my 2018 in film
My resolution entering 2018 was to see 100 new movies.
Why 100? Because it sounded nice and because it challenged me. 100 movies meant that I would have to pick some that I would otherwise skip, I couldn’t fall back on things I knew I would like. There more than a few pleasant surprises, and about an equal amount of unpleasant ones. In the end I surpassed my goal by nine movies. Overall, it was a rocky and uneven experience. Like 2018 was on a whole.
What started out as a writing exercise evolved into an attempt to find some sense of closure and clarity about my 2018 experiences. When I look back at 2018, the only through line is the 109 movies I watched. They are a lens through which I can understand the year that has just gone, and maybe parse out some meaning from it all. And if I can’t do that, I can at least make some quippy remarks.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about movies.
I’ve watched too many of these.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture
The title describes the viewing experience!
The Cloverfield Paradox
Boo (but slightly louder).
I Am Not An Easy Man
Clearly should have been a short film. I Am Not An Easy Man takes a smart idea and does increasingly dumb things with it to fill up the run time. This is especially disappointing considering how many intelligent things this movie has to say about patriarchal power structures in a #metoo world.
If Netflix is going to keep adapting shitty Wattpad stories, then I’m campaigning for them to do Trapped In A Island With Josh Hutcherson next.
I watched this apparently? Don’t remember it at all.
Set It Up
Like lying next to a pool at four in the afternoon while drinking a mimosa.
What if the “teaching a robot to love” Cards Against Humanity card was a movie?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
2018 was the year I began to fall for the rom-com, and this was the movie that started it all. Is it amazing? No. But it’s funny without resorting to humour that comes at the expense of genuine emotion. It lets the characters behave like people, which is good because those characters are absolutely *clears throat* chaaarrrrmmmiiinnnnggg.
Sierra Burgess is a Loser
[Unsubscribes from Netflix]
Hold the Dark
Warning: this is two hours and five minutes long while only containing one (1) fun scene.
The Land of Steady Habits
Even Nicole Holofcener’s worst movie is still better than most directors’ good movies.
It’s a BLATANT rip-off of The Iron Giant. Still made me cry.
The Holiday Calendar
A strong case against Christmas movies (no I won’t explain why I watched this).
The opening tracking shot is SO GOOD that the rest of the movie was doomed to pale in comparison.
The Ballad of buster Scruggs
I liked talking about this more than I enjoyed actually watching it. The Coen Brothers have made both better Westerns and better movies overall. However, they are not wrong in their overall thesis that dying is a tad scary sometimes!
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Boo (very loud now).
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
It didn’t cause an existential crisis as it did for many. Did cause me to think long and hard about the Netflix model of entertainment production, and what it means for how we consume media as a culture. There are pros certainly. Bandersnatch is an interesting experimentation with form that could not exist without Netflix. After all, no other platform would have risked so much on Black Mirror. I do think it’s great that the platform picks up festival content and makes it readily available for mass consumption.
I do wonder if that model is a net gain or loss for us. After all, I spent more time this year watching movies and generally hiding from the harsh truths of our reality. Twitter was dominated with Bandersnatch discussion for days while the U.S Government was in shut down. I am definitely not blaming Netflix for the shutdown, but I do wonder if the kind of consumerism Netflix encourages is making us more or less aware and willing to interact with the realities of our times.
Also, Bandersnatch is like, ok.
These are somehow worse than Netflix movies.
The opening credits slap. The rest is a slap to the face.
Hot Summer Nights
The cast includes Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Max Irons, and Mike Myers yet somehow the only memorable character was the excessive neon lighting.
Came for Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum, stayed for Sofia Boutella (I’m surprised too).
The Darkest Minds
Why the YA movies continue to try and use what are effectively school houses to make political statements is beyond me. Modern politics is a complex landscape and thus requires a complex approach, both in film and in real life (more on this point later).
There were so many of these stupid things.
Good but it was too long, and the action was not great! Ryan Coogler clearly has a lot to say but is bogged down by being forced to work within the Marvel machine! Despite all that the film is still, in my mind, quite good! The way it talks about the ongoing ramifications of colonialism and the way we should respond to it as a global society is very intelligent! Additionally, the way it creates and explores the culture of Wakanda is gobsmacking! I won’t weigh in on the Best Picture nomination because the Oscar’s are silly anyway! Also, Kilmonger was right!
Avengers: Infinity War
Nebula remains the only character in the MCU I truly care about.
I don’t even know where to begin.
Being loudly self-aware makes you neither clever nor a good movie so jot that down.
Ant-Man & The Wasp
The size of the final set piece doesn’t matter nearly as much as the emotional stakes. Take notes future Superhero movie directors.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
It’s no The Lego Batman Movie, but then again what is?
I genuinely think Tom Hardy was snubbed an Oscar nomination for his performance in this.
Mary and the Witches Flower
Makes you wish Studio Ghibli was still making movies.
Borg v McEnroe
In no world should Shia Labeouf be allowed to make me cry, let alone for a performance in a bad tennis biopic.
*Is sad but in colonialist*
Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple
I cannot recommend the TV movie sequel to an average anime to anyone. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy this hot garbage very much.
Let the Sunshine In
Emotionally devastating. Claire Denis is without a doubt one of the finest filmmakers working today. She captures the emotional trauma of just living like no one else. Highly recommend.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Somehow both the best entry in the franchise and one of the better dystopian YA movies generally. Low bar but credit where credit is due.
A feature-length movie trailer.
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Three episodes of an ok TV show squashed together.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
We are now one for five with the Jurassic franchise.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Very fun! I enjoyed this so much it nearly made it into my top 10. Fully engrossing despite the fact that there are literally no stakes at all. The “My Love, My Life” sequence overreaches to such a degree that it comes right back around and serves as a wonderful finale to a silly movie while doubling as an ode to family. Am I reading too much into this movie? Perhaps. Do I care? Not at all!
“What day is it?”
“Oh, my favourite day.”
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The closest I’ve ever come to walking out of a cinema midway through the movie.
Fully incoherent, but I liked it.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
J.K Rowling should be sent directly to jail.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
More like Ralph Breaks my Heart! Phil Johnston and Rich Moore managing to make a good movie despite being saddled with having to push ridiculous amounts of Disney propaganda filled me with an odd sense of hope. Value can be found in circumstances that are less than ideal and shared to the benefit of anyone willing to listen.
The kind of nonsense I gobble up.
Mary Poppins Returns
Very mediocre but also secretly a commentary on the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent fallout for the U.S housing market. So perhaps it is in fact… a masterpiece?
A knockoff of Driving Miss Daisy that is somehow more accidentally racist.
Hey, did you guys know that Jonah Hill directed this movie? Were you aware that Jonah Hill was the director of this film? Hey, are you cognisant of the fact that Jonah Hill directed this? JONAH HILL DIRECTED THIS MOVIE? Hey, guys were you aware that this motion picture was directed by Jonah Hill? HEY, GUYS, DID YOU KNOW —
A Wikipedia entry with flashy editing.
The House of Tomorrow
Poor Asa Butterfield is going to be playing teenagers for the rest of his life, isn’t he?
Isle of Dogs
A Quiet Place
Me, at a normal speaking voice: It was alri — *alien monsters burst into my room and tear me to shreds*
On Chesil Beach
Horny, but make it elevated.
Glenn Close’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is ten times better than the actual movie.
How do you make Nazi-hunting seem boring?
I remember none of this.
The Kindergarten Teacher
Child abduction is scary, but five-year-olds with phones? That’s REALLY scary.
Lady Bird for skater girls!
I think the key to making a good comedy to acknowledge that your protagonists are 1) awful people who 2) do awful things and that 3) them doing awful things are allowed to be funny. Bad comedies don’t do that and suffer for it. No person is perfect, we all do bad things, everyone’s past is messy, that doesn’t mean we can’t find humour amongst it. Whether we acknowledge our faults and choose change that should be what define us. I think I’m talking about James Gunn now. I’m going to stop.
The Death of Stalin
Ready Player One
A lot of film school students will write papers on this in the future. None of them will be good.
Nonsense! But nonsense that involves Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen drinking wine and talking sh*t.
See above but cast Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder instead.
Crazy Rich Asians
I didn’t like it on the first watch through. I called it a rom-com with no com. Then I re-watched it. What I found was that beyond the superficial elements (it is very pretty) is that this is a movie about the two aspects of love. That is love as a selfless act and love as a selfish one and finding a balance between the two.
A Simple Favour
Lowkey one of the most timely and intelligent movies of the year. You expect it to just be a silly thriller starring beautiful people. It rises above that by casting two beautiful women and making it a movie about how women are constantly underestimated (to everyone’s detriment) because of their looks. Also, Blake Lively in a power suit!
For sure the kind of movie where someone writes “MOON” on a blackboard.
Bad Times at the El Royale
It’s a Tarantino movie if he was willing to stop boasting about the number of movies he’s seen and just have fun.
The Old Man & The Gun
Robert Redford: This is a robbery. Give me your money. I have a gun.
Me: *giggles while twirling my hair*
Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone are literally my top three performances of the year.
Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town
This > Fast and the Furious.
A Wrinkle in Time
Reece Witherspoon strips naked and turns into a flying plant while a 50-foot tall Oprah laughs.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
A Steven Moffat era Doctor Who episode but on every kind of drug.
Woman is trapped in a mental ward against her will… What happens next will SHOCK you!
Nicholas Cage has a chainsaw duel with a demon.
Sorry to Bother You
Should have been my shit but was not my shit. It wants to talk about so much — the political climate in the U.S, capitalist exploitation, racism, gender dynamics in black communities, the shallowness of the entertainment industry, how these all contribute to our generally collapsing society — and tries to talk about them all at once. In the end, I think Boots Riley bites off more than he can chew, and the entire thing spirals out of control and doesn’t amount to anything. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that our political outrage is worthless if we don’t take the time to express it with care (also I don’t want to spoil how horses’ factor in here, so I’ll just say this: Bojack Horseman).
Lean on Pete
Yet another look at the U.S socio-political economic climate and how it hurts the working class. This time with Charlie Plummer (❤) and his horse.
So sad! Chloe Zhao is a director to watch!
Never trust a horse girl.
You Were Never Really Here
Stupendous and heartbreaking.
The most important #metoo-era movie to date in my mind. Jennifer Fox brings her journalistic sensibilities to the table and creates a script that not only assesses how we as a culture treat those who have suffered trauma, but also unpacks how remembering trauma is an act of constant revision. We cannot dictate how we perceive our pain, so we must accept it. Only then can we hope to grow stronger from it.
These movies are my kryptonite.
I love my mum, but this made me realise how much she’s done that I’ve never been thankful for. Mothers sacrifice so much for us (for us! Wow!).
Hearts Beat Loud
So. Gosh. Darn. Sweet.
Leave No Trace
Best (final) line of the year. In eight words Debra Granik captures the exact emotion of a child growing up, realising their parents are flawed, and accepting them regardless.
A giant albino gorilla literally gives you, the viewer, the finger. This is a summary for the viewing experience on a whole.
Checkov’s gun? More like Chekov’s skyscraper, amirite guys? (someone take my computer away from me)
What Keeps You Alive
So bad, lol.
The college fantasy scene is iconic.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Best of the ‘gay’ films. If I was four years younger it would have been an instant favourite, and I would have talked about it incessantly. Instead, I consumed an ungodly number of articles about it, the best of which I’m going to link for your benefit:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post but directed by a straight guy (so not good).
Elsie Fisher seems really nice.
Do Not Get Me Started About This Piece Of Cultural Cancer Masquerading As A Movie.
10. Incredibles 2
Asking people what they think this movie is About was the best litmus test for what their largest 2018 anxiety was. My mum thought it was about parenting. My sister thought it was about identity. I personally think it’s about the way our current media culture sedates us until we are unwilling to take action that will result in positive change and instead wait for someone else to do it for us. What’s fun is all those answers are correct because Brad Bird cannot pick a f*cking theme!
The question at the core of Annihilation — when your own body betrays you, who do you become — sent me into an existential tailspin that went on for many hours. The final ten minutes where Natalie Portman’s Lena fights against her [spoilers] was a visceral representation of what it is to duel with your inner saboteurs. All Lena does is survive. In a battle where the enemy is yourself that’s about as a clear a victory as one can hope for.
8. Mission Impossible — Fallout
Fran Hoepfner has summarised everything I feel about this better than I ever could, here’s an extract of her full piece:
“ “Your mission should you choose to accept it,” Walker sneers, throwing the conceit of the entire franchise back at Ethan. “Isn’t that the thing?” That is the thing. The impossible missions of the Mission Impossible franchise are entirely optional. At any given time, they — and Hunt, specifically, and his scrappy can-do attitude — can choose to not accept. And yet, with an eye roll, no less, he gets back up onto his feet and runs full-speed into the man who wants him dead. “
7. A Star Is Born
It’s sad. Lady Gaga is great. Bradley Cooper is astounding. The music slaps. What I wish people would talk about is the rockism/poptimism debate which quietly unfurls beneath the romance. Is Jackson Maine’s ‘authentic’ but unhappy life better than Ally’s happy pop facades? Yes and no. The truth must be faced with every fragment of honesty we have, but that in turn means we must face it in a way that is true to oneself.
It’s the story of one woman struggling against power structures, masses of people, and at times society on a whole just for the right to exist on her own terms. Only Cuarón could have told this story because no one in Hollywood understands the importance of hearing unheard voices more than him.
5. First Reformed
This is, I’m pretty sure, the only movie on this entire list that openly discusses the greatest danger of our time — climate change. Ethan Hawke’s turn as Reverend Toller is incredible. I found some comfort in watching his frustration at inaction turn into rage and then into a form of salvation. Humanity’s reflexive response to hopelessness is self-destruction, which is how the world has wound up where it is. But there is still hope for salvation, I’m not sure if Paul Schrader thinks so, but I definitely do.
4. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
In a movie about forgeries, the greatest lies of all are the ones we tell ourselves. Every time we tell ourselves that we cannot do better, that we don’t want to change, that we’re happy when we’re miserable, we’re preventing ourselves from reaching our full potential. Change is always found in the aftermath of radical honesty. It’s because of that radical honest that this has stuck with me so much since I watched it.
3. Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
In terms of crazy imaginative animation, this not only competes with but surpasses Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Underneath all that fanfare though is a well of great emotion. If Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an explanation on the importance of change then Night Is Short, Walk On Girl is the vindication that while change is terrifying, it is ultimately good. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, confronting, or messy — that all comes with the territory. Everybody starts somewhere, the key is to start.
2. Paddington 2
This was the first 2018 release I saw, and it has wormed its way into every aspect of my life. I am totally unwilling to Shut Up about it, and it’s reached the point where my friends and family groan when I bring it up. Yes, a movie about a polite talking bear that moved to London has poisoned every well in my life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Twelve (well fourteen now) months ago, if you had told me that this movie would prove the best balm I had for a year of stupidity and cruelty I probably would have laughed at you. Fast forward to now and Paddington’s motto that “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right” is something that I believe in the core of my being. Wild.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Paddington 2 easily could have been number one, in hindsight it probably will be (I love it so goddamn much). But right now, this is more resonant. The two key ideas of the movie, “Anyone can be Spider-Man” and “All it takes is a leap of faith” have wormed their way into my psyche. We are all capable of greatness, anyone can be Spider-Man. To reach that greatness we have to trust that what we’re doing is right, will work out — a leap of faith. This is in many ways the answer to the existential dreads that spurred me to write this (list? blog? essay?) in the first place.
Our world is an inherently uncertain place. That this cannot be altered should not deter us from partaking in the act that is optimism. We’re going to need more Spider-Man’s in 2019, that I know for sure. Our culture must change, our actions must change, we must change. All it takes is for us to act. To take a leap of faith.
Ok, I think I’m done now.