Looking at 2018’s year in film, I can only come to the conclusion that the world is bummed out. Whether you’re in Harlem or South Korea, family members are held unfairly in prison. Secret agents, superheroes, and self-centered boyfriends will betray you left and right, and no matter how much you complain to the clergy about climate change, you’ll wind up dumped on a trash island with feral dogs.
Yep, 2018 was rough in all sorts of ways. But I take the assorted films as a reminder that, although pain is inevitable, suffering is not. It’s a tough break to grow up in Germany in the early 1940s, but, hey, you might just find a passion in the arts amid all the genocide. Maybe living in a dystopian state with brutal insectoid aliens ravaging the planet isn’t the best hand to be dealt, but isn’t it cool that you know sign language?
The titular dowagers in Widows are perfect role models for dealing with strife. They manage to overcome harsh circumstances without wallowing in grief. So put on a creepy black hockey mask, gather up all your best gal pals, and enjoy Brian Bolt’s favorite cinematic creations of 2018. Just drop me off at the hospital entrance if anything goes wrong.
10. Mission Impossible: Fallout
An absolute adrenaline rush. In the sixth installment, Tom Cruise chooses to accept a mission where he flies a helicopter solo, breaks an ankle jumping off a building, and dangles hundreds of feet in the air like an amygdala-free ragdoll. There may be a year when Cruise can no longer win his chess game with Death, but 2018 ain’t it.
9. Never Look Away
The idea of a three-hour movie about love during wartime may not be breaking new narrative ground, but Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s epic packs as much of an emotional wallop as his name packs syllables. Come for the Oscar-approved nudity, stay for the incredibly specific modern art jokes.
8. A Quiet Place
The dialogue-free opening of A Quiet Place is a beautifully-crafted short film. It introduces the viewer to a world controlled by hideous creatures where the smallest sound can lead to tragic consequences. With a likeable cast and a clever premise, John Krasinski’s monster movie rises above standard popcorn fare.
7. Isle of Dogs
Surface-level cuteness belies a heartwarming friendship between man and man’s best friend. Bryan Cranston wrings a genuinely touching performance out of a stop-motion voiceover role and Wes Anderson is never more inventive than when he controls every tiny aspect of the mise-en-scène.
6. First Reformed
A revealing meditation on religion, climate change, and aging. It might not sound like a barrel of monkeys, but Ethan Hawke brings the main character, Pastor Ernst Toller, to such vivid life that the heavy subject matter goes down smooth. The script by Paul Schrader is the best writing of the year and, under Schrader’s direction, First Reformed is easily 2018’s best visual tone poem.
5. Incredibles 2
Elastigirl takes the steering wheel this go round and the franchise is all the better for it. Holly Hunter’s animated character astounds with eye-popping action sequences and Michael Giacchino’s score alone is worth the price of admission. So sit back, relax, and enjoy Jack-Jack’s backyard shenanigans.
4. If Beale Street Could Talk
What begins as a heartbreaking love story between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) slowly becomes something more powerful. A depressingly relevant call to arms against racial profiling among police officers? A categorical validation of the strength that comes from a loving family? A dreamlike ode to the healing power of art? Take your pick, but I’m sure director Barry Jenkins intends Beale Street to be a challenging mix of all three.
A pulse-poundingly lackadaisical film. If that sounds like an oxymoron, then clear your schedule for the best mystery of the year. There’s a love triangle at Burning’s center, but, more than that, there’s an oleaginous sense of dread and desire between three seemingly ordinary characters. Give in to the leisurely plotting and you’ll find yourself swept away by an unexpected beauty.
Viola Davis leads the strongest ensemble of the year. There are too many delicious performances to list, but I’ll name Elizabeth Debicki’s quietly affecting display of vulnerability and Daniel Kaluuya’s psychotic turn as highlights of the cast. Although Steve McQueen’s triumph isn’t getting any Oscar attention, it should be mandatory viewing for anyone who liked the premise of Ocean’s 8 but wanted a craftsman at the helm.
At this point it’s no surprise for an Alfonso Cuarón movie to be jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Though expected, it’s no less of a delight to let the world of Roma envelop you with its everyday characters, stunning cinematography, and entrancing pacing. As Cleo grapples with trials both monstrous and mundane, your heart will ache, race, and, eventually, feel at ease as the sights and sounds of Mexico City circa 1970 wash across the screen.
And lastly, here’s the only Oscar ballot that matters. Look on, ye mighty, and despair.
Will Win: Roma
Should Win: Roma
My favorite of the year. It should win everything.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Do you smell that a-Roma? It’s the scent of Cuarón getting his second directing Oscar.
Will Win: Christian Bale, Vice
Should Win: Christian Bale, Vice
In a weak category, Bale’s convincing Dick Cheney is the best of the lot.
Will Win: Glenn Close, The Wife
Should Win: Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Expect the seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close to finally have something to put on her mantelpiece. However, McCarthy’s bitter performance as Lee Israel is the best of a very talented group.
Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Win: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Most are predicting Mahershala, but I’m expecting Green Book’s hapless Oscar campaign to aid an upset. Besides, Richard E. Grant kills it!
Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Should Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Because Regina King deserves all the awards.
Best Original Screenplay:
Will Win: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Should Win: Paul Schrader, First Reformed
The Favourite’s snippy dialogue proves a little tiresome by the end of the film. Gimme Paul Schrader’s sad pastor monologues any day.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will Win: Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Should Win: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Nothing in particular stands out. Beale Street is the most emotionally affecting.
Best Animated Feature:
Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Should Win: Incredibles 2
Definitely the strongest category of the year. I wish I could scoop up all the nominated animated films into one big bear hug, but, alas, I will choose Incredibles 2 as my fave.
Best Animated Short:
Will Win: Bao
Should Win: Bao
If you make me cry before the opening logos of a Pixar movie, you deserve an Oscar.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Alfonso, get your comfy shoes ready. You’re gonna be doing a lot of walking on Sunday night.
Best Film Editing:
Will Win: Hank Corwin, Vice
Should Win: Hank Corwin, Vice
Although Vice is more like an episode of Standard Deviants than a Best Picture-worthy flick, the editing is immensely enjoyable.
Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: Roma
Should Win: Roma
Since he’ll be on stage so much, they should get Alfonso to host the damn thing.
Best Documentary Feature:
Will Win: Free Solo
Should Win: Minding the Gap
Usually I hate the “documentarian-who-puts-himself-in-front-of-the-camera” nonsense that so often plagues this category, but Minding the Gap does it without vanity or self-indulgence. Plus the camera-work is gorgeous. Bonus points go to Alex Honnold and RBG, but I can only choose one.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Will Win: Period. End of Sentence.
Should Win: Period. End of Sentence.
The only doc to be simultaneously thematically important and funny. It even manages to put subtext in a non-fiction short film. The other docs should take note.
Best Production Design:
Will Win: Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton, The Favourite
Should Win: Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton, The Favourite
Because the palace is incredible to look at.
Best Costume Design:
Will Win: Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns
Should Win: Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns
Sandy Powell is actually competing against herself with an additional nomination for The Favourite. Whoever wins, Sandy wins.
Best Original Score:
Will Win: Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
Should Win: Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
Although Nicholas Britell’s score is magical for Beale Street, the melodies of Mary Poppins stayed with me longer.
Best Original Song:
Will Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born
Should Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born
The surest bet of the night.
Best Live Action Short:
Will Win: Mother
Should Win: Mother
A category with two remarkably upsetting films. I didn’t really love any of them, but I can respect Mother’s long-take aesthetic.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Will Win: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney, Vice
Should Win: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney, Vice
For making Christian Bale’s job easy.
Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl, A Quiet Place
Should Win: Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl, A Quiet Place
The movie’s about sound for crying out loud! (Just don’t cry out too loud.)
Best Sound Mixing:
Will Win: Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis, First Man
Should Win: Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis, First Man
Because you feel like you’re in the actual spacecraft. It’s f***ing terrifying.
Best Visual Effects:
Will Win: Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, and J.D. Schwalm, First Man
Should Win: Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, and J.D. Schwalm, First Man
The moon landing sequence is breathtaking. Gimme Ryan Gosling hopping around on Luna over Thanos’ weird chin folds any day.