Published on January 31st, 2019 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Feedback Society’s Best and Worst Movies of 2018
It’s that time of year again — the best and worst movies of 2018. Some of our favourite film critics and movie lover weigh in!
Every January we grab some of the film writers and cinephiles in our orbit to look at the best and worst movies of the year we just finished. It’s always a very interesting list, because tastes can be so diverse. It’s fascinating to see which movies show up on a lot of lists. Most of all, it’s a great way to get recommendations for films you haven’t seen or may not have heard of.
It was a better year for film than a lot of people have given it credit for, but probably because the gulf between mainstream movies and little movies has continued to grow. At The Feedback Society, we enjoy Star Wars and Marvel movies as much as the next person, but there’s no denying that these blockbuster franchises are pushing a lot of brilliant, smaller movies out of the multiplexes.
We asked everyone for their favourite movie of the year, any honourable mentions (so they could barf out a bunch of titles they loved), and the worst movie they saw.
Let’s do this thing.
Jorge Ignacio Castillo – Planet S Magazine/Prairie Dog Magazine
Best: Hereditary. It’s been years since a movie made me consider leaving the theatre because I couldn’t take it anymore. Hereditary is that movie. Director Ari Aster sustains extreme tension for a lengthy period of time and delivers the stuff nightmares are made of. I thought there could be some loose threads, but a second view informed me Hereditary is as thorough as is terrifying (not to mention, profoundly depressing).
Honourable Mentions: The House that Jack Built, because Lars Von Trier is one of the few dangerous filmmakers we have; Border, Danish cinema exploring the immigrant plea and “otherness” using fairy tale elements; Tully, a deglamorized take on parenthood that can put you off having children.
Worst movie of the year: The 15:17 to Paris. Of the two Clint Eastwood movies to open this year, this one is by far the worse. Not only does it use untrained actors (poorly) to re-enact their act of heroism. It spends ten minutes on the terrorist attack they thwarted, forty establishing military life as the only serious way to live, and forty more as a really bad episode of Rick Steeves’ Europe. Also terrible: Second Act, The Nun, Little Italy, Dog Days, The Darkest Minds, Tag, Book Club, Bad Samaritan, Super Troopers 2, and the witless Death Wish.
Dan Nicholls – The Feedback Society (Vancouver), CFOX Radio Vancouver
Best: You Were Never Really Here. A mesmerizing impressionistic wander through the darkest corridors of the world and one man’s mind. It only shows, never tells, and Joaquin Phoenix tops himself yet again with a performance that’s as much about physicality as it is emotional vulnerability. Director Lynne Ramsey has crafted a quiet masterclass study of violence, grief, and the pain that extreme empathy can bring on.
Honourable Mention: First Reformed. The most audacious and transcendental film-going experience of the year occurs throughout the course of Paul Schrader’s masterpiece. A never-better Ethan Hawke gives a performance to be remembered for all time as a priest confronted with a life-changing shift in existential perspective. Its ending is one of the boldest put to film this decade. Also: The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, Halloween, Sorry to Bother You, A Star Is Born, At Eternity’s Gate, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Thoroughbreds
Worst: The Happytime Murders. Like a Silly String puppet jizz fountain, stay out of this piece of trash’s way if you see it coming. I’m really happy Melissa McCarthy took home a big paycheque for this because she’s a real movie star talent and deserves it but goddamn, why is this movie so painfully unfunny? High premise, low ambitions. You won’t just want to shower when this one’s over, you’ll want to shave your entire body and bleach your skin.
Callen Diederichs – The Roxy Theatre
Best: You Were Never Really Here. Soaring over the query, ‘what does a bloody action film look like when directed by a woman?’ with virtuosic ease, Lynn Ramsey creates the most unified piece of cinema of the year. With highest level cinematography, performance, sound design, and score, she orchestrates a devastatingly immersive film. A key scene moves from brutality to heartbreaking compassion in minutes and highlights the theme of maintaining humanity in a world doing its best to demean and destroy it.
Honourable mentions: Lost among the hype of higher profile art films (not to mention mainstream fodder) are a number of excellent movies that were given very limited or no theatrical play: Nico 1988, Claire’s Camera and it’s similarly meta companion, On the Beach At Night Alone, Leave No Trace, I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore, Galveston, Golden Exits, Sweet Country, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, BPM, Ixcanul, Aquarius, Beast…
Noah Dimitrie – The Feedback Society (Toronto)
Best: There were so many great films throughout 2018, but I would be remiss to give it to anything other than The Favourite, which is both masterfully crafted and endlessly entertaining. I have to say that my favourite film-going experience was at TIFF this year seeing Gaspar Noe’s Climax. I had an interesting debate with myself when deciding THE best film of 2018; is the atmosphere surrounding a film what makes it the transformative experience we know and love or is it the substance of the film itself? I’ve always leaned heavily towards the latter, but after seeing Climax, I’m not so sure anymore.
Honorable mention: Pawel Pawlikowski’s homage to his parents, Cold War — a historical romance that moves between all sides of the Iron Curtain. It’s beautifully lean and ephemeral. Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to Call Me By Your Name was the most ineffably insane film of the year that only a jaded cinephile could really enjoy, and boy oh boy did Suspiria deliver. Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here finally saw its long-delayed release and let’s just say, it’ll haunt my dreams forever. In the same vein, the Ethan Hawke drama First Reformed, the Korean thriller Burning, and the indie-horror sensation Hereditary all crafted moody, existential yarns that will also punch you right in the gut. And then there’s Annihilation, which wasn’t as much a gut-punch as it was a riveting little firecracker popping off in my brain. I also laughed my ass off while also learning a thing or two with adventurous comedies like Sorry to Bother You, Netflix’s Private Life, and Blindspotting. Also underrated: Support the Girls is one of the funniest and most immersive examinations of everything from institutional sexism to the stressful minutia of running a restaurant. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a sweet and relatable film that digs so much deeper than Boy Erased.
Worst: This is a toss-up between Ocean’s 8, A Wrinkle in Time, and Holmes & Watson. I think I just hate the first two more than they are exceedingly bad, whereas Holmes & Watson is the cinematic equivalent to The Sunken Place, in which everything is so dull and incomprehensible, one is unable to perceive much of anything at all.
Dave Scaddan – The Feedback Society
Best: The Favourite. This is not even really close for me — I absolutely loved this film, as I have with all of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films. Olivia Coleman has always been one of my most-loved comic actors, dating back to her work with David Mitchell and Robert Webb, and seeing her in a serious dramatic role that still gives her room to be playful is a treat. The story of Queen Anne and her surrounding aristocracy fits well with the oddly stilted-yet-direct way Lanthimos often has his actors perform. It was also really cool to see three female leads in a movie where none of the characters are entirely redeeming or detestable.
Honourable Mention: Climax. Gaspar Noe hit a sweet spot this year by knowing which punches to pull. If Climax is the first of his movies you’ve seen, it may be hard to believe that it’s likely his least disturbing film. By shattering the traditional narrative, he subsequently breaks the audience’s sense of comfort and expectation as he’s done so many times before, creating a film that’s under two hours, yet feels much longer due to all it puts the viewer through.
Worst: Uncle Drew. Shame on Kyrie Irving for allowing his hilarious geriatric basketball caricature to be so ill-used. Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected much from a film that’s based on a Pepsi commercial, but I’m a sucker for basketball movies, so I gave it a go. Big mistake. The Uncle Drew character doesn’t even emerge in the first 40 minutes, making the movie an exercise in anticipation and irritation – a total airball.
Nathan Raine – Vice, The Feedback Society
Best: Roma. I’m not confident in this pick. I’m not even confident that Roma is unquestionably in my top 5 of 2018. All that dog poop in the carport was a lot to handle. My favourite film of the year might be The House That Jack Built. Or Phantom Thread. Or maybe Cold War. The only thing I’m quasi-confident in is that I’m probably wrong. More often than not, the film I thought to be “the best” of any given year usually doesn’t stay with me in the way I expected it would. The films that do stay with me usually challenge me in ways that require time to really appreciate. Which is why we really should be doing the best films of 2013 this year. So, in my perpetual wrongness, I’m trying to have some perspective. And right now, Roma isn’t my favourite film of the year, but [right now] it feels like the 2018 film that will continue to resonate with me. It’s probably the most personal film I saw all year, and certainly is the most visually stunning. Plus, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a performance as unprocessed and sincere as the one Yalitza Aparicio gives. But who knows, maybe I’ll hate everything about it in a few years. Ask me in 2023.
Honourable Mentions: The House That Jack Built, Phantom Thread, Cold War, Climax, The Wild Boys, Burning, Dogman, The Favorite, The Wild Pear Tree, Happy as Lazzaro, First Reformed
Worst: The trailer for Men in Black: International. I didn’t see anything in 2018 I truly hated. Hold the Dark was really bad, but I’ve never thought much of Jeremy Saulnier anyways, and it wasn’t quite awful enough to kick into a “worst of” pile. But through a regrettable lapse in judgement a few weeks ago, I clicked on and watched the entirety of this Fergilicious trailer, the highlight of which is either a door-ajar joke, or that big Hemsworth kid Brexiting himself some sort of grotesque Theresa May/Crocodile Dundee accent.
Hank Cruise – @HankandKelso, Punch TV (Shaw TV)
Best: Leave No Trace, starring Ben Foster as Will and Thomasin McKenzie as Tom, a Father/Daughter unit hiding off the grid in the Oregon wilderness. While being in isolation they were not living off the land, they were surviving. Will had not felt alive since returning emotionally damaged from military service, choosing to raise his daughter away from society rather than face it. Leave No Trace is a film about mental and emotional confinement, poverty, single-parenting, human relations, assumptions, and love that shows its strength in writing, directing, and acting.
Ben Foster has many solid acting performances to his credit including his other 2018 release Galveston, but his performance as Will is by far his best. Newcomer Thomasin McKenzie deserves all of the acclaim she is receiving for her performance. This film is powerful and moving from the opening scene until the final credits roll. Without giving too much away, Will and Tom are taken into the system where Tom is exposed to many things she has been missing out on and Will is reminded why he escaped in the first place. Their struggles lead to an emotional decision of purpose that charts the course for the next phase of their lives. Leave No Trace is a slow burn emotional film that you should watch now.
Honourable Mentions: Eighth Grade, You Were Never Really Here, Happy as Lazzaro, The Favourite, A Private War and Paddington 2.
Worst: The 15:17 To Paris. 30% After-School-Special + 55% your friend’s vacation videos + 5% Credits + 10% Actual Movie = The worst film of the year. Sure, there was Fifty Shades Freed, A Wrinkle in Time, Mortal Engines and everything starring John Travolta, but for an acclaimed director to create this lazy and awkward piece of theatre trash The 15:17 to Paris is truly a disappointment.
Lauren Allen – The Feedback Society (Paris)
For me, 2018 was a year of not getting to see most of the movies I had every intention of seeing. So unfortunately, my picks can only reflect the movies I was able to see, and I’m sure there are other movies out there that deserve my recognition. However, I still have strong opinions about the things I did see.
Best: A Quiet Place. I am someone who either laughs or screams through horror movies, but this one was a really different experience. Being in that theatre, the audience was so silent and captivated together, it reminded me of the feeling you get watching a live show rather than a movie. The tension is being experienced by everyone at the same time, and everyone is afraid to make noise lest we betray our heroes in the movie. I adored the opening of the film — not the “reading newspaper headlines for context” bit, but the bit after that. With the toy rocket ship (I’m trying not to be a big spoiler here). But that moment tells you immediately that this movie won’t be gentle and I appreciated that. There may have been some storytelling/narrative flaws that can be argued, but the performances, the beautiful cinematography, the normalization of deaf people on screen, and amazingly, the soundscape. Overall a very well-made movie.
Honourable Mention: Black Panther. Thank this movie for bringing black cultures to the fore. Many things to love about it, but for me a superhero movie is never going to be the best of the year. Wakanda forever! A Star is Born: I didn’t give this one Best simply because it’s a remake of an existing story. The soundtrack is bloody amazing and I’m thoroughly convinced that Bradley Cooper can do anything. Amazing performances as well from Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott!
Film to Miss in 2019: The Upside. Let’s stop going to movies that cast able bodied people in disabled roles! Trevor Noah explained it best.
2019 can be the year we can hold up Kevin Hart and decide that he doesn’t spark joy, give him a sincere “thank u, next” and put him in the trash for being unreasonably defensive about making homophobic comments.
Craig Silliphant – The Feedback Society, Rawlco Radio, CBC, CTV, Global TV, CFCR’s Reel-to-Reel, Punch TV
Best: Phantom Thread. Yes, I know this film technically had a limited released at Christmas in 2017, but it went wide in early 2018. I’ve seen it on more distinguished lists than this. While a lot of other movies jockeyed for position this year, Phantom Thread stayed at number one for me. What looked like another Merchant Ivory post-war romance was instead a deliciously twisted affair. You can read my full review, which wanders off the path a bit to talk about some writers that branded the movie a celebration of toxic masculinity (it’s not). It’s a fascinating character study, populated by some brilliant acting, especially from Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s precision once again showcases why all the nerdy little film nerds think he’s brilliant.
Honourable Mention: I’m happy to report that it was a good year in film, so I have a decent list of honourable mentions that range from blockbuster superhero movies to great arthouse fare (too many to mention here, actually, and there are a few films like Shoplifters, Cold War, or Burning that I have yet to see). Gaspar Noe’s Climax shot to number two on my list, pushing You Were Never Really Here to third spot. First Reformed was Paul Schrader’s best film in years, with a stellar performance from Ethan Hawke. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a revolution in animation and imagination. I had issues with some of Hereditary, but it was undeniably riveting. Also, Roma, Thoroughbreds, Unsane, Three Identical Strangers, Prospect, The Favourite, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The House That Jack Built, Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, Lean on Pete, Cam, The Ritual, and fuck it, I liked Han Solo.
Worst: Hot take: While I saw worse films this year (The Cloverfield Paradox), the one that pissed me off the most was Bohemian Rhapsody, which everyone else seemed to love. I didn’t hate it for the (sometimes offensive) inaccuracies, though they were annoying as well. No, I hated it because it was another horribly cliched biopic. The writing was superficial and lazy on almost every level, with characters’ dialogue just excuses to cram Queen lore in there (“You see folks, my range is bigger because of all these extra teeth!”). It made fun of lip syncing and the press being too focused on Freddie over the other band members — then proceeded to do both of those things ad nauseam. Rami Malek (who is a good actor) was so over-the-top that his performance came off as an offensive, homophobic gay stereotype. Go watch some Freddy Mercury interviews — he’s not at that pitch.
And while I could drone on about this for hours, I’ll just say that I also hated everyone’s favourite big concert scene at the end. Yes, it’s cool that they recreated it and of all things, the CGI looked great. But it’s a fake 20-minute concert that feels fake. I respect the boldness of the idea, but the show itself doesn’t feel live. It feels staged and over-directed. And about halfway through fake Live Aid, I wondered, why am I watching people lip sync for this long, when I could just go to YouTube and watch the real, mind-blowing show? (And yes, I get that it’s easier for Joaquin Phoenix to imitate Johnny Cash than it would be for ANYONE to imitate Freddie Mercury, but then, don’t tack a 20+ minute lip sync circle jerk onto the end of your already too-long film). The whole film felt like one long, shitty montage. I love Queen and I wanted to love this movie, but it was just so poorly made. ‘Nuff said.
Mike Fisher – Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo, The Mike Fisher Show
Best: As always this was very tough to choose – there were a few movies that had a big impact on me this year – but the title of Best Movie for 2018 belongs to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Fun, fresh, innovative and full of heart, Spider-Verse made me excited for hero movies again and became exhibit A in the case against animation naysayers. More of this please.
Honourable Mentions: Won’t You Be My Neighbour. Quiet, gentle strength has all but disappeared as a virtue, and certainly isn’t valued as highly as it should be – this documentary is a reminder of just how powerful it can be. Love and cardigans can change the world. First Reformed. This one made me uncomfortable, sad, and stuck with me for days. Perfect! In terms of giving the audience credit, First Reformed was the big winner last year. Game Night. It’s a bleak time for comedies in the theatre these days, and while Game Night wasn’t perfect, it was a serious bright spot for the funny pictures, and wow did it stand out. Honourable mention within an honourable mention: Jesse Plemons. Also, Bad Times at the El Royale, The Great Buster, Vice, and Isle of Dogs.
Worst: Mortal Engines. Few movies make me livid, at least unintentionally, and this waste of time, money, talent, and resources had me debating going and sitting in the lobby a third of the way into the movie just to avoid my blood pressure hitting record heights. If there was an award for the movie with the most clichés, the laziest writing, and the most uninspired performances, nothing would touch Mortal Engines. Congratulations to all involved! You made me regret not staying home and cutting my toenails instead.
Editor’s Note: A special thanks to all our contributors. This is really fun to do every year, so we hope you enjoyed it and picked up some recommendations, or things to avoid (like Bohemian Crapsody).