The Oscars are not the Super Bowl for movies. They’re the Pro Bowl for movies. They are a conglomerate of what “certain people” deem to be the cream of the crop Hollywood cinema that year and present them in a fun but ultimately meaningless competition that has no real intrinsic value beyond increasing the brand of an actor or filmmaker or other artist and exposing some worthy (and many unworthy) films to a wider audience that may have not at first thought of watching them. When someone says a movie has won Oscars, it means something to people who casually enjoy movies once in a while.
And as always, the discourse on the Oscars is hilarious and frustrating:
I’ve been using twitter a lot more than any other social media outlet because it gives the most information and interaction at a faster rate than any other (non-forum) place on the internet. Sure, it’s a brain-melting hell-hole, but we’re all going to die from nuclear radiation or overheating at some point in our lives anyway so might as well be reckless and fun in the process.
So here are 5 Twitter-related things that are DEFINITELY going to happen during the Oscars Broadcast:
Trump is going to tweet while he has diarrhea from the 5 Big Macs and 3 Fish Filet sandwiches he ate for his afternoon snack. Alpha Male. This is a given. Our mayonnaise-filled glazed ham president is a showman above anything else and the one thing he is terrified of is other people showing him up. This happens on the regular in government, but it gets under his skin the most during the Oscars because he has no way of regulating it. Deep down, he actually wants to be there, with all those beautiful people in their beautiful outfits. For everyone who voted for Trump who thinks once he gets out of office he’s going to live the life of a blue-collar conservative on a farm in Kansas… buddy, his toilet it made of solid gold. And knowing the neoliberal cretins who run the Academy, you’ll see Trump on TV smiling at the Oscars once his term is over. Trust me.
The jokes are going to be bad. I don’t understand why they make non-comedic actors who present awards like “Best Costume Design” do joke skits while presenting. They’re not good. The actors don’t even fucking memorize their lines (I still can’t believe this) so they have to read a teleprompter while delivering the punchline that we’ve already heard from some weird ass twitter account called “OsamaBinBallin69420” or something. Yeah, ok, we get it, the woman fucked a fish in The Shape of Water. I wish they just had a separate broadcast which only played the actual nominees and winners being announced and everything else is just replaced by a scene from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Tomi Lahren is going to get her ass handed to her. This is becoming a yearly tradition. The wanna-be Ann Coulter who got fired from The Blaze because she laughed when she saw Glenn Beck’s shriveled up dick cannot help herself during the Oscars. She wants to get owned. Maybe it’s a fetish. People will happily oblige.
People are going to be unhappy no matter what wins Best Picture. Did I say the Oscars was like the Pro Bowl? I meant it’s more like political elections. No one is happy. Ever.
Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri is going to win Best Picture. This is the only prediction I’m making. Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri is a garbage fucking movie with horrible writing, bad characters, and piss-poor acting (except Frances McDormand). I was sitting in the theater looking around while the movie played wondering if anyone else was having the same disgusted reaction as I was. I couldn’t believe some of the lines that were written in this filth. “I hope you get raped” stuck out pretty hard. The CGI deer and Woody Harrelson’s goodbye letter were unintentional comedy gold. And Sam Rockwell, who is a marvelous actor, is getting recognition for his worst performance, playing one of the dumbest written characters in movie history… a racist cop who suddenly, out of nowhere, grows a heart of gold and tries to redeem himself. I hate this movie. But I’m ready for it to win. This movie is the perfect embodiment of Hollywood and neoliberalisms complete tone-deaf approach to American politics. Of course the Oscars are going to vote for it! For years the worst movie to ever win Best Picture has been the Harvey Weinstein-produced abomination Shakespeare in Love which won in 1998 (over Life is Beautiful, Elizabeth, Saving Private Ryan and the deserved winner, The Thin Red Line.) That changes tonight.
I guess you could say spending New Year’s Eve getting screened in the Middle East by United States Border Patrol officers is the perfect ending to the political experience of 2017. At least I got some champagne and dessert afterwards.
Part of the flight, I re-read one of my absolute favorite pieces of film criticism ever written; Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review of Bela Tarr’s Satantango. It reassured me that the great cinema is not something that should be assumed to be lost on most people. That there is always an audience for a great film no matter how unwieldy, ambitious, or downright unappealing in appearance it may be. Rosenbaum is always great at scanning cinema and all its aspects of writing, directing, production, distribution, and consumption through the lens of a “power of the people” mantra. It’s a political philosophy which prioritizes access regardless of demographic models and it undoubtedly needs to be made more aware of because of the sectarian means by which cinema (and culture in general really) is showcased in America. So this too was a perfect capping of 2017.
This year, I continued my habit of the past couple years of just saying “fuck it” to trying to watch new releases just for the sake of watching them. Selectivism over volume, hurrah. Out of the dozens of remakes, sequels etc. that got churned out at the detriment of much more interesting material that could easily have taken it’s place, I saw but a few (War for the Planet of the Apes and BladeRunner 2049) and they were both rather underwhelming, especially in comparison to their own predecessors.
Looking at my Best of 2017 list, there is a dearth of American movies (also possibly due to the ambiguity of Hollywood vs. UK produced film). The three that end up on there are all, unsurprisingly, original films, one a major blockbuster by a well-known celebrity director, and the other two, small indie films by relatively new filmmakers. These movies are becoming rarer in a distribution cycle which is slowly and surely being overtaken by whatever sells in China, Hollywood’s largest market. Outside of Star Wars which remains quintessentially, an American-exclusive loved franchise entity, everything else from Marvel to DC to Fast & Furious to Monster Movies to whatever the hell James Cameron comes out with next is going to be seen by more Chinese paying customers more frequently than any other nationality of movie-goers on Earth.
But I consciously hoped to allow this list, like the ones I made in the past, be a representation of the diversity of cinema that is still existent in the nooks and crannies of cinema-halls in the U.S., if you care to search and look for them. Movies are always going to be there even with Netflix and Chinese-centric marketing models because there are always artists who are going to be making them. If not in the U.S, then elsewhere. It’s a huge world, and it’s connected closer and faster than ever. Fascism and nationalism are rising, but so is everyone’s desire to see things outside of their own box. Maybe 2018 will be about that.
Anyway, here’s the list of my Favorite Films of 2017. (click on the title of each film to be taken to a full review of the film) :
There’s nothing better than watching a film made by a director you absolutely love and have it meet every expectation. It becomes even more enjoyable when the tonal frequency of the filmmaker is compatible with yours. It’s a pure coincidence, of course – no great filmmaker remains great by catering to an audience – which is what makes it special.
Since his breakout film, Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos has been relentless in his personal translation of the world around us: The mundane attributes of a typical human society stretched to lengths and limits and turned upside down so that even the most vanilla of daily moments are revealed as absurdly ritualistic. The bare bones of this concept are not unique… David Lynch did it with American suburbia, Charlie Kauffman with industry and media, and Roy Andersson with middle-class Norwegians. What sets Lanthimos apart is that his characters are not mere pawns of a greater society, they are the society. While the other filmmakers play with characters in a world bigger and more comprehensive than they can really wrap their heads around (Blue Velvet, Being John Malkovich, andA Bird Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existenceall feature people who are naive and alien to the world they have entered), Lanthimos’s central characters build the world and make its rules themselves.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which can be considered Lanthimos’s first dive into genre cinema, plays on the same sort of premise set by James Wan’s Saw series. A sociopathic teenager named Martin (Barry Keoghan, who deserves every award for this) sets the rules for a game wherein the central character, a surgeon named Steven, (Colin Farrell) must make an unthinkable sacrifice to save himself and others. If he doesn’t play by these rules, then everyone dies. Unlike Jigsaw, Martin is not presented as a criminal mastermind, but as a timid, bumbling pubescent teen. His actions are motivated purely by isolated revenge and not some greater worldly moral postulate. As Martin says, “this is the only thing I can think of that comes close to justice.”
Martin is a world-builder and very much in charge of everything that happens in the film. Much like the Father in Dogtooth who raises his children on strange and false fears about the world, or the Hotel Employees in The Lobster who set a timer on single people finding a mate, everyone else is at his whim. The Greek mythological allegory going on in the film is Iphigenia in Aulis, which is a tale of events sparked by Agamemnon killing one of Artemis’s sacred deer. This God-like stature of Martin is prevalent in the film, by the fact that his methodologies for enacting this vengeance are never discussed, and how he gets around is never shown. His phantom presence, over time, clouds over Steven’s family to a suffocating degree.
Despite this, Lanthimos’s villains can never be too self-serious. They are still manifested as humans, and like all humans in Lanthimos’s world, they are also uncomfortably funny. One of the most terrifyingly giddy moments in the film is when Martin showcases how much he believes his own words as he bites off a chunk of Steven’s arm, and then proceeds to do the same to his own arm. In the most monotone voice possible, mouth full of blood, he drools out, “See? It’s metaphorical.” This can be expected from a filmmaker who revels in the fact that no moment can be completely normal, but is always a direct representation of how numb we are to the absurdity of societal norms and our own thought processes. Pushing this even further is that outside of the genre tropes of a typical horror film, everything else is filled with Lanthimos’s standard ingredients, namely his dialogues which make every phrase sound like its being recited by robots attempting to mimic human conversation.
The mix is discomfiting, and that’s really what it aims to be. In the end, all of Lanthimos’s films are about things humans feel often. His darker and more sadistic tone with this film doesn’t change the fact that it’s a movie about loss and our urge to get back at those who wronged us. But even in the face of death and murder his characters can’t help but dive into whimsy. When first confronted with his impossible situation, Steven bargains with his mistakes by saying “A surgeon can never kill a patient. An anesthesiologist can kill a patient, but a surgeon never can.” It’s a hopeless tactic of ill-conceived logic, but when we’re pushed to the brink of doom, we’ll say anything to keep ourselves going. In Lanthimos’s world, our fears and actions and words become parts of a Greek tragicomedy. In every character, we see something about ourselves laughing back at us. We can’t help but (uncomfortably) laugh along too.