So far this year, my favorite movies have been films driven by uplift and hope and sheer entertainment, spread over a range of tones and styles. But even now, when I could use as much entertaining inspiration as possible, it can just as (if not more) cathartic to watch something unabashedly mean and ugly and grisly. For me, that film is Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, a rip-roaring motherfucker of a film that punches you in the face and expects a “thank you” for it. I highly recommend it.
There have been many iterations of The Jungle Book over the years, including several live-action films, but none have been enough to usurp the 1967 animated classic or the original Rudyard Kipling stories. Until now, that is. With this latest incarnation of the tale of Mowgli, director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks have created what might prove to be the ultimate version of Kipling’s world, removing the ugly racism and retaining all of the wonder and adventure. The result is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and one I already can’t wait to revisit.
The first few months of this year have been… hectic for me, to say the least. I left my job, wound up back at my previous job, struggled to nail down health insurance and unemployment and found out my cat is very sick. And through all of that I was attempting to complete several creative writing endeavors, launch a podcast and maintain this blog. It’s been stressful, upsetting and difficult to say the least. Thankfully there have been plenty of good movies (and comics and books and TV shows) to provide at least some relief from the perpetual panic. But two films in particular– 10 Cloverfield Lane and Eddie The Eagle— did more than distract me. Rather, these films inspired me and uplifted me in the exact way that I needed. So it’s not surprising these have been my two favorite movies of the year so far.
Last year around this time I really enjoyed It Follows, despite not fully being able to articulate the themes it is built on at the time. It took an extended discussion and a rewatch months later for me to wrap my head around the film in a satisfactory way, a fate that will certainly also befall The Witch this year. Writer/director Robert Eggers’ debut is a film that is undoubtedly thematic in its construction and execution, but not in a way I can easily summarize just yet. What I can say with certainty though is that like It Follows before it, The Witch is intense as hell and a very engrossing watch, whether you “get it” or not.
On my Facebook page, I have my religion listed as “Film”. Because ultimately, film has been the biggest guiding light in my life, the art form that has not only led me to so many tremendous stories but that has comforted me when times have been most difficult. I think that film, at its best, can be the great Rosetta Stone for the times in which we live, and provide meaning and comfort just as well as the Church or the Talmud. I only bring all of this navel-gazing bullshit up because this seems to be exactly the mentality guiding the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! and while I may not unreservedly love the whole package I absolutely appreciate its dramatization of my feelings on film in a film.
At this point I think we all have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a Quentin Tarantino film. You’ll get your opaque cult cinema references, your flowery dialogue, your jet-black humor and your bloody ultraviolence, all linked together by the fearless audacity of Tarantino’s frantic cinematic voice. The Hateful Eight certainly has all of these ingredients present and accounted for, and I am not surprised to see some critics already complaining that it is standard QT fare. But to dismiss The Hateful Eight in this way ignores two new ingredients in this particular pot of Tarantino: the deliberate pace, and the unshakable nihilism. And with that in mind, I say that The Hateful Eight shows Tarantino forging new ground in his filmography, while still staying true to that audacious voice that has made him a modern cinematic master.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… life went on. The Rebellion defeated the Empire, Han and Leia got together, Luke became a Jedi, and the galaxy kept on spinning. And now, we finally know what really happened next. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens we return to that mythological galaxy to discover that, much like our own world, things don’t end happily ever after and even the greatest victories are precursors to more struggle and heartache… but also more hope. And after watching The Force Awakens I couldn’t have more hope for the future of Star Wars, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have.