Favourite Movies of 2017

Time has come for us to look back at 2017’s fair share of favourites and letdowns in film. As always, due to late releases, I am missing out on movies that I might have loved, including Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

Sadly, I have also had less time for trips to the cinema. Even so, Netflix has produced plenty of stunning works, some surpassing even the most anticipated blockbusters. Scouring through the films I have seen both online and off, here is a list of my personal picks.

10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (dir. Noah Baumbach)

With his works from the realist (The Squid and the Whale) to the expressly whimsical (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Noah Baumbach has earned a solid reputation as a versatile and brilliantly empathic screenwriter. The Meyerowitz Stories returns to his familiar world of family dysfunction, where estranged siblings find commonality in their individual search for human connection.

The outstanding work sees Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler reunite as brothers at loggerheads, alongside Elizabeth Marvel as their wallflower-sister, and Dustin Hoffman as the egotistic patriarch of the family. Subtle individual quirks reveal their identifiable histories, of which the cast plays to perfection. Catharsis ensues.

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Revisiting Saw, and the Torture Porn Genre

Making a return after its supposed Final Chapter, Jigsaw has once again come under fire for championing guts for glory. Yet for all the bad rep it gets, the flak may not be entirely justified. As criticism continues to spew from every end, there is no better time than now to revisit the much-maligned ‘torture porn’ genre, and the movie that started it all.

Saw may be well known for its creative display of gore. But it was the plotting and characterisation that proved the most intriguing in the 2003 release. Such as is rarely done in horror, the film builds up a strong case for its fascinating villain, whose impetus goes far beyond pure murder intent.

Before his big plans, John Kramer was a stricken cancer patient, who survived his desperate suicide attempt. It is only with his proximity to death, did he begin to appreciate life, and it is this belief that inspired his becoming.

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Defending The Flute Scene in ‘Alien: Covenant’

In Hollywood, Ridley Scott can hear you scream. After backlash against ambitious prequel Prometheus, the seasoned Alien director admitted that he knew how the fans were frustrated and “wanted to see more of the original [Aliens]”. And so in Alien: Covenant (review), he ramps up the monstrous terror and holds back on philosophising.

Still, not everyone is enamoured with his latest venture. For all that is flawed with Alien: Covenant, many complaints fall upon the same point of contention: the baffling flute scene. In it, David (Michael Fassbender) places a recorder/flute in his doppelgänger’s hands.

“Watch me, I’ll do the fingering,” he says to Walter, teaching him the art of music in an intimate test of his loyalties. But is there something more in this act of eroticism than pure evocation?

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Favourite Movies of 2016

What makes a good movie? Ambition is admirable, yet many grounded stories told with sincerity and purpose captivate all the same. Often, character-driven narratives prove more memorable than most. But whether you prefer the independent scene or big-budget stand-offs, there is something in this list for everyone here.

While I await late releases such as Swiss Army Man and Green Room, here are ten movies that I have seen and loved in 2016.

10. Tallulah (dir. Sian Heder)

Living by the rules is not for Tallulah (Ellen Page). The young drifter believes in a free life independent of others, until she is forced to give it up and care for a neglected toddler. In her riveting directorial debut, Sian Heder makes incisive observations about the meaning and sacrifices of motherhood.

Sharply written and well-acted, the moving film takes us well beyond Tallulah’s story. We see unseen pains and unexpected loneliness in the maternal journey, through the different women she meets. All that seriousness finds reprieve in a lovable lead, who keeps spirits up with plenty of good humour.

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5 Essential AI Films – Evolution’s Next Stage

These are interesting times for science. Artificial intelligence gains ubiquity at an exponential rate, integrating into our daily lives with uneasy grace. We entrust phone bots with our decisions, let loose self-driving cars on roads, and willingly send Skynet Google scouring through our personal data. Meanwhile, science has successfully engineered genes and developed brain-connected prosthesis.

As Frankenstein escapes the bastille of imagination, the line begins to blur. Machine has started to resemble man and man, machine. What then, does being human truly mean? Theology and science search for answers in the essence of souls and freewill. Yet more philosophy than fact, the concept of consciousness remains out of our grasp.

While aware of AI’s thematic implications, few movies find the way to provoke thought on the subject. Critics often helm Blade Runner and Metropolis for their sophistication, but these are not all the cinematic universe has to give. After several recent ‘almost-there’s and ‘could-have-been’s (See: Morgan, Lucy or Transcendence), I decided to write about my favourite AI movies that give this matter some due reflection.

5. Ghost in the Shell (dir. Mamoru Oshii, 1995)

Exposition is the death knell of sci-fi, and Ghost in the Shell could have easily sauntered into the cyberpunk graveyard. But Mamoru Oshii’s acclaimed anime deserves all praise for portraying complex philosophy in accessible terms, echoing similar thoughtful themes behind William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

The insightful dialectic centres on cyborg agent Motoko Kusanagi’s mission to capture the elusive hacker The Puppet Master. The latter is revealed to be a sentient program plagued by existential doubt. Motoko reflects the machine’s disillusioned psyche, contemplating the meaning of humanity and questioning her own identity as a cybernetic being. Their encounter triggers an intriguing point of singularity, where Homo sapiens may start to mean as little as Neanderthals do.

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