Views from 2017

I’m going to get to my favorite movies, performances, etc., but first I want to talk about what I think was easily the most important movie thing of 2017: the conversations and action surrounding sexual harassment within the industry. It started with Weinstein’s reckoning and, as of now, there seems to be no end to it, as conversations of power, exploitation, and abuse, rightfully, flow into other industries, and these discussions make their way from Hollywood to manufacturing floors to kitchen tables.

These conversations have grown into a movement, led by strong and rightfully angry women, becoming not simply talk about the monstrous, like Weinstein, but also about the everyday ways in which men—our favorite comedian, our friendly coworker, our friend, even myself—have either ignored oppressive behavior or performed and enabled it. These are not comfortable conversations, nor should they be, but they are so very vital.

Besides, women have been sacrificing comfort for survival forever, a tough conversation won’t kill a dude. The industry must change, just as much as the Hollywood and the movies we see in 2018, 2019, and beyond will likely reflect the seismic shift experienced in 2017, both in front of the camera and behind it.

And now, I’ll stand off my social justice soapbox and step onto my movies’ soapbox … just kidding! Movies are political, everything is political, I only have one soapbox, and I’m never getting off it.

So, without further ado, here are my 2017 faves*, as I reminisce on the Views from 2017…

Favorite Films-Gold

  • Get Out (ICONIC, a cultural moment, and deserves more accolades than its received. This is the movie we’ll be discussing in a decade, in two decades.)
  • Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins made something special, offering a complex look at war and a distinct vision of hope. She’s a gift of a director. It’s a shame Warner seems so indifferent to this movie’s success and the woman who helmed it.)
  • Good Time (Literally left the theater in awe, a powerhouse movie with a masterful score.)
  • Call Me By Your Name (A movie that feels so natural and so very real. Conversations I’ve had with others and myself reflected back at me. It felt too intimate at times, almost an invasion on these people’s lives.)
  • A Fantastic Woman (I can’t stop thinking about A Fantastic Woman. A realistic fantasy or fantastic realism? I wish I could relive watching it. That club scene!)

Favorite Films-Silver

  • BPM (Beats per Minute) (A powerful film about the AIDs crisis, but more importantly, about those moments in between in which we simply exist, without politics, without disease, without sorrow. It’s beautiful and poignant. It’s also one of the few films I’ve seen that captures activism perfectly.)
  • Logan (What a fitting conclusion to Jackman’s time as Wolverine. A movie that doesn’t just interrogate the character, but also comic books themselves, discussing their worth and importance.)
  • Power Rangers (Most Underrated: this movie subverted almost every summer cash grab blockbuster trope and became something memorable and emotional, all the while leaning into its own campiness.)
  • The Big Sick (The real romance was how much you fall in love with this cast by movie’s end. I could watch them interact endlessly.)
  • Girls Trip (A raucous joyride that changed grapefruits and zip lines forever. Tiffany Haddish earned an Oscar nom. I’ll never not feel personally slighted by this Academy oversight.)
  • Mudbound (Dee Rees did that! This movie didn’t just direct itself. I’m pissed she didn’t get her due, but I know we’re all going to be hearing her name often in the future.)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (This is a fun movie, bringing some much-needed color and outsider energy to the Marvel universe. Taika Waititi is a miracle—a handsome, energetic, talented, handsome, handsome, miracle.)
  • The Disaster Artist (Funny without every being cruel or mean. I don’t think it goes as far as it should in exploring Tommy Wiseau as a character, especially given that he’s wealthy and has some questionable ideologies.)
  • Lady Bird (This movie is so lovely and down to earth. The performances were so intimately human. An exceptional debut from Gerwig. I do have to say that I wish The Edge of Seventeen got a similar response because it’s just as well made and as deeply felt of a movie. Either way, thank god movies of this character are getting their due.)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson forced the audience to contend with not only the orthodoxy of the Jedi, but also with Star Wars itself. It’s an incredible feat that I, for one, think he pulled off and then some. I’ll also defend Leia flying through space until my last breath, this is the hill I’m going to die on.)
  • The Shape of Water (A better love letter to movies than La La Land, as well as a deeper, more thoughtful romance. Also, can we all just acknowledge how wonderful and wild it is that a movie where a woman sleeps with a fish-man is a frontrunner for Best Picture?)
  • Neighborhood Food Drive (Wild, infuriating, and hilarious. I want more from director Jerzy Rose and lead actress Lyra Hill. I wish this one had gotten a bigger release and audience.)
  • Personal Shopper (A ghost story less about the paranormal and more about presence and absence, as well as technology’s role in how we communicate with each other, with ourselves.)
  • Ingrid Goes West (Like an All About of Eve for the Instagram generation. Aubrey Plaza’s lack of noms is gross. #vomitfaceemojii)
  • The Post (I’m a sucker for a journalism movie, and I love Spielberg’s approach to this one. He makes a movie that feels classic yet concerned with contemporary issues. Maybe a little too on the nose sometimes, but perhaps he went broad in order to relate to a large audience. It’s Spielberg after all, he wants to speak to everyone.)
  • I, Tonya (I think I might have loved this movie. The exploration of Tonya Harding opens up so many conversations concerning what we expect of women and what we demand of them. This might actually move to Gold after I digest it more.)
  • Raw (Director Julia Ducournau makes an explosive entrance with her first feature film. That ending though.)
  • A Quiet Passion (Disarmingly good. Shows how painfully mundane, even quiet, this thing we call life is—whether it’s sitting with family or watching your mother die.)
  • The Work (A timely documentary about toxic masculinity and emotional wounds. It’s a powerful glimpse into therapy and what it takes to dismantle inter-generational and personal trauma.

Favorite Films-Bronze

  • Dunkirk (I legitimately can’t believe I saw this in IMAX, 70mm the month it came out. It almost feels like I watched it decades ago. Dope flick, even if form and technique outshine the movie as a whole.)
  • mother! (Definitely just an okay movie, I’ll forever be confused by how this was one of the most divisive movies of the year. It’s a little too bland, although I love the melodrama and horror flourishes.)
  • Dave Made a Maze (An enchanting movie full of creativity and energy.)
  • Fraud (Maybe one of the scariest flicks I saw this year. Gives the found footage genre a whole new depth.)

Favorite Animated Films

  • The Lego Batman Movie (Why doesn’t the Academy understand Lego movies?)
  • Your Name (A beautiful movie that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did.)
  • Coco (This movie snuck up on me. I undervalued what it was trying to do and how it did it so successfully: teaching children about death and departures.)
  • The Boss Baby (It’s better than you think it is, in terms of story and animation, and it’s got a valuable and surprising message. I truly believe it’s an earned nom, and I’m prepared for the harassment over this opinion.)

Favorite Directors

  • Jordan Peele, Get Out (THIS MOVIE. PEELE’S FIRST MOVIE. IT DIDN’T JUST ENTER THE ZEITGEIST, IT TOOK IT OVER AND MADE A PERMANENT RESIDENCY. PEELE BROUGHT EVERYTHING TOGETHER IN THIS. THE DETAIL AND THE QUALITY IS STAGGERING. DID I MENTION THIS IS HIS FIRST MOVIE??)
  • Dee Rees, Mudbound (Her absence from this awards season is appalling. This is a movie that would have failed in other hands, in terms of production and story. She got it all right.)
  • Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins took a weak script and made a more than exceptional movie.)
  • Joshua and Ben Safdie, Good Time (The energy! The tension! The life! I can’t say enough about how excellent this movie was.)
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird (It’s so rare when you see actors and characters so obviously loved by their director. I’m kind of in the “Lady Bird was over-hyped” camp, but I’ll never not stan for Gerwig. She truly saw, inspired, and brought out the best in her performers.)
  • Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name (He filmed it in chronological order, and although a difficult task, the film’s results speak to this brilliant decision.)
  • Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water (del Toro knows monsters and movies so damn well. Even if I think the social commentary was misguided, this movie was elegant and earnest.)
  • Sebastián Lelio, A Fantastic Woman (Brilliant on all fronts. I might be in genuine rapture of this movie. I want to talk about it with everyone. That club scene!)
  • Robin Campillo, BPM (Beats per Minute) (Moving without ever being saccharine. Realistic without ever being over the top. Informative without ever being dry. Campillo walked a tightrope and delivered.)
  • Makoto Shinkai, Your Name (This movie could have been a mess given what it’s parts are, but the sum is gorgeous, romantic, and deeply felt. A beautiful movie from start to finish, in every sense of the word.)
  • Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya (The format riffed on those glossy Olympic bio shorts, showing just how much we never see of what goes into being an Olympian, into being Tonya Harding. Gillespie crafted something surprising out of a story that seemed to have already been told.)

Favorite Lead Performances

  • Hugh Jackman, Logan (One of our greatest living performers reckoning—quite literally—with the role he’s become inseparable from.)
  • Robert Pattinson, Good Time (An intense portrait of desperation, never lacking depth.)
  • Anthony Gonzalez, Coco (This kid is 12 and made me weep. His vocal performance was extraordinary, I wish there were more types of accolades to give him. He made Coco something special, as opposed to the Cars 3/The Good Dinosaur-esque movie it could have been.)
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird (An intimate performance, like all of those in Lady Bird.)
  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water (She’s incredible in this. A wordless victory. I do have to admit that part of me is always gonna root for her until she wins a retroactive Oscar for Happy-Go-Lucky, one of the greatest performances ever filmed.)
  • Lyra Hill, Neighborhood Food Drive (I want her in everything. She’s intense, she’s hilarious, she knows how and when to go big or small, and does it successfully in turn. A wonder on screen. You hate the character but can’t wait to see what Hill will do next.)
  • Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper (That train scene though.)
  • Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West (Plaza is a gift to this world. If Ingrid Goes West is a taste of what’s to come, then her awards are going to be piling up in no time #informationdeskperson.)
  • Meryl Streep, The Post (I am still furious at Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins, a terrible movie with atrocious gender politics, in which she acted terribly and still got an Oscar nom. It’s absurd. But, Streep really goes small for The Post, reminding me why she’s the legend she is. Meryl is queen of hand gestures.)
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya (Robbie actually took a big risk with this role, and I keep thinking of the expressions and emotions she captured. It’s a memorable and vital performance.)
  • Garance Marillier, Raw (This girl played a cannibal vet and played it perfectly.)
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out (A tough role that is pulled off expertly. He’s the focal point of the whole movie, it’s linchpin, having to flow from tone to tone. And he never misses a beat even as the situation gets more absurd and more horrific.)
  • Daniela Vega, A Fantastic Woman (My god. My god, my god, my god. What word is stronger than astounding? Daniela Vega was intoxicating, maybe one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. A waterfall of emotions beneath a still-water face. A Fantastic Woman is Daniela Vega. The film doesn’t exist without her. Her absence from the Oscar noms is shameful, full stop. Cast her in everything.)
  • Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, BPM (Beats per Minute) (Biscayart is this movie’s life, it’s heart and soul. We keep watching because of him. He portrays life, from the mundane to the tragic to the exhilarating.)
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Powerful performance trapped in a subpar movie. Frances is one of our greatist living performers.)
  • Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion (She’s incredible. Her Dickinson cracks and burns up before our eyes. She should have been a larger part of the Best Actress conversation.)

Favorite Supporting Performances

  • Betty Gabriel, Get Out (Easily the best performance of the year for me, bar none. Gabriel’s work was subtle and powerful. If you only watch her performance, it’s clear Get Out is a horror, and she captures that mood and reads the terror back to the audience tenfold. She had to toe the line between playing a character playing another character with a third character beneath it all, in a situation bordering on the absurd. And she still commands the screen, with a gesture, with her eyes. The intensity from Gabriel’s eyes is palpable. That scene didn’t become a meme for no reason. Her oversight this awards season is downright criminal.)
  • Sienna Miller, The Lost City of Z (She turned a pretty unexceptional role into a memorable performance.)
  • Angus Macfadyen, The Lost City of Z (Maybe my favorite villain of the year. Macfadyen could kill with a glance.)
  • Ray Romano, The Big Sick (Romano blew me away. It was a performance that vacillated from hilarious to poignant.)
  • Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip (Haddish exploded onto the scene with this role for all the right reasons. It’s raucous, its incendiary, and its brilliant in its brashness. If comedies were treated better, she’d be a shoo-in. And to whoever tells me her nomination makes no sense, I turn your attention to Melissa Mccarthy and Marisa Tomei, who more than earned their nom and win, respectively, just as much as Haddish did.)
  • Lil Rel Howery, Get Out (THE HERO. Hilarious in a way that never made the movie feel broad or over the top.)
  • Michelle Pfeiffer, mother! (That eye roll at Jennifer Lawrence though. Pfeiffer was seemingly the only one who understood how broad and soapy to take the movie.)
  • Mary J. Blige, Mudbound (An incredible performance from one of the strongest performers we have. Never overly dramatic nor “showy”, even when the character had been pushed to her edge.)
  • Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok (This was a wonderful, fun performance. She came into the third installment of Thor and the 17th installment of a Marvel movie with a character that felt lived-in, as if she’s been in every Marvel movie. And maybe she should be.)
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird (Metcalf isn’t doing weird or chewing scenery, she’s laying it all on the line. When Metcalf weeps, you feel it in your bones. Her anguish captures emotions we don’t often see or like to see on screen. It’s not showy, nor cinematic, it’s beautifully and painfully human.)
  • Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name (Stuhlbarg was the standout for me in Call Me By Your Name, capturing your attention playfully on the edges of the movie, only to break you at its climax. Not to mention the fact that he also killed it in The Post and The Shape of Water.)
  • Sebastian Stan, I, Tonya (Gave depth to Jeff Gillooly. A feat if there ever was one.)
  • Paul Walter Hauser, I, Tonya (Just hilarious. Hauser didn’t seem afraid of this role at all. He also captured the violence that sometimes lurks beneath sheer stupidity.)
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Rockwell deserves the accolades he’s getting. He gives depth and surprise to what could’ve been a caricature. That being said, if he wins Best Supporting Actor for it, I’m gonna say it’s also counting as a retroactive win for his performance in Charlie’s Angels.)
  • Peter Dinklage, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (How much longer until Game of Thrones is over and Peter Dinklage can be in every movie? He’s so talented and so charming, even in this very basic, almost nothing, role.)
  • Samara Weaving, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (A little role, but she’s hilarious and bounces comedically off of the drama in a natural way.)
  • Jennifer Ehle, A Quiet Passion (She’s phenomenal in this, Nixon’s almost polar character opposite. I wish I saw her in more.)

Favorite Screenplays

  • The Lego Batman Movie (This is the gold standard for Batman movies.)
  • Get Out (Original, intelligent, horrifying. A debut from a master. The sunken place!)
  • Your Name (A gender-swapping romance? It shouldn’t have worked as well as it did.)
  • The Big Sick (A rom-com for a new era that never seems embarrassed by its genre. And why should it be?? Give me all of the rom-coms again, please and thank you.)
  • Mudbound (I usually hate voiceover narrations, but Mudbound’s are basically a part of the environment of the movie. They’re poetic and organic. The dialogue and narration is an interlocking puzzle, all contributing towards theme, character, and story in ways unexpected. Dee Rees did something similar with Pariah, she’s simply a master.)
  • Lady Bird (The opening scene is one of my favorite ever written. “They slow for a stop light and Lady Bird dramatically opens the door and rolls out of the car. Marion screams.”)
  • Call Me By Your Name (This movie has them layers. Characters could be talking about five different things at once.)
  • Neighborhood Food Drive (Hilarious and biting. It’s fearless in it’s approach to making the most absurd and awful characters possible.
  • Raw (That ending though. A movie in which every scene and character is structured in perfect harmony.)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (I just loved what Jensen did with Star Wars and with these characters. Laura Dern’s arc does in moments what Rogue One tried to do in a whole movie.)
  • I, Tonya (Subtle in the way it challenges the audience, both in their perception of women and Olympians.)

Favorite Cinematography

  • Darius Khondji, The Lost City of Z (Ugh, this infuriating movie was so wonderfully shot and beautifully lit. I’d watch it again and again, even though I don’t particularly like the movie.)
  • Matthew Jensen, Wonder Woman (A tableau of beauty. He shot a movie of ancient iconography and comic book style.)
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk (It’s gorgeous in its streamlined beauty. Those blues.)
  • Sean Price Williams, Good Time (New York City hasn’t looked this good in a movie in a long time, even if it’s look is grungy and gritty.)
  • Rachel Morrison, Mudbound (Rachel Morrison was one of my long-shot Oscar noms. This movie is gorgeous, you could practically step into the frame and feel the rain or the heat on you. It’s not even obvious at times because of how well it functions toward the scene, the mood, and the entire movie, which of course, is the trademark of an exceptional cinematographer.)
  • Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water (Romantic and somehow sad. A perfect fit for the movie.)
  • Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Call Me By Your Name (Lush and sultry, the lighting might as well be its own character. It’s just as excellent and sensual as Chalamet or Hammer.)
  • Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 (Deakins has been nominated 15 times for a reason. As much as I thought the movie was meh, he had nothing to do with that.)
  • Benjamín Echazarreta, A Fantastic Woman (That club scene though! But for real, Echazarreta highlights the mood from scene to scene in unexpected ways, sometimes through naturalism, sometimes through noir flourishes, just to name a few. A movie full of surprises.)
  • Jeanne Lapoirie, BPM (Beats per Minute) (The dancing interlude scenes are perfect, but Lapoirie’s real talent is expressed in the realism of the movie, in meeting rooms, office buildings, and hospitals.)

Favorite Scores

  • Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time (It’s perfect, it’s thrilling, and it’s melancholy in the way that this movie is.)
  • Radwimps, Your Name (Almost like a musical soundtrack, but never overbearing.)
  • Tamar-keli Roberts, Mudbound (Tamar-keli Roberts made an organic score, both to the story and in terms of its earthiness, its rawness. It set the scene, it supplemented the mood, it fit into the movie perfectly. It was the definition of atmosphere, and her oversight this awards season haunts me.)
  • Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water (Romantic and lovely. Elegant in a classic way. This is a movie meant for the theaters.)
  • John Williams, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (The GOAT.)
  • Matthew Herbert, A Fantastic Woman (Underscored every emotion of the scene, every feeling behind Daniela Vega’s performance.)
  • Arnaud Rebotini, BPM (Beats per Minute) (Celebratory at turns, moving at others. It’s a score of life, of death.)

Favorite Songs

  • “Remember Me”, Coco (A gorgeous song, sung with a surprising depth of feeling from Anthony Gonzalez.)
  • “Never Enough”, The Greatest Showman (I love this pop ballad, but part of that might be because it’s presented as this grand opera number by the most famous opera singer in Europe. Also it did the old school thing and had a voice dub. This movie is bananas, please watch it.)
  • “Visions of Gideon”, Call Me By Your Name (It captures the mood of the whole movie and serves as its fitting epilogue.)
  • “The Pure and the Damned”, Good Time (Easily one of my favorite songs of the year. If I had to choose between Call Me By Your Name’s ending and Good Time’s similar ending, it would be Good Time hands down. This song captured the melancholy spirit of a movie so energetic, commenting on the mood when we stop running.)
  • “Warehouse” and “Queen”, A Fantastic Woman (This might have been my favorite scene of the year. Entirely in my wheelhouse, but also a perfect centerpiece to the movie.)

*Disclaimer: I did not see every movie that came out this year, obviously, because I am not an all-seeing god (just yet). I will mention that the “biggies”, just to name a few, that I didn’t see but want to at some point are: A Ghost Story, The Florida Project, Phantom Thread, Faces Places, Darkest Hour, Wonderstruck, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lady Macbeth, In the Fade, My Life as a ZucchiniGod’s Own CountryLogan LuckyKediColumbusWhose Streets?, and The Square. Oh wow. That’s a bunch of blind spots. I really just qualified the hell out of my favorites list, didn’t I?

 

 

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