Best Movies of 2017

The requisite best movie of the year goes to these four films at Novella because we like them and we think everyone else should too. It’s the raw confidence in our ability to discern shit from shinola that carry this illustrious list across the wavelengths straight onto your screen. Nothing else.

Disclaimer: these movies may very well change your life, but not sure if for better or worse.

The Beguiled

Set at a small girl’s schools in Virginia, The Beguiled offers up a dark and intensely female perspective of the American Civil War. When a student discovers a wounded Yankee soldier on school grounds, Mrs. Farnsworth, head mistress, agrees to take him in.  At first, the women are wary of his enemy status, but soon become beguiled by his charm and good looks; his very masculinity is enough to allure.  Once they accept the soldier into their lives, the household dynamic grows increasingly tense; jealously, suspicion and, ultimately, fear rule the space.  The Beguiled is a variation on a theme, building upon Coppola’s films, like Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, that explore the psychological and emotional experiences of women in isolation. Winner of Best Director at Cannes, Coppola’s latest is not to be missed. — RachelIntern

Florence Pugh plays the murderous and mischievous Katherine Lester in this loose adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. In William Oldroyd’s imagination, instead of a Russian estate, rural England in the 19th-century; a colder and lonelier lady of a faraway estate than even Shakespeare’s haunting and haunted Lady Macbeth. The plot is simple: Katherine is married/given to Boris, who is by all accounts a brute, by Boris’s father, Alexander, whose banal and viscid shittiness makes his son look like a charmer. Katherine is not happy. As unhappy marriages on films go, this one’s ills and death are not sickening in their own ways: there’s the requisite affair, fits of violence, and shorter periods of remorse. What truly distinguishes Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is Pugh’s brilliant and eerie performance. It’s difficult to either dislike or like Katherine, whose brutality matches that of her captors; she holds us captive, witnesses and accomplices to her violence. — Hoon, Managing Editor

For some, Girls Trip might seem like an unusual pick for a Best Movie pick but comedian and breakout star Tiffany Haddish performance alone is reason enough to understand why this movie made the list. There have been plenty of movies based on what happens when friends go on vacation. The only difference is this ensemble comedy actually delivers the laughs. The chemistry between the four women allows for cathartic dose of female-drive silliness and provide us with many hilarious moments. We all could use a good laugh after surviving this crazy year.

After the release of the unforgettable Tangerine in 2015, I knew that writer/director Sean Baker was one to watch for. His storytelling style came across as honest and poignant, something he maintains in this year’s release, The Florida Project. The story follows six-year-old Moonee and her mother Halley living day-to-day in a budget motel just outside of Disney World. Baker returns here with a wonderfully raw and real script, lived out flawlessly by breakout stars Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinai as the daughter and mother, respectively. I had put this article on my Fall Movie Preview list, and I’m so glad I did. Unlike many other films exploring the state of poverty in America, this one does so without a lick of condescension or hand-wringing. It brings genuine emotion, hope and compelling characters to the table, while drawing attention to serious ongoing economic issues. See this one. I mean it. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

What Movies Should You Be Looking Forward To This Spring?

This year’s Oscar season is behind us: you have shed your tears, contemplated the state of race relations in America, and watched a telecast notable for its amount of politically charged speeches and a historical screw-up that will live on in the hearts and minds of viewers as one of the best embarrassing moments the Oscars has ever given us (Warren Beatty’s look of crippling embarrassment thinly hidden behind false good humour is burned in my mind forever). This was an emotional Oscar season for sure, but it is now time to look forward. Spring is the slow kick-off to that time of the year littered with more big-budgeted fare, often depicting superheroes, the destruction of cities, space exploration adventures that are both vibrant and terrifying as well as the odd indie with some intriguing film festival buzz thrown in for good measure. So put away those tissues, get the extra large bag of popcorn, and check out some of these films that are to be released in the coming months.

The Lost City of Z. April 21

It seems as though for the past few years Charlie Hunnam has been making calculated gains towards his slow ascension from “charismatic television star” to “multi-faceted film icon.” Initially making a name for himself through roles in notable dramas such as Queer as Folk, Nicholas Nickleby, and Cold Mountain, he eventually gained a higher level of mainstream success with the FX series, Sons of Anarchy. As such, by the time he appeared in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, it was clear that he was likely to be on a career track similar to that of Tom Hardy or Channing Tatum’s, as he is able to take on roles that illustrate an ability for physically demanding work as well as for emotional depth and gravitas behind that tough-guy exterior. In May, Hunnam will be appearing in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but, frankly, The Lost City of Z, based on David Grann’s 2009 book, is much more intriguing. The film, set in the 1920’s, will focus on the true story of the British explorer Percy Fawcett who set out to find the remains of an advanced civilization that supposedly once existed in the Amazon. Moments in the trailer that show Percy (Hunnam) travelling by boat with his son (Tom Holland of the new Spider-man) while battling his own unhealthy obsessions, and perhaps growing more mentality unhinged, have a certain Apocalypse Now vibe. On top of that, the director, James Gray, who is more well-known for his smaller budgeted dramas such as We Own the Night and Two lovers, will hopefully add a degree of emotional heft not usually seen in recent adventure films.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume. May 2

Comic book fans and their classic rock-loving dads can rejoice as the clear front-runner for the biggest movie of the season is set to be released in less than a month. The first Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to be a case of capturing lightning in a bottle; it proved to be the perfect light and breezy counter-programming to the progressively convoluted Marvel’s Cinematic Universe; it introduced the world to Action Star-era Chris Pratt; it was seemingly the perfect big-budget property for director James Gunn, who made a name for himself with smaller genre-bending films like Slither (2006) and Super (2010); and it mined comedy from the idiosyncrasies of lovable characters. Even if the sequel struggles to retain the same amount of freshness, one is still just as likely to sit back and enjoy the comedic chemistry between the cast, while also being reintroduced to songs that were feared to haven been forgotten by all but the listeners of afternoon classic rock radio. And it’s science: Kurt Russell makes any movie more watchable.

Alien: Covenant. May 19

You may have thought you were done with the revival of the Alien franchise following Prometheus in 2012, but with reported plans of the Covenant being the second installment of a planned prequel trilogy, Ridley Scott is not. And be honest with yourself, you’re also cautiously curious to see what exactly he has planned out. Although Prometheus was conceptually ambitious, providing new and interesting corners into this film universe, it was pretty difficult to ignore moments of thinly-written character development and the wide ratio of questions concerning the plot to actual answers, which, combined, ultimately resulted in the film not reaching its full potential. However, there are some reasons to be hopeful this time around. From the footage already released involving facehuggers and Xenomorphs tearing through crew members’ bodies in new and exciting ways, it’s clear that this story, involving a new crew stumbling upon a seemingly ideal planet for colonization, is planted more firmly in the horror roots that made the franchise successful. Hopefully this will result in a more entertaining balance between the beloved claustrophobic, haunted house scares of the original and the philosophical musings on the nature of life and God, which were so prevalent in Prometheus; which, if successful, could make this new trilogy stand separately from the previous installments. There has also been quite the upgrade in the cast department, this time it includes Michael Fassbender (returning as another android, Walter, while also reprising his previous role), Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, James Franco, and Damian Bachir. The writing credits also are nothing to scoff at either, with a story credit to Michael Green (whose most recent credit was for Logan) and a screenplay credit to John Logan (whose other works include Gladiator, The Aviator, as well as the last two James Bond films). The television spots released have also been appropriately eerie and unsettling as well, especially those featuring Walter. Ridley Scott is clearly working towards perfecting his vision for this trilogy. Let’s hope this time around he nails the landing.

Wonder Woman. June 2

I am by no stretch of the imagination an avid watcher of any sports, but I assume being a fan of DC, in the context of an overcrowded superhero-movie landscape, is kind of like being a passionately die-hard fan of a sports team no matter how many times they let you down. But, like the good fan that I am, I will likely end up seeing Wonder Woman opening weekend, while bracing for impact if the film does not meet my already sober expectations. However, despite being burned from previous DC Comic movie outings, there is reason enough to believe that this may be primed for success. Judging from the trailers that have been released thus far, there seems to be a better marriage here between the edgier, brutal action elements that were also seen in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice — which certainly work towards helping to establish a tone and feel to this universe that is completely separate from that of Marvel — as well as a brighter lets-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously-this-time-around sensibility to the proceedings. Charisma machine Chris Pine has some good underplayed comedic bits in the trailer. Lucy Davis, probably best known for her role in The Office, is charmingly silly. And the writers even let Gal Gadot have moments playing up her own fish-out-of-water position in the plot, as she works alongside the Americans during World War I, presumably to protect not only their world but also that of Themyscira. And thankfully, those moments poking fun at her character do no take away from how ridiculously badass she looks as she nonchalantly bats away a mortar using her shield or slides on the ground towards an adversary with her sword pointed towards his chest. For me, moments like these turn those gritting teeth into an impressed and delighted smile. With beloved Golden Age characters such as these, DC deserves a win. Here’s to hoping the Warner Bros. has gotten their act together.

The Beguiled. June 30

At the moment, this film falls into the category of “I Have No Idea What Is Happening I just Know I Want More of This.” Based on a novel by Thomas Cullinan, this is the latest feature directed by Sofia Coppola, who has not released a film since the tepidly received The Bling Ring in 2013. Also intriguing is Colin Farrell, who seems to be having a nice comeback, as he has been taking on more interesting character roles in recent years in films such as Saving Mr. Banks, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, also to be released later this year (are we in the midst of a Farrelssance?). The plot revolves around a wounded Confederate soldier taken in by a group of women — among them Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning — who are sheltered from the outside world. Sexual tensions and psychologically unsettling moments quickly develop in the trailer, perhaps made to create a sense of ambiguity as to who “the beguiled” actually are. Check it out, feel uncomfortable, and mark it on your calendar.

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