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2018 at the Movies: the Best, the Worst, and the Surprising

There are 347 films eligible in the feature film category at this year’s Oscars and it’s that time of the year when lists are made, however ridiculous it might seem to compare “Avengers: Infinity War” and “RBG.”

The films I found most satisfying this year, either while watching them or while continuing to ponder them later, were (with links where previously reviewed by Sacramento Press and brief descriptions):

Annihilation” – a first encounter that questions religion, evolution, and purpose;
Black Panther” – Wakanda Forever!;
BlacKkKlansman” – a black police officer infiltrates the KKK;
Can You Ever Forgive Me?” – a writer finds signatures easier than books;
The Hate U Give” – a young woman faces off against racism;
Juliet, Naked” – a hilarious tale of love, music, and incompatibility;
The Party” – perhaps the most dysfunctional dinner gathering’
A Quiet Place” – a tight horror of enforced silence;
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” – an incredible blending of styles and dimensions;
‘Vice” – a darkly comedic Dick Cheney Vice-Presidential docu-drama .

Honorable mentions, or the rest of a Top 20ish, would include:

Avengers: Infinity War” – a Marvel dissertation on culling the herd;
Beautiful Boy” – a father and son tackle the son’s addiction;
“Bumblebee” – a fresh take on a franchise that was never this fresh to begin with;
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” – a biopic about a paraplegic alcoholic cartoonist;
“The Favourite” – a battle of court favorites that would play well with 2017’s “Victoria and Abdul.”
“Have a Nice Day” – like dipping “pulp Fiction into a Manga inkwell;
Leave No Trace” – an only child answer to “Captain Fantastic”;
Love, Simon” – a neat film with an excellent ad campaign;
Mid90s” – about the need to belong to something;
“The Mule”/”The Old Man and the Gun” – in which Eastwood and Redford, respectively, continue to twinkle;

Other films worth a specific shoutout – primarily those that did something extremely well, at least for a time, but weren’t quite as cohesive overall:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” – an anthology of Western shorts mostly seen on Netflix;
“Mary Poppins Returns*” – which beautifully captured a memory and then left BMX tire tracks all over it;
RBG” – a documentary with content better than its structure;
“Roma” – perhaps the best cinematography of the year, also seen by most on Netflix;
A Star is Born” – which hit its highest notes in its duets but lost its way in the storytelling.

(*Can’t wait for “Mary Poppins: Into the Mary-Poppins-Verse”!)

Or those that were surprisingly disappointing:

Christopher Robin” – a dull film about a dull adult, both of which lose their way;
“Dr Seuss’s The Grinch” – in which Benedict Cumberbatch impersonates Hugh Laurie playing Dr. House reading the part of Mr. Grinch;
Solo: A Star Wars Story” – at its best as a trailer for the bound to be better “Chewbacca: A Star Wars Story.”

And the hall of shame houses those films that had all the resources and yet tripped over their own artisanally bedazzled shoelaces on their way to the screen**:

“Aquaman” – surf and turf Clovefield fondue – immersively cheesy on land and sea;
“Robin Hood” – a modern clothing destruction of a classic tale in a Croation English countryside;
A Wrinkle in Time” – a giant mess of eye candy nonsense.

**Note that there’s little point in knocking the Herculean efforts of filmmakers who made features on micro-budgets for micro-audiences on the festival circuit and so, as before, the “worst” list is essentially limited to blockbuster misses.

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About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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