Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Year In Film 2017

Mary J.Blige in "Mudbound", directed by Dee Rees. Netflix

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Saturday, December 16, 2017

Was 2017 a "good film year"?  I view 2017 as an encouraging film year rather than a good one.  This year many fresh and inclusive voices fueled cinema with urgency, passion, love, joy, pain and sharp, intelligent storytelling.  Dee Rees' fine direction of "Mudbound" stuck in mind as did Rachel Morrison's stunning cinematography.  Greta Gerwig's sublime directing debut "Lady Bird" was a welcome entry, as was the brilliance and ingenuity of Jordan Peele's debut in "Get Out".  "The Florida Project" offered a level of brightness, fantasy, despair and fine acting from unknowns.  I was encouraged, bouyed enough to make a ten best list.

What may be most true of 2017 in film is what happened offscreen: the takedown by brave women of Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, James Toback and so many other men in power in Hollywood and film overall.  Surviving men were able to put Kevin Spacey out of a career (at least for now), and Ridley Scott and Sony axed him from "All The Money In The World", reshooting all of Mr. Spacey's scenes with Christopher Plummer in the Spacey role as J. Paul Getty in the space of seven weeks.  Edits continue.

In a year where Charles Manson died you had Brett Ratner revealing himself to be almost as monstrous.  There was no "Rush Hour" but a house of horrors created by Mr. Ratner, whom it seemed the whole film world knew about, including the Academy which had recruited him to produce the Oscars less than seven years ago, before he showed his homophobic fangs.

More than these atrocities I will never forget these women from 2017: Lupita Nyong'o, Rose McGowan, Jenny Lumet, Angelina Jolie, Annabella Sciorra, Paz De La Huerta, Selma Blair, Asia Argento, Ellen Barkin, Mira Sorvino, Julianna Margulies, Ashley Judd, Ellen Page and so many others known and unknown.

In 2017 more films were telling stories in distinct ways, with the emphasis on storytelling being as important as what was actually being told.  "I, Tonya" was flamethrowing theater that snarled and dug its teeth in.  "The Post" did the same but more smoothly, thumbing its nose at Donald while getting everyone to remember that governments sin and the press must report those sins. 

For every white-mansplaining "Wind River" there was a "Rumble: The Indians That Rocked The World", while the calamity of "Fifty Shades Darker" was met with the disaster that was "mother!"  By year's end came the news that "mother!" star Jennifer Lawrence had split with the film's director Darren Aronofsky.  After watching that movie, who'd have ever thought they'd split?

Speaking of split, M. Night Shyamalan's thriller "Split" jarred audiences, as did James McAvoy's performance of multiple personalities.  Mr. McAvoy appeared as a split figure of sorts in "Atomic Blonde", which saw Charlize Theron's action persona hit top gear.

Then you had Disney buying almost all of Twentieth Century Fox (for $52 billion) -- which sounds like a movie in and of itself.  (Someone will surely make that movie one day -- if there are any studios left to finance it.) 

There were disappointments like Kathryn Bigelow's "Detroit", tantamount to a luxuriating of Black pain on an epic scale, made worse by its Houdini-like disappearing act of virtually no Black women in a film about an event they were integral to.  Also doing no favors was "Darkest Hour", Joe Wright's drama, which chroncled a nasty, truculent Winston Churchill but somehow omitted his well-known racist and white supremacist statements.

No quartet of women had as much fun on screen in 2017 as the ladies of "Girls Trip" made New Orleans their party and America laughed it up in the process.  Tiffany Haddish was the definition of party.  The women of "A Bad Moms Christmas" wreaked havoc on the holiday.  One of my regrets is I wished I'd seen Angela Robinson's "Professor Marston And The Wonder Women" -- it seemed like a film that saw women characters having a liberation and freedom on film that sometimes is elusive.  It was refreshing to see women play a large part in "The Last Jedi" and see Valkyrie get air time in the highly-entertaining goof-fest action comedy "Thor: Ragnarok".

The big screen in 2017 had numerous comedies of manners - or lack thereof - in "Beatriz At Dinner" (where Salma Hayek, a survivor of Harvey Weinstein's monstrosities, thrived on the big screen), in "Ingrid Goes West", "The Lovers", "The Dinner" and "Three Billboards Near Ebbing, Missouri", the most antisocial comedy of them all. 

But the tenor of 2017 on film was defined by "Wonder Woman", the aforementioned "Get Out", "The Shape Of Water", "Lady Bird", "Dunkirk", "The Last Jedi" and "Call Me By Your Name".  These films' appeal to humanity was strong.  The first half-hour of Patty Jenkins's "Wonder Woman" I found especially moving before action conventionalism overshadowed the film's potency and singularity.  In varying ways each film thrived on appeals to love and togetherness.

I don't know if it was a good film year but it was an encouraging, interesting and enrapturing one.  What on earth will next year's Year In Film look like?

Best Film Of 2017: "Get Out"
Runner-up: "Phantom Thread"

Worst Film Of 2017:  "Kidnap"
Runner-up: "mother!"

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