I liked most of the movies I saw in 2017, so don’t take it too much to heart if your faves aren’t here. As usual, I’m trying to pull off a tricky balancing act between acknowledging the movies I liked the most and judging movies on their formal and thematic merits, all as part of my larger ongoing project of developing my critical taste and moral imagination. This year I saw enough new releases that for the first time in the 6 years I’ve been making these lists that I can meaningfully expand my list to 20. So here are 10 excellent films I would go to bat for in any year and 10 more that were very good but may grow or fall in my estimation depending on the day and my mood. To each their own, and to a better 2018 for all!Read More
It’s time once again for that hallowed, year-end tradition of comparing cinematic apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes, pears, peaches, and kiwis. Two notes:
- You know as well as I do that Silence would have factored into this list if I had had the patience to wait and see it before publishing this. Be that as it may, now I get to watch it and judge it on its own terms, rather than in terms of which of these 10 movies it might displace.
- If I were to try to summarize what drew me to each of these movies, I would propose that it’s a shared quality of deep or attentive listening. What I mean by that exactly I leave for you to ponder as you read my list.
What, in 2015, makes a movie one of the best of the year?
Does it have to entertain? Enlighten? Does it have to have a flawless screenplay, flawless acting, flawless editing—whatever that adjective even means in such a subjective context?
Does it need to have an agenda, or be free of one? Is it allowed to be politically incorrect? If it puts a straight white man to sleep, is it out of the running? If it offends a person of color, does that automatically make it trash?
Coming up with an annual best of list is always a tricky business. On the one hand film is, at close of day, a matter of personal preference. I'm personally neutral to superheroes and star wars; many of my friends would never even think of watching anything else. Yet as an amateur film critic, I'm never content to settle for a purely subjective view of cinema. Surely, I think to myself, there must be some objective standard against which to judge everything, so that when I unveil this list every year I can spring to the defense of my picks with more than just my opinion as artillery.
If there were such a Holy Grail of criticism, every critic under the sun would arrive at the same conclusions in their year-end curations. That not being the case—for the best, honestly—I have to settle for my intuition. The movies that floated to the top of my list this year all met a basic level of filmmaking competency; so did many others not enumerated here. What I found to be the special ingredient common to my ten "bests" (+one honorable mention) was a certain "why cinema?" factor. The theater will always be the destination for the franchise blockbusters and shows of special effects derring-do, but for any other genre a theatrical release is no longer a foregone conclusion.
It isn't just that more and more movies go straight to On Demand: it's that there are ever-expanding ways to tell the stories that once may have only been tellable on the big screen. Why pay upwards of $15 plus parking and popcorn to lock yourself into a room at the edge of town for some 90 to 180 minutes when you could listen to a podcast, binge watch a TV series, read a book? Why go to the movies at all when we have personally-curated newsletters and Instagram feeds and Snapstories?
I don't have answers to these questions. What I do have are 11 movies that convinced me of the unique contribution of cinema to storytelling, and I hope you approach them with an open mind to consider sharing them with me.
(One last note before we begin: There's a 2009 movie on this list that I included here because it had a U.S. theatrical release for the first time in 2015. For posterity, I wouldn't consider it a 2015 film at all, but for the sake of a year-in-review, I'm opting to keep it here.)Read More
“Old” defined as anything made and theatrically released in the U.S. before 2015.
City Lights (1931)
The workplace and career anxieties of Modern Times will always make that movie my favorite Chaplin, but the unimpeachably excellent City Lights is nothing to sneeze at either. Chaplin zips from one set to the next without sacrificing any narrative coherency (a feat some modern films have difficulty recreating). While the actual city lights themselves don't shine so bright as you might expect given the title, Chaplin explores with his alternately comic and pathetic touch the city's tendency to make possible a multiplicity of identities. “In New York you can be a new man,” indeed.Read More
Occasionally I'll settle in for a movie I originally had no intention of seeing. When I saw the trailer for Noah Baumbach's Mistress America a few weeks ago, and after giving my gag reflex a minute to settle down, I relegated it to the "NOPE" bin.
Yet sometimes the itch to just get out and go to a movie needs to be scratched, and so it was that I found myself losing my Mumblecore virginity this weekend at the geriatric matinee showing of Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's latest collaboration.Read More
Everyone knows me by now as the resident movie expert, so it will come as a surprise to many of you to learn that just four years ago I was a total film philistine. Were it not for the devious Mr. Alan, Sophomore Honors English and Creative Writing teacher, who forcibly transferred me into his second-semester film class to work on a short screenplay I had written for a final, Tim's love affair with cinema would have remained unconsummated to this day.
In my second week at Georgetown, after the dust from New Student Orientation and the start of classes had settled, I decided to start taking advantage of our library's vast DVD reserves to start catching up on all the movies Mr. Alan and others had been insisting I see. I simultaneously started keeping a journal of every film I watched from that day out, and before long I was in the grips of mankind's primal cataloguing urge, searching out films both near and far, old and new to fill my lazy hours.
My Georgetown education happened in a number of places, the classroom being only one of them. In honor of the 300 or so films I devoured throughout my collegiate years, I've picked out 50 pivotal films that will forever define my time here. Some of these movies are good, others atrocious; quality is not the primary criterion for selection so much as capacity for creating fond memories. I deliberately limited myself to movies I watched during the academic calendar year, so while vacation hits like Margaret, Mysteries of Lisbon, Rosetta, and Laurence Anyways (to name a few) made their own indelible marks on my impressionable psyche, this is not the space to speak of those. Part of what makes a moviegoing experience memorable for me is the company I share it with; as you'll see with most of these selections, it's the people you freak out with while leaving the theater who make the endeavor worthwhile.Read More
Honoring the actual best in movie quality since 2015.
Boyhood · The Grand Budapest Hotel · Force Majeure · Foxcatcher · Only Lovers Left Alive · Selma · The Tale of the Princess Kaguya · Two Days, One Night · Under the Skin · Whiplash
- Best Director
- Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
- Xavier Dolan, Mommy
- Jonathan Glazer, Under the Skin
- Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Now that the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared, it's finally time to cast my stone into the bottomless pool that is Best-Of Movie Lists on the Internet. Oh boy.Read More
It would seem nowadays as though anyone over the age of 30 with a vested interest in the movies will proudly flaunt their membership in the "Cinema is Dead and/or Dying" club. The refrains are common: sequelitis has ruined Hollywood for original projects; even the biggest-name auteurs have to beg tooth and nail outside of every Starbucks in LA for funding; and if you're a minority group, good luck seeing yourself realistically represented on the big screen. Film may be an art form, but the movies are a business, and in the absence of studio executives who know how (or simply care) to reconcile these two halves of the same coin, the most exciting, visionary, and boundary-pushing works are pushed to the sidelines at best and kept out of existence at worst.
Naturally, one might think that the solution to the lack of creativity and representation in Hollywood would be to look to foreign markets and venues. Indeed, there's plenty of exciting cinema happening in the rest of the world, and this year alone has given us gems as accessible as Ida and as obtuse as Winter Sleep. In the same breath that they condemn the Hollywood studio system for the apparently irreparable damage its left on their beloved medium, your friendly neighborhood film critic will find the room to praise one or two of these foreign imports in the hopes of expanding their readership's cinematic purview.Read More
A foggy misery blankets the entirety of Foxcatcher, the new film from Bennett Miller, purveyor of alternative Americana (see: Capote, Moneyball). This is a sports movie, but not in the sense that, say, Rocky is. Wrestling is the context, not the subject; Olympic gold medalists Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) are the ostensible subjects, but millionaire “ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist” John du Pont is the grim center of the film and the reason for its being made in the first place. Even without knowing the story of the Schultz brothers, the sense of foreboding in all of the film's marketing materials should clue you in to the vision of an American dream gone sour that Miller is here to present.Read More