The Bestest 2017: Filmmage
This year was a strange one for films. There were plenty of great ones, but it’s proving impossible for a truly small film to find a theatrical word of mouth success in the way that there used to be in the past. In the end it doesn’t really matter, all of these films will be available in your living room within a few months (if not weeks) of theatrical release anyway. Great TV continues steal to talent, economics, attention and audiences from the theaters, but in the end there will always be movies, even if they end up as an 8 hour film released directly to your favorite streaming services.
1. Brigsby Bear– Dir. Dave McCary (Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear)
Like most of my favorite Sundance Films (quirky black comedies, with homemade sets and lovably endearing characters) “Brigsby Bear” ticks all the right boxes. The film starts with a cringeworthy premise –a child (Kyle Mooney) is abducted as a young child and spends most of his first 25 years locked in an underground bunker with two seemingly loving parents. The couple make and allow him to watch a weird lo-fi looking educational TV show captured on VHS tapes starring an old-school Barney/Banana Splits character named Brigsby Bear.
At 25, Mooney is suddenly freed from the bunker (he didn’t even realize he was captive), and returned to his natural parents. The real world doesn’t resemble much of anything he had learned from Brigsby, but it is that naiveté and the wonderfully innocent optimism of an internet and pop-culture free human that makes you rethink everything. This film is pure joy, and strangely family friendly.
2. Dunkirk– Dir. Christopher Nolan (Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance)
In that very long list of great directors who have made truly great war films or films about war, Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” will go down as one of the greatest. The film is also yet another example of why some films need to be seen on a giant screen with incredible sound. “Dunkirk” is neither a character study, nor a reinterpretation of historical events, “Dunkirk” focuses on pushing the limits of what film can be.
We see the evacuation of Dunkirk by land, sea and air, immaculately stitched together and bound by the harrowing score that seems to be ebbing and flowing without ever stopping. All the performances are near perfect (Tom Hardy, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branaugh) but there is no star, this film is all about mood and craft. War is always chaotic, disorienting and ultimately unnecessarily destructive, but Nolan puts you right in the middle of this one in a way you have never been before.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Dir. Martin McDonagh (Frances McDormand
This is probably the timeliest and cynically piercing look at the racial and misogynistic violence that seems to be seeping out of every nook and cranny of America these days. Take police brutality, racial hate crimes, rape and harassment, and drop them into the beautiful black comedy mind of non-American Martin McDonagh and you get a violently funny stunner of a film.
If you didn’t know any better you’d assume this was another Coen bros masterpiece, informed in part by another Oscar quality performance by Coen regular (and wife) Frances McDormand as the angrily grieving mother and cancer-stricken police chief Woody Harrelson. This film plays out like an absurdist nightmare, but grounded in the kind of mid-bending headlines that we glaze over every day.
4. Mother! – Dir. Darren Aronofsky (Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence)
Unlike almost any film this year, ‘mother’ is a polarizing, hot mess of cinematic creativity, depravity, and allegories wrapped in obtuse enigmas. Aronofsky’s filmic “Garden of Earthly Delights” riff is a trip through a brief heaven into a long descent into hell. There is rarely a quiet moment, as the camera is a frenetically moving chronicler of the chaos and ambiguity that corners Jennifer Lawrence like a wounded animal.
But if you like films that furrow under your skin like a cuddly tick, where you find yourself half lost in a kind of waking dream this is one to grind out. The film, which is either a thinly veiled mediation on climate change, a more biblically derived narrative, or just a contrived but madly creative piece of pop art, it is an infuriating masterpiece that hangs around your head much longer than you’d expect.
5. Patti Cake$ – Dir. Geremy Jasper (Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty)
If a film this weird, creative and funny doesn’t have a chance to cross over and become widely seen, we need to continue mourning the end of the true independent film. I can all but guarantee you haven’t seen a film like “Patti Cake$” or a performance quite Danielle McDonald’s as the aspiring rapper Patti Dombrowski in quite a while.
Although the film pulls every emotional punch possible to support its underdog plotline, the story and its colorful cast of misfits and societal cast-offs, is far enough out there that the clichés just melt away quietly. Lacking exactly the kind of self-awareness that sometimes enables people to succeed, Patti Cake$ just tends to bounce off the massive walls of rejection, eyes set on a ludicrous prize because .. well .. why not. [Read more…]