At the beginning of this month I didn’t realise this, but now I do.
This might be my last, offical top ten list round-up!
I could change my mind, but then we’ll only know that later..
My life is changing, and I hope it is for the better. I have never done any personal blogging on here or intended to do so, as it was originally intended to be an open platform for others to participate in, but the invites got lost in the mail… or did they? No, I just never used the platform, instead keeping my personal feelings to myself (aside from my opinion) .
I have a new, more challenging and rewarding career ahead of me and I am heading towards a more active, healthier lifestyle. I have never felt comfortable to speak out about the things that moved me, that worked within me and certainly I did not feel like I could share it with lots of people, as I felt I was only somewhat of an expert in one thing: cinema. This list was to represent a small aspect, a definitive mark every year of a somewhat personal accomplishment and effort.
I will always love film, but this list, started in 2009 from a Facebook blog (wow, that’s a long time ago, There Will Be Blood – 2008), might cease to exist from this year, 2017. I used to love going to see everything, to have an opinion on everything, and then to have people listening to that opinion and sharing their own.
My duty to this list, at times, was energy consuming, and also could be seen to be incredibly ridiculous (some people have told me so), but I found it enjoyable and challenging,
I realised recently that I wasn’t doing this for the joy of the task any longer, something I felt compelled to do, always knowing it would never be complete but the chase was enough. In some way, it became a placeholder for my own identity. Probably now, as I am focused on my own journey, I realise that I do not need to do this, or if I do, I don’t need to be slavishly devoted to it.
I do not get paid, nor do I get to access to films for free (streaming platforms do not count as free). At some points it did cost me money to see things because other critics were saying it was important, instead of following my own interests. I lost my verve. I lost the sense of urgency.
I used to enjoy writing my reviews, my essays and the many different types of articles, but then after a while, I figured out that for most of the time I was just writing for myself. It is great that I wrote for myself (if you write for yourself that is great too).
But these were not the creative projects that were the things that truly excited me, that truly engaged me. I was looking at the mediocre monuments and achievements dictated by others (and by extension, not embracing my own) instead of watching, listening or living the stuff I could personally explore. There were times I wouldn’t watch what I wanted to watch, just to get the numbers, to get the cultural cache. Then what was the point? What is the point of understanding if you are never going to use that understanding? Certainly the most relaxed I have been has been in the state of watching stuff my friends wanted me to watch with them, in their homes. That reminded me of what I should be doing, to take things slow.
I saw Justice League in November. I wrote a comment on Facebook about it and promised a review. I did start writing it, but then it was a slog to try and write. My metaphor of the Justice League being drop-kicked by Mary Berry for their under-cooked and overdone souffle was all I felt needed to be said. I certainly didn’t have deep conversations with people I know with whom I could actually discuss the film. And then, like that, I did not have anyone clambering to read that review (although I have had requests for others once in a while, I have to admit). Such is the art of reviewing: no one knows you need a review, until you read the review. You get a different perspective on something by reading someone else’s thoughts, their fears and dreams and all else they may put into the subject, and to derive meaning from it. I never wrote my reviews to convince people to either see or not see things, I simply wanted to get out of my head particular discussion points.
I have had some who have claimed to look forward to this list every year, and I really treasure what you have said. I watched new releases, 87 of them, which is approximately seven days and six hours. I haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, nor have I seen Paddington 2, but so there are countless other films I have not seen.
I have not wasted my time, but I just feel I now have another part of my journey to begin.
In the next couple of weeks I might change my mind, I change my mind about what ranking everything has on my end of year list daily.
So, to start, here’s my worst 3:
- Slack Bay (d. Dumont) – Insufferable. It does the things people rightly mock arthouse films for.
- The Mummy (d. Kurtzman) – Boring and miscast.
- Justice League (d. Snyder) – A tonal, simplistic mess.
Wormwood, Get Out, Blade Runner 2048, Wind River, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, Toni Erdmann, Mudbound, Okja, The Big Sick, Strong Island.
10. The Red Turtle (Dudok de Wit, 2016)
Michael Dudok de Wit’s animated film is a visual feast, but one of the most emotionally affecting treatises on man’s relationship with nature, as a shipwrecked man learns to love being on an isolated island. In lieu of dialogue, The Red Turtle presents us with an allegorical, fantasy story, going into deep emotions such as love, grief, regret and joy that exist in everyone’s journey through life.
9. Neruda (Larrain, 2016)
An intriguing, meta-textual biopic, Pablo Larrain takes on the story of Pablo Neruda’s escape from Chile, surmising a lifetime of views and thoughts, interrogating both his politics and his flaws. The film also investigates the myths and storytelling that creates a nation, and survives in spite of destruction, with Gael Garcia Bernal’s bumbling fascist detective being a comic treat.
8. Logan Lucky (Soderbergh, 2017)
Breezy good fun, Logan Lucky is not there to try and reinvent the cinematic wheel, but exists to be a suspenseful, fun heist comedy. It’s deceptively simple, hiding a heartfelt country song inside of its soul. The performances are unilaterally great from Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig, and the film has the best joke of the year.
7. O.J: Made in America (Edelman, 2016)
(It only got wildly publicised in 2017 when BBC Four broadcast it, as it barely made an impact when it appeared on paid sports provider BT Sport in 2016)
Engaging and insightful, this documentary might be the longest film I have seen this year, but it is right to insist that the main story of OJ Simpson can only be explained in an historical context, situating that story as a story in the heart of a nation. Celebrity culture, racial tension, Los Angeles, ego… it’s the real Great American novel.
6. Cameraperson (Johnson, 2016)
Made from the fragments of different documentaries she had filmed (footage rejected by others, at times), Kirsten Johnson’s eye becomes the subject and it is an interesting, riveting kaleidoscope of bias and experience. Jumping from Sarajevo to Washington DC’s Mall to home movies, Johnson presents a life, whilst absent of her, revealing her point of view and her view of the life of the world around her.
5. A Ghost Story (Lowry, 2017)
Whilst it can be said to be the best film involving a bed-sheet ghost in sometime, the film remains more haunting and affecting than the premise suggested. Loss, regret, longing, David Lowry finds beauty in love gained and love lost. It says ‘A Ghost Story’, but it is our memories that haunt ourselves.
4. Dunkirk (Nolan, 2017)
Suspenseful and exciting, Dunkirk reinvents the war film as a thriller. Working as an experimental art piece, Nolan has decided to remix the concept of the war film into a ride of terror, tightening and tightening, getting us up-close into the concept of war itself rather than just straight reenactment.
3. Manchester by the Sea (Lonergan, 2016)
An acting masterclass, Manchester by the Sea is quietly devastating melodrama, feeling real and intimate as you explore this ‘slice of life’ moment in their lives. Whilst not happy, Lonergan’s film finds pathos and humour in the midst of complete despair, and hope in the minor details.
2. The Work (McLeary, Aldous, 2017)
If there is a documentary that has to be seen this year, it is this. Brutally affecting and heartbreaking, this moving film endeavors to explore, without critical commentary, issues within toxic masculinity and the orphan heart. Startling at first, it is revelatory to see hardened convicts and their outside visitors having more in common than meets the eye. You can’t help feeling empathy as they share their problems, and supporting each other against the darkness.
1. La La Land (Chazelle, 2016)
(I’ve taken the first and last paragraphs of my review, I don’t feel I need to say more)
‘It is too rare to find a film so genuinely sincere yet modern, that is so joyous and fun yet self-aware, that cynicism can’t take it down. When you come out of the cinema, it’s hard not to be taken up with this concoction of romantic nostalgia and 2016 neo-stardom, that you will leave the cinema with such an euphoric high (with a touch of melancholy) that will hang onto you longer than most other films. The film is by no means perfect, but what does perfection have to do with it? A dream project of Damien Chazelle, the director/writer of the phenomenal jazz-drummer-thriller Whiplash, has here simply outdone himself and then some.
‘It’s an experiential journey, a feast for the eyes and for the ears as you yearn to be a part of this tough, but candy coloured land. The story of La La Land seems simple, some would say predictable, but it is more complex than you think. It’s caring but not sentimental, it’s lovely but not insufferable, so that we can believe in all the dreams that the characters follow. You have to be optimistic, take life on the chin when it lets you down, and let the music play on. ‘Another Day of Sun’.’
Have a great 2018!
(Here’s the list without 2016 releases: The Work, Dunkirk, A Ghost Story, Logan Lucky, Okja, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Wormwood, Blade Runner 2048, Get Out)