6.10.2018

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2017-18 edition

The list of movies I want to see gets longer and longer, as I watch more series and fewer films. Even so, the 2017-18 list is impressive.

First, the annual recap:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13)
- cheese (I'm getting desperate!) (2013-14)
- types of travels (2014-15)
famous people who died plus famous people who died, part 2 (2015-16),
and last year: the picket line (2016-17).

This year, we go meta with movie awards organized by movies. (Thanks to Allan for the idea.) I've made no attempt to survey all the movies I've seen and find the perfect headliner. I just found films that, for me, represent the level of the award.



Annie Hall

Woody Allen's 1977 classic is one of my favourite movies of all time. Inventive, meandering, emotionally vivid, authentically romantic, funny, sad, and sweet, this movie is a masterpiece. If you haven't seen it in many years, you may have forgotten how great it is. If you haven't seen it at all, don't let the Woody factor stop you. It's just too good to miss.

Annie Hall is simply perfect, and these movies and series are as good as anything you'll see.

I Am Not Your Negro
-- This documentary, narrated with the words of James Baldwin's unfinished memoir, is a gripping, clear-eyed look at the persistence of racism. It will make you angry and sad, and you must see it.

I, Daniel Blake
-- Director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty somehow manage to outdo themselves again. Takes a look at what budget cuts and privatized public services look like to the people who rely on them. This film -- not a documentary -- has the rare quality of feeling like you're actually watching someone's life. Recent events in Ontario make this an urgent must-see.

Boardwalk Empire S4-6
-- We left this amazing period drama after S4, but I went back to finish it, and was so glad I did. Devastating, heartbreaking, brilliant.

Bojack Horseman S4
-- What started out as a show-biz send-up has deepened into a moving exploration of the source of our psychic pain and the search for recovery, love, and self. Season 4 was heartbreaking, intense, and yet still funny.

Deadwood
-- This western period piece joins The Wire at the pinnacle of best series ever. The writing and acting are off-the-charts good. Parents, be sure your kids are asleep, lest teachers come calling about your child's language.

Episodes S4, S5
-- This show managed to stay relevant, cutting, and hilarious without ever becoming zany or mawkish. We couldn't stop laughing. Such a treat.

Free State of Jones
-- We socialists like to say "another world is possible". The Free State of Jones was one such world. An exciting historical drama, based on a true story, of a group of people who seceded from the Confederacy.

Moonlight
-- A moving, haunting, heartbreaking, profoundly personal story of a man in search of himself. If you missed it, it's best seen without prior description.

O.J.: Made in America
-- This documentary series unpacks the saga of O.J. Simpson to reveal a nexus of racism, misogyny, celebrity, media, violence, and the justice system. All your questions are answered by way of context. ESPN's "30 for 30" continues to amaze.

Silicon Valley S1-5
-- This send-up of the tech industry stays consistently smart and funny season after hilarious season.

The Witness
-- Her murder became synonymous with apathy, studied and discussed for decades. But who was Kitty Genovese, and what actually happened to her? This extraordinary, revelatory documentary follows Genovese's brother on his obsessive quest to uncover the truth.




Down By Law

A decade after falling in love with Diane Keaton and Annie Hall, I fell in love with Down by Law (1986), Jim Jarmusch's quirky road-trip-comedy starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni. We saw it many times on VHS. It's a great film, but perhaps lacks just a little something that would make it a Category 5.

American Honey
-- America's forgotten youth, on a road trip of exploitation and adventure. Don't miss writer/director Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, a movie with a similar vibe set in a UK housing project. (American Honey reminded me of Fish Tank, before I realized they were related.)

Arctic Defenders
-- A powerful documentary about the radical Aboriginal movement that led to the creation of the Nunavut territory. The film reveals important Canadian history and lessons for people's movements.

Danny Says
-- Meet Danny Fields, midwife to generations of music. Fans of Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Stooges -- fans of rock -- must see this documentary. Funny, sharp, and infused with a profound love of music.

Edge of Seventeen
-- This insightful, heart-squeezing, coming-of-age story perfectly captures the feeling of being a teen, being adrift, and deciding to carry on. Amazing performance by Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, among others.

Embrace
-- Taryn Brumfitt travels the world to learn how women feel about their bodies, and why we're all rejecting ourselves. Powerful and well done.

End of the F***ing World S1
-- A dark comedy-drama about two teenage misfits with fucked-up families. Brilliant first season, now we'll see if it can hang on.

Endeavour S4
-- Still one of the smartest, stylish, and well-written detective shows I've seen. I liked Morse, and I loved Lewis, but this Morse prequel blows them both away.

Jessica Jones S1
-- This might be the darkest, most disturbing show I've ever seen. A exploration of obsessive control and abuse. And somehow also funny.

Lion
-- A gripping story of survival and quest. I expected sentimentality à la Slumdog Millionaire but was surprised to find real humanity. Very nearly in the top category.

Longmire S5-7
-- This hybrid western-detective show grew deeper and stronger with every season. Gripping, moving, thought-provoking, and fun.

Manchester by the Sea
-- Human beings struggling to come to terms with their mistakes, trying to find forgiveness and redemption. Direct, unsentimental, and moving.

Master of None S2
-- The first season of Aziz Ansari's show was good and funny, but S2 blows it away. Funny, sweet, romantic, searching -- and a brilliant use of the flexibility of the ad-free streaming format. Very nearly in the top category. I may have to watch it again.

Off the Rails
-- An amazing documentary about an amazing and unusual man -- a locally famous New Yorker -- and ultimately, the blindness of the bureaucracy that crushes him.

The Americans S1-5
-- Never mind the plot holes, what this show lacks in credibility it more than compensates with excitement and insight into human motivation. Totally addictive.

The Dressmaker
-- Is living well really the best revenge? This funny-sad comedy-drama-revenge-fantasy doesn't think so.

The Good Place S1
-- A smart, insightful, surprising comedy. Plus Kristen Bell! I don't know how they'll pull off S2, but I look forward to finding out.

Wallander S4
-- This has been one of my favourite detective shows, but the final season took me by surprise. The show comes to a fittingly sad conclusion.




Nebraska

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a movie to represent the three-spot -- a solid but unspectacular movie that would be famous enough for readers to recognize. I combed through the middle award on past we movie to canada posts and eventually settled on Nebraska, a solid film about family, relationships, and redemption. As always, the movies in this category were good, I was always glad I saw them, but they didn't make me run out and tell everyone to see them.

Almost Adults
-- Two young women trying to remain close friends as their lives grow apart. A lovely, funny, sweet, insightful film.

AWOL
-- A small-town drama and love-story, and a good look at the reality of women who have with few options falling in love each other.

Barney Miller
-- From the comedy-before-bed category, this golden oldie from my youth held up remarkably well. Quiet, low-key humour punctuated by occasionally cringe-worthy sexism.

Boom Bust Boom
-- Through animation, puppetry, music, and humour, Terry Jones tries to explain why capitalism sucks. Worth seeing.

Bones S6-12
-- This show stayed so good for so long. I'd watch another six seasons if I could. Great characters, great detective work; totally bingeable.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
-- It doesn't matter if you know John Coltrane's music or whether you know anything about jazz at all. Coltrane was a towering genius and a beautiful soul; the story of his life and times is simply amazing. This wasn't a perfect film, but it's well worth your time.

Dheepan
-- An immigrant story of poverty and survival, and a crime thriller, perfectly interwoven. Excellent film.

Do I Sound Gay?
-- What is the origin of the stereotypical "gay accent"? A gay man explores that question, and ends up looking at internalized oppression. A very solid doc.

Get Out
-- I enjoyed this twist on old-school horror, but also found it massively over-rated. Plus I saw the supposedly shocking reveal coming all the way. Still good.

Ghostbusters
-- Fun!

Hidden Figures
-- After all the hype, I didn't expect to like this, but it was irresistible. I haven't read the book yet, but apparently the movie was very accurate. Amazing, powerful history.

Hinterland
-- A dark detective show set in Wales. Kind of a Wallander wannabe, but if you like dark detective shows, this is a good one.

Jessica Jones S2
-- After a spectacular S1, there was nowhere to go but down, but it's still a very good show, full of excitement and surprises, and sprinkled with humour.

Joe Cocker: Mad Dog with Soul
-- A look into the rise, fall, and redemption of a great soul singer. Not a great film, but it was interesting, and inspired me to re-listen to Cocker's early music.

Love and Friendship
-- Whit Stillman's take on Jane Austen. I'm not an Austen fan, nor a fan of English period pieces, but this was funny and fun.

Luke Cage S1
-- Funny, exciting, and totally entertaining, with some social commentary woven in. Shot in New York, for real, with a true NYC vibe. Looking forward to more.

Mike Tyson Mysteries
-- Come on, are you watching these yet? What are you waiting for, they're only 10 minutes long! Ridiculous, hilarious, occasionally brilliant.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
-- A look at the living simply movement, through the lives of several people who are intentionally living with less. This movie would have been better if the filmmakers had explored their own privilege in making these choices. But still, this is a decent and thought-provoking film.

Paterson
-- Jim Jarmusch's fantasy of what a working-class artist's life could be like. The more I thought about this movie, the less I liked it. This review on the Roger Ebert site pinpoints my problems. But I did enjoy it, and as fantasies go, you could do worse.

Suits S7
-- Now that the show's central conflicts have been resolved, we're left with a soap opera. But it's an appealing soap opera.

Sherlock S4
-- This show has lost the crazy edge it once had, but is still so compelling. Except the final episode which we hated.

Star Trek Beyond
-- Funny, clever, and very entertaining. Good female characters, good Simon Pegg for a change, and of course, finally an LGBT character. And yes, I am watching (and very much enjoying) Star Trek Discovery.

The Bob Newhart Show
-- Another low-key comedy from my youth. I was amazed at how perfectly this held up. It was truly laugh-out-loud funny, until the final season, which totally sucked.

The Mystery of Sleep
-- A solid science documentary that shows you how little we know.

We Regret to Inform You
-- A Canadian documentary that takes an unsentimental and unvarnished look at what it means to be physically disabled, while having a "productive" mind, in our world. Thank you NFB!




Inside Llewyn Davis

You'll notice I've switched to poster images. I can't find one image from this movie or the next that doesn't make me sneer. Inside Llewyn Davis isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it might have been the most over-rated. These movies won't kill you, but I'm sure you have something better to do. You must.

A Bigger Splash
-- All style, little substance. A movie about rich, beautiful, self-absorbed people. The air of danger and intrigue mentioned by many critics failed to make it into my living room.

Café Society
-- This Woody Allen film had some nice moments, and was lovely to look at, but whoever thought Jesse Eisenberg could play the lead must have lost a bet. His atrocious performance ruins whatever movie might have been there.

Cameraperson
-- This review on RogerEbert.com says that if you can make it through the first 20 minutes, all will be revealed. I could not. All I can tell you is that Kirsten Johnson shot a lot of footage about a lot of interesting things over her career, then apparently threw together a bunch of scraps and called it a movie.

Chewing Gum
-- This started out very funny. And then, omg, run away. Good for a few episodes, though.

Complete Unknown
-- Multiple false identities, a secret past, and unexplained tensions -- I really wanted to like this movie. It fell flat.

Fences
-- I'm so disappointed to put this in category 2! We saw the original play on Broadway a long time ago, and I'm a huge fan of playwright August Wilson. Sadly, the movie adaptation was stiff, stilted, cliched, and forgettable.

Intelligence
-- This Canadian spy drama based in Vancouver has some good points, but in an era when there are so many great series, don't waste your time on this.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
-- How awful to put a Werner Herzog documentary in this category. It's as if Herzog didn't know what to look for or ask about. A meandering mess.

Los Punks: We Are All We Have
-- A documentary about the backyard punk rock scene of South-Central and East Los Angeles. I love the idea of this music, and I so wanted to love the film. In the end, the movie shows you that this scene exists, but little else.

Maggie's Plan
-- A Woody Allen-inspired romantic comedy set (of course) in New York City. Part screwball comedy, part existential crisis, occasionally funny, mostly annoying.

People Places Things
-- See "Maggie's Plan". Why do I keep trying to watch romantic comedies, knowing I'll almost always be disappointed? I guess the answer is in that almost.

Riverdale
-- This campy teen drama is absolutely awful. But I can't stop watching it!

The Lobster
-- A clever idea, but not much of a movie. I understand our world privileges couples and families, but I have hard time seeing single people as persecuted.




Love, Actually

I hate this movie because it sucks. So do these.

Fargo S1
-- This might be the worst crime-detective-mystery show I've ever seen.

Miles Ahead
-- A giant string of jazz cliches that captures nothing of Miles. Perhaps Don Cheadle -- who wrote, directed, co-produced, and starred in the film -- should stick to acting, or perhaps the subject was just too difficult. Either way, a must to avoid.

Straight Outta Compton
-- A tour through every rap biopic cliche in existence, with all the misogyny whitewashed away.

Weiner-Dog
-- ‎Todd Solondz uses a passive-faced dog as a device to mock people who are already caricatures. I've liked many of Solondz's movies, but couldn't sit through this one.

9 comments:

John F said...

Regarding The Good Place: I think Season 2 is equal in quality to S1.

I never expected to see so much academic philosophy in a half-hour sitcom. And they make the philosophy funny!

johngoldfine said...

I have to disagree with John F. Season 2 of The Good Place was even better than Season 1.

laura k said...

Wow, can't wait!

barefoot hiker said...

I got a copy of Nebraska last year and I found it odd and compelling. A real gem I revisit from time to time. It seems oddly naive and yet profoundly deep all at once. Flawed little people telling a story half a million years old, told again and again and again, everywhere on Earth, in every culture, in every time. Petty spats, venal but blase secrets, the closing of the generation gap as child and parent become peers. Somehow, being shot in black and white made it effectively timeless.

M@ said...

I always like your movie roundups and our tastes, as you know, often align. I even liked your choice of Llewellyn Davis as a category heading - I still don't know what that movie was for. But there's always something.

I loved Fargo S1. I can't imagine what made you hate it so much! S2 was even better but if you hated S1 then it's not worth trying.

Glad to have the list anyway. I'm still catching up with previous years...

laura k said...

I've resigned myself to the fact that my movie list is like my book list: I'll see only a fraction of the movies on it, just as I can read only a fraction of the titles I add.

Fargo came highly recommended from people who often like the same things as us, including you! I think we watched 3 or 4 episodes before we quit. Maybe we didn't get it.

But yeah, there's always something!

laura k said...

I overlooked a great documentary. Just added it: Off the Rails.

allan said...

Danny Says -- Meet Danny Fields, midwife to generations of music. Fans of Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Stooges -- fans of rock -- must see this documentary. Funny, sharp, and infused with a profound love of music.

Fields taped a lot of his conversations and he was the guy who first turned Lou Reed onto the Ramones. Reed's reaction is reason enough to watch the film. (It is utterly astounding that stuff like that exists. You likely have never thought what Lou Reed said minutes after hearing the Ramones for the very first time, but IT IS ON TAPE! And you can hear it!!! It's a real "Holy Shit!" moment.)

laura k said...

Added another I had omitted: the rest of Boardwalk Empire.