It’s that time of year again: the time when I dig into this year’s offering of feature films and tell anyone who cares enough to read several hundred words what I thought about some of them. In an effort to keep the formula fresh, this year’s article is going to be… (drum roll)… an awards show! In written format! So not a show at all, but some words on a screen you have to read! Lucky you!
Before we start the show, let’s get one thing out of the way: this isn’t a best-of retrospective. I’m not running down what I think are the top ten whatevers of the year, because everyone does it and it’s so bor – wait, where are you going? Come back! Here’s the content you came for!
JAKE’S TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE YEAR
9. Good Time
8. The Shape of Water
7. Better Watch Out
6. The Disaster Artist
4. Baby Driver
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
1. Get Out
No, I’m not going to expound upon these or argue their merits or any of that crap. Find me on Facebook if you wanna talk about how you think The Last Jedi ruined Star Wars forever or Three Billboards is deeply flawed or how IT is overrated pop pap. Do it. I want you to. I will destroy you.
I will also say that I loved Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ingrid Goes West, The Devil’s Candy, Dunkirk, and Logan Lucky this year, though not necessarily in that order. I have yet to see Lady Bird, Call Me by Your Name, The Post, and I, Tonya, which are the four remaining 2017 movies that might have a shot at cracking the top ten here, so don’t get after me with how I could possibly leave off that movie where it turns out the guy from The Lone Ranger can act, either.
And now, on to the awards! Part One of this feature will focus on movies that aren’t masterpieces by any means, but are still pretty damn cool, or at the very least weird. And the first award is…
THE “RENT-IT-AT-BLOCKBUSTER-BECAUSE-OF-AWESOME-TITLE-AND-COVER-ART” AWARD!
And the winner is…
Don’t Kill It!
“Wait, what? What the hell is this? Jake, literally no one knows what this is,” is what you’re probably saying right now. To which I say… nothing. I just nod knowingly. For awhile. Making direct eye contact.
Remember back in the day when you had to go to a place that smelled vaguely of stale popcorn and was lined with hundreds upon hundreds of videos, later DVDs, most of them copies of Men in Black? Remember how there were always a handful of movies you’d never heard of but still looked inexplicably rad as fuck? This award is for those movies: the Satan’s Little Helpers and Gingerdead Mans of the world. I mean c’mon, look at this thing. If you aren’t itching to pick up a VHS of this and at least read the little blurb on the back, I don’t even know you anymore.
Haha, look at that gun! What even is that? A shotgun? A weird musical instrument crafted from a shotgun? A very elaborate toilet plunger? Don’t you just have to know?
Don’t Kill It! is a hyperviolent, grindhouse action/horror movie starring Dolph Lundgren as a grizzled demon hunter who’s after a particularly nasty demon with a very specific means of possession: if you kill the person it’s possessing, it takes you next and uses your body to maim and murder as many people as possible before someone takes you out and, in turn, gets possessed. This movie starts with a dude murdering his whole family with an ax and kitchen implements. This movie has chainsaws, grenades, exploding heads, and oh yeah, Dolph Fucking Lundgren. If you wanna watch a movie where Ivan Drago begs a whole churchful of people not to chainsaw each other to death but then they do it anyway, this is the movie for you. It’s gross, dumb, and totally sucks, but it also absolutely fucking rules.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR THE ACTOR WITH THE MOST 2017 FLOPS THAT STILL DESERVE TO BE WATCHED
And the award goes to…
You know, Dane Dehaan! Kid from The Place Beyond the Pines? No, the other kid from The Place Beyond the Pines. Not ringing a bell? The shitty Harry Osborne from the shitty Spider-man movies? Uhhh… Chronicle? Remember Chronicle? Whatever, he’s totally a guy.
Dane Dehaan took a starring role in no less than three movies you didn’t see this year: A Cure for Wellness, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Tulip Fever. I have seen two of them. I did not see Tulip Fever, the long-delayed Weinstein Company release that was made before anyone knew who Alicia Vikander was. By all accounts, it’s a snooze that Harvey micro-managed into oblivion and then farted into theaters just in time to see it get overshadowed by what a colossal monster he turned out to be in real life.
But enough about that, let’s talk about the two interesting movies Dane Dehaan starred in this year. A Cure for Wellness is a long, very slow, incredibly atmospheric horror movie that takes over two and a half hours to tell a 100 minute story. When you dig into it, what you’ll find is a deeply creepy slow-burn tale with tinges of Lovecraft and, weirdly enough, Bioshock. The director, Gore Verbinski, might be best known for helming one good Pirates of the Caribbean movie and two deeply confusing ones, but he also crafted The Ring. The story concerns Dane Dehaan, business douche, who is dispatched by other, even businessier douches to fetch his CEO from some weird rehab facility in Europe. When he arrives, he’s banned from seeing his boss, and before long he finds himself being treated as a patient at this facility. Because he’s sick, you, see. And they have the cure. Like I said, it’s way too long, but it’s also beautiful, weird, and filled with standout sequences and a genuinely good turn from our man Dane.
Then there’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, directed by The Fifth Element‘s Luc Besson. Dehaan plays Valerian, dashing space douche, opposite Cara Delvingne’s Laureline. The titular City of a Thousand Planets is a massive space station with hundreds of races from all across the galaxy living in it, and there is a problem at its center. Death has come to the core of the city, it’s spreading, and only Valerian and Laureline can find the cause.
Is it great? No. Is it good? Mmmmaybe. I’m gonna say yes. It’s another overlong Dane Dehaan vehicle, but it boasts some of the year’s best visuals and action sequences. If this had been a six-part Netflix series, the world would have shat its collective pants, called in sick, and binge-watched it twice, but as a feature film is plays like four loosely-connected episodes of television. Goddamn though, it still owns. An action sequence that hops between dimensions, a chase through multiple biomes of an alien city, the best opening scene of any movie this year, and Rihanna as a shapeshifting burlesque performer are all present and accounted for here. Unfortunately, my boy Dane is woefully miscast as space Indiana Jones, his self-serious persona completely at odds with his roguish dialog. Plug Chris Pratt or Oscar Isaac into this movie and it could’ve been an all-timer.
THE “GROSSEST SHIT I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH” AWARD
And the winner is…
It’s a tie! Between The Greasy Strangler and Raw!
Yeah, that’s right. A tie. They’re my awards and I make the rules. If you don’t like it, eat shit.
Now, I’m gonna be honest: I don’t know if The Greasy Strangler came out in 2017. It might’ve come out in 2016, but something tells me it has always existed. I’m not going to try to describe it, just know that if you watch it you will be cursed to have the phrase “Hootie-tootie-disco-cutie” pop into your brain at random for the rest of your life. It will always make you feel deeply uneasy and a little insane, and you might have a weird urge to strip naked, cover yourself in dumpster grease, and kill someone. Only watch this movie if you want to know what it feels like to go insane.
Raw, on the other hand, you should absolutely watch. This is the only award-winner in Part One of my awards that I can wholeheartedly recommend to any genre fan. It’s a bizarre coming-of-age movie that uses cannibalism, of all things, as a metaphor for sexual awakening. It’s also French, which explains a whole lot about the previous sentence. Raw is another slow burn, but one with a real sense of dread and tension bubbling throughout and one hell of a final scene.
That’s it for the awards for now. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back soon with awards for movies that are actually, really, 100% great! I swear. In the meantime, don’t forget to watch The Greasy Strangler, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video assuming it hasn’t returned to its home dimension.
- Dear Screenwriter: Here’s How It Happened
- Jake’s 2017 Nonsensical Movie Awards, Part Two