Notable films I saw in 2017, loosely ordered by when I saw them.

Hypernormalization (Adam Curtis)

Ugh, can’t even remember what this one is about. I still think fondly of AWOBMLG and Bitter Lake, but feel pretty done with Curtis for a while. There’s a short youtube mockumentary floating around that we screened after watching this as a group in SF and it cuts close to the bone.

Stalker (1979, Tarkovsky)

Had been meaning to see this for a long time, and finally screened it with Logan. A film with a lot left shrouded in fog, but it does seem to have a bones under the skin. The sense of danger and doubt when the troupe is traveling into The Zone, following a ritualistic little game of throwing rocks felt very real to me: the sense that danger could be either entirely invented, or just beneath the surface, and the “non-metric” nature of navigating towards a goal that superficially seems so close.

I’m not sure I would have gotten as much out of this watching it when I was younger: the relationships between the troupe, and in particular the almost hostile mutual suspicious paired with being fellow travelers. Not a vibe I encounter often, but when it’s there it appear between people who seek for years (decades) for something bigger than themselves.

Get Out (2017?)

The Handmaiden (2016, Park Chan-wook)

La La Land (2016, Damien Chazelle)

I visited LA recently for the first time in years, and enjoyed it a lot more that I thought I would. I think a more cynical or critical minded Bryan would have found this film Hollywood-indulgent, but it caught me at a very receptive moment. I enjoyed it more than the Cohen Brothers’ “Hail Caesar”; similar to Birdman.

Risk (2017, Poitras)

Saw with a heavy heart. Felt like there was almost nothing here for me, despite being super-attuned to who-was-in-the-room-when details. Hit many (but not all) of the nails of disapointment with this group for being human after coming so far through such struggles (“how could they be so foolish?”). In particular Laura’s entire directoral style hinges on our trust in her as an observer and editor, and she reveals herself as a compromised (though at least honest) participant here.

Glad the film exists, as a reference and historical record, but it’s very existance is a bittersweet reminder how far along the narrative trajectory radical international crypto/info movements have come, and despite their not-insignificant impact, how fucked our world is politically.

Volver (2006, Almodóvar)

Solid, memorable.

Bad Batch (2017, Amirpour)

It’s too bad the desert grim-dark-spoitation/favela-chic desert niche has been played out so much (Kin Zah Zah, Mad Max, Fury Road), because i’m a total sucker for it.

Saw this entirely on the fact that it’s directed by Ana Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night). Watched it alone, but wish i’d had somebody to unpack it with… the violence and aesthetics distracted from allusions and references that were bouncing around. Didn’t feel very tight, a lot of scenes and imagery and critique squeezed together. I absolutely could not take the Keneau Reeves conversations seriously enough to know if there was anything there at all beyond conflating plumbing with modernity. The awkward sexual tension between the main character and Miami Man was reminiscent of Girl Walks, but was sort of a let down in the end.

Will probably watch Spring Breakers after having seen this, though i’m not really looking forward to it.

Valarian (2017)

Ugh, the dialog was so bad, the male protagonist so stiff, and the plot resolution so genere it almost ruined all the eye-candy and fun visual gags: I got warm fuzzies in the openeing sequence, loved the desert shopping scene, and the female protagonist acting was fine. “Fifth Element” has all the advantages and none of the downsides.

Blade Runner Sequel (2017)

I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. Mostly for the cinematic mood: visuals, droning music (very loud in the theater I saw this in), pacing. Most of the plot and tension was regurgitated and dumbed down from the original (which, to be fair, I didn’t understand the first time I watched it at 15 or so), but there’s still a little room for mystery here. I’m not a huge Gosling fan, but I liked contrastic his stoicism against Ford’s grumpy old man.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Hrm. Entertaining, I guess? Felt like watching TV, or fan-fic. The goofiness felt overdone and the Luke/Yoda jedi island interlude had zero emotional punch. I sort of liked the Casino planet interlude, and the call outs of inequality and military-industrial complicity, but it ended up being heavy handed. Any original trilogy nostalgia is long gone after all this franchise creep… Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Marvell-everything, Star Wars, they all taste the same.

I liked Valarian better for creative eye candy (despite its screenwriting flaws), and Blade Runner as a franchise extention (pushing the old buttons in a slightly different way).