 

Thank You, Netflix!

Roma

The Other Side of the Wind

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

 

On the Other Hand…

Bird Box

The Cloverfield Paradox

Extinction

 

Best Canine Performance

Pippin, The MEG

Oliver, Widows

 

Really Sorry I Missed (because, as of this writing, they never came to Maui)

Suspiria

If Beale Street Could Talk


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