The best is yet to come - what I'm still looking forward to seeing that's already out in '17
A week in L.A. proved a bounty for the hard-to-see elsewhere desires of this moviegoer, and although I was unable to find Una or Columbus, as previously documented I did get to see Killing of a Sacred Deer, Goodbye Christopher Robin and Suburbicon in the theater – two outta three winners ain’t bad.
I’ve been scanning the lists of people like me – people who are more film enthusiasts than critics who write about the subject in their free time – to see what others saw that I didn’t, and to gather an informal consensus on what is roundly considered good and less so. While this entry is primarily intended to discuss what I haven’t seen but want to, I’ll begin by pointing out what I think is the best I’ve seen released in 2017:
A Ghost Story – This one is purely love it or hate it. Some of the lists I read had it as best, or top 5, while others don’t even include it. I like the general aesthetic of minimalism, and A Ghost Story is that. I saw it over the summer in Minneapolis, and it’s stayed with me even though I’ve seen at least a dozen films in the theater since then. I rank it as one of the three best I’ve seen in the theater this year.
Killing of a Sacred Deer – This or Dunkirk is the consensus best film of the year – just by sheer exposure, it would probably be Dunkirk (I didn’t care for it), but Killing of a Sacred Deer is outlandish, brutal and exquisitely well-played. It’s unlikely you’ll catch it in a theater, which is a shame if for the opening shot alone. Like A Ghost Story, one of the three best films I’ve seen in the theater this year.
The Beguiled – The hype train started early when Sofia Coppola won for Best Director at Cannes, and I was not disappointed, my other “best three of the year.” Curiously, I thought the film was tailor-made for someone with my sister’s taste, but she found it exceedingly slow and boring.
Raw – Genetics is destiny, meat is murder – this grotesque French film combines a mantra of the far right with a mantra from the far left and out comes this grisly story about a young vegetarian’s taste for blood developing during hell week at vet school. Watch this one with someone squeamish for a bonus (Killing of a Sacred Deer has one scene that would be right at home in Raw).
Now, in no particular order, what I haven’t seen but want to see and, so long as available to stream, will see before the awards season arrives:
Columbus – pound for pound this sounds like the best film of the year, a film about modern architecture, friendship and distant family that has wowed everyone who’s written about it.
My Friend Dahmer – very well reviewed study of a teenage Jeffrey Dahmer, humanizing without forgetting the greusomeness of his crimes. The best explanation I’ve seen of it is it does for the story of Dahmer what Elephant tried-but-failed to do with Columbine.
The Square – Armond White refers to it as the movie of the year, and then adds the caveat “not necessarily a good thing.” A contemplation about art, artists and pretension, it smells to me like the complaint of so many Broadway players of late regarding the rude behavior of their audience – you mock the borgieos then rue what was once the good conduct by which it behaved in public.
Hounds of Love – This Australian film is getting raves from those who’ve seen it, a story about paternal domination and feminine wiles, topics I’m a sucker for.
Una – Based on the stage smash Blackbird, Rooney Mara plays the grown up version of a girl who was molested by her neighbor, but as the trailer notes, all is not quite what it appears. I was sick about this only playing one night while we were in L.A., and at a theater 30 miles from us making it nearly impossible to wedge into our schedule.
Okja – The other “pound for pound” best film of the year, Okja is a story about a girl and her oversized, genetically-modified pig and has garnered raves out the wazoo. The film is a South Korean sensation, and although it has heavy whiffs of “evil corporation” and porcine-anthropomorphistic propaganda. As a love of pigs and one who despises overt manipulation, I suspect I’m going to hate Okja, but I still can’t wait to see it.
The Big Sick – This Michael Showalter film starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Zoe Kazan looks like a hidden comedic gem, one based on a true story about the meet cute of its writers and the sickness and cross-cultural awkwardness that followed. A friend saw this yesterday and raved about it.
Ingrid Goes West – Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen star in this small tale of digital stalking. It was on my must-see list earlier in the year, then I forgot about it, then my sister pointed out she wants to see it and then I remembered that I want to see it. Doesn’t look great, but does look good.
mother! – Shame on me for not seeing it in the theater, but the year’s most controversial film is another in the love it or hate it category, at least from the notices I’ve read, and I’ve read both really good and really bad by people whose opinions I respect, so my mileage is probably going to vary. This is Darren Arnofsky’s baby starring Jennifer Lawrence and a recently career-revived Michelle Pfeiffer, and the movies are always a better place with Michelle Pfeiffer landing roles.
Finally, a couple of documentaries.
Frederick Wiseman returns with Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, a sprawling 197-minute look at the fourth-largest library in the world and the various organs within that make it thrive – I would call this spinach cinema, but as a bookworm, this sounds electric to me.
Then there is Dawson City: Frozen Time. A different style of documentary that rests on a tale I’d not heard: in 1978 in the gold mining town of Dawson City, more than 500 turn-of-the-century films were uncovered, a massive amount of documentation about life in the late 19th/early 20th century West. All that has been shaped into a documentary of sorts with music by a Sigur Ros collaborator. Sounds like a treasure trove for film buffs and people who use hallucinogenic drugs, so there’s that.