Paste's 20 Most Popular Movies Stories of 2017

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<i>Paste</i>'s 20 Most Popular Movies Stories of 2017

With 2017 receding into the distance and 2018 bearing down upon us, it’s a good time to take stock and appreciate some of the features/essays our readers appreciated most in Paste Movies this past year. In the list that follows, you’ll find a reflection of the issues that have dominated the headlines, as well as the popular consciousness: issues of race and gender exist alongside or are interwoven with Star Wars, manga and streaming services. Regardless, and unfortunately in most cases, many of these pieces will stay relevant well into the oncoming years.

(One final note: while this list leaves reviews and lists out of consideration for practical reasons, any spotlight of 2017 content would be incomplete without acknowledging Toussaint Egan and Jason DeMarco’s marvelously curated primer, The 100 Best Anime Movies of All Time.)


20. Christopher Nolan’s War on Time
Author: Chad Betz
Publication Date: July 30

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Dunkirk marks a return of Nolan to the existentialism of his earlier films like Following and Memento while acknowledging the power of symbols and beliefs to define the course of time. And though survival is the impetus for many of the actions in the film, love and sacrifice sometimes transcend the survival instinct too. And it’s precisely in these moments that time most bends to the will of the film, of what it wants to do, and what it wants you to feel.”


19. The Star Wars Alien Issue: Where Are the Non-Human Characters?
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: January 2

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“What we’re left with is a massive, wasted opportunity for perspective and a richer Star Wars universe. Particularly in a time when Disney and the screenwriters of The Force Awakens and Rogue One are broadening the inclusiveness of the franchise through tools such as female main characters and actors of color, the inclusion of major non-human characters seems like the most obvious next step, but one that is being roundly overlooked.”


18. R.I.P. IMDb Message Boards, 2001-2017
Author: Tara Yarlagadda
Publication Date: February 27

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“Legions of online film fans wept as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the most popular film and TV review site with upwards of 250 million users, announced that it’s shutting down its message boards today, February 20. I was among them: For the past five years, the IMDb message boards have been my go-to spot for reading up on film and TV.”


17. The Futility of Remaking Ghost in the Shell
Author: Zach Budgor
Publication Date: March 25

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“William Gibson, in a 2011 interview with The Paris Review, said, ‘Novels set in imaginary futures are necessarily about the moment in which they are written.’ In his 2003 novel Pattern Recognition, Gibson explicitly began to write about the present day; the real world had overtaken the cyberpunk fantasies of the ’80s and ’90s. Like any artist who perfectly embodies a genre, Gibson, the acknowledged founder of cyberpunk, disdains the label. But not without reason.”


16. The Tao of Steven Seagal
Author: Kenneth Lowe
Publication Date: March 27

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“What must it be like to be on the set of a Steven Seagal fight scene in 2017? The four or five frames in which he punches or throws an adversary are shot so close and cut so frenetically that it would be more helpful to just put up a “Scene Missing” card instead.”


15. Neill Blomkamp Is Conducting an Amazing Exploration of the Boundaries of Horror, Gore and Sci-Fi
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: July 20

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Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios is doing something special right now, and you may be missing it as it unfolds. No, you won’t see any of these films at your local multiplex. You won’t see them at your indie art theater, either. You won’t see them in any theater, because the director’s new series of short films is online-only. But perhaps more accurately, you won’t see these concepts in a theater anytime soon, because Blomkamp’s full creativity (and lust for bloodshed) have been unleashed. The nightmares being dreamt up by the District 9 director online are so extreme and so visceral, most studios would never dare to touch them. And for genre fans, that should be seriously exciting.”


14. Why Is Netflix Dumbing Down Its Rating System?
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: April 6

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“Let’s just start off with the obvious: Every star rating you’ve made over the last decade of using Netflix has just been erased. The thousands of films you’ve rated to make sure Netflix gives you the best movie selections it’s capable of giving? Those are gone forever. That weird little hobby you had of seeing how many Netflix movies you could rate? That’s gone, too. The entire service essentially just got a complete reset, in terms of its perspective on your taste. Even if you’d rated 500 films with perfect 5-star ratings, under the new system, Netflix no longer has any of that previous data to suggest those films to you. In short, it no longer has any idea of what you like, even if you’ve been using the service for years.”


13. Four Things I Love, and Four Things I Hate, About Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: December 20

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“Make no mistake, the film has scored rave critical reviews on its initial release, but as always with these kinds of franchise staples, there’s an undercurrent of passionate dissatisfaction. Personally, I can’t help but expect that critical consensus will slowly even out on the film over time, as is the case with any film of this size. Early, rampant praise will slowly temper into a more realistic assessment of the film’s strengths and failings. That’s also what this piece intends to do. In the end, we have a frustratingly mixed bag.”


12. Don’t You Forget about Me: Introducing a Teen to the Teen Canon of the 1980s
Author: Amy Glynn
Publication Date: July 24

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“Trophy case. Vote for Prom Queen poster. More garbage. Iconic Simple Minds soundtrack. And one by one, five teenagers showing up, looking chastened or defensive or defiant or just pissed off. Hughes managed to telegraph where each of them came from—socially, economically and psychologically—in under five minutes. Honestly, while I remembered enjoying the movie, I didn’t really remember thinking it was brilliant. It’s pretty freaking brilliant.”


11. In Praise of Trick ’r Treat, the Ultimate “Halloween Night” Movie
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: October 29

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“Film geeks and horror buffs know what I’m talking about, and how it almost never happened at all. At the time of its release, Trick ’r Treat already seemed to be considered a failed project, an overly complicated horror anthology that rode the festival circuit for more than two years without ever getting a proper theatrical run. It got great reviews, but it was clearly considered too unorthodox a film for wide release, and like The Cabin in the Woods five years later, nobody knew how to market it to a mass audience. It was a victim of its own creativity.”


10. Lady Bird and Cycles of Abuse
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: November 25

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Greta Gerwig’s critically lauded feature debut seems on the surface a semi-familiar coming of age dramedy—but underneath is a film of great, and sometimes scarring, emotional depth. Lady Bird presents a procession of occasionally warm, often harsh teenage experiences that will stick with you, but the thought that stuck with me while leaving that theater was this: I don’t know how I’m meant to perceive the characters of Lady Bird.”


9. The Shunning of Silence
Author: Chet Betz
Publication Date: February 22

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Silence is a film about the plurality of belief, perspective and experience—-and about how, in the culmination of this plurality, these pieces cancel each other out. When that cancellation happens, one hears what really lies beneath all the barrage of noise: silence. This is not an atheist’s or nihilist’s creed, however; here silence sounds like peace and absolution. A voice speaks in the silence and it could be Jesus or it could be one’s own mind responding to the silence, transformed into the voice of Christ—when Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) finally hears Christ speak it sounds like a merging of his own voice with that of his mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson)—because Christ carried the purity of that same silence within.


8. Paris Is Still Burning: What if We Loved Black Queers as Much as We Love/Steal from Black Queer Culture?
Author: Shannon M. Houston
Publication Date: November 7

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“As a black woman, I rarely feel like I’m appropriating someone else’s culture, but in watching Paris Is Burning for the first time, I realized that so much of what I associate with black women and black culture belongs to and was birthed by queer culture. We all know that these worlds are not, and have never been, mutually exclusive, but origin stories—especially in this country—are integral to our worldview, and more specifically, to the way we behave and speak.”


7. From Grizzly to Great White: The Death of Film Ventures International
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication Date: August 24

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“When Jim Bertges arrived at work that morning in 1984, it was immediately clear something was amiss. The executives of Film Ventures International, an independent film distribution and production company, gathered the company’s 30-some employees to make an announcement. That announcement was simple: Ed was gone, and he’d taken more than $1 million in company funds with him.”


6. Blade Runner 2049 Knows You Aren’t Special
Author: Kenneth Lowe
Publication Date: November 5

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Blade Runner 2049 has been praised up and down for its incredible photography and production design, for the maturity of its plot and setting, for the complexity of its story, for the fact Harrison Ford seems to actually care about interpreting scripts when you pair him with a good director and pay him the GDP of a small nation. For my own part, I think it deserves the highest praise for imagining a world that doesn’t just take the conceits of the original movie and do them again but with nicer CG. It is a film that accepts the premises of the questions of its forebear—Who is human? What is human? Why are we made to die?—and ponders deeper ones. What can we do to make a difference when there is nothing that makes us special?”


5. The Unbearable Whiteness of La La Land
Author: Geoff Nelson
Publication Date: January 6

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“If La La Land holds the power to transport, we might ask where—and importantly when—it takes us. There lies a profound irony in liberal white folks heading to La La Land to repair after a political season overflowing with the nostalgia of white supremacy. (For all its gauzy backwards glancing, Chazelle’s film might be subtitled Make Hollywood Great Again.) If seeing Gosling and Stone tap dance in the Hollywood Hills tickles something deep in some viewers, perhaps it’s worth investigating the roots of that feeling and its supposed universality. Quite simply: The past represents liberation for one group, a horror show for another.”


4. Zeitgeist by Gaslight: How a 1944 George Cukor Classic Gave Us One of 2017’s Most Misused Words
Author: Amy Glynn
Publication Date: March 23

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“Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which the abuser attempts to systematically undermine and destabilize the victim’s reality until they become incapacitated, helpless, terrified and basically batshit crazy. It happens between individuals, it happens behind closed doors, and it requires trust. It can take many forms, but there are plenty of things gaslighting is not.”


3. The Scrutable West: Industry Bias, Whitewashing and the Invisible Asian in Hollywood
Author: Kenneth Lowe
Publication Date: September 6

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“Even after studying to be an English major and embarking on a career in government public relations, I don’t think I’ve ever spun as many excuses as Hollywood directors and actors when it comes to dancing around why they can’t just cast an Asian person in a role. Race-blind casting that wipes out formerly Asian characters. A blockbuster that demands an actor with sufficient star power, which axiomatically means nobody descended from the cultures on the planet’s most populous continent. A fear of making a stereotypical character—because, I mean, how can you write an Asian who isn’t a stereotype, right?

The past couple of years have brought us several object lessons in the above, and every other iteration of Hollywood’s baffling tendency to quietly fight tooth and nail not to have an Asian actor on screen.”


2. Can I Get a Witness: I Am Not Your Negro Gives the Race Problem Back to White American Film Critics
Author: Shannon M. Houston
Publication Date: January 11

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“Peck formally demands that we not only sit with Baldwin’s words, but that we engage with them, and respond. So how is it that not a single white film critic has responded to the most powerful and poignant question posed by Baldwin in a 1963 interview, and re-presented by Peck today?”


1. 20 Years Ago, Starship Troopers Showed Us What Happens When Fascism Wins
Author: Kenneth Lowe
Publication Date: March 2

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“For no particular reason in light of our current political climate here in the United States—in which Neo-Nazis and openly racist conspiracy theorists support a president who has no interest in rebuking or denouncing them, and in which Jewish community centers and cemeteries are enduring a wave of terrorism—it’s worth taking a look back at the film as it turns 20 this year.”

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