Monday, 1 January 2018

2017: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Yes, it's that time again. Well, considering how many of these things you will have seen already, it seems to be way beyond that time.

2017 was a crazy year, in so many ways. Personally, it was the first time I attended the Edinburgh International Film Festival as a non-press attendee (although I still tried to cram in just as many viewings). I also managed to finally see Lawrence Of Arabia. On the big screen. In 70mm. NEVER pass that up, if you ever get the chance. I also became part of a podcast, available here, and fired up this here blog again, as you might have noticed (and thank you to all who have noticed).

But those things were but a drop in the cinematic ocean. The tidal wave that drenced us all was the way in which many Hollywood heavyweights were exposed (no pun intended) towards the end of this year as manipulative abusers. These people were allowed to act on their worst impulses for so long due to an environment of privilege and fear, and the inaction of too many people who mistakenly assumed that isolated incidents were exactly as they appeared to be. On the small plus side, this could lead to what we can only hope is a major change in the attitudes and behaviours towards women throughout ALL sections of society.

I don't have the time, space, and smarts to cover that subject here in the way it needs covered, but it's impossible to discuss the cinematic landscape of 2017 without at least mentioning it, and without at least commending the bravery of all of those who have come forward so far, and everyone still doing their bit to bring about change, from within the system and without.

I don't really enjoy squishing favoured movies into actual numerical positions, but I'll do my best. Oh, and films I have yet to see, because they might have made the list, include the following: The Handmaiden (it's on my shelf, no excuse), Logan Lucky (which I am sure will be appearing on this blog soon enough), Detroit (also appearing here very soon, I hope), The Florida Project, Battle Of The Sexes, and The Last Jedi. I am just one man, even if I try to watch more movies than everyone else I know. Without any further ado, here are ten quite excellent moving pictures.

10. La La Land. I mean . . . Moonlight. Okay, I loved both equally. And that Best Picture balls up at the 2017 Academy Awards only served to make the two quite inseparable in my mind, despite being two very different films.

9. Hidden Figures. More simplistically enjoyable than either of the two films mentioned above, Hidden Figures used a light touch and flawless cast to tell a great story about a number of the unsung heroes of NASA, who not only battled to keep people alive in space but also battled for the basic right to things like being able to use the same bathroom as their work colleagues and being allowed to share use of the coffee-maker.

8. Bad Day For The Cut. The first film on this list that may not be that well-known to many, this is a superb Irish crime thriller, adding a dash of pitch-black humour to keep things from being too bleak and unbearable.

7. My Pure Land. Based on a rather remarkable true story, this is part siege flick and part cultural exploration (set in Pakistan, where land disputes are common and solved in both legal and not-so-legal ways). Some may wish for a film that stays in one camp or the other, but the whole thing makes for a great blend of tension, anger, and even something slightly educational.

6. Baby Driver. The full review is here.

5. Get Out. A freaky horror movie that builds so nicely that a) you end up buying into a rather outlandish - although deliciously old-fashioned and demented - premise, and b) you start to notice so many great little touches that a rewatch is desired as soon as the end credits roll. Superb stuff.

4. Thor: Ragnarok. Amazing. Little could I have realised that when I grudgingly watched Thor a few years ago, and ended up enjoying it, that the third movie in the series would a) come along after one of the worst films in the new MCU, and b) end up being one of my favourite movies of the year.
All of the regular players return, and do well, and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had watching Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, and Rachel House having fun with their roles.
But the star here is director Taika Waititi (who also voices the funniest character in the film, Korg. Waititi has crafted a Marvel movie that manages to provide spectacle while consistently deflating all of the superhero movie tropes. This is a blockbuster that has more in common with the films of Astron-6 than anything else we have seen from Marvel, including the fantastic Guardians Of The Galaxy (and I will be surprised if we are not inundated with reviews titled "Thor: Asgardians Of The Galaxy"). Calling to mind the past glories of fantastical '80s movies, yet providing one or two moments that gave me proper goosebumps, Thor: Ragnarok overcomes a few minor flaws to put itself right near the top of the MCU tree.

3. Dunkirk. This was, without a doubt, my best cinema experience for a 2017 movie release. 70 mm. That Hans Zimmer score. The mastery of Nolan's craftmanship. He'd lost my goodwill over the past few years. Dunkirk gained it all back.


2. The Big Sick. Full review is here.

1. T2: Trainspotting. It was the sequel that many of us were dreading, but director Danny Boyle and his returning cast quickly reassured viewers that we needn't have worried. Some complained about the callbacks to the first movie, kind of missing one of the main points of the film, but many others viewed it as a perfect blend of the old and the new. The old applied to the characters, with most having grown in different ways since the first film, and the new was the world around them, a world that had moved so quickly from "choose life" to "click like". This was a chance for an audience and characters to reflect on their journeys through life together that resonated even more strongly than the Toy Story trilogy for many of us Scots. It was our Toy Story experience. With a lot more drugs, and sex-based blackmail, and violence. But both films feature a scene-stealing Woody.

Other major titles worth mentioning include the wonderfully insane mother!, the visual gorgeousness of Blade Runner 2049, Gerald's Game on Netflix, a fun horror comedy by the name of Double Date, The Lego Batman Movie, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Prevenge, Free Fire, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, and Wonder Woman. Lots of people raved about War For The Planet Of The Apes. I didn't. But it was quite good.

As for the films to avoid from the year just gone by, many will rush to tell you that The Emoji Movie was the worst of the worst. It wasn't. It just didn't do enough to get away from the cynical core of that main premise. If you wanted to see something worse, however, you had to delve deep to find the likes of Kuso, Aliens Vs Titanic, and Mother Krampus. Much better than these films, technically, but stupendously bad in some other ways, you could also see how you feel after watching Alien: Covenant or Transformers: The Last Knight. I disliked both intensely, even if neither could ever be seriously called the very worst of the worst.

And let's squeeze in just a little bit of TV talk. Considering some people have listed it as a favourite movie choice, it would be downright silly to pass up a chance to celebrate Twin Peaks: The Return. Simultaneously teasing fans and also giving everyone what they really wanted, even if they didn't realise it at the time, Lynch made a triumphant return to the world that was fractured by the death of Laura Palmer and he may just have created the most mind-blowingly amazing thing we will ever see on TV. I try to avoid hyperbole, and I don't like to throw the word "genius" around when it's undeserved, but Lynch might just be deserving of both.

I hope 2017 was good to you. If not, I hope 2018 is better. If it was, I hope 2018 is better. Happy New Year. Unfortunately, you may just have me appearing here every day again for the foreseeable future.

No individual links here, but if you want to go here (UK folks) or here (US folks) then anything you buy will end up getting me some nice bloggy bonus points.

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