It's been a few days since 2018 wrapped, so it's fair to call it a year and take a look over the list of movies we watched and name a few as outstanding and a few... we'll still say "outstanding", just, you know, in a different way. I'll mostly discuss "new to me" movies, of which I watched over 100 (my life is a shallow, meaningless parade of nothing-better-to-do). This list might look different in a month, so, you know, this is what I think today.
You can see the complete list from 2018 here. Check the tabs for filtering by categories.
As always, there were movies I had to go back and look up and say "what was that again?". It happens. But this is why I write them up. There aren't that many "this is terrible" movies because I generally don't go to see movies unless I *think* they'll hit the mark for me, but fate is a funny thing and it happens. Also, unless RiffTrax or MST3K is involved, I turn off movies I'm not enjoying, which disqualifies them from consideration.
With that - Let's consider this the "Krypto Awards" for 2018.
Did Not Like
Probably the biggest regret of the year was Uncle Drew, which I saw on a total whim. It didn't make me angry, but comedies, as a rule, should be funny. Your best character shouldn't be Nick Kroll as the bad guy. The pain was even greater because - while walking into the theater, I realized Ocean's 8 was playing next door, and I could have gone to see that instead, and still have not seen, but intended to see. I mean... I don't want to spend the duration of a movie thinking "I could be watching Cate Blanchett right now".
Fifty Shades Freed has a special place in my heart for its Hallmark Movie mentality paired with bad takes on S&M. A wildly popular movie, it makes me think some people just need to feel less shame about porn in their browser history. I've got a two-part podcast on the movie where we go into questions in depth, if that you gives you an idea of how much there is to parse here. And I am still working through what it means that Marcia Gay Harden was attached to this movie.
I am sure I am missing something about the appeal of Revenge. I know one or two of you had it on their "best of" lists. I got nothing out of this movie, and it just kept going on and on. It's sort of like when you're at dinner and don't like the first bite but it's what you ordered and it's all you've got to eat, and you're starving and you just keep eating it, hoping it'll get better, and instead it... doesn't? And then someone is like "this is delicious!" and you're like "this tastes like uncooked moose balls." That.
The further I've gotten from Aquaman, the more irritated with the movie I've become, and the more irritated I've become with DC movies, writ large. The lesson DC Entertainment apparently learned from the backlash to Man of Steel's finale was "if they're going to make out in the ashes of dead people - you need to make them super cheery about it, at least." But Amber Heard was pretty good, I guess. You can click here to see what I had to say shortly after seeing the movie.
There's also a special place in hell for Santa's Summer House. 'nuff said.
Too many to name, really. I saw a lot of great and unexpected films. Really, I want to call out TCM's Noir Alley and Eddie Muller for putting more noir on TV than I know what to do with. Almost every week I've got something new to watch with a master's class in studio history attached. Add in Muller and Alan K. Rode's visit to Austin this year for Noir City Austin, and it's been a banner year for me watching film.
From The Locket to The Gangster, The Naked City and Scene of the Crime - throw in an oddball like Quiet Please, Murder - I've now seen a lot of offerings with something new to appreciate. Add in a Karina Longworth-hosted screening of Pickup on South Street, and, boy howdy. That's a lotta noir.
We were utterly spoiled for superhero movies this year. I dunno, I generally liked most of it for one reason or another - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a visual and narrative treat, Infinity War brought comics-cross-over epic scale to the movies, and Black Panther was just flat out - one of my favorite movies of the year, and one I think about every day, still. And even Ant-Man and the Wasp, for all it's b-tier status in the Marvel U, is still a decent popcorn night at the cinema.
I saw so much "new to me" horror this year - starting early with a rec from Stuart and Simon and watching The Fog, which was just terrific. Hammer's The Mummy was genuinely good stuff, while The Devil Rides Out actually lived up to the hype, as did Vampire Circus.
Thanks to those who suggested films and pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone/ usual self-selection And I confess to some embarrassment that I finally just saw Rocky and Rocky II as well as Creed, which were all fantastic. Boyhood, of course, which would pair well with Ladybird. And I need to go back and watch I, Tonya, which I adored at the time. I'm assuming I got it right and you all got it wrong.
Best? - Our Krypto Awards Recipents
What makes a "best of" sort of movie? I'm still thinking about them. I'm still wondering how they were made and am planning to watch them again. In the case of these two movies, I've already purchased the movies on BluRay to ensure I'll watch them again.*
I could add another couple of movies here, but these two are the definite standouts for me of 2018. One if a known classic to noir-istas. The other is a cult curiosity/ favorite.
I hate to do this, because selecting a "best of" film feels so meaningless, but I can/should challenge myself and try.
One of the movies I've come back to and think about quite a bit since I watched it was Night and the City, a British-based noir with Richard Widmark as the star. Just an astonishing bit of movie-making in every decision by the filmmakers. It really does feel like five or six noir films happening at once, we just happen to see the story of Widmark's character foremost. There's some flavor of Threepenny Opera here, mixed with noir and melodrama. It's a different flavor from The Third Man, but the two movies would be an interesting pairing.
Yeah, it's rough stuff, but you owe it to yourself to put it in the BluRay player or dial it up streaming.
And about two months after I watched it, Paul messaged me and said "have you seen Night and the City? It seems very much your thing." Too true, Paul. Too true.
Far more controversial will be my selection of Southland Tales - and I'd use the film's poor reputation vis-a-vis my championing of said movie as a sign of how large a grain of salt with which to take any of my opinions.
Nonetheless, the film is an astonishing, prescient sci-fi look at America, which seemed probably too fantastic during the movie's release, but seems tame now by comparison against our tumultuous political backdrop of 2018-19. Probably simply too much for large audiences, I'm trusting you guys to check it out and form your own opinions.
I'm kind of wanting to make Amy watch this movie with me every year to revisit the film and see what else we find to talk about.
Upon further consideration...
I should probably also include Black Panther in this list, so... yeah. Let's tag on Black Panther, too.
I just really, really liked that movie.
I did pretty well when it came to "new to me" movies this year. There was plenty more I could have listed in one form or another, but let's keep it short and sweet.
Thanks to all of you for suggestions and to my podcast contributors for bringing me new movies to watch and discuss.
I am curious to hear about some of your best and worst of the year, or your arguments for how I got it wrong. I mean, I'll argue with you til your eyes bleed, but go ahead!
*look, if you have to release your movie in December to ensure that an Oscars judge will remember it by voting time - how good was your movie to begin with?