You read it right in the title up there… 2018 was tough as hell in many ways, personally and socially, but when it came to movies they were keeping me afloat and alive through the all the waves. And it was a varied bag of experimental cinema, strong genre work, deep explorations, etc. Anyway, I’m really swamped between work and a flight I’m taking in less than an hour as I write this so let’s see if I’m able to convince y’all about this with a gargantuan 3-part writing exercise on the things I loved about this year in movies (and some of the things I hated).
Let’s just get to it.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, where the choice to include a made-up name like Grindelwald that no newcomer to the series will know or care about and to compact the Fantastic Beasts title despite it no longer being a concern of the franchise seems to be the biggest crime of all.
Let the Corpses Tan, absolutely evocative and threatening in a manner just a little bit crossing between spaghetti western and giallo even if it doesn’t remotely fall into the latter category (but of course we know the directors have much experience with that).
(Close second goes to The Night Comes for Us for similar reasons)
BEST TITLE IN ITS ORIGINAL LANGUAGE
Un Beau Soleil Intérieur, translating to “A Beautiful Interior Sun” which is already clunky, but given the hallmarky name of Let the Sunshine In by its English release.
“He’s been doing all sorts of drugs, but he’s addicted to crystal meth, which seems to be the worst of them all.” -David Sheff (Steve Carell) in Beautiful Boy, written by Luke Davies and Felix van Groeningen (directed by van Groeningen). No shit.
We have here a tie between:
“I like it when she puts her tongue in me.” -Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) twisting the knife in The Favourite, written by Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
“”She’s like having your own Disney villain, plus she won’t let you jerk off.” -Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, written by Desiree Akhavan & Cecilia Frugiele based on the book by Emily M. Danforth (directed by Akhavan).
Congratulations to Pitbull for earning this title with two separate songs: “Amore” (written for Gotti) sounding like every possible stereotype you could have yoinked outta The Godfather and having Mr. 305 mumble over it about family honor or something.
And then there’s the hella laziness “Ocean to Ocean” (for Aquaman) displays in ripping Toto’s “Africa” without even bothering to change the chorus, just re-recording it with autotune.
I am a very simple man who likes to judge a song simply by how it feels to walk on a night with it playing in your head and by god does Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s melancholy ode to dreams “All the Stars” (from Black Panther) fit snuggly into that sweater (bonus for it especially being great for walking alone in the snow at midnight).
The Black Panther soundtrack may be frankly my least favorite album Kendrick Lamar has made so far overall (hot take: I prefer the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, which even has the superior Vince Staples song) but that was definitely in my top 5 songs of the year.
I know I should be nice to Windows Movie Maker videos but I’ve had to watch Overcomer‘s teaser in front of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse too many fucking times for me not to rip on it for teasing the most depressing color correction and telling us literally nothing about its storyline except that a bunch of folks are upset for some reaosn. In any case, you know the Kendrick brothers are not very confident in this films’ merits when a third of it is clips from their previous movies like some version of the Marvel Studios logo.
(Honorable mention to Breakthrough, another trailer I’ve been seeing way too much of but has a much more promising cast. I just can’t watch that shit without thinking how it looks like the accidental origin story to a zombie apocalypse.)
By this point in the decade, trailers have been clearly into making pop art out of tying highlights of their movie with popular music but Godzilla: King of the Monsters choice to tie in the destructive imagery and alarming scale of its monsters in solid hues of red and blue to “Clair de Lune” is just masterful work of selling the epic grandeur of what we’re about to witness and selling the potential annihilation of humanity as the most beautiful coup du grace nature could deal with us.
It is the best trailer I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road‘s whole campaign.
So, when I went to see You Were Never Really Here, I couldn’t help overhearing the two high school boys next to me talking about cooking fools in Gears of War and getting pumped to watch Joaquin Phoenix kill some dudes. Obviously, I don’t need to tell anyone who saw the movie how disappointed they were. I wonder how they would have responded to this poster of The Old Man & The Gun and how disappointed they would have been that there were no explosions.
BEST POSTER(s COMBO)
So smartly, the marketers of Suspiria decided to throw us the most frustrating and unimpressive teaser poster they possibly could only…
Oh, good for you, a fucking “S”. How n–
HOLY FUCKING SHIT. THIS SUM SHIT.
Oh how can it not be that giant octopus that went drumming before Arthur and Orm did that traditional battle in Aquaman. Superior drummer to Ant-Man‘s drum machining giant ant. Beat them skins hard. Shut up.
BEST HORSE MOVIE
Sorry to Bother You. You’ll get it.
WORST MUSICAL MOMENT
Pick a moment from Peter Rabbit. Pick ANY fucking moment from Peter Rabbit, it all feels so fucking scared to actually burst into a legit number so we get these half-assed Greek choir birds rewriting a jukebox musical.
OK, it’s the “Remember the Name”. It felt like a Whitest Kids U’ Know skit except unironically.
BEST MUSICAL MOMENTS
It is pretty damn unfortunate that the three moments involving music that blew my mind (pun intended for one of the movies) are both spoilers so I’ll keep it short and sweet.
Suspiria‘s already a hell of a divisive movie and probably the most aggressive schism is regarding the deranged violence of its balletic third act climax (just after giving us a piece of information without giving us enough time to totally digest it as it turns into a full-on bloodbath) to the rising crescendo and delicate falsetto of Thom Yorke’s “Unmade”, a song that sounds so very unconvincingly like somebody trying to trap you and has an even more sinister bent in the context of that scene.
Meanwhile, we also have Night Is Short, Walk on Girl deciding at the halfway mark inning that “y’know what? We’re gonna be a musical!” and giving us guerilla pop-up musical numbers before ending with a grand finale that gives its story-within-a-story so many twists and turns and then has those twists and turns spill out into the actual film itself. It’s practically a soap opera at that moment and a compellingly watchable and hilarious one.
And then, possibly my favorite outright is Ralph Breaks the Internet paying off on one of its most annoying moments of self-congratulatory synergy where the Disney Princesses teach Vanelope about the “I Want” song and Vanelope finally discovers what her heart desires in the place you would not expect such a song to soar from. It is the only moment I enjoyed myself in that otherwise miserable movie.
You better know damn well that the helicopter scene in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is gonna come up again so I’m gonna just leave it for now.
BEST USE OF BRIAN TYREE HENRY
My dude has come up since The Book of Mormon and I’m so glad to see him show up in several of my favorite movies so it’s probably strange that the movie I felt used him best is the one good movie I was least in love with (if I successfully forget the trash White Boy Rick)…
Perhaps something that kept me a bit at a divide from If Beale Street Could Talk was how much it had to make its characters aware of the world they live in and MAKE US AWARE that THE CHARACTERS ARE AWARE rather than let the audience develop that connection, but Henry’s performance as Dan Carty for a brief stretch in the film functions brilliantly as a subtle microcosm of the sort of hardships that black men have to sit through and smile past despite what they’re doing.
(But really the answer is the “Woods” episode of Atlanta season 2 for using Henry’s real-life dealing with his mother’s death as a jumping point for how depression factors in how black men try to psychologically survive but obviously that’s a tv show and not a movie)
BEST CAST ON PAPER THAT FAILED US
Man, The Predator had some of the most Shane Black-iest casting choices and they all failed us except Trevante Rhodes. At least we got to see most of them gored up real good.
MOST IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE IN A MOVIE THEATER
A tie between realizing I forgot my hotel key just as Jackson Maine was searching for his in A Star Is Born or my screening of Green Book smelling entirely like fried chicken.
MOVIE I MOST REGRET NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE IN TIME
I Am Not a Witch. I’ve been desperate for an opportunity to see it ever since its trailer played in front of Madeline’s Madeline, but it was a long way from Queens to Union Square.
MOVIE I THINK I MIGHT RE-EVALUATE POSITIVELY IF I EVER REWATCH IT
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Particularly given how many people around me are just having a hell of a good time from that movie’s existence and I must admit it is a world of difference in quality between it and the wretched first movie, with its affinity for the ABBA deep cuts and decision to actually cast singers in the roles that rely most on the music. Maybe I can just loosen up a bit eventually dig it with the rest.
MOVIE I LOOK FORWARD MOST TO REVISITING
I’ve watched The Other Side of the Wind three times now and still only feel like my viewings were scratching the surface of this extremely dense work. But we’ll definitely get back to that.
Also, PROTOTYPE which I will be seeing for the second time at Cornell Cinema next week. It’s always great when I get to rewatch 3D movies given how limited the opportunity is.
I won’t linger too long on them.
- The Death of a Nation – I punish myself D’Souza.
- Game Over, Man! – We let the wrong dude pick the Netflix movie one night.
- Proud Mary – Literally the sort of visual and audio handicraft that would get a D in film school.
- Life Itself – Y’all thinking This Is Us is really good but this has me wondering if dude ever read a book or met a people.
- Gotti – Eyyyyyy you won’t see a movie like this if you live to be fif thousan.
Aight, in the upcoming parts of this series – Honorable Mentions and My Top Ten Movies of the Year (including mini essays on how each one personally affected me)