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Best of 2018 #1: Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Avengers: Infinity War, Vice, Roma

1) Troy’s Pick – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Ballad of Buster Scruggs has a special place in my heart. It’s a bigger place than he gives the Avengers.

As a result, you’ll have to wait to read Troy’s six-part appreciation of the Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Literally, between the 6 delays in this list and a tremendous Winter season…Troy’s original Buster Scruggs review got turned into a University Press submission. If it ever got published, please let him know. Troy is so busy recently.

1) Daniel’s Pick – Avengers: Infinity War

An entire decade of cinema, populated by a whopping 18 films, all led up to this 19th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The season finale. The main event. Avengers: Infinity War. Dozens of characters, motives, and story arcs all crammed into a gun, with the barrel pointed square at a villain who frankly hadn’t been very well-developed up until this point.

All it really had to do was deliver 2+ hours are eye-popping spectacle and it would have been perceived as a success. Thankfully Avengers: Infinity War is much more than that.

It might be overlong and a few characters might get the short end of the stick, but my god is it an engrossing experience. Near everyone gets a moment to shine, the imagery is beyond anything I could have imagined, and the emotional stakes higher than ever.

All of these things and more make it both an instant superhero classic and crowning cinematic achievement. As I continue to rewatch the film and dwell on it further, however, I find myself amazed at how complex its portrayal of Thanos is.

It would have been easy to whiff such a villain amidst all of the other characters they needed to show off and the narrative boxes that needed ticking. Hell, over half the previous MCU baddies have been left pretty thin on character due to similar circumstances. Not here. Instead we are given a passionate, genocidal titan of an antagonist who intrigues and saddens me as much as he angers and thrills.

There are films ranking below this one on my list that are arguably better movies, but no film rocked me to my core in 2018 as much as this one did. I cannot be the only one who felt this way either, judging from the shocked and exhilarated looks on the faces of others in the theater as the credits closed. It clearly changed them and it definitely changed me. That’s why it is my #1.

1) Mike Flynn’s Pick – Vice

When the dust settles, Adam McKay’s chaotic subversion of prestige biopics will stand as one of the most emblematic films of the decade. Perhaps the most successfully incendiary political film since JFK, McKay reshapes Dick Cheney’s partisan antipathy into a pitch-perfect dark comedy that makes a full week tuned into CNN seem peaceful.

In a casting decision for the ages, Christian Bale has never played a more sinister role than Cheney. His interpretation of Cheney is one of the great cinematic villains. Rendering the likes of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld sympathetic, Bale is reckonable in a way that would unnerve Patrick Bateman.

Vice knows full well of its timing and beyond-salvation protagonist. To play Cheney straight would be a serviceable if pedestrian endeavor. In the hands of an auteur with a storied comedy background, this is an unforgettable powder keg of masochism. Much like Bale’s Batman, this is not a film that we needed—it’s one that, in the darkness of our era, we absolutely deserve.

1) Jamie’s Pick – Roma

Jamie liked a movie about Mexico. Everyone can change.

Buster Scruggs Avengers Infinity War Vice Roma

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