I tossed around the idea of making a top ten best or worst films of this year list, but I felt as though it might get a bit lost amongst other, more established, and frankly better critics using an identical format. So instead, here are my three lists that each contain several films I have strong feelings towards; in other words, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I feel as though the first two are self-explanatory, but I’ll give a little preamble to the ugly segment – these are the movies that weren’t necessarily technically bad in the same way as the bad section, but that most offended me on a deeper level.
Be warned: I am in the rural North of England, and therefore couldn’t get access to films like The Favourite, which if released locally by now may well have ended up here.
So let’s take a look!
This is a movie that really should have already been made by now, and yet it took former Vine star Bo Burnham to do it. Eighth Grade follows the 14-year-old Kayla as she navigates Middle School as the ‘quiet kid’ in her class, a plight many of us, myself included, can relate to a painful amount. The tone of this movie is pitch perfect, and is likely the most accurate representation of the average school that I’ve ever seen onscreen.
2018 was a fantastic year for horror, with A Quiet Place, Ghost Stories, and the new Halloween serving as some standouts. But for me, nothing can quite beat Ari Aster’s feature debut Hereditary, which created an intense feeling of unease within me that didn’t go away until long after I left the cinema. Toni Colette deserves an Oscar, and frankly, we don’t deserve her.
Despite having committed the cardinal sin of not having seen it on the big screen, Roma remains one of my favourites of the year, as a careful examination of the emotional and physical labour women of colour are expected to carry out. Every shot is achingly beautiful, and Cuaron’s creation Cleo is one of the most fully realized characters of this year.
Somehow the first Spike Lee film I’d ever watched, BlacKkKlansman is an electrifying period piece about racism that definitely seeks to shine a light on injustices still happening today. Black Police Officer Ron Stalworth must infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan without letting on that he isn’t a ‘pure blooded white American’, with the help of his Jewish friend Flip. This premise alone is enough to pique most people’s interest, but the execution of it is even better.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Having won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, I had high expectations for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and I certainly wasn’t let down. Showcasing Chloe Grace Moretz’s best performance yet, the film follows the titular Cameron as she is sent to gay conversion therapy, experiencing emotional abuse as well as finding the first people to truly understand her.
I firmly believe that Steve McQueen will go down as one of the most important filmmakers of the 21st century. Without beating over the head with their signature style like Wes Anderson or Tim Burton might, McQueen subtly leaves his mark on this fantastic film through extreme long takes, brilliant use of space, and the showcasing of incredible performances from Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki. Overall, an infinitely more purposeful heist movie than Ocean’s 8.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much after the ‘turd in the wind’ trailer, so I wasn’t let down per se by Venom, but I do feel a need to document its awfulness. The film is a tonal mess, switching from dour self-seriousness to unintentional absurdist comedy at a moment’s notice, which whilst making it fun to watch doesn’t exactly invest you in what’s happening to Eddie Brock and the titular symbiote. Tom Hardy’s worst performance, and a very dull use of Michelle Williams.
Selfie From Hell
Not exactly a blockbuster, Selfie From Hell is a film that I watched on Netflix originally based on a YouTube short less than two minutes long. This really shows – barely reaching a running time that could be considered feature-length, director Erdal Ceylan takes the original concept and bloats it to the point of removing any fear. No ignoring that title either…oh dear.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding
It didn’t have big shoes to fill, but The Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding is perhaps more embarrassing than Netflix’s first attempt at Hallmark Christmas Wholesomeness. To be fair, they’d lost me already with sympathetic Royals, but making them completely irresponsible with the wages of the working class then still expecting me to like them? No thank you.
Johnny English Strikes Again is Brexit personified. A bizarre, unfunny, nationalistic mess that expects you to enjoy the mean-spirited antics of a posh twat. That’s all.
Inexplicably popular amongst teenage girls, The Kissing Booth sends out possibly some of the worst messages it could to that demographic. Namely, ‘you should quickly forgive a boy that sexually assaults you’, ‘your friend being violently possessive just shows that they care’, and ‘you should go after the cute boy at school known for his physical aggression and short temper!’.
By far the worst example of the ‘strong independent woman’ archetype this year, Red Sparrow features scene after scene of Jennifer Lawrence being sexually assaulted, shot in the most titillating way possible, until this somehow makes her a better, stronger human being. Rape as a tool in films is rarely used well, and this movie is disrespectful on so many levels.
So those were my three lists! Comment down below if you agree or disagree, and I’ll keep posting more reviews and seeing more good, bad, and ugly movies this 2019!