A year on and the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal is still reverberating through the film industry – in the past week alone, the man himself was in court, sex offence charges have been dropped against Steven Seagal and brought against Kevin Spacey.
On screen, the industry will be pleased to have produced an increasingly diverse output, with several high profile – and more importantly, well regarded – films from black directors with black characters; Marvel’s Black Panther, Spike Lee’s BLACKkKLANSMAN and George Tillman Jr’s The Hate U Give to name just three. There was also a broad range of female-led storytelling, including the Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the Oscar-nominated I, Tonya, the heist movie Ocean’s 8 and the crowd-pleading sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! That said, while women were well represented on screen, many of the highest profile films – including these four – were directed by men.
2018 has been another good year for Disney, whose films occupy 3 of the top 4 spots in the UK box office charts, with another 3 in the top 20. It’s the Marvel and Pixar franchises that are drawing in the big bucks, with Lucasfilm’s Solo missing out on a top 10 position. But Disney’s success is all down to the brands it’s been buying – Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars – rather than its core productions. Its most recent acquisition, Fox, had another 2 of this year’s top 10, so expect Disney to be even more dominant in 2019.
The only film that challenged for Oscars a year ago making it into the top 20 is Darkest Hour, with most of the highest earners being comic-book capers, action blockbuster sequels or family friendly fare, most of which won’t be fighting for awards in the New Year.
One of the few punter-friendly films that you’re likely to hear about come awards time is Black Panther, which nearly made it onto one of our reviewer’s Top 5 list.
Other films that scored well at the box office and will be in the running for awards too are A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody, both of which are conspicuous by their absence from What’s Worth Seeing’s best (and worst) list from 2018’s mixed bag of theatrical releases.
Let’s see how good our reviewers – Jason Korsner and Maria Duarte – are at predicting – or indeed reflecting – this year’s and next year’s favourites of the HFPA, BAFTA, the Academy – and yourselves.
What was Worth Seeing in 2018...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN - A masterclass in acting and directing with the assured hand of A Ghost Story's David Lowery guiding the octogenarian Robert Redford as the elderly real-life bank robbing charmer Forrest Tucker, ensuring that the audience delights in rooting for the loveable old rogue. Cissy Spacek's love interest also adds another dimension of complexity to an already highly entertaining tale.
|A QUIET PLACE - A mean and lean, spine-chilling post-apocalyptic horror film in which a family of five's survival is dependent on them not uttering a sound because “if they (human eating alien creatures) hear you they hunt you.” There's a powerhouse performance from the director's wife, Emily Blunt, who's ending the year in something entirely different - the musical fantasy, Mary Poppins Returns.|
|I, TONYA - A fascinating insight into the bête noire of 1990s American figure skating and her hot-headed relationship with her ruthless mother, employing mocked-up first-person interviews in addition to a well-told narrative.||COCO - Pixar's Oscar-winning masterpiece about a young Mexican boy who ventures into the Land of the Dead in search of his great great grandfather, in a film which celebrates the importance of family, Mexican culture and the dead.|
|AMERICAN ANIMALS - Using a similar structure to I, Tonya - except that the interviews are with the real-life characters, this tells the unlikely tale of a group of students who take a stab at the perfect crime and get way out of their depth when it starts to go wrong.||THE SHAPE OF WATER - Guillermo del Toro's visually and emotionally sublime Oscar winning homage to Old Hollywood and B-movies in which a mute cleaner falls in love with an amphibian creature, alias the doppelgänger of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.|
|ISLE OF DOGS - Wes Anderson's quirky, bold and fresh animated feature about a boy, searching for his lost dog is typically sharp-witted with messages hidden beneath the surface, if you want them.||BLACKkKLANSMAN - This unbelievable crime drama by Spike Lee is based on the extraordinary true story of a detective who, in the 1970s, infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan, becoming its first black member.|
|SEARCHING - A thriller for our times, seen entirely through the screens of the computers and phones used by the father of a missing daughter, as he tries to trace her movements before its too late.||McQUEEN - one of the most visually explosive and unconventional documentaries of the year which is as evocative, provocative and unique as its subject: the iconic British fashion designer Alexander McQueen.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Spike Lee's BLACKkKLANSMAN nearly made my top 5, fusing exciting story-telling with a powerful message. Coco and its heart-warming musical drama was also on my best list, but I'll let Maria have that one. Another Pixar gem came close to my top five, with Incredibles 2, delivering super-hero thrills and social drama in a family-friendly package. Germany's terrorism drama In the Fade was one of the stronger foreign language films of the year, a hit at Cannes, winning at the Golden Globes but overlooked by everyone else.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: Black Panther introduced us to Wakanda and its black superhero leader in a captivating and gripping film that took the comic book genre to exciting new heights, both socially and politically. In Love, Simon, a teenager is forced to come to terms with his sexuality in a smart, charming and funny coming-of-age teen gay rom-com. And Three Identical Strangers was a surreal documentary about triplets, separated at birth, who found each-other nineteen years later, only for their fairy-tale reunion to uncover an unimaginable secret.|
What was not Worth Seeing in 2018...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
I FEEL PRETTY - Coming from a comedian as talented as Amy Schumer, this wannabe feel-good shout-out to insecure young girls is a huge disappointment. It’s a really positive – and hugely important – message of self-confidence and believing in yourself, but it’s delivered in such a cack-handed manner as to be one of the most embarrassing films in recent memory.
|ROBIN HOOD - The classic tale is given the King Arthur cor-blimey Guy Ritchie treatment in this pointless remake set in the times of the Crusades, but with visual overtones of the Iraq War and the Nazis. Taron Egerton's charismatic and energetic performance could save this stylistic mess that adds nothing to an already familiar tale.|
|DISOBEDIENCE - When the protagonist is producing, who is there to stop a powerful book being turned into a nihilistic drama without an obvious audience, honest message or convincing narrative, centred on lonely, bitter, greedy, selfish, sexual predator?||SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ - This is a complete mess of a comedy horror, with the dangers of fracking thrown in, which is neither funny nor scary, as a private school run by sadistic sixth-formers is plagued by blood sucking evil creatures.|
|THE ESCAPE - When the protagonist is producing, who is there to stop what should have been a powerful drama about a depressed wife becoming a display of selfishness and irresponsibility that makes the audience sympathise with the supposedly thoughtless husband?||MILE 22 - Lone Survivor, Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon director Peter Berg teams up with Mark Wahlberg for the fourth time for the most confusing, nonsensical and thrill-less action drama of the year, where the bullets fly as wildly as the plot.|
|MARY MAGDALENE - Joaquin Phoenix's charismatic Jesus can't save this feminist take on the Easter story that's faithful enough to the Bible to appeal mostly to believers, yet challenges enough of the orthodoxy to frustrate its own core audience.||MANDY - This is a pretentious art-house horror film in which Nicolas Cage is allowed to run amok at his most unhinged, as a husband seeking vengeance against the hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen who tortured and murdered his wife.|
|THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB - The Dragon Tattoo creator Stieg Larsson will be turning in his grave at the unconvincing and heartless way his franchise has been rebooted, as a once interesting Scandi-noir formula delivers a shallow slice of underworld misery with a heroine who's forgotten her purpose.||FINDING YOUR FEET - A snooty, well-off middle-aged woman has to reassess her life when her marriage implodes in this predictably condescending and cliched British rom-com drama, which wastes a stellar veteran British cast who, along with its over-sixties target audience, deserved better.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: The well-meaning British comedy drama Swimming With Men features clunky dialogue in an unconvincing based-on-real-life tale while The Bookshop, delivers all the twee Britishness you wouldn't expect from a Spanish production. Steven Soderbergh's disorientating psychological drama Unsane misfires and another one of America's finest auteurs, working well below his best this year, was Woody Allen, with his disappointingly underwhelming romantic drama Wonder Wheel.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: In You Were Never Really Here, a dishevelled looking Joaquin Phoenix plays a traumatised veteran who tracks down missing girls for a living in a film that is all style and mood over substance and that loses its way in its confusing characters and plot. The Lies We Tell is a lacklustre crime thriller set in West Yorkshire, starring a gun-toting Gabriel Byrne and Harvey Keitel, who are both wasted in this ridiculous drama.|