Writer-Director Marin Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Germany’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Oscars, is a profoundly strange and wonderful film. It wanders between awkward comedy, heartfelt drama, and outright farce with a complete control of its own voice and tone. It’s an impressive and weird movie, and even though it stretches to nearly three hours in length, it never bogs down or loses focus on the central relationship between Ines and her father Winfried.
In A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick means to make you uncomfortable. The magic of the film is that it can show terrible things and then making us care about the mind of the man responsible for them. Kubrick accomplishes this titanic task through three main techniques, each of which will be detailed in this piece: heightened stylization, a uniquely likeable non-hero in Alex, and the unification of every aspect of the film into a potent thematic statement: Free Will is sacrosanct. These aspects make A Clockwork Orange an undeniable classic film, as important today for what it reveals about humanity as it was in 1971.
The minimally observant among you have probably noticed that Plot and Theme has been pretty dark over the last couple of weeks. The explanation is simple: I have just uprooted from the Midwest (Wisconsin) back down to the Grand Old South (North Carolina), and the recent past has thoroughly involved all things box-related. Now, the new home is up-and-running, only about 25% still in boxes, and I can start to wildly attempt to catch up on my review, essays, and other pieces here. Fortunately/unfortunately, August new releases look proper terrible, so I should have plenty of time.
In The Big Sick, ideas about cultural identity and family are united with a comedic style reliant on awkwardness and sarcasm, all in service of a brilliant romantic comedy plot. Kumail and Emily are growing into their new relationship, but a serious snag slams on the breaks. Then, a sudden illness befalls Emily and Kumail is forced into reconsidering everything that he just let go and the reasons why. The comedy and the characters in The Big Sick are great, but the way that the themes arise from this subject matter are far more poignant and impressive, resulting in one of the best romantic comedies of recent memory and strongest films in all of 2017.
Though he has only a pair of independent films to his name, director Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car) sure knows his way around a friendly neighborhood Spider-man. The product of a team-up between Sony and Marvel Studios, Spider-man: Homecoming places the iconic webslinger in high school. This choice dictates many aspects of the film, from the story and characters all the way down to the sense of humor and the overarching themes of growing into one’s responsibilities. At the very least, it certainly establishes Watts’s version of Spider-man as different, which is absolutely crucial given that this is the third iteration of Peter Parker in the last 15 years.
The prime-numbered year of 2017 has been a divisive one, which is at least a little ironic. Now that the glass is half of something, it is time to broadcast my 100% correct and 99% meaningless opinions on the Ten Best Films of 2017. I’ve done a few of these Top Ten lists here on Plot and Theme, and I always add commentary to them to keep them from feeling like a Buzzfeed list, but for you William Shakesman fans I will reproduce a brief and witty summary at the very end.