MARCH 28 — BEST FILMS OF 2017
2017, aka the year I had to watch two movies about operation dynamo. At least I had MoviePass, so I didn’t have to pay for either. What if we stopped letting straight white men make movies about world war two? I know there are still more interesting movies to be told about the era, but are these the people to do it? I’m really not sure.
THE OSCAR NOMINEES
The Shape of Water — I saw The Shape of Water when it came out, and enjoyed it a lot, and have barely thought of it since. I love Guillermo del Toro a lot, and I love that he has an Oscar, but it’s so weird that it came for this film, which had comparatively so little impact on my life compared to his larger body of work.
Darkest Hour — I don’t think this movie is good, but I also don’t think it’s as bad as the strongest arguments against it, which often came down to “Winston Churchill was a bad person,” which is true, and should be said, but also doesn’t say anything about what the movie is doing. I only saw it once right after it came out, but I remember being into how it makes a point of including women in a story where it would have been easy to only focus on men and war and politics, and as a piece of filmmaking it wasn’t as boring as you might expect it to be. That doesn’t redeem the film, which is still dull, and lacks enough ideas to make it feel necessary. But it’s not the worst version of what it could have been, for whatever that’s worth.
Dunkirk — I made my dad drive out to Hopkins to see Dunkirk with me when I was home from school, and he’s still so mad about it. He absolutely hated this film. And all of his arguments are valid — the timeline is needlessly confusing, and all the boys look like each other, and it’s hard to track what’s happening. But also, the how the timeline fucks around with your perception of time is the most exiting thing about the film, and one of those boys is Harry Styles, and I if you don’t try to pick apart what’s happening and chose to just vibe with it as an aural/visual experience it’s great. Like del Toro and Shape of Water, it’s weird that this is the Nolan picture that got best picture attention when I find the majority of his films more interesting. The really important thing about this movie is that it gave me an opportunity to teach my dad who Harry Styles is, which is important knowledge that I’m sure enriched his life.
Get Out — It’s only been a few years, but it’s already hard to explain how important Get Out felt when it came out. I didn’t see it until it came to the Riverview a few months later, but it was still the center of conversation. It’s a good enough movie that it can hold all of that weight of being important, and a landmark of the moment it was made in, while also still being funny and scary. Have you seen Get Out yet? Why not? You should, it’s important.
Lady Bird — I saw the trailer for Lady Bird, where it’s the girl and her mom arguing about something in a thrift shop, and then all of the sudden they stop everything because they find a beautiful dress to gush over, and I was all in on this movie. It felt like my life, but also beautiful. Lady Bird has this supreme verisimilitude, all of the people feel real, the places, the awkward teenage emotions. It’s almost embarrassing how real it feels, cutting too close to my own adolescence. I love it, but know I’m incapable of viewing it objectively.
Phantom Thread — This is just the most beautiful movie. It was the first Paul Thomas Anderson movie I saw, and I didn’t really know what to expect from the trailer, but it absolutely knocked my socks off. All the different pieces — the performance, the score, the visuals, the costuming — is just perfectly in sync.
The Post — The wild thing about this movie is that it exists because Steven Spielberg was waiting for all of the special effects shots of Ready Player One to finish, and he got bored, and decided to make a little movie. I just don’t think this is very interesting. Obviously it’s well made, and the cast is great, but the end result is small and dull. There’s nothing wrong with a small movie, or a quiet movie, but there has to be some sort of spirt or purpose behind it, and this just feels like a great director stretching some muscles while he’s killing time.
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. — Oh christ I don’t want to dig back into Three Billboards discourse. I was tired of it as it was happening, and I don’t remember most of the arguments anymore. This film did not stick in my head. I saw it in the big screening room at the New 400, right by our place in Chicago, that had double doors right into the lobby that didn’t do a great job keeping the noise out. That is honestly my strongest memory of this movie. I do remember thinking that if supporting actor has to go to someone from this cast, I enjoyed Woody Harrelson a lot more than Sam Rockwell, who ultimately won.
Daniela Vega - A Fantastic Woman🌟
Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird
Vicky Krieps - Phantom Thread
Sally Hawkins - the Shape of Water
Jessie Pinnick - Princess Syd
There’s a part in the middle of A Fantastic Woman, and I don’t think this really counts as a spoiler, because it doesn’t have to do with the plot, but it goes from a scene where Daniela Vega’s Marina is dancing in a nightclub to a full-blown choreographed dance number. Up to this point the film has been a grounded story about Marina, a transgender woman in Chile, and the grief and transphobia she has to deal with after the sudden death of her boyfriend. Horrible things happen, and we feel her pain. And then the whole film opens up into something glorious, just for a song, before getting back to the realities of her life. It’s a daring move, and something I think about all of the time. Marina is the audience’s way into the film, and Daniela Vega is incredible, holding it all together as the film shifts around her.
Timothée Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name🌟
Ethan Hawke - First Reformed
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread
Ansel Elgort - Baby Driver
I went back and forth over the top two so much here. I don’t love First Reformed, and really only like it as much as I do because of Hawke’s performance. But the last show of Call Me By Your Name, that’s just Timothée Chalamet crying for minutes is just — staggering. I remember sitting in the theater, and just being overwhelmed alongside him.
Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird🌟
Michelle Williams — All the Money in the World
Beanie Feldstien - Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer - the Shape of Water
Elizabeth Marvel - meyorwitz stories
All of the supporting women are so good in Lady Bird, a movie that I love because it’s about women. Laurie Metcalf is number one for me, but Beanie Feldstien is so great, and so is Lois Smith as the cool nun, and Odeya Rush as the complicated mean girl, and Marielle Scott as her brother’s girlfriend. I love them all. I love a movie about a woman that fills her world full of women.
Michael Stuhlbarg - Call Me By Your Name🌟
Richard Jenkins - the Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer — All the Money in the World
Willem Dafoe — The Florida Project
Jake Gyllenhaal - Okja
Stuhlbarg’s big monologue in Call Me By Your Name is my favorite thing about the movie. Some of that is simply wonderful material — “Watto” did it as a monologue in the middle of a particularly anarchic episode of GLTS a while back, and it killed, even under the blue elephant nose. But Stuhlbarg does it to perfection. I just re-watched it on youtube, and got pretty choked up.
Edgar Wright - Baby Driver🌟
Baby Driver isn’t the best movie of the year, but it is the movie I had the most fun seeing. I saw it at a multiplex in the suburbs of Chicago while we down their apartment hunting the summer before I started grad school, and going to the movies was more about wanting to get out of the hotel than about wanting to see a movie, and I knew very little about it going in, and then I just had the best time. It’s perfectly choreographed — all of the music, all of the action sequences. It just motors, and I just love it.
I listen to Johnny Greenwood’s Phantom Thread score a lot, and it’s just an excellent thing to listen to, and the clear winner here. But my runner up is the score from Wonderstruck, which is partially a movie about museums, and something I listen to a lot in my earbuds while wandering around a museum by myself. It’s a good soundtrack for the film, and it’s become a great soundtrack for my life.
Call Me By Your Name
The Last Jedi
The Florida Project
God’s Own Country
the Shape of Water
BPM is a French movie about ACT UP Paris. There is a romance, but really it’s a movie about finding community, and coming together to be the change you want to see in the world. It’s a window into a time and place, but it also demonstrates a way of living and organizing and creating community that feels relevant. It shows the big theatrical ACT UP actions, but there are also multiple scenes of people in a meeting room debating tactics, which are treated with equal import. The characters are carefully drawn, and the interpersonal relationships hold the double tension of the typical miasma of friendship/attraction/affection and the heat of strident in-community political debate. Characters are equally interested in debating policy and having sex, living in a world that sees the two as intrinsically intertwined. It’s a movie about people who fall in love and grieve and fuck, all political acts, because this movie knows the personal is political. It’s a beautiful movie, full of deep sadness and deep joy, and I love it not just as a piece of filmmaking, or piece of history, but as an inspiration for how to live a political life with joy.
PICTURE OF THE CAT
WHAT I WATCHED YESTERDAY
I was really grateful to have a good rainy day to catch up with a couple of 2017 movies. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but I’m glad I’ve seen it. It’s chilly, and weird, and I respect what it’s trying to do, but it never really works for me. The best parts are when it gets particularly gory or mystical, anytime I feel frightened it’s a good movie. I’m not bothered by the suburban drag, I might actually like the contrast, but there’s something about the ratio, or how they’re joined together, that stops me from being fully on board with the film.
Then I watched The Florida Project, which I have absolutely no excuse for not watching in 2017. It’s a really great movie. Based off this and Tangerine I feel confident saying I really like how Sean Baker makes movies. It’s beautiful to look at, and really lived in. Should have been a best picture nominee! It deserved the recognition, and then it would have stayed in theaters longer and I would have seen it on a big screen.
SONG OF THE DAY
I listened to Chumped’s Teenage Retirement for the first time in ages today, and it’s still a great time. It’s such a bummer that they only made the one album before calling it quits.