Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2017: My Year in Film

With the Oscars coming up, I figured it was time to post this list. I said that I had hoped to have it up in February, and it is the end of February.

Once again, I found this to be a generally underwhelming year. There have indeed been standouts, but overall there is no film(s) that caused me to swoon or commit to a day one home video purchase. Fittingly, this will be a quick list.

There are films which I still have not seen such as I, Tonya and The Darkest Hour, but I doubt they would have made a difference if I had. I have seen all the other Oscar best picture nominees, and plenty of others.

Another thing I despised was the late dumping of Oscar hopeful films in limited release at the end of the year, many I did not even hear about until 2017 when they were finally widely released. This practice creates a distorted ceremony, and it reveals a lack of faith by distributors in the strength and quality of their material.

Enough of the prologue, here follows the list. 

Hidden Figures

Last year I refused to put this on my list due to release date. Here it finally is. See, it was good enough to be remembered after all this time. 

20th Century Women

Again. Last year I refused to put this on my list due to release date. Here it finally is. See, it was also good enough to be remembered after all this time.

Wonder Woman

This is the first female superhero onscreen that I haven't found lacking since ever. I own this on Ultra-HD.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I also own this (in 3D!).

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Fascinating true story about a zookeeping family and the holocaust.

Molly's Game 


Once again, Jessica Chastain (also in The Zookeeper's Wife) shows up on the list. Man, she was the hottest thing on the screen all year. And Aaron Sorkin's rapid-fire script turns her voice into the hottest on the sound system. And this film had one of those sentimental moments that really choked me up near the end. (And after doing some follow-up reading, I can't think about Tobey Maguire the same way ever again).

Get Out

I saw this because of a Facebook post by G. Arthur Brown. Glad I did. A truly original story.

Battle of the Sexes

Another fascinating true story about history-making absurdity in the realm of professional tennis.

The Birth of the Dragon 


This controversial film about the legendary rivalry between Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee was mesmerizing, old-fashioned martial arts entertainment. Sure, it may be haeavily fictionalized, but it's effects on my spirit and psychological outlook are completely real. It is more about character than combat. The actor (Philip Ng) who plays Bruce Lee has a similarly inspiring physical prowess. However, it is Yu Xia as Wong Jack Man who steals the show with his Kwai Chang Caine-level wisdom and restraint. Of course, the real Wong Jack Man (and the ancient Shaolin temples and martial arts schools) preceded Kung Fu. Most people don't get what I got out of this film, but I hope you do.
Oscar Pick 

The Shape of Water

No duh, I forgot Guillermo Del Toro's most enjoyable serious film ever. I loved the inter-species dynamics and am ashamed I temporarily overlooked this on an earlier version of this list. This film clearly has parallels with Shrek, Splash, The Little Mermaid, The Swamp Thing and Beauty and the Beast. But this somehow strikes a deeper chord. It contains my favorite original music of the year, for one thing. Perhaps it is the lack of a common language that elevated The Shape of Water above the earlier films. In all of those films the creature speaks English. I truly hope this wins best picture (with great concern). 

Horror honorable mentions.


This was significant because this Summer was the summer of Stephen King, for me. I caught up on a myriad of films, not fully aware of the upcoming It. One such film was the television mini-series, which lacks the humor, but is more unrelentingly chilling. Of course, The Dark Tower was the real disappointment. Ultimately, this was a very funny film, as evidenced by the audience's frequent laughter, and it is simply beautifully shot. As for horror, I think the second chapter will prove more serious.

Happy Death Day

Time-loop movies generally annoy me. Even Source Code, one of my favorites of 2011, has been avoided on my shelf since a month after I bought it. I must say that the final reveal in Happy Death Day takes what seems like a weak resolution to a strong concept and makes it fittingly strong. This is a good time to be sure.

Nostalgic honorable mentions from that period living in the hotel by the theater during the renovations of the apartment:


 This film is like a Mad Max version of the Wolverine. I love powers, especially seeing powers, or their effects, which I have never seen. And this film delivered. I was transfixed by Professor X's epic seizures and their terrifying effects. 

Ghost in the Shell

I have to admit that I enjoyed this Blade Runner-like manga/anime adaptation more than Blade Runner 2049. There is something dreamy about this film that puts me into a sleepy state, but in a welcome and restorative way. The oddly familiar quality of the holograms in this film had me searching my memory for other past films with a similar look, but I couldn't specifically recall one. This film certainly had its flaws, but it found a special resonance for me that is as intangible as a literal ghost in the machine.

Kong: Skull Island  

My parents convinced me to watch this. If you took Jurassic Park, Apocalypse Now, and King Kong and put them in a blender, you would get something like this (assuming you turned the blender on). 

This film has intriguingly incorporated archival footage of past wars and politicians, giving this fantastic film a grounding in the real world. King Kong, finally, is truly massive and fierce. In the original, Kong looks small compared to the Empire State Building, in this film he is probably half as tall as that building. My mother pointed out how the woman in the original sticks out of Kong's closed hand, on both sides, whereas, in this film, Kong's grip completely encloses the woman. 

I would also be remiss if I failed ti acknowledge that Brie Larson is a worthy successor to the cinematic tradition of attractive women in white tank tops. 

Overall, an unexpectedly good movie.

Wow, I wrote more about the honorable mentions. Perhaps that is because the films I considered the best speak for themselves, whereas, the honorable mentions were here primarily due to their context in my life and a wish to share my stories about them.

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