The best of what I saw, and what is to come
Review — January is that time of the year when we reflect on the good that has happened in the past 12 months and anticipate the good that is on the horizon. Sure, this is a healthy attitude to approach in terms of life choices, but I’m here in the Arts section to talk about movies. So, as I always do, I’ve completed my top 10 list of 2017. All of the featured films are arranged based on five criteria: the cinematic experience, its re-watchability, its impact to the genre, the overall filmmaking quality and the presence of a unique perspective. All of these are graded as at least an A-. Before we begin, here are some honorable mentions: “Okja,” “The Big Sick,” “Norman,” “I, Tonya” and “Molly’s Game.”
The list begins at number 10 with “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton.” This Netflix exclusive documentary revolves around Jim Carrey’s behind-the-scenes transformation into legendary idiosyncratic comedian Andy Kaufman for the film “Man on the Moon.” In the late ’90s during production, Carrey wanted to film his method transformation. After sitting on his desk for nearly 20 years, the tapes are combined with an in-depth interview of Carrey himself. The documentary dives into Carrey’s psyche for 90 minutes and is very touching, more than one would have expected.
At number nine, we have “Blade Runner 2049,” and at number eight, we have “Get Out.” While I have already previously reviewed both, I will simply remark that “2049” was an intriguing slow burn that superseded its 1982 original. I acknowledge that this definitely is not for everyone but should still be recognized as one of the most beautiful sci-fi movies ever and a true triumph. “Get Out,” on the other hand, was an incredibly strong directorial debut by Jordan Peele. A film this small that had this much staying power in our minds needs no further explanation was to why it was remarkably hypnotic and one of the best of the year.
In the number seven slot, we have “Ingrid Goes West,” and at number six we have “Wind River.” Both of these were two of the best films of the summer, telling original stories with sympathetic characters. The former was a commentary on superficiality, and the distance created by social media, featuring a criminally underrated script performed stunningly and subtly by the entire cast; the latter was a murder and sexual assault investigation incorporating a commentary on the social standings of Native Americans in modern America. The Taylor Sheridan film is a strong terminus for his “Frontier Justice” trilogy (along with “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”), one of the most consistent and one of my favorite trilogies of all time.
We continue with “Logan” at number five and “Dunkirk” at number four. “Logan,” Hugh Jackman’s emotional final entry as Wolverine may have swayed me to praise this film initially, but I can safely say that the film is so much more than that. It’s a road trip movie. It’s a redemption story. It’s a yearning for happiness in a society that shuns and fears you. It has easily pierced my list for favorite superhero films of all time, yet it doesn’t feel like one. “Dunkirk” was a feast for the senses, especially if you saw it in 70mm IMAX like I did. There’s nothing I need more to say that was not covered by my previous review. Simply mesmerizing.
At number three we have “The Square,” a Swedish film that fascinates with its social commentary on the inherent goodness of people, satirizes the cultural elite and uncomfortably shows us the behavior of the primeval animals we used to be. This movie was extremely slow and quite thematically complex while making us laugh at the oddest moments. Essentially, this is a dark version of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It’s just as awkward and funny but in a dark shadow. The acting is fantastic, the script is air-tight and witty, and cinematography is stark, yet beautiful. The two-hour twenty-two-minute runtime may be exhausting just to look at, but I assure you the film is worth your time.
At number two we have “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” My previous review highlights my thoughts on this film, but to summarize: nail-biting, arm rest-clenching, heart-stopping. This tense masterpiece was yet another dark satire I could not stop thinking about after I left the theater. My number one, I feel, should be obvious to any regular readers by now. The film by my favorite writer-director; the one with staggering performances by the entire cast, even including the smaller roles; the one with one of the best on-screen redemptive arcs; the one with dialogue that rings true; the one that’ll make you chuckle as you cry; the one with a great soundtrack as well as a playlist: “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Now that my top ten is out of the way, let’s look forward to 2018. Unfortunately, there will be very few indies on this list, as their existences aren’t acknowledged until film festivals early in the year. Chronologically, we begin with “Black Panther” in February. Marvel seems to be on an upswing with “Spiderman: Homecoming” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” so let’s hope that director Ryan Coogler succeeds with what looks like a fun and action-packed film. The following week, writer-director Alex Garland releases “Annihilation,” a gorgeous sci-fi movie based on its namesake book. Garland received a lot of praise for “Ex Machina,” one of the best movies of 2014.
Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion animation effort, “Isle of Dogs,” comes out in March. It appears just as quirky as his previous films, and his perspective is always unique. After a successful year of horror movies in 2017 with “Get Out,” “Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “It Comes at Night,” I’m surprised to say that the John Krasinski-directed (yes, the guy from “The Office”) flick “A Quiet Place” is on my list. I guess horror movies and comedians may be a winning combination (but not as a satire or spoof, I’m looking at you “Scary Movie” franchise).
In May, unfortunately right on time for finals weeks, we have “Avengers: Infinity War.” At this point I don’t feel I have to justify why I’m looking forward to it. It’s the beginning of the end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the culmination of arguably a pretty consistent quality. As we head further into the summer, I’m very excited for “Sicario 2: Soldado” (or just “Soldado”). Just the way Benicio del Toro shoots a leader of the cartel in the trailer got me excited. As for “Deadpool 2” and “The Incredibles 2,” I’m cautiously optimistic. The former, I feel, won’t live up to the original I wasn’t even taken with in the first place; and the latter has come around way too late, but I still trust the meticulous story-telling of Brad Bird.
The only two indies coming out in the fall that I have heard about and am also excited for are “A Star is Born” and “The Irishman.” “A Star is Born” is a remake directed by and starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as an up-and-coming singer. The 1954 original is a classic, so I’m interested in this modern take. Finally, we have “The Irishman.” It’s an Italian mob film directed by Martin Scorsese, penned by the Oscar-winning screenwriter for “Schindler’s List,” and stars Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Romano (I know, but he’s actually a good dramatic actor) while simultaneously pulling Joe Pesci out of retirement. Need I say more?