1. What was your most memorable experience at the cinema?
DAN OWEN: It was great fun watching Avengers: Infinity War on its opening day. The cinema was packed and there was a real buzz in the air, reminding me of being a saucer-eyed kid in a Saturday matinee, and it ended with a mournful silence in the auditorium. Then almost everyone rushed to the toilets (having crossed their legs for at least an hour), but a lot of adult geeks came back to hang around in the entrance way for any mid-credits scenes. There was a fun “hangout” vibe to standing there with a lot of strangers, trying to rationalise to their friends and family that it would be worth an extra five minutes to see Samuel L. Jackson dissolve to ash instead of avoiding the rush hour traffic.
TOM TROTT: I had the rare opportunity to see a new 4K print of Heat at the Duke of York’s Picture House in Brighton, which is one of my favourite films. I was expecting to enjoy the visuals but what blew me away was the sound—which is something I’ve come to appreciate about seeing classic films at the cinema, such as The Fog, which I was also lucky to catch in 4K. If you get the chance to see a film you love on the big screen, always take it!
MARK JEBE: Without a doubt, my most memorable film experience this year was watching 65,000 van Gogh-style visually tactile oil paintings projected, 15 per second, flicker-style, on the big screen. Loving Vincent was copyrighted in 2017 but wasn’t widely seen until 2018, playing both intimate cinemas and huge open-air venues to packed crowds. Watching van Gogh’s story unfold as a moving portrait, as though painted by the artist himself, had a greater impact on me than anything else I’ve seen this year.
JONO SIMPSON: My experience watching Bohemian Rhapsody has to be the most memorable moment in a cinema this year. It’s seen through a rose-tinted lens, and the lack of depth of Freddie Mercury’s personal life was smoothed over (his notorious debauchery and indulgences were sugarcoated). It left the audience thinking ” is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?” However, this didn’t phase the audience in my screening. The oversized performance during the final Live Aid scene was exhilarating and the energy so contagious that the screening I was in erupted with Queen fans singling, clapping, and stomping their feet along with the music. It was the first time I’d been in a cinema with an audience was making as much noise as the movie itself.
JAMES GILES: Avengers: Infinity War was a spectacular experience as Marvel finally reached the visual and narrative scale of their best comic-book crossovers. It convincingly brought 10 years of story and character development to a thrilling climax.
CHARING KAM: It wasn’t inside the cinema, oddly. Immediately after seeing Bohemian Rhapsody (which was a waste of my time), I was standing outside the theatre when a group of women in their sixties walked out, giggling and singing Queen songs. They were chatting about the memories of their youth and how much it felt “just like a Queen concert!” It made me realise the film was made for a specific audience, and that was most definitely not me.
JOEY SHAPIRO: My most memorable experience was watching Hereditary in a crowded theatre and realising that, despite being a jaded horror movie fan, some movies are still capable of scaring me shitless.
2. Which TV show were you obsessed with?
DAN: There was sadly no Game of Thrones this year, so the only show that came close to soaking up a lot of my headspace was HBO’s other expensive drama Westworld, although I was more “obsessed” with The Haunting of Hill House during the week I binged it.
TOM: It would have to be Star Trek: Discovery, but that’s because I’m a massive Trekkie and have been waiting for its return to long-form storytelling.
AMELIA HARVEY: Killing Eve. I was so happy to see a complex cat-and-mouse TV show filled with interesting, multi-dimensional women. I’ve never had more fun than watching the tension between Villanelle and Eve.
REMY DEAN: Doctor Who, of course! But I’ve been obsessed with the show for more than 45 years! With a new format, new showrunner, and Jodie Whittaker taking on the role, it felt almost as wonderfully fresh as it did when I was watching Jon Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen. Chris Chibnall hit the nostalgia nail right on the head, but also modernised it marvellously whilst tackling difficult historical and contemporary issues, while also returning to its original educational remit. For seven formative years, ‘my Doctor’ and role model was Tom Baker, now my daughter’s first Doctor is a female hero with a diverse set of friends. Wonderful.
MARK: Maniac. Perfectly cast if not perfectly told, the premise and performances were irresistible.
JONO: Donald Glover returned with more of his surreal comedy-drama Atlanta. The “Robbin’ Season” avoided the common device of bringing all the characters together for each episode in a specific plotline and, instead, its characters were scattered throughout the season, allowing each of them to go on a self-contained adventure. This shaped each character and revealed their own individuality through each bizarre encounter, making each episode a unique experience. It had me gripped.
JAMES: Making a Murderer season 2 was very compelling. Another masterpiece of emotionally devastating editing, with more ups and downs, twists and turns, hope and despair than 50 scripted crime dramas.
CHARING: I binge-watched Maniac within the span of two days, so there’s that!
KIM VERTUE: The new Doctor Who. It’s great we finally had a gender change of The Doctor and it’s worked a treat. The adventures seem lighter and more accessible for younger fans (like my daughter), the historical adventures give relevant insights, the space adventures have cool special effects, and the ensemble companions are strong.
JOEY: I still can’t get over Atlanta, Donald Glover’s impossible-to-classify dramedy that seems to be out of step with everything else on TV in the best way possible. It’s funny, it’s moving, it’s ambitious and, above all, it’s unapologetically bonkers.
3. Who was your breakout actor or filmmaker of the year?
DAN: I loved Hereditary, which marked an astonishingly good debut for Ari Aster. I just hope he’s the next M. Night Shyamalan and not the new Richard Kelly.
TOM: It may sound odd to describe him as “breakout”, but for someone known for 20 years as a screenwriter, Christopher McQuarrie quietly became the best action director in Hollywood with Mission: Impossible—Fallout.
MARK: Ryan Coogler graduated from Fruitvale Station (2013) grossing $17M, to Creed (2014) grossing $173M, to making 2018’s second biggest blockbuster movie with Black Panther ($1.3BN). Going from unheard of to director of the year has got to be the most spectacular real-world character arc of 2018—bar none.
JAMES: Boots Riley, for his savagely satirical debut Sorry to Bother You, and his openness in calling out distributors for their perceived belief that there are no international black audiences, and no non-black people that enjoy black-led films.
CHARING: Letitia Wright. She managed to stand out (twice!) in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, featuring a plethora of very talented and more experienced actors. That’s a skill that can’t be taught.
KIM: I was impressed by 13-year-old Maxwell Jenkins, who played the young Will Robinson in Netflix’s remake of Lost in Space.
4. Who gave the best performance of 2018?
DAN: Toni Collette was mesmerising in Hereditary as a grieving daughter and mother, evoking your sympathies while also stoking your fears. She was also being the best thing about iffy BBC sex drama Wanderlust, so had a good year.
TOM: Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal, as it’s one of those rare performances that makes you re-evaluate what a certain actor can do. And he’s had a hell of a run lately after Paddington 2 and Florence Foster Jenkins.
AMELIA: It’s a tie between Jodie Comer as Villanelle in Killing Eve and Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Both actors I already knew, but neither stood out as more than solid TV actors until this year.
MARK: Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick (retitled The Senator in the UK) as Ted Kennedy; a smarmy, lying, cheating, self-important, self-involved politician. Clarke inhabited him so well he was almost as hard to watch as was the original silver-spooned devil himself.
JONO: Toni Collette in Hereditary gave an Oscar-winning performance, as her face is a mask of fear and anger. She portrayed her families history of mental health and grief to perfection. Her character is easily the centrepiece of the movie, and she swings and punches with a powerhouse of a performance.
JAMES: Will Arnett in Bojack Horseman season 5, particularly his soul-searing, stream-of-consciousness, episode-long monologue in “Free Churro”.
CHARING: Jay Ali from Daredevil’s third season. I’d never heard of him before, but he won my heart, and that’s tough considering the range of situations and emotions his character was subjected to. On paper, the role doesn’t sound like it would work!
JOEY: Toni Collette in Hereditary gave easily the best performance of the year. There were few performances of the last decade quite so harrowing as her portrayal of the film’s grieving matriarch.
5. What was your most prized film or TV-related purchase?
DAN: I don’t buy memorabilia or posters, as I’m more practically-minded about my money, so I’d have to say my Samsung HW-950 soundbar with its room-shaking Dolby Atmos. It led to my next-door neighbour having to come round and tell me to turn it down one night. Absolutely mortifying.
TOM: Probably my Get Out Blu-ray, as it was the best film of last year.
REMY: Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957) is one of my favourite classic horror movies and perennial Halloween viewing. I splashed out on the new Indicator Blu-ray that has all four cuts of the film and a plethora of bonus material and a lovely booklet. I’m still working through it, but seeing the film cleaned-up and restored is a delight. I still haven’t viewed the pre-release Director’s Cut yet, I’m perversely prolonging my anticipation for that…
MARK: I snagged one of the original oil paintings from Loving Vincent. I know it was painted by one of 125 ne’er to be famous painters, who spent years working on the film out of love for Vincent, but to me, it’s a priceless artefact. It’s like owning one of the original celluloid frames from A Trip to the Moon (1902).
JONO: A limited edition True Romance piece of art by James Rheem Davis. This is one of my favourite movies and I indulged a purchase soon after joining Frame Rated, so every time I look at it I can not only appreciate the art but know I’ve accomplished something. See below:
CHARING: I just bought a Chromecast 2! It was a big purchase, but it became essential when my HDMI cable started failing me.
JOEY: The new 4K restoration of Liquid Sky on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome was, without doubt, the best film purchase I’ve ever made. It’s one of my favourite movies, but I had only seen it in the past on shoddy VHS transfers on YouTube. Seeing it for the first time in high definition with all the flashy, bold colours restored to their full glory was akin to a religious experience. One of the most visually stunning movies I’ve ever seen, hands down.
6. Which film or TV show was most overrated?
DAN: Oh, BBC America’s Killing Eve. Americans seemed to be losing their goddamn minds over a spy thriller that was only mildly diverting to me. Then people at work started raving about, too. It was fun but unworthy of the levels of praise heaped upon it.
TOM: A Star is Born? The first hour was great, but the second hour was a complete mess and the ending left me cold. Or maybe Ready Player One, which was like watching a video game cutscene for two+ hours. Actually, no, it has to be Annihilation; an entirely meaningless film that thought it was important.
AMELIA: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. A bunch of miscast actors karaoke-sing and capture the world’s hearts? I’m never one to shy away from a disco classic or musical, but Mamma Mia 2 is too embarrassing to watch. The addition of Cher couldn’t even save this mess, but everyone couldn’t stop talking about it!
REMY: Hereditary. I’d read a lot of good things about it, but it was a poor remake of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), which I don’t much like either. The performances were dreadfully overacted or underplayed, so most of it came across as drama-class exercises, or clumsy casting pieces, and even the usually reliable Gabriel Byrne didn’t do anything to redeem it. Although I realise it was tackling the fear of heredity disease and using this as a metaphor for inherited values and views, I wasn’t convinced that treating disability itself as a creepy element, was justified. Also, whilst I’m on a roll, the story was a mess—it fell into the trap of not making sense because, well, it’s supernatural so “doesn’t have to”… but there’s a huge difference between weird-for-the sake-of-it sloppy plotting and psychologically poetic ‘Lynchian’ nightmare, which I think the director aspired to. Hereditary wasn’t disturbing in the slightest, it was simply distasteful, which I’m usually fine with, but it was ultimately disappointing – which I’m not fine with.
MARK: Deadpool 2 was just more of the same stylized, adolescent, violent fare until it killed off its only relatable and likeable character…. only to then resume giving us more of the same, only in a less interesting way.
JONO: Marvel’s Black Panther wasn’t terrible, but it’s a mediocre superhero origin movie. I thought it was terribly overhyped and rating it higher than The Dark Knight (2008) and Captain America: Civil War (2016) isn’t something I can agree with. And although played well by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger was a cliched villain and the only likeable characters were Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Klaue (Andy Serkis).
JAMES: Despite receiving near-universal critical acclaim, season 4 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was the least funny, thoughtful, and affecting year of that comedy. After the comedic heights reached in season 3, they had a tough act to follow, and it just didn’t meet my expectations.
CHARING: Crazy Rich Asians. I think I explained that pretty well in my review, honestly.
7. Which film or TV show was most underrated?
DAN: While it got good reviews from critics, Upgrade was a movie most people didn’t see at the cinema, especially in the UK. I hope it does well on home video soon, as it’s a wonderful combination of Black Mirror and, oddly, Venom.
TOM: Ant-Man and the Wasp. I’m not saying it was a masterpiece, but it was a solid piece of entertainment that people seemed to criticise because it came after Infinity War, which was very unfair. Also, Searching, which more people should have seen. It was really great.
AMELIA: Gemini. A comedy that takes a supernatural turn, with a murder-mystery plot that’s part The Big Lebowski and part L.A Confidential.
MARK: Ready Player One seemed to disappoint everyone. Still, financial failure or not, it remains not just one of the most challenging and best-executed blends of CGI and live-action ever seen. It stands as a preview of a future in which the virtual will compete with the real, and might just win!
JONO: While technically a late-2017 series for Channel 4, The End of the F***ing World only received widespread attention in 2018 after Netflix distributed it internationally. It’s a dark romantic comedy with up-and-coming actors Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden, as teenagers who fall in love on a road trip. However, he’s a budding serial killer plotting to murder her and she’s dealing with psychological baggage that’s just as complicated. It’s as if a British Mickey and Mallory Knox from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994) had set out on their journey as adolescents.
JAMES: In a stellar year for black comedies, Santa Clarita Diet 2 season 2 received relatively little notice, despite expanding its original concept in hilarious ways. It also has a very compelling chemistry between its lead actors and works as a timely commentary on narcissism and consumerism. It also boasts Nathan Fillion as a disembodied, zombie-fied talking head, giving a bizarrely heartfelt performance. Seriously, why aren’t more people raving about this show?
CHARING: So many. The Spy Who Dumped Me, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place!
KIM: Netflix’s The New Legends of Monkey was good fun in the spirit of the classic 1970s TV series, so I hope they make more.
Joey: You Were Never Really Here, the latest film from Lynne Ramsay, was lean, mean, and stunning. A hypnotic, nightmarish masterpiece that didn’t receive nearly as much attention as it should have.
8. Was there something you missed you intend to catch up with?
DAN: Oh, many things. I’m looking forward to catching Widows, Creed II, First Man, Halloween (2018), and Suspiria (2018) on Blu-ray next year.
TOM: Twin Peaks: The Return, but I’ve still not finished season 2!
AMELIA: There were quite a few TV series shows I couldn’t quite build up the motivation to keep watching this year: Orange is the New Black, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Ozark among them.
REMY: Loads. I’m still working through Game of Thrones and Mad Men!
MARK: I’m woefully behind and missed The Good Place this season.
JONO: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix. After reading the comics and being a fan of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch movie (1996) and series (1996–2003), I’m eager to start watching this and see how the producers of Riverdale handle a more mature interpretation.
JAMES: I still haven’t seen Black Panther!
CHARING: I really wanted to watch HBO’s Barry, as I’m a huge fan of Bill Hader and the art of acting, but I haven’t had the time to catch up. Creed II, also.
9. What was the biggest disappointment of the year?
DAN: I shouldn’t have got my hopes up considering the poor trailers, but I was disappointed a talented writer and director like Shane Black couldn’t turn The Predator into something smart, funny, cool, tense, and exciting. It was a big waste of everyone’s time and energy. But there were many underwhelming films that should’ve been better this year: Duncan Jones’s sci-fi folly Mute and The Cloverfield Paradox getting dumped on Netflix, then lukewarm blockbusters like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Even the new Doctor Who mostly failed for me, sadly.
TOM: That’s difficult, but probably Annihilation. I did not like it at all.
AMELIA: Ocean’s Eight. Some of the best actresses around came together for a shallow film with no plot, flat characterisations, and a terrible heist. It was only saved by Cate Blanchett as the coolest character of 2018, and Anne Hathaway clearly having fun as a caricature of Hollywood starlets.
MARK: Hands down, the final season of House of Cards. We’re used to Frank Underwood breaking the fourth wall, letting us in on his inner thoughts, knowing he desperately wanted to rise above his southern white trash origins, so we forgave him the occasional murder. In the final season, however, it seemed everyone could break the fourth wall and bombard us with snide remarks about everyone else.
JONO: Solo: A Star Wars Story. The Star Wars franchise holds a special place in my heart. It’s what got me into movies as a child and how I bonded with my older siblings. In the Original Trilogy, Han Solo is a great character because we know nothing about him and he’s surrounded by mystery. Solo completely changed that. The infamous Kessel Run was disappointing and not what I expected, and there was very little character development between Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lando (Donald Glover). It wasn’t the worst movie of the year, however, but I set my expectations a little high for this one.
JAMES: Safe. This Netflix/Canal+ co-production, from acclaimed thriller writer Harlan Coben and with a stellar cast including Michael C. Hall and Amanda Abbington, should’ve been a standout drama for 2018. Instead, it’s sparse on memorable or original thrills and never lived up to its concept of the dangers lurking behind gated communities.
CHARING: Is there anyone who’s not going to say Bohemian Rhapsody?
JOEY: The new Halloween, while certainly fun in places, was nowhere near the return to form that I was hoping and praying for. The epitome of a mediocre horror movie, which is too bad really because it had so much hype riding behind it.
10. What was your most unexpected film or TV highlight?
DAN: Goliath on Amazon Prime. It didn’t begin in 2018, but season 2 aired this year and I binge-watched both of them together. It’s not the best legal drama ever made (that’s The Good Wife), but my expectations were low because of Amazon’s reputation compared to Netflix… but I found it to be highly entertaining pulp nonsense with a terrific performance from Billy Bob Thornton.
TOM: A Very English Scandal, as I was really blown away by how good it was. And the story was told in only three hours!
AMELIA: The horrors of 2018 were an unexpected highlight for me, speaking as a non-horror fan. It started with A Quiet Place and Hereditary (both offering smart layered horror enhanced by top-class performances), then carried into the small-screen with Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. For once, horror was less about jump scares and violence, and the more relatable concerns of grief and family tragedy.
REMY: Lost in Space on Netflix. I wasn’t convinced by the first episode but was interested enough to keep watching, and soon warmed to the show as more humour crept in and there was some good dialogue. The cool robot was the real star of the show, reminiscent of the hooded spider-beast-mutant Smith from the 1998 movie crossed with Vlad’s armour in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (hey, both were Gary Oldman!) As the Robinson family start to get past their initial resentments and bickering, we start to see how being marooned together may bring them closer together. There was enough happening for younger viewers and a strong enough story to hold adult attention. I’ll be watching more.
MARK: 2018’s most unexpected moment happened off-screen. Opening night of Black Panther got a thunderous standing ovation from nearly everyone in the auditorium. Coogler’s better-than-average movie hit a target audience I’d imagined, but seriously underestimated. Tens of millions of fans desperate for a black superhero.
JAMES: Matt Palmer’s movie Calibre came out of nowhere with little fanfare on Netflix, and was one of the best thrillers in years.
CHARING: I never thought I’d enjoy watching Emma Stone and Jonah Hill play an ’80s couple trying to rescue a lemur in Netflix’s Maniac, so…yeah.
KIM: Sky1’s A Discovery of Witches because everyone was so good looking and there were luscious Oxford locations, together with vampires, witches, and demons—oh, my! It had a fantastic ‘Hammer Horror meets Brideshead Revisited‘ vibe.
JOEY: Mission: Impossible—Fallout being not only good but really good came as a huge surprise to me. Great action movies were few and far between in 2018 and I’ve never enjoyed any of the Mission: Impossible films before, so it was all the more shocking that this stood out as one of my favourites of the year.