By Morgan Cairns, Colin Gallant, and Christine Leonard
Through the highs and the lows, the trials and the triumphs, here are the BeatRoute team’s favorite films of 2017.
Remember when we all hated Anne Hathaway? Maybe it was just me. If you’d told me a monster movie would change that I probably would have scoffed and maybe even mimed a gag or two. Her irritating surplus of sincerity is nowhere to be found in this black comedy/love letter to monster movies helmed by Nacho Vigalondo. Gloria (Hathaway) is an unemployed writer who has to return to her small hometown after making a mess of her life through alcoholism. There, she finds a drinking buddy and affection in Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and continues her troubled ways. Soon, she finds out her demons are quite literal, literally stumbling her way into learning her actions are linked to a monster terrorizing Seoul. It’s a bizarre and cheeky movie that turns conventional fear on its head. Sudeikis also deserves credit for a chilling portrayal of the infamous “nice guy” with extremely fragile masculinity. It made only $4 million in its opening weekend (with a budget of $15 million no less) but is now on Netflix. Let’s fix those numbers! (CG)
This year’s Palme d’Or winner is at once laugh out loud hilarious and deeply depressing. Anyone who’s seen Ruben Östlund’s prior film, Force Majeure (2014), will be familiar with the recurrent theme of the dangers of one man’s pathetic inadequacy. When prestigious art curator Christian (Claes Bang) is robbed on the street, he embarks on an ill-advised scheme to recover his phone and wallet from the thief. Things don’t go as planned (gasp!) and soon he’s haunted by a young man. Meanwhile, Christian is prepping the roll out of a new exhibition entitled The Square, which focuses on the idea of a utopian space wherein everyone looks out for another. Of course, Christian practices the very opposite in his daily life. The film’s core message is potent yet digestible, with The Square holding plenty of cryptic and funny side-plot gags along the way, with meta sendups of the art world peppered throughout. This film is a lot of things, but most of all it’s a memorable call for auditing one’s perception of their character. (CG)
Blade Runner 2049
If you read about film at all this year, you’ve probably seen an excess of critics blowing loads all over this film. Well, it’s not for nothing. Equal parts visual treat, despair-inducing philosophy and sweat drenched tension, Denis Villenueve’s near-three house behemoth is engrossing to the point of being overwhelming. Interchanging an assault of neon with the bleak images of a dystopic earth, and a score that more feels like being hit with shockwave rather than experience audio, the film almost never pulls a punch. While Ryan Gosling’s famed near silence is in danger of getting old, it helps moments of emotion punctuate his character’s losses and epiphanies, with he and tough-guy Harrison Ford making perfectly plaintive vessels to reflect this not entirely unrecognizable world upon. It’s a movie that knocks you out on contact and lingers like a scar just under the surface of your skin. (CG)
Although technically a 2016 release, this shoot-’em-up anchored the Calgary Underground Film Festival back in April of 2017. Once again extended the privilege of DJing live at the front of the theatre while the audience settled in, I hauled out a crate of cowbell-festooned power rock to compliment the film’s 1978 context. There, I was unexpectedly accompanied by a nimble-fingered VJ with a multitude of graphic samples at his disposal. And, so we wove an audio-visual tall tale that summited buxom mountain ranges and snaked through Technicolor bayous like a psychedelic locomotive. Finally winding down for the introduction of ballistic main feature we synchronously concluded our preshow sensory collage with Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today,” as giant ticking clocks crumbled in slow motion on the screen behind us. Sufficiently mollified, the audience turned their aspects and eyes to the backstabbing antics of three of the best-looking people to ever sport corduroy bell-bottoms and polyester disco collars; Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and Armie Hammer. The hail of bullets and profanity that followed was all too familiar to those anyone who’s ever binged on SOA. Another IRA arms deal gone awry? I got this. (CL)
With what is inevitably a soon-to-be classic, it’s hard to believe Lady Bird is Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. The darling of this year’s festival circuit, Lady Bird’s honest yet heartfelt portrayal of teen-girlhood is exactly what we need in these trying times. Following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, through her senior year of high school in Sacramento, California, Lady Bird walks us through the landmarks of adolescence, and the relationships-romantic, platonic, and familial-that shape us along the way. Saoirse Ronan gives what is easily her best performance as the films titular character, while newcomer Beanie Feldstein charms as Lady Bird’s best friend, and stage and screen veteran, Laurie Metclaf’s, portrayal as her mother reminds us all why she’s the best-of-the-best.
Nostalgia is a powerful feeling, and Lady Bird comes off as more of a sweet and sentimental memory, rather than your typical coming-of-age film. A true feat indeed. Come awards season, you can bet that Lady Bird will see its fair chare of accolades. But even after the awards have come and gone, you can bet that this female-driven film will remain a cultural signifier of its time; a wistful memory that won’t soon fade. (MC)
The latest film from South Korean director, Hong Sang-soo, Claire’s Camera screened at this year’s 2017 Calgary International Film Festival as part of the World Cinema series. Shot on location at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the filmstars Isabel Huppert and Kim Min-hee as Claire, a tourist, and Manhee, a film sales agent, whose lives intertwine while both attending the film festival. A character study mirrored by Claire’s constant portrait-taking on her trusty polaroid camera, Hong effectively does the most with the least, as it were. As a sucker for French new-wave films of the 1960’s, this film’s paired down narrative, guerilla-style film techniques, and improvised dialogue was enough to make my heart flutter. Hupert and Kim’s respective talent is undeniable, and their on-screen chemistry only serves as a reminder of their prowess as actors. Switching between languages, (French being spoken by Hupert, Korean by Kim, and English by both,) the subtle disconnect between the two women is brilliantly played out in the English improvisation between the actresses, and while the film might not be an award heavy-weight like Elle and The Handmaiden, Claire’s Camera served as a subdued-yet-staunch reminder of what these two actresses are capable of.
At one point in the film, director So Wansoo (Jun Jin-young) muses to Claire, “You need honesty for a good film.” Claire’s Camera may lack the pomp and circumstance of other festival films you’ve seen this year, but in its simplicity, you’ll find a ubiquitous honesty, and in that, one of the years best films. (MC)