Take a look back with us over our favorite movies from this year. Popcorn, anyone?
“Logan” doesn’t feel like it’s trying to please anyone. It’s an individual in a genre predicated on conformity. There’s no CGI monster at the end, no love interest and no origin story. There’s just a family, some people who want to make their life hard and a guy who’s not going to let that happen. He just happens to have giant, metal claws.
For something called “War for the Planet of the Apes,” this movie is notably gentle, both in its pace and its content. The fact that Matt Reeves, the director, can extract so much emotion and gravitas out of a premise that begs to be mocked is admirable, and not unlike the accomplishment of the original 1968 film.
Anyone worried that bringing back “Blade Runner” would result in a generic, attention-deficient action movie can rest easy. The leadership of Denis Villeneuve, director of “Sicario” and last year’s “Arrival,” should have tempered our fears long ago. Possibly, the film’s most admirable feat is not getting lost in the existential theories and grand meditations on life, but keeping sight of the “human” love story from which those very things are given meaning.
A rollicking, smile-inducing heist film. Two kindly nincompoops–there’s no other word for them–assemble a team of unreliable nincompoops to rob one of the country’s largest sporting events. What follows can only be described as erratic, hilarious and surprisingly warmhearted. It is, perhaps, the purest fun I’ve had at a movie all year.
“Hostiles” is a soft-spoken western about how we choose to carry the weight of our past, both figuratively and literally. Christian Bale plays Joe, a man who must chaperone an old enemy, as well as a few old friends, across the country. While the content is very much of the early ’70s American westerns, John Ford’s influence reigns through the cinematography, which captures the vast landscapes and open beauty of a young country just before it’s cut into pieces by railroads. The movie can be melodramatic at times, but the bigness of its story and setting calls for some big emotions.
Other than maybe “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the most decisive movie of the year had to be “mother!” In what is sure to be a futile attempt to explain the movie briefly, Jennifer Lawrence is trapped in her house with her obsessive yet aloof husband, and is caught in an existential hurricane of increasing madness. Not only does the film not hold your hand, but it repeatedly pushes you into traffic. The film doesn’t tell you what to think or how to think; it only asks you to think.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is one of his best. “Phantom Thread” happens to be a fairly traditional love story, but one that eventually evolves beyond love into something unexplainable–a stage of love, or of codependency, not often reached. Some movies race toward the finish and some are sluggish, but this one creeps forward like a predator. What more can be said of Daniel Day-Lewis? Nothing. So, I’ll just say that Vicky Krieps, who plays his love interest, is every bit his equal in this movie, and that’s some feat.
“Dunkirk” is what the movies were made for. It’s an immersive experience that doesn’t need 3-D glasses to feel three-dimensional—parlor tricks could never capture its scope and density. It’s remarkably studious for a war film—calm and confident in its subject—save for Hans Zimmer’s relentless score, which gives voice to the ticking clock on all our lives. It saddens me that the majority of future viewers will be seeing it on their television screen and not in the proper context of a movie theater, but what can you do?
“The Lost City of Z” is a profound, unrequited love story between man and the unattainable. After stumbling upon some ancient artifacts in South America, Percy Fawcett becomes obsessed with the idea of an ancient, highly advanced civilization, and dedicates his life to its discovery. Z is a job, a person, a place or a pink giraffe in a crane machine; it’s the carrot on the stick that gives your life purpose. The film is gracefully shot by cinematographer, Darius Khondji, who paints the film in a rich, dreamlike glow.
Of the many movies I saw in the theaters this year, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” lingers in my mind the most. This is because it’s a story that comes from the inside out, dictated by flawed, irrational characters driven by emotion. As such, their lives play out as a natural unraveling, rather than the forced progression of a writer’s plot. Even the peripheral characters, played by Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes and Samara Weaving—to name a few—feel worthy of their own dedicated films. This movie is so alive and textured that it feels boundless, as if the characters exist beyond the run-time of the film.
Hunter Lanier is a Houston-based film reviewer who appears on the Critics Circle podcast from the Houston Film Critics Society.