By William Watson
It was a really weird year for movies. In 2018, there may not have been a film worthy of Best Picture, but I set a personal record, so there is something worth celebrating. In this down year in movies, I broke my all-time personal record from 2014 and watched 150 new movies. So let’s look back at the year in film with my annual review of all the new releases I saw!
Time to jump right into the list!
10. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
The message of the documentary is just as simple as the message of the man himself. Mr Rogers was just a better person than most of us. As a minister, his style of preaching was never holier than thou. It was never judgmental. He simply led a good life and told others why kindness and acceptance was important. Whatever your religious affiliation, this is a positive way to live. The genuine goodness of Fred Rogers is timeless. Let’s face it. Mr Rogers was corny. Heck, he was already corny in the 1950s. But his corniness was never condescending. Nor is the coverage of him as a subject condescending. Neville simply presents the amazing man as he was and you have no choice but to be amazed. It was a weak year for movies, but a great year for docs and this was one of the highlights.
The filmmakers successfully employ an all screens film structure. I actually like the movie Unfriended, but it was largely an unexceptional attempt at this form of storytelling. Searching, on the other hand, absolutely crushed the concept. This film was amazing, start to finish. Every single frame of the film was on a screen; whether it was FaceTime, email, web browser, Facebook, or Chat software, we didn’t see a single frame of traditional camera work. The film didn’t suffer for it either; in fact, it really enhanced the drama because so much of people’s lives are tied to technology that you could conceivably find a whole mysterious life of someone entirely online.
8. FREE SOLO
Wow. Amazing doc. One of my favorite films of the year and certainly vied with Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor for best doc of the year.I knew nothing of Alex Honnold’s story going in, yet it grabbed me and kept me entranced for the full runtime. That’s the mark of a special documentary feature and what makes Free Solo worthy of Oscar consideration.
7. THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
This is a documentary you can enjoy even if you never watch documentaries! This is closer to a movie like Gone Girl, The Usual Suspects, or something Hitchcock would have done rather than a typical documentary. It is absolutely a mystery movie that merely uses the documentary format. This is a movie that everyone could watch and enjoy; not just a bearded movie snob in Austin who drinks white wine at the art house cinema (Note: I went with a dry Prosecco with this viewing…)
6. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
The film had a sense of majesty. Infinity War is the cinematic equivalent of those once in a generation comic book crossovers that change everything and where nothing is safe. The Russo Brothers (Civil War) crafted an amazing existential threat and had the heroes deal with it in a fairly realistic manner. If you need to point someone to an example of “epic” filmmaking, this is pretty much now your standard. I honestly can’t believe it is this good. A near perfect tentpole film! As a DC fan, this makes me sad to admit…
5. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
Dark comedy with the fear of violence sub-genre is my jam and this film NAILS it. Writer and Director Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) delivers a masterpiece. The script was so good, as was the execution. The twists and turns were fun, the characters were rich, and the pacing was brilliant. This one might not land for everyone, but it did for my weird self…
4. A QUIET PLACE
John Krasinksi (you gotta say “Jim from the Office” here) does a magnificent job as a first time director (he also co-wrote the script) of creating a universe where he could play so heavily with sound, or the lack of sound, to create suspense. So often in horror, we are waiting for the monster to jump out and scare us, and often experience a horrific musical score to increase the terror. Here, the risks are more subtle. I love a good “rules movie” and this was a damn good one. Those aren’t always pulled off well; leaning on the concept as a crutch rather than a springboard to tell a smart story. This movie, like last year’s smart horror entry Get Out, just kept creeping up my list as the year went on.
3. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
This is a GREAT Coen Brothers film. It begins with as amazing a first fifteen minutes as any film I’ve seen. When the Coens made their other Western entry, the remake of True Grit, they played it a little more straight forward than their signature style. That film was amazing but I am glad they returned to the days of yesteryear to give us the classic Coen treatment.
2. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
I was disappointed when Sasha Baron Cohen dropped out as the film’s front man, but the right man in Rami Malek (Mr Robot) played the colorful Freddie Mercury. He was amazing! I was prepared to enjoy the music but this went way beyond a jukebox musical. The way the film showed the creation of their eclectic catalog was strong, but it was the Live Aid sequence that blows you away. It is literally one of the most iconic moments in Rock history, that anyone can go watch on YouTube, and Malek still slayed it. I had chills during the performance with the moves, the facial gestures, and the thrusting of his fist with gusto. Nailed it!
WATSON’S FILM OF THE YEAR!
1. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
The is the biggest innovation in animation since the original Toy Story, this movie is nearly perfect and it is the biggest surprise of the year. Even the best animated features are more “fun” than “film.” Hell, most live action films fall into this trap. But Spider-Verse was a smart and sophisticated film that happened to be designed by computers. It was compelling start to finish, and also showed the advantages animation for a serious film can have over live-action. This film would have cost $350m to make in a live action setting. It is the perfect blend of artistry, story-telling, and amazing characters. Plus, it is damn funny!
It was a decent group in the Top Ten. In other years, many of these would have been lower down, but still quality flicks. The next ten in my list were in the same “solid but not all-world” arena, so it was honestly hard to prioritize films from #7 through #30. They are mostly the same quality, so let’s go one click deeper and look at the rest of the top 20!
11. DEADPOOL 2
It wasn’t just a carbon copy of the first one. It definitely wasn’t “Deadpool 2: Meet the Fockers.” It was a unique and different movie.
12. GREEN BOOK
What a wonderful film. The performances and dialogue are simply first rate. Mahershala Ali was particularly Oscar worthy, yet again. He might be the best actor working today.
13. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
I loved how the film portrays Mary and I REALLY love how Ronan plays her.
14. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
This was a strong script with amazing performances. Jenkins knows how to draw out the best in his actors and that is a reputation that will keep getting him great projects with A-list casts. Especially when KiKi Layne becomes a star…as she deserves to be.
15. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
The humor and action mixed well. The films was able to be funny while still creating tension and drama. Michael Pena is the real fire here.
The production design and effects were stunning, but it was cerebral plot that carries the day.
17. BLACK PANTHER
First and foremost is the film’s diversity. Other than Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Andy Serkis (um….also The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), the principle cast is made up of actors of African descent. To their credit, Marvel didn’t pressure director Ryan Coogler (Creed) to play it safe with the opportunity. The film explores issues of slavery, colonialism, and discrimination that remain relevant and impactful today.
18. LOVE, SIMON
Very little not to like here. Love, Simon is a warm, funny, and entertaining.
19. COULD YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Even better than McCarthey’s performance was that of Richard E. Grant (Game of Thrones); whose scene chewing Jack steals the show.
20. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE : FALLOUT
The Chinese Food of Franchises. I’ve already forgotten the plot of this movie but I still know I loved it and will gladly see the next installment. (H/T: To Ryan for the disgusting metaphor).
Even in a down year, the competition is always tough among the best films.
It is equally difficult for a film to be at the BOTTOM. Many films flounder, but it takes a special level of crapitude to be at the bottom of a list that reviews 150 films in a year.
So let’s take a look at the stinky turds inhabit the Watson Bottom Ten!
141. NIGHT SCHOOL
I hated seeing the preview of this movie every time it ran; I see a lot of movies and it ran on EVERY one for months! Did Sandler has pass on this one? This feels like a Sandler movie from his Netflix deal. Where he needs to go back as an adult and get his high school diploma. Oh wait… that was Happy Gilmore.
142. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
In the best movies, you are not aware there is a director. The film just flows. In this movie, the shots and cuts are very apparent and heavy handed. You can almost visualize director Lynne Ramsay planning her cool close ups. That puts you so far behind the 8 Ball that it is hard to rebound. This film never did. I was watching this in home video and one time my leg bumped the remote and paused it for 10 seconds. I thought it was a directorial choice. That’s how bad this thing was.
143. THE WEEK OF
This is a dumb comedy but it isn’t even zany like The Ridiculous Six where dumb teens can dig it. There is literally no one who should like this movie. Is Sandler’s Netflix deal up yet? When they came out at the theater, I could avoid them. For some reason, when they are on Netflix, I have to watch them.
144. DEATH WISH
Bruce Willis phones it all in. I didn’t believe for one minute he cared about this paycheck film. He was a total dud. Sad that I would say that the patron saint of Christmas movies was no Charles Bronson.
145. ACTION POINT
It just wasn’t funny. The bits didn’t work. Johnny Knoxville was moderately funny when he was younger, but as a nearly 50 year old man, his shtick has gotten really sad.
146. THE 15:17 TO PARIS
Eastwood is a talented director. I generally enjoy his films, even when I have to ignore some of the politics he sprinkles in. But his skill can’t cover for the choices he made with the script and the actors. This movie is dreadfully amateur.
147. MILE 22
This is the finest Wahlberg™ performance since Transformers 5. All the subtly and nuance of a homeless man masturbating in an alleyway. There is nothing redeemable about this film. It makes the films in the next theater over even worse just by osmosis. Please avoid this stinker so you don’t lose a little piece of your humanity.
148. A WRINKLE IN TIME
The cast… The direction… The plot… The design… The sound mixing… NONE of it worked! The cast ranged from bland to bad but it was Oprah Winfrey (its freaking Oprah) who embodied the film’s worst attributes. Her character and performance were completely self-indulgent and director Ava DuVernay (Selma) gave her every big, overly expositional speech possible. Sadly, Ava DuVernay delivered a bland world, with bland characters. I really wanted to like the film when I first heard about it, but the “over Oprahing” fear turned out to be true and the rest seemed like the B-plot of a bad D & D campaign.
One of the most charismatic actors ever is replaced with a wooden fence post. Oh my god he was bad. I mean like REALLY bad. Look, forget the comparisons to Harrison. If you had never seen a Star Wars movie, and this was Han Solo’s first appearance, Ehrenreich would still be worse that slamming your balls in a rusty car door. With a terrible actor playing Han Solo, you can’t have a good movie called Solo. It’s like a James Bond movie where Bond is played by Screech from Saved By the Bell. The film felt as unnecessary as you expected and felt very similar to Episode I. There was a vibe to this film that made you feel that at any moment, Ehrenreich was going to say “Meesa, Han Solo-sir!” Such a huge disappointment. Oh, boy! Star Wars is in trouble. Two movies in a row which are utter stinkers.
150. HOLMES & WATSON
This movie was uniquely awful. I laughed maybe two or three times and I was embarrassed when I did. I generally laugh at everything and this one didn’t cut it. It would be like laughing at commercials for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital! The film garnered a single digit Rotten Tomatoes score, a D+ in the audience polled CinemaScore and the box office was piddling. These are atrocious numbers…and the film is STILL overrated. This will be a film that both actors have to discuss with media for years to come and defend how bad it was.
I hope this year is a blip and not a trend, but it feels like the lack of creativity in Hollywood has permeated from big budget to low budget fare. There is not one movie that is being discussed for Best Picture that seems worthy of winning. In some better years, many of those being discussed should even be nominated.
The bright spots in film this year (the MCU, Documentaries, innovative animation, and some surprise Netflix entries among the dreck) were far outweighed by too many bloated remakes…reboots…retreads….
Sadly, Hollywood had a record year at the box office, so we might be in trouble.
To complete the picture, after the jump is my full list of 2018 movies complete with all my 150 reviews from the year for those who want to see the complete year’s rankings.
Enjoy and see you in 2019!
|1||SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE||My Review|
|2||BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY||My Review|
|3||THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS||My Review|
|4||A QUIET PLACE||My Review|
|5||BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE||My Review|
|6||AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR||My Review|
|7||THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS||My Review|
|8||FREE SOLO||My Review|
|10||WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?||My Review|
|11||DEADPOOL 2||My Review|
|12||GREEN BOOK||My Review|
|13||MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS||My Review|
|14||IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK||My Review|
|15||ANT-MAN AND THE WASP||My Review|
|17||BLACK PANTHER||My Review|
|18||LOVE, SIMON||My Review|
|19||COULD YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?||My Review|
|20||MISSION IMPOSSIBLE : FALLOUT||My Review|
|21||LEAVE NO TRACE||My Review|
|22||22 JULY||My Review|
|23||THE HATE U GIVE||My Review|
|25||CRAZY RICH ASIANS||My Review|
|26||TEEN TITANS GO TO THE MOVIES||My Review|
|27||THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN||My Review|
|29||A SIMPLE FAVOR||My Review|
|30||A STAR IS BORN||My Review|
|31||GAME NIGHT||My Review|
|33||DIRECT MEASURES||My Review|
|34||THE PERFECT BID||My Review|
|35||RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET||My Review|
|37||THE PUFFS||My Review|
|38||WHEN WE FIRST MET||My Review|
|39||ISLE OF DOGS||My Review|
|40||PADDINGTON 2||My Review|
|41||PETER RABBIT||My Review|
|42||MARY POPPINS RETURNS||My Review|
|43||FIRST REFORMED||My Review|
|44||SORRY TO BOTHER YOU||My Review|
|46||OPERATION FINALE||My Review|
|48||A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE||My Review|
|49||THE FAVOURITE||My Review|
|51||FIRST MAN||My Review|
|53||CREED II||My Review|
|56||THE PREDATOR||My Review|
|57||THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN THE WALLS||My Review|
|59||UNCLE DREW||My Review|
|62||EIGTH GRADE||My Review|
|64||MERCURY 13||My Review|
|66||INCREDIBLES 2||My Review|
|67||SEEING ALLRED||My Review|
|68||THE LAST YEAR||My Review|
|70||THE DEATH OF STALIN||My Review|
|71||THE MEG||My Review|
|72||OUTLAW KING||My Review|
|74||HEARTS BEAT LOUD||My Review|
|75||THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN||My Review|
|77||SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO||My Review|
|80||I KILL GIANTS||My Review|
|81||TOMB RAIDER||My Review|
|82||THE RACHEL DIVIDE||My Review|
|83||TAKE YOUR PILLS||My Review|
|84||12 STRONG||My Review|
|85||MORTAL ENGINES||My Review|
|86||SPRING BROKE||My Review|
|87||BJORG VS MCENROE||My Review|
|88||SUICIDE SQUAD: HELL TO PAY||My Review|
|89||OCEANS 8||My Review|
|90||BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT||My Review|
|91||THE CLAPPER||My Review|
|94||JURASSIC WORLD : FALLEN KINGDOM||My Review|
|95||READY PLAYER ONE||My Review|
|96||RED SPARROW||My Review|
|97||THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME||My Review|
|98||AT ETERNITY’S GATE||My Review|
|99||CANDY JAR||My Review|
|101||MAZE RUNNER: DEATH CURE||My Review|
|102||THE GRINCH||My Review|
|105||FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD||My Review|
|106||FREEDOM FIGHTERS : THE RAY||My Review|
|107||DEN OF THIEVES||My Review|
|108||HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3||My Review|
|109||STROKES OF GENIUS||My Review|
|110||BLACK CODE||My Review|
|111||THE HAPPYLAND MURDERS||My Review|
|112||EARLY MAN||My Review|
|113||THE ROAD MOVIE||My Review|
|114||HOTEL ARTEMIS||My Review|
|115||NEAT: THE STORY OF BOURBON||My Review|
|116||CRIME + PUNISHMENT||My Review|
|118||IRREPLACEABLE YOU||My Review|
|119||THE RITUAL||My Review|
|120||MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN||My Review|
|121||THE OPEN HOUSE||My Review|
|122||THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX||My Review|
|124||BREAKING IN||My Review|
|125||THE POLKA KING||My Review|
|126||GAME OVER, MAN!||My Review|
|127||EQUALIZER 2||My Review|
|128||THE COMMUTER||My Review|
|129||LIFE OF THE PARTY||My Review|
|130||SUPER TROOPERS 2||My Review|
|131||ALIENS ATE MY HOMEWORK||My Review|
|132||6 BALLOONS||My Review|
|134||CHRISTOPHER ROBIN||My Review|
|135||BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB||My Review|
|136||I FEEL PRETTY||My Review|
|138||PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING||My Review|
|139||BLUMHOUSE’S TRUTH OR DARE||My Review|
|140||SHERLOCK GNOMES||My Review|
|141||NIGHT SCHOOL||My Review|
|142||YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE||My Review|
|143||THE WEEK OF||My Review|
|144||DEATH WISH||My Review|
|145||ACTION POINT||My Review|
|146||THE 15:17 TO PARIS||My Review|
|147||MILE 22||My Review|
|148||A WRINKLE IN TIME||My Review|
|150||HOLMES AND WATSON||My Review|