A Decade of Movies, 2017

2017 was a very good year for me, in term of finding favorites- to the extent that, even after narrowing my list down, I find that I have 14 in the top tier.

They are as follows:

  • Call Me By Your Name: Every aspect of this movie is perfect- from the atmosphere to the plot to the chemistry between characters (notably Elio and Armie Hammer and Elio and his father).  I want a pair of vintage-y swim trunks. And maybe a peach.
  • It: It Chapter 2 disappointed me a bit, but happily this one stands very well on its own.
  • Dunkirk: A stylishly-executed war drama about the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk. A few people have criticized the “confusing” pacing of the film, but I found that the manipulation of time serviced the feeling of different types of combat in a really interesting way.
  • Baby Driver: The use of diegetic music (music incorporated as part of the plot, rather than disconnected soundtrack) in this really blew me away, particularly during action sequences. Shame about Kevin Spacey, but there’s enough Jon Hamm, Jaime Foxx, and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers to provide a good distraction.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: I’m struggling not to start every single one of these descriptions with “This is one of my favorites”. Frances McDormand is a queen, the supporting cast is amazing, and I hope Sam Rockwell can break out of playing incapable racists (see also Vice and Jojo Rabbit).
  • The Shape of Water: This is almost one of my favorites but it is at the same type so elegantly done that I would be amiss not to include it.  Yes, it is a fish sex movie. Yes, I watched it with someone I was trying to dissuade from his romantic intentions toward me, not realizing the first scene would be bathtub masturbation.  The music is beautiful, the wetly green colors are slimily luscious, the acting is all great. They need to cut out the random musical number. There is some controversy about the disabled marrying literal monsters that is very much worth reading about.
  • Coco: Coco is highly predictable, fairly formulaic, and astonishingly beautiful.  yes, clearly if I were to take two films off of this list, they would be Coco and The Shape of Water, but I’m including them, so deal with it.  I can’t stop thinking about the skeleton who is forgotten, I believe his name is Chich. The true star. Along with that beautiful flying tiger animal.
  • Phantom Thread: A psychologically twisted costume drama, one of my favorite genres.  For fans of Daniel Day Lewis, couture, Paul Thomas Anderson, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (you’ll understand).  Also good on a rewatch (I rarely rewatch because there is so much new to see, but this was on a plane).
  • The Killing of A Sacred Deer: You may know Yorgos Lanthimos from The Lobster (too weird for me) or, more recently, from The Favorite (a psychologically twisted costume drama for which Olivia Colman won best actress).  The Killing of a Sacred Deer seems less well known than those two and deserves to be more widely seen. It’s disturbing and will put you off spaghetti.
  • Hostiles: In 1892 a legendary US Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne chief and his family back to their lands through dangerous territory. Frankly, I really liked this movie and did not find it to be too problematic or too forgiving toward white people in an era when we did a whole lot of bad shit, but it’s been long enough since I saw the film that I am unprepared to thread the needle of an accurate description with adequate historical disclaimers.
  • Wind River: We’ve already covered Sicario and Hell or High Water- this is the third and last installment of Taylor Sheridan’s trilogy. In my mind, it is the best of the three and hideously underwatched. It’s cold and bleak and fairly devastating. Jeremy Renner rides a snowmobile.
  • Ingrid Goes West: It’s a compulsively watchable dark social media satire about a disturbed Aubrey Plaza who worms her way into the life of an Instagram influencer.
  • Thoroughbreds: Unfortunately not about horses. Fortunately about two teen girls who hatch an evil plan.
  • Detroit: A fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots. I put off watching it for a long while after hearing about how absolutely brutal it is to sit through. I wish I hadn’t, because it’s also appallingly necessary viewing.

Honorable Mentions: Get Out, The Wife, Annabelle: Creation, The Breadwinner, BPM, Good Time, Logan Lucky, Mother!, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beast, and I, Tonya.

I have not yet seen: Okja, You Were Never Really Here, One Cut of the Dead, Tigers are Not Afraid, The Rider, On Body and Soul, A Fantastic Woman, Au Revoir La Haut, November, and Foxtrot.

New to Me: Best Movies Watched in 2017

Most of my movie watching is not new releases, so much as catching up on films that were once new releases but haven’t been from somewhere between a year to a century.
And they’re none the worse for that.

To be eligible for this list, the film must be one of my favorites that I watched in 2017 but NOT released this year.

  • Shall We Dance (1937)
    I can’t say enough about this film- one of the most beautiful Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers vehicles that I’ve ever seen.  Highlights: Slap That Bass and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (roller-skates!)
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
    I’ve already talked tons about Kingsman so I’ll keep this short. You’ll never think of Free Bird the same way again.
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
    While the more recent version is good (particularly for a modern remake, that most justly maligned of categories) it still doesn’t really hold a candle to the absolutely masterful original- the frustrating but heroic town drunk (completely cut from the modern version), Van Heflin’s scrappy portrayal of Dan Evans, and above all Glenn Ford’s suave outlaw Ben Wade. Plus the song.
  • Django Unchained (2012)
    Tarantino’s films are very hit or miss for me, but Django Unchained was very much a hit.  The cast is excellent, the plot is fun and exciting. Tarantino does his fun soundtrack thing.
  • The Piano Teacher/ La Pianiste (2001)
    This movie is beautifully repulsive. Basically a piano teacher (Heyyy Isabelle Huppert) conducts and affair with one of her students who believes that she is falling in love with him, essentially misreading the symptoms of her rapidly deteriorating sanity as signs of romantic obsession.
  • The Hurt Locker (2008)
    I had pretty much decided not to watch this because it looked a bit testosterone-heavy for me, but a confluence of circumstances led to me watching it and discovering that it is in fact a thoughtful and well-paced film with interesting characters and developments.
  • La Piscine/ The Swimming Pool (1969)
    Alain Delon is beautiful. So is Romy Schneider. So is Jane Birkin. So is summer.
  • Les Enfants du Paradis/ Children of Paradise (1945)
    This film had me absolutely spellbound for all 3+ hours of runtime.  A theater mime is in love with a courtesan who is also beloved by three other, very different men- a pretentious actor, a conniving thief, and a rich count.
  • Contracorriente/ Undertow (2009)
    Contracorriente is my most recent addition to this list, having just watched it I think the day before yesterday. It’s a surreal and poignant ghost story in which a married fisherman has to find a way to reconcile two aspects of his life: his more conventional family life with his pregnant wife and his devotion to his male lover, a painter and town outcast.

Here’s to another year of good films!