Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: Year In Review

This time last year I was reminiscing about how many amazing adventures I had in 2016 and, with absolutely nothing planned for the upcoming year, I speculated that 2017 would be a bit anticlimactic in comparison.  Little did I know that I would have some incredible experiences and that a love of film would introduce me to some amazing people who have become great friends of mine.  Here are some highlights.

This year most of my amazing experiences were spontaneous and happened because I said yes to adventures when they presented themselves to me.  I hope to do more of the same in 2018!  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Favorite Movies of 2017

I actually saw over one hundred new releases in the theater this year so I thought I would compile my top ten favorites of 2017 (click on the link to go to my original review of each movie). 

I loved this dark comedy because it allowed two incredibly compelling characters to not only express their rage over untenable situations but to also find some sort of forgiveness with each other.  It really struck a chord with me because I find narratives about tragically flawed people behaving badly but ultimately finding redemption to be incredibly cathartic (it is a theme in many of my all-time favorite movies).  Both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell give tour de force performances and I thought about this movie long after I left the theater.

What I loved most about this film is that, in an age of conformity, a group of misfits is able to triumph over a truly despicable authority figure and that, ultimately, love wins!  All of the characters mirror the otherness of the humanoid they are trying to protect and I think it is a beautiful exploration of what it means to be different and that the monsters are not who we think they are.  Sally Hawkins gives a remarkable physical performance that it is worthy of all of the accolades she is receiving.

This film is another that stayed with me long after I left the theater.  I loved the juxtaposition of people living on the margins of society right next to Disney World, the Happiest Place on Earth.  In a nation of great abundance, what do we do for the people who fall through the cracks?  A young girl chooses to turn the tragic circumstances of her life into a daily adventure and I found myself rooting for her young mother, who despite some major character flaws and some questionable behavior, tries her best to do what she can for her daughter with limited resources.  Brooklynn Prince gives a truly affecting performance as does Willem Dafoe.

This movie is a visual masterpiece that exceeded my expectations in every way (which is very rare).  I've always been a fan of the original Blade Runner and, in this latest installment, Denis Villeneuve continues Ridley Scott's world-building to its logical progression to tell a compelling story of what it means to be human.  There are some scenes that resonated very powerfully with me and I loved Ryan Gosling's performance.

6.  Dunkirk
This movie was a truly immersive experience for me that literally left me breathless with brilliant cinematography that put the audience in the middle of the action, whether in an aerial dogfight or on a sinking ship.  It is a powerful portrayal of one of the most defining moments in history and the subject is survival itself.  The action is unrelenting and the three different timelines kept me completely engaged with the story.  I loved the small acts of heroism with standout performances by Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Kenneth Branagh.

5.  Logan
I enjoyed this film much more than I anticipated.  I think it resonated so deeply with me because it is such a raw portrayal of a tortured man living with regrets who is ultimately redeemed by a young girl who faces the same demons.  The tone is much more somber than the other movies in the franchise, and much more violent, but the message is one of hope about people who are different and the final resolution left me with tears in my eyes.  Hugh Jackman gives a highly nuanced performance that, in my opinion, should generate some attention this awards season.

4.  Lady Bird
As a huge fan of Greta Gerwig's particular brand of humor I knew that I would really love this film.  It is a quirky coming of age story that perfectly captures the narcissism of youth as a teenager navigates her senior year and her combative relationship with her mother.  I had a deep emotional connection to the character of Lady Bird and Saoirse Ronan is brilliant in the role as is Laurie Metcalf as her mother.  It made me want to call my mother after I walked out of the theater.

In my opinion Wonder Woman is the best superhero movie, ever.  I loved everything about it!  Diana is such a dynamic character and Gal Gadot brilliantly captures both her strength and naivete.  World War I has always been of particular interest to me and setting the narrative during the war to end all wars worked very well because her struggle is against war itself and man's inclination to evil.  I loved that her relationship with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and his capacity for love is what redeems mankind in her eyes.  I may or may not have had a tear in my eye during the No Man's Land scene!

This film is a fascinating exploration of a young woman's search for identity.  The juxtaposition between the spiritual and the material is brilliantly portrayed as Maureen (Kristen Stewart), who is a medium and a personal shopper for a celebrity, is haunted by a ghost and a stalker.  I honestly don't know which scenes are more menacing: the ghost in an abandoned house or the stalker's texts to Maureen on the train!  Stewart gives one of the best performances of the year (I find her to be vastly underrated).  I saw this multiple times in the theater and I've watched my copy countless times because this is a film that makes me think!

This film was easily my favorite at Sundance this year and that status was solidified after viewing it again in wide release.  To be sure, there are long sustained shots without much action but I found them to be strangely compelling.  The cinematography is beautiful and the score is one of the most evocative in recent memory.  The ghost, even completely shrouded in a sheet with eye holes, is an incredibly sympathetic character and I was emotionally invested in his journey.  I loved the theme that attachment to people, places, and things is what holds us back because this is something I think about a lot.  It is a masterpiece and I loved it so much!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas 2017

It was a wonderful Christmas this year!  On Christmas Eve I went to the final Christmas broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I can't think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve!  The program was especially beautiful and I loved "Wexford Carol."  In the afternoon I went to see It's A Wonderful Life on the big screen at my local art house theater.  They show it every year and I've always wanted to see it so this year I decided to make it happen.  I love that movie!  In the evening Sean and Tashena opened their traditional Christmas pajamas.
We played shanghai rummy for the rest of the evening which is always so much fun!  Trent won!
Sean gave us very strict instructions about when we were opening presents in the morning.  I thought I was going to be late but I made it with two minutes to spare only to discover that he wasn't there yet!
Santa Claus came and he was very generous!
Sean got lots and lots of games for his Xbox, a wireless controller, and a drone (I kind of want one of those!).
Tashena got a bigger TV for her room, some new basketball shoes, a Kindle e-reader, and lots of body spray from Bath & Body Works (she has so much of that stuff).
I got some books, a sweater, a new chromebook, and lots of movies!  After a fantastic dinner we played shanghai rummy (Tashena won) and then Marilyn and I took Tashena (Sean didn't want to go because he has a million new games to play) to see The Last Jedi (it was the third time for me and I still love it!).

I hope that you had a wonderful holiday as well!  Just like last year, I plan on spending the rest of my winter break in a darkened theater trying to cross off a bunch of movies on my list (reviews will come in the new year). 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert

Last Christmas the Utah Symphony showed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on the big screen with the score played live by the orchestra.  I absolutely loved it and, at the time, I hoped that they would continue with the whole series of films.  It seems as if they are because this year they showed the next film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and I got to see it last night!  This film follows Harry Potter's second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when the Heir of Slytherin opens the Chamber of Secrets which causes several students (as well as Mrs. Norris!) to be petrified after viewing the monster that is unleashed.  It was so much fun to see this on the big screen again and having the Utah Symphony play the lush score composed by John Williams added so much to the experience.  There was not an empty seat at Abravanel Hall and the crowd, many in costume, was extremely enthusiastic.  There were cheers and applause when every character appeared on screen for the first time (especially Professor Snape) and for all of Harry's adventures including the flying Ford Anglia, the Polyjuice Potion, the spider Aragorn, and the battle with the basilisk.  I especially enjoyed seeing Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) because they were so little and I thought Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) was hilarious!  It was such a fun night!  If you have not seen a movie in concert with a live orchestra I highly recommend it if you have the chance!  The Utah Symphony just announced that they will be showing Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in June and I am really excited!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Nutcracker 2017

I am now officially on winter break and I am so excited (and relieved). The past week at school has been extremely stressful and, honestly, I didn't think I would make it! The one thing that got me through the day yesterday was knowing that I would be seeing a performance of The Nutcracker by Ballet West later that night. This is a cherished tradition every Christmas and I was even more excited than usual this year because it is all new! The new production retains everything that I love about this ballet, namely the incomparable score by Tchaikovsky and William Christensen's iconic choreography, and adds some beautiful new sets and costumes. I loved it! The set during the party scene has a very Baroque feel to it with lots of jewel tone colors.  I especially loved the falling snow visible in a picture window behind the tree. I also really liked the special lighting effects when the tree grows in size. The set for the Snow Pas de Deux is like a woodland winter wonderland with the Northern lights in the background.  I particularly liked the effect of viewing this scene through diamond paned windows as Clara and the Nutcracker Prince leave the house. The set for the Land of the Sweets has a very tropical feel with candy hued costumes for the pages and attendants (and monkeys!). The new costumes are incredibly opulent and my favorites were the Waltzing Flowers and the furry mice. I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing this ballet and I eagerly anticipate all of the divertissements offered by the Sugar Plum Fairy to entertain Clara. As ever, my favorites are the Arabian dance because it is so exotic and sensuous and the Russian dance for its sheer athleticism (it received the loudest cheers). I wait through the entire ballet for the Grand Pas de Deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. I love this because Tchaikovsky's music here is so incredibly romantic!  The Sugar Plum Fairy was danced by Sayaka Ohtaki last night and she was fantastic. I think she is so classically graceful and she seemed to glide across the stage and whirl through the air. It was a wonderful evening and the perfect start to winter break! I highly recommend seeing this amazing update of a Christmas classic.  It runs at the Capitol Theatre through December 30 and tickets may be purchased here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gingerbread Houses 2017

My nephew Sean is the keeper of the family traditions and he started asking me about doing gingerbread houses last weekend when I was over playing cards.  Every year I keep expecting that Sean and Tashena will no longer want to make them but it seems like they still look forward to it and that makes me happy.  We planned our epic gingerbread party for last Sunday night and it was as fun as it always is!
Various stages of construction.  We eat as much candy as we put on our houses!
Sean's house.
Tashena's house.
Marilyn's house.
My house.
The whole village!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...