5. My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea
Exactly what it advertises, My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea is just that: after an earthquake strikes, Tides High School breaks off from its place on land and begins slowly sinking into the sea. As the school’s population either dies terribly during the disaster or scrambles from floor to floor to gain higher ground familiar high school dramas and social tensions begin to arise while their chances for survival start to sink.
While Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) experience a strain in their relationship thanks to Assaf’s burgeoning relationship with their friend Verti (Maya Rudolph), and the jocks start a cult, and the student body begins to dwindle, it looks like the inevitable is about to happen–and Dash was really looking forward to sophomore year.
Created by graphic novelist Dash Shaw and animated in a cozy, almost doodle-like style, My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea comes across like the sort of daydream nightmare a bored student would come up with one afternoon during algebra class.
While its take on the high school coming-of-age story is definitely left-of-center and often surprisingly apocalyptic in tone, its inventive visuals and cheerfully straightforward characters in an insane situation make My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea maybe this year’s most original movie so far.
Gloria’s life isn’t going too well: unemployed and an obvious alcoholic, she has also recently been kicked out by her boyfriend. Moving back home and squats in her parents’ vacant house. She also reconnects from a childhood friend, Oscar, who now runs his deceased father’s bar. He offers her a job there, which doesn’t help her drinking problem, and she makes it a habit to sleep it off at a nearby playground.
Around the same time, a giant monster begins appearing in Seoul, South Korea, wreaking havoc as it thoughtlessly stumbles through the town. It doesn’t take too long for Gloria to realize that she’s controlling the monster, and the situation gets even more complex when Oscar realizes he can manifest a monster of his own.
A unique take on the ravages of alcoholism and manipulative relationships, Colossal is like an inverted monster movie, where the giant Godzilla-like creatures are just drunk people with emotional issues stumbling around a playground.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria without glamour while Jason Sudeikis starts off playing Oscar with his regular smarmy charm until his character takes a dark turn. A movie about just how damaging bad habits can become when left unchecked, Colossal addresses the potential monster in all of us.
3. The Lost City of Z
Deep in the Brazilian jungles, a British adventurer is told of a lost city of gold; while initially suspicious, he comes to believe the tale and spends the rest of his life trying to find it. But that’s really the bare bones, as The Lost City of Z is the story of a man’s life in full, from trying to restore his previously disgraced family’s name to several long journeys to South America from England both surveying and attempting to locate the lost city. He enters World War I as a soldier, reconciles with his estranged son, and together they go searching for the lost city together.
This sweeping piece of cinema follows a complex protagonist, real-life explorer Percy Fawcett, along the historical period covering the first quarter of the 20th century. Contrasting the civilization of England with the wilds of the Brazilian rainforest, The Lost City of Z is filmmaking that’s rarely seen these days–the classic epic. Visually stunning direction by James Gray and a methodical story that reveals the wonders of nature and the mysteries that drive–and haunt–a man, The Lost City of Z is a rare film to find in this day and age.
2. I Am Not Your Negro
The accomplishments and contributions of James Baldwin as a writer and social critic in the 20th century are difficult to quantify: a brilliant commentator and distinctive figure in literature and of black and gay rights, Baldwin’s work aimed to reveal and elucidate the complex social and psychological issues that seemingly prevented integration and acceptance of people who did not fit within the status quo. Now 30 years after his death, his unfinished work I Am Not Your Negro has been adapted into a documentary, and it’s as relevant as ever.
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson as Baldwin’s voice, I Am Not Your Negro details the civil rights movement as experienced by Baldwin, who became a vital voice in the cause, along with his memories of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other figures of the movement. His comments on American history and his own life are as sharp and brilliant as any of his writing, and the overall impact of the film is an invitation to revisit and revise the state of race relations in America. A brilliant introduction to Baldwin as a writer and historical figure, if one is unfamiliar with the writer, this documentary will encourage you to seek out his work further.
1. Free Fire
It starts off so simple: in 1970s Boston, members of the IRA meet up with some local arms dealers to buy the firepower they need back home. But when the deal goes sour over personal reasons, negotiations quickly break down–in that a protracted firefight breaks out between the dealers and members of the IRA. How protracted? Said gunfight runs for the majority of the running time–and astonishingly, it never gets boring.
For the gunfire and action junkie, there may be no better film this year than Free Fire. This Peckinpah-inspired melee is stylishly directed by Ben Wheatley, with the close-quarters confinement (and consequences) of an extended gunfight between two heavily armed parties taking center stage, ratcheting up the tension as a half hour, and then fifty minutes, pass with both parties still opening fire on each other.
For what it sounds like, the movie also has a pulpy wit to it, with sharp asides and ironically placed pop songs placed to punctuate the non-stop action. Gleefully violent and almost mindlessly slavish to its real-time trapping of capturing a rip-roaring gunfight, Free Fire rips a hole through the screen in 2017, blowing away its audience in the process.
Author’s Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and academic whose work has appeared on Cracked and Funny or Die and maintains a film and TV blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.