With the decade having drawn to a close, One Large Popcorn, Please! is continuing to honour the greatest films of the past ten years. This week, the year 2018 is in focus.
Australians like to believe they have a good, strong sense of humour, an adage that was challenged during this tumultuous year. First, our national cricket team was caught cheating during a Test Match; then, a right-wing Senator alluded to the anti-Semitic policies of Nazi Germany in a speech to parliament; and finally, Malcolm Turnbull was replaced as Prime Minister by Scott Morrison, and nobody could explain why.
Thankfully cinema was able to ease this author’s suffering – and everybody else’s, for that matter. Superhero movies dominated the release calendar once again with the likes of Black Panther, Deadpool 2, Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Venom, Aquaman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and another movie which can be read about below.
Perhaps the more remarkable aspect of 2018 was the popularity of musicals, with A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody and Mary Poppins Returns all tickling the fancy of audiences, despite the genre supposedly being out of favour with mainstream tastes. Yet another surprise success was Mission: Impossible – Fallout, proclaimed by many (including yours truly) to be the franchise’s best instalment.
2018 was a truly phenomenal year for cinema, and as a consequence this article proved more difficult to write than any other. So bare in mind, while there are only four pictures discussed in detail below, they are not the only releases of exceptional quality.
Avengers: Infinity War
It wouldn’t be a year-in-review without mentioning 2018’s most-hyped and popular blockbuster, not just because of how monumental an effort it is, but also how polished the final product is. The third Avengers film brings together the protagonists from eight Marvel franchises as they attempt to thwart Thanos (Josh Brolin) in his quest to decimate the universe for his own warped means.
The quality of Marvel films prior had set expectations high for Avengers: Infinity War – expectations which were met and surpassed with ease. Every cast member puts maximum effort into their performance, every action sequence is spectacular, humour is in abundance, Alan Silvestri’s score is rousing, and the antagonist is the franchise’s best to date. Put simply, there isn’t an area where this picture doesn’t impress.
Cinemagoers were especially impressed by Infinity War, their eagerness allowing it to break numerous box-office records and become the fourth-highest grossing release of all-time, totalling $2,048,359,754 in ticket sales – although many of these records were broken the following year, the film remains the most profitable of 2018. In recognition of its popularity, the blockbuster earned a nomination in the Best Visual Effects category at the 91st Academy Awards.
In a year that was stronger than most for animation, a feature-length anime proved to be the most surprising and enjoyable example of the medium. Its tale, penned and directed by industry veteran Mamoru Hosada, revolves around a toddler who must rescind being the centre of attention after the birth of his baby sister. In response, said toddler must learn how to be a mature, independent and responsible child, with the help of some unlikely figures.
Mirai opens with ditty from pop star Tatsuro Yamashita that is catchy, upbeat, airy and perfectly sets the tone for the story to come. Occasionally dark but mostly gentle, the movie is an intimate and whimsical portrait of family life, laden with beautiful illustrations, funny moments and charming protagonists. Though set in Japan and filled with the country’s quirks, many of the picture’s elements are relatable, thereby providing it with universal appeal.
And appeal universally Mirai did, with Rotten Tomatoes indicating an Approval Rating of 91%, and this author declaring it his favourite animated film of the year; its other accolades include an Annie Award for Best Independent Feature, and Animation of the Year from the Nippon Academy Association. Additionally, Mirai made history by becoming the first non-Studio Ghibli anime to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
One of the most famous men in the world was, paradoxically, one of the most withdrawn, as Damien Chazelle’s third feature-length film demonstrates. The man in question is Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), who is credited as the first human to set foot on Earth’s Moon and a key figure in the development of NASA’s space exploration program. While undoubtedly fearless and intelligent, Armstrong is also quite reclusive, which proves frustrating for other members of his family.
There are two distinct, yet equally intriguing stories at play in First Man. One is the study of Armstrong himself, a complex figure at odds with the person romanticised by history; the other is an adventure film in which the viewer joins the protagonist on his journey through space. The latter is made particularly impressive by the set design, audio editing and special effects, making the scenes beyond realistic.
The technical aspects were of particular interest to the Academy – at the 91st Oscars ceremony, First Man was nominated for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Production Design, and won for Best Visual Effects. Also praised was Claire Foy for her role as the long-suffering Janet Armstrong, earning Best Supporting Actress nominations at the BAFTAs and International AACTA Awards.
Author Gillian Flynn is known for adapting a thrilling page-turner for the screen; director Steve McQueen is renowned for crafting high-calibre films. Pair them together, and the result is one of the most exceptional pictures of the decade, in which a bereaved woman (Viola Davis) secures the help of two other ex-wives (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) to clear a debt left by their deceased husbands, all criminals.
The level of artistry on display in Widows is exceptional. Each and every character is filled with endless intricacies, all of whom are spectacularly portrayed by a talented cast; better still, they stay relatable and likeable even after demonstrating how immoral they are, a testament to Flynn’s skills as a writer. Yet more amazing is how the tension grows infinitely, to the point where it leaves the viewer shaken.
Widows barely raised the interest of cinemagoers, earning just $76 million worldwide from a $42 million budget, despite its star-laden cast and heavy marketing campaign. The thriller did manage to earn the interest of critics though, having scored an approval rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, while Viola Davis gained a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Other notable releases: Wes Anderson delivered another stop-motion delight with Isle of Dogs; consumerism got a drubbing in Boots Riley’s sardonic directorial debut Sorry to Bother You; Bo Burnham offered a stunning debut of his own with Eighth Grade; BlacKkKlansman saw Spike Lee make a return to the mainstream; mystery-thriller Bad Times at the El Royale impressed with its cast and style; The Favourite proved that costume-dramas don’t have to be boring; Barry Jenkins demonstrated his talent yet again via If Beale Street Could Talk; critics were divided by the idiosyncratic tone of Vice; and Alfonso Cuaron told the story of his homeland with Roma.
Do you agree with this list? What films have been missed? Be sure to comment below with your thoughts!
Next week: A break will be taken from cinema as this author discusses his favourite programmes from the small screen.
2 thoughts on “Best of the Decade: 2018”
I enjoyed the inclusion of Mirai and Widows. It would have been neat to go into A Quiet Place. The sound design is terrific, the use of ASL is effective and inventive and it contains one of the scariest openings in horror movies that have graced the screen in the past decade.
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A fine suggestion, Jordan. It’s certainly one of the stronger horror films of the past ten years – even when one considers the many other strong offerings from the genre.