Tuesday, December 18, 2018

best of 2018: movies

UPDATED 12/31:  I replaced Deadpool 2 with A Simple Favor.

The usual notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first released in 2018, but that's when I saw them.
  • Keep reading (or not; I'll never know!) after the list for a "stinger".
  • Aside from the first three, which were definitely my first, second, and third favorite movies of the year, these are in random order.
  • I know the year isn't over just yet, so if I see something between now and the end of the year that deserves to be on here, I'll update accordingly.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Avengers: Infinity War:  The Avengers team up against their most insidious foe yet in this REALLY FUCKING GOOD flick.  I had high hopes for it because the Russo Brothers did such a great job with the Captain America movies, and they did not disappoint.  It's dark, albeit leavened with some terrific humor, and Thanos is a much more compelling villain than you usually find in superhero movies.  When it was over, G and I just leaned back in our seats and said "Uh, holy shit."

2. Coco:  Young Miguel's family hates music, but he wants to become a musician like his late hero, the legendary Ernesto de la Cruz.  Miguel accidentally finds himself in the land of the dead during Dia de los Muertos, so he decides to find his idol and see if he can make his dream come true.  Beautifully animated, funny, and touching, and I cried my ASS off.

3. Won't You Be My Neighbor?:  A documentary about Mister Rogers and the impact he had on TV and generations of children.  Like a warm hug from the man himself, and take my word on this: have a box of tissues handy.  I cried harder at this movie than any other this year (yes, even Coco) because Mister Rogers was exactly as kind and gentle as he seemed and we need him more than ever and he isn't here.

4. A Quiet Place:  A family struggles to survive in a world where monsters with super sensitive hearing mean that the slightest noise could lead to their deaths.  Tense as HELL.

5. Eighth Grade:  Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is trying to survive the eighth grade and just get to high school in one emotional piece, but it's not easy.  Occasionally so realistic as to be excruciating, but filled with warmth and compassion; it's like a more humane version of Welcome to the Dollhouse.

6. Happy Death Day:  Tree is a college student who is murdered on her birthday by someone wearing a creepy baby mask...and then she wakes up alive.  It turns out she's caught in a time loop and will keep getting murdered until she finds out who's doing it and why.  It's like the love child of Groundhog Day and Scream, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri:  After her daughter's brutal murder goes unsolved, Mildred (Frances McDormand) takes out three billboards accusing the local police force of shuffling their feet.  Excellent performances, and I appreciated that the script didn't go quite where I was expecting.

8.  A Simple Favor:  Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is an excitable young widow who idolizes Emily (Blake Lively), the ultracool mom of one of Stephanie's son's classmates.  One day, Emily asks Stephanie if she can pick up her son after school; Stephanie eagerly agrees, but then Emily never shows up, and Stephanie becomes obsessed with solving the mystery.  A deliciously dark comedy that's much better than the book, thanks to the excellent performances.

9. The Incredibles 2:  Superheroes have been made illegal, so Helen and Bob Parr, aka Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible, are living in a motel with their three children.  But when an entrepreneur asks Elastigirl to help him restore the public's trust, she leaves Bob to take care of their kids while she fights a dangerous new threat.  Not as good as the original---a tall order considering that's my favorite Pixar movie and one of my favorite movies of all time---but it's still really enjoyable.

10. Annihilation:  A biologist (Natalie Portman) agrees to lead a group of scientists into the Shimmer, a strange area from which her husband barely returned with his life, in hopes of discovering the truth behind its environmental mutations.  Beautifully filmed, with intense sound design and a scene that's honestly one of the most frightening fucking things I've seen in a long time.   The woman in front of me was getting hysterical, and I don't mean laughing; I mean I was seriously worried she was going to have a nervous breakdown.  (I saw her in the bathroom afterwards putting on lipstick, and she seemed fine.)

Bonus content!

SEEN IN THE THEATER:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Annihilation; Black Panther; Avengers: Infinity War; Searching; A Star Is Born


MADE ME CRY (OR AT LEAST TEAR UP):  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Train to Busan; The Florida Project; African Cats; Lion; Avengers: Infinity War; A Quiet Place; Tully; Hereditary; Searching; It Comes at Night; Eighth Grade; A Star Is Born; Instant Family; Crazy Rich Asians; The Incredibles 2; BlacKkKLansman; Bird Box

MADE ME NOT JUST CRY, BUT SOB:  Coco; Won't You Be My Neighbor?; Bao (the short that played before The Incredibles 2)

WTF DID I JUST WATCH:  The Untamed, Annihilation, Batman Ninja, Hereditary

MOST TERRIFYING SCENE:  The bear sequence in Annihilation.  Second place: a scene in Hereditary that I don't want to spoil.

BEST SOUND DESIGN:  Annihilation and Hereditary.