Another year has come and gone, the first time I’ve been doing this for a full year (Albiet in bursts) and this has been really nice. Final year of University was good, this year I had 10K views on this blog and while that’s not a lot to some, it means a ton to me. Even when I was sitting through films I hated, I was loving that I got to do this and try and explain why you should or shouldn’t see them even if there were times that my explanations were not well worded (Working on that is my new years resolution). But, as is tradition with reviewers there are now lists to make and this list is the ‘Best’ list (AKA just the ones I liked the most but no one ever admits to that openly because ‘best’ is the term people serarch for, even though calling something ‘best’ is a very bad term for a subjective artform like film). Before we get to that, here’s the parameters for the lists we’ll be doing.
- I did not see every film. I saw a fair few of them and was seeing them since the start of the year but thanks to final year of Uni stuff, I missed some because doing assignments came over going to movies so if something from isn’t on the list that probably should be, there’s your first potential reason.
- Only films released in Australia in 2018 are going to be on this list. Specifically films need to have a wide release, wide enough that I can get to see them at a massive chain cinema like Event. Festival screenings are nice and all but they do not help me in this situation becuase, at the moment, I’m not paid for this. So this means films like If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, Green Book and The Hate U Give and are not eligible because, while they may have had screenings before the end of the year that I just couldn’t get too, they didn’t have a proper wide release. They’ll be eligible for the 2019 list and hopefully by then maybe Hollywood will stop being idiots and just release a movie worldwide on the same day instead of making some countries wait 3 months and then wonder why there’s piracy. Basically, if there isn’t a review on this blog about it, I didn’t see it.
- Netflix films are totally eligible for both lists. Indeed any video on demand movie is available for scrutiny, no matter how they had to release it. If they sent it out to be viewed by an audience, then they should be ready for critique.
- These are merely my opinions and you are absolutely entitled to disagree with me for any reason, go nuts, make your own list in the comments or question my order. That’s fine. What’s not fine is just saying “Your list sucks” with no reason behind it, critique is fine but blind attacks with no reason isn’t. Again, just my opinion.
With that said, before we get to the list, I have several honorable mentions, because this year was so good that I couldn’t be restrained to just one
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse: The most visually stunning animated film in many years and possibly the best Spider-Man movie of them all. It’s only not put on the list proper because there are about 10 films that I had more fun watching, and because everyone is putting this on their best of list so I wanted to offer variety since these lists do tend to basically be recommendation lists more than anything.
Directors Cut: The film that I helped crowdfund, instantly making it ineligible for any such list, it’s honestly the most weird film I’ve seen this year. A glorious mash up of thriller, found footage and dvd audio commentary that fit together in order to create a unique film experience that genuinely threw me, even though I literally had a copy of the script and heard the pitch before handing over cash for the film to get made.
Upgrade: A visceral masterpiece that was basically Venom but with a brain. It’s visuals are stunning and the performances are great, it’s the kind of over the top action thriller that wasn’t afraid to disturb the audience. This was the movie to watch with friends for a scary movie night, enjoy.
Searching: To do a film entirely on a computer monitor is a gimmick, pure and simple… to use that gimmick in such an effective way that it becomes a brilliant cinematic experience that utilizes the format it’s chosen to build tension constantly throughout and delivers a sucker punch of an ending that will make you sit back in your seat.
So, with that out of the way, let’s do the list proper now.
10: A Star Is Born
A Star Is Born is the fourth remake of the story of a woman with immense talent who falls in love with a drunken star who is slowly crumbling due to his addiction and the how his demons may end up dragging her down. It’s a story we’ve seen multiple times already and it shouldn’t have anything new to offer us at this point… and then Lady Gaga showed up and decided she wanted the Oscar for best actress. Shocking everyone, the film couldn’t work with any other actress but Gaga, who not only delivers one of the most raw and emotional performances of any actress, but wrote some of the best music that will be seen in any film this year. Bradley Cooper’s directoral debut is a film that is powerful and emotional, taking the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions and never lets go for even a second, it’s a profound experience that is going to sweep the Oscars next year, with ease.
No, I’m not kidding. While most people would be putting Spider-Man on their list (As they should, it’s a great film) there wasn’t an animated film this year that delighted me more than Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. It’s simplistic animation style allows the writing to shine and that’s where the true brilliance of this movie is. On the surface, the film is a giddy follow up to a popular TV series that was loved by children and follows the main cast as they try to get Hollywood to make a movie about them. Underneath that, The film is a meta exploration of the nature of superhero movies and their ubiquity in media, to the point where it just seems right that the Batmobile should get its own movie. It’s a glorious family friendly roast of the most popular genre of the decade, delivered with love and appreciation for everything that came before it but it’s also unafraid to mock Marvel and DC equally for everything they’ve done from jokes about the stupidest scene in Batman V Superman to a joke lovingly ribbing Stan Lee for his cameos in all the Marvel movies. It also has some of the best music of the year, including Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life which I still say should’ve been Oscar nominated. It’s hilarious, heartfelt and the kind of film that we needed to have in order to properly mock the Superhero genre.
BlacKkKlansman took on a big chunk of history that we forgot and presented it as only a Spike Lee Joint could. With whip sharp dialogue and amazing direction, this film would’ve been great even without the powerhouse final moment that knocks the audience over with the realisation that the things that horrified them back then are still going on today, only now they don’t even bother with hoods. It’s a great film that goes between genuinely great comedy and the most sharp, visceral, political commentary that’s been in cinemas in a very long time. This was a film that slapped the audience in the face and demanded that they wake up and we needed it.
There was really no way that I couldn’t make these two into a tie. I tried but the both of them have something really important to say about the nature of film this year. This year was a year where diversity reigned, specifically diversity that we should’ve had years ago. So many films this year were similar to ones we’d seen before, but a minority group finally got to be the lead and for many people that means a lot. We should’ve had a mainstream teen romance about a gay kid already, we should’ve had a mainstream romcom with an asian cast, but we didn’t until this year. That makes these films important to their respective communities, but what makes the both of them great is what they did within their genres.
Crazy Rich Asians embraced it’s cultural heritage and managed to create some of the most gorgeous visuals of the year, the wedding scene alone is worthy of the ticket price but then you would throw in some of the best performances of the year by Michelle Yeoh as the overbearing mother and Awkwafina who has become this years go-to comedic actress who better be getting a ton of movies written for her.
It was the kind of funny charming film that makes you smile from the opening seconds and with a great pair of leading performances by Henry Golding (Who is one of the breakout stars of the year) and Constance Wu (Who better be in more films because she is just damn amazing). It’s a film that not only let’s you fall in love with the characters, you fall in love with the world they show us and it’s one of the few romcoms where I’m honestly excited for the sequel.
Then you have Love, Simon which was a little more simplistic and embracing the trappings of a teen romance, but by throwing in the coming out storyline and actually giving the gay character some serious depth and even letting him get the guy in the end, it was touching. Sure, Simon was a flawed character who lies to his friends because he’s being blackmailed with his secret and doesn’t want to be too gay and that might upset some people, but it felt real to me and it was nice to just see a real gay character in a major mainstream motion picture.
I happened to see this at a film festival (It had a mainstream release, so this isn’t breaking my rules) with a room full of LGBT people and when I tell you that it got one of the best reactions by gay men over 30 who have been hoping for a film like this for so long, I’m not exaggerating. It’s the film a lot of gay people wish they had gotten in their teen years and it’s so sweet and joyful with some great performances, in particular by Nick Robinson who made Simon into a really likable yet flawed kid, I couldn’t get enough of it.
I know this one seemed to have slipped under the radar and some people might not have liked it, but I genuinely loved every minute of this insane mysterious masterpiece. For the first half of the film it’s a really interesting murder mystery, asking “why did someone get killed at the El Royale hotel?”. It was an intriguing character piece with a bunch of great characters… and then the film decided “You know what? If Charlie Manson turned up in the middle of Clue, no one cares about the mystery anymore” and decided to do that.
For some that shift was jarring and they wanted to know the mystery but I loved that the film decided to throw a spanner in the works and go with it. The movie looks amazing, that set design was really great to watch and the performances… I could praise everyone easily (And I did, my review is basically just individual praise of every actor) but the two standouts are easily Jeff Bridges as a priest who has a dark secret in his past, and Chris Hemsworth as a cult leader who also uses his natural charm and sex appeal to trick people into a false sense of security before doing something unspeakably horrible to them. It’s certainly not a film for everyone, but I think everyone should give it a go.
Note, I’m going to be doing spoiler things here so just scroll to the next big one if you want to avoid them.
Easily the most memed film of the year, Infinity War was the payoff for the decade of buildup that Marvel had been doing. It’s not even a shock anymore that Marvel just makes good films and a lot of them but for 10 years, while they’d been working on individual stories for their characters, they kept reminding us that Thanos was coming. Well, Thanos came, Thanos saw, Thanos snapped. I don’t think we talk about how ballsy this film was to end on that moment, to end with the bad guy winning. Yes, we are all intellectually aware that Endgame comes out in 2019 and they will probably undo a lot of what they did… doesn’t really change the fact that Marvel said “No, we’re going to kill half the cast on camera in the final minutes of the film, that’s how we’re going to end our tentpole film of the year, and you’re going to wait a year to see how many of those come back” and made it work.
They were so adamant that they were going to shock the audience that the trailer was designed specifically to lie to the audience about major events (Like Hulk being in it, or just how many infinity stones Thanos had when he first met Cap) That final scene between the snap and the credits was the jaw dropper of the year because no one expected it. How could we? We know how these stories go. Marvel has taught us time and time again (Through, admittedly, heavy repetition of their core story structure) that when the Avenger’s get together, no one can stop them. We’re lead to believe they will solve this somehow, but it’s repeatedly hammered into our heads that when Thanos want’s to do something, he’s going to do it. Damn you and damn the rules of how these kind of movies work, Thanos will do what he has to do because that’s what he does. That snap heard around the world was the defining pop culture moment of the year and now they have to work really hard to earn the chance to undo that, but if they pull if off… well, next years list will have a very easy top spot.
I learned to eat popcorn with my tongue and the top of my jaw during this one because I was so scared to make a crunch sound. The most terrifying film of the year, an expert display of tension building and payoff with some of the most amazing horror movie acting of the year. While a lot of the credit should go to the director, the real powerhouse here was Emily Blunt who had one of the most intense scenes of the year, the staircase scene was enough to make me scream, then instantly stop screaming because I was going to get someone killed. From start to finish it’s intensity keeps ratcheting up, we don’t even really know what the creatures look like until right at the end and we get’s horrific setpiece after horrific setpiece, each one made more intense because we know that if anyone on screen gives into the need to scream that they’re just instantly dead.
While it’s terrifying the audience, it’s also telling the story of two parent’s who are desperately trying to protect their children in the harshest circumstances and the use of an actual married couple as the leads helps sell that. Also, if we go back to the importance of representation for a moment, the fact that this film is almost entirely done in sign language is a landmark moment that not only makes the film more accessible to people, but it really helps define the characters and ratchet up the tension. A great film that pulls the audience in and gives them one hell of a good time, and before it’s mentioned yes, they could’ve moved the house beside the waterfall… and Laurie Strode could’ve called the police, but they don’t call the police because it’s boring and that’s why the house isn’t by the waterfall.
Infinity War may have been the pop culture icon if the year but Black Panther was the phenomenon of the year. The highest grossing film of 2018 in America, second highest grossing worldwide, Black Panther was a visual shot in the arm that showed an originality that Marvel movies haven’t embraced since Guardians of the Galaxy showed us what Marvel was going to do with outer space. This film made people learn the term Afro-futurism and I’m glad that it did but it also just showed what a really good superhero film could look like if it took the story of Hamlet and gave him superpowers and a cool catsuit.
Make no mistake, this film is epic in it’s visuals and literally Shakespearian in it’s story, along with giving us one of the most interesting villains Marvel had. Marvel did that a lot this year actually, not only with Killmonger but also Thanos and Ghost who were all villains in the sense that they were doing something that was going to cause pain to the heroes, but they have motivations that you could understand and empathise with. That final speech by Killmonger remains one of the most beautiful moments in Marvel history. From top to bottom this film delivers great characters (Okoye is my favourite, please respect my decision to worship a bald iconic warrior queen), amazing visuals and was a powerful moment of representation that was so welcomed that people turned up to see this movie in native African dress which was one hell of an amazing sight to see. It was a great superhero film… and then they killed the lead in Infinity War. Have I mentioned that Marvel has balls now?
Remember the rules I set up the top of this list? Yeah, Shape Of Water had a film festival release in 2017, but a wide release came out in Janurary 2018 and that’s when I saw it so that’s when it’s eligible. Shape Of Water is possibly the best love story ever told, and not just because that fish monster is hot. It’s a genuinely poetic story that takes the idea of “Two lovebirds from two different worlds” and makes it literal. There are so many fascinating elements to this film, from the visual perfection we now expect from Guillermo Del Toro but the fact that the main characters are given voice by a black woman and a gay man, a subtle little trick that works wonderfully. Sure, everyone made jokes about the fish sex, it’s an easy joke to make (I literally made it in one of my uni assignments this year, that’s how easy it is to make) but then you watch the film and those scenes are some of the most gorgeous and powerful moments of the film.
The fact that the academy has not given Doug Jones some kind of award for his work in this film is astounding because he gave this creature life. He turns it into so much more than just an object that the story revolves around, he gives the creature life and makes him feel mighty real. Even now, I think about this film and smile because there hasn’t been a film quite like it before or since and I don’t know if I ever need another one because Guillermo did it absolutely perfectly the first time… although if he want’s to make another movie about a classic Universal movie monster finding love, I’m not going to object one bit.
I’m going to openly admit, I know for a fact that some people are going to look at this choice and scoff. I know this choice won’t be popular, I’m not even sure if this film will be on anyone’s list. Heck, this film is basically a Gone Girl ripoff but with a sense of humor attached… but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s perfect. Every little element of this film just works. The fun kitchy opening credit’s with Laisse Tomber Les Filles playing in the background (That title translated means “Leave the girls alone”, an appropriate song choice for this movie) set the mood for one of the most gloriously enjoyable films with some of the best performances I’ve seen.
Blake Lively basically owned every second of this film with her iconic performance as Emily, the hard drinking foul mouthed femme fatale with more secrets than Gossip Girl and is willing to do absolutely anything in order to keep those secrets. Henry Golding managed to go from the most charming man alive in Crazy Rich Asians into this flawed human being who is weak willed against Emily and is almost too eager to dive into bed with another woman the moment his wife goes missing. That woman is Anna Kendrick who just owns the role of “Nervous widow who finally has a friend and really want’s to find out what happened to her, while also having some serious secrets of her own”. Some people will point to the child actors and say that’s a reason to take it down a notch, but if I did that then I’d have to take down every film with a child in it.
The comedic talents of the main cast are utilized perfectly here, directed perfectly by Paul Feig who really created something truly amazing and fun to watch. Some of the shots in this film stuck with me, in particular one with a wrench that just cemented Blake Lively as the kind of actress who should be getting endless amounts of work as a villain because she’s amazing here. The most joyfully stylish and fun movie I’ve seen all year, I walked out of the cinema saying “Yeah, that’s the best film of the year” and I haven’t been proven wrong on that yet. If you haven’t seen it, trust me you need to see this one because it’s something special.
And that was my list, what did you think were some of the best films of the year? Leave your best list in the comments below, follow me and get ready for the worst list tomorrow