The Cream of the Cinematic Crop From 2018

By Chris Narloch

This year’s Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday morning, Jan. 22, ending months of speculation by awards prognosticators, and then the apparently-host-free Academy Awards ceremony will be telecast on Feb. 24 by ABC.

Despite what some critics have suggested, I thought 2018 was a very good year for movies. You had to make an effort to find some of last year’s finest films, due to their limited theatrical releases, but there were excellent examples of pretty much any cinematic genre you can name.


Rather than the usual list of five or ten top titles, I decided to break up my ‘top ten’ in to categories to showcase the cinematic diversity that informed 2018. It took me a while to catch up to all of the major releases, but here are my favorite movies from last year, better late than never.

1) Best Romantic Comedy

“Crazy Rich Asians,” the most entertaining, mainstream romantic comedy of the year, was also the first major studio film in decades to feature a mostly Asian cast. Romantic comedies have become scarce in movie theaters, and “CRA” was a sparkling example of how to do it right. There were no other contenders in this category as far as I’m concerned.

2) Best Dark Comedy

“The Favourite” gave me more guilty laughs than any other movie in 2018. Olivia Colman nailed it as a spoiled, unhappy queen who is not above throwing Trump-like tantrums, and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz provided wicked support in director Yorgos Lanthimos’ deliciously cracked comedy. If you enjoyed “The Favourite,” check out “The Death of Stalin” which was a close second in this category.

3) Best Action Movie

“Black Panther” took the superhero movie to a whole new level with class, humor, thrills, political and social messaging, and a superb, mostly black cast. The only other contender in this category was the indestructible Tom Cruise, in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

4) Best Documentary

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” goes to the top of a very strong class if only because the late, great Mr. Rogers’ sweet positivity provided me with a healing, two-hour tonic amidst our country’s toxic political nightmare. Other great 2018 docs included “Free Solo,” “RBG,” “McQueen,” and “Three Identical Strangers.”

5) Best Sci-Fi Film

“2001: A Space Odyssey,” a 1968 film directed by the late, great Stanley Kubrick, was my favorite sci-fi film of 2018, and it makes the list because Warner Bros. released Christopher Nolan’s “unrestored” 50th Anniversary version of the movie last year in a few lucky theaters, where it could be seen in all its glory (and in 70mm!). Sacramento’s Tower Theatre brought in special projectionists to show the movie, and it was the thrill of the year for film nuts like me.

6) Best Foreign Film

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white, Mexican family drama (mostly in Spanish, with English subtitles), was by far the finest foreign film of 2018, and it may also get nominated in other major categories when this year’s Oscar nominations are announced. South Korea’s “Burning” and Japan’s “Shoplifters” tied for second place in this category.

7) Best Musical 

“Mary Poppins Returns” and “A Star Is Born” tied in this category, and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite between them. Both movies feature dynamite female leads (Emily Blunt and Lady Gaga, respectively) so your preference will probably come down to whether you like old-fashioned, movie musical comfort food (“Mary Poppins Returns”) or a more modern, raw, rock-and-roll drama (“A Star Is Born”). “Bohemian Rhapsody” was close behind, thanks mainly to its miraculous lead performance by Rami Malek, as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

8) Best Family Film

“Paddington 2” was such a hilarious delight (and as good or better than the first “Paddington” movie) that it tops this category, thanks to its very strong script, superb special effects, and a wonderful cast. Live action family films are usually so sappy and awful that I chose “Paddington 2” over an outstanding crop of animated family films, including “Incredibles 2” “Spider-Man,” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

9) Best Horror Movie 

“A Quiet Place,” directed by John Krasinski and starring his wife, Emily Blunt, was my favorite big-screen, popcorn thriller from last year, but the film that really freaked me out, thanks in large part to its very disturbing lead performance by Toni Collette, was “Hereditary.”

10) Best Drama

“BlacKkKlansman” was a return to form for director Spike Lee, after years of disappointing movies, and was also the cherry on the sundae of a year filled with compelling African-American stories, including “Black Panther,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Sorry To Bother You,” “Blindspotting,” and “The Hate U Give.”

Since I am gay, I also enjoyed the queer content in fine films such as “Vice,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Green Book,” “Mary Queen of Scots,” and “The Happy Prince” (Rupert Everett’s biopic of Oscar Wilde, which sadly never made it to Sacramento).

Other terrific dramas to look for that never made it to local theaters -- or only played very briefly on one or two screens in town – include “Leave No Trace,” “The Rider,” “Private Life,” and “First Reformed.”


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