State of the Cinema 2017

In what’s become a Strohltopia tradition, we have saved our yearly retrospective for Oscar Sunday. This gives us a chance to see more titles and also to cool down our hot takes and reflect a little bit.

Joshua Strohl:

First thing’s first, let’s be clear about one thing for 2017: there’s David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return, and then there’s everything else. We have come down on the side of considering it not to be a movie. It engages throughout with the medium of television in a way that is essential to its meaning. But we all agree here at Strohltopia that no other work of television or cinema comes remotely close to it from this year or any other year in recent memory.
In 2016, I made an effort to watch as many new releases as possible. This year I just did my thing, but I ended up watching a comparable number of movies anyways. Here are a few notes on my impression of the state of the cinema:
  • Franchise movies were a lot better this year than in previous years. Alien, Blade Runner, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, John Wick, XxX, Fast and the Furious, Resident Evil, Transformers: all pretty good.
  • Get Out is the zeitgeist movie. I admire it, and I think it does some things exceptionally well, but where’s the ending?! It could have been a great movie if it stuck the landing. As it is, I’m not quite there with it.
  • Tough year to be a Woody Allen fan. He made his most personal movie in a long time, with the WORST POSSIBLE TIMING. I went to see it, and there were hecklers in the audience. Looking at Wonder Wheel itself, aside from all the controversy, it’s a gorgeous movie. He borrows thematic and stylistic elements from Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams to examine the painful dissolution of his own family.
  • I kinda liked the Disaster Artist okay until I saw James Franco cut off Tommy Wiseau at the Golden Globes, which made it clear that this was a smug James Franco vanity project, more interested in mocking The Room than paying tribute to it.
  • One of the biggest surprises of the year for me was Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting. I’m a Danny Boyle fan, but Trainspotting is not one of my favorites from him. The sequel, however, is an exceptionally inventive stylistic marvel. It brilliantly conveys the weight and melancholy of living on as a recovering addict, without any highs to be had. One of the best examples ever of a late sequel.
  • God’s Own Country is a much better cinematic romance than Call Me By Your Name. Armie Hammer’s character in the latter doesn’t feel like a real person with real desires. God’s Own Country is overflowing with sexual tension, and is also considerably more moving. Its conclusion is well-earned.
  • The Assignment: I really wanted to love the new Walter Hill movie. I do have fondness for it, but I just couldn’t get over Michelle Rodriguez in the first act.
  • I could not handle Fifty Shades Darker. It was so icky to me that it made my skin crawl. The Snowman and The Book of Henry, on the other hand, are the kind of remarkably bad movies that are almost worth seeing to marvel at their ineptitude.
  • I could see how a cynical person might scoff at The Post, but this is master class old-school pop filmmaking. It zigs and zags with seemingly effortless finesse. Its simplicity is a virtue, not a bug. Along with Lincoln and Bridge of Spies, it rounds out what was, for me, an excellent trilogy linking history with the present through retro filmmaking.
  • This year I had a major personal epiphany about how much I love Ridley Scott. I’ve always loved his brother Tony, but I had mixed feelings about Ridley. Mixed feelings no longer: I rewatched most of the Ridley Scott filmography and totally loved it, for the most part. These movies have some flaws, but they are technical triumphs. Alien: Covenant is misunderstood and wildly underrated. Dr. Moreau in space, with freaky Fassbender robots making out with each other and crazy shit like that. Exceedingly dark, hostile, and boundary pushing stuff from an 80 year old big budget auteur.

Without further ado, here’s a ranked list of everything I saw this year:

  1. Good Time (Safdie Brothers)Good Time StillWhite hot lightning! This is what I’m talking about. Pure cinema: hypnotic, visceral and persistently surprising. I left the theater wide-eyed and giddy.
  2.  Song to Song (Malick)Song to Song StillY’all don’t deserve Terrence Malick.
  3. Phantom Thread (Anderson)Phantom Thread StillPaul Thomas Anderson swings for the fences every time he makes a film. His latest is exquisite and beautiful, an ethereal and brooding gothic romance that I’m still thinking about months later.
  4. A Quiet Passion (Davies)A Quiet Passion StillA bold and haunting Emily Dickinson biopic. Terence Davies’ second masterpiece in two years is hard to summarize because it is so full of complex emotions and transcendent moments. It’s a staggering and painful film. Cynthia Nixon’s performance is one of the best of the year.
  5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Lanthimos)The Killing of a Sacred Deer StillA diabolical and twisted black comedy that is alternately repulsive and hilarious. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. This is one sick movie and I loved every second of it.
  6. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)Dawson City Frozen Time StillThis documentary about long-buried, decaying nitrate film discovered under an ice skating rink in a Yukon mining town reminded me of why I love cinema. It lays out an impressively researched timeline before it uses scarred images and the weight of history to bowl you over.  It moved me to tears.
  7. Stronger (Green)Stronger StillDavid Gordon Green channels his inner Hal Ashby in one of the most humane movies in recent memory. This movie deserves to be seen: it’s what America needs right now. It’s tender and heartfelt and avoids the pitfalls that sink nearly every movie in the “dramatization of real life tragedy” genre. I loved it.
  8. Raw (Ducournau)Raw StillAs we said earlier in the year, this is some high-brow French cannibalism shit right here. It’s a simmering, seething, blistering depiction of blossoming female sexuality. Julia Ducournau is a director to watch.
  9. Nocturama (Bonello)Nocturama StillNocturama gets in your head and stays there. It’s a strange, dread-inducing tone poem about a group of young terrorists who hole up in a massive department store after carrying out a series of coordinated attacks in Paris. This could have easily been a cliched mess, but it unfolds in an anything but predictable manner. It’s abstract and dreamlike. It also manages to make Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair take on a new indelible dimension.
  10. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Zahler)Brawl in Cell Block 99 StillWho knew Vince Vaughn had this in him? His performance as a man with a code at the center of this bone-crunching, skull-smashing exploitation movie is as soulful as it is shockingly physical and violent . This movie is weird and savage and sad. It’s a completely original vision of what exploitation cinema can be.
  11. The Shape of Water (Del Toro)
  12. Personal Shopper (Assayas)
  13. T2 Trainspotting (Boyle)
  14. Faces Places (Varda and JR)
  15. BPM (Campillo)
  16. The Post (Spielberg)
  17. The Lost City of Z (Gray)
  18. Lover for a Day (Garrel)
  19. Contemporary Color (Ross Brothers)
  20. Alien: Covenant (Scott)
  21. God’s Own Country (Lee)
  22. Behemoth (Liang)
  23. Antiporno (Sono)
  24. Blade Runner 2049 (Villenueve)
  25. The Beguiled (Coppola)
  26. Wonder Wheel (Allen)
  27. Logan Lucky (Soderbergh)
  28. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Besson)
  29. Person to Person (Defa)
  30. Tag (Sono)
  31. Coco (Unkrich)
  32. Baby Driver (Wright)
  33. Detroit (Bigelow)
  34. It (Muschietti)
  35. Lady Bird (Gerwig)
  36. A Ghost Story (Lowery)
  37. Last Flag Flying (Linklater)
  38. A Cure for Wellness (Verbinski)
  39. Downsizing (Payne)
  40. The Challenge (Ancarani)
  41. The Work (McCleary)
  42. Better Watch Out (Peckover)
  43. Staying Vertical (Guiraudie)
  44. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Baumbach)
  45. Call Me By Your Name (Guadagnino)
  46. XXX: The Return of Xander Cage (Caruso)
  47. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Gunn)
  48. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Stahelski)
  49. The Florida Project (Baker)
  50. The Assignment (Hill)
  51. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (Johnson)
  52. Atomic Blonde (Leitch)
  53. Princess Cyd (Cone)
  54. Brigsby Bear (McCary)
  55. Lucky (Lynch)
  56. Gerald’s Game (Flanagan)
  57. Leatherface (Bustillo, Maury)
  58. How to be a Latin Lover (Marino)
  59. mother! (Aronofsky)
  60. The Square (Ostlund)
  61. The Bad Batch (Amirpour)
  62. Get Out (Peele)
  63. Happy Death Day (Landon)
  64. The Fate of the Furious (Gray)
  65. All the Money in the World (Scott)
  66. Kidnap (Prieto)
  67. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Anderson)
  68. War For the Planet of the Apes (Reeves)
  69. Graduation (Mungiu)
  70. Girl’s Trip (Lee)
  71. Free Fire (Wheatley)
  72. The Great Wall (Yimou)
  73. Strong Island (Ford)
  74. Transformers: The Last Knight (Bay)
  75. The Villainess (Jung)
  76. Thelma (Trier)
  77. The Lure (Smoczynska)
  78. Only the Brave (Kosinski)
  79. Blade of the Immortal (Miike)
  80. Justice League (Snyder)
  81. Wonder (Chbosky)
  82. The Big Sick (Showalter)
  83. The Foreigner (Campbell)
  84. Donald Cried (Avedisian)
  85. The Belko Experiment (McLean)
  86. Okja (Bong)
  87. The Devil’s Candy (Byrne)
  88.  Kuso (Flying Lotus)
  89. Power Rangers (Israelite)
  90. Wind River (Sheridan)
  91. Kedi (Torun)
  92. The Glass Castle (Cretton)
  93. The Void (Gillespie, Kostanski)
  94. Salt and Fire (Herzog)
  95. Life (Espinosa)
  96. Darkest Hour (Wright)
  97. Brad’s Status (White)
  98. Daddy’s Home 2 (Anders)
  99. Despicable Me 3 (Coffin)
  100. American Made (Lyman)
  101. Split (Shyamalan)
  102. Bitch (Palka)
  103. Roman J. Israel Esq. (Gilroy)
  104. Rat Film (Anthony)
  105. Wonderstruck (Haynes)
  106. The Little Hours (Baena)
  107. Queen of the Desert (Herzog)
  108. Dunkirk (Nolan)
  109. The House (Cohen)
  110. Mr. Roosevelt (Wells)
  111. Beatriz at Dinner (Arteta)
  112. The Unknown Girl (Dardenne Bros.)
  113. 47 Meters Down (Roberts)
  114. The Disaster Artist (Franco)
  115. Paris Can Wait (Coppola)
  116. Colossal (Vigalondo)
  117. Hounds of Love (Young)
  118. Jungle (McLean)
  119. The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Hughes)
  120. I, Tonya (Gillespie)
  121. Wonder Woman (Jenkins)
  122. Una (Andrews)
  123. Ghost in the Shell (Sanders)
  124. Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Vaughn)
  125. Super Dark Times (Phillips)
  126. Fist Fight (Keen)
  127. Suburbicon (Clooney)
  128. It Comes at Night (Shults)
  129. Blood Money (McKee)
  130. Gifted (Webb)
  131. Vengeance: A Love Story (Martin)
  132. Geostorm (Devlin)
  133. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (McDonagh)
  134. Logan (Mangold)
  135. Stray Bullets (Fessenden)
  136. Kong: Skull Island (Vogt-Roberts)
  137. Before I Fall (Young)
  138. Columbus (Koganada)
  139. The Mummy (Kurtzman)
  140. The Mountain Between Us (Abu-Assad)
  141. The Emoji Movie (Leondis)
  142. Snatched (Levine)
  143. The Circle (Ponsoldt)
  144. Baywatch (Gordon)
  145. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts)
  146. The LEGO Batman Movie (McKay)
  147. 1he Boss Baby (McGrath)
  148. Beauty and the Beast (Condon)
  149. Lady Macbeth (Oldroyd)
  150. The Discovery (McDowell)
  151. XX (Benjamin, Clark, Kusama, Vuckovic)
  152. The Book of Henry (Trevorrow)
  153. The Snowman (Alfredson)
  154. Rough Night (Aniello)
  155. Fifty Shades Darker (Foley)

 

Isabel Garcia:

  1. Song to Song (Malick)
  2. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)
  3. Raw (Ducournau)
  4. The Shape of Water (Del Toro)
  5. A Ghost Story (Lowery)
  6. Atomic Blonde (Leitch)
  7. Tag (Sono)
  8. Good Time (Safdie Brothers)
  9. Personal Shopper (Assayas)
  10. Detroit (Bigelow)

Honorable Mention: Faces Places (Varda and JR), Nocturama (Bonello)

Worst of the Year:

  1. The Circle (Ponsoldt)
  2. The Boss Baby (McGrath)
  3. The Book of Henry (Trevorrow)
  4. The Snowman (Alfredson)
  5. Snatched (Levine)

Matt Strohl:

I haven’t seen anywhere near as many new releases as Josh has, but here’s my top 10. I thought genre movies were strong this year. There are more in my top ten than ever before. Among my many blind spots, the most regrettable ones are A Quiet Passion, The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread, and Milla. Without further ado:

  1. Good Time (Safdie Brothers)
  2. Song to Song (Malick)
  3. Raw (Ducournau)
  4. Antiporno (Sono)
  5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Lanthimos)
  6. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Zahler)
  7. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Stahelski)
  8. Nocturama (Bonello)
  9. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)
  10. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (Johnson)

Honorable Mention: XxX: The Return of Xander Cage (Caruso)

Worst of the year:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (McDonagh)
I could go on all day about how much I hated this movie. Suffice to say that any movie with the phrase “three billboards” in the title that both starts and ends with an image of three billboards never had a chance.

I also hated: The Unknown Girl (Dardenne Brothers), The Florida Project (Baker), Spiderman: Homecoming (Watts) and The Discovery (McDowell).

Angela Shope:

  1. Song to Song (Malick)
  2. mother! (Aronofsky)
  3. The Shape of Water (Del Toro)
  4. The Lost City of Z (Gray)
  5. Good Time (Safdie Brothers)
  6. Blade Runner 2049 (Villenueve)
  7. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (Johnson)
  8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Lanthimos)
  9. Personal Shopper (Assayas)
  10. Nocturama (Bonello)

Honorable Mention: It (Muschietti)

Worst of the Year:

  1. The Mummy (Kurtzman)
  2. Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri (McDonagh)
  3. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Besson)
  4. The Florida Project (Baker)
  5. The Great Wall (Yimou)

2 thoughts on “State of the Cinema 2017”

  1. I admired “Call Me By Your Name” more than I truly enjoyed it. I became increasingly nonplussed to articulate this as it accumulated accolades and attention from all my gay and non-gay friends. “It’s just sanitary,” I kept repeating, but I couldn’t explain what I meant.

    I had never heard of “In God’s Country” until finding this site. So I’m commenting out of gratitude. Thank you, so much.

    “In God’s Country” is everything “Call Me By Your Name” isn’t. It’s actually erotic, it’s actually romantic, I can actually relate to a protagonist who’s actually homosexual and not confused about it, the foreign handsome man is not flat as a paper, but a flesh-and-blood character…the music is used selectively, precisely…the setting is realistic, the characters have real problems…hell, the whole damn thing IS real to me, in all the ways “Call Me By Your Name” doesn’t even wish it was. And, it’s so unfair to call it a British Brokeback.

    Liked by 1 person

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