Here are my mostly static best and worst movies of the year.
- Bohemian Rhapsody - Historical revisionism at it's ugliest this year came in a film that I thought was sure to be a delight. Sadly, the utter fuckery with the legacy of Freeddie Mercury lands BoRhap in the dung pile. Anyone who's ever heard of Google is capable of finding the flaws in this otherwise well-made movie. The Live Aid bit was good, though.
- Venom - Frustratingly walking the line between so-bad-its-good and abject audio-visual torture is Sony attempt to bastardise the Spider-Man rouges gallery for it's own gain. Even more annoying are some genuinely good parts and a few laughs here and there, but the movie behaves as schizophrenic as it's lead role.
- The Book Shop - This won't have appeared on many people's radar, and with good reason. A film that almost embodies bitterness and depression, sold on the lie of a Bill Nighy period piece. But much like Bill Nighy's role in this movie, anything good about it seems to have been locked up in a castle somewhere well away from the rest of the production. Awful.
The Worst Movie of 2018 - Phantom Thread
10 - The Death Of Stalin
Reasons - 'Political Comedy' are two words that normally drive people in droves, only beaten out by the deadly three word combination of 'Historical political comedy'. But The Death Of Stalin manages to boil down it's retelling of Russian history following the passing of Joseph Stalin to a number of moving parts in what can only be described as a ballet of farce. Standout performances from Steve Buscemi, Simon Russel Beale and Jason Issacs solidify this film as one of the year's best. It's dour tone and skin crawling interactions make this awkward yet ludicrous comedy seem equal parts monumental and trivial. I imagine this passed most people by this year, but fans of (I hate this word) cringe comedy will definitely want to check it out.
Best Bit - Jason Issacs as Zhukov making Khrushchev shit himself when he proposes the coup.
9 - Deadpool 2
Reasons - Sequels are hard, but Deadpool 2 handles it's sequel with the same level of irreverence as it did it's initial outing, making it an easy candidate for the top ten. Ryan Reynolds once again proves that he is one of the greatest leading men currently working in Hollywood, as he allows Deadpool to grow into an even bigger character than before. The movie attempts to raise the steaks with some very personal, and may I say welcome, emotional weight behind it's action, as well as doubling down on the exploitation and inevitable slaughter of a library of D-List comic book characters. The humor too hasn't lost it's edge, cutting against it's own genre with a razor so fine you could cut back to when comic still cost below a dollar. THis time, though, it's action set pieces are far bigger, flashier and gorier than the first installment, and whilst there is a sense of personality lost with the lower budget, methodical set pieces seen in the original film, it doesn't stop the Merc with the Mouth from cracking the list once again.
Best Bit - Equal parts the brutal dispatching of X-Force and Colossus Vs. Juggernaut.
8 - I, Tonya
Reasons - Having heard of Tonya Harding in relation to crooks in the past, but not knowing a single thing about her alleged fall from grace, I came into this film pretty fresh on the details. I left it having felt like I'd witnessed a madlib put to screen, but such is the eclectic and often insane truth behind I, Tonya. Whilst the insanity of the story garners a lot of laughs, it's the empathetic performances from Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney that catapault this movie into the top ten. Not to mention the expertly shot skating scenes that are equal parts fluid, well framed and technically astounding in it's use of slo-mo. The film just oozes charm and intrigue and it's one that I wonder aloud about it's many snubs at the Oscars.
Best Bit - Any time that Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser try to make threatening phone calls tickled my ribs.
7 - The Shape Of Water
Reasons - Reading Darren's list, you'd be hard pressed to see a reason to like The Shape of Water. Luckily for you, an intellectual like myself can break it down for you. So the movie is about a fishfucker and-- DAMNIT!
Okay, in honesty, once you're able to get past the idea of doing the horizontal monster mash with an actual monster, Shape of Water's best strengths lie in it's design, it's strong sense of identity and it's enveloping characters. The early 60's design aesthetic is a beautiful choice, allowing the screen to be filled with an excellent colour palette throughout, as well as some wonderful costuming and music choices. The narrative is focused on being outcasts from society, which bleeds into how we as an audience are able to empathise with a woman who gets wet out of wedlock, so to speak. It is backed up, however, by Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins' performances, which offer real gravitas with their historically grounded struggles as a black woman and a gay man respectively. Whilst the movie is mostly concerned with it;s supernatural plot, it is the reality the tale it is grounded in that makes it's message of acceptance and variance in the human experience that makes it such a joy to watch.
Best Bit - When she fucks the fish. No joke. The scene that supposedly concludes with the sordid sub-nautical act is a beautifully shot underwater sequence that shows the non-verbal love and understanding between our protagonist and the monster really flourishing. It's moving stuff.
6 - Ready Player One
Reasons - Movies have struggled with video game adaptations since time immemorial, but Ready Player One understands that presenting it like a game is what works best. There is a real sense of adventure and jeopardy in RPO's world that totally outmatches not only all prior video game movies, but it's own source material. The smart decision to change the narrative from 'Ernest Cline's very specific experience of the 80's' to 'Nostalgia adventure with recognisable visuals' really saves this movie from mediocrity. The sheer spectacle of the opening race and the final battle really sells you on the scale of the Oasis, and invites you into it's world. It kind of makes you empathise with the characters growing contempt for reality. The personal selling point for me though was playing 'Spot That Birmingham Street', because if you want to film in a run down dystopia, you book up a few streets in Digbeth!
Best Bit - Gundam Vs. MechaGodzilla. If those three words don't make you salivate, there's something fundamentally wrong with you.
5 - Coco
Reasons - Pixar have been on the decline in recent years, despite the contention I have over Inside Out (Fuck you, it's shit, I'm right), but Coco represents an uptick in Pixar's output and genuinely feels like one of their best efforts. The Day of the Dead visual style is drop dead gorgeous, evoking a real sense of culture and leaning heavily into it's afterlife narrative. But what really wins it over is the incredibly emotive story and themes, centring around a boy reconnecting with his past and understanding how powerful love and memories really are. Trying not to tear up watching this film is impossible, it's so wonderfully written and genuine in it's message. A real heart-warmer.
Best Bit - I could easily give this to the dog Dante, but instead the scene where a loved one is forgotten deals one of the biggest emotional blows in any Pixar film, it's a genuine bittersweet moment.
4 - Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Reasons - The Spider-Man franchise is no stranger to turning out great movies when put in the right hands and left to be as creative as possible, but rarely has the franchise been handled so well than this entry right here, and it's thanks to the genius filmmakers behind The Lego Movie, Chris Miller and Phil Lord. The medium of animation has breathed new life into the decades old heroes tale by bringing together a cast of characters previously unexplored in film into the spotlight. This is very much Miles Morales's tale of how he became the man who carried Peter Parker's torch, and what makes him so different but equally, if not more interesting, than his predecessor. Not to be outdone, we're also treated to Spider-Gwen, Peter Porker, Peni Parker and SP/DR, as well as the flawlessly cast Nic Cage Spider-Man Noir. It can take a few minutes to get used to the presentation style, leaning far heavier into it's comic book roots, right down to the pop-art style ink spots gracing the corners of the screen, but it's a fine adjustment to make. I really can see why people think this is the best Spider-Man movie ever made, and I do agree that it sits at the big boys table with Spider-Man 2 and Homecoming, but best ever? Ask me in 12 months.
Best Bit - There's something intoxicating about Miles, Peter and Gwen facing down a female Doc Ock in the woods. That and a post credit scene that transcends memehood.
3 - BlacKkKLansman
Reasons - If this film doesn't sweep up at the Oscars, there is something really, really wrong with us. Using blacksploitation as a crutch was always going to be a risky move, but Spike Lee really understands how to use genre to tell a story that will have you saying "There is no way this is happening". The stranger-than-fiction selling point has been all over movies this year, but this is the one that does it best. The Ron Stallworth story is one that everybody needs to be engaged with, showing a time when breaking racial divides made for some of the best works of justice, and certainly one of the most entertaining, tense and witty stories in cinemas this year. With wonderful performances throughout, a great soundtrack and some striking visual choices, BlacKkKlansman was an easy pick for the top three.
Best Bit - When Zimmerman is cornered in a basement using prejudice to fight prejudice, the film reveals a wonderful farcical nature in it's story.
2 - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Reasons - Revenge is an overdone theme in cinema, it's true. But what Three Billboards does with it's many forms of revenge is show the darker sides of it's effects. Three Billboards succeeds in making every main character both relatable and detestable. You start off being thoroughly on Mildred's (Fances McDormand) side, but the film doesn't hold back on showing how her vendetta is as ugly as it is inspiring; most notable how it impacts her family and how it drives one of the characters into an unthinkable situation (No spoilers here). And it doesn't stop there, both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson get time to shine in performances that are equally multi-faceted; Rockwell especially takes the audience through an emotional roller-coaster. And it's this killer combination of believability in the writing and performances that makes this film stand out so much. Because none of the characters are shown to be infallible, the film succeeds in making you understand and empathize with all points of view, regardless of what you may think is right or what your reaction would have been to this situation. The very fact that the movie is not polarizing in it's morals is what makes it as good as it is. Life is one big grey area, and Three Billboards understands this more than any film I think I've ever seen. It's charming, heartbreaking and funny in equal measures, much like lift itself. Please don't miss out on this movie if you haven't seen it, it really is something very special indeed.
Best Bit - The entire redemption arc for Sam Rockwell's Officer Dixon is staggeringly well handled, punctuated by a scene where he takes forensics into his own hands.
1 - Avengers: Infinity War
Reasons - I tried, I really tried not to put another big Marvel movie here, but honestly can you blame me? 19 movies in and somehow the big M hasn't lost a single bit of steam. And Infinity War is quite honestly the best one they've ever done. Period. Stick it in the books. The constant one-upmanship from this studio is at worst enraging and at best utterly astounding. Acting as the first half of the culmination of what will be 11 years of storytelling by the time Endgame comes around, Infinity War manages to be the lowest of the low for the Avengers, the Guardians and the universe as a whole. And with a cast this big, it should be impossible to juggle everyone evenly, but the film really triumphs in giving everyone a clear arc and a great character moment each. But we have to give it up for John Brolin as Thanos; what I think can easily be described as one of the greatest villains in cinema. Equal parts menacing and empathetic, this movie is the story of a man hell bent on a single goal and the depths he will sink himself to realise it. And boy howdy does he do that with presence, style and a body count that would make most genocidal maniacs blush. This is the film that every other blockbuster has looked at with envious eyes. This is the definition of event cinema. We will all remember where we were when the Infinity Stones did their thing. And it was the best film of 2018, hands down.
Best Bit - It's cliche, but 'The Snap' didn't become a pop culture staple for nothing. A moment which will totally redefine the risks a blockbuster narrative can take.
And there we have it. 2018 was a year of truly great cinema, it was difficult for me to say there was that many bad movies. Hell, two of my bottom two were still pretty okay despite my hangups. And the ten 10 really did exemplify why it is I loved going to the cinema this year. I can only hope that 2019 will be just as good, if not better. I mean shit, Endgame is coming soon. And I think we all know how high that will get.