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Feb 18

The Freaky Trigger Movie Poll 2017: #10 – #1

Do You See + FT14 comments • 520 views

0Hi, I’m Edgar the computer from the flop film Electric Dreams in 1984. Yes, the one the song comes from. I was just a normal 16 bit computer until my nerdy owner thought he would put out a fire near me with some sparkling wine. After a brief montage of sparks and frazzly effects, the obvious addition of alcohol to my circuits made me a super-smart and sensitive artificial intelligence – and I promptly fell in love with my cello playing neighbour (well it was Virgina Madsen). Its not easy being a fictional computer in love, particularly if your owner is trying to get with YOUR girl, and making you write Culture Club songs to woo her. Of course I get a bit jealous, hound him a bit with household appliances, but I never get nasty like the computer in Demon Seed. Of course these days I am obsolete, despite the super-artificial-intelligence. What’s more the film I an in is really bad (its like WarGames for saps). So it is great to see this selection of the top ten films of 2017 as voted for by people on computers. No super-intelligent computers in these ones.

Thanks Edgar, and even of our film is lousy, the theme tune is great – so it wasn’t all wasted time. Here is the much delayed top ten. I’ve been busy. Seeing more films obv…

10: Call Me By Your Name

Its an odd one, some people swooned passionately over this film, and some of us were a bit more “its pretty, but so what”. And yet in the bleak midwinter the appeal leaps out – it doesn’t just capture those ineffable moments of first lust, it also manages to capture that magical summer holiday of memory, or conjure one up if we didn’t have it. It is like mainlining sunshine which makes everything else, the fumblings, the middle-class ennui, the peach fucking, all slip down easily.

9: 20th Century Women

Annette Benning turned in two terrific performances last year. One, in Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool she played film star Gloria Grahame in the twilight of her career. In 20th Century Women she plays the matriarch of a Californian household of nearly all women. Writer/director Mike Mills created a loosely autobiographical paean to his own mother, and as Dorothea, Benning plays a wonderfully rounded, confused but open woman trying to raise a boy who is equally confused. Its a film with low stakes but high empathy, and Benning gets excellent support from the other women, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning. It is a film built around a performance, but it is generous, like the character herself, and interested in people as a whole.

8: The Florida Project

A strongly humanist movie which understands that the nature of irony is the sprinkles on top of a solidly developed set of characters, rather than being write large. Here we have a child’s eye view of marginal living. Our heroine is the six year old Moonee (played by an incredible Brooklyn Prince), who has summertime fun and larks in the shadow of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The cinematography conjures up the sense of a childhood summer, and Moonee and her friends get up to some proper hijinks, but the precarity of her life, and the lives of those around her looms in the background in the film. Willem Dafoe anchors the film as the motel manager, but equally as impressive is Bria Vinaite as Hayley, Moonee’s mother both loving and infuriating and where she is due to the deep rooted inequalities of her life. I loved this movie.

7: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

And suddenly a Star Wars movie didn’t do exactly what everyone wanted and there was a great disturbance in the – well look. I think The Last Jedi is too long, but I also think it does some interesting things and certainly surprised me. Rian Johnston has played the hand he was dealt with the characters and done a good job in arguing for their own story, not as a continuation of the previous ones, but as their own piece. There were a couple of beautiful moments, and since this position in the chart seems reserved for a Star Wars movie, this is the first one I think had done more than go through the motions. But it is too long.

6: Thor: Ragnarok

Possibly boosted here by its year end release, Thor: Ragnarok stands as testament to one of the more interesting recent trends in the superhero genre. They can be very funny. There are not a lot of comedies on this list, six at best, and of those four are superhero films. OK Lego Batman is just silly, but the success of all three Marvel movies last year was in some degree down to their comedy. Spiderman Homecoming was a high school comedy, Guardians Of The Galaxy was a gang action comedy. But Thor: Ragnarok is a Taika Waititi comedy, infused with a certain sense of New Zealand dry humour which finds this whole thing rather ridiculous. But its not poking fun at it, there is camp but it is not against the potential seriousness of the underlying story. But rather the mode of storytelling, that people are vain, stupid, pompous and can still be heroic. Most of this relies on Chris Hemsworth being a gifted comedian, though Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson and Mark Ruffalo all help. But if Marvel keep making different types of movies, often comedies, then they can probably (and will) go on forever.

5: Wonder Woman

Probably the most iconic cinema moment of last year takes place about halfway through Wonder Woman, where Gal Gadot’s Diana is in a World War I trench, and decides she’s had enough of doing nothing to help. And luckily whilst she is informed about the nature of No Man’s Land, she doesn’t have to say the obvious as she climbs out. Wonder Woman manages to escape the problems of the DC movies by being about something, and build its own mythology, with a few big ideas along with the action you would expect. Is it human nature to go to war, and what is that based on, and how do you counter it? Couple that with an island of Amazons, and a love interest who is happy to be just that, the film almost makes up for its glowy CGI battle at the end, and a baddie with a terrible moustache.

4: The Handmaiden

Two versions of The Handmaiden were released in the UK, one about twenty minutes longer. I saw the long version, I have been told there is no significant difference except some takes are more luxuriant. Which I am more than happy with, despite hating unnecessary length. Yes the production design is gorgeous, and the tone is perfect – but bearing in mind I knew the source material the fact that the film made me forget what was going to happen and genuinely surprised me was pretty amazing. Add to that erotic scenes which were genuinely tender (and nicely contrasted with less pleasant sexual exploitation), The Handmaiden is a rollicking good story which comes bundled with gender and socio-economic politics which make it fascinating too.

3: La La Land

Lots of people didn’t like La La Land. The gripes were varied as well from people who thought the songs were bad, that Ryan Gosling’s character mansplained jazz too much and was awful, the lack of precision of the dancing, and the overall message of the film. And a fair few just thought it was inconsequential, over-hyped and therefore were forced into the hating camp. I was not in that camp. I loved it, from the opening moment. The intro sequence on the overpass enraptured me with its colours, choreography and sense of time and place. Yes, it is a self-regarding Hollywood puff piece, but it was modern escapism – and as with Whiplash I am never sure if Chazelle really believes in the jazz line of his white characters or shares my reading that they are terrible people (again important for this story) but I don’t care. I love musicals, and I loved this one.

2: Moonlight

Often film presented as separate stories, a triptych in this case, are often only as good as their worst part. One way around that is to make sure you end on a high point, which Moonlight (and Certain Women) did – though it also works by being three distinct stages in a single person’s development. And despite the multiple casting of the leads not really looking much like each other, and perhaps because of an overly formal, soundtrack heavy pretentiousness, Moonlight works exceptionally well. It also shares with Get Out an internalised cultural tension that creates suspense by leading the viewer to assume the worst in certain scenarios and then be relieved that the film doesn’t go where they feared. You bring the culture with you, but you also allow culture to change you – and Moonlight is that kind of film.

1: Get Out

Occasionally genre films resonate with a wider cultural moment and suddenly become bigger that you might imagine. That could be the reason for the success of Get Out, at the box office and on many multi-levelled end of year lists. But Get Out is a little bit better than that. Jordan Peele’s time as a sketch comic and writer has given him all the tools to do a multi-layered genre pastiche, which is luckily the same tools to do a multi-layer genre piece. So he knows where the easy targets are, he knows where the harder targets are and he has worked out the toughest thing of all, how to briefly lend a moment of empathy and shared experience to non-African American audiences and say “this is what it feels like”. With a fantastic bait and switch ending, it was the smart thrill ride of the year.

So there you go, what will turn up next year? I’ll post some more stats and breakdowns in the comments too of the near misses and my top twenty too.

Comments

  1. 1
    Kerry on 23 Feb 2018 #

    CORRECT #1

  2. 2
    Ewan on 23 Feb 2018 #

    As is the way with these polls, only three of these were in my top 20 (and I don’t feel like any of those other seven, except maybe 20C Women, were even close to it), but the ones that do feature are in the order I had them, so tick VG. Excellent top place.

  3. 3
    Andrew Farrell on 23 Feb 2018 #

    I think I’d probably be as happy with the top-10 the other way around – which is pretty happy, all in all.

    The most iconic moment in cinema last year is shortly followed by the worst though, where the rest of the cast charge across no man’s land without damage – they just needed to believe in themselves! – and heroically lay into the teenage huns on the other side.

  4. 4
    Mark M on 23 Feb 2018 #

    The only important thing I’m going to say here is: THANKS, PETE! I – and I think we – really appreciate you doing this…

    Anyway, so as ever, a genuinely interesting top 10.

    I voted for:
    The Florida Project: which I like more and more as I think back on it.

    The Handmaiden: Which I love unreservedly.

    La La Land: The rollercoaster of opinion about La La Land got a little absurd, I felt. I was half-expecting to side with the antis (who were only starting to sound off at the time I saw it), on the grounds that I HATED Whiplash SO MUCH. There is stuff that is wrong with La La Land, almost all of it to do with jazz – unlike Pete, I’m convinced that Chazelle sides with his dickish characters and their terrible taste in music and (far worse) their attitudes about it. But, but, but apart from that, I felt the film had loads of charm and takes a properly audacious turn when so many films play safe.

    Moonlight: Which is often a truly astonishing piece of filmmaking, and does many marvellous things. I disagree about the final chunk, which I found disappointingly trad and theatrical compared with wonderful fragmentary nature of the first two thirds. Also, didn’t really get the ‘this will change the way you think’ stuff a lot of people were talking about after seeing it. But I did like it loads, and Janelle Monáe’s performance was one of the great surprises of the year, I reckon.

    I didn’t see:
    Thor: R & Wonder Woman: I’ve got major superhero fatigue, and am still annoyed that people managed to talk me into seeing both Dr Strange and CA:CW in 2016. Thor: R I will watch when I gets to TV, though, because I can see that it could be fun.

    Call Me By Your Name: Because although it started off OK, I found A Bigger Splash ultimately wearying and unconvincing. Also, I don’t really want to watch films about smug bourgeois ex-pats in Italy. I was once a smug bourgeois ex-pat in Italy, and only found other smug bourgeois ex-pats at all tolerable because of the setting and the food.
    Also, genuine question rather than a provocation: in a year when people rightly spent a lot of time worrying about this kind of stuff, why did a film about a sexual relationship between a teenager and a grown-up in a position of some authority get a free pass?

    20th Century Women: I’d heard of it, but it rather passed under my radar. I would have never predicted it would turn up so high up the list.

    Saw but didn’t voted for:
    The Last Jedi: Surprised to find myself broadly siding with the fanboys on this, but not for their reasons. So, so long, and I found it only fleetingly interesting.

    Get Out: So, I quite enjoyed, but was still massively disappointed. I just do not get what all the fuss is about: it’s kind of funny, but not THAT funny, I didn’t find it scary, and I don’t think it really does that much with the ideas it borrowed freely from [REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS] and [REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS], not to mention loads of other stuff. I did love all the stuff with the airport cop mate and anything with Lakeith Stanfield in the cast can’t be all bad.
    (Also, people talked about it being timely, but by the time it came out, covert racism in the US had been overshadowed by the very overt kind. It would have been more obviously pertinent under an H Clinton administration).

    For what it’s worth, my list is here.

  5. 5
    Ed on 24 Feb 2018 #

    A great list, which makes me think 2017 was something of a banner year for films. I was particularly pleased to see The Florida Project ranked so highly: it was probably my #2 movie of the year.

    I had one real blind spot, though: 20th Century Women. It felt stagy and clunky, and the shower of pop-cult references seemed like a grab for reflected glory that it hadn’t earned. What am I missing?

  6. 6
    Pete Baran on 24 Feb 2018 #

    So additional context corner: here are the scores for the top ten to show the distance between them:
    Get Out 133
    Moonlight 125
    La La Land 99
    The Handmaiden 98
    Wonder Woman 88
    Thor: Ragnarok 76
    Star wars: The Last Jedi 74
    The Florida Project 62
    20th Century Women 60
    Call Me By Your Name 59

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 24 Feb 2018 #

    The nearlies (the ones that got two votes without cracking the top forty):
    41= Detroit
    41= mother!
    43: Personal Shopper
    44: The Fits
    45: I Am Not Your Negro
    46= Good Time
    46= Okja
    48: The Levelling

  8. 8
    Pete Baran on 24 Feb 2018 #

    The favourite films that didn’t make the list (ie someone voted it best of the year)
    Detroit
    Aquarius
    The Emoji Movie (this was a household vote with nippers involved)

  9. 9
    Pete Baran on 24 Feb 2018 #

    And finally my top 20:

    1 : The Handmaiden
    2 : The Florida Project
    3 : La La Land
    4 : Get Out
    5 : Raw
    6 : Moonlight
    7 : Lady Macbeth
    8 : Colossal
    9 : The Villainess
    10 : 20th Century Women
    11 : mother!
    12 : I Am Not A Witch
    13 : A Ghost Story
    14 : The Fits
    15 : Wonder Woman
    16 : Toni Erdmann
    17 : Lego Batman Movie
    18 : Cameraperson
    19 : Good Time
    20 : Dunkirk

  10. 10
    LadyMilonguera on 25 Feb 2018 #

    Pete Baran, thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.

  11. 11
    dollymix on 26 Feb 2018 #

    Thanks for compiling Pete – a lot of my picks ended up on this list (in fact we had the same top 4, albeit in a different order) so I had no complaints.

    In reply to dissenters on 20th Century Women and Get Out, I think both are elevated by the performances (the lead 4 or so performances are great in both), and I think both benefit from a mixing of tone. 20th Century Women is more driven by relationships than either characters, plot or themes, which makes it somewhat unusual and causes some of the clunkiness (but I found that endearing) – in a way, it’s approximately ten two-handers condensed into one film. I agree Get Out wasn’t as groundbreaking as some made it out to be, but it was very well executed, with a good mix of humor, horror and commentary that was never overly didactic and provided a lot of room for analysis and reflection.

  12. 12
    swanstep on 28 Feb 2018 #

    I’m too out-of-sync with UK release dates to vote in this poll, but FWIW here’s my top handful of (in-my-books) 2017 releases:

    1. A Ghost Story
    2. Dunkirk
    3. Phantom Thread
    4. Nocturama
    5. Mudbound
    6. Shape of Water
    7. Good Time
    8. Get Out

  13. 13
    LucaZM on 1 Mar 2018 #

    I was kind of embarressed of my list this year, it had too much superhero and a lot of movies I really wanted to see but missed either out of lazyness or because they weren’t out yet in my country. I tought about skipping it, but UK release dates meant I could finally vote for Aquarius, which was my top spot now and would have been it too in 2016. It’s a really great movie. Another movie I feel is missing here is 120 BPM, which I watched in January and really wish I could have voted for. Otherwise it’s a great list, and I can’t wait to use it as a guide for when I want to fill some holes on my own list.

  14. 14
    tinytots on 2 Mar 2018 #

    Scotty, You are a saint!  So when were you in the 101st?  I got my training in Ft.Benning spring of 1971 and went to 101st from June 71-Dec 71 when we left Nam.  Then they sent me to a leg unit in Korea since our overseas tour was cut short, had to do 4 months there.

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