People of Earth,
It is time once again for The Listing of Top Tens, that beloved annual confirmation-bias ritual wherein one person presents their carefully considered opinion in an easy-to-read list format so that complete strangers can attack them for having tastes which differ from their own. Everyone loves these.
Below you will find a ranking of the ten films which brought me the most joy in 2018, rather than the ones I feel are the most technically accomplished. These are my favorite 2018 films, in other words, rather than the ones I might consider to be the best. It is crucial that you, the reader, understand the difference between these two things before noisily @'ing me or causing an undignified scene in the comments below. Please take the time to do so now.
Ready? Very well. Let us proceed.
10. VENOM / GOTTI (Tie)
When I talk about "Ill-Advised Cinema", I'm talking about movies like Ruben Fleischer's Venom and Kevin Connolly's Gotti, either of which could easily top a list of the year's most ill-advised movies.
They have more in common than you might think: both were built atop the same enormously shaky foundation ("What if we made a big, tacky movie about an obvious villain, but also we made that villain the hero?"), both feature go-for-broke performances from their lead actors, both feature memorably unfortunate needle-drops, and both provided me with some of the most fun I had watching movies this year.
Good? Bad? "Guilty pleasure"? Ugh. We do not use that term in the Church of Ill-Advised Cinema, because we have embraced the truth: you're entertained or you're not. And if you can't find something to be entertained by in Gotti or Venom, I'm afraid I cannot fuck with you.
I didn't catch Sandi Tan's Shirkers until just this past weekend, and it immediately threw my year-end rankings into a state of disarray. It's dizzyingly good.
Seriously, this Netflix original doc has everything: people who are infectiously passionate about film as an art form, 'zines, an incredible soundtrack, funny talking head interviews, God-level editing, one (1) hilariously edgelord Tarantino burn, a compelling and increasingly-ominous central mystery which is brought to a satisfying and emotional conclusion, and a filmmaker (that'd be Tan) announcing herself as an exciting new talent.
The less you know going in to Shirkers, the better, so just go watch.
8. POSSUM / CAM (Tie)
Two of my favorite horror films this year were Matthew Holness' Possum and Daniel Goldhaber's Cam, both of which may have skipped your radar entirely (the former can be rented via Amazon Prime; the latter's on Netflix). If I had my way, you wouldn't be reading this list right now, but watching either of these films. They're excellent.
Possum's a pitch-black, slow-burn mindfuck of a movie starring the great Sean Harris as a broken man who just can't seem to rid himself of the terrifying spider puppet he sometimes uses to alarm children at birthday parties. Holness (better known to some of you as the creator and star of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace) invests his debut feature with a sickly, feverish chill that burrowed under my skin and stayed there long after the credits rolled. I've been raving about it ever since.
As for Cam: honestly, I held off on seeing this one because I worried it'd be exploitative. It's not. Screenwriter (and former cam worker) Isa Mazzei wove a truly mindbending tale dealing with obsession, toxic masculinity and the horrors of the social media age, and Goldhaber's impressively confident direction prevents it from ever tipping over into the realm of the Gross. It's as unnerving as it is beautiful, with a stellar lead performance from Madeline Brewer.
People call movies "Lynchian" all the time, and I find that they are rarely correct. Both Possum and Cam achieve legit Lynchian vibes, and neither are to be missed.
7. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT
Setting aside the historic run being enjoyed by the MCU, has any other blockbuster franchise ever delivered with the consistency of the Mission: Impossible series? It's amazing - half a dozen installments later, and the Ethan Hunt Stunt Spectacular is still rattling off jaw-dropping set pieces like a franchise half its age. And still making us care about the characters!
Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the latest entry, may well represent the series' high point. Director Christopher McQuarrie held absolutely nothing back, putting star Tom Cruise through the wringer again and again (that sub-orbital dive sequence is one for the ages) before topping the whole thing off with a breathless helicopter chase that had me grinding my teeth hard enough to acquire a headache.
What a bunch of fucking legends. I hope they never stop making these things.
6. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
I don't usually find room on my top ten lists for supehero movies, much less animated superhero movies. So, if you'd told me a year ago that Sony would release an animated Spider-Man film that'd end up on my 2018 list, I'd have said, "Ha ha! Good one!", given you a friendly wedgie and sent you on your way.
But holy shit, what a movie.
Directors Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman pulled off something truly astounding here: Spider-Verse introduces brand-new characters and a relatively complicated plot mechanic, looks unlike any animated film you've ever seen, is often shockingly funny, and manages to do all that while being inclusive and unexpectedly emotional. Consider how many elements were being juggled, then reflect on how even a single misstep could've caused the whole thing to collapse.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a miraculous film.
5. EIGHTH GRADE
Because I am an Old, my formative years were blessedly free of the social media scourge. I have also never been a young woman. And yet, all the cautionary wisdom and fatally cringe-y moments that make up Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade were immediately recognizable (and, yes, hilarious) to me. This one came through loud and clear.
Not sure how much else I have to add here. Elsie Fisher is a ferociously talented young actress. Burnham's a sharply observant storyteller (and a damn good filmmaker; for a first feature, Burnham's work here is remarkably assured). And, not for nothing, but it appears adolescence is just as confusing and awful now as it was when I was a kid, which I found oddly comforting.
Long and short of it: Eighth Grade is the kinda movie you asked for more of after seeing Edge of Seventeen.
4. THE FAVOURITE
Noted weirdo and exceptionally talented filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has, on more than one occasion, been compared to the late Stanley Kubrick, and The Favourite finds him doing something of a spin on that director's Barry Lyndon. It is, of course, as mean-spirited and hilarious as that description implies.
As advertised, this is probably the most accessible of Lanthimos' films, but don't let that put you off if you're a fan of the patended Lanthimos Weirdness™: there's still plenty of that going on here, it's just presented a bit less aggressively. It's certainly no less beautiful; on top of everything else, The Favourite is also one of the year's best-looking films. Score's outstanding, too.
Oh, and speaking of outstanding: stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone all deserve Oscar consideration.
The buzz for Panos Cosmatos' Mandy started during last year's Sundance Film Festival, and I couldn't help but give it the side-eye. Surely, I thought, people were exaggerating. They were not exaggerating. Mandy delivers on every ounce of hype you've heard, and then some.
Here's a movie where Nicolas Cage slams an entire bottle of vodka while delivering the most haunting primal scream since Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Here's a movie where leather-clad Cenobites riding motorcycles must be dealt with using crossbows and enchanted axes. Here's a movie where Nic Cage has a chainsaw fight. Here's a movie featuring a sequence involving a man soaking his hands in LSD while kicking back with his pet tiger and an animated sequence straight out of Heavy Metal. Here's a movie containing a motherfucking Cheddar Goblin.
Side note: I first saw Mandy at home, on a sizable television. That was a great viewing, enough to put me firmly on the Mandy Fan Train, but it pales in comparison to the theatrical screening I attended, which ranks among my ten most treasured moviegoing memories. If there's any justice in this world (welp), the folks behind Mandy will be allowed to toss this bad boy in theaters from time to time, so that everyone can see Cosmatos' masterpiece as it was intended to be seen.
Remember when Hollywood first started threatening to remake Suspiria? How we laughed and laughed? "Imagine the absolute nerve one must have, to remake such a classic!", we chortled. "Who in their right mind would take on such a foolhardy endeavor?"
Enter: Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter David Kajganich.
Against all odds, the film they conjured did everything a good remake is supposed to do: it honored and respected the spirit of the original, did its own thing (very successfully, I might add), and even left some fans debating which version they preferred. The new Suspiria is beautifully shot, edited, acted and choreographed, and undeniably freaky (in more ways than one). I could not have asked for anything more, and am awe-struck that they pulled it off.
I struggled with my pick for this year's #1 spot, but a late-in-the-game rewatch quickly set me straight: Alex Garland's Annihilation is my favorite film of the year, an intelligent, creepy, beautiful sci-fi spectacle that keeps shoveling on the tension right up through its final scene. I fucking love Annihilation.
Everything about this one worked for me: the script, the performances (particularly Natalie Portman's, but Tessa Thompson also kills it), the art design, the sensation that the film respects its audience enough to go along for the ride without getting lost, the score (particularly in that one sequence, my god), the Attack of The Nightmare Bear sequence...from top to bottom, Annihilation felt like a movie made with me in mind. I'll be watching it on the regular for the rest of my life, and can't wait to see what Garland does next.
Speaking of, I'd like to add the following: I first became aware of Alex Garland in 9th grade, when someone gave me a copy of Garland's debut novel, The Beach. I was hooked, and have casually followed the dude's career ever since. It's been wild to see him going from books to video games to movies, seemingly sticking the landing wherever he goes. It's exciting that the 20-something kid who once wrote a book I loved is now a very talented director whose latest effort landed atop my year-end top 10 list.
Anyway, Annihilation's an instant sci-fi classic that deserved better than what it got. Seek it out if you haven't already.
Honorable Mention: Lasso