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.
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.
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.
I’m always torn on didacticism as a way to deliver meaning. I grew up reading Church magazines full of stories that are — let’s be honest — never true, but always well intentioned. Realizing the flaws inherent in these stories (asking your friends to swap the R-rated film for something more uplifting never works, for example) didn’t necessarily make me averse to didacticism, only hyper-aware of its usage and and wary of its sloppy overuse. Those magazines are intended for young kids in the Church, and short stories of sharing, caring, and love work best when the moral is clear, even if the content is false.
Didacticism can be an extremely powerful method, and one that works particularly well when the audience agrees with the message. My Straight Son (with an alternative [re: better] title of Blue and Not So Pink) is a recent Venezuelan film written and directed by Miguel Ferrari, an actor-turned-director whose conscience is clearly concerned with the marginalized of the world and whose narrative tendencies quickly become pulpit-pounding rhetoric. I wrinkled my nose a bit when Delirio del Rio (Hilda Abrahamz), a transsexual juggernaut, concludes the film by literally preaching acceptance and love on her new television talk show, but this may have been a way to keep tears from flowing.
For the United States, World War II officially ended on September 2nd, 1945 with the surrender of Japan. But while signatures and treaties sent The Greatest Generation home to the country they’d fought to protect, it didn’t signify the end of their conflict. It ended physical battles but not internal ones. Even though they look perfectly healthy on the outside, soldiers did (and do) come home emotionally and mentally crippled.
Many of Hollywood’s finest (actors, directors, cameramen, you name it) were shipped overseas and those who made it home still had to wrestle with demons. As it turns out, spending your life creating fantasies doesn’t mean you’re any more prepared for the horror of war. How could it? Some of these Hollywood personnel were charged documenting a wartime spectacle that may have reflected a film they once worked on, but in actuality was completely alien.
New York City and the dreamers who flock there have been a staple of film almost since the medium’s advent. King Vidor chronicled the American Dream’s poisonous mystique in his silent masterpiece The Crowd in 1928. Busby Berkeley threw the city’s majesty on screen with his extravagant dance numbers, creating the illusion that something this visually stunning could only happen in a New York City setting.
Now that filmmaking has gone digital, smaller New York stories are growing in popularity, often focusing on adults wrestling with their imminent adulthood. We have Gimme the Loot, Broad City, Tiny Furniture, High Maintenance and Frances Ha just to name a few recent entries. Even this tiny selection shows the variety that fits under this umbrella.