It was a pretty good year for movies in east-central Wisconsin, so grab a chalupa and see how the L&D staff saw things this year.
Most Read Review: We almost wet our pants in anticipation of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the newest incarnation of A Star is Born, and evidently it was a crowd fave, too. The page views still pale in comparison to those for Mother!, L’s brilliant takedownof this most-terrible Daron Aronofsky film.
The Double Reviews: These are films that were compelling enough that we both penned reviews – Deadpool 2 (L, D) and Crazy Rich Asians (L, D). Both worth seeing, though neither made either or our top ten lists.
Documentaries: We don’t see a lot of documentaries coming through the Marcus chain, but Free Solo and They Shall Not Grow Old each came through and each came through big time. The former documented an extraordinary event and the latter was an extraordinary event in and of itself.
The Worst of the Year: D has perhaps seen one too many CGI superhero movies and wishes he would have sat Aquaman out. It makes those X-Men movies seem understated and coherent. L couldn’t get past the fact that a movie about Gary Hart wasn’t named Monkey Business and put The Front Runner as his worst of the year (though I thought Chappaquiddick was actually even worse). In fairness to these movies, we didn’t see the new incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, which by almost all accounts is a complete disaster.
Box Office Don’t Lie: Venom wins this one hands’ down for being panned while generating revenues of nearly $1 billion. Although I generally enjoyed the film, I will give a hat tip to First Man for missing its chance to tell us something we didn’t already know about Neil Armstrong. Is she still mad at him?
Notables: Although the political biopics were worse than disappointing, we were treated to some exceptional storytelling with both BlacKkKlansman and I, Tonya. Old Man & the Gun wasn’t bad, either. Look for more in the Top Six. We also saw some funny movies this year that we didn’t expect would be that funny, including Blockers, which was really funny, and Book Club, which was also really funny. Plus, it had Jane Fonda. Of course, if you have learned anything from reading this blog, it is that you need to manage your expectations. In that spirit, we found a lot to like in this year’s best action movie, Mission: Impossible: Fallout, which featured some really innovative and spectacular action shots and set locations, including a new way to show someone falling out of a helicopter. Kudos.
Best Movies Not Mentioned Yet: Bad Times at El Royale sets a blistering pace that it fails to sustain, but it is a very good effort and a movie we both plan to see again. Widows is also exceptional and the car ride across the Flanagan district might have been my favorite scene of the year. If you get a chance, you should also see The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Come for The Franco, stay for Liam Neeson.
As for our Top Six, here we go:
#6 & #5 Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Green Book (L) Another lesson we’ve learned is don’t trust the trailers, and we hesitated to even see these movies because the trailers made them out to be something that they weren’t. These two films even more in common than bad trailers, so much so that L penned a joint review: “These films are Oscar worthy in various artistic and technical categories. If you are looking for funny, deep, thought provoking, well-crafted, historical and yet personal films to watch, I recommend Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Green Book to you.”
#4 Free Solo (L) “If you take the time to watch this movie it’s something that will actually give back to you and enrich your life. There are not many movies you can say that about. And definitely catch it in the theater so you can truly appreciate the scale of this almost unimaginably epic undertaking.” Or buy yourself a projector and show it on a really big sheet at home. Unimaginable is the perfect word choice for Alex Honnold’s feats of strength.
#3 Phantom Thread (D) “The bottom line is that you can take the movie at face value and you will find it beautiful and possibly that it has a lot to say about cut-throat competition in human interactions… But I would urge you to have an open mind about this being a comedy, because the movie is seriously hilarious… [We] encourage you to check it out because it is beautiful, awesome, hilarious, and may well be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role.”
#2 Eighth Grade (L) “Eighth Grade is a masterpiece. It’s a simple as that. I don’t know what’s in the water that writer director Bo Burnham is drinking but I would like to splash a little on my neck… While chronicling the life and times of 13 year old Kayla Day (Elise Kate Fisher) you never feel imposed upon. There is never some heavy hammer here. Just like social media itself, like a snake, it slowly envelops its prey and before you know it, you can…not…breathe. [T]he real triumph of the film is that it can at one hand painfully and accurately represent the struggle of this age and at the same time entertain the audience every step of the way. Having us wonder what on earth will happen next. ”
Short-listed for loudest film of the year — you should see this in the theater for no other reason that you can’t turn the volume down! There is no escape. A metaphor for adolescence if there ever was one.
#1 Death of Stalin (D) Ostensibly a black comedy, though it is perhaps still too soon. Great acting from Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, and especially Simon Russell Beale, “who is other-worldly in his role as the head of state security, Lavrentiy Beria, with a performance that is so convincing, so troubling, I was physically unsettled for most of the film.”
“But It’s fair to say that the movie is more than a sum of its acting, as the set pieces, costumes, and general tenor are all convincing and excellent, and contribute to the unease that certainly will fill any thinking person… Buscemi as Khrushchev emerging as the voice of reason is both a relief and horrifying all at once… So, big, big ups from L&D, with the caveat that maybe it’s better not to think to hard about the fact versus fiction in this one, as the facts are probably even worse than what this movie shows and implies.”
The ups are so big, in fact, that is L&D’s movie of the year.
So, that’s 21 movies listed here we liked, and three that we didn’t. If you see any of these, please let us know what you think.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. We appreciate the support — tell a friend, tweet the review if you like it. And, thanks to Marcus Theaters for its remarcable Tuesday and Thursday specials. We wouldn’t do it without you.