I have lots of room in my heart for “mainstream” movies. You know, the ones people actually watch. I saw a film aficionado’s list of the 50 Best Movies of the 21st Century recently and suddenly felt terribly unsophisticated. Not only hadn’t I seen a single one, I’d never even heard of most of them. None was from America, and virtually all were darkly Freudian; not a comedy in the bunch. It was a classic example of the “if it’s popular, it’s not art” mindset.
So, back to my plebian tastes. I do see some “art films” and quite a few indies. But I also appreciate well-crafted Hollywood movies. I’m not a critic, so I don’t see everything released. I haven’t seen Baywatch, for example, and don’t plan to (pretty sure I wouldn’t like it). But neither have I seen Baby Driver, which is reportedly terrific (simply haven’t gotten to it yet). Finally, like most plebes, I vacillate toward seeing “big movies” at theaters and “little movies” at home, so my Little Movies (below) were mostly released last year.
My highly subjective So Far list:
The Lego Batman Movie – Same frenetic energy, pop culture gags, and covert sweetness as the original Lego Movie. Those little plastic bricks have heart, y’all!
Logan – Wolverine and Professor X as we’ve never seen them before. This is not a “super-hero” movie, it’s a drama with Oscar-worthy performances.
Wonder Woman – Proof that DC has finally figured how to combine wowie f/x with worthy thematic content (female empowerment, self-sacrifice, forgiveness)?
Spider-Man: Homecoming – Who knew this constantly rebooted franchise needed another reboot? Marvel did. After getting back the rights, they refused to muffin pan the kid, insisting on giving him a nerdy sweetness all his own, with the help of a surrogate dad–Ironman!
War for the Planet of the Apes – The completion of an almost miraculous trilogy—not a reboot, a rethink—War is really a character-driven survival story. The mo-capped Caesar’s performance (Andy Serkis) is as richly subtextual as any inspired live actor’s. Others, a brutal human of the dying era (Woody Harrelson), a heart-piercing little girl who is probably the precursor of the future (and another trilogy), and a proto-Roddy McDowall named Bad Ape, add richness to my favorite movie of the year. So far.
Remember – Respected Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan keeps us perpetually off-balance in this artfully character-driven thriller about an aging Holocaust survivor’s eleventh hour revenge quest.
My Life as a Zucchini – This stop-motion animated flick is a bit off-putting at first, but the surprisingly adult (drugs, suicide) story about orphans in France is emotionally nuanced and deeply affecting.
The Founder – Michael Keaton, as McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc, is brilliant, as is the rest of the cast, including Nick Offerman (who’s determined to appear in nearly every movie made). You won’t like Ray, but you’ll understand him. And you’ll be disturbed. Which is the whole point.
When Marnie was There – Co-writer/director Hiromasa Yonebayashi is the spiritual successor to anime genius Hayao Miyazaki, “the Walt Disney of Japan.” Half ghost story and half coming-of-age tale, Marnie draws us toward an unexpected conclusion that mirrors the bittersweetness of real life.
The Accountant – So much smarter and thematically nuanced than anyone expected, The Accountant may have been last year’s least appreciated Hollywood movie. And, yes, Ben Affleck can act. When he wants to.