I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.
I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.
Some of my other favorite releases of 2017 include THE BEGUILED, COCO, ATOMIC BLONDE, THOR: RAGANOK, and THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES. Of course, DUNKIRK was impressive – but cold, as is Christopher Nolan’s way. MOTHER! is a movie, alright. Darren Aronofsky swings for the fences. And whatever you think of the film, Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Pfieffer were very good. The BLADE RUNNER sequel was amazing, and very nearly great: only Jared Leto’s messianic super-villain seemed out of place, like a character from a different, dumber movie. THE LAST JEDI: wonderful, about 50% of the time. The compelling Rey/Kylo/Luke storyline almost makes up for how they couldn’t find anything interesting for Poe, Finn, or Rose to do. (Yeah I get that the casino plot is a critique of capitalism and arms dealers and yes intellectually that’s interesting for a Star Wars movie but dramatically it was a big bag of nothing and visually it looked cheap & reminded me of the prequels and like this sentence that movie is too long.)
Linked titles take you to my review, or more info on the film.
MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN
Manchester by the Sea
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (live from the Old Vic)*
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Dave Made A Maze
Dawson City: Frozen Time
The Big Sick
Blade Runner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Coco (saw it January ’18)
MOVIES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
The Jungle Book (2016)
The Nice Guys
Shadow of a Doubt
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
The Trip (Steve Coogan, not Dennis Hopper)
Back To The Future III
Eat Pray Love
The Meyerowitz Stories
The Godfather (pretty good! why didn’t anyone tell me about this flick sooner?)
The Good Place
Game of Thrones
I Love Dick
Odd Mom Out
Star Trek: Discovery
POV: What Tomorrow Brings
Big Little Lies
Abstract: The Art of Design
BOOKS and OTHER READING
Other People’s Trades – Primo Levi
Broken Frontier (graphic novel) – Various
Lightspeed Magazine – Various
A whole bunch of screenplays
*I am calling this a movie. I saw it at a movie theater. Harry Potter guy was in it. It counts.
- Caught FANTASTIC BEASTS & ETC over the weekend. Despite a few moments I liked, I’d still rate the experience as “mostly unpleasant”
- So, Eddie Redmayne. Is there a reason he played the lead as a creepy weirdo? Or, is he just a creepy weirdo?
- Also there’s a dour missionary-type char. who hands out anti-wizard leaflets & mistreats her pack of creepy orphans. Ick.
- Colin Farrell, villain, is trying to steal one orphan away for evil purposes. He meets him in dark alleys and hug & caresses him a lot. Ick.
- Colin’s big villain monologue: he doesn’t want magic to be a secret. As evil plans go, not super compelling. On his side, kinda
- In this universe it’s REALLY important regular people don’t learn magic people exist. Witnesses get mind-erased a la MEN IN BLACK…
- Nevertheless there’s a huge skyscraper full of wizards/magical stuff right in dwntwn NY. Sure hope nobody walks in looking for DMV or whatev
- Not a Potter fan so this went over my head but at the end SPOILER? Colin Farrell turns into Johnny Depp w/an Aryan Nation haircut.
- Look for him in the sequel, I guess
- I did like subplot lumpy bakery guy, who falls in love with cute floozy sister-wizard. Anytime I didn’t have to look at Redmayne = +.
- So. Much. CGI. This is virtually an animated film w live-action elements. Climax is an exhausting light-show of black clouds & lightning.
- Act 3: one vial of memory eraser (b)rain-washes all NYC. Wave a wand, devastated city reassembles. Ho-hum. Magic sure makes things easy.
- Given COLOSSAL’s fun premise, the film that unfolds is not quite the romp you might expect.
- COLOSSAL puts Kaiju monsters & indie-film slackers into a genre blender. Like many smoothies the result is a bit lumpy & faintly sour
- The lumps: Characters poorly defined. Plot threads meander. Some end abruptly and add little. Even the monster origin story is half-baked.
- The sour: characters aren’t typical indiefilm losers. Not clever/charismatic enough. The range is more like “pathetic” to “pathological”
- Premise pulls you through the rough patches, even as COLOSSAL turns darker. One scene evokes mass carnage without showing a drop of blood.
- And as stakes rise, COLOSSAL rallies. The film deploys its cleverest notion near the end, delivering a satisfying resolution.
- LIFE is not a bad movie, but it’s a B-movie. #LIFEmovie #rental
- So yeah, if you liked the trailer that’s what the movie is. No more, no less.
- There IS a long, lovely single-take intro that’s maybe the best zero-g scene ever in a space movie
- There’s also a major action scene toward the end that just doesn’t work very well, IMO
- But there’s tension/suspense, gross-outs & scares. Things zip along in a 10-little-Indians way that can’t help but remind you of ALIEN.
- The ending (SPOILER!) reminded me of the ’70s when big studio pictures more often than not went “tails” at the end instead of “heads”
I’ve kept an annual list of films, TV and books every year since 2014. This year I’m going to add a ranked list of my favorite films of 2016 as well. My list is better than all the other “top 10” lists, because… mine goes to eleven.
1. Hell Or High Water
2. Manchester By The Sea
5. American Honey
6. Certain Women
8. Toni Erdmann
9. Don’t Think Twice
The above ranking obviously doesn’t include pictures I haven’t seen yet, and that’s a list of its own that includes THE HANDMAIDEN, SILENCE, SING STREET, PATERSON, HIDDEN FIGURES, FENCES, and JACKIE. I’m working on it.
Below is a complete list of everything I saw in 2016. As always, the list only reflects things seen for the very first time. If I came across JAWS or GROUNDHOG DAY or YOU’VE GOT MAIL already in progress on TV and sat there like a zombie through ’til the end, well, that’s not considered worthy of note. What is worthy of note: ZOOLANDER 2 is so very, very bad it makes you feel stupid for having liked the first one. THE LOBSTER is the other movie I regret having made the effort to go see in the theater. I’ll give it points for originality, I guess. Then I’ll take those points back for being a miserable, cruel, misbegotten thing.
Linked titles will take you to either my review or more information on a particular film.
MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN
My Name Is Doris
Don’t Think Twice
Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words
Star Trek Beyond
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Hell Or High Water
20th Century Women
MOVIES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
What We Do In The Shadows
Amira & Sam
Captain America: The First Avenger
Shaun The Sheep Movie
The Libeled Lady
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels
Lassie Come Home
The Shop Around The Corner
Swiss Army Man
The Mindy Project
Odd Mom Out
Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
The Good Place
Game of Thrones
BOOKS and OTHER READING
Devotion – Dani Shapiro
60 or so screenplays for the Austin Film Festival competition
- Obviously ZOOTOPIA is allegory for race/crime issues that are very top-of-mind in America right now.
- Gutsy to take on this theme in a “kids’ movie.” If this film is even that.
- I squirmed during the confrontation after Judy’s speech; Nick (the fox) leaning in: “are you afraid of me?”
- If you haven’t seen it, here’s the scene. It’s kind of amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbbdW4wVo6o
- So yeah, prejudice… But, using animals to tell the story puts a whole ‘nother layer on ZOOTOPIA, doesn’t it?
- Just kind of astonishing seeing a Disney movie using talking animals to take on nature red in tooth and claw.
- Here’s a global media empire built largely on drawing cute animals that act like people. Imagery so commonplace in our culture we hardly think about it.
- And now they make a movie that says, “think about it.”
- “Think how we sentimentalize animals, and how that insulates us from the natural world.”
- “Also: think about what they eat. And what you eat.”
- Apparently everyone in ZOOTOPIA lives on berries, ice cream, and donuts. There must be a lot of hungry, malnourished lions and bears there.
- ZOOTOPIA doesn’t address the topic of vegetarianism overtly. in fact, they carefully avoid the issue. But it’s there.
Star Trek, we need to talk. We’ve had a lot of good times. But we’re both in such different places now. I’ve grown. You’ve shrunk.
I never saw INTO DARKNESS. After STAR TREK (2009) I decided to save myself the aggravation. But I was one of the hopeful fans who’d heard STAR TREK BEYOND would be the course-correction the series needed. I got burned again.
Initial reports that this one “got it right” were probably based on a few quiet scenes between McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). The casting has always been the best thing about these reboot movies, and indeed, here they kinda get the dynamic: Spock and McCoy bicker but underneath we can tell they respect each other. Fine. The bar is pretty low if we’re pleased with 10 minutes of chit-chat amid two hours of frenetic nonsense.
I won’t waste anyone’s time with a plot synopsis, but BEYOND kicks off with Kirk whining into his Captain’s log that he’s basically bored (what) with the routine (WHAT) of his 5-year mission. Exploring strange new worlds and boldly going has apparently become a big drag. I wanted to slap Chris Pine. Imagine original series Shatner/Kirk expressing this. It would never have happened. Here, the reboot (or “Kelvin timeline,” if you must) gets fundamental traits of both Kirk and the franchise wrong. This scene was Star Trek putting itself on the psychiatrist couch, trying to diagnose its own malaise. It’s not you, Jim: it’s the scripts.
But J.J. Abrams (director on the first two reboot pics, producer on BEYOND) has never respected the source material. He’s never treated Star Trek like anything more than a gig. He said he tried to watch the original series but “couldn’t get into it.” So he ripped it to shreds and picked out the bits that looked shiny to him. The end result is some kind of assemblage that only vaguely resembles Trek. In this metaphor I think Abrams is either some kind of primitive folk artist or maybe a crow.
But if you like movies made by crows, there’s plenty of shiny bits here to keep you busy. Kirk rides a motorcycle! The Enterprise gets smashed (again), and then the crew blows up the bad guys with an old Beastie Boys tape! Neat! And director Justin Lin never, ever, ever stops moving the camera.
In a rare quiet moment near the end of the film, Spock pulls out a picture of the original cast (from WRATH OF KHAN, I believe) and silently gazes upon it. More soul-searching, maybe: “where did we go wrong?”
Star Trek, I came back to you. I thought you’d changed. I thought maybe it could be like it was before, when we were both younger. But I got hurt again. So this is goodbye.
At least until May, when Discovery debuts.