Blake HowardComment

Best and Worst Films of 2017 So Far…

Blake HowardComment
Best and Worst Films of 2017 So Far…

Six months of the calendar year have streamed past and thank the maker that’s its becoming a very promising year of viewing for this critic so far. In the wake of Sydney Film Festival, where attendees binge of unreleased pedigree cinema from around the globe, I feel like I’m in the best position to assess some of the very best the year’s had to offer; and after seeing Johnny Depp and Michael Bay take a shit on the screens of my local multiplex, the very worst. The blockbuster season is slowing down, with only a few big releases (“Spider-Man: Homecoming” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Baby Driver") on their way. 

For my end of year lists I tend to operate strictly on the calendar, including everything that I’ve seen that year that’s released in the international movie calendar without specifically adhering to either Australian or U.S release date. Although at the end of the year for my "Top Films of the Year" video/list will often offer films as special mentions if they really 'fit' in the previous year, like the first two entries on my best films of the year so far… so let's get to it. 

In no particular order…

 Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

What I said: 

“It’s so often that phrases like ‘breathtaking’ or ’stunning’ are bandied about. I was stunned by “Manchester by the Sea;” Lonergan’s melancholic journey and Affleck’s Lee repeatedly took my breath away.”

What I’ll add: 

I don’t know if I’m brave enough, yet, for another viewing of “Manchester By The Sea.” That’s how damned powerful this is.

  Moonlight

Moonlight

What I said:

“When you write about great films, you always feel like there’s more to say. For now, there’s one final thing I’ll say about “Moonlight,” it’s a classic, man.”

What I’ll add: 

Thank’s to Nicholas Brittell’s latest visit to the essential movie geek podcast “Soundtracking with Edith Bowman ” he discussed, as Barry Jenkins had only hinted before him, the “chopped and screwed” musical influences on the “Moonlight” soundscape. “Chopped and Screwed” originated in Houston hip-hop in the 1990s, and it slows the tempo, “record scratching, stop-time, and affecting portions of the music.” For Brittell and Jenkins that meant establishing key themes and tunes and then manipulating them to become something different; which also involved lowering keys of instruments so low digitally, that only a custom violin can actually play the same style notes live. These tunes and their “chopped and screwed” counterparts as subliminal memory triggers to earlier scene; like those pivotal moments in Chiron’s life have shaped him. Another layer of a magnificent film. 

 Logan

Logan

What I said: 

“Logan” is a film that you’ve probably already heard about. In amongst the tsunami of hyperbole the message is clear, Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah as the Wolverine is arguably the best yet. “Logan” synthesises comic book characters into the real world in a way that’s only been reached in what Roger Ebert called the “engrossing tragedy” of the “The Dark Knight.” 

What I’ll add: 

“Logan” loses none of its lustre in the second viewing. This time I was absolutely taken with the negative space in the film. Cars driving down barren roads, cold crisp evenings at farmhouses, a comforting cold beer waiting for a ride; Mangold creates a series of moments to be immersed in, without distraction. One of my favourites was (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD) as Logan drives himself to the point of exhaustion and collapse he runs himself off a desert road. Laura patiently waits to confirm that he’s unconscious before shuffling him out of the driver’s seat - save for his leg which she uses as a booster seat - and takes the wheel. There’s such patience behind that lens, no rush to cut, no unnecessary flair; precision and clarity of the character and ethos of the film. Daphne Keen (confirm spelling) who whips like a thunderclap as Laura, exudes focus and drive. As I write this, I’m keen to jump in for a third viewing, but this time as “Logan NOIR.” Taking cues from Dr. George Miller, and after the responses to some beautiful black and white photographs that Mangold took to hype the film, the studio allowed him to create an alternate monochrome version of the film. 

 Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name

I’ll save a full analysis for the review, but I do want to paint the picture of the aftermath of  “Call Me By Your Name.” Walking out of the State Theatre to a cold Sydney evening, late in the festival, a wonderful band of film geeks huddled together ready to hang at the digs of one Garth Franklin for a post movie tipple. In that squad was film lovers/writers Sam McCosh, Lisa Malouf, Mr Franklin of course, Laurence Barber, Stephen A Russell, Tom Clift and I. Instead of a few drinks and some cackling there was an outpouring of emotion; reflecting on the moments that drove the stake in the hearts of each of us in a different way. “Call Me By Your Name,” had devolved a “Breakfast Club” gathering into a “Fight Club” testicular cancer meeting and the crew where all Jack (Edward Norton) wailing into Bob’s (Meat Loaf) bitch-tits for comfort. 

I adored Luca Guadagnino’s last film “A Bigger Splash,” and in fact, it was one of my highlights of last year. “Call Me By Your Name,” a transcendent tale of impossible love, is stunning on every conceivable level. It’s out in Australia on December 26th. I’ll be lining up like it’s “The Lord of the Rings.” 

Full review forthcoming…

 Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear

The wrestle occasionally as a critic is that very rarely, you walk into a film knowing very little about it. You walk in, the lights dim and you’re exposed to a something completely fresh that’s equally rare, fun and beautiful. Walking into “Brigsby Bear” at the Sydney Film Festival was that precise experience. Perhaps if you haven’t seen the film and you want an experience as I did; read no further than this final word. “Brigsby Bear” is a stunning, uplifting, hilarious and original film told with heart and warmth and so far it’s one of my favourite films of the year. 

Full review forthcoming...

So we’ve had the (better than) good, now for the bad and the ugly. 

The worst two are an abhorrent duet of wasteful and lifeless masses of movie defecation. I hate them equally despite one scoring (as arbitrary as that can be) one more star than the other. 

 

  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

  Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight

What I said: 

There is almost no point making jokes about the rambling, incoherent “Transformers: The Last Knight” because you need only let the events of the films speak for itself. You want to hate this movie. You want to hate every vacant, stupid, irrational moment of it. You hate knowing that Bay acquired approximately 173 times the budget than “Moonlight” for the FIFTH entry into an increasingly inane series which still somehow manages to make a billion dollars with each entry – ensuring its continuation. It’s a film able to conjure such levels of discomfort that you can’t help but laugh, but its mirth rooted in maddening disbelief because there is no joy to be found here.

What I’ll add: 

In the climactic moments of Adam Sandler’s career making comedy “Billy Madison,” Billy improvises a presentation speech and his Principal says something that, if presented with the opportunity, I would love to say to Mr Bay. 

Mr Bay, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in this rambling, incoherent movie were you even close to anything resembling a considered rational thought. Everyone who sees this movie will be dumber from having seen it. I award you no stars and may God have mercy on your soul.

 

BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.