Monday, January 7, 2019

Top 10 best movies of 2018

Wow. And to think that one year from now I'll be writing a top 10 best movies of the decade. Boy has time flown by. But, let's look at now. 2018 is in the bag, and looking at my top 10, pretty good fucking year! When I get around to writing best of the decade, my pick for #1 this year may have very high spot on that list.

What a fucking year for Nicolas Cage!

Although no documentaries made my top 10, this was a remarkably good year for documentaries and I'll write a little bit more about some of the best that I saw.

And it was also a great year for trippy as fuck movies.

First off:

Honorable mentions:
A Spy Gone North, Searching, The Hate U Give, Fahrenheit 11/9, Antman and the Wasp, Upgrade, Three Identical Strangers, Mom and Dad, First Man, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Clovehitch Killer

10. Clara ****1/2

I saw 4 space movies at TIFF this year, and while I quite enjoyed First Man, the best space movie goes to Canada. It's also shocking to learn that the screenwriter of this movie was only 18 when he first wrote the script. No 18 year old should be this smart, god damnit! This movie juggles many things, but it all forms into a cohesive whole: a fascinating as fuck science fiction about a lonely man's obsession to find life on other planets (and the science about how he goes about searching is fascinating as for the lack of better words...fascinating as fuck), a drama about dealing with tragedy, a love story about the girl that enters his life and helps him on his search, and also manages to be philosophical and for a low budget Canadian film, it has shockingly great space visuals. If there's a slight weakness, some of Clara's dialogue is fucking cheesy (the character Clara, not the movie as a whole), but Akash Sherman was really young when he wrote this, and I'm sure his dialogue will improve with his future movies.

Last year, Coco was the one movie that had me balling my eyes out through-out the entire end credits. This year, it's Clara. The final shot of this movie is the single best ending of any movie this year, and Patrick J. Adams puts on one of the best performances of the year. Akash Sherman might be the most exciting person to look out for in Canadian cinema.


9. Welcome to Marwen ****1/2

This is the #1 movie that rottentomatoes got very wrong, and to think I almost listened to them and skipped out on this movie. Regardless of whether this movie took creative liberties with the true story of Mark Hogancamp (I'm guessing that's a big criticism of people who loved the documentary), this is one of the most visually stunning movies of the year. When it comes to fantasy dramas about characters that escape into a fantasy world to shield themselves from the pains of reality, no movies transitions and jumps from fantasy to reality and back more seemlessly and with more style than this one and that's fucking difficult for a movie that has to transition between live action and stop motion animation with dolls for fuck's sakes! That is impressive! I know this won't get a best picture nod, but at least give it best visual effects!

The action scenes involving the dolls are way fucking better than you'd expect. The drama about a guy dealing with PTSD and how he needs this fictional fantasy world to deal with the unbearable pain of the worst hate crime anyone can experience is so well done, and I think an Oscar worthy performance by Steve Carrell. His pain is real, and the friendships he has with the women in his life (and appear in his fantasy world of Marwen) have so much charm and heart. Perhaps the female characters aren't the most 3 dimensional, but their interactions are always fun and there's something different and funny about each friendship.

Despite the sad subject matter, this is an uplifting movie. Some of life's greatest pain makes for the best art and that's exactly what Mark Hogencamp did. It's an inspirational story about overcoming adversity and although the dramatic courtroom speech is one of Hollywood's oldest cliches, damn I couldn't hold those tears back!


8. Green Book ****1/2

On paper, this looked like such formulaic, cliched Oscar bait. I had zero interest in it, but then it won the audience choice award at TIFF. Since its wide release, reviews haven't been quite as glowing. Yes, it is another movie where the black guy is the supporting character, there to make the white guy learn the error of his ways. In the movie's defense, the screenwriter is the son of Tony Lip, so obviously he'll be able to write a far more 3 dimensional character of his dad than Don Shirley who he probably met, but didn't know all that well. I appreciate though that in a movie dealing with racism in the deep south, they chose a comedic roadtrip approach which is actually kind of refreshing.

To me, Green Book was simply the bromance of the year and shockingly one of the funniest movies of the year. It's an absolute joy to see the growth of a friendship between real life characters Tony Lip and Don Shirley and the comedic chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali is among the best I've seen this year. Once the two of them hit the road, there's not one dull moment. I'm trying to think back to other roadtrip movies that came out this past decade; I'm hard pressed to think of one I liked better than Green Book.

7. Annihilation ****1/2

What a follow up to Ex Machina by Alex Garland. First he makes a very smart mind fuck of a movie about artificial intelligence and now he tackles DNA with a bigger budget, even more mindfuckery and giving zero fucks about pleasing the mainstream Hollywood crowd. 

This is one insane mindfuck of a movie; an absolute trip.  At times brutally violent, horrifying, abstract, at times stunningly beautiful, and so creative with what it does with the small piece of land where evolution works in a very different way and where the DNA of any life form can mix with any other. Especially for those people bored with the absolute mediocrity of Ridley Scott's recent Alien movies, this is the breath of fresh air we're looking for. 


6. Blindspotting ****1/2

I feel like this is the best movie of 2018 that captures the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement (though The Hate U Give is also an excellent movie and a good companion piece to this one). When you have people angry about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, this is the movie they have to watch to understand the outrage.  

It could be all gloomy, but I love how Blindspotting weaves its message around a very entertaining buddy comedy about a black man who’s on parole and the friendship with his trouble making criminal White friend, quite possibly the last person he should be hanging out with if he wants to stay out of trouble.  Despite addressing gentrification, the movie even gets some good laughs out of black neighborhoods being taken over by Hipsters, ie: a burger joint that serves vegan burgers…you have to actually ask for a beef burger if you want one.

The film is directed with a lot of creativity and I applaud the director for some huge risks. The climax is probably the most talked about scene as it has been very divisive. I understand the people who didn't like it, but I applaud the director for thinking way outside the box and going for broke. Blindspotting to me is the Do the Right Thing of the 2000s. 


5. Mandy ****1/2

I think there needs to be no discussion of Oscar race for best actor. It's simple. Nicolas Cage in MANDY. It just may be Nic Cage's most batshit insane performance which is saying a lot, seeing how MOM AND DAD came out the same year (also a great movie), and let's not forget the Cage's being on crack, seeing dancing dead bodies and pulling guns on old ladies performance in Port of Call: New Orleans. But his work in Mandy tops them all, and when Cage is on his A game, taking performance up to 11, there's simply nothing better. 

Mandy is one hell of a batshit insane, trippy as fuck, avante garde, super interesting color palette gorgeously shot, violent as fuck with each death getting more and more fucked up revenge film. This is a beautifully directed film and extremely stylish, even mixing in animations at times. But back to Nicolas Cage...

When it comes to great performances, no acting this year tops the one scene of Nic Cage after he's just escaped from his captors, bruised and bloodied; he's in a lot of physical pain, but he just saw his wife get murdered by a cult. He pours alcohol on his wounds, chugs down the hard liquor and screams in unbearable pain. No performance made me feel a character's pain quite like this scene and no actor could have pulled this off like Nicolas Cage.


4. Thoroughbreds ****1/2 

If you have a fucked up, twisted sense of humour like me, dark comedies don’t get much better than this.  This is one hell of a twisted coming of age/friendship movie. It has easily the best comedic dialogue writing of the year.  Olivia Cooke who had been seemingly typecasted as a sweet girl suffering from a disease pulls a complete 180, playing a girl who is incapable of experiencing any emotions. The fact that there's absolutely no Oscar talk of her performance shows that the Oscars are still very inside the box and won't embrace anything that out there. It's a shame. 

Let's not forget Anya Taylor-Joy who seems like the normal girl, but there is some dark shit going on in her mind too.  The two of them have phenomenal chemistry and it’s the most memorable relationship of any movie this year. It never tries to be sentimental.  Its tone is dark, cynical and bad ass from beginning to end, and I never knew where the story would take me.  Might I add, it's very interesting the way this movie is shot. 


3. Eighth Grade ****1/2

I had expressed jealousy of Akash Sherman's intelligence for Clara, but multiply that jealousy by 11 when it comes to Bo Burnham. No 18 year old should have been coming up with stand-up comedy as brilliant as his.  No 27 year old making his directorial debut should be able to make a movie as flawless as this.  I expected a good movie with perhaps structural problems, self indulgence or attempts to be too quirky, but none of those issues arised.  I have almost nothing to criticize about this movie whatsoever.  What the fuck?!  His first crack at a feature film is better than most people's experienced directors' best work. 
Eighth Grade is wonderful.  Heartbreaking, authentic, low key and funny movie, where the humour feels so natural where many indy directors try too hard to be quirky.  Everything about it feels so accurate and realistic about the lives of eighth graders today, in this social media controlled life. Elsie Fisher has rightfully been in the discussion for an Oscar nomination, but let's not forget a best supporting actor nod for Josh Hamilton playing one of the most likable dads ever in a movie; trying his best to be a good single dad, but at times clueless. Boy does he shine in that campfire scene. 

I agree with a friend of mine that this is the movie LADY BIRD tried to be. I will also add, I think a far better coming of age movie than BOYHOOD, and I'll even add that it captured the heart and teenage insight of one of my favorite novels - The Perks of Being a Wallflower better than that actual movie adaptation of that book. But that you're a great filmmaker, please don't quit your stand-up comedy.  You can do both! 


2. Paddington 2 ****1/2

To get the first question out of the way, no I wasn't stoned when I saw this movie, but I will be when I re-visit it. I should also add that this is the #1 rated movie on rottentomatoes. A true definition of a family movie, where adults will get just as much out of the movie as the kids. 

I thought Paddington 1 was an over-rated, generic comedy.  This may be one of the best sequels of all time, absolutely superior to its predecessor in every way imaginable. It's like the complete opposite of the Mary Poopins Sequel. Some people may say I was really harsh for calling Mary Poppins Returns a piece of shit, but Paddington 2 is how you properly do a magical, delightful family film that improves upon its predecessor. 

One thing that must be stressed…this is a good fucking comedy, with some very creative physical comedy that we don’t see enough of these days. Paddington's brutal honesty, his inability to know that sometimes honesty can be hurtful also leads to some great comedy. Despite how many times Paddington fucks up, he’s so well-intentioned, and has such a heart, you can’t help but love him. Hugh Grant does his funniest work in years, playing a super narcissistic, master of disguise burglar, and in my opinion the best villain of 2018.    

The majority of Hollywood movies have feel good endings, but very few movies left me in such a euphorically uplifted mood like this one. On my list of all time greatest feel good movies, Paddington 2 is definitely up there. 


1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse *****

I'm not a comic book nerd. I still think there's waaaay too many super hero movies and I'm tired of seeing the same super heroes rebooted over and over again. Imagine my shock that once again, a Marvel super hero movie has once again topped my list (last time was Doctor Strange). But hey, I like to be entertained, and when a movie has me tripping the fuck out and saying, "Hoooooly fucking shit!!" repeatedly through-out the entire movie, absolutely dazzled by a movie's energetic, colorful and fresh comic book style of animation, there's nothing better. I don't know how this movie will translate to a TV screen, but seeing it in theatres in Dbox 3-D is a unique movie going experience like no other. It's such an immersive experience, a true escape into this absolutely bonkers universe. 

An absolute trip could have been enough, but the movie also happens to come with a great script. Very creative story, a really fun range of Spider-characters from various parallel universes, and really good character relationships with great humour and gravitas not only between Miles and his dad, but a wonderful teacher/student relationship with Miles and Peter Parker.  

And Nicolas fucking Cage once again absolutely kills it, easily the funniest voice acting in years, playing Noir Spider-Man. Spider-Verse is fucking hilarious, from physical comedy to awkwardness to really witty dialogue. It never tries too hard to get its laughs. The over-rated Deadpool 2 could really learn from Spider-Verse about writing clever meta humour.

As I've said before, I typically prefer Indy films, but when a mainstream blockbuster gets a big budget with an extremely creative vision, nothing is better. This movie is an experience. I can't think of too many things more fun than sitting through this movie...ON WEED! 

Other notable awards:

Actor of the year:
Nicolas Cage

Not only did he have the performance of the year in Mandy, but one of the funniest performances ever in a horror movie in Mom and Dad, and if there was an Oscar for best voice actor in an animated movie, he easily takes it for his hilarious work playing Spider-man Noir in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. 

Trippiest movie of the year:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Very worthy runners up:
Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Mandy, Annihilation

Best Use of 3-D:
Tie: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Antman & the Wasp
Runner up: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best ending:

Best Cinematography:
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Runner up: Mandy

Best Actor and Best Actress:
Nicolas Cage in Mandy (runners up: Patrick J. Adams in Clara, Ryan Gosling in First Man)
Olivia Cooke in Thoroughbreds (runners-up: Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give, Elise Fisher in Eighth Grade)

Best villain:
Hugh Grant in Paddington 2 

Best super-hero movie:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Runners up: The criminally under-rated Teen Titans Go!: To the Movies, Ant-man &the Wasp

Best Animated movie:
Okay, this is a no brainer. I don't even need to say it.
If the Oscars give best animated film to Pixar's Mediocres 2, they have officially lost all credibility. Though a runner up worth mentioning is: Teen Titans Go! to the movies. This was my pick for best animated movie in a year of weak animated movies until Spider-verse came along. 

Best Foreign Language Film:
A Spy Gone North (South Korea)
It's the most captivating spy movie in years.

Runners up: Husband Material (absolutely delightful Bollywood movie), Shadow (China)

Best horror:
Mom & Dad
(Nic Cage wins maybe one of the funniest performances ever in a horror movie)


Damn good year for documentaries. To name a few: 
Three Identical Strangers is intriguing, thought provoking and more and more fucked up as it goes along. 

Screwball which I saw at TIFF...who knew a baseball documentary could be so fascinating, hilarious and stranger than fiction, in its exploration of the doping scandal involving A-Rod and the all the morons involved including the MLB themselves. 

Shirkers, it's on Netflix, folks. Most mystery documentaries are about murder or disapperance; how about a mysterious filmmaking teacher who befriends his students, makes a movie with them, then disappears. And then it turns out he's done this to many people? This movie explores one of the strangest real life villains and it's really fascinating.

Minding the about a filmmaker using the medium of a documentary as therapy; as a form of exploring his pain and the pain of his friends growing up with abusive parents and the psychological scars it leaves on them. In the midst of it all, they have skateboarding as their outlet and the skating is really well shot.

Won't you be my Neighbor?: Not as good as the docs I listed above, but still very touching and interesting insight into a TV personality who truly had a great heart and truly wanted to make the world a better place with his show. I'm glad that the show Kidding came out the same year. Let's hope Mr. Rogers didn't have any of Jeff Pickles's demons though. 

But...if I had to pick a favourite...

I'm going with Fahrenheit 11/9, far better than its predecessor. Simply put, I think it's the most important documentary to come out this year. It presents everything that's fucked up about our political climate today, but has inspirational moments, showing the young people, their energy and ambition and ability to change the world around them. It's a call to everyone that this is what's fucked with the world, now go out and do something about it!