December 2017 Movie Roundup

What a year it’s been. I was asked over the holidays for my thoughts on how strong the films have been in this year and whether it will be a good Oscars year. It’s an interesting question — there are always incredible, fantastic, original films. But I don’t yet have a standout favorite, one that supersedes all the rest (for me, last year, Arrival was the one that stuck).

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a weaker year — but I do feel like perhaps this awards season isn’t as strong. Maybe this could be attributed to the pull of focus and attention due to the massive change currently ongoing in the industry in the wake of sexual harassment and abuse scandals. Viewing movies through those hyper-focused lens could certainly influence perceptions and feelings towards certain projects that perhaps in other years might not have been so heavily scrutinized. It’s a good change, I think, and a necessary one for the industry. But who knows — it may be a factor to my feeling that this year hasn’t quite lived up to others.

But enough about that. December was more of a catch-up month of earlier releases rather than new ones so I have a lot of catching up to do in January… This week also saw the first awards of the year given out at the Golden Globes (which don’t actually mean anything at all but must still be discussed in the broader context of the race), and the Critics’ Choice. More on that in a bit — but without further ado, here is my (shameful) December roundup:

Molly’s Game 
I’ll watch pretty much anything with Jessica Chastain and Aaron Sorkin has long been one of my faves so this movie was high on my list. It was another fascinating female-centric story that I knew basically zero about going in (I, Tonya of course being the other). It’s a long movie, and that might be my only critique. It could have used with a bit more editing to tighten the lags and let the story breathe. But overall, it was such a fun movie to watch and I was captivated from the start. The dialogue, as expected, was sharp and quick — and Jessica Chastain did a great job keeping up (no easy feat with Sorkin). It may just get a screenplay nod but it is definitely still worth watching. Also Idris Elba. Enough said.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi 
Put me firmly in the camp of fans who absolutely LOVED the direction this film took and is 100% on board with the pivot from a sole focus on Skywalkers to a more universal take on the Force. I do feel like this movie was what the franchise needed to break away from the usual format of the Star Wars movies (I loved The Force Awakens but it wasn’t exactly unpredictable). It breaks my heart that this trilogy was so clearly set up to focus on the big three — The Force Awakens for Han Solo, The Last Jedi for Luke, and the final one Leia. But I’m looking forward to how the franchise will address that and wrap everything up with the final (??) installment.

Beatriz at Dinner
Salma Hayek is brilliant in this under-the-radar film about a massage therapist and holistic healer who ends up staying for dinner at a client’s house when her car breaks down. Connie Britton, John Lithgow, and Jay Duplass round out the stellar cast directed by Puerto Rican director Miguel Arteta. This has been on my list for a year since it premiered at Sundance, and I’m glad I finally was able to watch it. The screenplay nails the dialogue so often seen between affluent White “allies” to POCs and immigrants and how delicate that balance can be. It’s a slow-burn but I enjoyed watching the build-up — for anyone seeking more films starring and created by Latinos, this one should definitely be on the list.

A Ghost Story 
Whatever I was expecting from this movie, it definitely wasn’t this. They were not lying or exaggerating when they said there is a 5-minute single-take, unedited scene of Rooney Mara doing nothing but eating pie on the kitchen floor. It’s a quiet, intimate, deeply reflective film — almost no dialogue and carried solely on the emotional human connection of life’s existential questions. This is the kind of film I would not recommend to everyone, but to those who would appreciate the intention and feeling behind it will no doubt be just as moved.

Girls Trip
It literally took about ten minutes into this film to realize why Tiffany Haddish is getting so much attention and awards buzz and not that much longer to be fully on board and behind the push. And listen if Melissa McCarthy can get an Oscar nomination for her role in Bridesmaids there is literally no reason why she shouldn’t either. The movie is a great raunchy girls’ night movie — not my absolute fave (I do really love Bridesmaids) but a super fun and silly and ridiculous and funny movie nonetheless.

So yeah a pretty weak month considering I saw ten new releases in November but hey it was the holidays! I spent two weeks lolling on the couch eating arepas and tequeños and generally doing well-deserved nothing. But this month, it’s time to put that MoviePass to real use. My must-watch list in order of importance:

  • Mudbound
  • The Shape of Water
  • The Post
  • Phantom Thread
  • All the Money in the World
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Wonder
  • Downsizing

I’ll wrap this up with a few thoughts on how the race is looking this side of the Globes — which again, don’t actually mean much but as voting began that same weekend and continues through last week it would be naive to think it won’t have some sort of impact. We’ll have a better sense in the next couple of weeks after SAG on the 21st and then nominations on the 23rd (ahhhhhhhhhhhhh).

The Globes as always were a delightful mix of predictable and shocking. Focusing solely on the film side for the purposes of this post — Three Billboards got ALL the love while Get Out, Call Me By Your Name, and The Post were all but ignored. Don’t expect that to repeat on Oscars night. While Lady Bird snagged wins for Best Picture (Musical/Comedy) and Best Actress for my personal fave Saoirse Ronan, director Greta Gerwig was conspicuously absent from the Best Director nominations. What with the current climate in Hollywood, the Academy would do well to rectify that with an honor.

I still find it too early to make any sort of predictions. As I said above, it is by no means a weak year — just an interesting one. I have my list of absolute favorites (Lady Bird, Get Out, Coco, and Call Me By Your Name among them). Perhaps the standout will emerge more slowly this year. And hey I still have lots more to get through!

So brace yourselves ladies and gentlemen — the race is on. Until next time, happy watching!

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