Monday, May 21, 2018

The 2017 Movies I Didn't See

I've been writing these posts every year for the past several years to sort out my feelings toward some of the more prominent movies I've made a conscious decision to skip watching. Once again, I'm working through the last handful of 2017 films on my "To Watch" list, mostly foreign films with later domestic releases.  The bigger 2018 titles are starting to roll in, so it's time to make some decisions. This year I have to be especially tough, because the amount of time I have to consume media has shrunk considerably.

Below are seven movies that didn't make the cut this year.  I reserve the right to revisit and reverse my viewing choices in the future.   However, I still haven't watched anything from last year's list.

"Hostiles" - Well, I'm just going to be blunt.  I haven't enjoyed much of anything that director Scott Cooper has made, and I'm a little sick of Christian Bale at the moment.  "Hostiles" was positioned as an Oscar film, and got positive reviews, but little passionate reaction. And while I'm glad to see so many Native American actors employed in a film with authentic portrayals of Native Americans, that seems to be the best thing going for it.  And frankly, that's not enough, especially since the POV characters are still the white male characters. I'd be much more receptive to the film if it were actually about the Native American experience instead of your typical Hollywood movie about a white guy processing his trauma through interaction with another culture, a la "Dances With Wolves" and "The Last Samurai."     

"Suburbicon" - I think I've given George Clooney enough chances to dismiss this one sight unseen, especially considering the amount of negative press it has gotten.  Review after review lists the same complaints, that it's trying to do too much at once, and it doesn't have a handle on the satirical elements and the social commentary.  The presence of a Coen brothers' script sounds mildly intriguing, but the consensus seems to be that Clooney bungled the all-important tone, especially in regards to the parts of the movie dealing with a black family moving into an all-white neighborhood in the 1950s.  Oscar Isaac is supposed to be very good in this, and I do like Oscar Isaac very much, but not enough to want to watch this. Can Clooney just go be a humanitarian full time for a while?

"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" - Another prestige pic that got some attention in the lead-up to the Oscars, but was never really a contender.  The performances got a lot of acclaim, and I like Annette Bening and Jamie Bell, but the particulars of the plot here make me cringe just reading them.  I haven't seen any film about the older Hollywood stars done well recently, including "My Week With Marilyn," "Trumbo," and "Hitchcock." There's just something terribly artificial about them, and the reliance on nostalgia often galls.  I'm not that familiar with actress Gloria Grahame, which might actually help here, but I suspect that the genre may just not be for me. And it's not a good sign that the director is Paul McGuigan, whose most recent film was the disastrous "Victor Frankenstein."

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" and "The Man Who Invented Christmas" - Two biopics about famous writers of literary classics that came out within a few months of each other.  Both seem to be following the "Shakespeare in Love" formula of explaining elements in the plots of the written stories by examining the lives of their authors, something that's hard to do well.  A lot of similar films end up feeling awfully contrived, like "Saving Mr. Banks." The reviews were decent for both of the new movies, but frankly I'm not enough of a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh or "A Christmas Carol" to care about the circumstances of their creation.  More to the point, both movies came and went quickly without much fanfare, so I doubt there's much to them worth making a fuss about.

"The Glass Castle" - Woody Harrelson had several smaller films out this year that I wound up skipping, including "Wilson" and "LBJ."  However, the one I feel bad about passing over is Destin Cretton's second film, "The Glass Castle." I enjoyed "Short Term 12" very much, and was interested in what he was going to do next.  However, the subject matter of "Glass Castle" gave me pause immediately. Dysfunctional family dramas are all well and good, but this one features exceptionally miserable content, including child abuse.  I kept this one on my "To Watch" list for a very long time, but ultimately the critics were fairly cool on it, so I was never in much of a hurry to seek it out. Eventually I just wrote it off as a title I didn't think I was going to get much out of.  

"The Snowman" - Now, in a different year I'd watch a movie like "The Snowman" just because of its notoriety.    Director Tomas Alfredson claims this detective thriller came out so badly because the production ran out of time and important scenes were never shot.  The flabbergasted audience reactions to the unfortunate finished product have been very entertaining to read. I'd like to get in on the fun myself, but I can't justify spending two hours on a movie I'd only be watching to mock.  Maybe if I find more breathing room later in the year I can sneak it in somewhere, but for now I still have way, way, way too many other films to watch.


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