The Oscars only happen once every year, and in this internet age, who has the patience for that? Surely we consume enough content every 6 months to warrant some awards-like recognition! Well, whether we do or not, here are my picks for the best that 2018 has given us so far in movies.
The Runners-up: Jonny Greenwood’s score was brilliant as expected in You Were Never Really Here, just months after he received his first Oscar nomination for his work on Phantom Thread. And since I’m covering so few categories, I’ve included sound design in the score category. This means that Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s score for Annihilation, Colin Stetson’s score for Hereditary and Marco Beltrami’s (The Hurt Locker, 3:10 to Yuma) score for A Quiet Place are all runners up for the haunting atmosphere they created in tandem with the impeccable sound design.
The Winner: Ludwig Göransson’s score for Black Panther is at times thrilling, at times inspiring, and consistently innovative. It adds to the identity of Wakanda, and adds to the larger-than-life, epic feel of the movie. The Killmonger theme, in particular, is one that many including me will be listening to for years.
The Runners-up: Just like I used Best Score to generally talk about which movies sounded the best, I want to use Best Cinematography to highlight the movies that looked the best this year, so while I will only name the DPs, this also involves production design and visual effects to a large extent. Revenge, shot by Robrecht Heyvaert, looks amazing, and completely immerses us in its desert setting through both sound and visuals. Much of the strength of Ready Player One, shot by Janusz Kaminski, lies in how dynamic its action sequences felt, largely due to the giddy camera movements. Bradford Young of Arrival fame shot Solo: A Star Wars Story, a movie that is worth watching for its colourful settings and exciting flight scenes, regardless of whether you find the story engaging. And Rachel Morrison followed up her brilliant work on Mudbound with some very innovative shots in Black Panther, successfully capturing the grand and the personal.
The Winner: Rob Hardy shot the 2015 thriller Ex Machina and the upcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout, but in between the two, he shot the most visually arresting movie I’ve seen in a while – Annihilation. Even when it’s just showing us a scene of people talking to each other, the camera refuses to let us look away, but when it takes us to otherworldly, dreamlike locales, any given frame of this movie can be sold as a work of art.
BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE
The Runners-up: Three of my favourite supporting roles this year have come from child actors. Milly Shapiro made complete detachment as creepy as it can be in Hereditary. Isabelle Nélisse did something incredible with her portrayal of a little girl dealing with unfamiliar, difficult circumstances. And Millicent Simmonds brought courage and heart, childishness and maturity to her character Regan, a deaf girl caught in the midst of both an apocalypse and a challenging relationship with her father. On the adult side of things, Robert Downey Jr was as heartbreakingly good as he has ever been, following up heavy performances in Civil War and Homecoming with one that really conveyed just how much weight this man feels on his shoulders.
The Winner: Speaking of heartbreaking performances in the MCU, Michael B Jordan as Killmonger in Black Panther made many of us cry over a villain. His was a tragic journey, and the performance was the perfect balance of making us hate what he was doing while still feeling for him, wishing things could have been different.
BEST LEAD PERFORMANCE
The Runners-up: Just like Michael B Jordan in Black Panther, Josh Brolin broke hearts in Avengers: Infinity War. He took a performance with the madness and determination we expected, and infused it with a profound sadness we did not. Speaking of madness, Joaquin Phoenix was out of this world in You Were Never Really Here, and perfectly sold moments where he was in pain and we felt for him, as well as moments where we’re completely detached and intrigued as to what’s going through this man’s head. Laura Dern in The Tale played a woman who went through a wider array of emotions in a few days than most of us do in a lifetime. While her plight was one that could bring us to tears anyway, her performance of her denial, her low points and her brief moments of relief made us connect with her on another level altogether. And Emily Blunt not only sold the terror of living in the post-apocalyptic world of A Quiet Place, she also convinced us of her character’s inner strength and resolve. In addition, hers was an intensely physical performance, where like her, we want to scream whenever she goes through those painful scenes, but we’re simply too scared to do so.
The Winner: Toni Collette in Hereditary combined peak horror acting with peak dramatic acting. When she’s terrified of the things happening around her, she does it as well as you expect from a lead in a horror movie. But much more effective and haunting are the scenes where you’re not terrified for her as much as you’re terrified of her. Hereditary portrays a family fraught with tension, and as much as you feel for her character, sometimes you just don’t want to get on her wrong side. This is one performance that I consider the best not so much because it’s real, but simply for how powerful and memorable it is.
The Runners-up: So 2018 hasn’t exactly been a great year for mainstream movies so far. Remember March, when of the 5 weekends, each with a major release, only one ended up not being a complete disappointment? The good news is that while other genres may have been lagging, one reliably entertaining genre gave us one hit after another: superheroes. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther was a family feud of epic proportions. It took large, weighty themes, and weaved them into a thrilling, beautifully shot action movie while also managing to introduce us to a completely new culture. The Russo brother did something truly unprecedented with Avengers: Infinity War, and built on the investment we already had in a dozen characters to give us emotional gutpunches that we’ll be talking about for years, while also introducing us to one of the most emotionally complex supervillains we’ve seen. With Incredibles 2, Brad Bird somehow managed to live up to expectations built up over 14 years, and delivered not just the fun family adventure we expected, but one of the best straight-up action movies in a while. My one non-superhero runner up pick is John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, a horror movie that used the most effective tool horror movies have at their disposal, sound, more effectively than it it ever has been before. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the family it focused on was one we grew to deeply care for.
The Winner: It makes me very sad that, in all probability, you know little to nothing about The Tale. It’s an autobiographical HBO movie directed by Jennifer Fox that stars Laura Dern as Fox. Fox has to confront her past, relive her darkest experiences, and accept the truth about what she’s actually been through as opposed to the stories she’s told herself. Beyond sheer dramatic weight, what makes this movie special is how it manages to put us in Jennifer’s shoes. While flashbacks are usually used in movies to give us as incontrovertible a version of the past as what we have for the present, the flashbacks here are memories, and function as such. What makes this even more riveting is the fact that Jennifer isn’t simply reliving her memories, she’s interacting with them, sifting through them, leading to some of the most chilling scenes I have seen this year. If this wasn’t a TV movie, I would’ve predicted a Best Picture nomination. As it is, I still hope it wins a few Emmys. It deserves them.
What are your favourites from the year so far? What are you most excited for from the rest of 2018? The Viola Davis thriller Widows? The Neil Armstrong biopic First Man? Perhaps a blockbuster like Ant-Man and the Wasp or the new Mission: Impossible? Or is it that Alfonso Cuaron movie we know nothing about? Whatever it is, I expect we’ll see many more great films in the second half of 2018 than we have so far.