The Films of 2017

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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Big Ben
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Re: The Films of 2017

#51 Post by Big Ben » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:59 pm

Marshall is a fairly standard courtroom drama film but a necessary one in these times nonetheless. What I mean in that sense is that the story of Thurgood Marshall has been told in an age with a shocking resurgence of White Nationalism and Racism. It's not going to sweep the awards shows but having more films made by minority filmmakers is always a victory.


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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2017

#53 Post by Brian C » Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:27 am

Big Ben wrote:Marshall is a fairly standard courtroom drama film but a necessary one in these times nonetheless. What I mean in that sense is that the story of Thurgood Marshall has been told in an age with a shocking resurgence of White Nationalism and Racism. It's not going to sweep the awards shows but having more films made by minority filmmakers is always a victory.
I thought it was fairly decent, maybe surprisingly so. I thought it was a little surprising that the actual facts of the case are left to ambiguity to a large extent. Obviously the film cues you to believe one side over the other, but still, it would have been very easy to make it 100% clear to the audience what happened, and the filmmakers seem to make a conscious choice to not do that. It was nice for the film to trust its audience enough to handle the case that way.

And it's an interesting film in that it is released at a time when (I'm sure by coincidence) sexual assault is a hot-button cultural topic. How often has it been said lately that we have an obligation to "believe the accusers"? And yet, that's exactly what this film very pointedly asks us not to do. But it also has the decency to show that Marshall's instincts weren't always right and we get to see him misjudge situations and leap to conclusions that turn out to be dead wrong, as of course even the most brilliant people will do from time to time.

In terms of filmmaking craft, it's a pretty average film, nothing to rave about but it's put together competently. But as a political argument, it's more potent than I expected. I don't think it really dumbs down its subject matter as much as most social cause films do, and I think it's regrettable that it was all but buried theatrically. I wouldn't have seen it without my MoviePass, but having seen it, I feel like I'd have been missing out. It's pretty solid overall.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#54 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:33 am

Watched Brigsby Bear tonight and it was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The concept is a little undercooked but still bordering on brilliant, but the fact that it's utilized in service of something so sincere and kind was really something unexpected. In the hands of an Adam McKay this would be a loud, rude, impossibly obnoxious film - but Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary have something more Be Kind Rewind in mind here and thank goodness for that. Is it maudlin? Absolutely. Are the motivations of the parents at the beginning of the film a little underdeveloped and messy? Yes, they are. But for a first film, this is a pretty amazing little gem that's a great showcase for Mooney, and an blindside of a convincing argument for the value of childhood nostalgia and fandom that melted the heart of this skeptic. See it.

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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2017

#55 Post by Brian C » Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:14 pm

The Mountain Between Us (Hany Abu-Assad)

This is a MoviePass movie if I've ever seen one, and for the most part it was as middle-of-the-road "fine" as one might expect. Some pretty mountain photography, solid but unremarkable performances, etc.

But one aspect did stand out to me: it has the most convincingly staged plane crash I think I've ever seen on film, helped along by the decision to film most of it from a very novel camera angle that simultaneously ups the visceral impact of it while providing an opportunity to hide the CGI. It's a scene that feels ripped from a Cuarón film, in a movie that otherwise showed virtually no creative energy.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#56 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:32 pm

John Shade wrote:For those of you with younger kids, Boss Baby isn't a terrible waste of time. I prefer the kind of irreverence in a movie like this than what you get from Pixar/Disney. There are some good gags, interesting bits of animation when we see the imagination of the older brother, and Alec Baldwin as the baby was a running joke that made me laugh. His voice was a hidden asset of Royal Tenenbaums and is pretty amusing as the corporate minded, 30 Rock CEO turned infant baby. The central conceit that people prefer puppies to babies now is...an interesting choice.
This, uh, was somehow pretty good. A cute take on the usual older brother anxieties directed at younger siblings. Like a lot of childrens' entertainment, there are too many bathroom humor jokes, but there are plenty of pluses to counter this. I liked how the animation designs often had a CGI UPA look, and I laughed more than I expected. Plus more kids movies need a David Mamet joke

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Re: The Films of 2017

#57 Post by knives » Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:15 pm

The B Side is a perfect example of why Errol Morris is at his most effective with a toss off seeming subject. The short run time and the non-reaction to it only compounds a feeling that this is a b-side itself, but slowly the film weaves a number of strands, particularly on Ginsberg and Polaroid, which come to a very effective portrait which I suspect will after some time come to be be on Morris' upper half. Dorfman at first comes across as a footnote in history that is only the subject for Morris to have some excuse on baby boomer nostalgia, but then the film moves further and further away from fame and more and more into the idea of aging ending on a truly great image and idea.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#58 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:18 pm

I watched Terry George's The Promise as it was on Amazon Prime. I was a bit surprised to see a movie about the Armenian Genocide costing $90m but Kirk Kerkorian bankrolled the whole thing. It's a bomb, as you'd expect given its relatively niche aspect of history. The main thing that's emerged is its IMDB rating hoo-ha, where the Turkish diaspora were giving out zero scores, and the Armenian diaspora reciprocating with tens - all this before the films release. Oscar Isaac plays an Armenian medical student in Constantinople, Christian Bale's an American journalist - as WW1 rages, the Ottoman Empire deals with its Armenian 'problem'. It's all very one sided and the love triangle is a bit wishy-washy but aren't many historical dramas that way? It's fairly engaging nonetheless.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#59 Post by knives » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:30 pm

How does it compare to Fatih Akin's The Cut from a few years ago (or the Taviani's own take on this subject)?

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Re: The Films of 2017

#60 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:54 am

knives wrote:How does it compare to Fatih Akin's The Cut from a few years ago (or the Taviani's own take on this subject)?
Not seen either. It's a fairly formulaic Hollywood film so I wouldn't expect anything more than a Zhivago-esque set-up. I was thinking of Egoyan's Ararat too, but it's not comparable.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#61 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:03 pm

Has anyone seen Heinz Emigholz's Streetscapes [Dialogue]? This apparently screened at Lincoln Center back in April - I didn't even know about it and now I regret it because it seems to have made quite an impression on those who saw it. I can't imagine many seeing it - distribution seems to be confined to a handful of screenings outside of prestigious festivals, and it's likely to remain that way since it appears to be an experimental documentary - but Jim Hoberman, Dennis Lim and Jonathan Rosenbaum all placed it among their top FIVE films of the year.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#62 Post by zedz » Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:33 pm

thirtyframesasecond wrote:
knives wrote:How does it compare to Fatih Akin's The Cut from a few years ago (or the Taviani's own take on this subject)?
Not seen either. It's a fairly formulaic Hollywood film so I wouldn't expect anything more than a Zhivago-esque set-up. I was thinking of Egoyan's Ararat too, but it's not comparable.
I’ve seen the making-of by Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost), which is doing the rounds parading as a documentary about the genocide, and it made its parent film look utterly trite, like an 80s mini-series or something.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#63 Post by Murdoch » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:15 pm

I haven't seen any mention of Janicza Bravo's Lemon around here but it easily placed on my top ten for the year. The plot revolves around Brett Gelman's unstable and awkward director as he tries to stage Chekhov's "The Seagull" while dealing with a break-up and courting Nia Long. This makes it sound far more like a conventional romance than it is, but what follows is an odd collection of scenes where Gelman, Michael Cera, Gillian Jacobs, Judy Greer, and quite a few other notable comedians interact uncomfortably through purposely stilted dialogue. I found a sort of brilliance in the way these characters try to connect with each other, each seeming to have a clear thing to express but unable to communicate it well with another person. There's depth in the film's artifice, the people that populate it struggle to connect with others and while there's no real theme or purpose to the conversations they have they do their best to express themselves. I also enjoyed the small gag throughout the film of Jacobs rambling about some trifling matter and being cut off as the film transitions abruptly to the next scene.

The most notable thing to me was the division between the white and black characters. The film has a primarily white cast, but in a scene where Gelman goes to Long's family cookout the black characters show a comfort and ease of speech around each other that's largely absent from the white characters' dialogues. Bravo stated in an interview that she made this film after being fascinated with the type of films centering around middle-aged white men who suffer from a variety of anxiety and social issues but still come out ahead at the end. This film feels very much the antithesis of that, as nothing really resolves or changes for Gelman - no revelation about his behavior comes to light, and he's actually worse off by the end as his unhinged behavior isolates him further.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#64 Post by knives » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:01 pm

Hey, Jordan Carlos has a cameo in Landline. That's cool and reason enough to watch. As for the film, I feel like it relies a little too much on Phillip Roth style gross out humour which never has and never will work out for me. That aside though this is really great improving on Obvious Child in a really satisfying way with a great sense of character and a classical sense of visual story telling that is unobtrusive. The way the characters just know each other is such an effective dramatic tool that focusing on the comedy makes sense. It has that Baumbach sense of the funnier a joke is the more a painful a pathos that creates across the whole.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#65 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:15 pm

To prepare for the Oscar nominations, I (naturally) watched Jigsaw last night, and found it far worse than I could have anticipated. The perverse pleasure of the Saw pictures is not the plot (that isn't good here either, mind you - the titular character has been dead for ten years at this point, so the writers have to rely on absurd plot devices to ensure that his appearance is only in increasingly ridiculous flashbacks - time to just reboot the thing), but the contraptions and situations that Jigsaw's victims find themselves in. With the real-life popularity of escape rooms sky high, I'm surprised that the studio didn't find this ripe for more creative oomph to get even the squeamish or skeptical into the theater to see what'd been cooked up, but the collection of victims and their stories are particularly dull here, as are their punishments and decision-making - and I'm saying that's in comparison to other Saw sequels.

These are a lot like the similarly inconsistent Final Destination films - if you cannot construct a clever "game" to play out for whatever paper-thin hapless victims are next in line, there are no good qualities from a filmmaking or acting perspective to make any aspect of the enterprise worthwhile - and this is one of the installments in this franchise that you can skip altogether, if you were at all curious (I know, I know, you weren't).

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Re: The Films of 2017

#66 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:50 pm

"If we die in this escape room, we die in real life!" :D

That reminds me, have you played any of the Zero Escape trilogy of games mfunk? That is a fantastic 'escape room' story, although it goes in some pretty wild directions (and that's putting it mildly. If you don't mind the entire plot being spoiled this video gives a speedy runthrough of the story!)

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Re: The Films of 2017

#67 Post by swo17 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:23 am

mfunk9786 wrote:Watched Brigsby Bear tonight and it was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The concept is a little undercooked but still bordering on brilliant, but the fact that it's utilized in service of something so sincere and kind was really something unexpected. In the hands of an Adam McKay this would be a loud, rude, impossibly obnoxious film - but Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary have something more Be Kind Rewind in mind here and thank goodness for that. Is it maudlin? Absolutely. Are the motivations of the parents at the beginning of the film a little underdeveloped and messy? Yes, they are. But for a first film, this is a pretty amazing little gem that's a great showcase for Mooney, and an blindside of a convincing argument for the value of childhood nostalgia and fandom that melted the heart of this skeptic. See it.
Agreed. I also got a kick out of all the Utah locations. Like the clinic where he stays toward the end of the film is a five minute drive from my house, where I take my daughter when she gets strep throat.

Did you see the "lost episode" included as an extra on the Blu-ray?

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Re: The Films of 2017

#68 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:44 pm

I meant to post about this back when it was screening more widely, but Fatih Akin’s In the Fade was one of my favorite of the year, a psychological thriller with a fantastic, complex lead performance by Diane Kruger, some excellent music (that I didn’t realize until I was watching the credits was composed by Queens of the Stone Age’s Joshua Homme), and imagery that has stayed with me for weeks. Kruger’s Katja is a German woman forced to wade through the personal, legal, and extralegal aftermath of a major crime, less and less able as the film goes on to rely on anyone aside from herself for support, understanding, or justice. Infused with social/political commentary but never ranging into the polemical, Akin’s script keeps a laser-like focus on the impact of trauma on this woman and her attempts to find closure, while propelling the audience along to a divisive finale in gripping fashion.

I really can’t say enough about Kruger’s work here - in a just world she’d be in serious contention for a statuette this weekend - though it certainly helps that Akin has written a multifaceted lead female role that allows her to cover a lot of (quite intense) ground.

I haven’t seen anything else by Akin, though I know Head-On got a lot of support in the 2000s list project a couple of years ago; can anyone who’s seen this and his other work speak to how it compares?

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Re: The Films of 2017

#69 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:29 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:Michael O'Shea's The Transfiguration is a dark, misshapen little horror gem about Milo, a black kid in the New York City projects whose struggles to get by are complicated by his being more than a little obsessed with the mechanics of vampirism. Feeling somewhat like a twisted alternate version of the teenage section of Moonlight - in which the poor kid with the troubled family life is learning how and whether he can live with not homosexuality but psychopathy - the film from its opening scene never tries to engender false sympathy or make excuses for Eric Ruffin's Milo, but presents all but the most extreme of his patterns of behavior with a matter-of-fact style that makes them all the more disturbing.

Both Ruffin and Chloe Levine (who has the air of a young actress who could definitely make a name for herself) as a young neighbor who takes an interest in him do quality work in making their unstable relationship convincing and compelling, and O'Shea's script and Ruffin's performance nail the awkward mannerisms of a certain kind of obsessive teenage boy in a way that feels, as Milo would say, "pretty realistic".

O'Shea has crafted a grim yet weirdly affecting blend of genres and styles, leveraging some powerful images, evocative NYC locations, and skillful editing to create a micro-budget thriller that I'd guess will gradually develop a solid reputation. It's not getting much of a release, but definitely worth seeking out for fans of the genre.

Trailer and release calendar
Just noticed that this is on Netflix while I was trolling around last night, and thought it was worth plugging again as I'm starting to suspect I'm the only person in the world who saw it.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#70 Post by knives » Fri Mar 16, 2018 2:57 pm

Amanda Lipitz's Step is simply one of the best films I've seen in a while. At first it just seems like an aggressively hip take on life opening with the Freddie Gray shooting and being about an all girls charter school's step program in Baltimore. It quickly evolves past that into a great character piece about the need for kids to get into college and succeed generally and also the need for teachers to work with what is perhaps a futile gesture beyond the statistical evidence of failure guaranteed. That last bit particularly worked for me. The guidance councilor with her frustration and anger at Blessin yet real emotional follow through was a good reminder to keep my own cynicism about my kids at a minimum even as realistically it is warranted. In that there is a only five second or so moment about 64 minutes into the film that really helped to push the film from good to great and warrant the feeling of relief the film attempts to end on. I'd be criminal to go in depth on it, but it is an emotional culmination of so many complicated feelings in such an unusual setting to express them even as they are always felt there that I was personally devastated by it.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#71 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 1:04 am

Aftermath (Elliot Lester) is a half-hearted attempt at presenting Arnold Schwarzengger as a serious dramatic actor. He does a good enough job portraying a man in the throes of unthinkable grief, but unfortunately everything else doesn't rise to the occasion. Not even Scoot McNairy's character, who the film spends nearly as much time on focusing but who I didn't find particularly engaging here.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#72 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 26, 2018 1:22 pm

I haven't seen Marshall yet, but it is credited to a 74-year-old litigator Michael Koskoff who is more or less a first-time screenwriter, and apparently he got to know retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor. (The producers apparently screened the film for her before its release.) O'Connor served on the Supreme Court with Marshall, and according to Koskoff: “Surprisingly, to me, [she] was very close to Thurgood Marshall...She said that he, more than once, was the person who swayed her to change her mind [on important votes] — with his stories.” Pretty amazing to hear given how the Court's changed in what feels like a very short time.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#73 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Mar 26, 2018 5:50 pm

Brawl in Cell Block 99, S. Craig Zahler's follow-up to the Western horror Bone Tomahawk, further establishes his commitment to slow-burn, dialogue-heavy, and ultra-violent genre material. As noted elsewhere, Vince Vaughn gives a solid against-type performance as a good ol' Southern boy with a dry sense of humor, a strong urge to provide for his family, and a knack for shattering limbs and crushing skulls when necessary. Along with Vaughn, there are enough supporting cast members - from Udo Kier to Don Johnson - having fun (or at least this movie's version of fun) that it almost counterbalances Zahler's wholesale commitment to unrelenting somberness and extreme brutality. Jennifer Carpenter, who I don't believe I had seen anywhere else besides the early seasons of Dexter, was much better here as Vaughn's wife than she ever was on that show, particularly in her first scene with him after his first outburst of violence.

Zahler's approach of applying some of the trappings of serious dramatic cinema (especially pacing, both within scenes and the film as a whole) to hardcore exploitation material could in theory take the sharper edges off of both and make for something tonally closer to Cronenberg, but Zahler somehow combines those elements in a way that heightens them both and accentuates the lack of either a sense of humor or arch remove toward the material that could make material like this more palatable. Perhaps the absurdity of each escalation in the awfulness of Vaughn's situation (and the subsequent escalation in the brutality of his response) is meant to be darkly humorous, but it's hard to chuckle even out of shocked incredulity at
DisturbingShow
a credible threat to dismember a fetus in utero while keeping it alive to term, for example.

I didn't dislike it overall, but - appropriately, I suppose, because it is a prison movie - it is substantially more claustrophobic and oppressive than the already pretty dour Bone Tomahawk, and without some of the same scattered moments of charm or quirk that made Zahler's western feel more character-driven and engaging; I'm willing to give Zahler's next (Dragged Across Concrete, a police thriller with Vaughn and Carpenter again as well as Mel Gibson) a chance as well, but if it represents another doubling down on grimness and extreme gore as Brawn did relative to Bone Tomahawk, that will be as far as I can go following this particular filmography.

That said, I will give credit to Zahler and Brawl for treating its particular forms of savagery with a seriousness that something more conventionally enjoyable and slickly violent like the John Wick films can't muster when ubiquitous killing is presented with all the consequences and import of a video game: a character appears for two seconds, poses a threat, the antihero responds resulting in a puff of digital red blood to the head, and the character falls to the ground to be immediately forgotten by all other characters and the audience. Here, when
GrossShow
an unconscious villain's head is smashed into and ground against a concrete floor until all the skin on his face is peeled away to the bone, while he is still alive,
it may be pornographic and sickening, but watching it somehow doesn't feel as insidious as knowing I saw Keanu Reeves gun down literally hundreds of people one by one for two hours but not being able to recall feeling any response at all other than, for maybe one shooting out of twenty: "Oh, that one was cool."

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Re: The Films of 2017

#74 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Mar 26, 2018 6:59 pm

Personal side note: I happened to click over to the User Control Panel for a PM and noticed that the above Brawl in Cell Block 99 post was my 1000th post on this forum. If I'd realized beforehand I might have tried to ensure I was posting some 1,000+ word appreciation of a Hitchcock or Kurosawa, but at least it wasn't the lame joke in an Infighting thread that was my 1001st post a few minutes later.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#75 Post by knives » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:01 pm

Frear's Victoria & Abdul is pretty great as a farce and if the film had leaned into that a bit more it would easily be Frears best of the century. As is his dramatic tendencies override a little too much. Part of it is necessary to make the central relationship work, but Frears goes far beyond what is required making some of his idiot comedy less than satisfactory. A big part of that is that this is very much a film about colonialism and how the British are the worst. This makes, though he doesn't have much screen time, Adeel Akhtar (who has been so great lately) just as valuable as Dench. He's the cynical realist who sees the British for what they are while Fazal is something of a naive idiot. He's this film's Fernandel so wide eyed as to not be able to realize he's entered into a world of overgrown children playing house with the world at stake. There's a potentially much darker take such as Iannucci would do lurking underneath through Akhtar's eyes, but seeing this through Fazal's is fun in a classically silly sort of way.

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