Welcome to the JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF 2017.
“To strangers.” – BLADE RUNNER 2049
Ryan Gosling’s Officer K from BLADE RUNNER 2049 provides this year’s theme for my collection of movies in the JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF 2017. I’ve been so struck by films this year where people starting out as strangers have, through the course of the movie, forged a much deeper connection. The collection of movies I’ve chosen has thrilled and moved me in this regard.
So, let’s get started and look back at the glorious moments I’ve had in the cinema over the last 12 months. For my full reviews, simply click on the movie’s title…
January finally afforded me the opportunity to publish my post about Kenneth Lonergan’s searing drama MANCHESTER BY THE SEA as it came out on release. I’d be fortunate to see it at the previous autumn’s London Film Festival and been waiting to join the raves about Casey Affleck’s lead (and soon-to-be Oscar-winning) performance. The ever-so nuanced relationship Affleck’s Lee has with his nephew Patrick (a winning Lucas Hedges), where they start out pretty much as strangers and by the end have made their initial steps towards friendship was incredibly heartfelt. Michelle Williams also brought her customary emotional power to her supporting role as Lee’s wife. Whilst I think I can probably see this again at some point soon – be warned, it’s very upsetting – the quality of the acting and writing is to be celebrated. Out of tragedy, there is always hope and you shouldn’t miss seeing this.
From trauma to delight and the coldness of January brought the sunshine of California to London with Damien Chazelle’s captivating romantic musical LA LA LAND. I was completely hooked (and also completely blubbing) by the end of the opening song and was swept along by the romance of Ryan Gosling‘s prickly jazz musician Sebastian and Emma Stone’s open-hearted actress Mia. After being just another two drivers on a crowded freeway, their meet-cute at a Hollywood party had me at A Flock of Seagulls. Stone triumphed at the Oscars and the movie almost did but it will always have a special place in my heart. Swoon.
Farewells are always hard and there were few more profound than when we bid adieu to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in James Mangold’s LOGAN. After 17 years of playing the adamantium-clawed anti-hero in a host of X-Men movies, Jackman and Mangold gave Logan a beautiful last hurrah. Teamed with Patrick Stewart’s now fantastically grouchy Professor X and initially forced into helping a young mutant called Laura (a steely Dafne Keen), Logan finds reserves of strength (and heroism) he didn’t think he still possessed. Logan, Professor X, and Laura become a sort of a family and Mangold builds on my favourite X-Men film in the canon The Wolverine, to deliver a moving and action-packed tribute to one of the most winning of comic characters.
Sometimes people can be strangers, even in families and in Xavier Dolan’s brilliant and Cannes award-winning IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD we see the closest relationship in the movie is not between Gaspard Ulliel’s returning son Louis and his mother (Nathalie Baye), or his younger sister (Lea Seydoux) or even his older brother (Vincent Cassel) but with Marion Cotillard‘s sister-in-law Catherine, whom he’s meeting for the first time. Their scenes underpin this movie of duologues for the most part but two great actors in a scene can be thoroughly enthralling, watching their every movement and reaction and so it proves to be in Dolan’s drama. If you want to watch the creme de la creme of French acting talent do their mega-watt stuff, then see this.
And then, right in the centre of the year, there was DUNKIRK. Christopher Nolan’s epic recreation of the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940 was immense in every sense – from the scale of the scenes on the land, at sea and in the air, to the array of British acting talent up there on-screen. I called it a masterpiece and that it was. Nolan created here a Lawrence of Arabia-type experience of victory in the face of overwhelming odds, all beautifully underpinned by Hans Zimmer’s sublime and nail-biting, clock-ticking score. Here, soldiers most of whom are complete strangers to each other had to learn to trust each other with their lives in order to survive. It’s really stirring stuff and the acting I mentioned? Kenneth Branagh delivered one of the acting moments of the year as the Commander trapped on the beach but discovering hope may be at hand and who better to be a Spitfire pilot than the brilliant Tom Hardy? The movie though was driven by a young unknown, the wonderfully talented Fionn Whitehead and we’ll see more of him, I’m sure. More movies soon please, Mr. Nolan as you make going to the cinema a true event.
The autumn brought the thrilling mystery WIND RIVER from masterful writer and now Cannes award-winning director Taylor Sheridan. Finishing off his American Frontier trilogy after Sicario and Hell or High Water (both films of the year for me in 2015 and 2016 respectively), Sheridan took us to the Wyoming wilderness to solve the murder of a young Native American woman. Jeremy Renner was outstanding as the veteran wildlife tracker partnered with Elizabeth Olsen’s out-of-her-depth FBI agent. They start out warily regarding each other and eventually come to trust each other in a tentative and realistic relationship. And Sheridan proved once again what a vital story-teller he is about modern American life. I very much look forward to his next script or directing project.
What more superlatives can you say about director Denis Villeneuve? One of my favourite directors in film right now, who I’ve celebrated in this blog recently, his career has soared in just six movies from his debut with Incendies to his latest, BLADE RUNNER 2049. Taking on the Ridley Scott original 1982 classic Blade Runner and bringing something powerful and new to the story of humans and replicants in the Los Angeles of the near future, Villeneuve’s achievement here can’t be underplayed. He’s collaborated again with that monumentally brilliant director of photography Roger Deakins and the result is a movie that I described as ‘breathtaking’. Oh, and Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford are in it! You don’t need to know anymore except do not miss this.
Another true story this year that was inspirational like Dunkirk, was the re-telling of Jeff Bauman’s survival in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in STRONGER. Jake Gyllenhaal gave another incredible performance as Bauman, matched by Tatiana Maslany as his girlfriend Erin and Miranda Richardson as his mother Patty. Directed by David Gordon Green in what I thought was the finest film of his career to date, we saw the miraculous survival of Bauman and the painful struggle he underwent towards recovery. His journey gave hope to his city and its people and the movie will leave you with a very big lump in your throat at what ordinary people can achieve against all the odds. Awesome.
I finished off the year in grand style with the latest episode in the iconic saga STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. Writer/director Rian Johnson took a leaf out of Denis Villeneuve’s book, bringing us a bold new chapter in everyone’s favourite far, far away galaxy. Adam Driver once again showed he’s one of the most exciting actors out there at the moment as he returned as the villain (or maybe not) Kylo Ren. The movie also saw two of the saga’s original stars on glorious form – Mark Hamill gave a powerhouse performance as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher delivered some truly memorable and touching final scenes on film as Leia. The question of Daisy Ridley’s young scavenger Rey’s importance in this new series of movies though is still in the balance. Is she related to someone, or just a stranger? I’ll be there in May 2019 to find out.
And there you have it. 12 months of cinema all wrapped up. Here’s to all the delights in store on the silver screen in 2018!
Looking at the upcoming movies that I’m already excited to see in the first few months of next year, there’s Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman already winning every award going for his performance of Winston Churchill. Likewise, Guillermo del Toro is the frontrunner to take the ‘Best Director’ Oscar (and maybe even ‘Best Picture’) for his fantasy The Shape of Water. With a cast including the estimable Michael Shannon – I’m there.
Frances McDormand looks an odds-on favourite to walk away with her second ‘Best Actress’ Oscar for Martin McDonagh’s black comedy-drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and being an admirer of McDonagh for his work in theatre as well as film (IN BRUGES was sublime) and with a supporting cast of Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes and Lucas Hedges, it’s a no-brainer to go and catch this.
I’ve already raved in a post about Wes Anderson’s new movie Isle of Dogs after seeing its amazing first trailer and once again a whole week before the States at the end of April, we get to see the first instalment of Avengers: Infinity War.
See you at the movies!