Blake HowardComment

BLAKE @BLAKEISBATMAN HOWARD'S BEST FILMS OF 2017

Blake HowardComment
BLAKE @BLAKEISBATMAN HOWARD'S BEST FILMS OF 2017

There is nothing about making a list of your favourite things that are objective. Emotional resonance and specific acquired cinematic taste are subjective beasts. What you’re about to read is a list of the essential films of 2017 for me. The list features films that make you squirm they’re so funny; films that I’m legitimately fearful to watch again because of their booming power; films that feature frightening and disheartening premonitions; films that ask us the very nature of our existence in the increasingly digital world; films that feature achingly beautiful portrayals of love; and sequels that despite all evidence to the contrary, are exponentially more powerful than their predecessors.

Preamble:

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. There are several films here that adorned the "Top Films of the Year" video/lists last year, but they were only accessible as part of their Australian theatrical runs, making them eligible here.  

  #10: Manchester by the Sea

#10: 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.

 

  #9: Jim and Andy

#9: Jim and Andy

What I said: 

Jim & Andy is an experience that left me reeling. While you may not believe Carrey’s ascertain that he was voluntarily possessed by the spirit of his idol to enact this biopic with his blessing; you may find yourself enraptured with his belief.

Full review forthcoming…

 

What I said: 

Mary Shelley so perfectly distilled the key theme of science fiction with “Frankenstein,” to explore the devastating consequences of man playing god. The final cut of the original “Blade Runner” provided the closure that Ridley Scott needed for the character of Deckard. In his conception, Deckard is a replicant made to kill his own kind. The audience’s uncertainty about his humanity makes us self-reflect. In “Blade Runner 2049” there’s a focussed leap to philosophical musings one defying the limitations of the physical. In the original film, we’re preoccupied with how this replicants are a prosthesis that are being denied existence beyond a predetermined stringent lifespan. “Blade Runner 2049” all but accepts humanity’s fate.  Whether we’re replicants or humans we’re living in isolation, satisfied with synthetic versions of love, companionship and purpose. “2049” is the “Blade Runner” for our time. We’re still left seeking the hopelessly miraculous and continuing to ask ourselves whether we’re unique snowflakes in a blizzard.

 

  #7: T2 Trainspotting

#7: T2 Trainspotting

What I said: 

The “fuck you” of your teens and twenties is finite. “T2 Trainspotting” tackles the malaise of your thirties and beyond. “T2 Trainspotting” is poetic and mathematic; this sequel’s impact is exponential.

What I said: 

The wrestle when you talk about “Apocalypse Now” and “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” is which is ultimately better. Like the tide, with any given mood, fanatics could argue either side with equal passion. When you’re comparing “Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare” and “Red Christmas” that never comes into your mind. A movie about a vengeful aborted foetus has given birth to one of the most incredible portraits of artistic struggle ever captured on screen. In true antipodean fashion, as we’re spiralling out of control we cannot help but take the piss. Take the piss out of ourselves, our family, our modest dreams. “Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare” makes you feel like the drama is impossible, like the comedy is far too well conceived and timed to be REAL. “Horror Movie” is impossibly funny, because it’s true.

 

What I said: 

“I Am Not Your Negro” is like a documentary premonition. The documentary form has rarely (if ever) been so rich with an incredible account of life and times.

 

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. Dafne Keen 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. 

 

  #3: Call Me By Your Name

#3: 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 into 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 were 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 is “The Lord of the Rings.” 

Full review forthcoming…

 What I said:

“The Last Jedi” is absolutely the “Star Wars” film we deserved and didn’t expect. The prequels, stand alone “story” films and even the animated series considered canon are a frustratingly repetitious and revisionist cycle. “The Last Jedi” is not a crude predictable entry to the series; Rian Johnson has delivered a luminous spark that’s left the future of the franchise looking bright.

  #1: Moonlight

#1: 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: 

Thanks 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 digitally lowering keys of instruments so low, 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 scenes; like those pivotal moments in Chiron’s life have shaped him.

Honourable mentions:

Squeezing your favourite films into that coveted top ten is absolutely an arbitrary exercise, however I’ll happily abide. There are several movies in this list of honourable mentions which have occupied space in my top 10 throughout its lifespan this year and will demand a revisit over my forthcoming break. Do yourself a favour; add them to a watch list now.

Brigsby Bear*, Good Time*, Phantom Thread*, Raw, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri*; Alien Covenant; War for the Planet of the Apes; Wind River; Wonder Woman; Lion; Split; The Lego Batman Movie; The Other Side of Hope; Wheelman; Wolf and Sheep; Casting Jon Benet; 20th Century Women; Get Out.

*Full reviews forthcoming

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.