Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Pin It


Top Ten of 2017

Before I unveil my Top Ten of the Year, there's something I forgot to do in yesterday's ranking of my Top 25 - 11: honorable mentions. As I mentioned, there were a number of movies that almost made it, but I just couldn't find room for. A special salute (and apology) to those flicks:

The Battleship Island
Ingrid Goes West
The Last Jedi
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Murder on the Orient Express
Oklahoma City
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
A United Kingdom

And now, my Top Ten of 2017, presented in alphabetical order...after the jump...

UPDATE: This list was originally posted on January 3rd. It was subsequently updated on January 9th to reflect a late entry. Instead of booting any movie off the list, I am declaring a tie for tenth place ... though which films tied, I will not reveal until the official Hollmann Awards.

1987: When the Day Comes
dir: Jang Joon-hwan
scr: Kim Kyung-chan
cin: Kim Woo-hyung
seen: CGV Cinemas LA, Los Angeles, CA

This docudrama depicting the events that led to South Korea's June Struggle that led to democratic elections and further freedoms for her people floored me. An invigorating example of political filmmaking that pays tribute to the many faces of and sacrifices for democracy. Some 20-odd characters, none given short shrift, each as fully realized as the other. Not a detail missed, not a moment wasted - not in the design, not in the dialogue, not in the score, nowhere.

Battle of the Sexes
dir: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
scr: Simon Beaufoy
cin: Linus Sandgren
seen: Vintage Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles, CA

A pertinent film in this age of new feminism and queer visibility, giving equal weight to Billie Jean King's athleticism, feminism and sexuality. At the same time, it doesn't settle for mocking "male chauvinist pig" Bobby Riggs, but acknowledges his difficulties - personally, professionally, and emotionally - that fed into his ego and persona. Erotic haircuts, disgraced patriarchy, and disco make for a perfect combination.

Blade Runner 2049
dir: Denis Villeneuve
scr: Michael Green and Hampton Fancher, story by Fancher, based on Fancher and David Peoples' interpretation of characters created by Philip K. Dick
cin: Roger Deakins
seen: Vista Theatre, Los Angeles, CA 

Sure, any movie about synthetic humans is going to address how we define humanity, how we experience our existence, and what it is that makes real people truly exceptional. 2049 beautifully avoids all the possible pitfalls of this narrative, defining humanity by both the openness to sensuality and how we interact with each other. Is there a better dialogue about how we choose to serve our principles than the climactic fight?

The Greatest Showman
dir: Michael Gracey
scr: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, story by Bicks
cin: Seamus McGarvey
seen: AMC Burbank 16, Burbank, CA

Pure escapist entertainment, a valentine to show business in the pure hokum spirit of its subject, P.T. Barnum. You want romance? Dancing? Happy marriages? Cute kids? A call to arms for the oppressed? Greatest Showman has that and more, living up to the refrain of its opening number: "It's everything you ever want, it's everything you ever need, and it's here right in front of you."

I, Tonya
dir: Craig Gillespie
scr: Steven Rogers
cin: Nicolas Karakatsanis
seen: ArcLight Hollywood, Hollywood, CA

Tonya Harding has been a punchline for so long, it's no surprise her biopic is a pitch-black comedy. What is surprising is the balanced empathy the film feels for its ensemble of white trash dreamers and cynics. All points of view are presented for your pleasure, sympathy, and damnation, not so much deconstructing the myth as it reveals how those myths are made and the level at which the public, the media, and the players themselves are complicit in that creation.

dir/scr: Brett Morgen, with certain passages selected from the writings of Jane Goodall
cin: Ellen Kuras, Hugo van Lawick (archival)
seen: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena, CA

A love story, an anthropological survey, a quirky family comedy, a triumphant feminist drama. Illustrated with scrumptious, never-before-seen footage shot by her first husband Hugo van Lawick, and occasionally interspersed with contemporary interviews, the film is a valentine not only to the genius and perseverance of Jane Goodall, but to all the world: the uniqueness and universality of each living creature, the beauty of nature, the compromises and achievements that make up a life.

Lady Bird
dir/scr: Greta Gerwig
cin: Sam Levy
seen: Vintage Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles, CA

It makes the coming-of-age genre look so easy: no tired jokes, no extreme situations, but an honest experience, pimples and all, sensitively told. And so generous to its cast, from the popular girl who still maintains a level of authenticity to the parochial schoolteacher finding himself at a crossroads, from Lady Bird's confident "knowing" of herself even as she struggles to define what it is she wants to her mom's brave face and supportive smile at work belying the exhaustion she can express at home. Nothing but the truth.

The Lost City of Z
dir/scr: James Gray, based on the book by David Gann
cin: Darius Khondji
seen: The Landmark at Westside Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA

The single-mindedness that comes from deciding and pursuing your life's purpose can be both strength and folly; thus does Gray approach the true story of Percy Fawcett's tenacious exploration of Amazonia, an inspiring epic about a man bridging two worlds and a somber reflection of the sacrifices such pursuits require. Yet despite its admiration of Fawcett (what filmmaker wouldn't identify with that kind of crazy?), this is no soft sell of colonialism, but an exposure of its corrupting influence and limited imagination.

Phantom Thread
dir/scr/cin: Paul Thomas Anderson
seen: ArcLight Hollywood, Hollywood, CA

A kooky period piece about romantic one-upmanship and finding that perfect partner, with a designer who finds his mercurial egomania put on notice by a loyal yet combative new muse. Funny, sexy, stylish, dahling, with narrative turns and a slightly eerie tone that would be bizarre were it not for the movie's deft balancing of the tight-lipped and the crazed. Truly unlike anything else I saw this year.

A Quiet Passion
dir/scr: Terence Davies
cin: Florian Hoffmeister
seen: DVD from Central Branch, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA

It's been, what, three years since I've seen a biopic that felt so tuned in to the persona of both its artist and their art while presenting a full picture of their life? That was Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner; now Davies presents the ultimate Cynthia Nixon vehicle, as she inhabits Emily Dickinson with a great depth that feeling that many could mistake for fragility - a tenuous thread easily strained and way too relatable.

A Taxi Driver
dir: Jang Hun
scr: Uhm Yoo-na, Jo Seul-ye
cin: Ko Nak-sun
seen: CGV Cinemas LA, Los Angeles, CA

Who knew a film about the political climate of 1980s South Korea would feel so pertinent to today's climate? Yes, yes, I know we're not currently under a military dictatorship, but the film's telling of a country's leader abusing his power through media manipulation and destruction, and portraying young protestors as thugs ripe for execution, is timely, to say the least.

I tend not to rank these until my Hollmann Awards Nominations - but fear not! For those are just around the corner....

You May Also Enjoy:

Like us on Facebook

No comments: