If Boogie Nights is, at least in part, about the triumph of commerce over art and There Will Be Blood is about the triumph of commerce over religion in the American psyche, I think it’s fair to say that Phantom Thread is the Paul Thomas Anderson film in which commerce has finally met its match: love does indeed conquer all.
I think it’s fair to say that All the Money in the World will be remembered as an oddity, first and foremost. It may end up being the apotheosis of the #MeToo movement’s influence on Hollywood, a major film whose backers were so spooked by rumors of sexual misconduct that millions were spent on reshoots so an actor in it could literally be erased from the picture.
Of all the trends in year-end pieces this December, the most annoying is the one typified by the first sentence of the AV Club’s wrap up: “Bad movies were the least of anyone’s problems in 2017.” This is true literally every year—no one’s most pressing problem has ever been spending $15 on The Emoji Movie—and so fatuously self-congratulatory in our current moment. We get it, you think the United States has devolved into an authoritarian hell-scape where the weak are ground into paste and fed to the Koch Brothers’ dogs. This decrease in surplus population and the vile capitalistic use to which it has been put, I presume, helps explain why the unemployment rate is at a 17-year low and the stock market is at an all-time high.
The Last Jedi feels cobbled together from bits and pieces of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi: we get training sequences in a remote location headed by a reticent Jedi master; we get trench battles featuring hopelessly outnumbered rebels facing down AT-ATs; we get a final duel in the throne room of a star ship as a hero of the Alliance watches her fleet be destroyed, her allies snuffed out hundreds at a time. And I probably could have lived with that, to be totally honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that writer/director Rian Johnson also borrows from the prequel trilogy’s shoddier storytelling impulses and action set pieces.
As a work of visual art, The Shape of Water is among the most interesting films of the year: designed with an eye for detail and soaked through with a seawater green palette, director Guillermo del Toro has created a world both familiar and strange, perfect for his “adult fairy tale.”* It’s beautifully acted, with stirring performances from top to bottom. The score is lovely.
Darkest Hour belongs to a genre that often inspires shudders this time of year: a period piece about an important historical figure muddling through some crisis or another in a way that helps reshape not only our view of him but also our view of the world. “Oscar bait,” some might say, with a despairing sigh.
If one were to make a Venn diagram for a studio head demonstrating whom, exactly, The Disaster Artist is supposed to appeal to amongst the general population, I imagine the overlap in the middle would be quite small. It’s a movie about a cult film, The Room, best known for being horrible. It’s made by James Franco, whose distinctive comedic sensibility is not without its detractors. I imagine that 99 percent of the population will be either confused by some part of this précis or actively annoyed.