Saturday, March 31, 2018

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2017 Revisited: 25 Movies of the Year, Part 2

From one leap to another, ranging from oddball comedies, thought-provoking sci-fis, to still uncomprimising dramas, 2017 was a kaleidoscope too hard to miss. It's the year that presented us a broad spectrum of cinematic heaven filled with never-ending accomplishments: Get Out proved to be a blunt social commentary while honoring its horror origin with bleak hysteria; The Killing of Sacred Deer delivered an inexplicable melting pot of folklore, foreign darkness, and claustrophobic mystery; and Phantom Thread conveyed the borderline meaning of love and obsession through its picturesque filmmaking highs. But these three, and the other previously posted films were only chunks of many peaks we experienced throughout 2017. Sure, the year was a lot of things, but triumphant was on top of the list. Here, we reveal the rest of the triumphs.

#12. I, Tonya | Directed by Craig Gillespie | Written by Steven Rogers
Exploring the life of Tonya Harding: her childhood, her rising fame, to her nosedive; I, Tonya goes further than picturing an infamous tragedy, it captures our protagonist life as she flourishes into a layered, living character. This, of course is thanks to the incredible Margot Robbie, whose portrayal prospers beyond her physical stature (as she's much taller than the real Tonya). Alongside its well-acted cast—from the irresistible Allison Janney to bright Sebastian Stanthe story reveals a sharp-tongued fashion, but the heart lasts. Crafted in documentary-like feels to cover each version of the story, I, Tonya poses questions about truth: from its nonexistence to its subjectivity; showcasing that, like beauty, truth also lies in the eye of the beholder. Often hilarious, inescapably riveting, powerfully acted, and endlessly wholehearted, I, Tonya showcases a biopic at its finest: an authentic portrayal that triumphs deeper than meets the eye. Who could've guessed that this year's best biopic goes to a film about 'the Tonya Harding'?

#11. Blade Runner 2049 | Directed by Denis Villeneuve | Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Blade Runner 2049 broaden the postulate brought by its predecessor, preserving the legacy for another decade to be remembered. Here, we follow Ryan Gosling's K as he unburies a hidden secret and begins to question his place in the incoming chaos—yes, and a quest to find Harrison Ford too. Blade Runner 2049 is the paramount instance of a timely theme in form of a ravishing science fiction that sees past the text-book pattern. Woven through the eye of a replicant, it's driven by a supposition of identity and existential questions. This notion is expressed through a series of red herrings greatly infused into the core structure of the story, defying viewers' anticipation and allowing a profound character study to thrive its innate humanity. Villeneuve invests its thematic complexity in allegorical imageries, reached by manipulating lights, movements, and colors to generate an enriched amalgam with a hint of biting bleakness. His bearing airs a potent, downtempo rhythm matched by Roger Deakin's commitedly gauged and baroquely adorned magnitude of beauty, placing honor on both facade and substance with razor-sharp merit as we're lost in a beguiling, almost meditative reverie.

#10. The Square | Written and Directed by Ruben Östlund
Taking its title from the film's art installation called 'The Square'described as "a sanctuary of trust and caring, in which within its boundaries, we all share equal rights and obligations,"—the film itself goes further than the boundaries it sets. Focusing on an art curator and his struggling life crisisprofessionally, as he handles his career after facing a public outrage caused by museum's new installation, and personally, as he starts to lose his instinct of courtesy—it's a satirical comedy that tackles pretentiousness and society's fundamental principle, all while providing laughs in absurdity. The Square finds its cynicism in creating uneasiness out of every situation and revealing dilemma in every ideal. Inside its sardonic laughter, Ruben Östlund deeply scrutinizes his two-way theses of how today's society reflects on an image and how pretentious culture hits modern age, prompting a larger notion about superficiality, that the appearance may not always speak the volume it proposes. The Square appears silly yet proffer earnestness; it discusses social gap, civility, to selfish self-preservation in nothing but straightforward awkwardness. It assembles laughter in the most concerned circumstances; and even in its most foolish moment, The Square still offers a solemn, lingering question about human behavior: how much inhumanity does it take before we access your humanity?

#9. Dunkirk | Written and Directed by Christoper Nolan
It’s what we might expect from Nolan and more. Christopher Nolan unravels an ambitious narrative to bring its history-based moments to life, it's when the story moves in a march with measured tread of monumental music, absorbing acting, enthralling visual, and gripping sound, all crafted within Nolan's foremost expertise in direction. Throughout this altered structure of time, Nolan successfully underlines fearlessness without overlooking its beating heart. Each chapter is built in shocking jolt and humane tenderness, allowing distinguished valor to strive against the need for survival while resurging more facets to the story. With almost no speaking line, the dialogue-sparse Dunkirk lets the narrative expand by itself, giving the wings of audio and visual the maximum power and authority to control Dunkirk's vastness of heated intensity. The result is a colossal, almost silent adrenaline rush with an emphasize on its most surging sense of time. A toweringly courageous and awe-inspiring cinematic escapade, Dunkirk applauds its heroism roots with both respect and spectacle that sure is worth its ambition

#8. Loveless | Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev | Written by Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev
A story like this has been told over and over, but only a few have stood the test of time. Take the terrifyingly intriguing Sporloos, the subtly intricate About Elly, to the stylishly Hollywood-infused Gone Girl for example. More than putting names on missing person list, they all have much more to offer. So does Loveless. Without much exposition, we're given a glimpse look of a child, neglected and forgotten. But the story lingers more on the parents' absence, and as we gaze down a little deeper on their life, the focus ingeniously makes us unaware. When that time comes, no one is prepared, even us the beholder. It’s a story that rebels against unwantedness, bursts with loneliness, and is told in uncertainty. And within its 'vanished-without-a-trace' story, Loveless finds an engrossingly emotive core, unraveling a social commentary that's truly hard-hitting in its understated delicacy.

#7. Wind River | Written and Directed by Taylor Sheridan 
This Taylor Sheridan's latest cinematic coup was unfairly absent from last year's awards season, but to us, this murder mystery is too majestically arresting to be unseen. Around its thematic whodunit, Wind River borrows style and ideas, but has plenty of its own to add, and for one, the vision remains focused and true. Forcefully led by Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Reiner, Wind River combines two antithetical, progressively multi-dimensional law enforcers to unveil a crushing exposé of injustice and corrupt morality. Wind River surely questions for an evoking answer, and albeit the world we live in doesn't provide an easy answer, Sheridan responds with a bone-chilling craftsmanship, brilliantly constructed characters, poignantly explosive revelation, and as a whole, a murder mystery that's further-reaching than the thirst for crime deciphering. 

#6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri | Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh
Marking Frances McDormand's return to the main spotlight, Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri brings a lot to the table: grief-dealing to criminal injustice, all of which are handled with highest altitude of artistry. The whole narrative orbits around the idea that Penelope—the film's most, intendedly, cartoonish character—once says: anger begets greater anger. Three Billboards is almost singlehandedly driven by rage, from McDormand's Mildred to Rockwell's Dixon, it observes all frames of anger in full display: an outrage caused by grief and injustice to enough unfounded temper and violence to make you throw someone out of two-story building. Yet, it also goes on showing that anger and compassion aren't really mutually exclusive after all. They, though are supposedly poles apart, also draw in with one another. This take that Martin McDonagh tries to uphold, is what makes Three Billboards so undisputedly dynamic. The story arises through fiery outrage after another, but its big-hearted core always retorts, always in the picture. But really, if we take a closer look at its ambiguous ending, we know Three Billboards is never about redemption anyway, it's about releasing and forbearing your anger, it's about displaying how damaging, consuming it really is, yet on the other hand, anger is sometimes unavoidable. Anger, is a part of human after all. 

#5 The Shape of Water | Directed by Guillermo del Torro | Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Poetically realized in Guillermo del Toro's pioneering intuition for visual storytelling, The Shape of Water prevails in utmost robustness. The Shape of Water's story eludes overly convoluted course, and explicates more on its vividly detailed imageries. Imagine vibrant splashes of color and bleakness all together, where hopefulness and desolation project coherence and an otherworldly, sentient poem forms. In his own twisted world, del Toro creates a fairy tale, the one that conquers imperfection and finds the beauty within—and the one that exposes the monster inside. But, above all, The Shape of Water's unfeigned psyche rests on Sally Hawkin's (mostly) voiceless performance. Powerfully fascinating and mysteriously alluring, this masterstroke of her unrivaled delivery and del Toro's ceaseless vision is what truly conveys this strangest kind of love story to transcend beyond the love itself.

#4. The Florida Project | Directed by Sean Baker | Written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
Colorful with a sensitive sense of adventure, tenacious with a touch of freedom, The Florida Project echoes with forms of life on all of its spectrum. It's a heartfelt look that demands us to examine the overlooked living souls, the frontier cohering the rebellious childhood and the life-gasping adulthood. Filled with multi-faceted individuals, The Florida Projects goes to show the people as they truly are. Each of whom has different, foreign stories to tell, but they speak one state we all possess, the human condition that bridges harmony and casts the deepest core of tenderness we have in common. The Florida Project depicts to the core without once depriving, but rather, it’s a showcase of the endless shapes of humanity facing their own world with their own unique way, intuited in phantasm and unfolded in realism. Essentially, The Florida Project is always around one thing that can withstand just about anything: us. From its one-minute mark, Sean Baker keeps ourselves reminded of this, and even to the time it chooses to end, The Florida Project brings the thesis of 'us' to what might be the most well-rendered, perfect ultimate conclusion of an 'imperfect', deep-felt coda in cinema's recent memory.

#3. A Fantastic Woman | Directed by Sebastián Lelio | Written by Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza
Centered on Daniela Vega's full-force acting ability, she bursts exquisitely in A Fantastic Woman. It's her battle of courageagainst the constantly loathing minds, but in the larger contextagainst a morally bankrupt system, a homogeneous one that only carries the world within the frame of being socially compatible. But, A Fantastic Woman doesn't start with her. For the first five minutes, it follows the life of a man, eventually leading up to her and their vigorous bond. Through a shift of perspective, we sense an abruptness which our protagonist elicits. From there, A Fantastic Woman talks so much about remoteness and the state of not being able to fix anything, disclosing its solitary tale set in the crowd's eyes. With every frame dominated by Vega, we learn the world she lives in, a world so far-flung yet an-inch-close to your nose. But, as A Fantastic Woman introduces us to Vega with her singing and also ends with her singing, it uncovers the intrinsic nature of hope: it's always there. It sets questions right in front of our eyes wherein humanity is becoming devalued even rejected, but its main goal is not to pity, it is to value hope and identity. Triumphantly crafted with such tenderness, and at times, fueled by raging flames, A Fantastic Woman honors femininity in its highest place and fearlessly displays how oneself's willpower could bring you to your own liberation.

#2. Lady Bird | Written and Directed by Greta Gerwig
Lady Bird thrives immensely, simply because of how personal it feels and unexpected it hits you. Within its small-scale scope, it resonates to a greater extent, deeply jogging memories and unwittingly reaching our own selves. It’s a tempest of adolescence and an array of emotions in chaos, presented in the warmest finesse and the realest nuance. But, underneath these coming-of-age notes, there lies an unseen, often overlooked love letter to mother's nurture and home's quilt, so hauntingly blunt we're caught in a universally emotional depth wrecking us from within. Lady Bird is driven by the force of its intriguinglyand accuratelywritten daughter-and-mother relationship, exploring the cycle of escalating conflicts to plungingly sudden fence-mending; relinquishing someone's grip in pursuance of their full establishment; and realizing that perhaps, love and attention are indeed the same thing. Powered by a pair of bold perfomances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf along with Greta Gerwig's sharp writing and sensitive directing, Lady Bird invites us in, as we immerse in laughter; in despair; in love; in true, genuine us.

#1. Call Me by Your Name | Directed by Luca Guadagnino | Written by James Ivory
Call Me by Your Name delivers an alluring gaze, a gaze into first love story that's both audacious and sincere. It's an unembellished narrative told in an intricately piercing storytelling. Its focal point pivots around the life of Elio as he comes of age, delineated perfectly from state of incertitude to blooming fondness to untold affection to aching adieu. Luca Guadagnino's direction guides Call Me by Your Name throughout its overwhelmingly emotional turmoil, creating exquisite tonality and sustaining mood. Armie Hammer shines in his talkativeness and the calmness of Michael Stuhlbarg easily makes him the best movie parent ever, but it is Timothée Chalamet who soars through the most in both tranquility and agitation. Within its beautifully composed frame and profound, richly-bonded performances, not only do we get to observe, we further learn and earn lovethe intimacy and the melancholyall in its forms.