Yup, it’s indeed that time of year – again. It’s the time of year where I gather up the morsels of cinema, the moments that brought pure joy, excitement, tears and maybe all three, and rank them, because this is the internet and nothing matters unless it’s ranked out of 10.
For the uninitiated, a cinematic happy place is basically the feeling you get when you see something particularly awesome or emotionally resonate in a film. These aren’t limited to good movies. Even trash has its treasures. It’s whatever hits you the hardest, whatever makes you sit up in your chair and pay attention. Some are obvious, others aren’t. But all of them made me feel like a child on Christmas morning, if only for a second.
Oh, and there be spoilers for the following films:
THE SHAPE OF WATER, THE EQUALIZER 2, A QUIET PLACE, INFINITY WAR, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, UPGRADE, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT, THE INCREDIBLES 2, BLACK PANTHER
You’ve been warned.
10. Help and Company – THE EQUALIZER 2
The Equalizer 2 is a shoddily put together, messy piece of mediocrity that needed at least another three or four draft rewrites before it hit the screen.
If there’s one thing that makes me sit up and take notice in a Denzel movie, it’s when Denzel threatens a bunch of goons who have it coming. Here he gets extra points for making the finger guns look utterly terrifying.
9. You’ll Never Know – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Admittedly, this scene is pretty bonkers. In fact, on paper the entire film is bonkers. A woman falling in love with a god-like fishman isn’t exactly something you’d expect to normally win best picture at the Oscars. But, alas, these aren’t normal times and so here we are. Having said that, this scene had me in its hooks from the word go. By this point in the story Guillermo Del Toro has put these two through the ringer, and you want nothing more than a happily ever after for them both. Being unable to communicate properly, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) struggles to tell the Amphibian Man how she truly feels about him, and instead imagines an elaborate, dream-like musical number that brings audiences back to the 50’s with a dance sequence fit for Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. Personally, it was definitely hard to hold back the tears during this moment.
8. Bathroom Beatdown – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT
I love nothing more than a well choreographed, well designed fight scene. And while we’re spoiled for choice in Fallout when it comes to dazzling action set-pieces, for my money, this sequence is the one that made Fallout my favourite MI film in the franchise. Attempting to subdue and recreate the face of someone who they think is Lark, Hunt and Walker end up having their hands full as the decoy makes light work of them both in a brutal punch-on that sees many a throat jabbed and shoddily installed plumbing put to nefarious use. The whole sequence kind of encapsulates the MI ethos – the two are barely able to keep their heads above water, only scraping out of it by the skin of their teeth with a little help from Ilsa Faust.
7. Permission Granted – UPGRADE
Part of the reason why this scene is on the list is because it brought something new to action cinema. With the use of an automated camera arm, cinematographer Stefan Duscio was able to breathe amazing life into this sequence. The other part is that it’s just downright entertaining. Leigh Whannell transported us back to the 80’s with Upgrade and it’s probably one of the more underrated movies of 2018. Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is forced to give the mobility-giving A.I microchip in his brain, STEM, permission in order to get him out of the predicament he finds himself in. What follows is an amazingly fresh and wholly gruesome beatdown for your eyeballs.
6. Jack Jack vs. Raccoon – THE INCREDIBLES 2
It’s everyone’s favourite overpowered baby laying the smackdown on a trash panda. What’s not to love?
5. 123 – BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
One of the things I really admired about this movie is Drew Goddard’s insistence on letting the smaller, individual mysteries take centre stage as opposed to allowing an all encompassing over-arching secret overtake the characters. It allows for a continuous wave of twists to hit you throughout the film and because Goddard takes the time and care to make you empathise with each of the players, your shock and surprise is earned. Case in point – for it’s near two hour runtime, we the audience have been wondering what the deal is with Miles, the dishevelled, heroin addicted inn keeper of the El Royale. Why is he so desperate to receive forgiveness from a priest he’s only just met? Why the jitters? Is he a serial killer? A pervert? All is revealed when, in the heat of the final confrontation, Miles (Lewis Pullman) panics, saying that he can’t kill anymore people. When Darlene (Cynthia Erivo) calmly asks, “Miles, how many people have you killed?”
The broken soul of a damaged soldier is brought to light in a heart wrenching flashback before Miles turns into Lucifer with a firearm, easily dispatching Hemsy’s merry band of Manson wannabes in a final act of selflessness and redemption.
4. So primitive – BLACK PANTHER
Sure, T’Challa can stop a car by ripping the wheel off with his hand. But can he stop a car by throwing a vibranium spear through the front windshield while standing on top of a speeding vehicle through the busy streets of Seoul? Okoye can.
3. Shotgun Feedback – A QUIET PLACE
Much like 2017’s IT, John Krasinki’s intense A Quiet Place introduces us to a group of characters who are forced to endure being tormented by unseen and lethal creatures for the majority of the film, all while nursing deep wounds from having to watch one of their children being snatched away by said creatures early on in the film. The Abbotts live a constricted life, devoid of sound and needing to stay as quiet as possible in order to survive, including one particularly excruciating scene as Evelyn (Emily Blunt) steps on a nail bare foot and not being able to make so much as a yelp. All of this comes to a head when, after much tragedy and a new born baby, our protagonists FINALLY figure out that the demonic creatures stalking them for the entire film have an actual weakness they can exploit. Honestly, this had to be one of the more cathartic moments in cinema this year. Seeing Blunt go into full bad ass momma bear mode was bloody delightful. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off mother with a shotgun.
NOTE: The final two entries on this list are completely interchangeable. Both had the same emotional impact but for completely different reasons, so attempting to give either one the top spot over the other was rather difficult. So here, have two number 1’s.
2. “I don’t feel so good” – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Look, before you start screaming “WHAT? THOR’S ENTRANCE INTO WAKANDA WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH?!” let me start by saying, yes, Thor’s epic bifrost entrance into battle with Rocket and Groot could very, very easily have made its way to the top spot of this list. It has all the makings of a cinematic happy place. Here’s the thing – while it’s an amazing moment, it’s great within that moment. Where Peter Parker’s death edges it out is the emotional impact and staying power. This moment scarred people. It traumatised a section of the audience and it was something you thought about for days after. When Parker uttered the words “I don’t feel so good” almost my entire cinema let out a unified “oh no”. We’ve grown protective over this new Spidey, whether we realized it or not and, in that moment, we had to watch him grapple with the idea of his own mortality. And, much like Stark realizing his worst fears were happening right before his eyes, there wasn’t a thing we could do to stop it. And before you give me the response of “Well, he’ll just come back in Endgame” you might be right, and our emotional trauma might be for naught. But, imagine a kid watching that ending, with no real concept of sequels and franchises, having to watch one of their heroes disintegrate and having to wait another year to see if he gets brought back to life? Credit to the Russos and writers Markus and McFeely – an ending like that takes guts.
1. Leap of Faith – SPIDER – MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
This film came in at the 11th hour and hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I was going to enjoy it but I had no clue that I was going to fall head over heels in love with the tale of Miles Morales and the Spider-Peeps. From the animation, the music, the characters, the story, the father / son relationship, the humour, depresso Parker, bi-lingual Spidey, its enormous heart – there isn’t a thing about this film that I don’t adore. But, watching young Miles finally lean in to being the hero he’s been aspiring to be, the free fall, the last minute catch, the sprint through the streets of New York, and the sneaker squeaks against the window panes of a skyscraper filled my goddamn heart and made me sink into my chair and hide my face so people couldn’t see me on the verge of tears.
“That’s all it is, Miles. A leap of faith.”
That’s me done for another year. What were some of your favourite cinematic happy places of 2018?