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.
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
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.
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!
Actor of the year:
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.
Tie: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Antman & the Wasp
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Runner up: Mandy
It's the most captivating spy movie in years.
Mom & Dad