Most of the new movies I make notes on for this site I watch on DVDs that I grab from the Quick Picks shelf at the library, so I tend to be a few months behind the latest theatrical releases. I don’t really try to keep up on what’s playing in theatres, and at the end of the year I’ve usually seen only a handful of movies that are eligible for consideration by the people who hand out prestigious awards.
Of course, not many of the movies I see are the kind that are in the running for awards. Still, I thought it would be a fun exercise to try to do my own year’s best (and worst) list based on a ridiculously narrow sample. How narrow? In 2018 I only watched a baker’s dozen of movies released that year. Here is the list.
Yes, I know. I’ll even confess to feeling a bit embarrassed. It’s not a line-up rich in cinematic achievement, or even one that suggests any aspirations in that direction. But that will make my end-of-year awards all the more challenging. And I love a challenge. So here we go.
Best Film: Tough call. Three sequels, two remakes, two movies based on comic books, and two based on video games. And, most remarkably, the rest of the stuff is no less generic. A Quiet Place, for example, should have been a Cloverfield film. Red Sparrow might have been any Cold War spy thriller, only this time pretending to be more adult with its “hard R” rating. If I’m being honest Deadpool 2 was probably the movie I enjoyed the most, despite it’s awful ending. Game Night was occasionally clever without ever being funny. Hereditary I keep liking less and less the more I think about it. Black Panther was the only other critical favourite on the list, but I thought it was overrated. And those rhinos! Ugh. Really, none of these were great. I feel a giant shrug coming on. Um . . . I’ll just say Black Panther. And I didn’t like Black Panther.
Worst Film: Hm. To be honest, I wouldn’t rate the worst films on this list much lower than I would the best. The Strangers: Prey at Night was terrible but better than The Strangers, which should, I think, count for something. Terminal was lousy, but was pretty much the only movie on the list trying to do something a little different. Also, when it was bad it had moments of so-bad-it’s-goodness. Truth or Dare was just crap all the way through and is a movie I’d forgotten almost completely by the end of the year. Does that count as a negative, or a blessing in disguise? Tomb Raider and Rampage, the video game movies, are what they are. I can’t really blame them for it. Red Sparrow probably constituted the biggest waste (of talent, budget, and my time). Death Wish wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be but it sure as hell wasn’t good. Decisions, decisions. Let’s go with The Strangers: Prey at Night.
Best Actor: Generic films don’t call for their stars to do a lot of work, and in these movies the men really didn’t. Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin got some praise for their return to the Sicario franchise but I thought they were only going through the motions. When you think about it, Brolin played Cable in two movies this year, and he was better in Deadpool 2. I could say the same about mailing it in for Bruce Willis’s turn in Death Wish. Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2 and Dwayne Johnson in Rampage were also just doing their usual thing. Both the leads in Black Panther were solid, especially Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. At least I had the sense those guys were doing some work. In the end though I’ll vote for John Krasinski in A Quiet Place because not being able to speak throughout most of the movie presented a bit of a challenge.
Best Actress: The women came off much better than the men this year. Even in the generic stuff, working with lousy scripts and in bad movies, they stood out. Red Sparrow was a dour trial, but it wasn’t (all) Jennifer Lawrence’s fault. Toni Collette got a lot of attention for her turn in Hereditary but I thought it was a one-note performance where she mainly just looked haggard and screamed. Her one big scene seemed silly to me, which may not have been her fault but she still didn’t do enough to save it. Emily Blunt was good in A Quiet Place. Isabela Moner had the best performance in Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Alicia Vikander was the only thing making Tomb Raider worth watching. I also thought Rachel McAdams did really well in Game Night, outshining her co-star Jason Bateman in a comic role. Forced to make a pick though I think I’ll go with Margot Robbie in Terminal. A very bad movie but one that she single-handedly redeems from total disaster. It’s an oddball part but in at least one scene she gives it that little extra something it needed to work.
Best Screenplay: Ugh, again. So many mediocre scripts and stories that didn’t even begin to make sense. I’d like to say Black Panther just because it had a good villain and didn’t involve the usual comic book plot of saving the world from extra-dimensional invaders. What plot it did have though was pretty stupid. Game Night and Terminal were both overly contrived. Hereditary was just a bit of nonsense to hang a few scary scenes on. Deadpool 2 had some funny lines but that’s about it. Everything else here was pure formula. Come to think of it, I can’t name a single one of these movies that I’d feel good about giving a screenwriting prize to. I should cancel the award but that would be a cop out so I’ll say Game Night and be done.
There you have it, the best and less-than-best of 2018 from one movie-watcher’s absurdly small sampling of what was out there. Better luck next year!