2018 Movie Awards

Favorite Films of 2018

We continue our recap of the year in movies with a top 10 list, only a month late! Which, if you’re a longtime reader, is actually a few weeks earlier than usual (this list is usually posted mid/late February, right before the Oscars), so progress!? This marks the thirteenth year in a row that I’ve posted a top 10. A baker’s dozen! For reference, previous top 10s are here: [2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

I usually try to figure out some sort of cohesive theme for the year in movies, and while this is something of a fool’s errand, it’s something I like attempting. This year didn’t inspire much in the way of new insights though. Yes, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu continue to make inroads into serious cinema, if not quite in my top 10. Still, the likes of Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Suspiria, and Minding the Gap show that these services mean business, even if it takes some effort to sort through the throngs of new content to find the gems. The rise of these services as a serious concern was a theme I mentioned last year, as is the continued decline of traditional blockbusters. To be sure, there were plenty of conventional Hollywood movies that I enjoyed quite a bit this year, but few even made it into my honorable mentions.

To add a not exactly new theme to my list, I’ve noticed myself gravitating more and more towards sorta elevated genre exercises. Or maybe just plain genre. This is something that’s always been more prominent on my Top 10s than your typical critic’s list, but it seemed even more prevalent this year. Depending on where you draw the line, at least half of my top 10 would be considered genre, and even the other half isn’t your typical prestige drama. I’m not sure if this is due to a general increase in the quality of genre fare this year, or if I was just better at keeping up with it, perhaps thanks to services like Shudder. Whatever the case, it was a good year for genre flicks, and I’m here for that.

As of this writing, I’ve seen 86 movies that could be considered a 2018 release. While this represents an increase over the past few years and is certainly significantly higher than your average moviegoer, it’s still a much smaller number than your typical critic, so I’m not that great after all. Standard disclaimers apply, and it’s especially worth noting that due to regional release strategies, some of these would be considered a 2017 movie, but not available until 2018. In at least one case, there’s no official US release yet, which is somewhat disheartening. Anyway, rather than continuing to caveat the hell out of the list, let’s just get down to business:

Top 10 Movies of 2018

* In roughly reverse order

  • Bad Times at the El Royale – Drew Goddard’s latest is a fascinating, mysterious little microcosm set in a border-line straddling hotel with a fine ensemble of characters, each with something to hide. It’s a self-reflective deconstruction of crime stories, but a lot more entertaining than that would imply, much like Goddard’s previous effort, Cabin in the Woods. Goddard has a keen eye and drew (pun intended!) good performances out of a great ensemble consisting of both veteran actors and fresh faces, all in service of a twisty, engaging story.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Endless – Filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have carved out a strange corner of genre filmmaking, a sort of supernatural drama that draws on horror and science fiction without succumbing completely to genre trappings. Their early films displayed these qualities in varying degrees, but The Endless is far more assured and seamless. It’s a beautiful film, both visually and thematically.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Review]

  • Upgrade – SF tale of an AI implant gone rogue, this is schlocky and gory and a whole boatload of fun. Writer/Director Leigh Whannell has grown considerably as a filmmaker, and this is slicker than you might think at first glance. As usual, the genre trappings make the more serious thematic ideas go down easy.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Night Comes for Us – This Indonesian flick is basically just two hours of nonstop action and gruesome carnage. The plot is mostly a functional way of progressing our protagonists from one gloriously choreographed fight to the next, but the action quotient here is absurdly high. If you saw the Raid movies and thought they could use some more blood and gore, then this movie is for you. And me, apparently.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

  • Paddington 2 – I slept on the first Paddington movie back in 2014, but it turned out to be a delightful film, and this year’s sequel is one of the few films that could rival its predecessor.

    Paddington 2

    In a 2018 filled with outrage and misery, a movie like this, which is just radically nice, becomes a welcome, soothing antidote to the vitriol and chaos going on around us. It’s just so nice and fun and pleasant and whimsical that I couldn’t not put it on this list.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson’s style of weaponized quirk doesn’t always work for me, but it worked well in this tale of Japanese dogs banished to an island and the boy who travels there seeking his beloved pet. Meticulous, dense, and surprisingly funny, there’s also a lot to chew on here (another intended pun!)

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – In the midst of rumored superhero fatigue (something I’ve never particularly understood) comes this breath of fresh air. It reinvents the character (6 times, even), but it does so in new and interesting ways. A meditation and deconstruction of origin stories that nevertheless stands out as an exceptional origin story of its own.

    Spider Man and Spider Man

    Plus, it provides a whole new take on what had become a pretty stale animation landscape, at least from a visual standpoint, seamlessly incorporating the graphical conventions of comic books onto the screen in a new and exciting way.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor – Along with Paddington 2, this stands out as another radically nice movie of the year. Like many people my age, Mr. Rogers was a mainstay of my childhood, such that this documentary covering his life and work hit home in unexpected ways. Let’s just say that it got dusty in the theater at times.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Searching – The whole gimmick of a film comprised entirely of a computer’s desktop screen is deployed here in a way that feels much less like a gimmick and much more like a reflection of the times in which we live. The film starts with an Up-like montage, then descends into full-blown mystery phase, as a young girl goes missing and her father must piece together the digital clues to find her. The story maybe strains the medium, especially towards the end, but I was mostly just blown away by the movie.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Death of Stalin – Armando Iannucci’s grim takedown of Soviet Russia under Stalin is bleakly funny and yet mostly accurate and quite relevant to our tumultuous moment in history. All of the performances are spot on, the comedic timing is perfect, and the use of various accents inspired. It might seem hard to laugh when so much of the humor is derived from paranoia and murder, but that’s just because totalitarianism is a joke. This is a fine illustration of how gallows humor exists, and it’s my favorite thing I’ve seen from Iannucci.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • One Cut of the Dead – This tiny Japanese film starts as a sorta rote zombie tale elevated by the single take camerawork, but it quickly pivots to become so much more. I won’t spoil the surprise here, but this was the most delightful discovery of the year, a love letter to independent filmmaking spirit and improvised problem solving. Due to a weird Amazon leak, the US release has been jeopardized, but I strongly encourage everyone to seek this out once it becomes available. Its fantastic.

    More Info: [IMDB]

Honorable Mention

* In alphabetical order

  • Bodied – Joseph Kahn’s paean to battle rap is bound to infuriate pretty much everyone who watches it, which is kinda the point. Punctuated by the same frenetic energy that drove Kahn’s previous manic masterpiece, Detention, this is a film that will challenge you, but it’s worth examining our impulse towards being offended, even if we are completely justified in our offence. Very nearly made the top 10.

    More Info: [IMDB] [YouTube Premium]

  • Free Solo – This documentary chronicling a free solo mountain climber, that is, a man who climbs a mountain without any ropes or safety harnesses, is quite eye opening. Filled with procedural process junkie stuff that I absolutely love, it also covers the subject’s love life and friendships, which is a bit more difficult since the man is a tremendous asshole.

    Free Solo

    The filmmakers just let this all play out, and by necessity are not invisible. I spent most of the running time with sweaty palms and what I suspect was a low-grade but sustained panic attack. This was a pretty unique experience that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the theater, for what its worth. Again, on another day, this could easily have made the top 10.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s collaboration has been bearing fruit for going on a decade now, but if this movie is any indication, they’re still finding ways to keep it fresh and exciting. Great action set pieces with some standard twisty tropes. Among the most entertaining and fun experiences in the theater that I’ve had all year, and again, very nearly punching its way into the top ten.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Three Identical Strangers – Goofy coincidence after goofy coincidence piles up in this documentary about triplets separated at birth who find each other later in life. The coincidences are eventually revealed to be not a coincidence at all, and the journey from coincidence to serious duplicity is a fascinating one. This is one of a bunch of great documentaries this year that vied for a top 10 slot, and very nearly made it.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Witch in the Window – Short, small-scale psychological horror that nevertheless packs a punch. Rainy Sunday afternoon comfort food for low-key horror fans, this was another strong contender, and it’s obscure enough that I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s basically a haunted house story, but it’s got more heft behind it than most of its ilk.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Shirkers – Another great documentary about a young Singaporean girl’s attempt to make an avante garde masterpiece when she was younger, only to have the director abscond with all the footage. Decades later, the footage was sort of recovered, but it’s the story behind it all that really fascinates.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – The Coen Brothers always warrant consideration, and this bleak set of Western vignettes is memorable and sometimes quite entertaining, if a bit too nihilistic for my tastes. Like all anthology films, some of the segments are better than the others, leading to a somewhat uneven experience, but I think they all have their merits, and some are downright sublime.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

  • First Reformed – What at first glance seems like a simple, sparing story, eventually reveals multitudes. I suspect my reading of the story is somewhat unconventional; I see it as a damning portrayal of the dangers of despair (in the film, it’s despair induced by environmental concern, but it could easily be transferred elsewhere). Writer/director Paul Schrader has crafted an excellent acting showcase for Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, and more, and his visual motifs emphasize the themes well.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Black Panther – Marvel continues to mine obscure back catalog heroes for gold, and in this latest example, they also manage to establish an effective, sympathetic but still ruthless villain, something the MCU has generally struggled with. The setting is interesting, but some of the action sequences come off as rote, and I don’t know, the monarchy system portrayed here seems awfully fragile, but now I’m nitpicking. It’s a really fun and effective movie that carves out a distinct identity in the MCU.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Hereditary – An unnerving portrait of grief tinged with supernatural thrills, I can’t help but thinking that this would have been even more effective if the filmmakers were a little more interested in the horror components and spent a little more time establishing that groundwork, rather than wallowing in grief for so long. It still had one of the most memorable jaw-dropping sequences of the year, and a knockout performance by Toni Collette (she wuz robbed in the Oscars).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Mandy – Panos Cosmatos’ trippy, psychadelic revenge flick is a visually stunning sight to behold, and it sure does take you on a journey. Certainly a little bloated and indulgent, it’s hard to fault a movie where Nicholas Cage forges a battle axe and fights reptilian demon bikers and religious cults with chainsaws. Plus, there’s always Cheddar Goblin, who should definitely be hosting the Oscars.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Sorry to Bother You – Boots Riley’s debut is so jam packed with ideas that it can’t quite do them all justice, but it’s fascinating to watch him try. It’s somewhat amusing that I only got to see this anti-capitalist film via the ultra-capitalist system of film distribution, but such are the ironies of life. The film holds many surprises and while overstuffed, that just leaves a lot of room for thought and discussion after-the-fact.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Favourite – An impressive acting showcase for three exceptional actresses, I found myself intrigued by the paradoxical nature of centralized power. Yes, a monarch is at the top of the hierarchy, but she is still but one person, and somehow more vulnerable to attack precisely because of her power. Again, this isn’t usually my sort of movie, but it’s still a fascinating attempt.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

The Quantum Jury Prize:

Awarded to films that exist only in a quantum superposition of two or more states (like good and bad or like and dislike, and everything inbetween). I’m not sure what that means, but that’s kinda the point. Basically, every time I observe my feelings on these movies, I experience something like a wave function collapse and get different results each time. Still confused? Good.

  • Annihilation – Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel has some wonderful imagery and effective performances. Some components of the story are a bit too conventional for my liking (notably the framing device, as well as some of the “action” setpieces) and some of the ideas are a bit fuzzy, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating movie.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Eighth Grade – An excruciating look at the life of a young girl in eighth grade, the wahjah factor here is so high that it rockets past uncomfortable and into some hitherto unknown realm of embarrassment-by-proxy that I have to respect the whole endeavor. Not usually my thing, but I’m glad I caught up with this one. Or maybe not?

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Roma – Alfonso Cuarón’s character study of a Mexican middle-class family’s maid is an impressive formal exercise, but for some reason, my overriding thoughts during the movie’s slow pans and long takes were about Cuarón himself, and the characters on screen only briefly penetrated through Cuarón’s style. Sometimes it’s but a fleeting moment – a child absent-mindedly wraps his arm around the maid while watching TV with the family. Others are more sustained – when the maid goes into labor during the Corpus Christi massacre and must make her way to the hospital. The virtuosity is impressive and I’m not normally put off by such things, but then, here we are in the Quantum realm.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

Just Missed the Cut:

But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order:

Should Have Seen:

Despite having seen around 90 of this year’s releases (and listing out 30+ of my favorites in this post), there are a few that got away. Or never made themselves available here. Or that I probably need to watch, but don’t wanna because reasons. Regardless, there are several movies here that I probably should have caught up with:

2018 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

The 2018 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners were announced last week. The premise of those awards is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or praise like a Top 10 list or whatever. However, any awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available, so we come to the Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

  • The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: The Cloverfield Paradox and The Predator (tie). I like the concept of this award, but it’s not like I want to go rewatch these films that I did not enjoy very much to really wallow in the poor exposition (Cloverfield Paradox is filled with that sort of thing) or juvenile humor that just doesn’t land (I’m not above juvenile humor and Shane Black is usually pretty good at this sort of thing, but The Predator went for a few too many ass-burger and Tourettes jokes to really connect). I don’t know that any of these live up to the award’s referential namesake, but both of these movies had me rolling my eyes on frequent occasions.
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: The Cloverfield Paradox and The Predator (tie). Choosing a tie is a bit of a cheat, so if it makes you feel better, let’s just say that both of these movies have generally bad dialogue and characters that act stupid and you can just choose one for dialogue and the other will get the stupid character award. I don’t really feel like parsing this out, so I’m still going with the tie.
  • Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: The Night Comes for Us. Two hours of action-packed, gruesome carnage.
  • Best Hero/Badass (Non-Human Edition): Alpha, played by Chuck in Alpha. I just caught up with this movie and thought the wolf/dog at the center of the story was pretty great.
  • Best Villain/Badass (Non-Human Edition): The CGI Bear from Annihilation. I have some issues with the movie, but that bear is quite unsettling.
  • Best Hero/Disembodied Body Part: Mundy’s disembodied but somehow sentient arm from The Cloverfield Paradox. It’s a terrible movie, but it’s almost worth it for the scene where Mundy’s arm saves everyone. Kinda. Not really. Work with me here, I’m trying to salvage those two hours of my life. Still, the way Chris O’Dowd addresses his arm is great, as is the way he pronounces “Arm”; “Whadda ya talkin about arm!?”
  • Best Hero/Advertising Mascot: Cheddar Goblin from Mandy. Cheddar Goblin should host the Oscars. After all, Cheddar Goblin has 60% more cheese than the next leading brand.
    The Cheddar Goblin from Mandy
  • Best Supporting Hero/Badass: Field Marshal Zhukov, played by Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin. He probably could have been nominated for the full award, but the part is rather small and he doesn’t even show up until about an hour into the movie (thus kicking that movie into an even higher gear). But then, Isaacs dominates the screen whenever he is there, stealing every scene he’s in. It’s a great performance, well worth recognition.
  • Best Movie Featuring the Word “Solo” in the Title: Free Solo. Sorry Han Solo, but this movie about rock climbing without a rope was way better than the Star Wars Story.
  • Coolest Fictional Hotel of the Year: Hotel Artemis. I mean, sure, it’s a ripoff of John Wick’s franchise of The Continental hotels (two time winners of Arbitrary Awards, and assuming another appearance in 2019, soon to be a three time winner), but if you’re going to rip something off, that’s a pretty good thing to rip off.
  • Best Octopus Playing the Drums of the Year: The octopus who plays the drums in Aquaman. This isn’t a great movie, but on the other hand, it does have an octopus playing the drums, so what the hell else do you want? And frankly, there’s like, 10 other things this movie has that are just so totally bonkers that it makes the entire exercise worthwhile and entertaining. I mean, Willem Dafoe riding a Shark and Dolph Lundgren riding a giant Sea Horse? Amber Heard turns a bunch of wine into knives and hurls them at her opponents. Julie Andrews plays a giant, surly sea monster. What else do you want from this movie!?
  • The “Weiner” Award for Unparalleled Access to Documentary Subjects: Minding the Gap. What might seem from the outside like a dumb skateboarding documentary turns out to display far more depth than that, in large part due to the huge amount of access that the subjects allowed the filmmaker (who, to be fare, was one of the subjects himself!) across literal decades of friendship.
  • Best Action-Packed Long Take of the Year: The Halo Jump from Mission: Impossible – Fallout. It’s a very impressive shot and a good example of how this series keeps one-upping itself.

Stay tuned, only the Top 10 and Oscar commentary are remaining in our 2018 movie coverage!

2018 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners

The nominations for the 2018 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. You’ve all been on the edge of your seats since then, but fear not, I’ll be announcing the winners today. Next week, I’ll announce the winners of some more goofy, freeform categories that we call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I’ll post my top 10 of 2018. Finally, we’ll have some Oscars talk (predictions and probably live-tweeting or more accurately, retweeting funnier people than I am) and then it’s on to 2019. And the award goes to:

  • Best Villain/Badass: Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther. And it wasn’t even particularly close. Last week, I called this a middling year for villainy, but looking more closely, there’s some pretty weak choices and I had to stretch to fill up the category as much as I did. However, Killmonger is really strong, and definitely the best of the MCU, though that’s not quite as impressive when you realize that the MCU has generally struggled with villainy. On the other hand, this is the second year in a row that this award has gone to an MCU villain, so they’re improving. I suppose Thanos was far better than the nothingburger I was expecting, but that’s a low bar, and his Malthusian motivations are, well, dumb. Killmonger, on the other hand, is a bit more sympathetic and has a genuine grievance to address, even if he’s completely nutso (but then, that combo is what makes him a great villain). Special notice to Hugh Grant in Paddington 2, who is clearly having a blast, though it doesn’t quite fit with the tradition of this award. Henry Cavill in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is interesting, and I suppose I’m kinda spoiling this, but not really. There’s also a nice meta-villainy aspect to Cavill too; he refused to shave his mustache during the Justice League reshoots, leading to bizarre uncanny-valley-esque CGIed scenes in that movie. Also that bit in the bathroom scene where he reloads his arms is glorious. But this remains Killmonger’s show.
  • Best Hero/Badass: Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. As with Cavill above, there’s a bit of a meta-influence here, as Cruise’s intensity and desire to perform his own stunts, even after becoming severely injured after that big jump, is hard to deny. Strong runner up with Nicolas Cage in Mandy, a bonkers movie that deserves some recognition for sure (but never fear, we’ll get to that film soon enough). It’s funny, but I also called this a middling list of nominees last week, but this is actually much stronger than I realized. A lot of the other nominees are really enjoyable. Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz in Revenge put in a gutsy performance, You Were Never Really Here is anchored by the always great Joaquin Phoenix, Tim Blake Nelson’s turn as the titular character in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is great, albeit to short lived, Tom Hardy goes for broke in Venom and somehow succeeds in a way that I doubt anyone else in the world could pull off, and even Jennifer Garner in Peppermint was fun, if a bit derivative. Of special note: Ma Dong-seok in Champion is perhaps the most unconventional and obscure choice, but he’s absolutely fantastic and charismatic in the role, and a total badass to boot. Ultimately, though, it goes to Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, a first time win for a frequent nominee.
  • Best Comedic Performance: Rachel Weisz in The Favourite. Perhaps the most unconventional choice amongst the nominees, but her biting rejoinders and cruel banter are certainly worthy of recognition.
    Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

    Part of the issue with the other nominees is that so many comedies rely on a comedic ensemble for their laughs that it’s hard to single anyone out. I mean, Game Night and Blockers are a lot more conventionally funny than The Favourite and I tried my best to single out my favorite parts of the ensemble, but what works is the ensemble. It’s getting to the point where I should probably just tweak this award to account for ensembles instead of singular performances, but I to be honest, even considering ensembles, The Favourite would do well in the voting. I mean it’s a bleak, dark comedy, but it has such a great ensemble! Also, it seems like good comedies are few and far between these days, which is a bit sad. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.

  • Breakthrough Performance: Cynthia Erivo in Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows. She belts out a couple of great songs in Bad Times and rivals Tome Cruise’s onscreen running ability in Widows. And she holds her own in two pretty great ensembles too, so it’s not just her pipes and physicality that do the work. I expect to see much more of her in the future. Also of note, two other folks from Widows, Elizabeth Debicki and Brian Tyree Henry (who is having an insane year and is in even more films than listed in my post, I just haven’t seen them yet – and apparently he could rival Erivo, but I didn’t get to them in time). Also of note: Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, who was a last second addition, as I only saw the film a night after the nominations were announced. Awkwafina did great in supporting roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s Eight as well. But in the end, Erivo was the real eye opener this year.
  • Most Visually Stunning: Mandy. Gorgious and trippy, Panos Cosmatos’s pyschadelic fever dream of a movie didn’t quite strike the chord with me that it did with everyone else, but I cannot deny how pretty it is to look at.

    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse managed to evoke the comic book aesthetic, bringing something new and exciting to a mostly stale animation field. The Favourite and Roma are both impeccable formal exercises that are beautiful, if sometimes distracting from the stories they were trying to tell. Free Solo has some of the best nature photography I’ve ever seen, tinged with potential tragedy (a topic that is best explored in a longer post, perhaps). But ultimately, it’s Mandy. It was always Mandy.

  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: One Cut of the Dead. I don’t even particularly love zombie movies, and this starts out as a sorta rote zombie tale heightened by a long take, but then it becomes so much more. It’s a shame that the US release is being jeopardized by a leak, but it’s worth seeking out when it does become available. Strong competition from the likes of The Endless and its intricate time-loops, as well as Upgrade‘s AI exploration. A lot of strong horror this year, and after a strong showing for a while, SF is slipping a bit with this award (this is why the seemingly random combo of SF and Horror are included in this one award – SF often doesn’t have enough good films in a year to make it worthwhile). Still, One Cut is just so charming and fun.
  • Best Sequel/Reboot: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Almost both a sequel and a reboot, this film knocks it out of the park, effortlessly introducing several new spider-beings, each with their own, unique origin story, while maintaining a strong central character in Miles Morales.
    Spider Man and Spider Man

    Paddington 2‘s nicecore sequel is as strong if not stronger than the original (which, sadly, I slept on back when it came out). Mission: Impossible – Fallout continues the franchise that could; somehow maintaining or maybe even exceeding previous entries in the series. The Endless is only kinda-sorta a sequel and still functions as a standalone, but it’s really fantastic and definitely better than the film it follows. The other nominees were mostly fun, well done entries in their respective series, even if they can’t quite compete with their predecessors.

  • Biggest Disappointment: The Predator. All the ingredients were there, but man, nothing came together like you would hope. Shane Black’s best qualities seemed muted (or perhaps cut out, as the film seems to have been edited in an odd way), and his worst tendencies were amplified, leading to a disjointed, shambling mess. It’s like there were three completely different movies jammed into one blender, then pureed to a slimy mush. Part of this is my general disdain for sequels and reboots. As per usual, I love the original Predator, but ever since then, it’s been a rocky road. And not in, like, the fun, ice cream way. Such that it’s hard to believe they’re still making Predator movies, though again, on paper, this seemed like a slam dunk. Other nominees range from movies that I expected to be bad that were somehow even worse, to movies that really weren’t that bad at all (Creed II and A Wrinkle in Time), with a couple of middling movies in the, um, middle. But I was really looking forward to The Predator!
  • Best Action Sequences: The Night Comes for Us. Sometimes it feels like a cheat when a strong martial arts movie is available in this category, and indeed it does seem unfair to compare the non-stop, brutal action and gruesome carnage that is The Night Comes for Us with, say, the astounding spectacle of Mission: Impossible – Fallout. We could call it a tie, I guess, but despite being two action movies, it still feels like comparing apples to oranges. Make of that what you will, but those two movies are head and shoulders above the entire field this year. In fact, I had to kinda stretch to fill out the category as much as I did. But then, the winner(s?) are so great that it still feels like a great year for action.
  • Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Hereditary. Obviously a bit of a spoiler even acknowledging that there is a twist/surprise, but there is one moment in Hereditary where my jaw dropped and I just sat in dumbfounded shock for about two minutes. I have my issues with the movie overall, but that is probably the most memorable moment I’ve experience in a theater this year. Other nominees have their charms, especially One Cut of the Dead and Sorry to Bother You and, you know what, they all have pretty great surprises and twists, so we’ll just leave it at that. In a decent year for this sort of thing, Hereditary still takes the cake.
  • Best High Concept Film: One Cut of the Dead. I don’t want to spoil this one by explaining why, but the concept here is pretty great and very charming, such that it really wins you over as it plays out. Strong competition from Searching, the best of the burgeoning group of films set entirely on a computer screen that I’ve seen (a small subset of films, to be sure, but this one delivers pretty well). The other nominees aren’t quite as high concept, which is admittedly a vague category and totally subjective, but they’re all pretty good, unusual films in general so they’re worth seeking out too.
  • 2018’s 2017 Movie of the Year: Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. Frankly, I didn’t see many new-to-me 2017 releases in 2018, and this seems to be a general pattern for this award. The award was instituted specifically because there was one year a while back where I really wanted to recognize two movies, but since then, I haven’t done much with it. That being said, I watched these two Indian epics this year (the latter of which was released in 2017), and had an absolute blast with both of them, so I’m glad I have the ability to recognize them in some small way. The other nominees are fine, but relatively weak. Which is to be expected, since I have already seen most of the stuff I should have seen last year. On the other hand, there are at least a few high profile movies that I should have probably watched that could be contenders, but I just never got around to them, even when they became widely available on streaming services.

Congrats to all the winners! Some of these were difficult to pick, and our jury (i.e. me) really struggled, but I think we did a pretty good job. Stay tuned for the Arbitrary Awards next week!

2018 Kaedrin Movie Awards

Welcome to the thirteenth annual Kaedrin Movie Awards! Lucky number 13! A baker’s dozen! The idea is to recognize films for various achievements that don’t always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we’ll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more goofy and freeform. Finally, we’ll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in early/mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2018 movie (with the one caveat that some 2017 films were not accessible until 2018 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I’ve seen 79 movies that would be considered a 2018 release. Significantly less than your typical critic, but more than your average moviegoer and enough to populate these awards. Obviously this is a personal exercise that is entirely subjective in nature, but the world would be a boring place indeed if we all loved the same things for the same reasons, right? Right. Without further ado:

Best Villain/Badass

Another middling year for villainy. I didn’t have any problem populating the list, and there are a couple that stand out as front runners, but still not a banner year. As usual, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas.

Best Hero/Badass

Perhaps better than villainy this year, and certainly a broader spectrum, but still a middling year overall. Again limited to individuals and not groups.

Best Comedic Performance

This category is sometimes difficult to populate because comedy so often comes in the form of an ensemble and that certainly impacts this year. Looking through what I watched this year, I see very few straight comedies, which is something that happened last year too. There are some decent choices, but obvious standouts are rare.

Breakthrough Performance

Always an interesting category to populate. Sometimes, it’s not so much about someone’s industry breakthrough, but a more personal breakthrough. This can happen even with established actors who put out a performance that forces me to reconsider what they’re capable of. This year, we’ve got more of a moderate crop of young up-and-comers. The main criteria for this category was if I watched a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they’ve done (or where they came from). A somewhat vague category, but that’s why these awards are fun.

Most Visually Stunning

Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… A moderate year for this sort of thing, perhaps leaning towards more sober, well-photographed beauty than flashy spectacle, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film

I always try to throw some love towards genres. In the past, cinematic SF was so poor that I had to pad out the category with horror. In the last five or six years, though, SF has really come into its own. It’s still far outweighed by horror, but there’s often a handful of great SF movies in any given year. I suppose I should also note that I’m probably using a stricter definition of SF than most would for something like this, because I’m a huge nerd and think about that sort of thing a lot. But I digress.

Best Sequel/Reboot

Sometimes a difficult category to populate, and there was a fair share of duds this year, but there were still a surprising number of worthwhile sequels/reboots.

Biggest Disappointment

A category often dominated by sequels and reboots, and lo, this year is a bit of a return to form, though there’s still some original films that were quite disappointing as well. This category is definitely weird in that sometimes I actually enjoy these movies… but my expectations were just too high when I saw them. Related reading: Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale (these movies scored especially poor on that scale).

Best Action Sequences

This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film, and this has been a pretty good year for action, though there are two clear stoundouts, with the rest just being filler. I honestly had a hard time coming up with these, so I had to reach for a few of them. On the other hand, the two frontrunners are so amazing that it still qualifies as a pretty good year for action.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise

Well, I suppose even listing nominees here constitutes something of a spoiler, but it’s a risk we’ll have to take, right?

Best High Concept Film

A nebulous category, to be sure, but a fun one because these are generally interesting movies. There are often borderline cases here, and this year is no exception, but a few strong standouts…

2018’s 2017 Movie of the Year

There are always movies I miss out on, whether due to availability or laziness, but when I do catch up with them, I’m often taken with them. Sometimes a very difficult category to populate, maybe because I didn’t see much after I posted last year’s Top 10, or didn’t like what I did manage to see, or just plain forgot that I saw it (which, to be fair, probably says something about the movie’s chances). Frankly, not a lot going on this year for this category…

As per usual, it feels like I overpopulated these awards with nominees and maybe some of them were a stretch, but hey, these are my awards and I play by no ones rules but my own. And sometimes not even those. Winners to be announced next week, followed by Arbitrary Awards, a traditional Top 10 of the year, and finally some Oscars commentary. Stay tuned!

Update: I just watched Eighth Grade, so I needed to update the Breakthrough Performance category. Also the Action Sequences, because man, that mall scene. Rivals the one in Commando. Just kidding, Eighth Grade is excruciating (in a good way?), so just the Breakthrough Performance one was added (because I know you still weren’t sure.)