It’s come that time year once again, my fellow cinephiles. My Top 20 list is well underway, but first, as with the two previous years, I wanted to give a few special shoutouts to certain films that deserve attention. There’s no specific ranking here, I just believed that these 9 movies were either forgotten or noticed enough to where I still wanted to talk about them. Some of them were in contention for my Top 20 list, others were not. But in any case, here they are.
Most Original: “American Animals”
Probably one of the most underappreciated films of the decade so far, Bart Layton’s narrative debut rarely misses a beat. He uses his documentarian background to the fullest extent as American Animals has one of the most unique storytelling structures I’ve seen in years. While there are regular actors taking parts, such as Evan Peters and Ann Dowd, it also showcases the real-life subjects in talking-head interviews reflecting on the utter stupidity of their true-story crime- and not all of them remember it exactly the same way. It’s both hilarious and tragic as we watch these disillusioned men try to pull off something they think is really cool but in fact gets them inside pretty deep holes.
Most Surprising: “Crazy Rich Asians”
Romantic comedies have nearly died out in recent years for a variety of different reasons. You can thank Netflix for warming audiences back up to the genre earlier this year with sweet films like Set it Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Then, a film like Crazy Rich Asians busted onto the scene, boasting a historic ensemble cast, the highest rom-com box office intake in a decade, and several doses of great humor. It’s extremely insightful into matriarchies and deep cultural divides between different generations, all while being nicely wrapped up in a classic rom-com formula. I had little to negative expectations for this movie, and it completely upended everything I thought could be stuffed into a film like this.
Most Overrated: “Isle of Dogs”
Now, to be fair, I did really enjoy Isle of Dogs when it came out. But when it comes down to it, this just doesn’t really measure up to the rest of Wes Anderson’s filmography. I don’t know if it’s because his extremely distinct style is starting to wear off on me or that it’s political observations just seemed too far out of reach. The animation is undoubtedly great to look at and dissect, but it doesn’t feel as impressive as it was in Fantastic Mr. Fox. The stellar (And STACKED) ensemble voice cast and Alexandre Desplat’s score are ultimately the biggest saving graces here. It’s a great movie, but nothing more.
Most Underrated: “The Meg”
Look, The Meg is not a great movie by any means, but it sure is one hell of a fun one. With so many blockbusters today attempting to build franchises or force some sort of “important” message into the plot, it’s honestly refreshing to see how Warner Bros. just decided to make a popcorn film that was completely unpretentious and undemanding. I went in hoping to watch Jason Statham and CO. fighting a gigantic shark, and that’s exactly what I got. It had a perfectly good balance between the very silly and slightly serious, always aware of what it is.
Most Overlooked: “The Other Side of the Wind”
You wouldn’t normally expect a streaming service like Netflix to finish and release the late great Orson Welles’ final motion picture, but they continue to be full of surprises. I’m kind of saddened that this film has essentially disappeared from the public talk, especially when you consider the utter hell it went through for several decades. The Other Side of the Wind may not be a particularly amazing movie, but it is a really interesting inside look at how Hollywood works. The mockumentary style is perfect for the rapid-fire speed the characters and story flow around. While certain aspects of the film feel incomplete, I feel like it was still sorely missed by audiences and critics’ year-end lists.
Most Disappointing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
As a massive fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, they did not deserve a film treatment so rote and safe as this. If not for Rami Malek’s excellent lead performance and a show-stopping sequence recreating the band’s extraordinary Live Aid concert, Bohemian Rhapsody might have fared much worse. It stretches its creative license right up to the line of insulting and exploiting its subject, whose personal life is heavily fictionalized. The life of his bandmates, meanwhile, is given such a formulaic and predictable story arc that the makers of Walk Hard are probably laughing their asses off as we speak.
Best Scene: Moon Landing from “First Man”
There were so many memorable scenes from this year that it was difficult to just narrow it down to one. Thanos’ universe-shaking Snap in Infinity War, the car Truth-or-Dare game from Eighth Grade, the beach rescue near the end of Roma, or Outlaw King’s epic final battle could have easily made the list. But it’s in the climax of First Man, Damien Chazelle’s sorely missed Neil Armstrong biopic, that takes the cake. With Justin Hurwitz’s powerful score set against Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin attempting to land Apollo 11 on the Moon, we feel the intensity with them as they struggle to make it. The fact that it was all captured in-camera is even more impressive. We all may know the ultimate outcome, but this scene alone manages to deepen my appreciation and respect for the astronauts involved. It’s cinematic tension on another level.
Funniest: “The Favourite”
Yorgos Lanthimos has slowly been establishing himself as a truly unique auteur in the English-speaking world over the last few years with his pitch black tragicomedies The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer. I can’t decide whether or not this is his best work yet, but it’s certainly his most accessible and possibly his funniest. Don’t let all the stuffy costumes and makeup fool you; The Favourite is vulgar, deadpan, savage, and unexpectedly hilarious in many parts. On top of that, it also manages to have a genuine conversation about the cost that comes with having power. Plus, the moment when Horatio becomes the fastest duck in the city might have produced one of the hardest laughs I’ve had all year.
Worst: “Fifty Shades Freed”
I know, I know. At this point, picking this movie for worst of the year is like picking at the low-hanging fruit. But the truth is that Fifty Shades Freed really is THAT bad. Actually, it’s worse than that; it’s extremely toxic and dangerous, especially considering the current social climate regarding the MeToo movement. But it doesn’t seem to care about that, as it’s just totally insufferable and indulgent in its faux-kinky hijinks. Nothing about this franchise has been believable or interesting from the beginning, and the final(!) installment so pathetically tried to add stakes that were not earned at all. Please just let these Twilight wannabes die already so that the people dumb or brave enough to watch them can have a respite from all of it.
Now what about you? What do you think was the worst or most underrated film from last year? How about the one you think was most overrated? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments. And as always, if you like what you see here, be sure to Like this post and Follow my Blog. Happy New Year!