2017’s summer movie season has begun to wind down as the cinema world prepares for the expected annual onslaught of Oscar contenders that seek to attract awards voters throughout autumn and winter. While they do that, I would like to take a moment and consider cinema in 2017 so far—the highs, the lows, and the green.
Around the start of 2017, I made a personal oath: For the rest of my life as long as I am physically able, I will watch at least 200 new releases per year, in the theater. I will watch 100 new releases before the end of June to ensure that I make that goal. I reached that mid-year checkpoint with Wonder Woman, which I saw around mid-June. At the moment, I am nearing my three-quarters checkpoint of 150 new releases—well on my way to reaching my goal of 200 new releases by the end of December.
My Current Favorites of 2017
This continues to surprise everyone with whom I discuss my views on cinema in 2017: Even though I have seen my fair share of Hollywood blockbusters and worthwhile indie gems, there is no doubt in my mind that Kong: Skull Island (for adults and older teens) and T2 Trainspotting (for adults) are my two favorite films of 2017 so far. Kong’s peerless technical craft combined with its economic blockbuster narrative made for a most thrilling big-screen monster experience. (I now look forward to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ upcoming adaptation of the Metal Gear Solid video game.) T2 stands alongside 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road as one of cinema’s best belated sequels. Director Danny Boyle (whose sophomore film was the original 1996 British cultural phenomenon) captures the nostalgia and melancholic regret for lost time and injects them with a manic shooting and editing style infused with pop culture.
Just recently, writer-director Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (for adults and older teens) joined Kong and T2 to become the third 2017 new release I have seen three times on the big screen. Its simple crime story is more than well-compensated by its infectious rhythm, conducted by what has already become the must-have soundtrack of 2017. The result is, without a doubt, one of the most joyous and most rewatchable movies of the decade.
I have had my fair share of perplexed comments on Facebook for my top choices, but watching Kong, T2, and Baby Driver three times have proven to me that they deserve the top spots for the moment. That said, I also recognize that 2017 will end up becoming a weak year for cinema should this trio of films (all 4-star rated) remain at the top come December. After 2016 only produced one film to which I gave a 5-star rating (La La Land), it would disappoint me if 2017 never broke through my 4-star ceiling. I hope that at least one of the upcoming awards season offerings will achieve that.
Not far behind Kong, T2, and Baby Driver is the documentary David Lynch: The Art Life (for adults and older teens familiar with the subject’s work). David Lynch is one of the few directors who has made films that are both disturbing yet mesmerizing. This 90-minute dive (co-directed by Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, & Olivia Neergaard-Holm) into the first 30 years of Lynch’s life made for a sobering and tightly-focused psychological study. Moreover, choosing to end the documentary right as young David directs his 1977 debut feature, Eraserhead, leaves me with great anticipation for a possible sequel about his next 30 years (his peak cinema years).
Here are my other 2017 favorites so far. Definitely consider checking them out:
- Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (dir. Steve James)
- The Beguiled (dir. Sofia Coppola)
- Colossal (dir. Nacho Vigalondo)
- Duckweed (dir. Han Han)
- Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)
- Frantz (dir. François Ozon)
- Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
- A Ghost Story (dir. David Lowery)
- The Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy)
- Norman: The Moderate Rise & Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (dir. Joseph Cedar)
- Personal Shopper (dir. Olivier Assayas)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (dir. Jon Watts)
- This Is Not What I Expected (dir. Derek Hui)
- War for the Planet of the Apes (dir. Matt Reeves)
My Current Least Favorites of 2017
I tend to rank my least favorite new releases by balancing not only ineptitude in cinematic storytelling, but also by the degree at which they offend or disgust me. As such, it so happens that a three-way tie lies at the bottom of my 2017 rankings. The most repulsive and yet the most competent (filmmaking-wise) of these three is the Scarlett Johansson comedy vehicle Rough Night, with unfunny jokes, clumsily-staged scenes, and plenty of needless sexual vulgarity plaguing the runtime. Alongside Rough Night are two immensely lazy films whose failings stem from different sources: Pound for pound, Grow House (which I appropriately watched on April 20th at 4:20pm) is 2017’s laziest film from a technical standpoint, despite coming from society’s “highest” members. Slamma Jamma, meanwhile, was created by those with more noble intentions, insipidly fusing pipe-dream basketball aspirations with PSA-grade drama and tacked-on Christian elements.
Populating the lower depths of my 2017 rankings is a basket case of what I hate the most in cinema. This includes unfunny comedies (CHiPs, Fist Fight), catastrophic attempts at romance (the Punjabi musical Jindua, the Filipino rom-coms My Ex & Whys and Can’t Help Falling in Love), unwatchable thrillers and jump scare-happy horror trash (Unforgettable, Rings), and hopelessly misguided Hollywood ventures (The Emoji Movie, The Mummy). I dread whichever movies lurking on the horizon that could contend with, or even surpass, these atrocities.
Box Office Observations
(Screenshots from Box Office Mojo)
Wonder Woman won the 2017 summer box office on the domestic front (US and Canada), while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 won the summer at the worldwide box office. Still, both superhero films will end up $90-110 million short of the domestic earnings of Disney’s live-action Beauty & the Beast remake. Beauty remains 2017’s box office champion, both domestically ($504 million) as well as worldwide ($1.262 billion).
Looking ahead, the only film that has a prayer in surpassing Beauty is Disney itself with December’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Its chances do not seem positive, judging by the box office performances of the two recent Star Wars entries. 2015’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens earned $937 million domestically on the strength of it being the franchise’s return from a decade-long hiatus. That record domestic take was still not enough to push its worldwide take of $2.068 billion past James Cameron’s Avatar ($2.788 billion) and Titanic ($2.187 billion). Last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story could only gross roughly half of Episode VII’s domestic and worldwide receipts. Judging by these trends, Episode VIII might squeeze past Beauty & the Beast here in the United States and Canada. Yet barring some extraordinary box office longevity everywhere else, Episode VIII will not only fail to reach Beauty’s worldwide gross, but it might not even surpass the $1.239 billion of 2017 worldwide runner-up The Fate of the Furious. Leave it to Beauty & the Beast to set an insurmountable bar for every other 2017 film following it.
As always, we must wait and see. Here’s to a stronger second half of 2017!