2017 was the year in which I became all Marvel-ed out. And DC-ed, for that matter.
Having managed two Dublin comic book shops in the eighties and nineties, I still read them and collect the artwork, but boy I could live without seeing another one of those movies at this point in my life. Wonder Woman was the exception. But other than its great casting and that World War One trench sequence...meh. I left the house with every intention of seeing Justice League last week and ended up watching Blade Runner 2049 for the second time.
In no particular order, there was a lot more to cinema than superheros this year:
This wonderful meditation on the street cats of Istanbul and the folks who look after them was a sleeper hit at the Irish Film Institute this summer. No hilarious shenanigans and high jinks, just cocky cats (is there any other kind?) raising kittens and trying to get by.
CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY
I love New York. Who doesn’t? This riveting documentary reveals the fact that much of the historic legacy of its barios and streets still survives today thanks to the actions of one woman, urban activist Jane Jacobs, who battled city planner Robert Moss for the soul of the city in the 1960s.
Don’t be fooled by the trailer like I was. One of my great surprises at the pictures this year was catching up with this one night when I had an evening to kill. A German comedy with winning performances and a subtle warmth. Jack Nicholson is coming out of retirement for the remake, that’s how good this is.
A GHOST STORY
If you read the plot of this and Get Out, you’d think they were the stuff of Twilight Zone episodes. I think this inspired tale of grief and death transcended its premise into something more original and kind of wondrous than the latter managed.
Too easily dismissed by too many critics, director Danny Boyle is the star of this great epilogue to one of the seminal films of the nineties. This is how you do a sequel. With knobs on.
Film of the year from a projectionist's point of view. A brand new 70mm print. The only one in the country. I didn’t sleep properly the first couple of weeks of its run for fear I’d scratch it. (I didn’t.) And what a film, to boot! This year’s must-see cinematic experience will be back on our screen in 70mm for Christmas.
In the dark from the projection booth window, the body language of the audience at each show was fascinating to watch. How many times have you left the cinema, reached the Luas stop, only to find the film fading faster than the next tram? After this picture you’d be more likely to harang fellow passengers about how much you despised what you’ve just witnessed. I beg to differ.
BLADE RUNNER 2049
When you think about it, this was never going to be a blockbuster. I’m glad the financers didn’t realize that or else we wouldn’t have this stunning sequel - call it an equal - from Denis Villeneuve. It also maintains the French-Canadian director’s reputation for memorable final moments. Like its 1982 inspiration, this one will only keep getting better with time.
DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE
Not a talking heads documentary on the ouverie of one of our greatest filmmakers, but a meditative origin story on what shaped this mid-western, mild-mannered boy into ‘Jimmy Stewart from Mars’.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
And the Oscar goes to... Brooklyn Prince. Aged six. Seriously. There’s a close-up of her face in the last minutes of this film for which alone she deserves every acting accolade going. Not a dry eye in the house. Also: Willem Dafoe. Seriously.
MY JOURNEY THROUGH FRENCH CINEMA
A Cinephile’s feast: Bertrand Tavernier’s three-hour plus exploration of the first few decades of French cinema. A personal journey from the erudite director told through the films and filmmakers that influenced him as a boy. There are eight - count ‘em! - eight more parts to follow. Bring ‘em on.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
No matter how your sexuality swings, spending three hot months one summer in Italy (or two hours in the cinema) with Armie Hammer will leave its mark on you. This sunny, sumptuous, sensual romance-cum-coming of age story features some of the best, most naturalistic performances on screen this year. Forget the popcorn, bring a peach.
And then there were the disappointments...
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
Let me clarify - this one belongs in the list above. I’m disappointed in myself - for not making the effort to see this one in the cinema. If you want to cleanse your pallet from super hero CGI, watch Keanu Reeves shoot, punch and kick his way through the best action movie of the year. I’ve no doubt Chapter 3 will be the best action movie of whatever year it comes out.
Director Edgar Wright is a very capable director and nice bloke... but I did not care for this movie at all. It failed for me on a basic level - to will my suspension of disbelief. Everything felt contrived with a capital ‘C’. That said, great opening sequence:
Oh Ridley Scott, why? Why did you learn all the wrong lessons from your flawed but still brilliant Prometheus? Why did you try give the fans what they think they want and destroy virtually everything you built with your previous movie?
The only truly bad film on this list. One that has made over six hundred million dollars at the box office. It bored the crap out of me and wasn’t scary. And this was only Chapter One! I felt like a clown for buying a ticket.
I don’t think I’ve comes across even one less-than-great review of this picture, which will likely win its talented writer-director Jordan Peele an Oscar in March. So I’m in a very tiny minority to say, alas I was left wanting. Original? Sure. A good cast, yes. I even like the poster (which is saying a lot these days) Perhaps I’ve been a victim of hype, but as the credits rolled I kept thinking.. is that it? But it was better than It, so I’ll give it that.