2017 has been an interesting time in the cinema, where Blade Runner got a sequel, The Last Jedi revealed what kind of fandom Star Wars has, and a number interesting foreign films emerged to deliver something new for the thinking audience. When its great you get technically accomplished movies that deliver a stunning cinematic experience, when its bad it’s a stewing pot of derivative ideas that you’d wonder how people actually agreed to spending any amount of money on it.
Here’s my best and worst list of the year.
My Best Movies of 2017
Nolan manipulates space and time to interweave three plotlines. Yes, it lacks the emotional heft and fully realized characters of other war movies, but that isn’t what Dunkirk is about anyway. It’s about the fog of war through three eyewitness accounts – a soldier in the ground, civilian at sea, and a pilot in the air. Dunkirk is a well-crafted piece with intricate parts – multiple perspectives, sound design, musical score, cinematography, and film direction – all work out to deliver a technical masterpiece.
Military culture has been discussed in movies in different ways from documentaries to biopics, but its rare to find a stylistic take on the senseless tragedy that comes with it. Foxtrot is a simple movie, but its exploration on fate and loss through imagery is both thought-provoking and visually striking. It’s the kind of movie that’s better off seen than being read in reviews.
3. The Square
It’s always amusing to see people who think they’re right get told on how wrong they are, and The Square takes it all to a different level. Made by the same director of Force Majeure the movie also revolves around a specific situation and thematically expands from there. This satire of the modern art world is too amusing to pass, and while we’ve all wanted a movie that lampoons the bullshit behind it, no one has captured it so beautifully until now. It’s a magnificent black comedy that shows the rest of us poor schmucks how awful people in that world are, and how we should make fun of them.
4. Get Out
Kegan and Peele have tackled race in plenty of their sketches to hilarious results. Get Out is a mash up of Who’s Coming for Dinner? and Stepford Wives with a scathing satire of race in America. The movie’s plot twist is a confrontational commentary on social privilege and racial dynamics. It’s a very nuanced movie with a lot of things to say, and white people fetishizing black people’s bodies is just one of it.
Tackling environmental issues in movies is tricky because you always run the risk of being preachy. Then came Okja, a bold and ambitious movie revolving around a girl and a big pig. The movie is as much as an ungainly bizarre hybrid as its titular character. However this is exactly what makes it a unique and affecting movie about sustainability, consumerism, and mass production.
Scandinavia is very good at producing atmospheric foreboding thrillers. So its no surprise that one of the best foreign films this year is a dreamy coming-of-age tale dressed up as a horror-thriller. Thelma is an arthouse Firestarter that’s focused on the human consequences of having and accepting supernatural abilities. It’s morally gray take on an origins story make it a thought-provoking movie about the choices we make – not just by Thelma – and how it affects those around us.
7. Lady Macbeth
Boasting an ambitious female character that the Game of Thrones TV series can only dream off, Lady Macbeth – adopted from a book inspired by the play – is a slow burning well-crafted tale about a girl who finds sexual liberation and gets intoxicated by power. Her downward spiral combines detailed cinematography, plot, and production design culminating into a tragic conclusion bolstered by the performance of Florence Pugh.
8. Bad Genius
Take note Hollywood, you can create an action caper that has narrative depth. Bad Genius is not only a thrilling story about an intellectually gifted mastermind who comes up with clever ways to game the system, it also tackles about social inequality and corruption in education. No matter how intelligent you are, people with wealth and connections have an edge over you. The plot gradually increases the stakes while building relatable character motivations, all while remaining engaging all throughout. Apart from a lesson on doing the right thing, it also shows how the underdog can turn into an enabler of the very system that it’s fighting against.
Another coming-of-age tale in this list, Raw is also a horror-thriller told through the transformation of a college student who discovers what she truly is and why she’s in vet school in the first place. The movie deals with all the hang-ups of growing up – sibling rivalry, raging hormones, fitting in, peer pressure – with an extra twist. The electronic Gothic musical score is an added flourish.
Ever since Marvel started the superhero franchise machinery with Iron Man, there had been no shortage of these movies that they all start to look alike. Fortunately – and about damn time – someone made an X-men movie with a treatment that it deserves. Logan manages to be dramatic and dark without a gloomy desaturated color palette. It’s affecting and moving without putting the entire world in danger. It perfectly captured what X-men is really about – a specie just trying to survive in a world that cuts down – if not control – anyone who dares to be different.
My Worst Movies of 2017:
1. Justice League
Contains all the trademark mistakes of DCEU and more – garish visuals, messy storytelling and mix and match mythology. In a desperate attempt to catch up with Marvel, DCEU foregoes the origins groundwork to create its own Avengers with Justice League. I get it, DCEU wants to be the dark anti-thesis of MCU, but if you can’t even tell a decent narrative no amount of visual flair can compensate for it.
2. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Loud and empty, this modern take just highlights Ritchie’s threadbare bag of tricks. There’s a talented cast in here because Ritchie has done some interesting work, but whip pans, smarmy cads, and fast cuts can only take you so far, especially with an inane script that’s really an overlong music video. King Arthur is a movie where a character’s turning point involves running around through the woods in slow motion and then wailing on top of his lungs. Worse the fight scenes are a confusing mess of videogame looking CGI. The sword might as well be a nuclear bomb.
Getting a well deserved approval rating of 0% in Rotten Tomatoes, Layover doesn’t deserve any attention, even from Torrent. In the classic “when awful movies happen to good-looking women”, two typecast actresses play characters that are pitted against each other over a man who just wants to bang more women before getting married to a control freak. Unsurprisingly written by two dudes, this is a movie that thinks smearing Alexandra Daddario with feces then dropping her into a pile of garbage is funny.
4. Emoji Movie
“A work so completely devoid of wit, style, intelligence or basic entertainment value that is makes that movie based on the Angry Birds app seem like pure artistic statement.” – Peter Sobczynski
For some reason that a studio exec could only think of, the 90’s hit Flatliners was remade. Aside from the fact that nobody asked for it, the 2017 Flatliners doesn’t even make an effort in delivering something worthwhile. The movie could’ve taken the obvious route – a group of misguided students using their scientific discovery to play God. Instead it just rehashed the original with derivative jump scares and cliched plotlines.
6. The Shack
The only thing great about this movie is how triggered Christians invade the comment sections of every negative review to funny results. Setting aside the religious aspect of it, the movie can’t even stand on its own – heavy-handed platitudes, incoherent narrative, a bland lead and plain simplistic pandering to its built-in audience. Just go watch Silence.
7. The Dark Tower
Just like every other awful book adaptation, The Dark Tower movie rips off the heart of its source material to replace it with Hollywood blockbuster mediocrity. The Gunslinger did not follow the man in black across the dessert. Instead, he becomes a bodyguard to a chosen one and gets sucked into a predictable child hero narrative. A lot of people have been yearning to see Idris Elba as an action hero, which he does deserve, unfortunately this was the wrong movie to do it.
8. The Mummy
Tom Cruise makes the mistake of disturbing the remains of Brendan Frasier’s career in rebooting The Mummy, which is basically Mission Impossible with mummies. On top of this, the remake was chosen to launch a cinematic universe which further dragged down a movie that has already been Cruise controlled. The result is a mediocre convoluted blockbuster cribbed from a source material that had already run its course.
9. Bye Bye Man
Bye Bye Man is as generic as its title. The opening act fooled me into thinking that this may offer some escapism – the title immediately tells you to lower your expectations – but it just proceeds to march on the predictable beats of a derivative urban legend based horror. And that’s not the worst part. There are simple people who are entertained by these kind of movies, like my parents who bought the pirated DVD of it, but the big bad reveal in this is so lame that even my folks aren’t amused. Bye Bye Man is just a dude in a long coat with a CGI dog.
Any person who has any modicum of standard in watching a film will recognize that it’s just plain mediocre – generic poorly-lit shootouts, half-baked mythology, aimless plotting, and half-assed cringey take on race sensitivity through Orcs. If you really need something distracting, at least treat yourself to The Edge of Tomorrow.