15 December 2017

2017 in the Ground: Everyone's Best Movie List

I've been really seriously tallying up my end-of-year movie lists for a while now, and to be honest, the last couple years it's like the Christmas gift that I give myself. This probably has something to do with it - tracking and building anticipation for my personal media consumption analysis for an entire year is an awesome thing to look forward to.

Last year, though, I noticed something odd when I began to tally up the movies I loved. They were totally different than everyone else's. It was as if all the other critics had gotten together and said to themselves, "THESE are the movies we are looking at, you may pick from them." This led to a La La Land (2016) / Moonlight (2016) showdown, which was a compelling match between two really good flicks, but also two drastically underseen flicks among the general public that was both bait-y and alienating.

To be fair, I counted La La Land #7 last year and left Moonlight off because I couldn't really get into it - I've since come around and they'll both land in my updated 2016 list that'll drop in a few weeks. My point was more that we kept seeing the same handful of indie films over and over again, like Fences, Manchester by the Sea, and Toni Erdmann. To be precise, all good films but critics seemed afraid of branching out and finding some variety. It's as if they thought they'd be derided for picking anything else.

2017 is far far worse. After I watched Blade Runner 2049 (2017), I was sold on it being the best thing I'd seen in a long time. It's not even a remote consideration on any one's list. I'm flabbergasted.

Let's go through the Prototypical List of Best Movies to Choose From:

Phantom Thread
Faces Places
The Post
A Fantastic Woman
A Ghost Story
Lady Bird
Get Out
The Florida Project
The Shape of Water
Call Me by Your Name
Mudbound
A Quiet Passion
Dunkirk
Personal Shopper
Wonderstruck
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

That's pretty much the just of this, this, this, this, and this. Now, I don't mean to be a bitch, there's some cool variety to be found. Girls Trip and Wonder Woman pop up here and there, and the Vulture somehow also included Valerian and the Long Title About Planets that I Forgot, which is all kinds of campy and awesome. Colossal found its way as some honourable mentions, which is a film that I loved this year, and Okja creeps its way in, which is terribly underrated.

We also do see some big films like Get Out and Dunkirk earn recognition, which is rad. I just kind of think most of the rest of this is boring pretentious crap. Faces Places, get out of here.

Part of this rant is really just a prep - to let ya'll know that I know what the cinematic conversation is right now and how I plan on rejecting it entirely. I have no interest at all in the vast majority of this shit and my list is going to look totally insane in comparison. Of course, I reflect and morph and update each year after making a slew of terrible choices, but that's also what both watching films and creating long-lasting relationships with them is all about.

That more than anything ends up being how I judge films in the long run. Which films do I continually reflect on and adore for months afterwards. Which fall by the wayside? It's amazing the kind of time traveling that happens with some films. Sometimes I have no single recollection of a damn thing that happened. I watched The Magnificent Seven (2016) a few months back and can't tell you a single plot point. It's super possible that I just watch too many films and any slightly similar ones blur together, but there's also something to be said for distinctive, interesting filmmaking that sticks with you.

On the other hand, what does make a good film? Is it simply a compelling and logical sequence of events demonstrated through a craft that continually accentuates subtext and theme in addition to the plot played out on screen? Are films worth seeing once and analyzing for that merit in the moment without regard to the relationship we develop with them? Should films be thought of as "in the moment" films, where something super-relevant like A Fantastic Woman stands out, or does it stand out only because of its moment and not its craft? Or like Moonlight, does it do both? These are all questions worth asking and reflecting on when selecting a best of list.

For my money, I will mostly ride an overall feel, which comes about from craft, story, character, and in a grand sense, "what it's about." I always kind of think of this when considering big action blockbusters - of course we loved IT (2017) - the old film needed sincere updating and there were genuine thrills and an overall clear aesthetic, purpose, and narrative. Of fucking course no one saw The Dark Tower (2017), it alienated any fans it may have had by not staying true to its source and alienated any new fans by still being too damn fucking obtuse. This isn't hard to decipher. I should be a studio executive.

So that's where I'm coming from this year. I need to continue slamming movies and catching up over the next few weeks, and as it should be, I will post at the genuine end of the year, on the 31st with my Final List. Stay tuned, dear readers!

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