A practice those of you who may have studied in Jesuits institutions are probably familiar with is the Examen, a nightly exercise of looking through your day for the highlights of your experience to gain insight about our lives and the points in which we might be touching the divine. Here at Zerothreetwo, we do a similar process at the end of the year by going back over the movies that have really moved us, often to a nearly divine depth, films that make us happy to be alive, and provide some insight on the human condition.
To be on my personal list, I follow the same rules as we do every year: the films must have been widely released in the Philippines in 2017, ruling out many inaccessible arthouse pieces. This is not the list for Filipino movies: special mention for Patay Na Si Jesus though, a rare Cebuano break out hit.
As a fan boy, my lists are always full of sci-fi and comic books; it’s not always everyone’s bag, but I enjoy the way society’s values are propagated in the noisy packaging of big budget entertainment. Apologies then to those who find the comic book genre too pervasive; gladly for me, it won’t be going away any time soon. Hurrah!
I don’t normally agree with the Oscars in their awards choices; most years Hollywood only awards those whose butt wants kissing the most. The Best Film Oscar winner went against that grain this year with both a politically relevant and artistically impressive masterpiece about the life of a gay black man from Florida. Rarely does film reach poetic levels of the sublime, but Barry Jenkins has created a work of art both beautiful and biting, pretty and punchy, that both saddens and inspires. Personal movies like Moonlight, which offer stories that are both new and familiar, are film making at its best.
1. Wonder Woman
This year I decided to give a joint number one spot; while I can’t layer enough superlatives onto Moonlight as a work of art, I can’t say I enjoyed it more than Wonder Woman. I was blown away by this superb solo launch for the most famous woman in comic books; here is a phenomenal icon that both little girls and boys deserve. Despite the slightly miserable DCMU in which Wonder Woman is set, Patty Jenkins has managed to create the quintessential comic book movie, relentlessly positive in its humanistic values, packed full of exciting action, and centering around a charismatic superhero, convincingly brought to life by lustrous Gal Gadot. Diana’s foray into No Man’s Land is the stuff of cinematic legend and had me cheering through tidal waves of happy tears.
3. Get Out
While the remake of It may have ruled the horror box office this year, this surprisingly taut comedy horror by Jordan Peel is one that really burrows under the skin and will be a cultural reference forever. It cleverly explores a very common and therefore relatable experience that causes practically everyone some worry; the first visit to the partner’s family home. Of course, this is an amped up version of what you probably experienced, toying with the many underlying and increasingly overt racial tensions in America. Get Out may have you running for the door looking for relief, but it’s constant wittiness will probably keep you in your seats chuckling with pleasure.
4. Thor: Ragnarok
My favorite Marvel movie this year has to go to the endearingly off-beat Thor’s Ragnarok. Despite following the tired MCU formula and plot structure, Taika Waititi’s sly brand of humor make’s Thor: Ragnarok enjoyable at another level. If you had a childhood love for schlocky delights of Barberella and Flash Gordon as I do, you will revel in the acid trip color schemes and characters simultaneously sleazy, ridiculous and cool. And we always knew Cate Blanchett was a bad bitch!
5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Carrie Fisher’s last film may have its structural flaws, but its emotionally sincere heart is what makes the latest Star Wars film one of the stand outs of the series. Not as much a direct pastiche of the original trilogy of as The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi nonetheless still remains true to everyone’s favorite space opera by upping the Force mumbo jumbo and muddying the traditionally black and white portrayal of good and evil. Special mention has to go to Kylo Ren; while Luke to my mind never had a convincing chance of joining the dark side, Kylo’s possible return to the light side is one that’s more believable, due to the excellent chemistry between him and Rae. Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo was another scene stealer, another one of this year’s heroes that had me shouting “Yaaaasss Kweeeeeen!” at the screen. Plus, Luke and Lea will always be love!
6. The Lego Batman Movie
Jokes are shot out at a gatling gun pace in The Lego Batman Movie. Needless to say this animation requires repeat watching if you really want to get all the jokes. It has humor of all forms for both children and adults to enjoy; from sight gags to obscure cultural references that has even the geekiest Googling for more information. A list so heavily comprised of comic book films would not be complete without this, the genre’s ultimate but loving send-up. And best of all, we finally get to see Batgirl and Robin in a Batman movie again!
Fox has been known to go a bit grimmer and grittier with its more recent X-men fare, and Logan is a surprisingly poignant movie about aging from a character who famously never ages. The chemistry between our leads Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is the stuff from which film classics are born. R-rated comic films aren’t really the direction I want these movies to shift into (They should be accessible to everyone! Comics were originally made for kids after all), but having the occasional classy offering like Logan which can have you crying like a big softie. Despite its excessive violence and swearing, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to stick to one way of story telling, even with familiar characters. Jackman needs a special standing ovation as he bows out from so charmingly playing this most beloved of characters.
Pixar’s entry to everyone’s “best-of-the-year” lists is a tricky sell; bravely venturing into the underworld and tackling head on the subject of death and particularly what it means for families. While I still feel that 2014’s The Book of Life is the superior Dias de los Muertos movie, Coco undoubtedly has its festive charms. Its glorious music and colorful characters make it the feel-good family movie of the year. Don’t you love leaving the cinema waltzing to a fantastically sentimental ballad? If you do, put on your dancing shoes, and watch Coco.
9. Blade Runner 2049
If you like your sci-fi ponderous and atmospheric, you will have been overjoyed by this sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott original. My cup-of-tea certainly as 2049 does what science fiction does best; it asks us were are we going with our “advancement” in technology and paints a bleak picture should we not adequately wrestle with our modern techno-ethical conundrums. I may not be convinced yet of Ryan Gosling’s acting, but Denis Villeneuve has long impressed me as a director; and the visuals in this film will never be forgotten, searing images that can almost be used as a visual dictionary for our emotional life.
10. Call Me by Your Name
Bear with me here; you do need to get past the cultural pretentiousness of this movie’s liberally elite characters, but if you do, you will find a sweet little coming-of-age movie that will remind you what it was like to be young and in love. If Moonlight is an epic masterpiece, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name is a pretty gem whose greatest virtues are in its charming details. Sure, this may be a story we have heard before; but its poignantly personal scenes about one boy’s experience of lustful longing is deeply touching, reminding us of the days when we all felt too much!
What were your favorite movies of 2017?