2017 Movies – Pezzly’s tops!

Because it’s almost past that time of year, here’s my list of the top pictures from 2017 out of what I’ve seen…

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  • THE SHAPE OF WATER – I fell in love with the characters, the story, the simple plot and the strength of the filmmaking on display. I can’t get enough of Richard Jenkins’s narration, and Sally Hawkins is divine. Please do not miss this one.

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  • GET OUT – A helluva scary / funny / sad / thrilling ride. Jordan Peele is a proven performer, and he’s studied hard to make this feature debut behind the camera a winning film. Unexpected twists and turns, with performances that are deep and real for any movie, not just a horror picture.

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  • I, TONYA – I wasn’t sure if the trailers for this movie were over-selling the style, or the style was too much to contain. But every minute is entertaining, heart-breaking, and well-told. A movie that breaks pretty much every boundary of what-to-do storytelling, and packs a punch.

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  • BABY DRIVER – I love all of Edgar Wright’s flicks and shows, and this is no exception. The practical passion of editing, music, sound, and a lyrical rhythm that graces the first 2/3’s of the picture wash away a mediocre 3rd act to save this one for me, and kept it one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

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  • LADY BIRD – I feel like this one has waves of “should I like it” vs. “did I like it” with not only me, but many friends and film lovers. But at the end of the day, not only did I like it, I think I loved it. All the acting is superb, the tone is constant, keeping us on-edge with the tension in Lady Bird’s house and among her friends as she’s constantly finding herself, trying to decipher her life while also keeping her mother at bay. At the end of the day, the perceptions of her mother are finally recognized, and a key scene tells us that sometimes the clash with parents is more a sign of love than any hugs and kisses will do.

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  • DUNKIRK – A movie that truly celebrates BIG SCREEN storytelling works, for me, on the small-screen as well because it is, at its heart, a kind of pursuit. A run-out-the-clock escape the ‘bad guys’ situation. The chopped up timeline keeps us in check and our characters each have simple goals, even if they feel shallow as people: To get off the beach (get home), to save whoever they can, and to provide protection and cover during the escape. Simple goals, told through cinematic language with very little dialogue. Done.

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  • THE BIG SICK – A relationship movie with the core relationship being out of most of the second act is a challenge indeed, but the special care that Kumail has with each character (friends, parents, girlfriend) is treated with such love that it’s hard not to fall for everyone in this movie. Ray Romano for the underrated win.

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  • WIND RIVER – Came and went for many people, but there is a real, physical environment brought to screen that we rarely see, fraught with tension and despair but the storytelling is solid, the performances nearly flawless, and every step in the snow is felt down to your toes. Chilling and important, try to get to this one.

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  • COCO – Pixar again for the win and the pull of the heartstrings. Beautiful visuals, music, and a plot that stretches a heckuva coincidence to a full-length adventure, but never lets you doubt the sincerity. I love, in this, the family first themes and the understanding that comes together at the end.

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  • CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – I only just recently caught this one, and thought I’d known what to expect but those expectations were overturned pretty quick. What I thought was going to be a melodramatic love story between two men turned out to be so much more — often funny, endearing, and a deep dive into the understanding of love – what it means to love, to be loved, and to discover yourself along the way. Every scene is treated with such a wonderful tenderness. And the photography is neither subtle nor showy, but right where it needs to be.

A few honorable mentions…

  • PHANTOM THREAD – Always a great film experience, Paul Thomas Anderson paints a pretty picture with this, Daniel Day-Lewis’s (alleged) final performance, and the score is just outstanding.
  • WONDER WOMAN – Finally. It’s here. And it’s great.
  • LOGAN – The Wolverine we’ve been waiting for.
  • THOR: RAGNAROK – Plots a possible course for future Marvel movies in terms of tone, this is an adventure worth taking.
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NINETY-SEVEN, 2.0

Evelyn pulled her hand out from the cold feel of Bill’s fingers, grabbed her glass of water and took a sip. Bill smiled his half-smile, the one he’d worn the day they first met. She wished it had the same effect on her now as it did all those years ago. “I’m sorry, I’ve just never seen you so speechless,” he said, waving the waiter down for a coffee refill.

“I’ll admit, shock isn’t something I feel often, but this film, everything I experienced while watching, it was uncanny.” Continue reading

Mouse-X short film

Below, embedded, is a short film entitled Mouse-X by filmmaker Justin Tagg. The concept is simple: A man wakes in a mysterious room, and as he tries to figure a way out he comes upon only the room — and himself. The atmosphere is eerie, the sense of dread lingers despite a faceless authority running this “maze”. The photography, design, and sound are all top-notch, and the fact that nary a word is spoken adds, in my opinion, to the sense of dread.

I’ve been toying with concepts like this myself lately, experiments in concepts and atmosphere over pure A-B-C Hollywood Storytelling. When I write projects, I’m usually on my own, though lately I’ve dealt a lot in collaboration, and things that end up popping up again and again are:

What motivates the characters?

Why do we care about the characters?

Why is this happening to the characters?

In Mouse-X, we care about this guy because he’s as confused as we are, he wants to get out, to be free. WHY this is happening is not entirely clear, and allows the audience to come up with their own conclusions. The WHY is not necessarily as “important” (yes, I put that in quotes) as the WHAT and WHO. WE relate to this character because WE, at one point or another, feel trapped, looking for answers, whether physically or emotionally or in some other way.

Therefore we care about what happens to this guy, despite not knowing anything about him. It doesn’t matter. Whatever answer the filmmaker and actor came up with for the backstory is hidden entirely from the audience. For all we know, this is a bad dude, in a prison, who has done despicable things. Yet we still care, because we’re intrigued by the mystery.

I’m not saying backstory is not important, it’s just not as relevant to the piece itself as the motivation of the character. He doesn’t need a “reason” to escape — just the fact that he WANTS to escape is enough to drive the short. It’s in this way that “Hollywood storytelling” is not always the most effective when inspiring a feeling in an audience.

I suppose.

Or maybe I’m not seeing something you are? Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think!