Best of February 2017

Hey, all! This post will serve as an update / “Best of February 2017” Post! If you follow this blog, you may notice that my “Best of the Week” posts have been slacking. That is simply because I watch maybe zero to two movies per week, and I review them all; Best of the Week posts would simply be redundant, and I honestly have not had the time (or films) to make them :/ However, they will start up again (possibly in two weeks!) as my schedule clears up. Even looking at my Best of the Month posts, you can see how busy I’ve been lately and the only reason my watches are above five/month or so has been because Sundance was in January and the Oscar Showcase was in February, which explains the higher numbers. Anyways, let’s break down the best films that I saw this last month 🙂

Arrival! This is the second time that I watched Arrival, and the first time that I actually had a great experience with it (since I fell asleep the first time). However, I had an incredible experience with it this time and completely understand the hype around it. This film is directed by Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. The way that this film uses “flashbacks” to tell a story in a completely different way that expected makes this film like Shutter Island or The Sixth Sense in which the second viewing is an entirely different experience, and this was the viewing in which I had both a great first and second viewing experience so it was absolutely glorious. The amazing cast, breathtaking cinematography, jaw-dropping score, incredible twist and just overall story were all top-notch and cannot be complimented more. Arrival is not just the best film that I saw this month but is one of the best films that I’ve ever seen in my life. The ambiguity promotes intelligence and the more the film says, the more it does with its story and characters.

Hacksaw Ridge is the most recent directorial effort from Academy Award winning director Mel Gibson, following his popular and praised Apocalypto. This film stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss- a young man living in Virginia when WWII stars. With his strong morality and passion for doing good and helping others, he enlists to join the army and fight in the war… becoming one of the greatest soldiers that the world has ever seen, without ever firing a single bullet. There are aspects of this film that are borderline horror because of how real they seem, and having a character that we love so much who puts himself in these situations makes this very difficult to watch at times. It’s really a beautiful film in this way, and as this movie puts you right in the action, it also puts you right in the drama, and the romance, and the laughs… and because of all that, I was on the edge of tears for the majority of the run time.

Lion is a 2016 biopic directed by Garth Davis based on an autobiography by Saroo Brierly called A Long Way Home. This film stars Sunny Pawar as young Sarro and Dev Patel as Saroo Brierly; the film begins as young Saroo is lost, accidentally taken a long way from home, and is unable to find his family. After he is adopted by a nice Australian family, he finally decides to search for his home after 20 years thanks to Google Maps. I did not feel the need to see this because it seemed pretty “Oscar-bait-y” and those films could either be great or awful, but I finally saw this thanks to the AMC Oscar Showcase, and was so glad that I did. I either teared up or cried three to four times throughout the film because of how moving the story was, and knowing that this was a true story definitely made the entire movie much more impactful. The movie definitely deserves and earns every award that it is nominated for and is a film that I will most certainly revisit when I get the chance.

Manchester by the Sea is an original movie by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan about a handyman named Lee (played by Casey Affleck), who loses his brother to a heart disease, and then has to step in to care for his nephew. This movie works because of the characters, and the performances that bring them to live. Casey Affleck as Lee and Lucas Hedges as Patrick (the nephew) stood out to me and were some of the most memorable aspects of this film. The story, told partly through flashbacks, jumped around in time and kept me guessing at the next move, but was never easy to predict. The writing cannot be more applauded here, and the film, although being an emotional drama (sometimes quite emotionally taxing), had quite a few funny moments in which I laughed out loud, with the rest of my theater-going audience. The characters drive the story, and they’re extremely convincing thanks to their great performances. The character of Lee would be an easy one to screw up: he is a very damaged, reserved, and emotionally repressed (and depressed) individual, and Affleck brings that to life magnificently. This film is raw, real, honest and true, and although it won’t be for everybody, it’s definitely one that you should watch when you get the chance.

Memento is absolutely amazing in every way; it’s completely cerebral and fascinating, not only in the way it’s organized but also in the plot in general. This is written and directed by Christopher Nolan and based off the short story Memento Mori written by Jonathan Nolan. Watching this film the normal way (as it’s presented) makes for one hell of a mystery as the audience is trying to piece together what is going on and what has happened, but watching this film on YouTube with the scenes in chronological order makes for one hell of a thriller as we know everything, and Lenny is lost because of his disorder. The way the film was organized out of order is a better experience because we are grounded in the psyche of Lenny, which is incredibly original and unique to this film. It’s really a great adaptation and remains absolutely faithful to the source material, as Nolan always does. You can read my full review of the film here!

Moonlight is an anthology film written and directed by Barry Jenkins and is a story about a young boy who grows into a man and struggles to find his identity in the world. Barry Jenkins and the cast did a beautiful job in capturing this story, everything from the writing to the directing and editing was marvelous and emotionally powerful. In a narrative technique similar to Boyhood, we visit the lead character only during key moments in his life, and these moments are what separates the film into its effective three-act structure. With each act, we see lead character Chiron further along in his life as he changes into the man that the world forms him into. Jenkins’ direction was outstanding and that’s apparent from the very first scene with the breathtaking rotating camera work. Jenkins’ story is not only timely, but incredibly beautiful. His relationships with real mother as well as the family he voluntarily becomes a part of, I thought were handled beautifully, and this movie was one of the most emotional of the year. It’s a raw and intimate look into one man’s life and how the world treats him for who he is, and culminates in an act that shows how the world changed him for who is. Simply saying that it’s “moving” is criminally understanding the emotional impact that this film has on the audience; it’s heartbreaking as well as heartwarming, and it was easily one of the most unforgettable films of 2016.


Published by Blake Carson Schwarz

Indiana University graduate in Media and Creative Writing. I love to write my own stories as well as experience the work of others. On this site, I post reviews, essays, and other fun posts that I hope you have as much fun reading and I have writing. Please share any comments you have, I'd be happy to hear what you think! *Never a critic, always a fan*

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