On the original list, I hadn’t seen even one film released in 2017, but I was eager to see Get Out, which didn’t disappoint. I knew little of Jordan Peele (I’ve since watched quite a bit of Key and Peele, which I missed in its original run). Too often people make horror movies as a bridge to make other things without a concern for the genre or its fans. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing and injects new life into dying veins and other times the creators appear condescending to the crowds who like these films. I was pleasantly surprised when I read a Peele interview and he was talking about The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby, and other horror movies with insight and passion. He was an emphatic horror fan so I was sold on checking out the movie and Get Out proved to be quite an experience.
Going back over my movie log, I realized that there were several other films from 2017 that I have since enjoyed. Here are a few.
“The Burden” (“min Börda”)
A Swedish short film by Niki Lindroth von Bahr that I’ve watched probably more than ten times now, along with her two previous stop-motion shorts “The Bath House” and “Tord and Tord.” At some point I’m going to have to update my Švankmajer VHS collection, but his films seem to get harder to find, and von Bahr’s films itch that scratch, though “The Burden” plays visually like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox combined with a musical directed by Samuel Beckett or Franz Kafka. Luckily, von Bahr’s films do pop up with frequency on various streaming services.
A gorgeous, poetic balck-and-white short by Jessica Beshir about the “Hyena Mana of Harar,” a man who feeds hyenas at night in Ethiopia. Click on the title and you can watch it. It’s less than seven minutes long.
“It’s All Right, It’s Ok“
Part of a series of shorts by Jim Cummings filmed in one shot. I just discovered he has several shorts on Vimeo. Distribution is weird these days. Anyway, I love the way seemingly disparate topics (BeeGees, CPR, tensions with race, police, etc.) are brought together in this short. It’s so concise, but does so much work. It opens with someone giving a child CPR at a pool. It’s tragic (but not in the way you think), while somehow being funny. You can watch it by clicking on the title. It’s less than three minutes long and the lead actor, Joseph Lee Anderson makes the whole thing live. Really stunning for such a short piece.
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen
Cohen made so many fun and weird independent and studio films. Black Caesar, It’s Alive, The Stuff, Q: The Winged Serpent, and God Told Me To are a few favorites. The documentary reminded me of how much of a writer Cohen was and also how insane he was stealing shots in New York City. People running or bleeding in the streets. Firing weapons with blanks. Car chases. Unbelievable.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
Music documentary on American musicians of Native background. The sections on Link Wray are eye-opening, as much as the sequences showing much of the Indian segregation (and the resulting passing by so many) that has marred American history since its “beginnings.” The Charley Patton sequence finally gave me a missing piece to American music. I played bluegrass and folk music for a long time and listened to African, Native American, Scottish and other traditional music and I liked hearing where these genres diverged and converged. Hearing the blues and other song forms and connecting them had been fairly simple. I couldn’t quite figure out the Native American piece, but assumed something was there. And it was. All along. Great documentary about music and so much more.
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s final film is a haunting gift. It captures the sad and joyful wonder of the world. He took twenty-four of his own still photographs and animated them. Originally the project began with him animating classic paintings. Only a few of those experiments made it into the final cut.
The Florida Project
Talk about a sad and joyful wonder of the world. The performances and cinematography made this enrapturing, even while the subject matter is difficult at times. A type of American poetry.
It Comes at Night
A post-apocalyptic plague/survival tale that also feels like a quiet horror take on Night of the Living Dead. A horror movie where I came away thinking about the characters more than the monsters–and I love me some monsters.
However quiet and slow someone may find It Comes at Night, Kuso is the opposite of all that. Directed by Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus), it’s a raw apocalyptic anthology that has more gore and insanity than a Miike remake of Hausu. There’s more under the surface, if you can handle it.
Let Sleeping Corpses Tan
Somewhere between Kuso and It Comes at Night is the work of
Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. I’ll go wherever they go. Their work has been called “excessive” and “tedious.” I think they make simultaneously brutal and beautiful art films in genre dressing. This one is a desert Western and crime film. They’ve tackled giallo effectively in the past. Not for the timid or for those who only crave narrative.
With the Kids
I’m not going to say much about these because I just don’t have much to add. My youngest and I both unexpectedly howled with laughter in the bell scene in Coco. I immediately felt bad, but I couldn’t help it. Then I cried with the oldest one at the end. Maybe the last lime I’ll hear some of these characters called “Hulk Smash” and “Thorn.” The youngest couldn’t decide if she actually wanted to see Wonder Woman or not, but finding out she was a princess was a game-changer.
I like red peppers and Jan Švankmajer movies.
1. Current Listening: Lots of soul from Muscle Shoals
2. Current Viewing: A Hard Day's Night (1964).
3. Current Reading: H.G. Wells: In the Days of the Comet