I’m preparing my best performances and movies of the year, but while that’s going on (and while I get around to watching Roma), here’s a grab bag of memorable scenes, lines, and potpourri of 2018. Spoilers abound.
Scene Of The Year (and Best Musical Moment Of The Year): ‘I’ve Never Been To Me’, You Were Never Really Here:
I was tempted to go with the security camera massacre from the same film, but the emotive power of this scene made the choice easy. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joe, having fatally wounded the man who killed his mother, reaches out to grab his hand and comfort him in his dying moments, as they share a flickering human connection set to … the craptastic 70s soft rock track ‘I’ve Never Been To Me’? The scene is Lynne Ramsey’s masterpiece in a nutshell, avoiding easy catharsis for a messy, complicated look at the lingering effects of violence and abuse, yet with an undeniably humanistic heart beneath its formal experimentation and trickery. Hell of a scene, hell of a movie.
Second Best Musical Moment Of The Year: That bit in ‘Shallow’ where Lady Gaga goes “awwawwwwawwwwawwwwwwwawwwwwuoah, awwwwwwawwwwwawwwwwoahwoaaaaaaaaaaaaah”, you know the one I’m talking about, A Star Is Born.
Third Best Musical Moment Of The Year: ‘Ni**a Shit’, Sorry To Bother You.
The savagest satirical moment in the savagest of satires, Boots Riley perfectly nails in a single scene why some white people love rap and love singing along to it. Spoiler, it’s because of the opportunity to say a little word that begins with ‘n’.
The Definitive Ranking of The Funniest Lines in Infinity War:
1. “What master do I serve? What am I supposed to say, Jesus?”
2. “I’ll do you one better – WHY is Gamora?”
3. “We kick names and take ass!”
4. Any instance when Thor says the word ‘rabbit’
5. “It’ll kill you”
“Only if I die”
“Yes, that’s what kill you means”
6. “I am Steve Rogers”
7. “Why was she up there the whole time?”
8. “You’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards!”
1,000,000. “Mr Stark, I don’t feel so good.”
Will Smith of The Year: Rachel McAdams in Game Night
The ‘Will Smith’ award goes to the performer who, through the power of sheer movie-star charisma, elevates a middling piece of entertainment to become … a less-middling piece of entertainment. In 2018, this prestigious award goes to Rachel McAdams, who has reached the point where she has to be referred to as The Unfairly Underrated Rachel McAdams (TUURM). TUURM has never had the career her obvious talents deserve – she’s as good a comedienne as a ‘serious actress’, she has a mega-wattage movie-star smile, and always fits in perfectly in any ensemble. It might be that last point that works against her favour, because she does not pull focus quite like some others, even when that focus pulling is detrimental to the movie (hi Jennifer Lawrence!). Ah, Hollywood, the only place where ‘works well with others’ is a career hurdle.
Anyway, Game Night was very much better than a mid-budget studio comedy had any right to be. A tight script that was shot and edited with actual style (instead of just pointing a character at ad-libbing actors), it is a movie admirably free of flab, hitting its comedic beats with efficiency and yes, some elegance. The entire ensemble is great, but TUURM is by far and away the star of the show, with some spectacular line deliveries (my personal favourite is ‘Oh no, he died’), an excellent Pulp Fiction pastiche, and she carries several scenes (like teaching yoga to a bunch of henchmen) through the supernova-level power of her movie-star charm. Can’t we find a better role for her than ‘Dr. Strange’s girlfriend?’
Sex Scene of The Year: Troll-love, Border
Yeah. It’s hard to describe. So the girl troll actually grows a penis, which we see in full detail, and penetrates the boy troll, who has a vagina and gives birth to a troll-baby and they make this weird snuffling growling noise and it’s all somewhat sweet beneath the weirdness but y’know, there is such a thing as going a little too far, right?
Costume of The Year: Rachel Weisz’s riding/shooting gear in The Favourite
Just look at it. Amidst the decadent clothing on show in Yorgos Lanthimos’s film, nothing stood out more than Weisz’s monochromatic coat, pant and boot ensemble. Beautifully designed and conveys everything about the character in a single look.
Fight Scene of The Year: Bathroom brawl, Mission Impossible: Fallout
With no John Wick film in 2018, it’s another action movie stalwart that provides the year’s best fight scene. Slickly choreographed and cleanly shot, the best thing about this fight is how it makes you feel that it hurts, thanks to all that property damage and director Christopher McQuarrie not using that old Hollywood trick of cutting away at the moment of impact.
Second best thing, of course, is erstwhile Superman (and future Geralt of Rivia) Henry Cavill reloading his arms.
They-Actually-Did-That of The Year: Head shot, Hereditary
I mean …
Worst Line of The Year: “I don’t have an accent”, Ken Jeong in Crazy Rich Asians
YES YOU DO KEN IT’S CALLED A GODDAMN AMERICAN ACCENT AND IF YOU KNEW ANYTHING YOU’D REALISE THAT WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF BEING A SINGAPOREAN PERSON IN SINGAPORE HAVING AN AMERICAN ACCENT IS CONSIDERED ‘HAVING AN ACCENT’ BECAUSE GUESS WHAT MOVIE, THE AMERICAN ACCENT IS NOT THE NORM OUTSIDE OF AMERICA AND MAYBE THOSE ACCENTS YOU ARE SO ASHAMED OF ARE HOW THE MAJORITY OF THE ASIAN CONTINENT SOUND WHEN THEY SPEAK ENGLISH AND URRRRRRRRRRRRGH SCREW YOU CRAZY RICH ASIANS.
Biggest Disappointment of The Year: Hold The Dark
Jeremy Saulnier is the modern master of suspense, with his two previous films Blue Ruin and Green Room cranking up the tension to armrest-clutching levels of unbearability. So why the hell is his latest film, Hold The Dark, such a limp noodle? Talented actors in Jeffrey Wright, Riley Keough and Alexander Skarsgard merely take turns to scowl and glower their way through the film, which at points comes uncomfortably close to a parody version of the dark and gritty thriller. A weird subplot about Afghanistan and some supernatural mumbo-jumbo about wolves do not help matters either. Saulnier tries to pull from the same bag of tension-twisting tricks he utilised so well in his previous films, but without interesting characters or a gripping story, it’s all just so much empty atmosphere.
The Definitive Ranking of The Short Films in The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
1. ‘Meal Ticket’ – A masterclass in how to use dialogue, or rather, how to not use dialogue.
2. ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled’ – The closest thing this film has to a sense of real pathos.
3. ‘Near Algodones’ – The most quintessentially ‘Coenish’ of all the shorts, liberally sprinkled with their signature dark irony.
4. ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ – Worth the price of admission just for Tim Blake Nelson’s portrayal of a sociopathic murderous cowboy singer.
5. ‘All Gold Canyon’ – Good in theory, but it does go on for far too long, and Tom Waits plays his role with a little too much ham.
6. ‘The Mortal Remains’ – Terrible. Loads of quasi-philosophical yammering with no real points. The dialogue is funny (as expected), but even then, it doesn’t hold a candle to the brothers’ best work.
Franchise (Star) Destroyer of The Year: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Let’s see all the ways this went wrong. One – nobody wanted or needed a Han Solo origin story. Two – nobody wanted or needed this Han Solo origin story, which went out of its way to explain everything even remotely associated with Han. If it turns up in the original trilogy and it is on Han’s body, trust me, this film will tell you how he got it. Three – the entire behind the scenes fiasco. If you are blissfully unaware, here’s a quick summary. Phil Lord and Chris Miller (from Jump Street and Lego Movie fame) were hired to write and direct this movie, with the idea that it would be an out and out comedy. Disney balked when Lord and Miller’s footage was more like an irreverent comedy (y’know, what they were hired to make) than another cookie-cutter blockbuster. So they fired Lord and Miller, replaced them with Ron Howard, and recut the film together with what they salvaged from Lord/Miller along with copious reshoots.
My opinion of this film has only gone down since I watched it. It is a boring, ugly mess, with little to recommend other than Donald Glover’s spot-on (and very funny) impression of Billy Dee Williams. It signifies the worst of the franchise age of blockbuster movies – the cannibalisation of nostalgic properties, the need to explain every minor detail, the plotlines that serve merely to move pieces around for future instalments instead of telling a compelling story. Above all, Solo doesn’t even have the courtesy to be Batman vs Superman level bad, arriving as a boring mediocre mush that is instantly forgettable. To all those who hated The Last Jedi – was this really what you wanted instead?
Oh-God-My-Eyes Of The Year: Human-Bear scene, Annihilation
Since I already did something on Hereditary, here’s a reminder that the unjustly ignored Annihilation had one of the most spine chilling scenes of the year. A fantastic cocktail of sound design and visual effects creates one of the all time movie monsters, a human-bear hybrid with a human tongue and a human-ish voice, evoking a real sense of the uncanny.
Take-That Of The Year: The final scene of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies
A satire of the ever-expanding superhero movie trend that makes Deadpool 2 look like a loving homage in comparison, TT!GTM pulls no punches in its treatment of the genre, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the final scene, when the movie itself sneers at the very concept that there are any life lessons to be learned from it, or any other superhero movies. It is a downright nasty jab at the world’s biggest movie genre, and frankly quite astonishing that it took a kid’s movie (rather than the R-rated Deadpool series) to bluntly say what many of us have always suspected – that beneath the capes and costumes, there might not be much else but hot air.
Coming Soon: The Best Film Performances of 2018 and The Best Films of 2018