It’s officially halfway through the year! How many of your resolutions have you achieved yet? Me neither, so let’s distract ourselves with some movies. In addition to the end-of-year lists, we wanted to have a quick casual rundown of the best and worst movies have had to offer so far in 2018, just to make sure we don’t miss anything when it comes to the end of the year. Without further ado!
Well, it’s been a pretty all-over-the-place year for movies this time around, which it always is, really, if you’re going to see a lot of them: from the staggering artistic achievements of movies like You Were Never Really Here and Hostiles, to the flawed-but-interesting takes like Isle of Dogs and A Fantastic Woman, to the straight power-stinkers like Ready Player One and Molly’s Game, we’ve seen plenty from every end of the spectrum.
If I had to put a pin in my favourite movie of the year so far, it’s really a toss-up between some of the bold-ass blockbusters Marvel has been delivering on a consistent basis – kicking things off with the boundary-pushing, brilliant Black Panther and bringing them home with an epoch-defining Infinity War, their blockbuster efforts have eclipsed the likes of Deadpool 2 or Solo. In terms of prestige cinema, the very first film I saw this year, Hostiles, is still well up there as the best – a relevant and cogent look at toxic masculinity as filtered through the male-centric violence of the Western, it featured career-best performances for Rory Cochrane and a stunning Rosamund Pike, as well as another tortured turn from Christian Bale in the leading role. Loveless, the Russian entry to the Academy Awards this year, was a soul-shakingly bleak masterpiece, and elsewhere of the foreign-language movie front, the more recent Zama, in all it’s hypnotic, revelatory glory, was up there too. Also: Lady Bird, for reasons I’ve gone into at great length, and On Chesil Beach for more of Saorsie Roman’s magnificent arrival on the prestige scene.
As far as individual achievement goes – look, I’m really just putting this section in here so I can talk about how much I fucking loved Gerard Butler in Den of Thieves, eating blood-soaked donuts and playing the flute on his divorce papers. But I suppose this is also the place to mention the incredible Lynn Ramsay work behind the camera on You Were Never Really Here, as well as how much I loved Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World, despite the controversy that film never really escaped from under.
When it comes to the bad? Well, the recently-released Sicario 2: Soldado came blazing in as an unexpected worst-of list entry (stay tuned for the review later this week), but when it comes to truly awful, nothing tops (bottoms?) Ready Player One. Spielberg started off the year with a decent swing of the bat, and then proceeded to break his own leg with the damn thing. Aaron Sorkin’s script for Molly’s Game should be burned alive, not fucking Oscar-nominated, and Solo almost wrung my love of Star Wars out of me entirely, with Emilia Clarke battering on that top spot for the worst performance of the year.
2018 has proved to me yet again that there is no such thing as a bad year for movies as long as you know where to look for them. The beginning of the year was taken up by awards season, and since we are based in Scotland this was when the likes of Three Billboards, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, The Post, and Phantom Thread reached our shores. Of the five I’ve just mentioned it’s only The Shape of Water and The Post that didn’t blow me away. As much as The Post was pure prestige Spielberg, and his best of this type in some time, The Post didn’t live as long in the memory as similar thrillers like Spotlight did a couple of years before.
The Shape of Water was an amazing technical achievement, with gorgeous sets and art direction, a solid cast in which Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon were obvious standouts, but there is something about Guillermo Del Toro films that can’t quite blow me away. Lady Bird was a masterful debut feature from director Greta Gerwig as she managed to expand the coming of age story into territory other than just being a dude trying to lose your virginity (though the very fun Blockers this year took that trope and ran with it to great effect), while also telling a sensitive side story about the struggles of the adult parents whose world their children are desperate to inhabit.
Blockbuster-wise, Marvel knocked it out of the park twice in a row. Black Panther, which was helped immensely through T’Challa’s Civil War debut, gave director Ryan Coogler free reign to tell a personal, culturally significant superhero story, while expertly keeping to the MCU’s formula, and introducing one of the MCU’s best villain’s in Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger. Then came Avengers: Infinity War, a blockbuster movie that redefined what a blockbuster, and a shared universe was capable of. Through Thanos elegantly breaking the rules set up in 18 previous movies, to prove that he was no match for our heroes, provided what I believe to truly be The Empire Strikes Back of our generation. Hyperbole, you say? Just remember how you felt when Thanos snapped his fingers.
Apart from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which was a lot better than I was expecting, the rest of 2018’s blockbusters have been sadly lacking. Solo was dull, Ready Player One was an insult to all of my senses, and I’m sure the running time gave me a bedsore, Deadpool 2, while still being funny with some good action, made the mistake of trying to make me care about the characters when the plot could be reversed for another tired punchline.
The best movies of the year, at least the non-MCU and Oscar-bait ones, have come in the form of foreign and independent films. While I hated Zama, being the only critic to do so, I agree with Louise that everyone should watch Loveless. Hostiles, being a revisionist Western about the pitfalls of masculinity and how it turns you into a timebomb of rage and hate, while also starring Christian Bale, is a film that may as well have been made solely for me. On the female-fronted side of things, Saoirse Ronan has made an excellent case for being my favorite actor of 2018 by following up her excellent performance in Ladybird with another blinder in On Chesil Beach. She may have competition though in the form of Toni Collette and Alex Wolff, both of whom broke my soul in the fantastic horror masterpiece that is Hereditary.
All in all, 2018 has been a great year for movies so far, so much so that I wait with baited breath for what the next six months has in store.
If you enjoyed this retrospective,please be sure to check out our series on this blog: you can also take a look at our cinematic universe retrospectives, for the Marvel Cinematic Universe , every Batman movie, and theJurassic Park movies! And, as ever, if you enjoyed this and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting us on Patreon.
(header image courtesy of Culturebox)