Like with TV, I don’t watch a lot of movies, but oh boy do I tend to have strong opinions on the ones I do, and a lot of them… aren’t positive. This list mostly beats the odds, but it took a long plane ride with a very fortuitous film choice (literally, 3 of the 4 things I had left to watch at that point) to get me motivated enough to finish the category.
Adri’s Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Rankings 2018
6. Blade Runner 2049. I suspected this was not going to be for me, and would you believe my expectations were not challenged. Somehow, this sequel to a classic film (that also has no emotional resonance for me, because I will honour none of your idols) manages to make a plot about reproduction and personhood ALMOST ENTIRELY about the deliberately underplayed feelings of notable male, Ryan Gosling, with women sprinkled in as sex objects or professionals (or both) but never as, you know, mothers. Because why would a film about reproduction and personhood concern itself with mothers (EXPLICITLY IDENTIFIED, LIVING ones that you don’t want to HAVE SEX WITH, before you come at me) when we can just endlessly gaze upon the deliberately underplayed feelings of adult fucking men? It’s pretty and I’d happily play Cosmic Encounters to the soundtrack, but honestly, fuck this movie.
5. Wonder Woman. I’m really very pleased this movie exists, and that it delivered highly enough to blow the idea that female-led superhero movies “won’t work” or whatever out of the water. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, however, I have to put this one down as something I am very happy exists in a genre niche that isn’t really for me. Everything’s a bit grim and grey, I wanted more Amazons, the third act is kind of a mess, and the less said about some of the supporting characters (like the Native American stereotype hanging out on the Western Front, what were you THINKING), the better. Diana is a wonderful character, though, and I wish there weren’t these two completely separate universes going on so that she and Thor could hang out. Somewhere with colours. As a side note, I think this is the lowest I’ve ranked something that appeared in my nominations on my final ballot…
4. The Shape of Water. I found a lot to like in this movie, not least that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s got a satisfying, surprisingly twisty plot and a likeable cast of characters who mostly rise above their own stereotypes. That said, it was definitely “like” not “love” for me, and the downer ending makes it unlikely I’ll want to revisit this story. Also, it’s time to leave behind forever the trend of casting able bodied actors in disabled roles, not least because no movie with a disabled character for a largely able-bodied audience needs to have a “oh wow, I’m not disabled any more!” dream sequence, ever again. I’m all for characters who have nuanced, realistic outlooks on their disabilities, but this type of erasure contributes nothing to that goal.
3. Thor: Ragnarok. Despite having watched few of the “prerequisites” for this entry in the ongoing MCU saga, this movie was great fun, both intentionally (brightly coloured space trashland!) and unintentionally (Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent!) I understand that utilising Chris Hemsworth’s fantastic comic timing is a new direction for Thor, and if that’s the case I might avoid going back to fill in the movies I’ve missed, because this version of the character is the one I want to be canon. The plot is easy to follow, although having basic familiarity with the characters is probably necessary to fully get what’s going on. Super mega bonus points to Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, who gets to be show-stealingly badass in several different ways.
2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So, the thing about The Last Jedi is that 90% of the “accepted” criticism towards it completely fails to identify any of the things that are actually wrong with the movie. I rationally accept these elements do exist (Abigail Nussbaum’s review does a great job of identifying where the film falls short) but it makes it really hard to write anything nuanced without getting drawn into a cultural debate that’s been overtaken by the lowest common denominators. Anyway, I absolutely loved The Last Jedi, especially its handling of Luke and the constant challenges to male entitlement; while the narrative need to offer redemption to young men who absolutely don’t deserve it based on the consequences of their actions is highly problematic, it doesn’t fundamentally weaken my enjoyment. There’s a strong possibility JJ Abrams is going to screw up the dismount on this trilogy, and I’m really unconvinced that we need the number of movies we’re apparently going to be subjected to in the next few years, but from this film I’m firmly on board with where the main Star Wars saga is at.
1. Get Out. Fun fact: I saved this movie for over two months after watching everything else on the ballot, because horror is really not my thing. It turns out I was saving the best for last, though! I went in with little idea about the plot beyond “creepy white neighbourhood meets mixed race couple” (which those who have watched the film will note is not even particularly accurate) and I think my lack of expectations added a lot to my viewing experience, so I won’t say any more except that it was SUCH a smart, self-aware film packed with moments of dark humour and narrative satisfaction. I really enjoyed working through all the twists and mysteries and guessed a reasonable percentage of them while still leaving plenty of surprises for the film to offer me. If all movies were this good, I could probably get over my Thing about movies.
What I think will win: …you’re probably all going to vote for Blade Runner, aren’t you? Fine. FINE. Whatever.
What I nominated:
I’d love to see video games represented in this category someday, as there’s so much high quality, unique storytelling going on in the medium, particularly from smaller developers. When I played Pyre early this year, it hit certain emotional buttons so hard that I actually had to uninstall it for a while after finishing my first campaign because I didn’t have the capacity to deal with the replay I desperately wanted and function as a human being. There’s something about a game like this, which is story driven but encourages replays and allows for different, equally valid outcomes for the same groups of characters, that hits a spot for me that in a parallel universe might have been satisfied through getting involved in fan fiction or other transformative activities. Also, the game is about playing magical basketball in Purgatory, and there’s a giant woman with horns who sort of shares my birthday, so it doesn’t get much better than that.
I also gave a hopeless nod to Critical Role, a hugely popular Dungeons and Dragons live play stream which wrapped up its first campaign at the end of last year. It’s probably good that it had no chance of making the final ballot, given that each of its 110+ episodes are individually eligible for this category (!) and the full running time is around two full weeks (!!) but… my god. If you want to experience a hilarious, emotionally charged, unconventional viewing experience with a bunch of talented video game voice actors and their beloved characters, go check this show out. The second campaign got under way at the start of 2018 and is “only” 26 episodes long at this stage, making it a less daunting place to start.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Wonder Woman
- Critical Role: Season 1