AJ’s Top 10 Movies of 2018

best movies of 2018

Alright – let me level with you guys.

I really did not love the movies I saw in 2018, and for the second time in three years, I really don’t feel I can justify putting any movie I saw at the #1 spot.

So, I’m going to have to do something that I did once and hoped I would never have to do again – alphabetize my Top 10 of the year.

Let’s get this over with, and hope that 2019 makes up for its preceding subpar cinematic year that had little to offer aside from these ten outstanding motion pictures (honestly, though – these ten movies are all awesome).


This February release was sorely overlooked. Natalie Portman helms this female-driven sci-fi thriller as an ex-Army college professor thrust into a treacherous and alien world of mysterious biologically inconsistency. The pacing, music, and tantalizing ambiguity will throw you back to the days of classic sci-fi, while the production design and visual effects suffice to thrill a modern audience.

Avengers: Infinity War

Don’t let anyone – including the Academy – tell you this isn’t the best superhero movie of 2018. Infinity War tackles the herculean task of balancing the narratives of dozens of superheroes, all while boasting fantastic visuals and being effectively funny. Yes, it’s just a play up for the final act, but I’d be lying if I said that final scene didn’t gut punch me when I first watched it.


I never, ever thought I would have a Spike Lee in my Top 10 list, but BlackKklansman is a master work of timely drama, dark comedy, and signature filmmaking tactics. I’d gladly leave the shove-it-down-your-throat pre-credits scene, but otherwise, this flick is pretty darn flawless. Hopefully we’ll see Lee on stage next month accepting his first Oscar.

Green Book

The movie is cheesy, sure, but it’s kind of like cheese atop the most delicious pizza you can imagine. In other words, Green Book is a delight. I kept waiting for it to take an easy escape or to get overly sappy, but it kept surprising me at every turn. It’s easily my favorite comedy of the year, and is a welcomed entry into the existing saga of rewatchable road trip flicks.

Incredibles 2

The long-awaited sequel didn’t exceed the original in my eyes, but the humor, action, and crisp animation in Incredibles 2 is enough to make it welcomed addition in Pixar canon – and earn it a spot on this list.


Perhaps my most unpopular opinion for movies this year would be finding mid90s to be superior than Eighth Grade. I’ll readily admit my fondness for both nostalgia and coming-of-age movies, but mid90s is more than effective in checking both of those boxes, thanks in large part to Jonah Hill, Sunny Suljic, and Na-Kel Smith.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

I walked out of Fallout thinking the words spoken by George Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn – “Goddamn, that was intense.” The best entry in the M:I franchise since the third (another unpopular opinion), Fallout benefits from moving the face-mask-removal twist to the middle of the narrative, leaving more time for falling action…and just plain action. This movie’s a blast, and a technical achievement of sound, effects, stunts, and editing.


One of two outstanding mysteries released this year (see below for the other), Searching combines the film presentation tactics of Unfriended with those in found footage movies like Chronicle. The result is a captivating whodunit for the 21st century, anchored by a strong performance from John Cho.

A Simple Favor

I left the theater claiming I had seen one of the best mysteries – if not the best – this decade (though t0 be fair, I saw this before Searching). The enthralling, sexy, and raw story is highly elevated by the comedy (“Does Nicky have any dietary restrictions?” “Yeah, just don’t feed him shit he doesn’t like.”) and the performances – particularly Blake Lively’s, which in my opinion is one of the biggest awards oversights this year.

A Star is Born

Okay, you got me – I’m feeling backlash from the A Star is Born backlash. But the more I think back on this movie, the easier it is to overlook the flaws. The cinematography, the music, and Bradley Cooper’s performance all lend themselves to this directorial debut that is beyond noteworthy.

2019 Oscars: Snubs, Surpises, and Disappointing Omissions

oscar snubs
The 2019 Academy Awards will air on Sunday, February 24th.

The 2019 Oscar nominations have been announced, and boy do I have opinions.

Which honestly surprises me, because I was pretty indifferent towards movies this year.

That said, I did marvel at certain aspects of a few films – many of which were not recognized by the Academy this year. I’m speaking of Daniel Kaluuya’s chilling performance in Widows, Justin Hurwitz’s breathtaking score for First Man, and the stunning visuals of Annihilation.

But aside from my personal gripes on who I wish had been nominated, there were still some supposed Oscar shoo-ins like Bradley Cooper were shut out of their categories.

So, below are my takes on the biggest snubs, surprises, and disappointing omissions from this year’s Oscar ballot.


Supposed locks – or those on-the-bubble with high potential – that somehow didn’t make the cut.

Bradley Cooper

What happened here? Is this another Ben Affleck for Argo mishap, or did the Academy really not love ASIB that much?

Eighth Grade

The script for Bo Burnham’s beloved passion project was not nominated for Best Original Screenplay. I guess home-schooled Academy voters couldn’t relate to the painstakingly accurate depiction of middle school.

oscar snubs surprises

Nicole Kidman

Sure, she played the supportive wife and mother in Boy Erased – a historical favorite and expected stereotype in this category. But, she played the part beautifully, and her nomination would have been completely justified.

John David Washington  

I’m not super torn up over this one, but with Golden Globe and SAG nominations under his belt, I was pretty sure he had this nomination locked down.

oscar nominations

Timothée Chalemet

Last year’s Best Actor dark horse was the early frontrunner for this award back in the summer, but as momentum for Beautiful Boy slowed, Chalamet was sadly forgotten.

Justin Hurwitz

The two-time Oscar winner composed one of the year’s best scores. I’m just assuming the Academy stopped watching First Man half way through out of boredom and didn’t listen to that heightening track during the moon landing, because that’s the only explanation as to why this was left off. Thankfully, Hurwitz was earlier awarded a much-deserved Golden Globe for his First Man work, so hopefully that can help him sleep at night.

Troye Sivan

The singer and songwriter for “Revelation” from Boy Erased was nominated for a Golden Globe for the song, but the Academy didn’t deliver with a nomination at the Oscars. Let’s be real, though – he wouldn’t have beat Lady GaGa anyways.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Not only was it entertaining as heck, Fallout was a technical masterpiece. It was rife for nominations in many categories, but Sound Editing should have been a given.

A Quiet Place

It’s nice that it got a Sound Editing nomination and all, but Sound Mixing would have been a more appropriate nomination for this semi-silent thriller, especially over a movie like Roma.

Black Panther

I hesitated to include this snub for Visual Effects, because Black Panther’s visuals were really bad. But it was considered the biggest competition to go on and win the award, so its absence is still technically snub-worthy.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The Mr. Rogers documentary was supposed to win this thing…wasn’t it?


Nominations that I did not see coming.

oscar nominees

Regina King

I was fully convinced – given her omission from this category at the peer-nominated SAG and BAFTA ceremonies – that King’s name would not be announced this morning. I was wrong, though I still believe we’ll hear someone else’s name called at the Oscars – like Amy Adams, perhaps.

Pawel Pawlikowski

My initial reaction: Who? The director of critically-acclaimed Polish movie Cold War – which went on to snag a Best Foreign Film nod – scored an out-of-nowhere nomination for his work. Having yet to see Cold War, I can’t comment on the merit of his nomination, but can speak to my shock at his name appearing over once-frontrunner Bradley Cooper, fan favorite Ryan Coogler, and former Best Director nominee (and Best Screenplay winner) Barry Jenkins.

Marina de Tavira

The Roma matriarch hadn’t gotten much awards buzz leading up to the Oscars, and her nomination over names like Claire Foy and Nicole Kidman is certainly an upset, pushing Curaón’s film to tie The Favourite for the most nominations for a single film this year.

2019 oscars

Willem Dafoe

The At Eternity’s Gate star was supposedly forgotten. His likelihood for a spot on this list was marginal at best a few months ago, with the more likely fifth nominee being John David Washington for BlackKklansman or Ethan Hawke for First Reformed.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Looks like the Academy isn’t giving the cold shoulder to Netflix anymore. Alongside Roma, this Coen Brothers film gave more credentials to the streaming service with nominations for Best Song, Costume Design, and – wait for it – Adapted Screenplay.

Best Film Editing

I have no idea what to make of this category. Roma, Black Panther, First Man, and A Star is Born left off? Green Book and Bohemian sneak in? Film Editing can often translate to success in Best Picture – pay close attention to this category.

Disappointing Omissions

Movies I only dreamed would get a justified nomination.

Daniel Kaluuya

I mean, did you guys even see his performance in Widows? The dude was terrifying! He was way better here than he was in Get Out, which scored him a Best Actor nomination last year.

oscars nominations 2019


Jonah Hill’s directorial debut left a little to be desired, but it was still a lot of fun. I had aspirations to hear his name be called in the Best Original Screenplay category, and – in a dream world – maybe hear Na-kel Smith’s name in the Best Supporting Actor category for his touching performance as Ray.

oscar snubs and suprises


This year’s most visceral film had potential for an abundance of Oscars: Visual Effects (for which it was not even shortlisted), Original Score (just listen), Production Design, and Best Picture. Maybe it got nominated in all of these categories in The Shimmer.

oscar noms

A Simple Favor

I know, this one’s pushing it, but I loved this movie. It was one of the best mysteries in recent years, and in a world where The Academy gravitates toward crowd favorites, I think we could have seen this get nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and for Blake Lively’s engrossing performance as Emily.

2018 Oscar Predictions by AJ Beltis – Who Will Win and Who Should Win?

I know, I know. It’s been too long. Sorry.

Before I jump into my preferences and predictions for the 90th Academy Awards, I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to.

For the past couple months, I’ve been working on a new movie podcast with my friend and roommate Charlie Zizza. Charlie and I hosted this show back in college and got the band back together after becoming roommates.

So far, we’ve covered Oscar favorites Phantom Thread and Three Billboards, box office smashes Black Panther and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and surprise post-Super Bowl drop The Cloverfield Paradox. Make sure you check out The A to Z Movie Show on iTunes for reviews of new movies, modern classics, and our thoughts on some of the biggest news pieces in cinema.

Now to answer the question I know you’re asking: what separates our podcast from the hundreds of other movie podcasts out there? Well, here’s our pitch: Charlie is the average movie goes (representing many of you), while I play the persona of aspiring professional movie critic. Occasionally our opinions clash since we’re speaking for different audiences – which probably explains why Charlie hated The Shape of Water, while I thought it was fantastic.

We think this dynamic of a regular movie consumer challenging the voice of the critic sets our podcast apart from the rest, and we hope you enjoy it! Here’s hoping you give us a listen during your next road trip, commute, or workout. We have our chat while sipping on craft beer and try to have fun with it.

Listen to The A to Z Movie Show on iTunes.

Now on to the Oscar predictions.

Last year, I was pretty vocal about my disdain for 2016’s (lack of) film quality. Aside from a few standouts, I was seriously let down.

This year, I’m relieved to say I loved 2017 in film, which made making both my Top 10 list and my Oscar predictions a lot more difficult this time around.

Below are my predictions and preferences in all the major categories for the 2018 Oscars.

Best Picture

Predicted Winner: Get Out

scared get out GIF by Get Out Movie

This will probably be the most controversial prediction on my list, but hear me out.

The Shape of Water didn’t get a Best Ensemble nomination from the SAG Awards, limiting its chance of winning – the last time a movie won Best Picture without this nomination was 1995’s Braveheart. This was the first major warning sign for La La Land last year – it wasn’t recognized by the Screen Actors Guild and ultimately lost Best Picture.

Three Billboards didn’t score a Best Director nomination, and with the exception of Argo, a movie hasn’t pulled of a win for Best Picture without the Best Director nod since Driving Miss Daisy.

This narrows the field down to two movies that have scored nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cast at the SAGs: Get Out and Lady Bird. Of these two, I would argue Get Out is more socially relevant, more timely, better edited, and better written. Additionally, its maintained momentum for the past twelve months has been wildly impressive. For those reasons, I predict Jordan Peele’s cultural and critical success will see the big win.

Statistically, Get Out has its own disadvantages. Its low number of nominations and nonexistent Best Editing nod don’t exactly solidify its win, but the Oscars are different than any other awards show. Why is that?

Well, with nine films nominated this year – including underdog Darkest Hour and surprise favorite Phantom Thread – I wouldn’t be shocked for smaller films like these to take away votes from bigger contenders. All that said, I’m confident with my prediction here.

Looking at the category as a whole, only three films in my Top 10 got nominations this year. The only film I can say I didn’t like of these noms is Three Billboards, which still has a reasonable chance of winning.


AJ’s Rankings (aka my preferences):

1. Get Out
2. Dunkirk
3. The Shape of Water
4. Lady Bird
5. Call Me By Your Name
6. Phantom Thread
7. Darkest Hour
8. The Post
9. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Have Been Nominated: The Florida Project, Baby Driver, I, Tonya

Best Director

Predicted Winner: Del Toro, The Shape of Water

high five guillermo del toro GIF by Golden Globes

In a very, very packed year for behind-the-camera talent, Del Toro has emerged as the favorite to win. I’ll stick with the industry prediction because I wouldn’t even be able to guess who would take it home instead. Maybe the Academy tries to save face and act progressive, meaning Greta Gerwig spoils in the wake of the #TimesUp movement? We’ll see, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The biggest surprise on this list? PTA – especially since he took Martin McDonagh’s supposedly locked spot. In a dream world, it would have gone to Sean Baker instead for his beautiful work in The Florida Project.

AJ’s Rankings:

1. Nolan, Dunkirk
Del Toro, The Shape of Water
3. Peele, Get Out
4. Gerwig, Lady Bird
5Anderson, Phantom Thread

Should Have Been Nominated: Baker, The Florida Project; Bigelow, Detroit

Best Actress

Predicted Winner: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

frances mcdormand no GIF by Fox Searchlight

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not the biggest Three Billboards fan. Now don’t get me wrong – Frances did extremely well in this movie. Everything from her line delivery down to her facial expressions are exactly why she’s named a front runner – I just think the screenplay let her down.

However, I look at what Sally Hawkins was able to do in The Shape of Water. I think of how much joy, levity, and depth she brought to a character with no words, especially since half of her interactions were with a CGI fish man. I’d love to see her pull out a surprise win, but it looks like McDormand would be wise to clear a spot on her shelf for Oscar #2 next weekend.

I’d also like to take this time to commend Marogt Robbie for her performance as Tonya Harding and being the face of tragedy, competition, and determination in this year’s I, Tonya.

Overall, I’m impressed by everyone’s performances in this category this year, and I think they’re all worthy of their nominations. That said, I’d have loved a surprise nomination for Wind River’s Elizabeth Olsen in her best performance since Martha Marcy May Marlene. 

AJ’s Rankings: 

1. Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
3. Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
4. Meryl Streep, The Post
5Saorsie Ronan, Lady Bird

Should Have Been Nominated: Elizabeth Olsen, Wind River

Best Actor

Predicted Winner: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

In a career spanning from an imposing Russian hijacker to Sirius Black, it’s a shame it has taken this long for Gary Oldman to get his recognition from the Academy. That said, it’ll be very satisfying to see him finally hold his Oscar this Sunday. Everyone else in the category can sit pretty while Oldman’s name is called – especially Daniel Kaluuya, whose nomination surprised me the most.

AJ’s Rankings:

1. Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
3. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
4. Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Also Nominated: Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Should Have Been Nominated: James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Winner: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

By no means is this my favorite of Allison Janney’s cinematic turns, so I’ll just have to take solace in it being a career award, much like Gary Oldman. I don’t think we can expect a win from anyone else on the list – perhaps a shocker from Laurie Metcalf?

Personally, I’m rooting for Lesley Manville, but I think her nomination is a victory enough for quite an underrated performance in Phantom Thread.

Also, I genuinely have no idea why Mary J. Blige or Octavia Spencer are on the list.

AJ’s Rankings:

1. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
3. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
4. Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
5. Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Should Have Been Nominated: Michelle Pfeiffer, mother!; Bria Vinaite, The Florida Project

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Winner: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell Oops GIF by Fox Searchlight

love Sam Rockwell! But not in this movie. I thought he was easily bested by Woody Harrelson, who brought much more emotional depth to a character in the same film, and by Dafoe and Jenkins. While I haven’t seen All the Money in the World, I can only imagine the world’s reaction if a man who filmed his scenes with no prep three weeks before a movie’s release won an Oscar.

Having just rewatched The Florida Project last night, I speak with full confidence that this award should go to Willem Dafoe. Instead, it’ll likely go to the water park owner from The Way Way Back. 

AJ’s Rankings:

1. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
3. Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
4. Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Also Nominated: Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Should have been nominated: Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Winner: Call Me By Your Name

armie hammer trailer GIF

A pretty weak category has all but secured a win for Call Me By Your Name. The competition from traditional Oscar-bait titles was so lightweight that a James Franco comedy and a superhero movie both got Oscar nominations for screenwriting – both oddities for the Academy.

My pick? I’d cast my vote for Mudbound, but when it comes down to two period pieces with equally timely messages, the mainstream release will probably win over Netflix.

AJ’s Rankings:

1. Mudbound
2. Call Me By Your Name
3. The Disaster Artist
4. Logan
Also Nominated: Molly’s Game

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Winner: Get Out

Get Out Smile GIF by Get Out Movie

Aside from Best Picture, this is the toughest major category to predict. Get Out, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards all have a legitimate chance of winning.

Again, I lean towards Get Out, as I’m clinging to its Best Picture chances, and with its WGA win over Lady Bird, it seems this may be Peele’s Oscar.

But if awards season has shown anything so far, it’s not to underestimate Three Billboards.


Preference-wise, I’m thrilled to see The Big Sick get recognized and equally disappointed to see the weakest aspect of The Shape of Water – its screenplay – be recognized with a nod.

AJ’s Rankings:

1. Get Out
2. The Big Sick
3. Lady Bird
4. The Shape of Water
5. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Have Been Nominated: Baby Driver, Wind River, Detroit

And now, the rest of the nominees for feature film…

Best Cinematography
Prediction: Blade Runner 2049
Preference: Blade Runner 2049

Best Costume Design
Prediction: Beauty and the Beast
Preference: Beauty and the Beast

Best Film Editing
Prediction: Dunkirk
Preference: Baby Driver

Best Production Design
Prediction: The Shape of Water
Preference: The Shape of Water

Best Original Score
Prediction: The Shape of Water
Preference: Dunkirk

Best Sound Editing
Prediction: Dunkirk
Preference: Baby Driver

Best Sound Mixing
Prediction: Baby Driver
Preference: Baby Driver

Best Visual Effects
Prediction: Blade Runner 2049
Preference: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Animated Feature
Prediction: Coco

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Prediction: Darkest Hour

Best Original Song
Prediction: Remember Me (Coco)

Tallied Predictions

The Shape of Water: 3 wins out of 13 nominations
Get Out: 2 wins out of 4 nominations
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri: 2 wins out of 7 nominations
Coco: 2 wins out of 2 nominations
Dunkirk: 2 wins out of 8 nominations
Darkest Hour: 2 wins out of 4 nominations
Blade Runner 2049: 2 wins out of 5 nominations
Call Me By Your Name: 1 win out of 4 nominations
I, Tonya: 1 win out of 3 nominations
Baby Driver: 1 win out of 3 nominations
Beauty and the Beast: 1 win out of 2 nominations