Let’s keep this short and just dive in. Here are a few of my favourites of the year so far, it’s likely to change as the year goes on and some of the bigger releases make their way to cinemas, but they have quite an uphill battle to face.
Directed by Patty Jenkins
We’ve all been holding our breath waiting for a (good) female-led superhero film. We’ve also been waiting for a good DCEU film. It seems we can finally exhale. Wonder Woman isn’t just good, it’s exceptional. Walking out of the film, it felt like a revelation. The world will become pre and post Wonder Woman. We can no longer make the ignorant statement regarding female filmmakers or female heroes. We have very strong proof and it works and works wonders. No pun intended.
There is so much purity found in this film that I teared up when Diana sees snow for the first time. Gal Gadot exuberates such joy, it’s hard to not compare her to the little girl we see running at the beginning of the film. And the “No Man’s Land” sequence is one of the greatest sequences in any comic book movie by far. Not to say this is just a great CBM, but not a good film. It’s a fantastic film that is capable of doing both.
Early on, we see Diana be told that Men do not deserve her, and the truth is we don’t, but we are lucky to have something so pure.
Directed by James Mangold
They finally did it. They gave us a berserker Wolverine. I enjoy the X-Men films, and I appreciate what they represent and the stories, but I know little to nothing about them. I’ve just been aware to some of the complaints, one of which we’ve never seen the true berserker side of Logan, until Logan. And immediately into it.
I love when films open with a sequence that is both a statement and potentially a warning letting us know that this is what we’re in for. And this has that. We immediately see him cutting off arms and high volumes of blood.
Fox gave Logan an R rating after it worked (financially) well for Deadpool, but I believe this film warrants it more. Logan’s story is heavy and emotional, and you feel it as we (hopefully) say goodbye to Jackman’s Wolverine. It is the perfect swan song and a blissful way to end the character. When we first met Wolverine, he’s alone and looking to fit in, but doesn’t. And once he does, he loses everything and everyone.
The final image is Logan is poignant and exquisite. Perfectly timed to see the story is still continuing, but we’ve done our time with him, and we’ll be there to stay with him as his story has ended.
The Lost City of Z
Directed by James Gray
Something I value in writing is being able to be as open and vulnerable as I’d like. I’m in control for once. I preface this because this year has not been easy nor kind to me. I’ve found rough patch after rough patch, after rough patch.
I saw The Lost City of Z at the start of my most recent one. I took a personal day, and I walked around downtown Toronto. I went to some record stores, I grabbed some food and found time to see a movie. This one.
So I was previously aware of the film over hype from a previous festival. I wasn’t aware of anything except it’s a callback to more classical adventure/exploration films. Z stars Hunnam as Percy Fawcett who dedicates his life in search of a city in the Amazon, that’s the premise in the broadest sense.
The pacing is a bit of a slog, but I feel like it’s supposed to be. You need to feel the urge to reach the city just like Fawcett does. It is breathtakingly gorgeous and has one of the most beautiful final shots in recent memory.
Kong: Skull Island
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
My expectations were pretty low for this. Outside of the director behind Kings of Summer, and hearing him speak about his love for films that are an “artistic failure” which are films that made precisely as the director wished, but made virtually no money (see: any Wachowski film post-The Matrix). From that, I decided I knew I had to give his film the chance, but I didn’t until about the third week it was out, and my only complaint was that I saw it earlier and multiple times.
Kong is lovely, he is a kind guardian who is alone and doing it the best he can. Alongside him, is John C. Reilly who is a sweetheart. We enter the island and our surrogates are smacked out of the sky in an exhilarating scene. We step back in fear as Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston (and a huge supporting cast), but we quickly change our mind after Reilly enters the picture.
We are given time to breathe and watch from afar. And it’s so colourful. The film is so bloody gorgeous. Vogt-Roberts knows when to show growth in characters (and Kong) and when to fight. And the fights are magnificent. There is no dinosaur for him to fight this time, but they are still brutal nonetheless.
I also hate and are afraid of spiders, so that one scene ruined me. But besides that, this film is the one I had the most fun I’ve had in a theatre so far.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve had a rough year so far.
The past 6 months have had extreme ups and downs. One day, I was at work and my anxiety kicked in and kicked in hard. I was unable to work and had to leave. I went for a walk and enjoyed as much of whatever fresh air that can be found in Toronto.
I walked some distance to another theatre and checked what was playing. And I saw Paterson was. Paterson was a film I missed out on when it played at TIFF, and I loved Jarmusch’s previous film Only Lovers Left Alive, I decided to give it a shot.
For the whole week leading up to the moment I sat in my seat, my anxiety kept building, and it felt like I never truly was breathing. Until Paterson. As I sat down, with my legs shaking and unable to sit still, I saw the production logos, and I thought “I’ve done this, a lot. I can watch another movie.” And then I breathed in, finally. I felt alive again.
Paterson is electric in the most simplistic way. A love letter to the mundane, to the joys of transit travel, and our own 9-5s. Our own secretive passions that we do on the side but take over. We are told and shown to not hide our secret books of our art, and who we are. We must share it with whoever listens. That is us, we are storytellers, we tell everyone else’s, but also and sometimes, more importantly, our own. And watching the film, made me think that I am here, and I will be here, and I need to tell stories, but most importantly, my own.
Some honourable mentions: The Big Sick, It Comes At Night, Okja, Song to Song, The Bad Batch.