Cast Against Hype

Reflections on film and other forms of storytelling from a Swedish wannabe-storyteller…

Tag: Film

Remember This? A Movie Trailer Like No Other…

Times are tough. We need stuff like this, right? Like the movie trailer to end all movie trailers, presented some years ago as… yes, a spoof. But it does have everything you could possibly want from a trailer. Will it ever turn into a proper… movie? Probably not. Since it is also Holy Week, I’ll try to get back to you soon with a few suggestions for Easter-themed films to seek out this weekend. Until then… Have a little fun with this. You know you need it.

”Contagion” – Compulsory Viewing or the Last Film You Would Want to Watch Right Now?

– Try not touching your face…

Did you by any chance get that advice lately? Here in Sweden, we certainly have. Problem is… You can’t help it. We do it a lot more often than we are aware of. First time I remember being reminded of that fact was roughly eight years ago, while watching ”Contagion”. Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned once or twice these past weeks? Almost regardless of where you might live…

Lockdown. Borders closed. Financial meltdown. Obvious differences in governmental policies during a global crisis. A lot of of what we are facing at the moment was dealt with in the storyline of ”Contagion”, a dense, intense drama directed by Steven Soderbergh. The guy known for ”Sex, Lies and Videotape”, ”Traffic”, the highly underappreciated series ”The Knick” and a bunch of other stuff. The man is most likely a workaholic. Also, a distinctly realist, albeit stylistic, artist in his field. His natural instincts serve him (and the audience) well in a case like this. At least, that’s how I remember it. Haven’t rewatched it lately. Judging from a review I wrote in Swedish some eight years ago, ”Contagion” grapples with basically everything coming out of our daily news feeds as we speak, the month of March, the Year of our Lord 2020 AD.

People start getting seriously unwell in places all over the world. Authorities and governments struggle with decisions; What exactly is this disease? How does it spread? How do you stop it? What’s worst – doing too much, acting too fast or not acting at all? Quarantine, martial law, isolation, stockpiling, looting… You know, things like that. We learn things about the so-called Spanish Flu (which really wasn’t a Spanish invention, but you knew that already, right?). And, the face-touching detail… As explained by Kate Winslet (as seen in the trailer above), people in general do it three to five times ’every waking minute’. Which makes how often a regular day? Do the math, if you’re up for it.

Of course, I’m not the only one who started thinking about this particular film lately. Take this article in The Verge for example, explaining how it became increasingly more popular, first in South Korea, then in Australia, United States and other countries. Now, the obvious question: no, it doesn’t appear to be conveniently streamable on Netflix or any other major platform at the moment. Not here in Sweden, not in the US either judging from the article mentioned. I have a vague memory of seeing the title pop up in the Netflix menu a few months ago, but as of right now – no, it isn’t there to be found or watched. I was pretty sure I had DVD copy somewhere at home, but couldn’t find it here either. I did, however, come across a Bluray copy from an online store recently. So. It is here, physically, right in front of me while I’m writing this. I had been thinking of using it as a teaching tool in the school for adult students where I work. But, like so many other institutions in so many places, we recently switched to Distance teaching due to the circumstances you’re already aware of. As far as we know at this time, the current pandemic isn’t quite as lethal as the one described in this film. However, its impact on our daily lives has already been severe. Hopefully, affected societies will recover, but we’re in for a time of trials in many ways.

Question remains; should I rewatch ”Contagion” right now in any case, or wait? Is it absolutely essential viewing this week or the last thing I would want to get immersed in while trying to sort everything going on in the real world simultaneously?

I guess I’ll get back to you on that. Stay safe, if possible. Wait a minute, did I really write this piece without ever explicitly naming the cor…

Better Late Than Never – My Favourite Films of 2019

It’s late, I know. As an excuse I spent three weeks around Christmas and New Year in Mexico with my wife and her family and didn’t get around to do a whole lot of writing and compiling in general. Still catching up. Anyway, the decade is already wrapped up and you can find my favourite films and TV shows, respectively from the decade we just left behind here. But 2019 was quite a decent year for movies, actually one that I still find difficult to sum up, knowing that I haven’t – that word again – caught up with everything that could have ended up on my Top Ten. And  as you might be aware of, The Oscars are just a few hours away. So, finally, here we go…

…and oh, just to be clear; these are films that opened in Sweden in 2019. Some of them might seem that they belong on last year’s rankings but they simply hadn’t arrived here then. 

1. The Favourite (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)

Three women in a British 18th century court, fighting it out in different ways over who holds the real power. So smart, so entertaining. So…My Favourite last year.

2. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)

Good old-fashioned whodunnit turns out to be a little more than that. New franchise for Daniel Craig?

3. Us (Jordan Peele)

They’ve been waiting. Now it’s time. Our world is about to be turned on its head for ever. But who exactly are the good and bad guys here? Jordan Peele proves ”Get Out” wasn’t just luck. 

4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

I have come to admire his work more and more over the years. I was a bit slow in recognizing his genius, I admit. This is both beautiful and disturbing, thought-provoking in a way I do appreciate, especially when you rewind the finale in your mind to figure out what it really means. If there is one and only one possible interpretation. 

5. Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher)

Elton John. No easy childhood. or young adulthood. And success didn’t result in happiness right away. Colourful, entertaining modern musical-fantasy. 

6. Instant Family (Sean Anders)

Charming little gem, starring a relatively young couple getting involved in foster-parenting and finding out what it takes to make a family. 

7. Long Shot (Jonathan Levine)

Charlize Theron, never funnier. Unexpected chemistry with Seth Rogen. Will they be First Couple or not?

 

8. Deadwood – The Movie (Daniel Minahan)

Closure at last. More than a decade after one of the best TV shows ever ended somewhat abruptly, we revisit the small frontier town to find out what became of those struggling citizens and their arch-nemesis named Hearst. Worth waiting for.

9. Vice (Adam McKay)

The story of Dick Cheney and his rise to power, told as a darkened sort of satire-comedy and a great Christian Bale in the lead. 

10. Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)

Aging Spanish film director examines the life of an aging Spanish film director in an understated, slow-burn drama that never really raises its voice, but maintains attention throughout. 

 

Honourable Mentions:

Ready or Not

The Irishman

El Camino – A Breaking Bad Movie

Films I feel bad about not having seen yet: 

Parasite

High Life

Joker

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

… and a few others.  

And which film will win Best Picture tonight? As I said, still catching  up, but it seems like that ”1917” would have a shot, right? Probably a great achievement. I should go see it. Although, why do I feel like heroic war movies are not exactly what the world needs most right now? I know, I know. It’s probably more nuanced than that.

No Marvel Included – My 40 Favourite Films of the Decade

Fully aware of everything I haven’t seen, these are what I consider my 40 favourite films (all categories included), released in the decade now coming to an end. An era seemingly defined by the superhero genre, which, I might add, is not represented here. Now you know. It’s not that I can’t enjoy a Marvel or DC adventure now and then, but – how many of them are truly great cinema? SPOILER ALERT 2: a few filmmakers have stood out more than others in these last ten years; Nolan. Villeneuve. Garland. Cuarón. It will show. Also, I will emphasize the difficulty in ranking these films in a particular order. The difference in quality and impact between number one and, say, 20, is not really huge. These are all works of art and storytelling that I deeply appreciate for somewhat varying reasons. 

1. Spotlight (Directed by Thomas McCarthy, 2015). Classic storytelling. Traditional. Methodic. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Dealing with a sort of traditional, painstakingly thorough investigative journalism that might fall prey to the great extinction. Hopefully not. And hopefully these kinds of films are not a completely dying breed either. 

2. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010). Layers on layers of dreams and adventures in the subconscious. Maybe more than a strictly speaking healthy dose of food for thought. But it does provide lasting impressions of an ambivalent variety that clearly shows a master has been at work, playing with our minds and stirring our senses. 

3. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018). “Mean Girls”; 18th Century version. Could have been insufferable, but turns out so improbably right in all aspects that it becomes irresistible. 

4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015). Basically all action and no plot, but what action! And what visual extravaganza! I surrender. 

5. The Handmaiden (Chan-wook Park, 2016). Basically all advanced plotting and no action, at least not action action. But consistently surprising, mesmerizing and maybe the working definition of infernal affairs. 

6. Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014). Who is most real? What is conscience? And which is Alicia Vikander’s best role so far? Maybe this one. Maybe. 

7. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016 ). One of the decade’s most significant auteurs explores humanity confronting the unknown, but probably most of all, the very concept of time. Doesn’t have to be completely comprehensible to be absorbing and more or less unforgettable. 

8. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014). More on the unknown. More on time and what it really means. Seemingly dystopian vision turns into something mindbendingly magnificent.

9. Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari, 2016). War is coming. So is an evil spirit in the house. Mother and daughter struggle to maintain sanity and a grasp pf reality – whatever that means – in a sensational directorial debut that deserves a bigger audience. 

10. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013). Basically just about the urgent struggle for survival, alone in space, for 90 nail-biting minutes. 

11. Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón, 2014). Different tales, yet it seems like one coherent story about, well… people. Our fragile nature and sensitive ego. Entertaining and disturbing in equal measure. 

12. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017). Taking on a cultural heritage like this and moving forward with it demands a visionary mind equipped with nerves of steel. Like the intrepid monsieur Villeneuve.

13. Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010). So sad, so unrelenting, so deeply existential and still beautiful in spite of telling a story about people growing up with no real future, or hope or being valued as individuals. 

14. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie, 2018). These impossible missions for Tom Cruise et al just keep on getting tougher. And the films are getting better and better. Sometime I guess they will have to pull the brakes and at least put a younger hero in harm’s way, but when? 

15. Coco (Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, 2017). Death. More colourful than ever. Still offering more depth and dimensions, not least regarding memory and how we handle the inevitable – like loss. 

16. Sound of Noise (Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, 2010). Films like these aren’t really being made. Especially not in Sweden. Probably it’s an illusion that it actually seems to exist, but I put it on my list anyway. Don’t wake me up and tell me it was just a dream.

17. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010). So, this is how it all began? And now we’ve all handed our lives over to him? Interesting… 

18. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017). Some laughs but mostly horror in a directorial debut you didn’t see coming from one half of comedy act Key & Peele. 

19. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010). Perfection until death, as told by a perfectionist who always seems to elicit strong reactions of the more polarized variety. He has to be rewarded here. 

20. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018). Rich, nuanced drama with an almost unparalleled attention to mundane details and subtle changes in relationship dynamics.

21. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018). Another inspiring trend among the most memorable movies of late is the plot doesn’t have to be 100 percent comprehensible to be – yes, memorable. Not as long as it provides food for thought and intriguing impressions. 

22. Spring (Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, 2014). Lost American hiding out in the south of Europe meets a woman that is anything but ordinary. Horror-romance story turns unexpectedly inspiring and frankly uplifting in the midst of a macabre premise. 

23. Trance (Danny Boyle, 2013). I am pretty sure Danny Boyle has directed objectively better films than this one, but more outright entertaining? I doubt it.

24. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013). The creative combination of sensible science fiction and sensitive relationship-oriented drama has been one of the most encouraging trends in filmmaking during this decade. And yeah, obviously it says something about us and our time. Something that may or may not be equally encouraging. 

25. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012). The rest of the quadrilogy didn’t fully deliver the same punch that this first instalment promised. It wasn’t bad, but not as gut-punchingly gorgeous in a weird way that made this first chapter a must-see. 

26. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010). Dennis Lehane wrote the story. Scorsese directed. DiCaprio starred. Questions?

27. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017). Priest with environmental angst struggles with just about everything. Films like these hardly ever get made. Let alone made this well. 

28. Vanishing Waves (Kristina Buozyte, 2012). ”The Cell”, the Lithuanian version. Only, I would say, even better. Has to be seen to be believed. 

29. Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 2012). What’s it about? What isn’t it about? An epic, challenging adventure anyway.

30. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011). Uplifting? Not so much. Definitely thought-provoking and in a weird way almost inspiring. Is it about the end of the world or is it a metaphor for something else? You make the call. 

31. Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014). Over and over again, the same groundhoggish day fighting invading aliens. Underrated scifi-action piece, also one of Tom Cruise’s most underrated performances. 

32. The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011). For some reason I like his darker side more than the lighter one, and his has to be one of the darkest things he ever did. Antonio Banderas might be doing his best work ever here, incidentally. 

33. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017). Yeah, you might hate it. Hate it, and I will not hold it against you. Personally I find it a magnicent mess, or rather spectacularly messy but in a magnificent way. 

34. Snowpiercer (Joon-Ho Bong, 2013). Ride this train! Well, if you’re still alive in this post-apocalyptic vision, you don’t have much choice. 

35. What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, 2014). Vampires! Comedy! Vampires and comedy! Yeah, you’ve seen that combination before. But you didn’t see this combination before. 

36. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013). Heavy, hard-hitting history that just about everyone ought to watch at least once. If you can stomach it. 

37. Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012). Probably not entirely truthful, but imminently entertaining about unlikely hostage rescue operation in Iran, post-revolution 1979. 

38. These Final Hours (Zak Hilditch, 2013). Heartbreaking rendition of a world about to end – yes, really end – and one man’s final attempt to do something meaningful for someone else before it’s all over. 

39. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh, 2014). Priest in a small town gets a very specific death threat. By whom? And how should he spend what might be his last week alive? 

40. The Headhunters (Morten Tyldum, 2011). Norwegian thriller set in some sort of corporate world, keeps the suspense going with nasty surprises, one after the other, until… You’ll see.

 

Some close competitors and honourable mentions:

Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle), Four Lions (Chris Morris), The Secret in their Eyes (Juan José Campanella), Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo), 127 Hours (Danny Boyle), Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy), Baby Driver (Edgar Wright), Eye in the Sky (Gavin Hood), Snowden (Oliver Stone), Gone Girl (David Fincher), Kill the Messenger (Michael Cuesta), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos), Atomic Blonde (David Leitch), The Martian (Ridley Scott), Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley), Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow), Silence (Martin Scorsese), Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve), Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson), Skyfall (Sam Mendes), Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga), Contagion (Steven Soderbergh), Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)…

 

Coming soon: My Favourite TV Shows of the Decade. With or without superheroes.

100 Films You Should See (If You Haven’t Already)

 

Hitchcock, Alfred. Is he included on the list? Since you asked, yes. By Fred Palumbo – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c21483, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1305493

It’s always personal. Still, there is a canon. Some films are simply extremely likely to show up on virtually every “Films you should watch before you die” whenever these lists appear. Some of these are here. Such as “The Godfather 1 & 2”, “Citizen Kane”, “Jaws”, a couple of Hitchcock and at least one Chaplin. But I did omit a few of the usual suspects… You will not find “The Shawshank Redemption” here. Not that it’s a bad movie. It’s a pretty good one. But it never meant that much to me personally and I still struggle to comprehend the fact that it resides as the Number One Movie Ever Made, as voted by the users of Internet Movie Database. Obviously there is a black hole where my heart ought to be. Anyway, sooner or later you have to create one of these very, very important compilations yourself, right? I found an excuse a few years ago in a work-related context. I teach social sciences and similar stuff to adult students who didn’t complete all of their basic education, or what in Sweden would be the equivalent of high school, and feel the need to fill in the blanks. Now and then I take the opportunity to sneak in some cinematic/storytelling themes like brief film history, genre definitions, narrative arcs and the like. This spring I decided to update this list and in the process translate it into English for some reason. Just because.

Bogart & Bergman – together at last! No compilation like this would be complete without “Casablanca”. But you knew that already. By Warner Bros. – eBayarchive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80446534

Sometimes these projects make you realize things about yourself and the issues at hand. Like the fact that 95 percent of these titles were directed by men. Says something about the industry, but still a bit troubling. Or that only four of these films are Swedish. Maybe less troubling. 79, I think, are spoken primarily in English. Nine were shot in black and white, if I remember correctly. The total number of Mexican directors are… Well. You can see for yourself. In the AD 2019 version of my own personal “100 films you should see”. Full report available now in pdf below.

Related: A decade is coming to an end. Currently I’m trying to figure out which films, TV shows and albums (music, that is) from these past ten years I did appreciate the most. Some time before 2019 turns into 2020 I will have the answers and publish them here, I hope. Who said it was going to be easy?

100 Films you should see-PJL2019

My Personal Oscar Predictions 2019. Just Because.

Who will win? Why? Will anyone care and will there actually be a show at all? Questions abound this year, possibly more so than ever. Judging from a number of pundits, and in my case listening to a more than a few film-related podcasts lately, there are reasons to worry. There might not even be a traditional host, for various reasons. No one to lead the masses through the raging Red Carpet and beyond like a Modern-day Moses… And you’re supposed to be good at this! You, Americans. Usually, you do know how to put on a good show. Ever watched the Swedish equivalent of the Oscars ceremony? Don’t expect to be blown away.

Anyway, there’s not a lack of worthy award recipients. This time I’ve seen the majority of the films nominated for a Best Picture award ahead of the show, which doesn’t happen every year. Six out of eight so far. Of these, my personal favourite is, well, ”The Favourite”. Though I wouldn’t weep if ”Roma” was rewarded either. Many people have commented on the fact that there are several blockbusters, hugely commercially successful movies in the competition here, such as ”Bohemian Rhapsody”, ”Black Panther” and ”A Star Is Born”. Critics are deeply divided over the merits of ”Rhapsody”, with a director seemingly fallen from grace and basically ignored in this context. Did I enjoy that film? Yes, I did. Was I among the many Queen fans over her back in the day. You could say that. I’m sure it’s flawed in many ways, but it does keep your attention. However, it will probably not win. ”A Star Is Born” generally seems to have lost its momentum and might go home emptyhanded. At least in the biggest and most talked-about categories. ”Green Book” and ”BlacKkKlansman” (both unseen by me so far) boasts True Story-based concepts that (at least in the the case of the former) have been called into question. Well, all things considered, I’ll go with ”Roma”, even if the Netflix distribution in most parts of the world (such as here in Sweden) might turn some voters off. 

As I mentioned, many take issue with ”Bohemian Rhapsody”, not least regarding what’s in it and what’s left out, but there seems to be a consensus, not 100 percent but maybe 87,5, that Rami Malek does a pretty great job in the leading role. I take the easy way out and predict he wins this category. Though Christian Bale’s transformation into former vice president Dick Cheney might actually be an even better performance. Possibly Bradley Cooper still has a shot, but… Probably not. For the female equivalent I’d love to see newcomer Yalitza Aparicio honoured for ”Roma”, but hey, Olivia Colman is nothing short of masterful as the miserable Queen Anne in ”The Favourite”. I’ll take a chance on Colman. Maybe because I haven’t seen ”The Wife”, for which Glenn Close has already received some love from certain other institutions. Also, she was directed by a Swede so what could possibly go wrong? Lady Gaga? Well, she doesn’t seem as widely appreciated anymore, even if she did a really good job as Coopers protegée in that remake of a remake of a classic that once inspired the 80’s synth-pop sensation ”Don’t You Want Me” by Human League. But I digress. Did I say I’ll go Colman here? Right or wrong, we’ll know tomorrow. Yes, from a European perspective the results will be in tomorrow. 

Male supporting actor? I’ll pass. Haven’t seen Adam Driver, Richard E. Grant or Mahershala Ali do their thing, respectively. Yet.  Supporting Actress does have some juicy parts, and I guess I place my bets on Emma Stone, competing with Rachel Weisz from the same film (”The Favourite”) and Amy Adams (convincingly MacBethian  in ”Vice”) and Marina de Tavira as the grieving, ambivalent housewife in ”Roma”. Regina King seems to have a shot, but you guessed it, I have yet to watch ”If Beale Street Could Talk”. 

Directing: Yes, Alfonso Cuarón already got one of these at home, but ”Roma” is such an prime example of visible direction and vision and all that. How could he lose? Caveat: How good is ”Cold War”? 

Original screenplay… ”First Reformed” has been less than amiably treated in this context. Maybe, maybe writer-director Paul Schrader gets some recognition here, but I doubt it. He will be mostly ignored and the writers of ”The Favourite” rewarded. That wouldn’t be unfair either. I repeat, it’s a great satire/costume dramedy with a brilliant dialogue as the foundation for everything else. Adapted screenplay? I’ll better shut up there. Would have had to see three more nominated films first. 

Cinematography: Sorry. ”Roma” again. It is getting ridiculous, but among so many other things, it’s exceedingly, breathtakingly gorgeous to behold. Production design, Costume and Original Score is where I guess ”Black Panther” will get its recognition tonight. While writing this, I’m actually listening to the Panther soundtrack by Mr Ludwig Göransson (Swedish, just a reminder) and as it happens I should have seen the other four nominees in this category before boldly predicting anything, but you’ve got to live on the edge sometimes, right? 

Will I watch the whole thing? I wish. Over here, you need a special subscription to the internet-based TV channel provided by one of our biggest and most profitable newspapers to have access to the Oscars show nowadays. Could be worth it, but I also have a civilian job. So I suspect there will be recaps on YouTube and podcast postmortems for me instead. Perhaps it’s the safer choice. If all the train-wreck predictions and dire prophecies turn out to be accurate…

Death, Disappearing Acts and Details of Daily Life – My Favourite Films of 2018

So… Are these the very best? As always, I probably missed a few serious contenders. Also as always, this is about films released in Sweden during 2018 AD. Which, for example, might mean some Oscar nominees and even winners of last year could show up here. Do they? Let’s find out, shall we?

1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (directed by Christopher McQuarrie)

They run, hide, jump and fight to save the world. Many are called but few are chosen as well as Tom Cruise & Co in this surprisingly persistent and still vital movie franchise.  

2. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)

Grand and intimate, beautiful and troublesome, in this magnificent ode to life in Mexico City during times of turbulence back in the early 70’s. Though most of all, so impressive in its depiction of daily life and its attention to details. 

 3. Annihilation (Alex Garland)

What is it really about? What happened in that weird, glowing forest? We could discuss that for hours on end without completely reaching an agreement. Anyway, it’s one of 2018’s most consistently intriguing films. At least I agree on that. 

4. Coco (Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina)

Death. It’s really colourful and attractive, right? At least in this Mexicanized musical universe. 

5. Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Stefano Sollima)

Death. Sometimes it’s all too unnecessary, don’t you think? Can’t we all just get along? Still, entering this world means being trapped for two hours, wondering where it’s all going, whom you’re to supposed to sympathize with and why. 

6. A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper)

One is falling, the other one rising and they love each other. But… It’s complicated. Impressive directing debut for Bradley Cooper, who doesn’t let the actor Bradley Copper retain all that much dignity when the going really gets tough for the protagonist. Also, Lady Gaga is in the movie. You knew that, right? Come to think of it, she’s probably the real protagonist. She can sing! And act, incidentally. 

7. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Light entertainment indeed… Or, no. Ethan Hawke as a preacher with a tortured soul trying to figure out the purpose of his life at a point where he’s lost a family, maybe his faith as he used to know it and possibly hope for the future in general. What kind of catharsis could be in store for him – and us? Well, it is painful. And also somewhat hopeful. 

8. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci)

Death. Again… Oh by the way, watching films on airplanes. What’s your stance on that? I did that in this case. Could it be this one deserves a higher ranking? Entertaining and shrewd satire. 

9. The Post (Steven Spielberg)

The Master’s ode to the Free Press. Traditional, highbrow, old-fashioned, maybe. But also entertaining and kind of… is it this little word important I’m really trying to emphasize here?

10. Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz)

Israeli drama, apparently not entirely appreciated by everyone within the country itself. It becomes political in a sense without really trying to be overtly that. It’s human, it’s complicated and deals with tragedy, sorrow and young lives put on the line in a way that you just don’t see every day. It’s got style. And substance. And might mess with your head in a constructive way. 

 

Honourable Mentions:

The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody

I could name a few others, but let’s draw the line here for now. Of course I will discover a few more masterpieces from 2018 eventually, which I’ve missed so far. Hopefully. Also, I am aware that none of my top ten this year were directed by women. ”Lady Bird”, mentioned honourably being the exception all in all. Yes, as I said, probably I have some more revealing discoveries coming up…

 

Last year’s top ten can be found here

Blades, Blondes, Beasts and Driving Babies – My Favourite Films of 2017

 

Once more again, into the breach… As usual, at bit late. And also as usual, I haven’t seen enough. Nevertheless, here they are, my favourite films of 2017 AD. Or to be specific, films that opened in my Scandinavian home country during this illustrious and turbulent year we just left behind. Be it in the cinemas, BluRay, Netflix, airplanes (in some cases, yes) or other venues – these films caught my attention more than others.

1. Under the Shadow (directed by Babak Anvari)

Could have been labeled ”Under the Radar”. Films like these have a tendency to just disappear in the onslaught of moving images constantly coming our way. That is a shame. This combination of modern history (the 1980’s Iran-Iraq war is used as a backdrop to great effect), understated absurdities and observations about women’s life in that time and place, and on top of it all a harrowing ghost story is irresistibly frightening. Thought-provoking. And frighteningly irresistible.

2. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)

Back to the future. Again. One of the darker and least attractive visions of said future, even considering the competition (considering the official library of film dystopia already available) did result in one of the year’s most attractive films. Villeneuve might not have created one the most immediately commercially successful films of 2017, but maintains his standing as one of the truly visionary, exciting and genuinely interesting directors working today.

3. Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)

Mr Provocateur Bill Maher delivered an entertaining, harshly critical review of this film, and basically the whole ’drive really fast to get away from the cops’-genre on his show. Though personally I enjoyed this one far more than car-chase movies in general. The carefully selected soundtrack alone made it worthwhile. And the driving was… Special.

4. Get Out (Jordan Peele)

It’s tempting to recommend it with the caveat ’the less you know about the plot beforehand, the better’. Even the trailers seem to give away far too much information. Anyway, it’s about prejudices. And the misguided notion you might not have any. Delivered in a laughter-turns-to-screaming scenario that seriously will mess with your head in a number of ways.

5. Silence (Martin Scorsese)

Honestly, an ordeal you might not want to go through more than once. But at least do it once. It’s like the Scorsesian antithesis to the unbridled hedonism he wallowed in for three hours in ”The Wolf of Wall Street” (which I also might recommend for different reasons, but still don’t entirely adore from start to finish). If this is penitence, it would be comparable to Robert De Niro carrying his discarded mercenary armour uphill and downhill and uphill again for days, in ”The Mission”. Enjoy!

6. Okja (Joon-ho Bong)

Colourful action-satire-adventure flick dealing with genetic engineering, corporate politics, public relations in a postmodern era and the unbreakable friendship between a young girl and a giant pig. You don’t see something like this every day. From the guy who brought you the relentlessly cheerful train ride known as ”Snowpiercer”. This is, in comparison, slightly more optimistic.

7. Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi)

Feel-good modern history, telling the story of some unsung heroes in the American space program. Quite simply an uplifting story that never crosses the line into awkward sentimentality and exaggerated audience manipulation. It works, dammit!

8. Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon)

This also works well, in the fantasy-for-all-ages genre. We know the story. They added something to it, not sure exactly what. But as I said, it…works fine.

9. Atomic Blonde (David Leitch)

Could be that it is just a little cold and distanced, eh? But is it exciting, entertaining, full of great 80’s pop songs and a anchored by a similarly great Charlize Theron as an enigmatic and emphatically independent spy in late Cold War Berlin? Yes, yes, yes and Oh yeah.

10. Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)

Maybe another case of ’the less I tell you…’. Somehow a young, slightly lost woman (Anne Hathaway) moving back to her small, mostly downright boring hometown after a break-up registers a personal connection to a giant monster showing up in South Korea, wreaking havoc while the world watches. What’s it all about, really? Is there a deeper, existential meaning, another hidden layer to be found? Your guess is as good as mine. But it did keep my attention throughout until the spectacular finale.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

 

The Lost City of Z (James Gray). Mysterious, a little too introvert and with some stretches but something you don’t see every day. An exploration worth taking part in.

Tour de Pharmacy (Jake Szymanski). Perhaps not strictly speaking a feature film. This HBO 40-minute satire on the wonderful world of bicycle is too outrageous to be ignored. From the folks who kindly brought you ”7 Days in Hell”, FYI.

Loving (Jeff Nichols). Extremely well acted and worthwhile subject matter. Could have used a little more temper and forward motion.

A Cure for Wellness (Gore Verbinski). Weird indeed. And difficult to forget entirely.

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola). It looks great. The acting is quite distinguished. Somehow it didn’t keep me completely enthralled all the way, but deserves to be seen at least once.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson). This particular franchise never had any real life-transforming impact on me. I tend to find most of the installments entertaining and… that’s that, basically. That said, this one impressed me more than I had expected going in. Especially the final 45 minutes or so, including the denouement, packed a punch I gotta give it credit for.

 

Oh, last year’s ranking is available here.

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