The Oscars may be coming soon, but the Fresh Films crew recommends the real best and worst pictures of 2017. Transcript below:
Elliot: You know what’s another upset? Two documentaries that I saw. The only two documentaries I saw this year, neither made it into the Oscars. Jane from National Geographic, it was going to be the frontrunner. Nothing, it’s not nominated. And then, Long Strange Trip, who doesn’t want to see a six-hour multi-part documentary on The Grateful Dead? I watched it three times.
Marcus: I don’t know anyone that can name a single song by The Grateful Dead.
Elliot: “Candyman,” “Brown Eyed Women.”
Marcus: Don’t know it.
Marco: Ok, welcome to Fresh Films. We’re a podcast devoted to films that have been released in Evanston. Today we’re going to take a break from recommending some new films and talk about some films that came out last year. Specifically our favorite and least favorite films of 2017. I’m Marco Cartolano.
Marcus: I’m Marcus Galeano.
Elliot: And I am Elliot Kronsberg.
Marco: So Elliot, you want to start us off?
Elliot: To start off I’m just going to say: best of the year Call Me by Your Name, worst of the year Friend Request. Those are my picks. If you listened to our Call Me by Your Name podcast you would know just how much I love the film. I thought the acting was just phenomenal. Timothee Chalamet, hopefully is going to become one of the greats of this next young acting generation even if he doesn’t win the Oscar this year, which he probably won’t. I hope to see him in some really great stuff in the future. And Armie Hammer does have that really weird alpha male look and sound to him, but he did a good job in the film being basically exactly that. And then Michael Stuhlbarg, he’s always great. Just to see him in a film warms my heart a little bit because he’s just spent so many years playing weird Jewish men, and I hope that continues forever. And then Sufjan Stevens’ three contributions to the soundtrack, “Mystery of Love,” “Visions of Gideon” and a remix of a previous song which I don’t know off the top of my head but it was a good contribution nevertheless. I’ve heard some rumors that Luca Guadagnino is working on a sequel. I don’t know if James Ivory will be back to write the screenplay. I know he and the director had a little bit of a fight about rewrites and about the director not wanting to include full frontal nudity. So it might just be Luca this time doing the writing and the directing, which could be interesting. I’ve heard that it might tackle the AIDS epidemic and it might be the second entry in a series that follows Elio’s whole life. Kind of like the Up series of documentaries about British schoolchildren or the Before trilogy by Richard Linklater or I guess it’s most like Francois Truffaut’s series following Antoine Doinel. Starting with 400 Blows and continuing for 20 something years. So Call Me by Your Name definetly best of the year I think there’s no contest whatever these other guys say not going to measure to Call Me by Your Name i bet neither of them have a Best Picture nomination Call Me by Your Name does.
Marcus: That’s cause we already told you asshole.
[clip from CMBYN]
Elliot: Worst of the year, Friend Request Now I don’t really want to relive this film too much, but it takes all the tropes of college student haunting kind of thing. It injects some social media into it and feel like most of the time that they’re not even trying on a technical level. The cinematography is not only bland but I feel that there’s some definite technical errors at some points, and the sound is muffled a little bit at times and I think the mix was just a little off. It has been a while since I actually saw the film so I can’t tell you specifically what scenes but I know that visually and sonically, it’s nothing to applaud. Especially considering the amount of time that they spend looking at Facebook pages and little videos that pop up on the Facebook. I really kind of regret spending money watching this film. I’m not a huge horror movie fan, though I do end up seeing most of the horror movies that come out. And I would say if something classic like The Exorcist or Poltergeist or even something new like Get Out is kind of at the top of the scale, this is the bottom or below the bottom. It went below like laughably bad and it was just…I mean there’s a scale I guess. You have good movies and then you have movies that aren’t so good but they aren’t bad enough that you can sort of enjoy the badness and then you hit something that it’s so bad that it’s actually good. Like The Room but then I think there’s something lower than that where there’s no way to explain away it’s inferior quality and there’s nothing really to enjoy about it. So you end up with something uninspired that’s just trying to latch onto recent trends. Something like social media. So it was definitely my worst of the year though I have to admit that I didn’t see The Emoji Movie. I didn’t see Wish Upon. So one of those could be worse. Not sure Marcus what about you?
Marcus: Well, start off with the best. My best movie of the year, at least that I saw was a dark horse that came earlier in 2017 I think around March or April. And that would be The Lost City of Z. The story is about the British colonel, Percival Fawcett, who in the early 20th century led an exposition in South America to find a lost city and other stuff happened that would spoil the story, but he is a real guy you could look up what happened to him. I watched this movie in March. I’d seen early critical praise for it and I just, I went to this theater and I saw it on a big screen and I let the story just sort of sink in to you. It’s this epic, almost in the style of a Lawrence of Arabia or one of Kurosawa’s epics like Ran or Kagemusha where it’s this big scale thing and you have this character that you love and relate to so much. And that’s really what Charlie Hunnam has done with this character, Fawcett. And I’ve always been kind of skeptical of Charlie Hunnam because he seems to be at least before one of those guys who was kind of handsome and he could act ok. Hollywood just said, "Ok you’re an actor." But in this film, I’ve never quite seen what he brings to this anywhere else in his filmography. He just, he captures so much pathos and you just feel such a sense of camaraderie with him as he starts to slowly become more and more obsessed with finding the city. It’s so good. It looks beautiful, everything about it just feels real. It never feels artificial or fake. None of the emotions feel contrived. The music is also excellent. It's this big sweeping orchestral, it’s like a Hollywood epic only it's like a new age Hollywood epic where it's less about this sort of grandeur and more about the nitty gritty of maybe sort of losing yourself in the mud and the murk like Aguirre, the Wrath of God by Werner Herzog. It’s a lot like that except you really resonate with this character more than you would Aguirre. Music’s great, cinematography’s excellent. Robert Pattinson makes a great supporting role turn as one of Hunnam’s allies in his expedition. It’s just a very, very good film.
[clip from The Lost City of Z]
Marcus: Now my worst of the year, oh boy let’s get into it. My worst pick of the year has got to be the Netflix live action Death Note film. Which yes I’m counting as a film because it had a feature length running time and I sat through it. Now I’m going to be perfectly honest I’m coming in with this one with a little bit of a bias. Death Note is a franchise that’s based off of an anime series also called Death Note and if you’ve never seen that I very strongly recommend it. It’s excellent and what the story is is about this teenager who comes in possession of this notebook where if you write someone’s name down while imagining their face they will die of some circumstance within I think it’s like a minute, 40 seconds. It’s like a short amount of time unless you specify otherwise. What this character does is he decides to use it to kill the criminals of the world and as he begins this sort of crusade against these criminals, a sort of Sherlock Holmes inspector character comes forth who has his identity veiled and sort of comes into conflict with him as they try to outfox each other and catch one another. One guy’s trying to kill him, the other’s trying to arrest/kill him, you get the idea. The original series is a very smart, very thrilling, tense narrative about the nature of justice in our modern world, what it means to be truly moral just great interesting stuff. Never comes down with a hard answer, it’s very ambiguous but in the right kind of way. Death Notethe film is none of that. There’s no thematic throughline, the characters act with such abandon to logic that it’s actually really baffling. They’re poorly written, they’re underdeveloped. Uh what else. Oh music. Music’s terrible which is inexcusable because the original score was composed by a guy who has an Oscar and it's based off a series that had excellent music. So no thematic through line, there’s no interesting dynamics it’s just a shitshow.
Elliot: What about Willem Dafoe?
Marcus: His character is underdeveloped. Willem Dafoe plays in the original series there was a demon character that sort of bequeaths the titular Death Note to the protagonist. Willem Dafoe plays this character in the film, but we don’t get any sense of idea as to what he is. He never says what he is. He never says what his agenda is.
Marco: I need to stand up for my man Willem and say that my favorite film of the year was The Florida Project. This also kinda has hometown advantage, I’m from Florida. Doesn’t make Florida look good, but still a great movie. This is a film about a mother and child who are pretty much homeless except they can rent a motel to live in. Willem Dafoe is the manager of that motel. It’s a film directed by Sean Baker, who capitalizes on his potential from Tangerine into making this incredibly humanist take on poverty, on childhood, on the humanity that you can find at the lowest places. The real star of the film is the child Moonee played by Brooklynn Prince, who is seven years old and she’s great. I don’t think any of the best actress nominations has as many memorable lines as Brooklynn Prince has. Willem Dafoe is great. For a man who usually plays thuggish creeps he’s very human in the film. There’s just a lot of humanity to it. It felt the most human and alive of any film in 2017. I recommend it highly I think it has a very powerful ending too.
[Clip from The Florida Project]
Marco:Now my worst film of the year does not have any of those qualities to it. My worst film, while I saved myself from watching all the well known bad films. No Snowman, no Emoji Movie No Flatliners...
Marcus No Death Note.
Marco: No Death Note. My worst film of the year was The Circle. Starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega, the kid from Boyhood as a bad actor. Ok so Emma Watson goes to evil Google/Apple. It has Tom Hanks as evil Steve Jobs but does nothing with that. It’s jumbled, most of the name actors are wasted. Ellar Coltrane, who is the Boyhood kid is horrible in the film. It’s really technophobic. It mixes its metaphors and it come to the worst sort of anticlimax ending imaginable. And it just ends up with the message that technology is evil. Silicon Valley is evil, go back to living in rocks. It’s the film that I was the most mad at while I was watching as Elliot can attest.
Elliot: You’d really expect something better I feel like the writer must have had some axe to grind or something.
Marco: But now you get technology fucking killed Boyhood guy that’s the thing. Spoiler alert if you ever wanted to this film after my description.
Marcus: Oh yeah by the way Boyhood’s an overrated movie deal with it.
Marco: So those our are favorite and least favorite films of 2017 let’s hope for more of the former and less of the latter in 2018. I’m Marco Cartolano.
Elliot: I am Elliot Kronsberg.
Marcus: I’m Marcus Galeano.
Elliot: This has been Fresh Films from NorthbyNorthwestern audio you can find us on online at NorthbyNorthwestern.com in the audio section or on Apple Podcasts.