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Best and Worst of 2018 (Pop Culture Edition)

2018 has been a wild ride in TV and film. There have been some amazing new intellectual properties and old. What’s more, it’s been a great year for diversity, with the likes of Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Killing Eve, to name a few.

Every year, I make it my mission to watch a vast majority of the movies on most top ten lists, and every year, I miss a few that I just can’t get because of release schedules and distribution rights. This year, I haven’t been able to see The Favourite, Green Book, If Beale St Could Talk, or Widows. Nevertheless, I’ve found that my taste is widely different than most critics. You won’t fine You Were Never Really Here on my list, even if it has been nearly universally lauded as one of the best of the year, because, quite honestly, it wasn’t for me. I will admit that the direction was great, the subject material well-handled, but the sound pulled me out of the movie, and the non-linear story-telling (which I generally can follow) made for a jarring cinematic experience for me.

My list is also not a top ten, because I genuinely struggle with number rankings. I prefer to look at it from a genre level, because it’s not really fair to compare Aquaman with A Star is Born (don’t worry, neither of those are on my list, give me a little credit).

Best Movies

Best Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

So many great documentaries came out this year, like Quincy, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, and RBG, but this one about the late Fred Rogers, of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, filled me with so much hope. I watched Mister Rogers when I was a child but watching this show helped me understand how important he was my development and the development of so many others. He was a beautiful human being, and that shines through every inch of this doco.

Best Historical Fiction: First Man

There’s a scene in First Man, when Ryan Gosling, playing Neil Armstrong, is sitting in the Gemini 8. You see his eyes and then the focus of his gaze as it shifts from one jagged edge to a possibly loose screw to the door and back, and the sound of the ship exiting the atmosphere is deafening. In a moment, you can see how incredible it was that we ever landed on the moon. But more than this, you get insight into the man behind that mission, and see his humanity, rather than a hero.

Best Foreign Film: Roma

Alfonso Cuaron’s love letter to his home is a masterpiece. You are transported to 1971 Mexico through the eyes of a domestic worker, during a time of unrest. It is a raw and honest film, that shines a light on the class indifferences within a Mexican household. Cleo, the housekeeper of a fair-skinned Mexican family, spends her days, waking at dawn to get her employer’s children up and ready for the day, cleaning dog poo from the cobblestone entrance, and tucking the kids back into bed at night. They show her some love and affection while still keeping her at arm’s length. The movie is paced slow and deliberate and gives extra attention to the beauty of a Mexico most may not even know.

Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Disney doesn’t get my top spot this year, though Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet were both fun movies, but they were nothing compared to Into the Spider-verse. From the superb comic book animation to the introduction of the multiverse and its versions of Spider-man to the story, this movie has everything that I want from a superhero movie and just proves that not everything needs to be live action in the comic book world.

Best Popcorn Movie: Avengers: Infinity War

I feel I need to talk about Black Panther for a moment here. It was an incredibly important movie. It suffers slightly from a rushed third act, but nothing should discount the importance of representation in cinema. It is an immense triumph, and the $1.3billion it made in the box office proves that.

For me, Avengers: Infinity War was the best popcorn movie of the year, though. It is the culmination of ten years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they delivered in an emotional punch. Thanos is easily the greatest villain, and his arc is believable (as much as a big purple dude’s can be). The movie is far from perfect, but it is by far one of the best in the MCU to date.

Best Comedy: BlacKkKlansman/Sorry to Bother You

I couldn’t decide between these two. They are both a darker brand of comedy, but each had important messages. Sorry to Bother You is quirky, with a distinct almost music video flare to it, tells the story of a telemarketer and tackles subjects of racism and slavery in a fresh and inventive way. BlacKkKlansman is borderline depressing in its dark humor. It follows Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in Colorado Springs Police Department and shows him leading the infiltration to the local chapter of the KKK. It tackles 1970s race themes that are unfortunately still very real today. By the end, there will be no laughter to be had, making this a tough genre entry to quantify.

Best Horror: Hereditary/A Quiet Place

These are two completely different movies, but their originality lands them on this list together. Hereditary takes the concept of heritage and family and delivers an emotional and unnerving tale that breaks genre conventions. Toni Collette is incredible, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, it will be a travesty. Whereas A Quiet Place, devotes its run-time with a family living in silence with a largely unseen enemy. It is tense and disquieting across its 90min run-time. Neither movie has an abundance of cheap jump scares, rather relying on the tension of the situations to build the suspense. I wish more horror movies were made like this.

Best Sci-Fi: Annihilation

Paramount famously decided this year that this movie would not make enough money if sent to cinemas outside the US and sold it to Netflix to stream it worldwide, so unfortunately, I was forced to watch this gem from home. I know I lost something in that, too. This movie deserved to be seen on a big screen with true surround sound. Nevertheless, it was a haunting and beautiful movie. The all-female group were each standouts in their own way. I was thinking of this movie months after I had seen it, and while it might not be for everyone, it is by far my favorite sci-fi since Arrival.

Best Action: Upgrade

This movie came and went with very little fanfare, but it is brilliant! It is easily one of the best action movies in recent memory, with frenetic and tense fight scenes that make you cringe and feel every intense blow. Logan Marshall-Green gives an amazing performance as a man with a computer chip installed into him to help him walk, which slowly takes over his actions. He puts in a double performance, with body and limbs looking mechanical while his face shows surprise and fear at what he might do next. If you haven’t seen it, find it, watch it, and come back to me and tell me if I’m crazy or not.

Best Drama: Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade lets us remember the awfulness that we felt in eighth grade through the eyes of a quiet and socially awkward 13-year old Kayla. The movie follows in Kayla’s footsteps through the last week in middle school. It shows, what I imagine, is a very real portrait of what it must be like to be 13 in the late 2010s, with social media scrolling and YouTube vlogging. It is refreshing to see these things as not a negative and allows us to remember that not all things on the internet are evil. It’s not a movie for everyone, and I feel it’s incredibly important that for women, it should come with a trigger warning. But I think they handled the subject material very well and can only hope more movies like this could be made..

Worst Movies

I try to avoid the worst movies of the year, if I can, but sometimes I think a concept is really good, or I’m invested in a franchise, so I see a movie against my better judgment. This year, four movies managed that for me.

The Nun

The next chapter in the Conjuring universe. I thought the idea of the Nun in Conjuring 2 was really cool, and the subject material would make for an interesting movie. But this was a terribly lost opportunity. Cheap jump scares, an inconsistent villain, and characters that continuously make bad decisions, made this movie the worst in the franchise yet. Still, it made money at the cinema, so I’m sure they’ll try to fix it with another prequel, a la Annabelle: Creation.

Rampage

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ended 2017with a bang, so this year, it seemed he could do no wrong. That is until this movie came out, and then Skyscraper not long after it. He brings his standard charisma and badassery, but it’s not enough to save this lackluster blockbuster.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I didn’t love Jurassic World. In fact, since the first Jurassic Park, the quality has incrementally gone down. I want so bad for the magic of the first one to be recaptured, but now I’d just be happy to have an even plot and characters.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

I loved the first Pacific Rim. It was basically a live-action Gundam, and with Guillermo del Toro helming that first one, it was just short of perfect. Then this one came out, because: money, and was a giant disappointment.

Best of TV

I’m seriously behind on some shows. I have seen a single episode so far of Killing Eve (I plan to fix that soon), I haven’t watched any of Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 yet, Maniac, or Atlanta. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen some great TV shows. In no particular order:

Castle Rock

This new “horror” (very loose use of that word) anthology series was great to watch and try to guess what was going on after every episode. The finale left me with unanswered questions, but I enjoyed the journey there. If anything, Episode 7, titled “The Queen”, is simply my favourite episode across any series this year. It’s perfectly acted and told and well worth watching just to get to it.

Haunting of Hill House

This horror series was loosely based on the novel of the same name by the phenomenal Shirley Jackson. It follows the past and present events surrounding a family that lived in the house. While there are ghosts aplenty, the real ghosts are those that linger within the characters themselves. If “The Queen” was my favourite episode all year, my second would be Episode 6, “Two Storms,” from this series. It’s just so perfect.

Everything Sucks!

This Netflix original series has flown somewhat under the radar. The series follows a group of AV and drama club members in a 90s high school. It is laced with a serious amount of nostalgia. The soundtrack alone brought me back to high school, with Spacehog and Tori Amos rounding out a great mix of alternative rock. Unfortunately, Netflix have cancelled the series, but I still think the first season is a complete story in itself.

Nailed It!

If you’re ever feeling down or listening to too much news and politics and just need a pick-me-up, Nailed It! should be your go to show. This Netflix original series started this year, and while it is a cooking show, it is about the people that fail at making the most extravagant baked goods available, but they have fun doing it. It’s hilarious and fun and reminds you that there is still joy in the world.

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