Taken as a whole, 2017 at the movies has left me somewhat dismayed. This is at least partly due, I think, to the overlong award season. With each passing year, this toxic notion of competition clouds the waters and does little to foster the appreciation and discussion of cinema. This rang particularly true in the silly and absurd horse race between La La Land and Moonlight—which ended up being an overwrought debate between authenticity in emotion—and culminated in one spectacular and public bungle at this year’s Oscar ceremony.
And while award season is both exhausting and disheartening, it was the lackluster rollout of blockbusters that followed, suggesting that Hollywood’s wheels weren’t just spinning, they were running on fumes. Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell, and Baywatch were duds. More were middling: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Cars 3, even Wonder Woman, a movie that opened with great promise, fell under the weight of corporate ambitions and a half-baked third act.
Creeping in between those blockbuster were the movies from tenured auteurs that either fell flat on their face (Terrence Malick’s Song to Song) or just short of excellence (François Ozon’s Frantz). Thankfully, I saw more from the latter category, but, like most Hollywood fare, there was a dull sense of the familiar, of the routine.
Those who did stretch out, who strove for something more, found excellence within the frame, and eagerly sent me back to the theater. They are the movies that wipe away the bad taste of corporate products and misguided motives. And the beauty of a magnificent movie isn’t just that I want to see them again; it makes me excited to discover what the second half of 2017 has in store.