Over the past couple of weeks I watched Born in China (2017), There Will Be Blood (2007), Lost City of Z (2017), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Wreck-It Ralph (2012), Their Finest (2017) and Get me Roger Stone (2017). There is a little controversy over the year designation for a pair of these movies, Lost City of Z and Their Finest due to discrepancies of sources naming them either 2016 or 2017 movies. I am going to count them as 2017 movies because their broader releases were both five months into 2017 and their debuts were at film festivals in later months of 2016.
Born in China
I hadn't seen a G rated movie in the theater since I was a kid. I'm used to watching nature documentaries so it was interesting to see how this cut around some of the more brutal realities of the wild... up until the mother snow leopard was gored by a yak to death and the camera lingered on her dead body. The theater was filled with gasps and everyone seemed pretty shaken when filing out.
There Will Be Blood
This is a timeless film, masterfully made, however I think it has not held up to its peak critical acclaim from its release. I think it hurts from the culture of "quotiing" and the mantra that comes from a mention of this movie that solicits the response of others repeating "I drink your milkshake." This is probably the best of PT Anderson's more recent films, but it doesn't reach the levels of Magnolia, Boogie Nights, or even Punch Drunk Love. The reason it doesn't make his top three (maybe even top four, Inherent Vice would pass it if it didn't have a few sections that kind of drag) is that almost every character is a person you would want to avoid in real life, and the son isn't fleshed out enough to know who he is.
Noms: Robert Elswit for cinematography, Paul Dano for acting.
The Lost City of Z
I read the book this is based on about six years ago and was pleasantly surprised to see it as a movie despite the smaller release. It's dreamy without being surreal, slowly builds from a piece of interest to something bigger, and brings heartfelt depth to characters from history. I feel the themes don't fit into a box that would be expected from the time period, there are discussions shooting down racial superiority yet still clinging to nationalism and hunts for glory. Robert Pattinson reinvented himself to me as an odd and compelling character actor in this movie, shedding his heartthrob visage by donning a beard. Sienna Miller is timeless, playing ages that span several decades while maintaining her character as the heart of the story. This film is mesmerizing in it's beauty of the early 20th century.
Noms: James Gray for directing, Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller for acting, Darius Khondji for cinematography.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
One of the most fun movie experiences I've had in a while, I really loved this movie. It's not a perfect movie, some of the dialogue feels shoehorned or forced and not quite as funny as the first installment and the music isn't quite as strong, but the story, the visuals, the action and the use of characters encouraged me to give it my highest recommendation.
Noms: Acting for Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn, directing for James Gunn, special effects for the movie.
Although this works better than it should, it is overshadowed by Disney's subsequent animated films Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana. It might have been the first of a new generation, but it feels primordial in comparison in just five years
Very enjoyable movie about the bombing of London in WWII, and a story about women in film. This movie is written and directed by women, the lead is a woman and the source material was written by a woman. I think the release date keeps it from having any Oscar chances but it is funny and touching enough to be enjoyed along with any years' nominees.
Noms: Gemma Arterton for acting, Lone Scherfig for directing, Gaby Chiappe for writing.
Get Me Roger Stone
This fits nicely with the great PBS Frontline that looked into the lives of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that aired before the election and highlighted Trump's relationship with Roy Cohn. Cohn is mentioned in this doc because Stone actually introduced the two of them and was involved in Trump's political life much longer. It's hard to tell if Stone is part con man in the story of his life, he certainly is a con man in his professional life much like his former colleague Lee Atwater.
This movie is very nuanced with the use of music to keep it from getting too comical or to keep it from fully re-opening the wounds of election night. I think Stone is even more complicated of a man than is even shown in this documentary, and he would have to be to justify his actions and his persona. I think he was hurt at a very young age perhaps even before being implicated in Watergate when he was twenty years old, creating a persona of a rebel to make sense of the amoral ways he acts politically.
It's very scary to keep seeing how every mentoring personality that Trump takes on is like Cohn, Sen. McCarthy's attorney who assisted in his red-scare hearings, or Stone who was involved in Watergate, or Paul Manafort who was a consultant to dictators around the world. He said he has the "best people" and further investigation into their histories show that he has been formed by the sleaziest.