glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | dec. 2017
Welcome to the second annual Naughty and Nice awards, the illustrious and 'So cult it's almost unheard of' celebration of the best and worst of 2017's cinematic offerings, all awkwardly forced into a seasonally-themed package. Hey, it's not as bad as “The Star Wars Holiday Special" so don't be too hard on me. Let's waste no more time and kick right into sorting out the baubles that should delight your eyes from the dropped pine needles that'll stick in your feet.
The 'Thoughtful Gift That Makes You Blub a Bit' Award: 'Dunkirk'
Christopher Nolan's thoughtful and epic, whilst being oddly understated, film about the rescue of thousands of retreating soldiers from Dunkirk tells a few of the small stories that would usually get lost in the noise and explosions that dominate most films of this kind. It's a war film that is less about the fighting than it is about those involved and that makes it worthy of a mention and a watch.
The Rotten Sprout Award: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales'/ 'Transformers: The Last Knight'
It's a tie for two films here. Pirates and Transformers represent to me, some of the worst examples of cynical Hollywood. Inexplicably, they keep making money despite being bland, formulaic and deeply unadventurous, and worse, they're helping grow an undemanding audience who are willing to accept whatever cash guzzling vacuous excesses the likes of Michael Bay can shovel out. Remember when the summer blockbuster was something to look forward to? Yeah, it was quite some time ago and films like this spamming the release schedules aren't helping.
The Sugar Plum Award: 'Wonder Woman'
I've been a major critic of DC since the “Extended Universe" kicked in, but I have to give “Wonder Woman" its due and say I rather liked it. It's far from perfect, the story is a bit weak and it feels like nothing more than a mildly interesting origin story, but at last I saw a modern DC character that I thought was an actual hero rather than a psychopath (Batman) or a sociopath (Superman). It's fun, hits good levels of laughs or seriousness at the appropriate times and we finally have a film world version of Wonder Woman to look up to.
The (makes you) Gag Gift Award: 'Baywatch'
Nostalgia, it seems, is not in vogue. How many times do we have to see these films where the original ideas of the '80s and '90s are torn a new one by filmmakers who just want to take lazy shots at their shortcomings. I was no fan of “Baywatch," but this was an insult to even that low rent original material. C'mon guys and girls, at least show some tiny bit of respect to the thing you're hoping to make money off of. Besides, pointing out the worst parts of any given pop-culture work is my job.
The Fun Christmas Cracker Joke Award: 'Thor: Ragnarok'
The sheer amount of laughs in this film are mind-boggling. It's a hell of a ride from start to finish and it looks and feels more like a comic book than most of its predecessors, but ...
The Garish Sweater Award: 'Thor Ragnarok'
... It doesn't feel like it's part of the established MCU. The color palette has shifted over to the more cartoonish Guardians look as has the heightened humor levels and the recognizable pop/rock soundtrack. Are we dispensing with the often-serious tone of establishing movies now because Guardians was popular? My thoughts are that we should expect Marvel to become much more popcorn than pop culture from now on. And “Immigrant Song" twice? I know it must have been an expensive song to use but come on. It's not a bad film but it is a little too safe and comfy and I do think it's a small step in the wrong direction in the grand scheme of the extended universe of Marvel.
The Gift That Only Your Partner Would Get You: 'Mother!'
Surprising, a little obscure but what you actually wanted and needed, “Mother!" is an odd film on many levels and not exactly for everyone. Its deeply psychological perspective is confusing and affecting but works so well it has to be given due for how involving it is. It's not at all Christmassy but, like the award suggests, it's something some people will hopefully find genuine value in for years to come.
The Under-Cooked Turkey Award: 'Alien Covenant'
Oh dear, it's not going to get any better is it? Ridley Scott's sequel to the prequel jettisons a lot of the previous episode and doubles down on brand new vacuous characters and an increasingly ludicrous plot line. While I applaud trying to make the Alien franchise about more than just the alien, this feels like an exercise in asking the audience to wait for the answers in the next movie, answers I'm not at all confident will come. It looks great and there are some fleeting, interesting ideas, but that's about it. Not even the expansion of Fassbender's character is saving this movie and now he's becoming the character with the God complex it's all just a bit silly and not that compelling. Sadly, it's all more of a mess than Kane's dinner table scene in the original Alien.
Well that's about it for another year of movies. Of course there are a ton of movies in between and some that I couldn't include but hey, I don't have four hours of broadcast time and drunk celebs to host this thing. Honorable mentions go out to “Atomic Blonde" for being an interesting twist on the spy film genre and “Jigsaw" for being another piece of hack horror writing in a zombie of a franchise.
Happy holidays to one and all, good health and good times to you folks and may the new year bring you all that you need.
--banner image by Kevin Dooley/CC BY 2.0
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.
For more of Glenn's work, visit cynicalcelluloid.com.