Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 1 more (Best Visual Effects)
I admit it, I'm totally in the bag for these Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. However, only a few have ever been considered in my best of the year. What Infinity War does is exactly why I love comic books. It combines nearly every character we've seen in the other movies and makes them all integral to an overarching plot, one that involves the best villain the MCU has ever seen. One can actually see Thanos' point of view, which perhaps isn't saying much... unless you're talking about wiping out half of the population of the entire universe! There's humor, action, unlikely team-ups, and a cliffhanger that had the whole world talking. What more can you ask for a summer blockbuster? And now we're less than two months away from the next installment. If I had the gauntlet, I would snap my fingers just so I can watch it right now.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 0 more
It's tradition to include a science fiction movie on my Annual Top Ten lists. Hell, one took my top spot for 2017. I'm glad I squeezed this one in at the last minute as this is everything I look for from the genre. An engaging set up gives way to a strange world that is fully realized yet shrouded in mystery. It's science fiction that utilizes both science and fiction and alters the science in such a way to make it completely unbelievable yet still comprehensible. Questions are being answered yet more questions form. A group of badass women enter a place in which countless other people have died. Yes, the others were all men, but the movie doesn't make a huge deal about this group being women. Natalie Portman does her usual phenomenal job in the lead and there's plenty of amazing effects and sound design to make this engaging. And the last fifteen minutes of the film is completely haunting.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 0 more
I promise I did not rank Eighth Grade eighth on purpose. This is one I wished got a little more awards-buzz, but hopefully it gained a decent sized following. I have yet to hear anything negative about it, so there's that. The film contains so many moments of awkwardness that it becomes almost unbearable at times. For a lot of kids, this is the essence of eighth grade. Bo Burnham captures this essence with embarrassing situations, long takes of others talking while the camera focuses on the lead actress, and music (and the absence of music) selection. Elsie Fisher is so genuine, that it's hard not to relate every single step of the way. It's so difficult to artfully craft such a specific period in everyone's life, but this movie does just that. I'm glad I saw this at home so I can curl up into a ball and cringe until the credits rolled. Also, that electronic score is so Gucci.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Supporting Actress) / Nominated for 2 more (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score)
If Moonlight wasn't enough to do the job, Barry Jenkins' latest movie really makes him a can't-miss director. The moment I saw the lead male wearing a yellow shirt with a blue jacket and the lead female wearing a blue dress with a yellow sweater, I knew I was in for a masterclass in how color can make a movie beautiful. The costumes and sets play off of each other so well; I wouldn't mind having a random frame as a poster. The close-ups are powerful, the editing carefully manipulates your emotions, and the acting is simply superb. These compositions will be discussed long after its decided what the best film of 2018 is. Although the plot is depressing and creates anger in the sensible viewer, the craft is so precise that it somehow creates joy. This movie created the most disappointments during the Oscars for me. I was happy for Regina King winning, but it should have been nominated for Best Picture and Nicholas Britell should have won for Best Original Score.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 0 more
At times, this is serene with its understated acting, minimal score, and lack of busy camera. At other times, its as intense and emotional as a bombastic thriller. It's a story about a father and daughter living in nature, without the distractions of the real world. There's plenty of internal questions being addressed and confrontations that produce external questions. Ben Foster and Thomasin MacKenzie have wonderful chemistry, which in turn creates a connection to the audience - it makes us care about what is best for the both of them. Is that finding a place in the world? Or being isolated? Is it enough to only have each other? It's quiet, it's heartwarming, it's heartbreaking, it's beautiful.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 4 more (Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design)
The original film from 1964 is perhaps my favorite musical film of all time, so this one is a tad biased and driven in nostalgia. However, this movie is pure joy and so well made, that it stands on its own. Sure, each scene has a parallel to the original. It takes a little creativity out of the movie-making as it does follow a strict template. However, Emily Blunt is so good as the titular returning character and the songs are so perfect, that this isn't inundated by the original, but elevated by its legacy. In terms of the music, what I admire most about this sequel is the restraint it shows in regards to its lack of callbacks to the original. There are subtle nods both in certain melodies creeping out of the background but I never felt the songs themselves were complete parallels to the original tracklist. This definitely has the most plays of any 2018 movie on my music streaming service.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 2 more (Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score)
I love dogs! And I love this movie! The painstaking stop motion animation is even better than Wes Anderson's first animated masterpiece, Fantastic Mr. Fox. I particularly enjoyed the cotton representing the skirmishes between dog-and-dog or dog-and robot-dog. The detail involved on the island and the city is overwhelming to take in on one viewing and the visuals alone have me craving for multiple viewings. Other aspects of the film are also commendable, including the percussion-heavy score by Alexandre Desplat and the other subdued-rock songs on the soundtrack. Bryan Cranston kills it with superb voice acting and the plot ramps up in the third act more so than any other Anderson film. There's also a lot to take away from the movie in terms of political messages and the importance of self-worth if you are into looking into the meaning behind monologues or plot points. If you aren't, there's still a fascinating story about exiled dogs, a boy who just wants his best friend back, and a conspiracy theory within the government. All in a day's work for Wes Anderson.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Animated Feature) / Nominated for 0 more
It's really difficult to pick apart anything in this movie. The plot progresses with multiple character motivations evolving throughout, the writing balances a comical and serious tone very well, the animation style is unique and often gorgeous to look at, and the soundtrack has really cool hip hop tracks. This is the closest thing a Spider-Man theatrical feature has been to the comic books, even down to the dots appearing to make it look like it comes from comic book paper. I love Miles and his interactions with everyone on the team and I loved seeing his origin play out within the context of these alternate Spider-Men (and Women...and pigs). There are so many heartfelt moments here and what is great is that Miles has a mom and a step-dad. This is a very common occurrence in our society, but the fact that his dad isn't his biological father is never even mentioned. Aside from the fact that he has a different last name, Miles treats him as his father, regardless of blood. This is handled so well and makes this relatable, which is what Marvel's M.O. has always been with its characters.
Won 3 Oscars (Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film) / Nominated for 7 more (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing)
Watching this at a theater was such an excellent decision. Before my first viewing, I had no knowledge of the film other than that it is subtitled and is directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I didn't even know that it was in black-and-white. What I discovered is that the cinematography is pure art (long takes and pans, pans, and more pans) and the world around Cleo is so lived in and interesting to observe that I'm glad my arthouse's largest screen provided the canvas. Upon second viewing, certain things stuck out to me, such as the foreshadowing of the marital separation in very subtle ways - the length it takes for the car to be parked, the dog crap that's ran over, the three second argument, the long hug and kiss when the man leaves. Nothing is over dramatic. Something else that stood out to me is the sound - the waves in the conclusion and the gun shots during the student revolt are so loud compared to the rest of the film. That's how sound can have maximum impact. Quiet, quiet, quiet, then BANG. I also caught the fornicating ducks on the second viewing. Not sure what to think about this. Anyway, I was really rooting for this to win Best Picture. My #1 movie of the year was also a Best Picture nominee, but I thought this had a real chance to win the award over the eventual winner, which is not as deserving as these top two picks.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Actress) / Nominated for 9 more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design)
The perfect amount of humor and oddity by way of the writing, cinematography, music, and acting. Everything is off kilter just enough to keep the audience engaged but not enough to tip us over board. Some of Lanthimos' past films, which had him involved as a writer (not this one), were so far removed from reality that it came off as unnatural, albeit deliciously so. This is as ground-based as possible, yet is still very strange. The costumes and set pieces are all plausible to the average period drama. Yet, they are dialed up all the way to make this really stand out. The wigs are larger than life and the anachronistic dance scene tells us that this isn't your run-of-the-mill queen drama. Like Roma, the second viewing made me appreciate things even more, from the camera to the humor to the subtle nods of the upcoming competition between Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone (both nominated for Best Supporting Actress) to the performances by Olivia Colman (the surprise Oscar winner!) and Nicholas Hoult and of course to the fastest duck in the city. The baroque-inspired music is so key to the mood set forth in the film, but I especially appreciated the slow maniacal notes that persist for far too long, putting us on edge. The blare of the organ during one of Stone's more dreadful acts is pitch perfect. I just can't get enough of the fish eye lenses, the progression of the rivalry, and the purposeful pacing. I've made this joke since I've seen the movie, but yes, The Favourite was mine.