TV-VCR’s belated, arbitrary end-of-year review is here

Our Favorite Films

Thoroughbreds

Unjustly dropped into an early, unfavorable release window, Thoroughbreds was, as we said back in March, “a dark and deft debut” from writer-director Cory Finley. It remains so at the end of 2018—even if most everyone seems to have forgotten it. In a year that’s had a lot of “goods” but not so many “greats,” it’s a standout that deserves more attention. [Mark]

Thunder Road

In a year that found Jody Hill and Danny McBride doling out their first disappointment, The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter, one of the best Hill-McBride pictures in ages dropped elsewhere—just made by a completely different guy. Blackly comic and deeply sad, writer-director-lead Jim Cummings’s adaptation of his short film is like a Foot Fist Way or Eastbound & Down that leans way more heavily on pathos; the white trash swagger at the surface of Cumming’s Officer Jim Arnaud can scarcely conceal the sea of heartache underneath.  [Kevin]

Isle of Dogs

It’s not Wes Anderson’s best, and it may not even be his best stop-motion effort, but damned if the guy didn’t make yet another typically wonderful little thing here. Though you can rightfully say what you want about Anderson’s (again typically) disregarded racial politics, the film is a sweet, funny, delightful piece that assures the almost 50-year-old director hasn’t lost his way, however far his films have traveled. [Mark]

Burning

Burning had the Haruki Murukami sexy, mysterious, jazzy vibes I wanted to experience in a film adaptation of his, which made it my third favorite movie of the year. But then a friend pointed out the metaphor of the creator/destroyer relationship in creativity, which throttled it all the way to number two. Sorry, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse. [Manolo]

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Homecoming was a fantastic and fun reinvention of a character that had already been done quite well a couple times before. So it’s saying something that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man since 2004. Co-written and produced by Phil Lord—who managed to turn Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, and goddamn Lego into some of the decade’s most enjoyable films—he again proves his worth with a nutso hodgepodge that really, really works… somehow. And that’s before the animation, which is as shockingly electric as its new protagonist. [Mark]

Shoplifters

If you’re tired of rich, white people making movies about dysfunctional families who are cynical and clever, but deep down still care for each other by the end, give Shoplifters a shot. To our western eyes, it’s a fresh take on a family dynamic that has wonderfully-paced and interesting reveals—but the film fully blossoms at the final line. Plus, the father reminded me of my uncle, tipping the movie over to being my favorite of 2018. Who knew representation mattered? [Manolo]

Mission: Impossible — Fallout

The Mission: Impossible film franchise somehow lived to this, its sixth and best entry—which is also one of the best action films in years. Fully shedding the inherent quirks of the Brad Bird or JJ Abrams iterations, Mission: Impossible—Fallout’s sole gimmick is being a long, clear-headed chain of solid action sequence after solid action sequence. The undeniably better film won Cavill’s mustache tug-of-war. [Kevin]

First Man

I’m a sucker for space shit—Apollo 13 and HBO’s From Earth to the Moon series were, admittedly, some of my first and most regrettable DVD purchases—but First Man far surpasses that mediocrity. Beautifully shot and admirably centered, it may be writer-director Damien Chazelle’s most focused and elegant effort. And if you don’t agree, you land on the fucking moon. [Mark]

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

In stark contrast to The Happytime Murders—and just about everything else she’s done over the past decade—this Melissa McCarthy vehicle is thoughtful, melancholy, and mercifully quiet. It’s a nice (based on a true) story and time capsule of a particular New York City, while also a sweet two-hander about platonic misfits struggling for relevance. Most importantly, though, it’s a welcome, meaty encore of Richard E. Grant’s legendary performance in Withnail & I.  [Kevin]

Revenge

The world didn’t need another rape-revenge-horror-thriller—which is not to say it ever needed any to begin with—but auteur Coralie Fargeat’s debut feature is luridly, grossly confident enough to stand next to the best of the New French Extremity sub-genre. It’s an aggressive, over-stimulated, over-clocked, over-saturated pastiche from a dutiful student of genre film highlights. Fargeat’s sophomore effort couldn’t arrive any quicker. (Yeah, this hit some festivals in 2017, but didn’t see wide release until 2018.) [Kevin]

Sorry To Bother You

Boots Riley’s debut is, like Thoroughbreds, almost disgustingly good for a first-time writer-director. When there were multiple films about social and racial politics—even so explicitly as Oakland-basedSorry To Bother You stood out as the wonderfully over-the-top satire 2018 needed. The flourishes (who makes earrings a thing?), performances, and all-out ridiculous comedy Riley managed made for one of the most fantastic and memorable movies of 2018. [Mark]

Our Favorite TV

Patriot

Though it only had its second season a couple months ago, Patriot was great for more than one reason. Firstly, it proved the beauty of the TV-VCR community we hope to make: after a recommendation from commenter Jolie Rogers, I checked it out, and subsequently passed it on to Kevin—and it’s now become a massive favorite for both of us. Secondly… it’s just fucking good. Sure, it’s got a tendency for the cloying, and to ignore a few convenient facts here and there, but it more than makes up for that in what it does pay attention to. Paired with the similarly-delightful Barry, this was a wonderful year for dry, melancholy hitmen trying to escape their job but incessantly pulled back in by endless complications and a pushy father figure. [Mark]

Our Favorite Genre – Horror

Horror has gone through a real reinvention period in recent years, filmmakers paying homage to the classics of the past but with a new twist. This year was no different, but may have cumulatively if not individually done it better than ever. Which is to say: Mandy, Suspiria, Apostle, and Halloween were all really cool. Not the best of the year, but damn good. [Mark]

Smaller festival fare like What Keeps You Alive and Await Further Instructions also made it a good year for canny, genre-indebted horror pictures. Ditto Hollywood-on-a-budget stuff like Mom and Dad and Unsane. [Kevin]

The Worst Shit, Though…

Geostorm was as bad as expected, The Happytime Murders puppets should be burned with the hands inside, and Venom and Aquaman are dated trash that should have been made 20 years ago—not in the era of such a joyful thing as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Mute was also shit, in case you forgot. [Mark]

Hurricane Heist belongs in the expectedly-bad, weather-based actioner bin right next to Geostorm, but Ready Player One and Pacific Rim: Uprising take the prize for most bloated, mind-numbingly CGI’d action spectacles of the year. Tag set the bar low for studio comedies in 2018, but Holmes & Watson limboed under with ease. The abysmal scores on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are no joke—it’s a dire, cheap, belabored farce just drenched in Eau de Master of Disguise. Shame on all of the (otherwise) talented people involved. And as far as pure failures go, they don’t get more incompetent than Hover or Destination Wedding. [Kevin]

Noted omissions:

Fuck me, I didn’t see Paddington 2, Annihilation, nor Death of Stalin. Those were probably good. [Mark]

I wouldn’t have minded seeing Paddington 2 or Vox Lux. There are also too many that I’m morbidly curious about to list, but Welcome to Marwen would probably top it. [Kevin]

The commercials for Welcome to Marwen made me angry enough that I morbidly agree. Happy new year! [Mark]

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