Blockbusters Are Great, But There’s More To 2017 Than Big Budgets
With the 2017 Academy Awards now upon us, the time for celebrating the cinema of 2016 is coming to an end and the time for anticipating the cinema of 2017 is beginning.
Though 2016 wasn’t without its misfires, it was a generally strong year for film. Audiences received quite a few successful blockbusters, ranging from superhero flicks like Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool, to SciFi epics such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and returns to classic Disney properties like The Jungle Book and Finding Dory. But even with these massively popular franchises receiving so much attention, the real reason for 2016’s fantastic cinematic year came from the smaller productions. The year’s true gems came in the form of phenomenal smaller budget productions such as Arrival, Loving, or Fences. Though they didn’t necessarily attain full recognition among mainstream audiences, movies like these produced a great year.
2017 has an insane list of blockbusters coming out that we’re actually super excited to see, but by the end of the year our lists of favorite films are more likely to be populated by The Lobster’s than by Suicide Squad’s.
Right now, prognosticating the best films of 2017 is a nearly impossible task, made even more challenging by the fact that at this time a year ago, many cinephiles had never even heard of what became some of the best movies of last year. When 2016 began, Best Picture nominees Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, and Moonlight were all complete unknowns, nowhere to be found on anyone’s most anticipated lists. And even when you venture away from the Oscars, audiences can discover a list of unknown cinematic masterpieces from last year that expands even further. Movie’s such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Invitation, or Queen of Katwe were each relatively obscure productions coming into the year, and though they didn’t get the box office support they deserved, they were roundly beloved and appeared on many a top ten list.
Inevitably, in the coming year the same thing will happen. Right now audiences (ourselves included) are building up hype for the major blockbusters because those are what get the most coverage. But there’s more out there to be excited for than just those massive productions.
So, despite the impossibility of knowing what the best movies of 2017 are going to be, here’s our shot at some of the smaller productions that we at DLD are incredibly excited for:
Though it already premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and therefore isn’t exactly an unknown product, my personal level of excitement for Free Fire prompted me to place it on this list. Written and directed by the always interesting, but not always successful, Ben Wheatley, Free Fire is a close quarters action-comedy with a star-studded cast. Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, and Sharlto Copley all suit up in an attempt to fill the Tarantino-sized void in my heart that has existed since the The Hateful Eight left me disappointed. Free Fire hits theaters on April 21.
George Clooney doesn’t have the best track record as a director, but it’s difficult to say no to a ridiculous black comedy written by the Coen Brothers and starring Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac, Julianne Moore, and Josh Brolin. Also set in the 1950s, the IMDb plot summary of Suburbicon describes the film as a story “where the best and worst of humanity is hilariously reflected through a home invasion [that] turns deadly, [and] a picture-perfect family [that] turns to blackmail, revenge and betrayal.” It sounds like the sort of insane Coen Brothers production that Clooney would traditionally star in with one of his silly, amplified performances, but putting him in the director’s chair might be an even better move than giving him the starring role. Hopefully, he’ll harness the wild energy he brings to every Coen Brothers’ movie, and bring the entire story to life instead of just whichever character he could have potentially played.
Written and directed by Dee Rees, Mudbound has already had its big breakthrough. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival to huge critical acclaim, Mudbound is hoping to follow in the trajectory of last year’s Manchester by the Sea, instead of stumbling like The Birth of a Nation. Starring Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell, Mudbound tells the story of two men returning home to Mississippi after World War II, where they need to deal with racism and readjusting to a normal life. Rees has already shown her talent as an auteur with 2011’s Pariah, but 2017 could be her breakout year, thanks to the impending release of Mudbound, and her participation in the upcoming series When We Rise. Expect an awards-friendly release date for Mudbound that will have us talking about the film again at this time next year.
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson/Daniel Day-Lewis Film
I’m not sure much needs to be said about this movie, given that there are few actor-director pairings more exciting than Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis. Anderson is one of the most dynamic and intricate filmmakers working today, and Day-Lewis is more dedicated to his craft than any other actor on the market. The subject matter is hardly relevant, given that these two could team up for a film about a man trying to get his printer to work and it would still be exhilarating, but an exploration of the London fashion industry during the 1950s doesn’t sound too bad on its own. There’s no release date for the film, but it’s expected in the fall, and you can bet it’ll make it onto the next iteration of #18in3 if it does come out this year.
Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation is likely my most anticipated film of the year. Written and directed by Alex Garland, the film stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez as a team of scientists who venture into “Area X” in an attempt to discover what’s happening in the mysterious region. The book is smart, tense, and scary, and if there’s any science fiction film in recent memory that captures those feelings better than the majesty of Ex Machina, I would love to hear about it. Couple Garland’s participation with the breathtaking behind the scenes images that we’ve already gotten from the set, and I cannot wait to see this movie. There’s no release date on it yet, but here’s to hoping we’ll be able to see it by the end of 2017.
Honorable Mentions: The Lost City of Z, Baby Driver, Logan Lucky, It Comes At Night, American Made, Downsizing, Wind River, Okja, The Current War, The Death of Stalin, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Wildlife
None of these films are necessarily the complete mystery that something like Moonlight was at this time last year, but if I were able to predict the next big movie to come out of nowhere, it wouldn’t actually be coming out of nowhere, now would it?
Here at DLD, we can’t wait to see the coming year of films.From the massive blockbusters that you’ve been hearing about for years now, down to the mysterious indie films that were shot exclusively on an iPhone, we’ve got a feeling that 2017 is going to be a great one. We hope you’ll join us for the ride as we write about and discuss all of the hottest trends and most important releases of the year.