First Man (2018)


A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. (IMDb)
Immersive and boldly chosen visuals and sounds on the ships (blurry, claustrophobic, loud) are paralleled by more shaky-cam close-ups and tense drama on earth, leading to stunning physical and emotional release on the bleak, vast, and silent lunar landscape (Gosling is solid throughout). The blip on the radar is how the great “Whitey on the Moon” critique (“I can’t pay no doctor bill, but Whitey’s on the moon”) is only followed up with, well, more movie about white guys going to the moon.
8/10 (Great)

Oscar-worthy films so far in 2018

You don’t know how thrilled I am to be writing a post like this.
I started this blog in April 2015. Being new to the avid movie-watching game, I concentrated on “catching up” with my peers and watching as many films as I could from various years and thus had little time to focus on keeping up with recent releases.
This year though, after three years of observing the countless delicious posts by my fellow bloggers listing their picks and predictions and snubs for the upcoming Academy Awards and wishing every time that I could contribute more meaningfully to the conversation, I made a resolution to focus as much as I could on watching 2018 releases so that by the time awards season came around I could finally do one of those fun posts of predictions and picks.
There still are quite a few films garnering Oscar buzz that I have yet to see–many of which haven’t had wide release in Canada yet, but a few that have (seeing First Man on Sunday though!)–but so far I’m quite pleased with the amount of 2018 flicks I’ve been able to see (44 so far) and I feel like I’ve watched enough to warrant at least an “Oscar picks so far” post! Keep in mind these are my personal picks and not what I think the Academy will choose. Comment below and let me know what you think! Click on the title to see my mini-review.

I consider films rated 8.5/10 and up my top tier of films, ones which I’d consider worthy of a Best Picture nom. Here are the 2018 films I’ve ranked that high so far:

  1. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (9/10)
    – disappointed in the lack of buzz for this one. Two amazing performances by Hill and Phoenix in a great dramatic script that has a nice mix of straight-forward sentimentality and indie quirkiness.
  2. Paddington 2 (9/10)
    – That damn bear was just so beautiful.
  3. Hereditary (8.5/10)
    – Gut-wrenching in both its drama and its horror. Great performances, great visuals too.
  4. Isle of Dogs (8.5/10)
    – Anderson deserves more than just a Best Animated Film nomination with this one. It’s obviously visually outstanding, but the story’s great too.


Six standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
    – In what is more of a character study than con-caper-flick, McCarthy shines as the tragic lead.
  2. Toni Collette – Hereditary
    The centerpiece of this family drama/horror, Collette has no trouble portraying the tortured soul of Annie.
  3. Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Kindergarten Teacher
    – Gyllenhaal’s turn is perfectly chilling and nuanced as the titular character.
  4. Emily Blunt – A Quiet Place
    – That scene walking down the stairs tho…
  5. Charlize Theron – Tully
    – A great natural performance by Theron of a touching, textured character.
  6. Claire Foy – Unsane
    – Foy’s intense turn carries this minimalist thriller.


Four standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. John David Washington – BlackKkKlansman
    – The dry wit dripping from Washington’s great turn make for some of the film’s funniest scenes, and he excels in the dramatic moments too.
  2. Joaquin Phoenix – Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
    – Almost could’ve nominated him for You Were Never Really Here too, but John Callahan is just a bit more of an engaging, layered character, and Phoenix does a fantastic job with him.
  3. Nick Robinson – Love, Simon
    – The lead in a romantic comedy/drama is a bit of an unusual pick, but just like the movie itself was far from your typical fluffy rom-com, Robinson’s turn showed refreshing emotional complexity and depth.
  4. Logan Marshall-Green – Upgrade
    – Marshall-Green’s performance in this revenge sci-fi/thriller crackles with zealous energy and wry humour.


Three standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Danai Gurira – Black Panther
    – Who wasn’t in awe of Gurira’s passionate and badass Okoye in the early 2018 hit Black Panther? Gurira’s presence on screen was strong and memorable.
  2. Anya Taylor-Joy – Thoroughbreds
    – Taylor-Joy’s performance is perfect as her character undergoes a subtle and creepy transformation throughout the film.
  3. Mackenzie Davis – Tully
    – Davis’ performance is effortlessly effervescent as the young and remarkable titular night nanny.


Six standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Michael B. Jordan – Black Panther
    – Jordan’s villain is intimidating, but not in the usual way, and he does well in portraying that.
  2. Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman
    – You’ve got to have lots of depth to your performance when your character is also acting half the time, and Driver pulls it off with ease.
  3. Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
    – Grant somehow manages to portray both eccentric joy and deep sadness within the same scene and even at the same time. A beautiful performance.
  4. Jonah Hill – Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
    – Hill is just so good here in a character that’s effortlessly chill but hiding deep brokenness. Great hair too, obviously (but with long hair myself, I’m biased).
  5. Domnhall Gleeson – A Futile and Stupid Gesture
    – Gleeson seems to be one of those guys that elevates anything he’s in (see, for example, the otherwise bad Peter Rabbit, also from 2018). Here he plays the long-suffering business and creative partner to Will Forte’s frustrating free-spirit Douglas Kenney, and he’s great as usual.
  6. Alex Wolff – Hereditary
    – Wolff exudes great emotion as the troubled brother in this disturbing drama.


I guess all I’ve got here would be Isle of Dogs, because I sure ain’t putting Peter Rabbit here, Early Man wasn’t amazing, and I haven’t seen Incredibles 2 yet. Unless Paddington 2 is eligible?


FIve standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo – Avengers: Infinity War
    – I didn’t know how they were going to pull off this kind of ensemble cast and culmination of storylines, but the Russo bros. did remarkably well.
  2. Spike Lee – BlackKkKlansman
    – A daring, radical outing from Lee.
  3. Gus Van Sant – Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
    – I thought Van Sant perfectly walked the line between mainstream accessibility and indie quirkiness in this wonderful drama.
  4. Wes Anderson – Isle of Dogs
    – Anderson’s a true “auteur” of cinema who deserves acclaim for yet another great outing.
  5. Lynne Ramsay – You Were Never Really Here
    – Just brilliant directorial choices here by Ramsay who lets the strong emotion and violence bleed out “between the lines”.


Three standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Kunichi Nomura
    – Funny and quirky as expected from Anderson, but also dramatic, with interesting political undertones.
  2. Thoroughbreds Cory Finley
    – Darkly humourous, dryly witty, and it takes some interesting turns near the end.
  3. Tully Diablo Cody
    – I wasn’t completely convinced by the twist, but it was certainly engaging, and the dramatic/comedic scenes about parenthood leading up to it were on point.


Five standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
    – Amidst the con game is a unique character study touching on themes of social exclusion, loneliness, and personal fulfillment.
  2. The Death of Stalin – Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows
    – Hilarious, irreverent satire in the vein of Monty Python.
  3. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot – Gus Van Sant, John Callahan, Jack Gibson, William Andrew Eatman
    – an effectively emotional portrait of recovering from addiction and finding happiness, uniquely constructed.
  4. The Kindergarten Teacher – Sara Colangelo
    – A chilling yet nuanced character study.
  5. Paddington 2 – Paul King, Simon Farnaby
    – Hits all the perfect emotional beats without getting sappy.


Five standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Come Sunday Peter Flinckenberg
    – A fairly average drama but I found myself often marveling at the gorgeous shots throughout.
  2. Hereditary – Pawel Pogorzelski
    – You know the cinematography in a horror movie is good when the movie wouldn’t be as scary if it wasn’t.
  3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Rob Hardy
    – That helicopter chase… drool.
  4. Thoroughbreds – Lyle Vincent
    – That one-take shot with Amanda sleeping on the couch = super cool.
  5. Unsane – Steven Soderbergh
    – No, it’s not just because he shot it on an iPhone- though I think that highlighted his literally picture-perfect framing and movement choices. It’s great to watch.


Five standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Annihilation
  2. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  3. Avengers: Infinity War
  4. Hereditary
  5. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


Five standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  2. BlackKkKlansman
  3. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
  4. Unsane
  5. You Were Never Really Here


Four standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Black Panther
  2. BlackKkKlansman
  3. Ocean’s Eight
  4. Paddington 2


Two standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Avengers: Infinity War
  2. Black Panther


Five standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Annihilation
  2. BlackKkKlansman
  3. A Quiet Place
  4. Thoroughbreds
  5. Unsane


Umm… I don’t think I’ve seen any with an original song yet? Correct me if I’m wrong!


BEST SOUND (sorry sound experts, the difference between editing and mixing is still a little unclear for me)

  1. Annihilation
  2. Avengers: Infinity War
  3. A Quiet Place
  4. You Were Never Really Here


Four standout possibilities in alphabetical order by the title of the film:

  1. Avengers: Infinity War
  2. Black Panther
  3. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  4. Isle of Dogs
  5. Paddington 2


Sorry, haven’t seen any documentary/foreign/short films… I’m a basic Hollywood bro.

What are your thoughts on my picks thus far for 2018?


The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)


A kindergarten teacher in New York becomes obsessed with one of her students whom she believes is a child prodigy. (IMDb)
Thanks to its stellar script and star, it masterfully builds tension and slowly amps up the creepiness from the most subtly discomforting of moments to the downright disturbing third act (Lisa’s initially puzzling choice to let Jimmy read his poems being the only blip along the way). She’s a fascinating character, wonderfully nuanced (see her kind of helping Jimmy at the end) and naturally developed (the smartly written supporting characters really help here). The sparse score was a great touch.
8/10 (Great)


Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)


On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life. (IMDb)
Combines the accessible emotional punch of a mainstream drama (without getting sappy) with the unconventionality and boldness of an indie; the wonderfully edited timeline-jumping of the first half creates a uniquely compelling character set-up while the longer dialogues to follow solidify and bring to a tear-jerking climax the powerful yet nuanced redemption arc (see the return to those adorable skate kids). Phoenix is expectedly great, but it’s Hill who’s simply magnetic in a supporting role.
9/10 (Amazing)


Reservoir Dogs (1992)


After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant. (IMDb)
Showing only the before and after of the heist job is a unique conceit that could easily flop without a strong script; fortunately, Tarantino fully delivers with car trunk loads of sizzling mono/dialogues (the strong cast never wavers in numerous lengthy scenes) and a compelling back-and-forth-in-time narrative that perfectly develops the characters (see the Mr. Orange twist; wanted an official Mr. Pink intro though). Deliberate, artistic camerawork (see the final close-up) brings it all home.
8/10 (Great)


A Wrinkle in Time (2018)


After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him. (IMDb)
The dialogue (nay, the whole movie) is like 99% painfully cheesy exposition (with poor performances to boot), though somehow the opening act set-up still manages to confound and frustrate the viewer completely in its vague, contrived nature (so how does Charles Wallace know all these mysterious people again?). After all the fluffy mysticism of the Mrs. it eventually crafts a nice message about self-acceptance and the power of love over evil, but it’s still so damn cheesy. Pine is good though.
4.5/10 (Bad)


Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)


As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. (IMDb)
The plot leaves a few things to be desired (namely, less of the increasingly convenient and far-fetched tech and its accompanying untethered babble; also, resolving things with the Ghost could’ve been done a lot earlier), but everything around it is quite satisfying: the characters are likeable, the jokes are frequent and funny (see the truth serum bit), and the size-changing action is lots of fun (the visual effects here are excellent and quite clever-see the final reveal at the drive-in).
7/10 (Good)