Tag Archives: 2017

Oscars Watch 2018 (Preview): What To Keep An Eye On This Year

Yes, this is probably too early.

But to be fair, this isn’t really a set of predictions. We don’t even begin to know what’s for sure getting released this year, much less what’s getting pushed and what will be successful outside of the festivals where these things live and even less what the political atmosphere will be surrounding this.

Think of this more as a trend piece. What should you be keeping an eye out for? If you want to keep up on what’s hot in the film world, what should you be grabbing tickets for? Basically, it’s a Fall preview, but only for the “respectable stuff.” You already know about Blade Runner 2049 (which actually does stand a good chance of getting technical nominations), Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Justice League. What else?

This is also by NO means a comprehensive list. This’ll be missing stuff like Wonderstruck, Logan, The Greatest Showman, Molly’s Game, Wonder, Last Flag Flying, Professor Marston & The Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman, A Ghost Story, and all the potential nominees for Foreign/Animated/Documentary.

So, right now, we’ll divide the fall festival films/Oscar hopefuls (insofar as they have a good chance, not all prestige bait necessarily) into three categories: Great Guesses, Don’t Count Them Out, and Count Them Out.

Also, I’m gonna use my standard rule for previews that I’m only gonna talk about movies we actually have seen something from, anywhere from a release to reviews out of a film festival. So sorry Phantom Thread and The Post, you’ll have to wait until later. The films here are the ones that are gonna play big roles. Best Picture is kind of the assumption, but there may be other awards I’m expecting, which I’ll note below.

Great Guesses

Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name seems to be the most direct response to last year’s surprise victory in Moonlight. A queer story, though one that seems to revolve much more around its romance, Call Me By Your Name is walking the path that Moonlight really blazed for it, a space that seemed unfriendly to a previously much more conservative Academy.

But even beyond that, Call Me By Your Name has received almost universal raves since its debut at Sundance. Luca Guadagnino (a long time critical favorite) has been called a beautifully written, gorgeously shot, and masterfully acted story that’s specific and universally relatable. With an apparent breakout performance for Armie Hammer as young star Timothee Chalamet and a score from Sufjan Stevens, there’s a lot to get excited about here and a lot for voters to latch onto.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score/Best Original Song

Dunkirk/Darkest Hour

Is there another year we’ve had two films functionally about the same event that have both attracted as much attention as these two have? Two films about the Evacuation of Dunkirk, one on the ground and one back in London making the decisions, both attracting huge Oscar attention. Dunkirk for Nolan’s visceral, “You Are There” filmmaking and sheer towering technical achievement, Darkest Hour as a more traditional chamber prestige drama rotating around its dialogue and the huge, flashy lead performance from Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.

Maybe (Both)?: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score
Maybe (Dunkirk)?: Just name a technical award
Maybe (Darkest Hour)?: Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Original Screenplay

The Shape of Water

With its Golden Lion win at Venice Film Festival, The Shape of Water technically becomes the first “Oscar season” picture to put some points on the board. Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War fairy tale of the love between a mute woman and a fish man has been getting gushing love throughout the critical spectrum. So far, the film has been praised for its sensuality and sensitivity as well as performances from lead Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones as well as supporting work from Richard Jenkins. That the design and directorial work is also extremely strong should surprise no one.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Sally Hawkins), Best Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins), Best Original Screenplay, All Technical Awards

Battle of the Sexes

The kind of film that will play like gangbusters for Hollywood and the critical audience (given every piece was “This is the election, but not the election”), it will be no surprise when Battle of the Sexes gets to be a huge crowd-pleaser coasting on that love to plenty of safe nominations. The sitting Best Actress winner apparently turns out another exceptional performance, so it’ll be interesting to see if she can pull it off again.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Steve Carrell), Best Original Screenplay

Mudbound

Netflix’s attempt to get Oscar prestige has been, at least for me, the most quietly fascinating story in Hollywood. Not content being at this point synonymous with watching things on streaming and not content with being a player in just the TV awards, Netflix has been buying up prestige pics and projects right and left. Dee Rees’ post-WWII story of race and family has attracted a lot of attention and seems well up the Academy’s alley as one of the few Black films this year getting any attention.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jason Mitchell), Best Supporting Actor (Garret Hedlund), Best Supporting Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Original Screenplay

Don’t Count Them Out

The Films of A24

A24, having won last year’s Best Picture in one of the most dramatic Oscar moments ever, shows no intention on slowing down. While none of the three below are sure things, A24 has a really solid marketing and schmoozing department and the attention and love these have been getting mean that you absolutely shouldn’t count any out. Plus, the fact that these are three of the films that are getting very little division in a divisive year should be worth paying attention to.

Greta Gerwig making a story about women by women that apparently features an incredibly strong performance from lead Saiorse Ronan (already an Oscar darling). Melting everyone’s hearts.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Saiorse Ronan)

Director of Tangerine makes a working class comedy with a confident directorial style. Amazing Willem Dafoe, great child performances, tapping into stories about the poor and working class.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe), Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Cinematography

And here’s my “Dark Horse” pick. Almost universally well-reviewed right now, a film about the passion and love of filmmaking from a director and star who can apparently surprise with a story that has a huge amount of appeal to the newly young Academy. A story about Hollywood anchored by a performance digging into the heart of someone that seems larger than life. I think we should prepare for a lot from The Disaster Artist.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actor (James Franco), Best Adapted Screenplay

Get Out

One of this year’s bonafide cultural phenomenons, Get Out is the kind of populist blockbuster hit that also has a serious brain, its ideas quickly passing into the cultural aether. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut tapped a vein that a smart studio could easily turn into legitimate Oscar gold. And, given how great this movie is, it really does deserve it and the recognition that we need more stories like this could be good for the industry.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), Best Supporting Actress (Lil Rel Howery), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Another romantic and bonafide crowd pleaser, the success of The Big Sick seems primed to wedge its way into the Oscar race. Amazon showed off its Oscar prowess with Manchester by The Sea last year and the industry seems to have absolutely fallen for the story of how writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, already cult favorites, fell in love.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay

I, Tonya

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A very recent entry into the consideration category, this one really just comes down to whether it’s released this year or not. Just picked up by NEON, they could choose to hold it for a 2018 release. If they don’t, the true story of one of the most bizarre stories in sports, apparently told with a 4th-wall breaking Coen-esque flair. Plus, Margot Robbie is just about at the point in her career where it’s time for her to win an Oscar and Allison Janney is apparently stealing the show at every turn.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actress (Margot Robbie), Best Supporting Actress (Allison Janney), Best Original Screenplay

3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh has never exactly been one for a lot of prestige success, his seriously sweary scripts attract a lot of niche and critical love but are rarely going past recognition for screenplays. But between Frances McDormand’s tornado performance and an incredibly stacked cast in a film that seems to have a little heart alongside its caustic nature might go well for this film.

Maybe?: Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell)

Count Them Out

Suburbicon

Boy, George Clooney sure can whiff ’em. Reactions seem to be generally negative on this one, a film too divided between a dark comedy and an attempt at a social issues picture to work at either. If no one likes it, nothing is gonna stick.

mother!

What’s the opposite of a crowd pleaser? Darren Aronofsky’s psycho-horror mother! is getting a lot of great reviews and I’m dying to see it, but even the most positive word has cautioned that this movie will absolutely not be for everyone with one of the most verifiably insane third acts. The kind of movie that promises to “Mess. You. Up.” is gonna have a really difficult time getting its claws into an Academy Award.

Roman J. Israel, Esq

A chance for Denzel to win another award, but early word seems way too divided on this movie, mostly saying that it just doesn’t ever end up coming together, a lot of raw material that doesn’t quite work. Denzel could rise above, but if no one likes the movie, that’ll be hard. Nightcrawler didn’t exactly light up the Academy either.

Downsizing

While early word out of Venice was positive, this mostly seems to be getting slammed once it gets to American shores. A premise that mostly feels wasted and Payne maybe over-extending his reach a little bit. The word about the Vietnamese refugee character really doesn’t seem to help.

The Current War

The honorary winner of the trailer with the SINGLE LOUDEST CAMERA I’VE EVER SEEN, the constant bag of tricks apparently didn’t mean anything for this film. Reviews say that this is the same bland prestige biopic that always stars Benedict Cumberbatch…just with the camera spinning basically everywhere.

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3 of This Year’s Best: Atomic Blonde, Brigsby Bear, Logan Lucky

The damage sustained to the film industry is, as of late, woefully overstated. While, yes, oftentimes the most prominent films are stupid or disappointing and, yes, it seems like a new stupid idea for a movie is announced everyday.

Yet, it should be clear that as long as we’ve had a film industry (or any commercialized creative profession), we’ve had expensive failures and we’ve had stillborn ideas. Every “Golden Age” in anything had a few bad ones. The number one single of 1969 was “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies, the same Best Picture category that included The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde also included Doctor Doolittle.

All of this really comes to the point for all the handwringing, there’s still a remarkable amount of quality in the film industry, inventive stories being told the way only film can convey. It’s also a not-so-subtle way of justifying why I’m giving three movies an A all at once. So, without further adieu, let me explain why Atomic Blonde, Brigsby Bear, and Logan Lucky are three of this year’s best reasons to hope out into the theaters.

Atomic Blonde

Summary: At the end of the Cold War, spycraft still runs hot. MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to recover a stolen microfilm that contains a list of every active agent in the Soviet Union. With her contact David Percival (James McAvoy), Broughton plunges into a world of doublecross, murder, and the existential dread of being a spy with plenty of neon and New Wave.

Why This One Is Getting An “A”: 

If there’s a movie more obviously made for me, I’d be hard-pressed to describe it. An action spectacle in ’80s Berlin directed by one of the fine folks who brought us John Wick? I’m intrigued. The film’s aesthetic courses with neon and shadows and the soundtrack pumps the great synth-heavy hits of the 80s, including a beatdown set to George Michael’s “Father Figure”? I’m down. It features a lead performance from Charlize Theron at her icy, slowly revealing best? I bought tickets already, quit selling me.

Atomic Blonde is the kind of film that feels like a modern James Bond more than any other attempt has, short maybe Casino Royale. It keeps all of that intrigue and style and glamour that those old James Bond films had. Its protagonist is hard-drinking, hard-thinking, and making love to beautiful women who eventually meet terrible fates.

But it doesn’t feel glamorizing or worshipful of its hero. Its storyline becoming so wrapped up in double and triple-turns that the only story becomes the crushing existential despair of spycraft, of the isolation of removing every identity you have in the service of ideals that are on their way out. It’s not for Queen and Country when the Queen is far away and its hard to remember what your country is anymore.

Atomic Blonde, on top of its sorrowful rumination, is also gifted with some positively bone-crunching action sequences. It should be no surprise that David Leitch can design a good action sequence given his past work, but it’s still a pleasant discovery that he can couch it well in the film around. Theron is a coil of physical efficiency and even as she takes blow after blow, the film revels in the damage that she can do. Most impressive, even despite its hype, is a 10 minute sequence done in what appears to be a single take, a masterwork of tension and choreography, a brutal sequence where no one goes down after one hit and where you never know who’s going to take the final blow. Kudos to Theron for actually playing through every beat of this sequence.

It’s a physical component to what is a surprisingly impressive performance from her overall. Broughton is a well-worn character, wearing so many masks and telling so many lies that she’s lost track of who she actually is. The cast around her is strong as well, McAvoy playing a perfect spy scumbag and Boutella bringing a lot of intrigue to very little time.

Atomic Blonde is a 21st century spy film looking back into the 20th century. The morality is muddled, the style isn’t.

Brigsby Bear

Summary: When James Pope (Kyle Mooney) was just a child, he was kidnapped by Ted (Mark Hamill) and April Mitchum (Jane Adams) to live in a bunker underground, told the world had basically ended, and only given children’s educational show Brigsby Bear to connect with the outside world. Then, one day, he has all that ripped from him. His parents, his show, his world was a lie. So James has a new world to adjust to that he’s had no conception of.

Why This One Is Getting An “A”:

It’s hard to avoid cliche when you celebrate your own medium in the making of a work. Concept albums about defiant musicians, books about complicated novelists, and films about filmmakers who find a lens into the world. Brigsby Bear isn’t necessarily innocent of cliche, of playing into celebrating the people who are creating the work. But it’s a film that doesn’t feel so self-serving, so masturbatory.

At the heart of Brigsby Bear is sweetness, of an earnest affection for the creative process and the people who make it up. But not just the creative process, but the people who love the creative process. Brigsby Bear is a work on fandom, the people who use creative works to feel out and understand the world around them. Brigsby Bear is a celebration of passion and what it means in people’s lives.

It also understand that it’s not just the beats you move through that make a story feel unique, but the way you tell it. Writers Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney (who also stars) give the world such unique flavor and imbue such odd details into the Brigsby Bear show. It feels studied, like these people actually know what becomes cult phenomena and what people raise fandoms around, without ever feeling condescending to the work itself.

It’s that razor’s edge of understanding how weird this thing is without ever looking down on James for being so in love with it. Much of that is helped by Kyle Mooney. Look, you know you feel about Mooney from watching him on SNL. If you don’t like his shtick, you may not be into it here, but if you love it, it’s basically what he does for the whole of the film. He just turns that awkwardness and that difficulty interacting with the world into a dramatic character, one who grows in the smallest ways and one who really is very easy to connect deeply with.

Brigsby Bear is just a film imbued with a deep empathy for the people in its movie and for the people that it’s about. It understands its world and tells it with a unique dynamic and a unique sense of humor.

Logan Lucky

Summary: Them Logan Boys, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver), get up to some trouble. With the help of their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), current-con Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and a couple other ne’er do-wells, they’re gonna rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Why This One Is Getting An “A”:

I could pretty much live forever in films about charming Southerners running afoul of the law. If they’re doing it in the South, it’s only a bonus.

Steven Soderbergh’s return from his “retirement” (during which he directed a season of television and helped make a few other movies) is a call-back to his Ocean’s Eleven days, trading the high-class slick hucksters for the very real poor of the South.

It’s clear Soderbergh grew up in the South (the same South I did, largely), as he really does understand what a Southern culture looks like in the contours of the real world, and what it looks like for the real people living in it. The way they talk and the way they interact and what they think about. It feels tangible and easily recognizable.

It’s also a lot of fun. Logan Lucky is not a manic film. It has the pacing of any Soderbergh art film. Deliberate and measured and letting it all unfold just as it should, it’s as classically composed narratively as a heist film gets. But Logan Lucky is an absolute hoot, populating its world with weirdos that are just specific and bizarre enough without ever going full cartoon. Hell, the movie gets an enjoyable live-action performance out of Seth McFarlane, certainly no small feat.

But as much the heist motivates, it’s about the people that are doing the thieving. What drives them and why take this step? What do they unveil about themselves? There’s all these great little motivations and these little steps. Joe Bang revealing his chemistry knowledge, the Logan brothers able ability to spin a few lies to put some people in the right place. Even an extended riff on Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin’s writing speed (which may be one of the funniest and nerdiest Game of Thrones jokes ever) reveals this penchant for these little and unexpected unveilings Soderbergh and writer Rebecca Blunt revel in.

It’s also the little nuances the cast gives their characters. If you asked for a list of “leading actors who do character actor-level specific work” you couldn’t have produced a more comprehensive one than Logan Lucky. From Channing Tatum (Soderbergh’s current muse) and his soulful outlaw to Driver’s specific and sweet and deliberate as hell performance as Clyde Logan to Daniel Craig clearly having the most fun he’s ever had in a role ever to Riley Keough continuing to be every film’s secret weapon to a host of surprises I don’t want to spoil too much, Logan Lucky is a veritable buffet of actors.

It’s also Soderbergh at his best, absolutely controlled filmmaking, tight and interesting and propulsive without ever being fast. Its deliberate pacing recalling older films with its warm digital look eyeing towards the future. That plus the best use of “Country Roads” this summer so far makes for a fantastic piece of work.

The Worst and, more importantly, THE BEST of 2017, so far

So, as I am the grand arbiter of all things film, I’m officially calling the summer movie season at its close. Alas Logan Lucky, The Glass Castle, or Annabelle: Creation, you’re all part of the fall movie season. However will you survive?

And at the close of summer movie season, we’re essentially halfway through the movie year. I know we’re more than halfway through the calendar year, but trust me, that back half is always as packed as it gets. There’ll end up being things that are Oscar nominees that aren’t even on our radar right now. The worst movie of the year is likely still yet to come (though it’s hard to imagine right now).

But since I’m a fiend for lists, let’s make one, shall we? Let’s give a few check-ins and see where we are, starting with the worst (because it gets the attention) before taking a full celebration of the best.

Bottom 5 Films of 2017 So Far

5) The Dark Tower

Idris Elba

Ahh, The Dark Tower. The best franchise that will never quite be. Based on Stephen King’s series of epic fantasy western Lovecraftian meta-novels, some much smarter studio could have had a new Game of Thrones on its hands. Alas, it was in the hands of Sony and they instead produced a fall flat on its face. A mess of bad studio production, The Dark Tower wastes its actors, murders its pacing, and takes all the material and tosses it out the window for a mid-90s adaptation premise. Any film that features Matthew McConaughey saying “I see you’re still impervious to my magicks” with a straight face has an uphill battle. The Dark Tower doesn’t win it.

4) The Circle

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A bland mess of technophobia, I really just feel bad for the people involved here. The Circle is Black Mirror without the brains or heart, an aesthetic rip-off by a huge number of people who should be able to make some better stamp. Staring a pitch-perfect satire of late capitalism in the face, The Circle is content to shake its fist at social media and ultimately end up going nowhere.

3) Transformers: The Last Knight

transformers

Look, who the living fuck expects anything out of this franchise at this point? The best Transformers has ever been able to aspire to is Bay’s weird hypercompetencies managing to shine through the material. But when they don’t, it’s the same thing that happens every goddamned time: A mess of story with awful design with a runtime that lasts for aeons.

2) Ghost in the Shell

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A pile-up of decisions so bad that you’re more baffled that it ever happened than mad that someone chose to do it. That all said, this is a film that was never going to be great and still manages to enrage far above its station. A messy script, terrible direction, and boring setpieces would sink any movie, but a movie that white-washes like this one does deserves all the ire that can be thrown. When your material is so fertile with intellect, you can’t be this fucking stupid in putting it together.

1) The Book of Henry

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Colin Trevorrow is a rare sort of filmmaker, one who in a past era would have perhaps been run out of town after town after the people found out his snake oil elixirs just weren’t working. The Book of Henry is his raw nerve put on screen. Excessively manipulative, baffling in every plot point put on screen, and a masterpiece of inhuman behavior, seemingly put together by a man who’s never met a human but is fairly certain he knows how they work. Fuck this movie.

My Most Anticipated of 2017 (That I’ve Actually Heard Anything About)

As we close off the last year in film, it’s time to look forward to the next one. It’s one of the most fun parts of any film year, when all the blockbusters and big prestige dramas lay before us full of possibility, all the Sundance pictures are still in the happy festival haze before the backlash and shocking revelations get started.

Of course, I want to be a responsible critic and manage expectations. That means that I want to limit the films that I’m looking forward to that those that have evidence. In other words, things that have trailers, reviews from festivals, or just some actual news on what the movie could be. It would be also be nice to have a proven track record. In other words, actual evidence from past successes or previous films in the series

In other words, sorry to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League who are only up in the header image. Bait and switch, I know. But between no news, being too early for news, or being directed by Zack Snyder in Warner Bros.’ DCEU, there’s no reason to get excited just yet. But don’t despair! Here’s a few things you can be excited for!

Baby Driver

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Thinnest cling to the premise of the article, I know. But Baby Driver comes to us from Edgar Wright, one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood who’s earned enough trust to jump out on whatever ledge he asks. Besides, we’ve seen what the film looks like and we know what it’s about! Baby Driver is a crime picture starring Ansel Elgort as a mute getaway driver who gets caught up in a robbery that goes wrong.

Did I mention that Elgort plays a character who drives to music and that therefore the entire movie will have its action sequences set to a ever-rotating soundtrack? Because if you’ve ever seen any other Edgar Wright movie, you will know that merging soundtrack with action is one of his specialties, and that if he’s given a chance to set a whole movie on that idea? You should be buying tickets now.

The Big Sick

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One of the first darlings of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this one comes from the husband-and-wife comedy team of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, LA comedy scene darlings now turned screenwriters. The Big Sick is directed by Michael Showalter and based on the true story of how the two of them met and got married, it stars Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail and Zoe Kazan as Emily.

Kumail is a struggling comic who gets heckled by Emily at one of his shows. The two quickly fall for each other, but run up against a roadblock when Kumail refuses to stand up to his traditional Muslim family, which leads to their break-up. Emily, however, falls ill and Kumail is the only one in the area who can take care of her and must deal with his parents, her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), and his own need to grow up.

Sundance du jour from the sound of it, but the reviews have pointed towards a romantic comedy that is filled with specificity (thanks to its real life draw) and knowledge of its genre with able acting and filmmaking.

Blade Runner 2049

The sequel that we never should have been excited for, Blade Runner 2049 quickly got us (okay, me) on its side with perhaps one of the only teams that could do any justice to the classic original. Director Denis Villeneuve, hot off the Oscar-nominated Arrival! Cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins! A cast that includes Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi, Dave Bautista! Also Jared Leto is there. The recipe looks to be for success.

The trailer only seems to show that it’s coming together. Barely anything revealed, but it showed a world that clearly picks up off the visually distinctive original, a lot of progress, and an intriguing mystery to come. It could be still on the pile of bad ideas, but this one looks like it has the muscle to lift itself out.

The Fate of the Furious

Speaking of muscle.

This is not an ironic thing. I really do earnestly love these movies. It’s a big budget action franchise that knows it can’t and shouldn’t take itself seriously, and instead leans into the talents of its cast and into ever increasingly pushing the size and scope of what it’s covering. The Fate of the Furious looks to absolutely pick up on that, dropping a story epic in scale, pitting an apparently traitorous Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) now working with an evil tech terrorist (Charlize Theron) against his former friends, now seemingly led by Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). It’s a movie that’s going to have a full blown Arctic car chase with a submarine getting involved. How do you not love that?

Get Out

Key & Peele was long one of the most exciting shows in comedy, and much of that came with the eponymous duo’s surprising knowledge of genre tropes and the filmmaking required to indulge them. So when Jordan Peele splits off to finally make a genre picture, you should stand up and take notice.

This was Sundance’s surprise midnight screening this year, and reactions out of there are suitably impressed with Peele’s confident first-time direction as well as the movie’s nuanced take on racial issues, aimed more at the subtle ways that the seemingly well-meaning perpetuate racism and the daily existence of Black men.

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story - Still 1

A small film made almost entirely in secret, no one knew quite what to expect when David Lowery showed up at Sundance with a film starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck filmed in a little over two weeks after his gorgeous big-budget Pete’s Dragon. Excitement began to percolate with A24 picked it up before its debut.

Word out of Sundance is that it does not disappoint. A gorgeous and entirely unique film with some serious shit on its mind about love, death, and time (THAT’S RIGHT. TAKE SOME NOTES COLLATERAL BEAUTY YOU MONSTER). Lowery is one of our most exciting filmmakers and I’m thrilled to see him refuse to rest on his laurels.

John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick was one of the best action films of 2014 and the 21st century so far. That’s pretty much all you should need to get excited for John Wick: Chapter 2. More of Keanu Reeves’ enigmatic assassin, more of the impressive worldbuilding the first one pulled off, and hopefully more mindblowingly well-done setpieces. John Wick: Chapter 2 really needs nothing more than its previous sequel and the promise of expansion as he’s beset on all sides by assassins looking to kill him all around the world.

Logan

I know, it’s weird for me that I’m looking that much forward to an X-Men movie too. But Logan‘s feverish and melancholy broken-down Western vibe is majorly working for me, as well as the promise of an actual look at the legacy that this long-lived franchise has managed to create, specifically with Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Xavier. There have been some preliminary screenings of the first 40 minutes of this film that received absolute raves, so if this one can maintain that momentum as well as the surprising heart of its predecessor The Wolverine, Logan might be something actually great coming out of X-Men.

Mudbound

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If you aren’t familiar with the name Dee Rees, then you’re seriously missing out. Her 2011 debut Pariah is a sweet and fascinatingly nuanced coming-of-age queer tale with an extraordinary amount of directorial confidence and I’ve been dying for a big screen follow-up from her. Mudbound is that follow-up, a generational tale of race in the aftermath of World War 2 with a cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund and so many more. Early Sundance reviews name this as another favorite of the festival, a surprisingly epic film with that same directorial confidence and precision that she showed in Pariah. It’s great to see talent rewarded and I can only hope Dee Rees has a long career to come.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This is the one I will most likely eat crow on, but I really don’t care. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planet is a return by Luc Besson to the gonzo Sci-fi that characterized his best film, The Fifth Element. Valerian clearly holds nothing back, there’s so much creativity on display in its scope and its design. The fact that Besson always seems willing to go balls to the wall story-wise gives us the chance that Valerian might be able to actually be the sort of thing that goes over-the-top and earns being that truly insane visually. Plus, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne being the leads might mean this thing could be up for the Oscar for “Most Eyebrows in a Movie.”