Anniversary 2017: The Top 5 Movies of the Past Year (For Whatever Reason) – Best Of
Did you know I only posted four movie reviews last year? And one of them was a CBF Review.
I never said I wasn’t a couch potato.
But I am still watching movies, and to make it three years in a row, here are five I watched in the past twelve months (original release dates be damned) that I will carry with me.
And not just because I’m the kind of person who still buys physical media. I’m older than I’d care to admit.
Let’s start at the top. The Invitation is the best movie I’ve watched in the past year.
Tension is hard to do. In a horror/thriller movie landscape that is still trying its best to pull itself out of the torture porn swamp and the found footage garbage dump, it’s a hard sell to build a movie around almost two thirds of runtime that is entirely based on the guessing game of one thing: is something wrong?
And The Invitation pulls it off, baby. I’ve never been so totally nervous for a group of characters ever. It plays on our in-built tendencies to be polite; to be good guests. And pivoting the story around Logan Marshall-Green’s main character’s existing tense relationship with the hosts, and his past, is genius.
Thank you, Karyn Kusama. Don’t let the studios rope you into another Aeon Flux, though.
In short, Goosebumps is a better Ghostbusters than the Ghostbusters we got last year.
Goosebumps in great because it knows exactly what it wanted to do, and it did it 100%. It wanted to be a fun, goofy fantasy/action movie that milks that sweet nostalgia gland, and it succeeds.
But what it didn’t have to do was give us an admirable and charming lead character, a teen romance that isn’t bullshit, more competent CGI than you’d expect, and a bearable Jack Black. And it gave us all of that, too.
Between this, Don’t Breathe, and 13 Reasons Why (it’s not his fault the material was awful), Dylan Minnette is giving me serious Logan Lerman vibes.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t waste it like Logan Lerman did. If an offer comes through for a self-important period drama, run!
Another one from 2015. I work on a delay.
Where The Invitation was all about sustaining tension as the major focus of the movie, Room is the movie during which I felt the most tense all year.
Even though I knew the escape would be successful, because in the trailers it shows them having escaped, I don’t think I’ve ever been as emotionally invested in the actions of a character. I was crying and holding my head and jumping off my seat. I couldn’t take it. It was like when I used to care about The Amazing Race, it was that good.
Jacob Tremblay is transcendent. I haven’t watched Shut In yet because I don’t want to risk spoiling the memory of his performance. That ship already sailed for Brie Larson, sadly. Not that I don’t appreciate a bit of phoned-in pop.
Finally, one that’s current.
I didn’t expect Your Name to touch me in the way that it did. All I knew about it going in was that it had been very successful, but that it was also supposed to be some body swap romance. And when I hit the first of the film’s weird pop music montages, I was concerned.
But out of that premise bloomed a tender story that was so much more personal than any plot mechanic. The way that Taki and Mistuha care about each other; how they respect each other’s lives, and, as the truth of their situation becomes apparent, their selflessness in doing the right thing, is special. I know it’s cliche to say, but the most human movie of the past year didn’t feature any live-action humans at all.
And just to indulge my inner social progressive (rare for me, I know): the treatment of gender in the movie is commendable. Apart from some obligatory “oh I have those bits now” moments, Taki and Mistuha don’t recoil at the idea of being a different gender. And it’s not unduly exploited for laughs, nor does the movie end up being about gender. It’s just there, and that’s how it is. I love it.
Beauty and the Beast
I was so close to giving this final spot to Kung Fu Panda 3. Because Kung Fu Panda 3 is mind-blowingly gorgeous and competent for a second sequel to what should have been a joke movie.
But Beauty and the Beast is also gorgeous, and for the sheer magnitude of the fantasy it conjured, I had to give it a place on this list.
Yeah, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens aren’t great singers. And the Beast does look like a goatman, so Belle is basically dating the Devil (or, worse, a furry). But any shortfalls aside, Beauty and the Beast does what Cinderella didn’t, and what Maleficent, being a story from a different perspective, couldn’t: it improves on the original.
Now, I’ll admit I’ve only seen the 1991 animated version once, and it was recently (in anticipation of this one. Duh). But apart from the singing prowess. the live action update is better. Never underestimate the power of the details, and Beauty and the Beast gives us just enough of those details to make this fairy tale world feel real.
Nouveau Belle can’t sing, but damn, she can act.