While the Academy is churning in self-made turmoil, we eagerly await the potential trainwreck of a hostless Oscars ceremony. But fear not! Because your friendly neighborhood film buffs have created a sub-sect of awards for all of the crucial categories that the Oscars willfully neglect to recognize.
Follow along as Erin Vail, Meg Kearns, and Sydney Mineer, Hollywood residents and movie opinion vocalists, bring you: The Alternate Oscars! Featuring such crucial categories as Best Kiss, Best Movie Cocktail, and Best Bear.
The best scene of the year is an action sequence, one with nearly no dialogue, that almost harkens back to the physicality of the great silent films of yore. Sorry, John Krasinski, I’m actually talking about the standout fight scene of a movie chock absolutely full of outrageous action and stunts, none other than the latest entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise.
The setup is simple: our intrepid IMF agent Ethan Hunt and his CIA counterpart Augustus Walker (AKA Tom freaking Cruise and Henry freaking Cavill) are looking for their target. They’ve cased the Parisian club where he should be and tracked him to the men’s bathroom. They need to find him and incapacitate him for some plot reasons involving an incredibly lifelike mask (this is a Mission: Impossible movie, after all), but of course things don’t go exactly to plan.
In the cleanest, brightest, whitest men’s room on Earth, these three dudes just go at it. Punches thrown, mirrors broken, pipes ripped from the wall with bare hands. Henry Cavill cocks his arms like guns. Let me repeat that: Henry Cavill cocks is arms like guns.
There’s no music, no talking (other than a brief interruption from some French club-goers), just the sounds of grunting and of bodies hitting the floor. And the wall. And that aforementioned mirror. And some fists. The fight choreography is impeccable, and director Christopher McQuarrie’s ability to direct a not only coherent but elegant action sequence, without the many disorienting, blurry edits you’d get in a lesser film, is unparalleled. Do yourself a favor, and watch the whole thing here.
One of the best, most unbelievable scenes to come out of a movie this year was a scene in Hotel Transylvania 3 in which the monsters must overpower a Kraken—which is under the control of a Van Helsing fight song—with a song of their own. The evil song is a dubstep tune, and the only song strong enough to overpower the spell of dubstep? You guessed it… the Macarena!
This scene truly needs to be seen to be believed. Led by the human who married Dracula’s daughter, the monsters slowly begin to give in and dance to the music. The animation of the hips of the monsters swinging around as they cross their arms over their bodies to the beat of the Macarena is truly incredible. What follows is a two minute symphony of bouncing hips and springing knees to a tune so irresistible that even the sheet music for the evil dubstep must eventually cross itself too, shredding into pieces to the beat. The characters move with a flare that could never be achieved on a real dance floor creating a truly iconic piece of comedy and the best resolution to a conflict in a film that I’ve ever witnessed.
The memes. The Gaga scream. Bradley Cooper’s surprise performance. “Shallow” is arguably the biggest, most impactful song to come from a movie since “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. However, seeing it all play out in real time in the film itself represents one of the most exhilarating sequences this year.
In this scene, Bradley Cooper’s easygoing confidence as Jackson Maine assures Ally with his body language and loving eye contact that she can and should join him, and it’s movie-making at its finest. The highlight of Cooper’s directorial effort effortlessly blends the energy of the crowd, the passion and commitment both actors demonstrate, and the breathless quality of seeing everything come together in harmony. “Shallow” burst into our lives and will never, ever leave it, and the actual scene in which it plays for the first time is equally as electric.
On a night when my roommate and I had planned to see If Beale Street Could Talk, we changed our minds at the last minute because we weren’t in the mood for anything particularly heavy. What we settled on was a movie that piqued our interest due to its two leads: Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges.
Ben is Back is a powerful film about a family struggle that is relatable to so many families in America. It follows a day in the life of the Burns family as the prodigal son, Ben, returns from rehab to spend Christmas with his family. His mom, Holly—played by Julia Roberts in a fierce, loving, comeback performance—decides that he can stay only if he doesn’t leave her sight. What follows is the rollercoaster of addiction and the tensions of damaged familial bonds with Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges evenly matched as screen partners in performances that deserve recognition. This movie did not win over a mainstream audience nor did it receive critical acclaim, and I still don’t understand why. I recently read an article in the LA Times suggesting that the Best Picture winner should be a movie that you would watch again. I would undoubtedly watch this movie again! Not only is it a powerful story performed masterfully by a rising star and an acclaimed veteran starlet, it’s also in equal parts, a lowkey charming and heartbreaking Christmas movie.
2018 was a wonderful year for action movies. From Mission: Impossible—Fallout’s breakneck stunts to The Rock’s outings in Rampage and Skyscraper, to the dozens of comic book movies put out by Marvel and DC, the year was packed to the gills with any type of punching, car chases, and stunts you could possibly want. However, one film stood out from its typically testosterone-pumped peers: The Spy Who Dumped Me.
The Spy Who Dumped Me is a great action movie, with a dynamic plot. It includes a thrilling car chase in an Uber through the streets of Prague, Outlander’s Sam Heughan murdering someone with fondue, a climactic circus performance, and tough to watch torture. But it’s also an excellent depiction of female friendship, pushed to hilarity by Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. No other movie this year featured such an honest and accurate dynamic than The Spy Who Dumped Me, where Kunis and McKinnon take turns spilling each other’s secrets, having each other’s backs, and fighting as only best friends can.
Director Susanna Fogel deserves every iota of credit for perfectly capturing their bond. Plus, The Spy Who Dumped Me boasts a pitch perfect cameo from Gillian Anderson as the head of the CIA, on whom Kate McKinnon has an understandable and unabashed crush. Lastly, there is a hilarious Edward Snowden running gag that has an unbelievably strong pay off. I wish more people had taken a chance on this movie, it was such a fun, pleasant, exciting surprise!
Look, I get it. There are a lot of movies out there that fit the mold of Damaged Man Saves Young Girl and Along the Way, Saves Himself. On paper, You Were Never Really Here fits that mold, too, and so it’s hard to explain, on paper, the way that when you’re watching the film, it feels like it doesn’t fit any mold at all. But I’ll try.
Its pleasure and power lie in how it pushes back against the mold and subverts the expectations of the genre every chance it gets.
The protagonist, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix in one of the best performances he’s given outside of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie), is a hitman, more or less, whose weapon of choice is a hammer. He’s threatening, but not in a cool or edgy way, because above all else, he seems fucking sad. We get glimpses of a childhood trauma that may have set him down this path, but it’s mostly left to our imagination. We see him care for his aging mother in a way that feels far more genuine and less like a mere plot device than it would in a version of this story that’s more focused on the blood-and-guts than on the psyche, as this one is.
The violence is brutal and shocking, but also often withheld and implied. Images are carefully composed, mysterious, evocative. Jonny Greenwood delivers a haunting, propulsive, electronic score to match. We get the sense that Joe is so determined on his mission to save a child not to righteously redeem himself, but because he relates, because he in many ways is still so child-like himself. It’s one of the least glamorous yet most beautiful portrayals of the jaded-assassin type I can think of, and it will get under your skin and stay there, if you let it.
For the record, I have been on the Patrick Wilson train since Morning Glory. That makes me a fangirl for at least 9 years now. And before then, I checked out the schedules of the PW Express—he was my favorite part of 2004’s Phantom of the Opera.
Suffice it to say, I have been delighted by the late 2000’s Wilsonaissance, encompassing both the Insidious and Conjuring franchises, a memorable one-off episode of Girls, and now, Aquaman. It’s no secret that I love a compelling, hot villain. Orm is both of these things. He has a complicated plan to wage war on the surface world and amass control of several underwater kingdoms to assume the role of Ocean Master.
He’s ambitious and a good planner: HOT. Also, Ocean Master is the coolest title any person could ever have in any movie. I changed my Slack bio to say “CALL ME… OCEAN MASTER,” a line Patrick Wilson says with gusto in Aquaman. I want to BE Ocean Master, and I also want to be WITH the Ocean Master.
Another thing about Orm: he’s also supremely jealous of the challenger to his throne—Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry, the titular Aquaman. Orm does a lot of yelling and pumping up the crowd on his home turf of Atlantis, so he’s talented and popular. His hair, while not peak Wilson (maybe Lakeview Terrace) is some kind of adult Draco Malfoy situation that grew on me as the film progressed. “Tortured evil brother who wants to consolidate more power” is an archetype I cannot escape, and Orm took this role to new (hot) depths. (BOOM, water pun)
Honorable Mentions: Paul Bettany, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Aidan Gillen, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Ben Mendelsohn, Ready Player One, Walton Goggins, Tomb Raider AND Ant-Man and the Wasp, Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians, Riz Ahmed, Venom, Catherine Keener, Incredibles 2, Billy Burke, Breaking In
When we first meet Drew, the titular spy who does the titular dumping of main character Audrey (Mila Kunis), he’s running through the streets of a foreign city like a hotter Jason Bourne (come at me, Matt Damon), dodging assassins and improvising increasingly creative makeshift weapons in street markets. He’s got a tan, he’s got a five o’clock shadow, and he’s rocking a biker-chic ensemble that I have to assume is just the clothes Justin Theroux arrived on set wearing.
Drew has to break up with Audrey for her protection, and eventually he is assumed dead—or something like that, anyway. To be honest, although I had a truly great time watching this definitely underrated movie, I saw it in August and the plot details escape me. What I do remember, though, what matters most to me, is that the third act reveal is that Drew is not only still alive, but a bad guy!
He reappears with a bang during the big climax, wearing an impeccable tux that makes him look like a hotter James Bond (come at me, Daniel Craig/Pierce Brosnan/Sean Connery/etc). By this point, Audrey and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) have proven themselves adept at, if not the most by-the-books spycraft, then at least at staying alive, and Drew essentially tempts Audrey to join the dark side. Somehow, she refuses, despite how good Drew looks in a suit, and, you know, the fact that he has Justin Theroux’s face. And body. And general air of roguish charm that’s just barely hiding his emotional vulnerability. All I’m saying is that in that scenario, Audrey is a stronger woman than I.
Honorable Mention: Steven Yeun, Burning, the hottest maybe-sociopath of 2018, who somehow makes the act of yawning vaguely menacing (and hot)
I’ve been a Michael B. Jordan fan since his Friday Night Lights days. Is there anyone on the planet who could resist that smile and soft voice, so full of conviction? Michael B. Jordan brings passion to every project he’s in, and that is sexy! This is to say nothing about his flawless face.
In Creed, the revival in my consciousness of his hotness, Jordan’s character is aptly named Adonis. For Black Panther, Jordan maintained his muscled physique shown off through a tight panther bodysuit and a shirtless fight scene. Aside from his military garb, we are also graced with the look from the above image at the beginning of the film. Michael B. Jordan in wire-framed glasses and a furry jean jacket just being hip and hot as hell.
Jordan’s passion as Killmonger is also at an all-time high. Killmonger is the son of a Wakandan prince who was killed by T’Challa’s father. He then spends his life training in the military as a black-ops soldier, tracking his kills on his skin to prepare him for his hopeful takeover of Wakanda. It’s rare that you get a villian in a movie who has a worldview with which you can sympathize. Though Killmonger’s tactics are militant, the reason he wants to take over Wakanda is because he wants them to use their vibranium power to help disenfranchised black people around the world.
While Killmonger unfortunately meets his end, he goes out in a fiery blaze of passion. Isn’t that how we all want to go? Particularly if we were subject to the fierce gaze of Michael B. Jordan?
Honorable Mention: (SPOILER) Henry Cavill, Mission: Impossible—Fallout. I mean we’ve all at least seen the trailer in which he loads his arms in a fight, right? (If not, please watch the clip provided by Meg) I’m also not normally a mustache loving kind of girl, but it’s a look on Cavill.
If I know anything about myself, it’s that I will likely cry at a movie on a plane. To avoid this recently, I’ve started to look to silly kids’ movies (Goosebumps and Pan) and C+ thrillers. Case in point: Breaking In.
Breaking In is the story of a mother (played by Gabrielle Union) who takes her kids to her childhood home, which she has inherited from her recently deceased father, whom she also hated. What Gabby doesn’t realize is that her dad hid a safe with $4 million inside the house, and a quartet of criminals wants to crack that safe and grab the cash!
Long story short, the bad guys kidnap her kids and she is forced to break into her own home to save them. It’s like reverse Die Hard, but where Gabrielle Union (SPOILER ALERT) stabs someone with the stem of a wine glass.
(*Stefon voice*) This movie has everything. One henchman who wants to murder everyone (including the kids), one henchman who is sympathetic and struggling with the morality of the heist, and a third henchman who is willing to help Gabrielle Union. There are many tense conversations via garage intercom, an innocent realtor is beheaded for no reason, and Gabrielle Union stands over a bag of money drenched in gasoline while holding a lighter. Any questions?
I was so tense watching this movie, but it was also so much fun. I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it in a theater, but I’m still glad I saw it. Plane movies should be silly, take your mind off of the idea that you are thousands of feet in the air, and ultimately, deliver a satisfying way to pass 90 minutes. I’d rather save the prestigious films, big blockbusters, and tearjerkers for the actual big screen.
I had no idea how controversial of a pick this was until I started to talk about this with Meg and Sydney. Widows is criminally underrated for many reasons, but the one most relevant here is that the film begins with Liam Neeson* and Viola Davis open-mouthed kissing in their bed.
Not all kisses are going to be sweeping and cinematic! These are real people who want to get it on and are supremely comfortable with each other. I found the kissing passionate, intimate, sexy, and extremely memorable. Any movie that starts with this level of kissing is a winner in my book, and this type of kissing deserves heaping praise. Widows as a movie was also egregiously snubbed by every body capable of awarding it, so dear God, please watch Widows.
*I’m very glad I saw Widows before Liam Neeson opened his mouth to speak; I’m sure rewatching with that context may impact how the kissing is viewed.
Writer-Director Paul Schrader, in addition to gifting the world one of the best films of 2018 with First Reformed, also contributed something else to the zeitgeist: a hot new cocktail. Forget your Gin and Tonic, your Jack and Ginger, and your Rum and Coke, because 2018 was all about the Whiskey and Pepto Bismol.
This was the cocktail of not choice, exactly, but an unholy combination of necessity, compulsion, and desperation for Ethan Hawke’s Reverend Toller at a crucial moment of the film, when Toller has seemingly decided to take up the mission left behind by a deceased congregant. The congregant was consumed with despair over the state of the environment, over humankind’s role in the global warming crisis, and he passed on that despair to Toller.
But Toller, we quickly learn, is already a man of consumption well before meeting the environmental zealot. He drinks, heavily and constantly, and his body is starting to decay, consumed by sickness. The moment he takes his usual glass of whiskey and adds a truly disturbing dose of Pepto Bismol to the drink, the audience is sure, if we somehow weren’t already, that this is a man who has reached his breaking point.
Toller is torn between competing desires: between the hope that he can heal his body, and by extension, the world with a half-hearted shot of medicine, and the sinking feeling that both his body and the world are beyond repair, so why not self-destruct with some whiskey? The image of the chalky pink liquid mixing with—polluting—the alcohol, as Schrader’s camera, which has been largely still up until now, slowly zooms in on the abomination is one that I won’t soon forget. I’m not saying that it captured all of the national dread and anxieties of the United States in 2018 in a single frame, but I’m not not saying that, either.
Costume design is a crucial aspect of filmmaking, and yet one that can sometimes go under-appreciated. Its category at the Oscars is often frustratingly predictable, as more subtle or modern threads are overlooked in favor of the extravagant costumes from whatever period pieces came out that year. There are exceptions, of course (Jenny Beavan’s win for Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015), and this is not to say that the work of perennial nominees like Colleen Atwood and Sandy Powell (a double nominee this year) are undeserving. But I want to spread the love to three films this year that, while they really couldn’t be more different, all had me wishing I could give my closet a total overhaul.
First, Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining of the 1977 classic. From athleisure, to cozy Berlin winter wear, to coven-chic caftans, this movie has a little something for everyone. So, too, does Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, whose vibrant 1970s patterns, bountiful crop-tops, and breezy skirts wouldn’t look out of place in a Madewell or Anthropologie shop window today.
And last but certainly not least, there’s A Simple Favor, a movie that really must be seen to be believed. It’s no spoiler to say that Blake Lively wears the absolute heck out of a variety of menswear, while Anna Kendrick sports an enviable collection of cute patterns and cardigans. None of these looks made it to the Oscars this year, but I’m sure they will be filling mood boards for years to come.
Let’s face it, 2018 was not a good year for humanity, but I think we can agree that it was a great year for the animated animal kingdom. I have already spoken about Christopher Robin and Paddington 2 in my 2018 entertainment round up, but the bears of these films deserve their true due.
Across generations, many of us grew up with Winnie the Pooh, the sweet, easily confused bear of the Hundred Acre Wood. The silly old bear re-appeared this year in a slightly weathered form in Christopher Robin with the same big heart and an even bigger attitude. In 2018, Pooh proved that he wasn’t just a childhood icon and a goofball, but also a true mood for the ages.
Paddington and Pooh are similar in that many of their funniest bits come from them learning how to function in the real world, you know, because they’re bears. Though both face numerous blunders, they prove that they’re better than the humans around them in so many ways. While Pooh helps Christopher Robin regain his boyhood sincerity, Paddington tries to do as much for everyone in London. When he gets arrested for the theft of a valuable pop-up book, Paddington turns his prison into an oasis filled with marmalade. He also never lets go of his mantra, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” Who can resist the charms of kindness and a furry exterior?? No one.
Honorable Mention: Olivia, Widows/Game Night
Olivia is not a bear. She is a West Highland White Terrier, and she is a scene-stealing professional. Only a dog as pure as Olivia could dream of overshadowing the incomparable Viola Davis. And for that, she should be rewarded.
Though I have moved on from my too brief affair with Moviepass, I will never forget our summer matinees together. A true Moviepass movie is one that you would not necessarily pay to see, but you know you’ll have a great time seeing it if it’s free. For me, that movie was Tag.
What is more ridiculous than a movie about five adult men playing an extended game of tag for one month of the year? The fact that it’s based on a true story, which only adds to the fun. This is the type of movie I would catch on HBO halfway through in the middle of the night, deciding to leave it on because I don’t feel like clicking through other channels.
With Moviepass, I spent a free Saturday afternoon with a drink in my hand in an airconditioned theater laughing my ass off as some of my favorite faces in Hollywood—Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson and a radiant Isla Fisher to name a few—made a mockery of themselves. The movie also has a surprising amount of heart. It was truly two hours well spent. It is now on HBO. 10/10, would recommend if you are having a lazy weekend and need a good chuckle.
So there you have it—2018 was quite a year for movies, big, small, and bananas. Who did we miss? Will any snub be as egregious as the Academy failing to nominate Ethan Hawke for First Reformed? Will Glenn Close really beat Lady Gaga? And what other categories should we arbitrarily decide next? Hit us up on Twitter for more hot takes!