Two weeks ago, I spread unto you my holy tabernacle of films from 2017!...I shared my favorite films of 2017...!
Truthfully, I didn't have enough films to make a top 10 worst - because honestly, why waste money to see bad films? And I'm not talking about polarizing movies that have some great artistic merit to them. Seriously, if I wanted to pay 13 bucks for lights flashing at me in a dark room and not enjoy it, I'd go to the nearest club EY OH
So - here's what I hope lands on my list of favorites for this year! Clever inversion, eh? No, not really? Alright, let's get on with this shit...
10. Isle of Dogs
There was a time when I thought Wes Anderson's films were nothing but pretentious hipster trash coasting on nothing but style. THEN I actually saw one of his movies, and I was delightfully proved very wrong. Four Andersonian joints later, Fantastic Mr. Fox moved into my top 10 - and now another stop-motion flick comes from the man! How swell. The stop-motion is even defter this time, even broader in scope, and moving to a Japan setting for this film, we have both a director willing to work in new aesthetics yet keep the heart of what everyone loves. I don't know, it just seems like a sign that Wes hasn't fallen in love with himself. And I've seen that happen to so many directors, and it's sad. But better yet - dog protagonists! Perhaps the most interesting implementation of animal protagonists, as the film takes place on an island where dogs have formed their own world after being dumped by Japan due to monstrously swelling numbers. Through it all, a young boy flies to the island in order to find his beloved pup. Aww! I mean, come on, doesn't your heart swell reading that? That's sweet AF, yo. Here's looking forward to another piece of dazzling imagination by one of our most vibrantly creative directors today.
9. The Death of Stalin
Have y'all ever seen In the Loop? It's hilarious. It's smart. It's crass and best of all, a fantastically damning portrait of government inefficiency - and who doesn't enjoy that? It's almost impossible to follow up a comedic masterwork without totally divulging, but Armando Iannucci has found a way to do that without seeming like a dead repeat. The film apparently takes place during the chaos of the Soviet Regime following the titular event. Heady stuff. We haven't really gotten a Stalin biopic, have we? That's exciting. And we haven't had a biopic that's both drama and farce, like a stage play come to life. That's also very exciting. And who doesn't love Jason Isaacs; Lucius Malfoy and Commander Zhao himself? Plus, it's got Steve Buscemi! I love Steve Buscemi! Most of all, it's got this quote, from Stalin himself to a subordinate who's just bought him a requested object:
"What took you so long? You fucking walk here?"
Oh, we so need more biopics like this. Who needs elitist fluff when you can just have so much fun?
8. Mary Queen of Scots
Saoirse Ronan, if you're reading this, marry me. Margot Robbie, if you're reading this, I worship you equally. You both are two of the finest young actors of this generation, and to see your strengths contrast - Robbie's manic joy and Ronan's graceful restraint - will be something to behold. Alright, enough direct addressing, that's weird. Normally, I hate biopics. I find the majority of them to be trite and servant to facts instead of artistic interpretations of important events and people. Isn't that what's most important? Capturing, not merely re-enacting?
However, there is one biopic I genuinely love: the genre of one person versus another. That's when a good dramatic conflict takes hold rather than a cinematic version of a Wikipedia page. So when the logline read: "Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, finds her condemned to years of imprisonment before facing execution", I took a giant sigh of relief. Ronan vs. Robbie? Bring it on! Woo! This could be the Amadeus of Saxon history! Or is it Briton history? I don't know.
7. Creed 2 (working title...I hope)
If you'd told me, four years ago, that the eight Rocky movie had me incredibly anticipated, I'd say you're out of your goddamned mind. Then I would laugh uproariously as you sinisterly slip back to the future. Creed is a fucking work of art. It's a perfect reboot of a property that has surprising relevance in our times - a minority finding their identity through an expression of their physical self, their endurance, and strength. It gave us Stallone's greatest performance, Michael B. Jordan's continued demonstration of his talent, more of Ryan Coogler's taste for stark, powerful direction, and took a risk in approaching a generational franchise from an interesting new way. Oh, and it made me cry at the end! The seventh Rocky film isn't supposed to do that! What the hell? So, really, since I don't know a thing about this movie, I'll just say this: Creed was magnificent, and I hope the follow up is too. I'll be optimistic!
6. The Nightingale
The Babadook! If you haven’t seen it, you might know it as a memetic LGBT icon. If you have, you know it’s a masterful combination of drama and horror, just the way I likes em. And so while director Jennifer Kent’s next feature would have me excited based on the Babs alone, the premise for this sounds frigging awesome. Like Creed, I know little to nothing else about the film, so the premise has gripped me so:
"1825 Tasmania. A young convict woman seeking revenge for the murder of her family takes an Aboriginal male outcast with her through the interior and gets much more than she bargained for."
Hot damn! A female lead and a lead of a race that hardly gets any just on-screen representation! You had me there! And a female revenge story? This thing is subversive in all forms. Tasmania, too! Do we ever see Tasmania on-screen? There are so many firsts here that I'm bursting with anticipation. But seeing how the woman who's helped inspire my writing so much is at the helm, I'm a very happy camper.
5. A Wrinkle in Time
Ava DuVernay is back! And what excites me is that she took her time to find the next project. So many promising directors on their uptake get plucked right away to a new project, and more often than not, it’s too sudden of a shift. They either lose what made them special, or crash and burn. But not our Ava, no, no. You don't make the masterful Selma and not know what you're doing. Four years is plenty to develop, and with a smooth production, she's had time to push forward with confidence. The material can be fully realized and yes, I am a bit of a fan of the book's premise, even if I've never read it. And oh DAMN, did you see those trailers? That fantastic imagery, that beautiful heart, and the superb assortment of actors? OPRAH? I feel as if there was patience behind every frame and scene. This doesn't seem like a conveyor-belt product, which is surprising seeing how Disney churns out cookie-cutter live-action remakes every year. Fuq dat shit. Here, we get a fully realized vision, with emotional acting and tone allowed to settle in. Damnit, Disney! Stop making me trust you! Can this be the future of blockbusters? Can it, please?
And Chris Pine with that George Clooney beard? Hell yeah.
When I see movies under certain circumstances, I stay attached to them for years to come. For instance, when I saw Alex Garland's Ex Machina at its Austin premiere in 2015, bumping into Oscar Isaac in the lobby (he smells great), it forever cemented the movie in my head as not only a fantastic piece of sci-fi, but a staple of my moviegoing life and cinematic career. Naturally, my sentiment drew me to excitement for Garland's follow up flick when I found out it was coming to us this year. Miraculously, my sentiment was backed up with a kickass trailer! There's more - then I found out it was a sci-fi expedition tale, blending two of my favorite genres! And whoa - is that beautifully composed color in a serious film? Not thinking the audience can't differentiate tone and palette? Whoo-ee! Holy moly, playing with physics? Eeek! Add to the fact that Ex Machina never talked down to its audience, setting a high intelligence level and carrying on without condescension or flat exposition, and I realized something wonderful: we may get the closest thing to a modern 2001: A Space Odyssey. A story that trusts intelligence, speaks in atmosphere and image, and is willing to take its audience for a wild ride.
Also - get ready for another burst of joy at representation, and the best part of this movie - when that trailer rolled on, and I saw a team of badass women fighting, I thought it was too good to be true. They're not cracking jokes, being ironic so you don't think there's actual progress being made. They're not stereotypes. This is representation as never seen before. You know what? Fuck it. Sometimes the world marches on. And it's glorious to see.
I know what question you’re asking and yes, the answer’s DC. And it’s wholly unfortunate that their film department, save some thematics in BvS and the entirety of Wonder Woman, have failed to replicate that wonderful mythic, inspiring nature of their comics. Fuck, I wish Justice League was so much better than it was. It put me into worry for the upcoming Aquaman film, despite him being one of my favorite superheroes. I'm a sucker for marine based stuff, plus, the guy rules Atlantis. That's awesome. So yeah, I was doubtful. But then I remembered Jason Momoa's kickass performance in JL. He'll carry it, won't he? Still, I had doubt. Then, in my moment of unfaithfulness, a quick comment from the director came out:
"I wouldn't say it's a straight superhero film. It's classified as more of a, uh, cosmic horror story, set under the sea."
Sold. Motherfucking sold. I don't even care if the movie's bad. We're getting an underwater cosmic horror story with a massive budget. H.P Lovecraft and Cthulu have arisen from their deep graves, and rejoice amongst the abyss. Squeeeee!
2. You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix can make anything unique. Good, too, but there’s something to his acting you never see in anyone else. You don't know what's brewing under the surface and that truly makes him so enjoyably unpredictable. Same thing goes for director Lynne Ramsay. Her work is so calculating yet ready to burst, and really, to see both of those souls bounce off of each other for a full feature is just...really exciting. But we get good actor/director collaborations all the time, don't we? Yes. However, these two are so far into their careers yet still blooming - we don't often get such dynamic mixtures at peak confidence. The last instance I can remember is Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis for There Will be Blood, but damn, that was 2007 already! And I haven't even gotten to the bulk of the film: "A hit man/Vietnam vet sets out to rescue a young girl from a sex ring, only to find himself weathering a storm of violent vengeance when matters go awry." Oh man! That not only sounds like it's going to deconstruct so many genres, so many character archetypes, so many notions we have on vengeance and masculinity and all that. Sometimes, collaborations unveil themselves piece by piece, and you just know the stars have aligned.
And with early acclaim, what can go wrong? What can go wrong?
1. Black Panther
HAH! A movie list where more than 5% of you have heard of the number one choice! Didn’t I tell you the day was coming? And of course it was this film. The first modern black superhero film, unapologetic in its African roots and dazzling Afrofuturism style, Black Panther may be the one Marvel movie I’ve ever been truly excited for. For a franchise so intent on staying safe, laying minimal stakes, rarely changing the status quo, seeing something so drastically different and new isn't just a breath of fresh air - it's a bottle of air, gulped down with vigor. Ryan Coogler - who directed Creed, nonetheless! - is loud and proud in making sure that we have something truly spectacular to mark the occasion. Because this film is important. It's very important. And that should not be shrugged aside. Black Panther is going to be an event, one along the lines of The Dark Knight - I can feel it. Every beat of its trailers, its stellar production design, and its solid roster of actors, pulses with the excitement of something bold and brave. I'm so pumped.
Long live the king.