Overlooked Stuff from 2017
It’s been a difficult year for movies at the box office. It seems like people have fewer and fewer reasons to go out to the theaters. Movies like It, Get Out, The Big Sick, and Wonder Woman were massive hits among fans and critics. But a lot of films disappointed, with Justice League, The Mummy, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets all performing well below industry expectations.
Fans and critics mutually agreed on a lot of films this year, which is why I think It Comes At Night, directed by Trey Edward Shults, fell through the cracks a little bit. While critics adored it, audiences were dissatisfied. The film takes a closer look at human ethics and vulnerability when another zombie-like plague infects the entire world. The film is a lot smarter and more provocative than what its marketing and trailers would imply (that being another typical zombie flick akin to I Am Legend and AMC’s The Walking Dead). Rather than a cheap slasher, It Comes At Night is a meditation on fear, desperation, and core survival instincts. Joel Edgerton gives one of the strongest minimalist performances of the year, and Shults’s direction is captivating. The cinematography and sound effects make the most out of its potential, and I felt exhausted after watching it. Once again, this film proves the scariest things in life are the things we can’t see.
If you feel the horror genre has underwhelmed this year, give this one a go. —Zander Kim
Loving Vincent, Vincent Van Gogh’s biographical animated drama, was released on June 12 of this year. It was the first fully painted film in history, as every frame of the film was hand-painted in the artist’s iconic style. Following its release, Loving Vincent won myriad awards, including the Best Animation Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. But with regards to infiltrating popular culture and becoming a common topic of conversation, Loving Vincent did not fare so well. The film’s Facebook page did not gain a huge following, and it seemed to me that internet culture was more interested in Wonder Woman (which came out at a similar time) or Kardashian pregnancies. As a result, this beautiful piece that celebrated the tormented life of one of the fathers of modern art remained greatly overlooked.
In the seven years it took to make Loving Vincent, 115 artists from around the world came together and painted each frame, creating beautiful moving canvases. The film follows the young son of a postman as he delivers Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theo. On his journey, the boy encounters those who knew the artist well, and he explores different aspects of Van Gogh’s problematic life through the eyes of those who interacted with him in varying capacities. Loving Vincent is a heart-wrenching story about the importance of celebrating a life rather than speculating about a mysterious death, and by exploring the characters closest to Van Gogh, the film introduces new and thoughtful perspectives for studying the troubled artistic genius. Additionally, a beautiful soundtrack accompanies the smooth visuals to create an otherworldly experience, with tracks like “Starry Starry Night” by Lianne La Havas transporting the audience into the devastating universe of Van Gogh’s inner sorrows. It’s a shame Loving Vincent didn’t get the attention it deserved, but if you’re looking for a unique cultural experience this winter break, be sure to check out this moving masterpiece. —Chantal Marauta
Comedian Chris Gethard’s one-person show, Career Suicide, is genius. The live show was filmed and released by HBO earlier this year, allowing me—and anyone else who missed the original off-Broadway run—to experience it. Part stand-up comedy, part storytelling, the show centers on Gethard as he guides his audience through his battle with depression, which has been ongoing for several years. His story chronicles his efforts to find a suitable healthcare professional, to determine the right kinds of medications while dealing with their side effects and—in the show’s most painful moments—to resist suicidal urges. Gethard is candid and honest, and his anecdotes are often raw and heartbreaking. But many of his stories are gut-bustingly funny, too. The way Gethard shares details about difficult moments in his life, while finding room for humor and thoughtful reflection, is masterful. There’s not a single millisecond of bullshit in the entire ninety-minute show, and never once is Gethard’s tone or delivery off. The way that the show ends on an uplifting note of hope is both a testament to Gethard’s resilience and an example of the perseverance of the human spirit. I admire his courage, and I’m confident that by sharing his story, Chris Gethard has helped many people and will continue to help many more who face similar mental health difficulties.
Career Suicide is no doubt a difficult watch. But I can’t remember another show from 2017 that lifted my spirits and made me feel genuine hope as much as this one did. I needed it, and I think it’s essential viewing. —Ameer Malik
Amid the chaos of 2017, indie-folk singer Phoebe Bridgers gave the world a much needed piece of art: her lush and introspective debut album, Stranger in the Alps. The cover, a childhood photo of Phoebe with a white ghost drawn over her, depicts the tone of the whole album in one image. This album is about Phoebe’s home not feeling like home anymore, and how she now feels like a stranger there. Phoebe’s lyrics deal with relationships, hometowns, and memories in a way that make you feel completely alone and hyper-aware of your own past. She evokes something in you not because her lyrics are general and relatable, but because they are so hauntingly specific to her particular experience. While the topics range from an overdosed friend’s funeral in “Funeral,” to an awkward walk with an ex in “Scott Street,” to getting high and sending nudes you later regret in “Demi Moore,” the tone of the album remains consistent: It feels like you are floating on a cloud that has shackles on your ankles. If you ignore the lyrics, you will only hear a soft falsetto, a gentle guitar, and some brilliantly incorporated strings. But it is lyrics like “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time” and “I have emotional motion sickness” that pierce through the sensory beauty, give a listener insight into Phoebe’s heart, and make this album my favorite of the year. —Nicole Fegan
Nobody who saw Michael McKean’s turn as Chuck McGill in season three of Better Call Saul, which ended in June, could possibly have overlooked it. But the Emmy committee somehow managed it—McKean wasn’t even nominated. McKean dominated from the beginning, a force of nature from start to finish, a whirlwind of tics, suspicions, and insecurities, and his fall from grace over the course of ten episodes covered so much emotional ground, it’s nuts they all aired in the same decade, let alone year. McKean is best-known as a comic (he’s a former SNL cast member and a co-star of This is Spinal Tap) and now he’s proven over three seasons that the barrier between comedy and drama is and should be eminently permeable. His was a performance of extraordinary dignity and humanity. Every moment he was on screen, he towered. Since he likely won’t be back on the show again, this was the last chance for the Emmys to honor this remarkable actor for a still more remarkable accomplishment. The only consolation for this snub of all snubs is that Chuck is even more rewarding on a rewatch. —James Feinberg
While the once-reigning, indie-rock kings Arcade Fire were releasing their scattered and cynical Infinite Content in 2017, it was a fellow Canadian band, Broken Social Scene, that shined. The collective released their fifth studio album, Hug of Thunder, in July and it remains one of the most joyous, energetic albums of the year. Broken Social Scene has swelled and subsided since its 2002 breakout, You Forgot It in People, performing with anywhere from six to eighteen members, but never losing its ability to produce anthems. “Halfway Home,” “Stay Happy,” and “Protest Song” are all songs that live up to a lyric elsewhere on the album: “We’ll run away for life.” The muted chants of Feist (of “1234” fame) emerge on the album’s title track. Her muffled words seem to just be humming along, self-contained and uncertain, until we arrive at the cathartic chorus: “He will know what’s real or numbness / Catching up and climbing life / Speaking like a hug of thunder.” Feist and Broken Social Scene promise there is a better, more hopeful future ready to emerge in 2018, one we so desperately need. —Josh Wartel