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The Ringer’s Summer Movie Awards

Sean Fennessey and Chris Ryan recognize some of their favorite performances, scenes, and films from the summer

Pixar/Focus Features/Paramount/Ringer illustration

It doesn’t technically end until September 22, but with kids going back to school and the latest superhero flicks essentially in the books, summer is effectively over. Sean Fennessey and Chris Ryan looked back on the summer movie season on the latest episode of The Big Picture and handed out some awards. Here’s a glimpse of their conversation.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Biggest Surprise

Fennessey: Now we just finished talking about how this was kind of a drab year and there were more sequels than ever. I think consensus in our office is that Set It Up was the great surprise of the year. … Set It Up is also kind of an underrepresented genre and that’s the rom-com. And now both Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in succession have created this kind of little mini rom-com boom that Netflix is putting together. And if you couple that with Crazy Rich Asians and the success they had last weekend, all of a sudden you have three [rom-coms]. … I think Set It Up stands out to me because I thought that that was kind of the most light and effervescent of the movies. And also the funniest.

Best Performance

Ryan: I had problems with Tully, but I’ve had Charlize [Theron] on the brain because we just did Mad Max: Fury Road for The Rewatchables. … This is sort of a strange thing to say, but do you ever love a movie because someone you love loves it?

Fennessey: Oh, all the time.

Ryan: My wife was so deeply, deeply, deeply moved by Tully that I couldn’t help but kind of feel it secondhand. And obviously it speaks to a very specific experience for women — and we don’t have kids — but I was quite moved as a 40-year-old and thinking about the last 20 years of my life and watching it kind of play out. And in a way that some people might find to be a little bit gimmicky or some people might find quite moving, I found it quite moving. I thought her performance was almost as physically unbelievable as Monster. So just really shout-out to Charlize. I’m really glad she’s around.

Best Performance in a Superhero Movie

Ryan: This is kinda like giving Jamal Crawford the Sixth Man award, but I’m gonna go Michael Peña, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Probably the most delightful thing that’s come out of the Marvel universe and is the best example of these movies kind of doing what action movies in the late ’90s and early 2000s did when they were like, “Oh, we don’t need to have Steven Seagal in it. Or if we do, we can have Tommy Lee Jones be in it.” … Now they’re just like let’s have really good actors populate these films, and Peña is just such a blast in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Best Sequel

Fennessey: I’ll say another movie you’re not gonna see: It’s called Incredibles 2. I had [director] Brad Bird on the show. I would encourage you to listen to that. It’s a wonderful movie. It’s a useful sequel. It’s low key one of the most successful movies ever made. I don’t think people realize that. I think it is now the biggest animated movie ever, which is a testament to Pixar’s power but also to the unique invention, particularly the action sequences and the character-building that they do in these movies.

Ryan: I’m gonna go Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which is one of those fun movies that you get to come out of, and then when somebody’s like, “Should I go see that?” You’re like, “I don’t know, man. It might not be for you.” Which is a pretty rare thing now these days, because they make movies for the most amount of people possible. It’s kind of ridiculous that they made this movie. It’s so dark, it’s so ill-timed, it’s so violent, and it actually takes all the parts of the first movie that people were probably a little bit uncomfortable with and ups them to almost unbearable levels, but I loved it. I loved it. We did the interview with Stefano Sollima, the director. I think that this movie is misunderstood in a lot of ways, both as what it’s trying to say politically, but also what it’s trying to do artistically, and I think it’s a remarkable movie.

Best Horror Movie

Ryan: Did you find this to be a good horror summer?

Fennessey: Not at all. I’m on the record as loving Hereditary. I was pretty swayed by the director, Ari Aster’s take that it’s a little bit more of kind of an adult drama/tragedy, not a horror movie, even though there are aspects of it, particularly the final 20 minutes that are pure horror. … A Quiet Place happened very early in the year. What we had in the summer was this kind of hodgepodge. We had The First Purge, which I thought was effective, we had Truth or Dare, which I was not that into.

Ryan: I thought it was fun. Dark Web?

Fennessey: Dark Web was good. Upgrade was pretty good if you wanna consider that horror. That’s a little more sci-fi.

Best Indie Movie

Fennessey: The first one is Three Identical Strangers. … It’s a hard movie to talk about, and I spoke to the filmmaker for a piece a couple of weeks ago. The logline, if you haven’t seen the trailer, is that a man goes to college and it’s his first year in college and he is recognized immediately on campus, and someone calls him “Peter” and his name is “John,” and they keep calling him Peter, and he can’t figure out why, and it’s because Peter matriculated at that school one year prior. That is his long-lost twin brother. They appear in the newspaper, come to find out there’s a third brother. They get in contact, and then the three of them come together. That’s the first 12 minutes of the movie, and then everything that happens after that is fascinating and wild and pretty upsetting at times. I would highly recommend that people check out Three Identical Strangers. It’s a wonderful movie.

Best Scene

Fennessey: Are you with me on the bathroom scene in Mission: Impossible — Fallout?

Ryan: Come on, dog. What am I doing here? If I’m not, you should not have me on this podcast. … It’s a great scene. It’s an incredible scene. Actually, it’s just one of those things where you wonder why other filmmakers don’t use their brains like this, because it’s just like, yeah, have an all-white bathroom and smash dudes’ faces into sinks.

Ryan: I wanted to put out a special shout-out to the pool party in Eighth Grade.

Fennessey: The way that the music scores that scene, it’s this sort of throbbing EDM, and the concept of going into a space where everyone is having fun but you don’t really know what to do is … I don’t know if I totally identified with it, but I got it. That is a great scene. In a series of scenes in a movie that is working hard to make you uncomfortable, that one is particularly good.

Biggest Missed Opportunity

Fennessey: Now, I don’t wanna go too long on The Meg, but I think we were both pretty bummed out. I apologize to Shea Serrano, who I know loved it. I thought it was pretty cheap.

Ryan: I actually like Jason Statham movies, like shark movies. Those two things, it’s like you’re 2–0 on the count. Swing away. I just thought that they didn’t know that this movie was gonna be a big deal that people cared about, so they spent like $18 on it.

Rookie of the Summer

Fennessey: We have seven nominees, all of which are women, all of which most people haven’t seen before, all of which I think could be movie stars. That’s pretty wild. … The first one without question is Vanessa Kirby. I was not a Crown watcher. I didn’t know about her. I saw her in Fallout and I was both in love and and fascinated by her performance. She’s beautiful. She’s got incredible style. She’s going toe to toe with Tom Cruise in her first big movie. It was mind-blowing. Awesome first big moment for her.

Best “What Happened Here?”

Fennessey: It’s for Solo: A Star Wars Story. … It’s a Star Wars movie that seemingly no one liked, which is the first time that’s ever happened in the history of time. What happened here?

Ryan: Somehow, they didn’t know how to release a movie about one of the most popular fictional characters of the last 50 years. … I think we’ll look back and just be kind of staggered by this in years to come. … You should’ve had a trilogy of movies that you could have done that led up to A New Hope, and you messed it up.

Worst Movie of the Summer

Fennessey: I just saw it. It’s called the Happytime Murders. It is not good. … This is from Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson. It is clearly a riff on the Muppets. It’s sort of like, “What if the Muppets fucked?” That’s the short line on it. It’s not very funny.

Best Oscar Hopeful

Fennessey: I wrote down Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which is just a beautiful movie about Mr. Rogers. The only time I wept in theaters this year. I’m not afraid to say it. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. It’s more of a tribute than it is a biopic to the ethic and the thoughtfulness that he tried to put into the world. It’s just a really, really well made, straight ahead, uncomplicated, excellent, enjoyable movie to watch.

Best Movie

Ryan: This is easy. It was Fallout. It’s pretty much everything you would want from a summer movie.

Fennessey: I loved it. I think probably the most interesting conversation I had with a director this year was when Chris McQuarrie came in to talk about it. He’s got a real handle on how to make cool movies like this, and he understands the spirit of a summer movie. He checked all the boxes for me. Great movie star, great set pieces, fun story that isn’t very meaningful, phenomenal supporting characters all around, and genuine tension that kind of thrills you in the theater.

Ryan: It’s also its own thing. It’s not a superhero movie, just without capes. There’s actually a completely different physics to this movie, and it understands what you need in the course of an experience of starting at one point and ending at another and having the stakes expand as you go forward.