Monday, August 6, 2018

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture Review




"It is more like carrying something really heavy, forever. You do not get to put it down: you have to carry it, and so you carry it the way you need to, however it fits best."


I have never written a book review before now. For years my focus has been on the images we see on the screen, whether it be television series or films, but while all of that time was spent on that medium I was still trying to read relatively often (not often enough, my wife would say, although I have taken steps to change that). I've had some very strong reactions to various books, especially recently as I have explored the work of Fredrik Backman, and if you have read Beartown you will likely put two and two together reading this review and recognize why that was his work I connected with the most. Even being deeply moved by other pieces of literature, like Beartown, I never felt compelled to put any words down regarding the experience.

My aforementioned wife? She loves to read. A lot. She will complain how she has barely read at all this year while I am overwhelmingly enthused about the steps I have taken to consistently keep turning the pages, and yet she has read over double what I have. She recently checked a book out of the library called Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture and as soon as I saw the cover I knew I had to read it as well. The book is an anthology of essays written by various people including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union along with other very talented writers, with all the essays detailing in some manner a personal connection they unfortunately have with rape and rape culture.

The book is a devastating yet essential read, one of those publications many will likely avoid because it is far easier to escape the world through fiction than face it with hard to swallow facts. Don't avoid this book, read it because these are stories being told by extremely brave survivors of both their specific attacks and the culture that allows this to have happened and continue happening, and every single one of them deserves to be heard. I am always reminded of the Oscar voters who anonymously admitted that while they voted for 12 Years a Slave to win Best Picture, they did so despite never seeing the film because subjecting themselves to two hours of horrors based on what people actually had to endure was not possible for them. Why watch something so topically challenging when you can turn on whatever mindless bullshit and pretend like pain and tragedy aren't a reality to so many, past, present and future?

That's exactly why I do watch those movies or read these books. Because real people had to endure such horrific things, such heartbreak, such pain, such trauma, such tragedy, while I have been privileged enough to face so little over the course of my 34 years on this planet. I watch and read those stories because there are real voices screaming out, begging for someone to listen, and I want to listen. We all need to listen.



"The Life Ruiner alone didn't ruin me. The world that made him did - the place that continues to manufacture replicas of him and continues to create the circumstances in which he and his replicas thrive."



It's difficult to really pin down the first time I was introduced to rape culture, because lord knows I probably was surrounded by it in extremely subtle ways from the moment I was born, but I will always remember the moment I first learned of the shocking, awful crime that happened almost literally right in my backyard. One of my best friends growing up had an elderly couple that lived directly behind them and they maintained a pool in their yard and allowed all of the children in the neighborhood to come over and swim without invitation. My friend had a ladder that stayed in the same spot all summer long so that we could safely climb over and spend all day in that wonderful, refreshingly crisp water. It was a place filled with tremendous joy owned and maintained by seemingly tremendous people who were generous enough to open their home and their pocketbook to kids of no relation to them, always making sure the water was crystal clear and kept at the perfect temperature.

Then one day when I was a teenager, I heard the news: the man with the pool was caught raping his granddaughter. I couldn't comprehend it, not only the act of rape which in itself is incomprehensible but his own granddaughter? How could someone do such a thing? Had he ever hurt anyone else? The part I remember the most was a conversation I overheard between two people in the neighborhood shortly after details of exactly what had happened began to trickle out for public consumption.

"She says it had been happening for years!"

"Why didn't she say something sooner?"

There was something about that question being the instantaneous knee-jerk reaction that I found jarring and extremely troubling, not just the question itself but the tone in which it was asked. It's what, years later, I learned was called "victim blaming", a particularly disgusting and shameful practice in which the first instinctual reaction to any crime sexual in nature is to immediately question what the victim did wrong, what they must have done to deserve it. What was she wearing? What did she say? Did she say no loud enough? Why did she go to his house? She must have known this was going to happen? She was probably asking for it.

I feel sick to my stomach just typing those words.

The answer to any and all of those questions, of course, is it doesn't matter. There is no justifiable reason that excuses an assault, and we need to believe women who say they were assaulted. I found myself deeply immersed in the worst clusters of humanity when a local professional hockey hero was accused of sexual assault a few years ago, and I waded too far into the depths of the ugly side of Twitter and discovered just how many people instantly declared his innocence and felt compelled to viciously attack a woman they didn't know and knew nothing about. This was just a young woman who said she was assaulted and because he is great at a sport and people loved to cheer him on she was a "lying whore". What a deeply disturbing, eye opening experience, to see such vitriol towards a stranger, and I think of it anytime a new story comes out about an assault that took place many years ago and the go to comment from so many is, why didn't she say something sooner? The very same thing I heard a member of my community say about a child victim, assaulted by her own grandfather.

Why say something at all if the natural public reflex is "lying whore"? Why speak out if no one wants to listen?



"As I listened to her, as I watched her be an encourager of other people's storytelling, an independent, smart woman and a survivor of sexual assault, I felt, finally, like maybe my story was worthy of telling, too. And maybe I was worth the telling of it."



The answer is to change our cultural response. The answer is to believe women. Have there been phony rape charges filed before? Obviously. But the vast majority of the accusations from women who do find the courage to speak up are true. I read an estimate that came from study once, and I would love to credit the work if I could remember where I saw it, that somewhere in the range of 2 to 5 percent of all rape and sexual assault accusations were "false" and even those numbers are misleading because some cases were labeled that way even though they merely lacked the evidence needed to prove they were true. Let's just take those numbers on face value though, for the sake of this argument: if 95 to 98 percent of accusations are true, shouldn't we listen? Shouldn't we believe women who say they were assaulted?

Of course, not everyone is going to suddenly shift the way they approach this topic. So many people are set in their ways, and unfortunately those ways include calling victims unspeakably awful things due to an assumption that they are lying. All I can hope is that the majority of people keep an open mind and read an outstanding and important book like Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. Absorb every painful word from each one of these stories and appreciate how brave one must be in order to tell them in the first place. Appreciate that these victims are just asking for someone to listen. Listen to them and believe them so that more victims aren't terrified to speak up in the future. Stop questioning why they are speaking up when they are. Applaud them for having the courage to speak up at all.


"Perhaps the most horrifying thing about non-consensual sex is that, in an instant, it erases you. Your own desires, your safety and well-being, your ownership of the body that may very well have been the only thing you ever felt sure you owned - all of it becomes irrelevant, even nonexistent."



There is no such thing as "not that bad" when it comes to a sexual assault of any kind. Every single one is tragic. Those that want to tell their stories deserve to be heard. We all need to listen.




Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Thoroughbreds Review

Image result for thoroughbreds film



"What else did it say?"

"I don't know. I just threw it away."


Remarkably cinematic considering the script was originally developed as a stage play, Thoroughbreds is the work of a filmmaker in their prime and yet this is the debut feature from 29 year old playwright/director Cory Finley. In fact, Finley had never worked on a film of any kind in any facet prior to writing and directing what is thus far the best film I have seen from 2018.

The film focuses on two upper-class teenagers who were once close friends but have since drifted apart, though Finley doesn't waste any time attempting to paint every inch of his canvas with exposition (and thank goodness for that). We learn of their previous bond through subtle dialogue that hints rather than via elaborate explanations, and at a brisk 92 minute run time Thoroughbreds demonstrates that this young, shockingly inexperienced filmmaker has a natural knack for pacing. Playing the lead roles are Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy and to say they were the perfect choices isn't being hyperbolic in even the slightest sense. It all starts with the script, but these two brilliant young actresses were crucial in bringing Finley's words to life.

Cooke plays Amanda, a teenage sociopath who commits a horrific act of violence on a horse during the opening moments of the film (it occurs off screen, for those who may be turned off by seeing such things) and thus is relegated to spending much of her time seeing shrinks and kept far away from the stables. Taylor-Joy plays Lily, seemingly happier and more stable than Amanda but there is a darkness residing underneath her clean, aesthetically pleasing exterior presentation. They are reunited years after their friendship fell apart because Amanda's mother thinks her daughter needs to socialize more, and a generous financial offer is extended to Lily in exchange for some one on one SAT tutoring. It's during this time that Amanda learns of Lily's awful stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks), which leads to Amanda asking a sinister question with zero emotion or concern:

"Do you ever think about just killing him?"





Thoroughbreds is a film about privilege and affluence and how those things ultimately are only able to mask who you truly are underneath. It's also about how fucking terrifying it is to witness the moment someone becomes self-aware of their status and how it can be utilized to quite literally get away with murder. It's also a film that is darkly comedic and in an odd way a lot of fun thanks to every terrific performance, including one I haven't mentioned yet from the late great Anton Yelchin, who tragically died in a freak accident in June of 2016 at the age of 27. He had finished filming all of his scenes prior to his death and his turn in Thoroughbreds serves as a bittersweet reminder of what an extraordinary talent he was.

Featuring the note-perfect screenplay from Finley who also directs the hell out of the film, along with some really inspired camerawork from cinematographer Lyle Vincent and an essential musical score from Erik Friedlander, Thoroughbreds is one of those pieces of cinema that comes along and reminds me of exactly what it is that lead to me falling in love with the medium. I look forward to revisiting this one, I've got a feeling my admiration will continue to flourish down the road, and I can't wait to see what else Cory Finley is capable of.




4.5/5


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

M Review




"Just you wait, it won't be long, the man in black will soon be here, with his cleaver's blade so true, he'll make mincemeat out of you!"


87 years after its release and yet remarkably not a second of Fritz Lang's M feels dated. It's a cold, expertly crafted serial killer thriller and sits right along side another Lang masterpiece Metropolis as quintessential examples of cinema far ahead of its time. With some films it can be difficult to appreciate how influential they proved to be for elements of modern filmmaking because unfair or not, having already seen the future, going back to the past later on can feel redundant. M is not one of those films. Having fallen in love with cinematic serial killer storytelling thanks to the work of artists like Fincher, Demme and Hitchcock, I am able to soak in all that they clearly learned from a master like Lang, whom upon reflecting on his own career declared that M was his favorite of all his work. I can see why. 



5/5

Friday, April 20, 2018

On Our Anniversary - Miracles, My Wife, and The Tree of Life





"The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by."


It's really hard to determine the moment you actually fall in love. On February 14th, 2005, I was sitting at a friend's house when she walked in, and there was something about her that immediately grabbed my attention. That she was stunningly gorgeous, sure, but it was more than that. This was the first time I had ever been to that house and nothing else about those few hours proved to be all that memorable or interesting, but I couldn't wait to go back the next day. We barely even said a word to each other that first night and I carried zero assurances with me that I would ever see her again, but it's the only reason I went back. I had to go back.

Whenever I ponder when I first knew I was in love, I always come back to one specific night. It was way too early to actually say those three words. We weren't even a couple yet, so it's safe to say I kept my mouth shut regarding my feelings, but it was a night where her and I just drove around and talked. She shared so much of herself with me and one thing that was made abundantly clear was that when it came to her previous relationships, no one had treated her the way she deserved to be treated. I felt the weight of sadness crashing down on my shoulders and a thought kept running through my mind, not one that merely belonged to that singular moment but one that felt like more of a long term goal.

I need to make her smile.




"I will be true to you. Whatever comes."


It's sort of ironic that I'm using a film right now as the template to express the love I have for my wife on our 12 year wedding anniversary because the medium played a role in a period of time where I lost sight of my goal. My focus was on other, far less important things when it should have always been on her and our incredible daughter. At the start of this year, I woke up from the time I spent sleepwalking through life and love, recognizing that everything that made me feel whole was right in front of me in the form of two people whom I am blessed enough to share my name with. These few months since have been the best of my 34 years of existence because I have never felt more loved. I can only hope they feel the same.

So you might be wondering, what the hell does this have to do with Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life? It's simple, really. I chose the most beautiful piece of art that I have ever witnessed because my wife is the most beautiful human being I have ever and will ever know. For 12 years of marriage and over 13 years overall now, Megan has always been there for me. She brings just the right amount of energy and fun when things are too mundane but also is the perfect calming presence for when my mind tries to steer me the wrong way. She makes me laugh every day, and every night I look at her and think about how lucky I am that she is the first thing I will see when I wake up. I will never be able to thank her enough for her kindness, not only towards me but more importantly towards our daughter. Taking a step back and actually recognizing her grace and compassion as a mother is a gift that I constantly treasure. She is my best friend, the love of my life, and the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.




"Love is smiling through all things."


I have previously wrote about The Tree of Life and my main focus was centered on the idea that what Terrence Malick had created was proof that miracles exist. The film sets out to prove that existence itself is a miracle. The amount of moments throughout history that had to happen exactly as they did in order for you or I or anyone else to have even been born is astounding and something no one should take for granted. Deciding to go over to that house for the first time on February 14th, 2005 was a miracle because she walked in and gave me the life I have now and a love that I didn't think was possible. She walked in and because of that our daughter now has the chance to exist, and I hope someday she gets to experience the kind of love I feel for her mother. I will tell her to stay focused on what matters most and never take it for granted, not even for a single day. 

For years now I thought The Tree of Life was proof that miracles exist. What I didn't understand was that the proof was right in front of me all along. My wife is a miracle. My daughter is a miracle. The love I feel now is a miracle. 

For the rest of my life, until I take my final breath, I will do everything I can to make her smile. She's so beautiful when she smiles.




Thursday, April 5, 2018

My 50 Favorite Films of 2017 - #10 through #1




Took my sweet ass time getting here but it is time for my top ten favorite films from 2017. The best of the best.





10. Logan

Big fan of a large portion of the X-Men cinematic franchise but it has never been better than Logan, James Mangold's R rated film that takes us into the future to see an older, broken down former superhero having to drive a limo as a job while taking care of his mentor, Charles Xavier. With a terrific supporting performance from young newcomer Dafne Keen, Logan is terrific.





9. Lady Bird

So many positive things can be said about Lady Bird, like that it is directed expertly by Greta Gerwig, performed beautifully by every single member of the cast, and features an extremely funny script that also knows when to wipe the smile off your face. My favorite thing about this film though is how honest it is and how it channels that honesty into an extremely real portrayal of growing up, yet it also shines a light on what it's like to raise a child only to watch them desperately strive to leave home and get as far away from you as they can.





8. The Big Sick

A romantic comedy about the real life courtship of the film's writer and star Kumail Nanjiani and his now wife Emily (played terrifically by Zoe Kazan), The Big Sick is a warm, funny yet at times hard hitting treasure. I expected to really enjoy this film given that I didn't get a chance to see it until it was on Amazon Prime (which it still is, go watch it now if you haven't seen it), so I was already well aware of the critical and audience praise, but I was still stunned by how much I connected with this picture. 





7. Thor: Ragnarok

Listen, I love Marvel films. I own almost all of them, I rewatch them endlessly, they are a ton of fun, but it's rare when one ends up in my top ten of the year. Thor: Ragnarok is so damn entertaining it was impossible for me not to include it, as this easily joins the ranks of the first Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the best the cinematic universe has offered up thus far. Despite being a huge fan of Taika Waititi prior to this, I had reservations whether his style would translate to such big budget studio fair, if they would let him utilize his style at all that is. Thor: Ragnarok is very much a Waititi film and in the best ways possible.





6. The Florida Project

I knew this film would make me cry. I had been warned, but vaguely, with no specifics offered as to what would get me. Sean Baker's entire film is brilliant but for the first 98 percent of it I had not received that gut punch I was waiting for, and then the ending happened. Good lord. The Florida Project isn't always an easy watch but a lot of remarkable cinema isn't. See this damn film (and while you're at it, see Sean Baker's previous work Tangerine as well. It's amazing). 





5. Get Out

A horror film released in February written and directed by Jordan Peele? No chance it ends up a top 5 film. Then I saw Get Out and knew instantly it would appear way up on my 2017 list. What a completely brilliant debut film from Peele.





4. Personal Shopper

Writer/director Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart form quite the team, first showing the world what kinda performances Stewart was capable of with her superb supporting work in Clouds of Sils Maria, and then coming back with her in the lead role of Personal Shopper, one of my biggest surprises of the year. This is a thoughtful, layered, chilling, fascinating work, telling the story of a young woman who recently lost her twin brother, and she seemingly has the ability to communicate with his spirit. What a film.





3. Dunkirk

Some films, like the previously listed Personal Shopper above, come out of nowhere and knock your socks off. Others are totally expected, with months of hype leading up to release and then the finished film lives up to those lofty expectations. That's what happened with Dunkirk, as I knew I had to see a 90 some minute Christopher Nolan war film as soon as possible. This is so wonderfully edited and realized as a cinematic experience, and seeing it on the biggest IMAX screen in the area didn't hurt.





2. A Ghost Story

Back to another huge surprise from the year, easily the biggest one (considering my favorite film was one I truly expected to love completely), David Lowery's A Ghost Story is a work that many people likely will dislike as it features no traditional narrative of any kind. We see a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) experience a great night together quietly in bed, the kind of happiness you hope to find in life from a significant other, and then it cuts ahead to a car accident. The husband (Affleck) dead, his head on the steering wheel. His wife must move on tragically without him, but we painfully witness his return as a ghost as he watches everything he knew and the woman he loves move on without him and there isn't anything he can do about it.

I was hit emotionally by this film in a very deep and profound way and have watched it two more times since the initial viewing. Perhaps because right now I am focusing a lot of my attention and energy on making sure I am the best husband and father I can be and the idea of losing it all in an instant is especially horrifying as I prioritize what matters most, but A Ghost Story has found a way into my soul and devastates me. This low budget film is a unique, moving achievement.





1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

God it feels so lazy for me to rank a Star Wars film number 1, seeing as how since very early in my adolescent years the franchise has always been deeply personally important to me. Despite my love for The Force Awakens, it actually wasn't my favorite film from 2015 (nothing was stopping Mad Max: Fury Road). Upon my first viewing, The Last Jedi actually wasn't at the top of this list (although I still loved it) but it took a revisit to fall in love. In my humble opinion Rian Johnson crafted a tremendous film here, one that was willing to take some bold risks rather than just pander for nostalgia. So yeah, it's expected for me and a lot of people who know me would roll their eyes at this and say "Of course" when they see it, but I can't deny it, The Last Jedi was my favorite film of 2017.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My 50 Favorite Films of 2017 - #20 through #11




My list of my 50 favorite films of 2017 now heads into the top 20, which always feels like the moment when the list transforms from great recommendations to the best of the best that the year had to offer.





20. Gerald's Game

I've never read the Stephen King novel so I had no idea what the premise was going into the film Gerald's Game, and normally I wouldn't get very hyped about a Netflix original adaptation just because, let's face it, with their constant stream of originals being released, they have had more misses than hits. However, director Mike Flanagan has a pretty good track record when it comes to horror cinema and this is easily his best film yet. I must warn you, there is one scene in particular that is extremely graphic and I had a hard time watching. Outside of that though, impossible to look away from this movie.

Gerald's Game is streaming on Netflix now.





19. Split

Speaking of films with little personal hype or expectations prior to seeing them, Split was not something I anticipated being on my list at all, let alone this high. As an early fan of M. Night Shyamalan (who wasn't?), I found myself completely losing interest in the filmmaker over the years with picture after picture doing absolutely nothing for me, so a January release date of his newest work felt like a disaster waiting to happen. Holy shit was I wrong. Split is outstanding cinema and just like that I am eagerly awaiting his follow up, Glass, which is due out next January.





18. Icarus

On Sunday night I was rooting for Icarus to win the Best Documentary Oscar, as it was my favorite released in 2017. Sure enough it took home the trophy, and the honor is well deserved. A brilliant film that starts as a man trying to prove he can get away with doping while competing in professional cycling, but the film takes a very dark and fascinating turn when the man he enlisted to help him beat the drug tests becomes the whistle-blower that tells the world just how intricate and comprehensive the program was that Russia was using to cheat the Olympics. 

Icarus is streaming on Netflix now.





17. Wind River

Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye...oh wait, sorry, Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner star in this drama/mystery from writer/director Taylor Sheridan who comes in with a strong resume, writer of Sicario and writer/director of Hell or High Water. This is another superb film by him, this one telling the story of the murder of an 18 year old girl on an Indian reservation in Wyoming and the investigation into finding the killer. 





16. Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day Lewis. Jonny Greenwood. These things alone, without even factoring in the rest of the incredible cast, the lush cinematography, everything, leads me to think of one word: exquisite. Phantom Thread is just an exquisite, wonderful film, and if this does turn out to be the final work from DDL, godspeed sir. What an actor, what a career.





15. The Disaster Artist

What makes The Disaster Artist so great is just how well it understands the following of the absolutely terrible cult classic The Room. James Franco, along with screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber fully embrace what makes The Room such an atrocity to cinema, but also why people love it so much, and while I have only seen The Room once I totally get it. It's an awful film, but one I have quoted ever since and one that I have considered watching again because I can't help but smile when I think about it. 





14. It
Maybe it isn't a coincidence that some of the biggest pleasant surprises for me from 2017 happen to rank among the best films of the year. Maybe it's because I was so excited to see such good films when I expected so much less that they made a bigger impact than other films I always expected to be good and they met expectations. When I heard they were making a new It film from the director of Mama, which I didn't care much for, I expected something really unimpressive. Instead what we got was a tremendous, terrifying, beautifully made horror film. Bring on part two.





13. Blade Runner 2049

Roger Deakins finally won his first Oscar. He has deserved it multiple times before, but had he not gotten it for his photography of Blade Runner 2049, I would have assumed it may never happen. What a gorgeous, amazing film this is. 





12. Wonder Woman

Just a quick little thought to all of those people out there who waste their time on the internet claiming Disney pays critics to love Marvel films and hate anything by DC, perhaps it isn't a coincidence that the only great thing the DCEU has produced thus far got rave reviews and the other bullshit they have released like Suicide Squad and Justice League hasn't? Wonder Woman is by far the best thing to come out of that extended universe thus far.





11. Baby Driver

If you are looking for fun, fucking great cinema and you haven't seen much of Edgar Wright's work, go find what he has done and just start watching. Baby Driver is phenomenal, fast paced electric filmmaking, a movie filled with action, music and plenty of that Wright wit that makes his screenplays pop. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My 50 Favorite Films of 2017 - #30 through #21




My list continues, now into the top 30 films of 2017. The more I look at my list, both what I have already posted and what is to come, it occurs to me just how strong 2017 was in film despite the fact that it was the year I awarded the least amount of perfect scores in recent memory. Maybe I am just getting tougher on things or maybe I just found minor flaws in a lot of different work, but the key word there is minor. So many great movies here, some that fly very far under the radar and deserve to be seen.





30. City of Ghosts

The first of three documentaries among this group of ten films, and none of them are particularly easy to watch, but you kinda expect that from a lot of documentary filmmaking that goes behind the scenes to show parts of our world we don't see and luckily for many of us cannot fully understand. City of Ghosts, directed by Matthew Heineman whom previously made the doc Cartel Land, tells the extremely behind the scenes story of a group of journalists/activists known as "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", men living under ISIS rule that are willing to tell the world what is really happening with the terrorist group, hoping to become a louder voice than the ISIS propaganda they distribute to recruit. A great doc filled with vital stakes and honest danger, as if any of these men are caught they will certainly be killed.

City of Ghosts is available on Amazon Prime now.





29. John Wick: Chapter 2

I fucking love John Wick, both the original film and the character, so I will follow him through the trilogy with great interest. The second chapter doesn't disappoint, the same high quality, brutally violent action, great supporting characters and terrific sets and locations, and an ending that sets up a very interesting final film coming next year.





28. The Meyerowitz Stories

Outside of a few blips on the radar throughout his now very long career, the idea of putting a film starring Adam Sandler on a best of the year list seems improbable. Now what if I tell you that he is the best actor in a film that comes in my top 30 of the year? Yep, Sandler is terrific in The Meyerowitz Stories, a Noah Baumbach comedy/drama that you should watch, especially if you are like me and have very little interest in Sandler so you can marvel over his talent when he actually gives real work a go.

The Meyerowitz Stories is available on Netflix now.





27. Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis

Early last year HBO debuted their original documentary about the horrific shooting that took place at a concert in Paris on November 13th, 2015 titled Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis, and I turned it on because I am drawn to documentary filmmaking that covers challenging subjects. What I didn't realize in that moment is that I would be watching one of the better overall films of 2017 and one of the 3 best docs of the year. Directed by Colin Hanks, this is a tremendously heartbreaking, gut wrenching, but in the end inspiring and uplifting story.





26. It Comes At Night

I know a common theme is emerging among horror films that come from A24, and that is the reaction of audiences after they see the film and feel they were mislead by the trailers and marketing in general. It happened with The Witch (which is a stone cold masterpiece) and it happened again here with It Comes At Night. My response to this? Whatever. I hold they keep putting out great work whether it meets the demands of the masses or not. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults sophomore effort after his really promising debut Krisha is another winner.

It Comes At Night is available on Amazon Prime now.





25. Landline

Speaking of really impressive sophomore films, writer/director Gillian Robespierre really created something special here with Landline, a step forward after her already very good debut Obvious Child. Clearly she likes working with Jenny Slate and who can blame her? They suit each other beautifully, and this story of relationships, family, and the damage that infidelity can do to everyone around you is touching, funny and always feels real.

Landline is available on Amazon Prime now.





24. Strong Island

Yet another documentary, this one being the second best that I saw from 2017. Strong Island comes from director Yance Ford, and as if the topic of investigating the 1992 murder of an unarmed 24 year old black man wasn't enough to engage an audience, factor in that the victim was Ford's brother. A powerful, deeply personal journey through information and pain and coping with loss.

Strong Island is available on Netflix now.





23. Molly's Game

The directorial debut from the brilliant acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin, starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba? I was never going to miss this film. I'm glad I didn't. Molly's Game is, as expected, tightly written and beautifully performed, telling the true story of Molly Bloom, a woman who ran an exclusive high stakes poker game for years until she was arrested by the FBI.





22. The Beguiled

I am going to be upfront about this because I know this will be deemed sacrilegious by many film fans, but I have always been lukewarm at best regarding the work of Sofia Coppola. I often find the pacing of her films to be languid, leaving me unable to connect to what she is trying to achieve. The Beguiled, however, is a different story, a film that does move at a methodical pace but it feels right for this story, and at only 90 minutes the tension and unsettling vibes inside the all-female boarding school during the Civil War ramp up before you know it. This is a film that stuck with me for days after seeing it.





21. Princess Cyd

This is one that came out of nowhere for me, as I wasn't even aware it existed a month ago AFTER 2017 was already over. I saw a post on Twitter about one of the best films of the year being available to stream so I looked more into it, and sure enough Princess Cyd was an outstanding recommendation to get. The story of a 16 year old girl named Cyd who spends the summer with her Aunt in Chicago, she explores her sexuality with a girl she meets there named Katie and it results in a very natural, honest piece of cinema. 

Princess Cyd is available on Netflix now.