I have no idea what this blog is going to look like, or what the point is, other than for me to talk about movies that I love. So I guess I’ll just get it going with the best three movies I’ve watched in 2017 so far.
It’s been a pretty good couple of years for movies. Plenty of silly, high budget blockbusters that act like a fishing rod on my wallet. Seriously, I can see a Marvel Studios executive casting a line to cartoonishly hook the twelve bucks out of my pocket and say “I’ll take that…” as they reel it in. Curse you Marvel Studios for continuing to make movies that I like.
But I digress. Not only have there been money-sponging movies that generate their own gravity, but also plenty of movies that fall into a more [insert pretentious word here] category. The three best movies I’ve seen this year, I would say, fall under this category. They are, in no particular order: Arrival, Swiss Army Man, and The VVitch (I’m a sucker for that double ‘V’). Each of these movies sort of blew my mind in a way. Each was wonderfully fresh and original.
Arrival (2016) Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Arrival is an extremely important movie right now. It advocates communication and understanding on an entirely basic level. When aliens land on earth with no explanation, the world’s governments scramble to learn why they’ve come and what their intentions are. They employ a linguistics expert to attempt to make contact and initiate a dialog with said aliens. I was sold on this movie when the military industrial complex character charged the linguistics/scientist characters to get these questions answered, and the linguistics/scientist characters answered the MIC character with- we need to make sure these aliens understand the concept of what a question is first.
We’re living in a time when it seems like people are struggling to understand each other- an environment that germinates fear. Arrival offers us an example of a patient path to communication, and by virtue, a path to world with less fear.
Swiss Army Man (2016) Dir. Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
I wish I had seen this movie when I was 16. Swiss Army Man explores ideas about people and our relationships with them and the rest of the world in a hilariously unapologetic way. It asks questions like: why can’t we talk about life openly? Why can’t we talk about farting and sex? The answer is, obviously, we can. But there are so many convoluted taboos in society that it’s often difficult, on a micro and macro level, to talk about stuff like that. A good movie, I think, reveals some truth in a way. Swiss Army Man nails what it means to fit into society, relationships, and your own heads.
Daniel Radcliff playing a dead guy is friggin halarious and the movie is worth watching just for that. But what sold it for me was the incredible soundtrack, that has sort of an Animal Collective meets Radical Face sound, and the quirky, found material set design.
The VVitch (2015) Dir. Robert Eggers
It can be difficult to find well made horror movies. So many of them these days rely on shallow jump scares and creepiness for creepiness sake. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love those things too. Plenty of movies that I’ll probably end up talking about in later posts use these methods. But The VVitch taps into a deeper, shiver-inducing, psyche. It’s set in 17th century, puritan New England. So already there’s the off-putting, heavy-handed, religious society aspect about everything. Maybe it’s just me, but religious oligarchies wig me out, so already I’m on edge with the setting. The film continues to create a fantastically unnerving setting when the main characters are shunned from the town and isolate themselves on a farm by the edge of a forest- where dwells, you guessed it, the witch.
This movie is ALL about atmosphere. There really aren’t any jump scares and when there is gore, the gore has value beyond shock. The cinematography was perhaps my favorite thing about it (other than the fact that I love witches). Each shot was reminiscent of an old Dutch painting, where light is just as much of a character as any of the people in it. The director doesn’t skimp on metaphor either. The character of the father chops away ceaselessly at a pile of wood. The movie contextualizes this to show that with each piece of wood he stacks, he is stubbornly authoring his own ending.
And speaking of endings…horror movies with good, let alone great, endings are few and far between. But the ending of The VVitch is peeeerrrfect.