There’s so much in the way of storytelling in filmmaking that a good movie can be buried by inadequate film distribution, hype, moviestar appeal, and marketing. At the same time, these same elements can also misleadingly elevate mediocre ones. Here’s my list for overrated and underappreciated movies of 2017.
My Overrated Movies of 2017:
1. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
It’s an adaptation of a Greek tragedy that takes two hours too long and lacks relatable characters to provide the vital emotional heft. The conclusion is aptly ridiculous and perverse, but why should we care about The Killing of a Sacred Deer when there is no one to invest in? The imagery, sound design, production design, and film direction is polished, but the movie becomes a showroom for Lanthimos idiosyncrasies.
2. A Ghost Story
Cinematography and Rooney Mara does not make a good movie. It’s pedantic, heavy-handed, and strains for relevance for an hour but never really amounts to anything insightful. Also Casey Affleck is in it.
3. Lady Bird
People act as if this is the first teen drama that they have ever seen that anything negative said about it causes an upheaval. It’s not the first to portray a mother daughter storyline. Its plotlines on teen angst and drama is cliched. It’s a semi-autobiography with modest aims.
A boilerplate Pixar movie with perfunctory characters, telenovela cliches and bland tunes set against a tourist ad of Mexico. This first Mexican Pixar movie has good intentions and voice acting performances, but its real potential was buried underneath a formula. It already has a sweet family story at its core, but for some reason the script had to inject a predictable tale on ambition and riff on intellectual property rights.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
An excuse to give Spider-Man a backstory before he’s used in the Infinity War and give RDJ something to do because he’s devoted to MCU. Do we really need another Spider-Man reboot where Aunt May just gets younger and Uncle Ben dies for the nth time?
6. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
A double dose of the first movie which just highlights how derivative this franchise is – recycled bond gags, cartoonish action scenes, dumb villains, glorified cameos and juvenile sex jokes. Dude bros and international audiences who lap up anything Hollywood threw enough money on it, so I’m not going to be surprised if Eggsy works with a Ninja spy in the third movie.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Rather than a sequel of its own, Vol 2 is merely an intermission number for Vol 3. Kitschy tunes, perfunctory storytelling, and repetitive action make it forgettable. Baby Groot is not enough to save this movie.
Past Chris Evans pretty face, Gifted is a schmaltzy emotionally manipulative movie. From its contrived characters to its Kramer vs. Kramer plotting to its happy ending, everything in this movie is to set-up some weepie story about a doting uncle and a child genius. It’s self-aware enough to know that its a thanksgiving family movie, but its hard to invest in its saccharine plot machinations and one dimensional characters.
9. Lost City of Z
Percy Fawcett has a questionable legacy to begin with, so this dull uneventful tale of an explorer on a quest to find the City of Z unsurprisingly falls flat. The performances are great, but the plot is essentially a map surveyor who is incapable of re-tracing his steps after coming close to finding a path – more than once – of clues to a lost city. The backdrop is unremarkable and the cliche tribe tales do no favor.
10. Thor: Ragnarok
Just another funny Marvel movie many people regarded as a unique MCU property. The team behind Thor simply figured out how ridiculous his franchise is and embraced it. This uniform corporate aesthetic also hampered the story. For a classic tale that’s supposed to be about death, rebirth, and destruction of the cosmos, the whole thing is just one big joke.
My Underappreciated Movies of 2017:
Unlike me, I’ve seen plenty of critics and bloggers overlook Okja as one of the best films in 2017. It’s an ambitious film that’s tonally uneven at times, but this is exactly what makes it great. It doesn’t shy away from the realities of meat mass production and consumerism but still manages to teach us about sustainability without being preachy.
It’s a meandering yet insightful romantic film from India that features gay characters. Yup, this is no typical Bollywood film nor is it a conventional gay love story. The sexuality of its characters are just incidental and doesn’t succumb to the tropes or overplayed plotlines of its genre. Netflix rescued this quietly revolutionary Indian indie this year.
It’s a rare female-led movie without a conventional love interest. Novitiate explores the inner world of a nun and her love affair with God. It borders on nunsploitation, but this character-driven film is worthy of a consideration. If you liked A Quite Passion – a similar character-driven female led drama about Emily Dickinson – this film is a must see.
4. Marjorie Prime
Proof that you don’t need expensive CGI to deliver a thought-provoking sci-fi movie, Marjorie Prime is a great accompaniment to watching Black Mirror Season 4. It tackles grief, memory, time and the limits of technology told through a script adapted from a Pulitzer nominated play.
5. It Comes at Night
Misleading marketing aside, It Comes Night offers a fresh perspective in the post-apocalyptic viral outbreak genre. There’s a lot of movies about zombies, but its rare to find a story that actually takes a look from inside. What happens to an isolated family in the middle of nowhere whose trying to survive in a world of vague yet present dangers? They set their sights on the potential threats outside, overlooking the threats from within.
6. The Lure
It’s premise is borrowed from The Little Mermaid but with all the agency Hans Christian Andersen and Disney couldn’t give its protagonists and an original bold kooky musical that La La Land can only dream of. While The Lure is a horror musical mash-up that gets lost in its strangeness, there’s plenty of creativity and deft filmmaking in display. At the surface its a tale about sisterhood, sexuality, and the things we do for love. Underneath are clever messages about the perception and perversion of female bodies.
Serendipitous meet-cute movies have its own charm that Before Sunrise – the “Love Affair” of Generation X – has spawned copies. But this doesn’t mean you can’t make a good twist to a familiar formula. Columbus juxtaposes the symmetry of architecture with the messiness of love to memorable results. John Cho in the lead is an added bonus.
8. Ingrid Goes West
A bitterly funny satire of social media vapidity and bolstered by the performance of Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West is the Single White Female with Instagram and a smart send-up to tech-addled millennial narcissists. It shows how easily social media can enable obsession with curated online personas and flimsy virtual connections. If you’re one of those baby boomers or older millennials who find young millennials obsessed with internet points ridiculous, this is the movie for you.
9. A Woman, A Part
Anna Baskin is a 44 year-old female actress who walks out of her successful but soul-sucking TV role and goes back to her roots. As simple as that sounds, A Woman, A Part isn’t a typical movie about reinvention or self-rediscovery. It’s a nuanced character study that captures what middle-aged women go through at a certain point of their career.
10. Brawl in Cell Block 99
Who knew Vince Vaughn can actually be an action star? Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a one-note B-movie but does it so well that it actually works. Even the 80’s body horror practical effects fit. This is a movie where a guy gets decapitated by getting his head kicked in a literal shithole. And its absurdly fun to watch.