As the Oscars approach, I’ve started thinking about this year as a whole in regards to film. Let’s get this out of the way: every year is a great year for film. There are so many movies made and so many different people making them that, chances are, you’ll get at least a few standouts. But there was something about 2017 that made it feel a bit more special. The movies packed a stronger punch and they seemed to have more distinct voices. In fact, there were so many great movies released this year that some have completely flown under the radar. Here we’ll take a look at some 2017 movies that should’ve gotten a little more love*.
*I’m narrowing it down to movies I haven’t written about yet because I can only talk about “The Lost City of Z” so much.
Getting some festival play in 2016 before actually being released in 2017, “Colossal” is kind of a beautiful oddity. Starring Anne Hathaway, the film is a bizarre combination of a drama revolving around self-destructive alcoholism and an all-out kaiju beat ’em up. It sounds like such an annoyingly precocious concept, the kind your film school friend would come up with because they’re so concerned about sounding unique and quirky. Miraculously, the film actually manages to craft an incredibly effective tale that uses the massive monster battles as an effective metaphor for the ways our personal demons can cause havoc in other people’s lives. It’s a hilarious and absurd comedy, and that hilarity serves to underlie the tragedy that lies just beneath the film’s surface.
Song to Song
Years from now, Terrence Malick’s late period work is going to be looked at as some of the most revolutionary filmmaking of this decade. His editing style is so unique, basically distilling regular interactions into a series of vignettes that tell us the bare minimum of what we need to know. It creates an ethereal, emotional atmosphere that emphasizes tone and pacing over information. “Song to Song” is a story that works best for this style, telling a freewheeling, loose story about four musicians caught in a love rectangle or something. Featuring some great celebrity cameos from Patti Smith to Iggy Pop, “Song to Song” takes you for one crazy ride.
A Cure for Wellness
This is a movie that’s destined for cult status. An elaborate, beautifully executed gothic mystery cum steampunk nightmare, “A Cure for Wellness” is one of the most inventive and fascinating horror films I’ve seen in a while. Gore Verbinski takes us on a terrifying journey into the heart of a bizarre facility and delights in jabbing at our most basic fears, from claustrophobia to dentists, to eels (everyone’s afraid of eels, right?). Featuring some stunning production design that recalls Hammer horror films, Giallo movies, and even Bioshock, “A Cure for Wellness” represents brazenly original horror filmmaking taken to its logical extreme.
The original “Trainspotting” shot into the cinema like a bullet. A product of its time in the best way possible, it gave a voice to a marginalized group of people and brought out a whole side of Scotland that nobody, at least in the States, knew about. “T2” is a bit different. It’s a sadder film, more about the process of aging and maturing than the madcap antics of a wild group of twenty-somethings. It takes the craziness of the first movie and brings it back down to Earth, resolving each character’s story in a satisfying, but realistic way. It’s a true sequel: one that actually builds upon the themes of the previous film while being able to stand alone.
Todd Haynes is one of cinema’s most schizophrenic artists. There seem to be two types of Todd Haynes movies. One kind is almost purely cerebral and experimental. These are films like “I’m Not There” and “Safe.” The other kind is nearly nakedly emotional, containing a level of drama and romance typically seen in classic Hollywood. These are films like “Carol” and “Far From Heaven.”
Now, we have “Wonderstruck” a film that feels like a combination of these two different styles. Telling parallel stories, one of a deaf girl living in 1920s New York, the other of a boy who’s just been deafened by a lightning bolt, “Wonderstruck” is the rare family film that appeals to the brain and the heart. It’s a beautifully told mystery, one that contains themes about loss and family. The parallel stories eventually convene towards a touching ending that left a lump in my throat. Most films aspire to be tearjerkers. This one actually achieves it.