MY TOP 25 FILMS OF 2018 (AND THE 5 WORST)

I told you last year: I like movies.

Anyway, it's now 2019 and the Academy Awards are upon us, so I thought I would, once again, offer my list of the top twenty-five films of 2018.

A couple of notes: I have seen all the Best Picture nominees except one (“Vice”), and there are a couple of other 2018 movies I wanted to see, but didn’t get the chance (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” for example). Also, I didn’t include one documentary that would have possibly made my top ten — “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” — because it was not released in theaters.

Bonus: at the end, I’ll give you the five worst movies I saw in 2018.

(UPDATE: I saw “Free Solo” and “At Eternity’s Gate” after compiling this list, so I updated to include both, which means there are actually 27 films on this Top 25 list. Deal with it.)

Here we go…

  1. Roma

  2. Isle of Dogs

  3. The Favourite

  4. First Man

  5. The Incredibles 2

  6. Free Solo

  7. Crazy Rich Asians

  8. Eighth Grade

  9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

  10. A Quiet Place

  11. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

  12. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  13. Three Identical Strangers

  14. A Star Is Born

  15. At Eternity’s Gate

  16. First Reformed

  17. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  18. Mary Poppins Returns

  19. Green Book

  20. Unsane

  21. Bohemian Rhapsody

  22. Christopher Robin

  23. Paddington 2

  24. Private Life

  25. Mission Impossible: Fallout

  26. Uncle Drew

  27. BlackkKlansman

Honorable Mention: Juliet, Naked, Game Night, The Mule, Black Panther, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

As a bonus feature, here are the five worst movies that I saw in 2018, beginning with the worst film of the year. (Although, to be fair, I didn’t see very many films I would actually classify as “bad.” Only the first two below had no redeeming qualities, IMO.)

  1. Aquaman

  2. A Simple Favor

  3. Annihilation

  4. Tomb Raider

  5. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Dishonorable Mention (2018 movies I saw that didn’t make either the best or worst list; all were rated 3 stars out of 5 by me): Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One

My top 25 films of 2017 (and the 5 worst)

I like movies. 

According to my profile at Letterboxd, which is a great resource for amassing such data if you are a geek like me, I have logged more than 1700 films by 932 directors. This isn't a comprehensive list -- I have a good memory, but I can't remember every movie I may have watched when I was 15 -- but it's probably somewhere in the neighborhood.

Also according to my stats at Letterboxd, I watched...well, I watched a lot of films in the calendar year 2017. I wasn't writing a book this year (go pre-order The Big 50!), so I had more late nights available for movies and I tried out FilmStruck for the first time, and was quickly hooked. Also, I finally made a push to see some films that I had somehow missed over the years, finishing out all the titles on AFI's top 100 list.

Anyway, it's now 2018 and the Academy Awards are upon us, so I thought I'd offer my list of the top twenty films of 2017. Only titles that Letterbox classifies as having been released in 2017 are included here, so it's not necessarily going to match up with awards-season lists of eligible movies. But it's close enough.

One last note: there are still a handful of 2017 titles that I want to see, but haven't yet (for example, Phantom Thread). I'll get around to those soon, hopefully.

Enough of the preliminaries. Let's get to the rankings...

1. Lady Bird (The only 2017 movie that I rated 5 stars out of 5.)

2. A Ghost Story

3. The Florida Project

4. Baby Driver

5. Get Out

6. Dunkirk

7. Wind River

8. Mommy Dead and Dearest

9. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

10. The Shape of Water

11. Wonderstruck

12. Lady Macbeth

13. Good Time

14. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

15. Mother!

16. The Beguiled

17. Marjorie Prime

18. Wonder Woman

19. Logan Lucky

20. Disgraced

21. It

22. Thor: Ragnarok

23: Darkest Hour

24. Mudbound

25. I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore

Notable films that I saw, but did not make the Top 25 (in the order that I rank them):

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2  |  Star Wars: The Last Jedi  |  Murder on the Orient Express  |  Battle of the Sexes  |  Justice League  |  Logan  |  American Made  |  The Lego Batman Movie  |  Strong Island

 

As a bonus feature, here are the five worst movies that I saw in 2017, beginning with the worst film of the year, which was almost impossible to watch:

1. Okja

2. Hostiles

3. Suburbicon

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

5. Spider Man: Homecoming

Ten Second Movie Review: Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity (1944)Director: Billy Wilder Writers: Wilder and Raymond Chandler Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

In the late 1990s, the American Film Institute released a list they called "100 Years...100 Movies." Ostensibly, it ranked the top 100 feature-length American movies, and at the time, I thought it would be a fun project to watch all 100.

Here we are, fifteen years later, and I'm still working on that. (At some point, I'll figure out how many I have remaining, but it can't be very many.) Recently, I was able to mark Double Indemnity -- AFI #38* -- off my personal checklist. In one word: masterful.

The plotline actually seems pedestrian: "An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions." Fred MacMurray (of My Three Sons fame) stars as Walter Neff, a successful insurance agent who runs into Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck, in an Oscar-nominated performance) in the ordinary course of business. Dietrichson is married to a less-than-successful oil executive, one thing leads to another and -- this always happens, doesn't it? -- murder and insurance fraud are committed. Dietrichson and Neff conspire to murder her husband and cover up their deed.

The actual criminal act occurs somewhat early in the film, and most of the film consists of the tension created when Neff's boss, an insurance analyst played by the always-entertaining Edward G. Robinson, becomes suspicious and launches an investigation. No, that doesn't sound high-concept, does it? You'll be surprised. For instance, the viewer can never really be sure why these two team up to commit this act. Passion? I don't know; at times, we aren't even sure Dietrichson and Neff like each other (and, in fact, Dietrichson admits as much later in the movie). For the money? They don't show much interest in it.

I have some theories, but I've already exceeded my allotted ten seconds. Suffice to say that many questions remain unanswered after my first viewing, but the film still worked brilliantly.

Double Indemnity is classic film noir, from the stylish cinematography, the superb use of black and white, and the snappy dialogue penned mostly by detective novelist Raymond Chandler. Oh, the dialogue. Chandler had me with the opening line of the film:

I killed him for money -- and for a woman. I didn't get the money. And I didn't get the woman.

I love it.

Billy Wilder has always been one of my favorite directors. (I love Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, The Seven Year Itch, and Sabrina, in particular.) Double Indemnity, one of his earliest works, is unlike anything he did after. Add it to the pantheon. It's good.

I'm really kicking myself for not making time to watch Double Indemnity before now. Rest assured, however: I will watch this one again. Five stars out of five.

*In 2007, AFI released an updated list. Double Indemnity must have aged well; a decade after the original list, AFI ranked it nine spots higher at #29.

Ten Second Movie Review: Cyrus

"Cyrus" is a film that I had intended to watch last year, but never seemed to get around to it. Wish I hadn't waited. Here's a bold statement: John C. Reilly is one of the best actors around. There, I said it; he's superb in every film in which he appears. Of course, he's joined by Jonah Hill here, and I continue to wait desperately for Hill's fifteen minutes of fame to expire.

Surprisingly, however, he isn't bad as the son of Reilly's love interest (Marisa Tomei). The relationship between mother and son, which is unique, is thrown for a loop with the introduction of this new guy. Reilly doesn't seem like he has much going for him (and, well, he doesn't) and things take a strange turn very quickly. The film turns into a bizarre love triangle, for lack of a better term.

It isn't really funny, and it isn't really heart-warming, but it is a compelling story from beginning to end.

Four stars out of five.

Ten Second Movie Review: Midnight In Paris

Midnight in ParisDirector: Woody Allen Writer: Woody Allen Stars:Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates

I saw this film one week ago today, in Richmond, VA, and perhaps the best way to describe Midnight in Paris is to say that I haven't been able to quit thinking about it since.

I'm a confessed Woody Allen-phile (to coin a term), but his recent efforts have certainly been mixed. Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Match Point stand up to anyone's best work, but while I enjoyed films such as Scoop, Melinda and Melinda, and Whatever Works, no one is comparing any of those to Annie Hall.

I won't compare Midnight in Paris to Annie Hall, because that's not fair -- Annie Hall is the best romantic comedy that has ever been made -- but Allen's latest is a brilliant film in its own right. Owen Wilson stars and, while I may have made a different casting choice here, he is better than you would expect as the hack screenwriter who dreams of literary success and becomes intoxicated by Paris. Rachel McAdams is lovely, as always, as Wilson's fiance, and Marion Cotillard is perfect as...well, she plays Adriana, and I won't reveal too much about her character.

The most memorable performances are by Alison Pill, as Zelda Fitzgerald, and Corey Stoll, as Ernest Hemingway. That should give you an idea of the direction this movie takes, and it absolutely works. It's a reflection upon nostalgia versus living for the present. That certainly isn't a unique theme, but Allen has put together one of the best films I've seen in a while. It's proof that Woody Allen remains capable of moving work.

Five stars out of five. Must see.

Ten second movie (p)review

I mentioned a while back that I was going to review the best documentary film I’ve ever seen. The time is now. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Netflix. For the first time, I have a huge library of films available to me, movies that I wouldn’t get to see otherwise (since most good films don’t come to the theaters, and many don’t make it to video). In particular, I’ve gotten to see some fantastic documentary features through Netflix: Capturing the Friedmans, Spellbound, Grey Gardens, Word Wars, Grizzly Man, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Born Into Brothels, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

At the top of my Netflix queue is “49 Up,” the seventh installment of the “Up” series, which Roger Ebert says is on his “list of the ten greatest films of all time.” I agree. It’s to be released on DVD next week, and my wife and I cannot wait to watch it. I can’t do a better job of describing the series than this:

49 UP is the seventh film in a series of landmark documentaries that began 42 years ago when UK-based Granada’s WORLD IN ACTION team, inspired by the Jesuit maxim “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” interviewed a diverse group of seven-year-old children from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Michael Apted, a researcher for the original film, has returned to interview the “children” every seven years since, at ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and now again at age 49.

In this latest chapter, more life-changing decisions are revealed, more shocking announcements made, and more of the original group take part than ever before, speaking out on a variety of subjects including love, marriage, career, class and prejudice.

Before last winter, I had never heard of the documentary series. One day last winter, I stumbled upon a review of the first film, “Seven Up!” Intrigued, I had Netflix send it.

My wife and I enjoyed it, and watched the other installments. We were absolutely mesmerized. It’s just a groundbreaking idea, executed perfectly by Apted, who has become quite the feature director himself (including a James Bond movie). I can’t reveal too much of the films without ruining the experience for you, but if you have a chance to watch the series, don’t hesitate. You’ll be astounded at how much you look forward to seeing what each of these children have become over the next seven year period. It’s spell-binding.

Once 49 Up is released on DVD and we watch it (here’s Ebert’s glowing review), I’ll report back. I’m expecting great things, though. The Up Series is, by far, the greatest documentary film I’ve ever seen, and one of the best movies I’ve had the pleasure to watch, period.

Ten second movie review

The wife and I watched “Click” tonight, with Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, and Christopher Walken. Hey, this movie was actually pretty entertaining. Yeah, it was predictable at times, but it’s an Adam Sandler movie, so you just have to look over stuff like that. There were some typical Sandler belly-laughs, but it was also a good story. Good film for you to get a bowl of popcorn and watch on a weekend (or a Monday night).

Plus, you know, Kate Beckinsale was in it.

And Christopher Walken.

Three and a half stars out of five. Not bad.