Well, I can’t exactly call this a Year-end list because the year ended three months ago and I couldn’t catch up on my watchlist because I didn’t find the time, and when I did I became a lazy potato. But now I have caught up, I think I have watched all the films I wanted to watch from 2018 – except Grass by Hong Sang-soo and the Gaspar Noe one (can’t find them on the internet). Nevertheless, I made a list of 25 films and now I’m going to write about what I liked about each of them in brief, you know how my list posts go.
25. Avengers: Infinity War
I am not the biggest superhero movie fan. Honestly, I started watching the MCU films to be part of my friends’ conversations. But Infinity War is easily the best Avengers film in terms of story and style. I enjoyed how the story is structured like an epic with multiple perspectives handled relatively smoothly in a somewhat simultaneous time frame. I don’t think there was a dull moment in the whole length of the movie.
The visual effects are stunning, especially the Doctor Strange fight sequences – very flashy. I am not the biggest fan of the superheroes so I wasn’t “hit hard” by the emotional moments in the movies, but that’s more on me. Speaking of emotional stuff, I liked how Thanos’ character narrative was fleshed out efficiently and his motives were given a somewhat of a reasonable perspective instead of the cliched “bwahaha I’m evil and I want to conquer the Universe”. I don’t think I have to recommend this to anybody, those who wanted to watch it probably have watched it already. This is definitely was a highlight for me from the movies from 2018 I have watched.
24. The Favourite
This is the first Lanthimos movie I have watched from beginning to end. I have tried out The Lobster back in 2016, when I was starting to get into “film” but found the absurdism too out there for my (then) narrow taste. Absurdism certainly does take a seat in the comedy (and tragedy) of this twisted story about broken people. The character writing here is nuanced and their interactions scripted in an entertaining way. Olivia Colman’s performance on this is fantastic, she effectively fleshed out the character of Anne in such a short time; the rest of the cast put on solid performances as well.
I loved the royal vintage set designs – very immersive. The fish-eye lens shots were nice touches – they were distracting, but in a good way. It’s the type of film that you would end up appreciating more after it ends because it makes you think about the characters… especially after that ending scene.
23. The Death of Stalin
Quite possibly the best uncomfortably dark comedy I have seen last year. The cast members gave convincing performances – each one acted like they have lived in the skin of these figures for ages, and this facilitated an entertaining display of character chemistry throughout the movie. I’m not a history buff, so I can’t comment on the historical accuracy of the events or character portrayals, but as a movie – I liked the efficient pacing and the performances
The flow of the dialogue seemed natural yet the comedic timing felt near immaculate. You know, more films get tagged with “being bold and brave” nowadays than they deserve, but this film deserves that acclaim – it certainly takes balls to mock a nation’s pride… and uh, I think I will leave it at that.
Not super-familiar with Spike Lee’s filmography, but I really loved Do the Right Thing – made me more aware of American race relations around that time than a history book can. This film is also about similar themes, with this one being more story-orientated and the story is based on real-life events rather than being just character studies. I liked the balance between comedy and serious moments in the presentation, the pacing is tight – there’s even a thriller aspect to the movie during the climactic moments.
I thought John Washington and Adam Driver’s characters made a really cool duo and it was great seeing the characters turn into buddies through the course of the movie. Like Do the Right Thing did with the then-recent events, the movie draws a parallel to the recent Charlottesville incident and the President’s reaction to it. It’s a cold ending, reminding us that nothing’s been fully resolved yet, and makes us wonder will it ever be. I think this is a pretty important film that makes you think, but at the same time, it’s an entertaining piece of cinema.
21. The Old Man and the Gun
Despite the movie being about a veteran bank robber and a detective who’s searching for him, watching it was a wholesome and cathartic experience. There’s something warm in the way the characters interact with each other here – it’s like I have known these people all this time and I am being reunited with them – I don’t know, I can’t exactly pinpoint them as character tropes. The way Robert Redford’s character (Tucker) is fleshed out was entrancing to me – it’s romantic, watching someone be so committed to this one practice and how it revives his spirit as he goes through it again, and again, and again.
I was impressed with the amount to detail in the vivid vintage sets – that cafe in one of the opening scenes is really memorable. The film just looks like it’s been shot in that era. It’s a really great movie to watch on a weekend afternoon.
20. Isle of Dogs
Technically, this animated feature is nothing short of ambitious and impressive – I loved how the animation accommodated and adapted to display the dogs’ emotions on an equal level to the humans.
The film follows the ebb-and-flow of a “typical” Wes Anderson film – the mechanical pacing of the dialogue, the methodical shot compositions, snappy comedic timing, and the repetitive dialogue tidbits sprinkled throughout its runtime (“You heard the rumor, right?”). All good Wes Anderson films have their characters’ emotional development tell a more compelling story than the plot – and this one isn’t an exception to that. It’s certainly Wes Anderson feature that’s worth watching, and even more worth it if you are a fan of innovative animation. I think I like Isle of Dogs more than Fantastic Mr. Fox, because I connected with the emotions of the lead characters’ here more; and also, I like dogs better than foxes or cats. So I support the not-so-subtle “I love dogs” propaganda that’s going on in this film.
19. First Reformed
First of all, I will go on a limb and say Ethan Hawke pulled a Daniel-Day Lewis with his character here; and that made Toller’s character study all the more compelling. It’s about a priest, Toller, learning about climate change and his journey to realize the horror of his reality and the world around him, and him trying to think about a solution by referring to his biblical knowledge. Despite the movie centered around themes like religion and environmental issues, the presentation of such didn’t feel preachy to me at all, it was all presented for the sake of Toller’s narrative.
I felt like I learned something with Toller by the end of this movie, and I always like films that do that. I love the cold, gray visuals of this movie – it complements the introspective mood of Toller. While the overall tone of the movie felt downright depressing, I don’t think it’s just doomer-core, Toller wants to change the situation he’s in but can’t find the right step ahead. A lot of things are explored in this film with patience, so you have to be patient too when you go into watching this.
As you might have noticed (if you skimmed through the titles first for some reason) that I don’t have a lot of action films on my list. Sure, I find action films entertaining but I never end up loving most of them because the characters take everything super seriously but at the same time, all of them make witty jokes with a smug look on their faces (swear I don’t hate witty people just because I am stupid). Anyway, my point is that if someone tells me to watch an action film which doesn’t take itself seriously – I will prioritize getting around to watch that over any other slick-stunt-flick. I am aware this is rather dismissive of me, but I like what I like, I guess.
So yeah, I really like how Upgrade’s story doesn’t take itself too seriously – the ending will tell you why. But don’t get me wrong, there are emotional stakes here, it’s a revenge story after all. I don’t think the emotional content here is the selling point though, it’s the physical stuff. The fight choreography, the sound design during the fights (love those robotic effects), the insane camera tracking and editing – the fights alone make the movie worth watching. The video-game level styled plot progression fed into the self-aware cheesiness of the film, and that’s cool. I really liked that ending, it’s kind of predictable but the journey to that point was as entertaining as it could get. Easily my favorite live-action action film from 2018.
This new remake feels like it’s made by someone who has studied the symbolism in the original film, took the minimal plot threads and expanded upon them – and the end result is like an alternate reality of the original, where the setting is more historical instead of fantastical, the pacing is more patient than cutting, the characters have more writing to them, and the story is more of an unsettling drama than a fairy-tale like phantasmagorical horror. While some people might think this remake is not being respectful of the original and instead bloats this with unnecessary motifs, while I see why they would think that, I think the writers did a fantastic job with fleshing out… everything.
Tilda Swinton’s three character performances were solid and Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of an eerier Susie was alluring. Speaking of alluring, the choreography for the dances here is eye-catching, primal and ritualistic. Thom Yorke’s score is minimal unlike the original’s bombastic one, but I think the insert songs were beautifully composed and he incorporated some interesting sound-bytes during scenes here and there. I really can’t compare this with the original given how different they are, but if you are asking me whether you should watch this over the original – uh… both are great in very different ways, so there’s no definitive answer to that. So watch both.
This is a beautifully shot movie, it’s weirdly satisfying to the eyes. I don’t know – the wide-angled symmetrical stillness seemed to coalesce perfectly with the compelling, psychopathic coldness of Olivia Cooke’s character, Amanda. Seriously, watching Olivia Cooke act out her role in such a detailed, attention-trapping way was a treat. It was also entertaining watching how Amanda exploit Lily’s teenage angst to pull off ridiculous stuff, which in turn transforms.
The story is pretty simple, it’s not the best aspect of the film but the way it is pulled off through its visuals and the well-performed and well-scripted character interactions. Surely, there was some thematic narrative going on about horses but I wasn’t super attentive to that. Also, there’s a Tanya Tagaq track that’s the theme song for the movie and it infected my playlist for a couple of weeks.
15. The House That Jack Built
A self-aware, funny Lars Von Trier feature-length? That’s unexpected. Absolutely loved Matt Dillon’s performance as Jack here – it’s hilarious and terrifying at the same time. Sometimes the thought experiment segments between each incident (where Jack attempts to explain to his inner voice why he’s murdering people) are interesting – eg. how Jack views artistic icons that have value in decomposition and flaws much superior to short-lived masterpieces; and others just humorously tedious and incomprehensible, eg. that damned lamppost metaphor.
Then I started to realize that the more Jack talks about art, the more it feels that Von Trier is inserting himself into that character. Then it clicks, Von Trier is just fucking around here, he’s gone madman with his script – and it’s awesome. It’s entertaining, the length of this movie is perfect, it’s near-perfect escapism, especially that ending sequence. If you want some dark comedy about a deranged madman to entertain yourself with, this is for you. If you don’t want to watch Von Trier inserting thought-masturbation segments here and there throughout the length of this long movie… uh, maybe skip this one. Maybe.
14. Sorry to Bother You
I never thought that a movie belonging to the “surreal, satirical comedy” genre existed until I watched this. What a refreshing treat of a film this is. The plot progression is unpredictable and subverts expectations in the weirdest of ways. But at some point, it clicked with me that this film is trying to portray the horrors of unbridled capitalism (? I’m not well-versed in socio-politics) but none of the presentation of it feels particularly “in your face”. It is certainly possible to enjoy the film without completely agreeing with the mindset of the filmmaker because the film itself is entertaining by its own inventive, zany merits.
Really, the pacing, the writing, cinematography, and editing come together to create this weird-as-hell fever dream that the protagonist lives throughout the runtime of the movie, and by the transitive property, me as well – and that makes Sorry to Bother one of the most unique watches of 2018. Oh yeah, the movie’s got a cool mix of background music in it (mostly done by the group named The Coup).
Now, the only movie I watched where it’s filmed through just computer screens was Unfriended: Dark Web, and uh… that was hilariously bad, so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much. Needless to say, my expectations were subverted – I was actually surprised how naturally everything flowed on-screen. Searching is easily one of the most riveting thrillers of 2018 – I know, I keep tagging “one of the most < insert generic descriptor > of 2018” a lot in this post but this is certainly that.
Although the cheese factor gets amped up with the film presenting some false leads with way too much tension in the music, the way the emotional side of the film was presented (especially in the prologue) was compelling and made me care more about the characters which, in turn, got me picking on the edge of my seat during the high-strung moments despite the score feeling a tad bit manipulative. John Cho’s screen presence here added to that emotional aspect of the movie, as well – he plays a worried father really convincingly. Overall, it’s a fantastically tailored in terms of pacing, writing, and performances from the leads.
So I’ll stop here for now. I’ll return with the remaining top 12 later. Thanks for reading.