What would 2017 have been without music.
Here’s my 100 (woo!) favorite albums of 2017, some numbered, others not because it becomes pretty arbitrary at a certain point.
I listened to a lot of good stuff, so dig in, I think you’ll find something to enjoy in this big net. These albums were my favorite emotional outlet this year, a consistent source of escape and comfort or an oft-needed distraction.
Here’s a quick table of contents if you wanna skip ahead to the goodies.
100 – 81: EPs & Short Albums (Listed Alphabetically)
- This classification is tenuous for sure, it’s just where I’ve flagged content that was under 10 songs.
80 – 51: Albums – Honorable Mentions (Listed Alphabetically)
- Yeah…this is that point where it becomes arbitrary so these are listed alphabetically.
50 – 1: Albums – Top 50 OMG (Ranked)
- These rankings will move in a year, a week, hell they’ve shifted while compiling this dumb list. The TOP 50 all include song recommendations, and the *TOP 25* have a few thoughts added on. Writing about music is fun and I wish I had more time!
When it comes to film, two of Japan’s most common genre outputs are the Samurai Film and the Ghost Story. At first glance (okay, and many sequential glances), Toshiya Fujita’s LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973) fits snugly in the Samurai category, following a stunning female assassin as she travels through late 19th century Japan, attempting to avenge her mother’s death. After looking closer at our heroine Yuki Kashima’s/The Lady Snowblood’s trial, however, it becomes clear that the film also works as a metaphorical ghost story, successfully blending the two prominent genres in an interesting and symbiotic way. Like a ghost whose unrest prevents it from passing on, Lady Snowblood’s entire existence is tied to a single piece of Unfinished Business: her quest for revenge. But whereas a phantom moves from this life to the next, Yuki’s eventual success actually gives her life for the first time, ending her state of limbo.
There’s a reason so many effective horror stories revolve around a haunted house. If horror is meant to unnerve, undermining the sanctity of the home is a hell of way to do it. The home is safe, the place where parents’ natural tendency to protect is at its most powerful. But when something unwanted enters the home – a ghost, a demon, a Babadook – it’s terrifying for the parents as much as the children. All of a sudden, there’s no home court advantage.
But what happens when this extraneous force is somehow linked to the parents? What if they’re not only helpless to stop it but somehow responsible?
In her tremendously layered debut novel THE BARTER, Siobhan Adcock uses two parallel narratives, each focusing on womanhood and motherhood, to explore how the demands of society have a nasty habit of striping women of their identity. While ostensibly a horror novel, THE BARTER isn’t a traditional haunted house story even though there are plenty of ghosts, literal and metaphorical. It’s more unsettling than outright terrifying, but the entire novel is packed with insight, tragedy, and enough shrewd humor to devour effortlessly.
I’m allowing myself fourteen movies for 2014 because: 1) ten is too hard, 2) I want to bring attention to these movies I think are great, 3) you’re not the boss of me, and 4) Buzzfeed tells me round numbers are not important (i.e. 19 Seriously Disturbing Bug Faces That Will Ruin Your Life Forever and 26 Pictures That Will Give You Hope For The Future). I haven’t seen ALL the films this year, but of those I did see these are my personal favorites.
Brett Ratner’s HERCULES was released exactly six months ago as I post this. Did you see it? The film was one of my most pleasant surprises of 2014 and I spent the following weeks asking everyone I knew if they’d seen it yet. Invariably, the answer would be a “Uh, no.”
“But…The Rock literally throws a horse.”
There’s been no shortage of vampire films this year, so it’s pretty remarkable that the darts have been landing so close to the bullseye. The best of the group have succeeded because rather than recreate vampire lore, they use it as an entry way to more universal and interesting stories. The genre operates like the best of restrictions, providing a skeletal structure that creative writers and directors can animate as they see fit.
In a post-WILD TALES Q&A, Argentinian director Damian Szifron said the thematic connection tying his varied and terrific vignettes together is “the pleasure of losing control.” While building his film around such a feeling, Szifron had to have hoped it would be a pleasure to watch these characters lose control as well.
And it is. In so many cringe-worthy, uproarious, and surprisingly insightful ways, WILD TALES is an absolute pleasure.
As I eavesdrop on people leaving the theater after their Gone Girl screening I hear many iterations of “What a crazy psycho bitch!” and all I want to do is scream, “BUT SHE’S SO MUCH MORE!” Since I read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl a few years ago I’ve ranted at anyone who will listen that Amy Elliot Dunne is one of the great female characters of literature — and now film. With anti-hero’s basically ruling network and cable television it seems strange to me that people are so ready to just write off Amazing Amy as just another crazy bitch. The only acceptable reason for loving Travis Bickle, Tyler Durden, Alex Delarge, The Joker, Chuck Bass, Don Draper, Francis Underwood, and Walter White while totally overlooking Amy is because Amy is a woman and the others are men. There doesn’t seem to be any getting around it.
The Real Face of Children’s Adventure Films
Grimm’s fairytales, those children’s stories that have stood the test of time, have done so not in spite of the danger in which they throw their young protagonists, but because of it. Hansel and Gretel get devastatingly close to being devoured by the witch, Little Red Riding Hood is eaten by the wolf, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both essentially die when they are put into a never-ending sleep. And yet, we read these stories to our children from a very young age. Stories are where our children first encounter danger, difference, and fear, ultimately overcoming those obstacles while nestled safely in our arms. Movies have stepped in to share the mantle of acquainting our children with experiences that we hope they never have to confront in their own lives. At their best, movies help them vicariously experience and overcome these trials in the safest possible space.
This summer’s children’s adventure film Earth to Echo pulls certain plot points from the genre’s most successful outings (The Goonies and E.T.) and attempts to update the stories for the current generation. If you missed the film’s quick stint in theaters don’t be too dismayed; my reasons for discussing it now speak more to a wider cultural shift in the access children have to risk than just the sins of this particular movie. Unfortunately, when updating this modern story (read: adding the stock references to smart-phones, YouTube, Go-Pros, and Googling) the film ultimately suffers from the current epidemic of helicopter parenting — meaning constantly hovering over children to prevent them from experiencing any and all danger — and essentially sterilizes itself of any merit.
The film’s ultimate message? Confronting danger and difference in fiction is almost as undesirable as confronting it in life.
I’ve found watching Ingmar Bergman films to be a uniquely masochistic experience. They’re not punishing in a conventional sense, never relying on any sort of realistic, special-effects bloodshed, but rather in the emotional carnage that provides the spine and nervous system of his films. This creates an entirely different form of realism, one where emotion is laid bare, interrogated by his claustrophobic settings and intimate, almost uncomfortable close-ups. Characters kick and scream and question their world and we, the audience, are placed in perilous proximity by Bergman and his frequent cinematographer Sven Nykvist. In the end, Roger Ebert was exactly right when referred to Bergman’s dramas as “brooding, lonely, and violent excursions into the human soul.”
It takes a remarkable sort of alchemy to make films that are so emotionally pointed while never sinking into pure exploitation. You quickly get the sense that each is a deep psychological exercise for Bergman. He once said “the people in my films are exactly like myself — creatures of instinct, of rather poor intellectual capacity, who at best only think while talking. Mostly they’re body, with a little hollow for the soul.” It’s all the more impressive that these characters, often deep in their own spiritual crisis, manage to be so universal.