Another year has passed, which can only mean one thing: time to acknowledge and honour the best films of the previous twelve months. As per tradition, One Large Popcorn, Please! will be celebrating the cinematic year that was with a ceremony named after its founder’s favourite film of all time: THE FISH CALLED WANDA AWARDS!
For those who are unfamiliar, these make-believe awards – colloquially referred to as the Wandas – are gifted to the most outstanding movies of a particular year, each of which are honoured according to individual achievement, such as Best Blockbuster. The picture deemed the year’s best overall will be crowned The Fish Called Wanda, signifying it to be damn-near perfect.
Yet there is one key difference to this year’s awards. Unlike the previous two ceremonies, which only considered films from the calendar year, the 2018 Wandas will be allowing any picture released and seen since the last awards were announced, thereby allowing more films to contend in each category. And we begin this year’s ceremony with…
BEST ACTION FILM
Contenders for this category were strong and plentiful in 2018, but anybody who has keenly followed this author’s reviews, or his stints on radio, will know that only one movie was ever going to win this Wanda. It made tons of money at the box-office, had everybody talking and featured some of the most extravagant set-pieces ever placed in an action movie. It’s an easy win for Avengers: Infinity War, which also sweeps the categories of, Best Science-Fiction Film, Best Superhero Film and Best Blockbuster.
Honourable Mention: Mission: Impossible – Fallout
As of writing, the recipient of this Wanda has not been given a full review, but that shall be rectified in the coming weeks, given it’s a front-runner for the upcoming Academy Awards. And so it should be, because Alfonso Cuaron’s dramatic narrative about a Mexican family in crisis has exemplary cinematography, a heartfelt story and an impressive breakthrough performance. A big congratulations to ROMA!
Honourable Mention: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Not all movies need to be enthralling from the very start – some need to establish their world and build the suspense before they can be tense and exciting. Such is the case with Steve McQueen’s Widows, a smart, intricate film that sees the tension crescendo to boiling point by the final act. With a great cast, score and characters, it’s a thriller that deserves not to be forgotten.
Honourable Mention: Bad Times at the El Royale
BEST COMING-OF-AGE FILM
Adolescence and growing-up have proven fertile topics for young directors to exploit, but recent years have seen films about such topics become conventional and passé. Enter Greta Gerwig, who helmed her first solo directorial effort with such conviction that it immediately signalled her as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Resonant, insightful and enlightening, Lady Bird is coming-of-age story that redefines the genre.
Honourable Mention: Eighth Grade
BEST BIOGRAPHICAL FILM
Pictures based on real-life figures tend to over-romanticise their achievements, thus turning them into individuals of unadulterated purity. Damien Chazelle’s biopic, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from the flaws of its protagonist, showing him to be a complex and distant man who struggles to express himself. That picture is First Man, which isn’t just a fascinating portrait of Neil Armstrong, but a highly-realistic re-enactment of the journey that took him to the moon.
Honourable Mentions: I, Tonya and Vice
BEST INDEPENDENT RELEASE
There was no shortage of independently-financed pictures in 2018, nor a dearth of oddball releases; the most outstanding film in both categories proved to be Boots Riley’s satirical critique of capitalism. With an energetic soundtrack, colourful production design, frivolous editing and a fun lead performance in rising star LaKeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You is a subversive, left-field romp that grabs everybody’s attention, and earns it.
Honourable Mention: American Animals
BEST AUSTRALIAN RELEASE
This past year was not a great one to be an Aussie – witness our political representatives and cricket team – but we did, at the very least, offer a sound selection of movies. The most exemplary of Australia’s cinematic endeavours proved to be Warwick Thornton’s antipodean western, examining the racial injustices rampant during the early 20th century. Beautifully shot and featuring a fantastic debut performance from Hamilton Morris, Sweet Country is a film not to be missed.
Honourable Mentions: Swinging Safari and Breath
BEST ANIMATED FILM
With so many outstanding feature-length animations released in the past twelve months, deciding which one was most worthy of a Wanda proved quite a trying task. The 2018 recipient is, for the second time in three years, a feature-length anime, so chosen because of its illustrations, whimsy and portrayal of family life, and that film is Mamoru Hosoda’s MIRAI. An unadulterated joy, it’s yet more proof that Japanese studios can match their Western counterparts for quality.
Honourable Mentions: Isle of Dogs and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This genre has experienced something of a lull this past decade, with examples ranging from moderately humorous to devoid of laughter altogether. Looking to revert this trend were directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, whose action-comedy combined perfectly-timed gags with immaculate fight choreography. Not only is it the most hilarious film of 2018, but Game Night is one of the funniest blockbusters to emerge in years.
Honourable Mention: Blockers
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE
This author follows movie news and trends more closely than he cares to admit, yet even he finds himself caught off-guard by the exceptional quality of some films. Particularly, he was taken aback by Drew Goddard’s noir-thriller, a picture that drew a mixed response from many – including the sister of yours truly – but managed to delight with its impressive cast, intriguing story, great soundtrack and thrilling finale. Bad Times at the El Royale is a revelation unmatched in 2018, and deserves a great deal more love.
Honourable Mention: Deadpool 2
Brothers Shane and Clayton Jacobson are renowned for producing Kenny, one of the most charming, wholesome comedies that has ever been produced in Australia; by comparison, their follow-up effort so unmoving, unpleasant, unfunny and underwhelming that the viewer is left wondering if the duo had any talent to begin with. An experience that can best be described as forgettable, Brothers’ Nest is undoubtedly 2018’s greatest let-down.
Runners-Up: Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD AWARD FOR WORST FILM
Newton’s Law states that every action has an equal, opposite reaction. With that in mind, one shouldn’t be shocked to know that 2018 had its share of bad movies, but they should be appalled that a film like Red Sparrow exists. Bland and characterless, this spy film would have escaped this author’s wrath, were it not for the misogynistic treatment of its female protagonist, who is lead to believe that being sexually assaulted is an act of patriotism. Aside from a monologue by Charlotte Rampling, there is no justification for this picture’s release, and as such, it deserves to be confined to the depths of Hell for all eternity.
Runner-up: The Happytime Murders
THE FISH CALLED WANDA FOR BEST OVERALL FILM
When it comes to acknowledging the most outstanding picture of any year, this author always asks himself two questions, those being “Which film did I enjoy the most?” and “Which film am I most likely to find myself viewing repeatedly in the years ahead?”
Both questions proved difficult to answer, not least because a record four films were provided with a rating of Five Stars by yours truly, yet there was never a desire to revisit any of those releases. Likewise, there were plenty of pictures that demanded to be viewed again, but their flaws robbed them of being a perfect viewing experience.
Eventually, a compromise was reached, and it was decided that this prestigious award should be given the film that best addresses both criteria, and that film is…
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Marvel’s superhero crossover is everything that one could want from a blockbuster – it deftly balances darker moments with a light tone, is abundant in action and comedy, has some extraordinary special effects and brings together an ensemble cast without seeming over-stuffed with personalities. The very fact this movie happened is worth recognising; it being a well-crafted picture is something that should be celebrated.
Now, one might be reading this article and thinking to themselves, “Didn’t you, Tom, admonish Infinity War for its ending?” That is true, this author did indeed criticise the movie for its cliff-hanger conclusion, knowing that the heroes would reverse the actions of their foe in a future sequel, but his mind was changed upon hearing this revelation from a fellow blogger: “The Avengers don’t know they’ll succeed against Thanos, do they?”
With this change of perspective, what was viewed as a money-grabbing exercise became a heart-wrenching finale for our protagonists, and Infinity War was consequently absolved of all its sins. Not that it should matter, because this near-perfect blockbuster is one that shall entertain and endure for decades to come. Or at least, until Avengers: Endgame comes out in April.