Wow, what a year. I joined Middle of the Row a little before this year kicked off with my review of Brian Fallon’s debut solo album “Painkillers” (now he’s got his second release, “Sleepwalkers”, on the way and I’m STOKED). Ten months later we started the podcast. I switched schools. I started hosting trivia. And I a-little-more than tripled the amount of films I’ve seen this year (suck it, Lauren).
So, as I sit here at my parents’ dining table in Buffalo, with three days left in the year of our Lord, twenty-seventeen AD, and a bunch of finals to grade, it’s probably as good a time as any to give you my favorite films of the year.
With the pacing and tone of an old school horror film, more focused on mood and anxiety, than jump scares, Jordan Peele offers his first and ostensibly masterful directorial debut. The ending is goofy and thrilling, but even grander is the cultural impact this movie has had with its mix of comedy, horror, and societal commentary.
One part childhood coming of age film, one part supernatural horror, this movie alone made me glad Hollywood has been remaking a number of old films. The film is bastioned by the compelling performances of its child actors, who sell their friendship and comradery with such sincerity, and Bill Skarsgard, who adds his own giddy and terrifying spin on Pennywise the dancing clown.
No, I did not include this on my list simply to trigger Ben (okay, maybe that was part of the reason). Despite public and critical detraction, I found myself immersed in this film almost more than any other film this year. Darren Aronofsky lays the allegory and symbolism on hard and heavy, but I found the deciphering of each scene and it’s meaning truly enjoyable and thought-provoking (probably due to my personal connection to the source material. I would be remiss to not mention the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a husband and wife who find themselves equally enamored and at odds with each other throughout the film. Long after the infamous dizzying and disturbing end sequence quieted down to the film’s conclusion, I was still left pondering the main question posed by the film: how does one view a Creator who lets his creation run amok with no consequence?
I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to watch any of the previous Spider-Man films after the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and that’s a good thing). Tom Holland delivers the best portrayal of Peter Parker we’ve seen on the big screen to date: a little too awkward to woo the girls, a little too anxious to prove his mettle to his hero/father figure Tony Stark. His youthfulness and idealism is a perfect contrast to Michael Keaton’s Vulture, who is an equally compelling villain looking to finally get his own after being mistreated by the rich and powerful for so long.
I had so much to say about this movie that my original review still lies dormant somewhere in the recesses of my Google Drive (sorry Zac). This is vintage M. Night Shyamalan, tricking you into thinking you’re watching one film until he pulls back the curtain to reveal you’re watching another. All the while he treats you to the things that made him successful to begin with: incredible pacing and mood building, well-crafted cinematography, a fantastic score, and knockout performances from incredibly talented actors (in this case James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy). The commentary on how we treat victims of trauma and abuse rings especially loud in the Hollywood climate of today.
And OHMYGOSH WHAT. A. TWIST.
So that’s all for now. Stay tuned for write-ups on my favorite shows and favorite albums of the year!
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