In the Fade, 2017 – ★★★½

Hard to discuss this Diane Kruger-led film unless you can talk about the final moments and whether they make sense with all that’s come before. However, I must admit that because Kruger’s character is so distraught and so realistic, her decisions in the final third cause an incredible amount of suspense and tension. Does she know what she’s doing? Does she have a plan at all? It doesn’t seem like she does.
As a film however, is this all the film is set up to do? Provide us with a logical path to a desperate act? It’s like when you watch a short film and realize the whole thing is designed to make the twist pay off.
Kruger is all in for this role, and the insight into the German legal system (the courtroom looks like the final room in 2001) is fascinating. I left the cinema rather unaffected.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

The Shape of Water, 2017 – ★★★★

One of del Toro’s best realized films, combining all his aesthetics and themes into one cohesive whole, rewriting The Creature from the Black Lagoon as a love story, and “Splash” as a monster movie. Enjoyable from start to finish, including its musical number (whaaa?), with great performances from everybody, their characters all given depth outside their plot-based roles. Beautiful production design, lovely moments, and more. Bravo!

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

I, Tonya, 2017 – ★★★½ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

Near the end of I, Tonya, there’s a scene where we see the beginnings of the O.J. Simpson case on a TV while the Harding/Gilooly scandal is winding down. 2017 was a year where numerous filmmakers tried to pinpoint where American media went off the rails, indulging in 24-hour news, opinion-not-fact, and by extension how the hell we got to Fox News and Trump.

The film is dazzling and kinetic, especially in the skating sequences, which come at three important moments in the film. Margo Robbie has some great moments here, especially in her one close up where she struggles to conjure a smile while her career falls around her.

There is some weird dissonance in the film, however. We are asked to sympathize with Tonya’s working class plight, that no matter how good her skating, her white trashiness holds her back. Yet, some of the biggest laughs and enjoyable moments are ones that mock the trappings lower class Portland (or Portland 1.0 as I like to call it). It’s not to say that Harding’s mother wasn’t abusive and manipulative, her husband an abuser, and his “mastermind” friend a delusional doofus.

Thankfully, the film ends the original footage of Harding acing that triple axel. If anything, that’s how we need to remember her.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Molly’s Game, 2017 – ★★★

Molly’s Game, 2017 – ★★★

For most of its running time, Aaron Sorkin’s directoral debut hurries along at a GoodFellas and/or Big Short clip, as the Molly of the title, in voiceover, tells us how she went from Olympics hopeful to running one of the most profitable private poker games in America…before it all came crashing down. This is directing as punchy as Sorkin’s dialog and for once with a female protagonist.

All is good until a series of clunky scenes near the end, one on a bench near a skating rink, another in a courtroom, and the final monologue–this is where I really felt Sorkin showing his hand, unlike previously.

But damn, that opening hour is a corker.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Creepy, 2016 – ★★½

Creepy, 2016 – ★★½

A rewrite of Kurosawa’s own “Cure” but with the killer living nextdoor. It also seems like it was made in the ’90s, with no cellphones and detectives not being able to make the most rudimentary of Google searches. It’s like technology doesn’t exist. Along with that, nobody acts very smart in this film. I really wanted to like the film (as a fan of Kurosawa), but there’s just so little to like. The lead is no Yakusho Koji, that’s for sure. But Max the dog is exceedingly cute (what breed is he?)

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Best Of The Best Of 2017 Lists

Best of the Best of 2017 Lists

Everybody’s trundling out their Best of Lists. Here’s some of my favorites which are not the same ol’ same ol’.

Best Albums of 2017 from Vinyl Factory: Jumpin’ cats, I own none of these albums, have heard of about three, and now just want to explore all. Recommended by Jon Crow. Jazz seems to be making a comeback in the UK.

52 Things I Learned in 2017: Tom Whitwell of Fluxx compiles this list every year of tech advancements, strange data, business stories, and general oddness. I read about very few of these items over the year…how am I missing out?

Here’s a similar science-based list over at the Irish Times, including the fact that bees can count to four and humans are still evolving, despite the current state of the GOP.

Best Films of 2017: David Ehlich should be hired by the Oscars, if only these films would all be up for an Oscar. Another list that made me realize I barely went out to see films this year.

Birth.Movies.Death have several lists up this year, and though they do tend towards the bro-ness and StarWarsfapfapfapdom side of film fandom, they have often recommended some gems. Here’s some Underrated Films of 2017. I also liked Siddhant’s Top 20.

Film Comment has its own list of Best Films of 2017.

And if that’s too much 2017, here’s the Best Films of 1927.

 

This Week’s Long Reads

This week’s long reads

Some more long reads from the last week:

A popular post but worth repeating/reposting: Ted Chiang‘s takedown of Silicon Valley’s concerns over AI, pointing out that much of their dystopian fears are actually projections of their own rapacious late capitalism. A good quick read, but here’s my takeaway quote:

It’d be tempting to say that fearmongering about superintelligent AI is a deliberate ploy by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook to distract us from what they themselves are doing, which is selling their users’ data to advertisers. If you doubt that’s their goal, ask yourself, why doesn’t Facebook offer a paid version that’s ad free and collects no private information? Most of the apps on your smartphone are available in premium versions that remove the ads; if those developers can manage it, why can’t Facebook? Because Facebook doesn’t want to. Its goal as a company is not to connect you to your friends, it’s to show you ads while making you believe that it’s doing you a favor because the ads are targeted.

(Again, and I wish I could find it, but I think about that essay that pointed out that Musk/Zuckerberg aren’t these godlike geniuses, they’re robber barons.) This also ties into my thoughts about how modern tech/apps/startups have separated their user-side uses from the way they make profits.

Meanwhile, Umair Haque’s essay “What Do You Call a World That Can’t Learn from Itself” says something I’ve been harping on about for ages: America has stopped dreaming of a better future and also ignores the advances in other countries (whereas we used to steal ideas left and right).

Everything I consume in the States is of a vastly, abysmally lower quality. Every single thing. The food, the media, little things like fashion, art, public spaces, the emotional context, the work environment, and life in general make me less sane, happy, alive. I feel a little depressed, insecure, precarious, anxious, worried, angry — just like most Americans do these day. So my quality of life — despite all my privileges — is much worse in America than it is anywhere else in the rich world. Do you feel that I exaggerate unfairly?

Finally, as the corrupt tool Ajit Pai ruins Net Neutrality, articles like this one have been popping up:

Motherboard & VICE Are Building a Community Internet Network It reads like a call to arms:

In order to preserve net neutrality and the free and open internet, we must end our reliance on monopolistic corporations and build something fundamentally different: internet infrastructure that is locally owned and operated and is dedicated to serving the people who connect to it.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week (apart from Thomas Fire-anxiety.)

(image taken Dec. 17 at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs)

Lady Bird, 2017 – ★★★½

Lady Bird, 2017 – ★★★½

Greta Gerwig’s quasi-autobiographical feature debut has a similar light and empathetic touch to the wonderful “Frances Ha,” following the senior year of the title character in a Catholic high school and her struggling middle class family in 2002. There’s no cynicism here or any expected Catholic school shenanigans; even the “mean girl” is just an okay (but rich and shallow) person. The honest depictions of economic worry make this a modern picture despite its “period” setting (thar’s nary a cellphone to be seen, apart from a big’un), and the film just breathes with the flow of life of a 17-year-old.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills