2017 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
5Jan/203

Forever connected: a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade

I am not a fan of lists, and when I decided to do a list covering the best and worst films of the last decade it became clear that I needed to do the whole thing or none at all.

With that in mind, here it is, a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade. This list covers 2010 to 2019 and, starting from the top, goes from the best on down. Each section is broken up with an image of reviews that reflect my best as a writer or a film that has earned special consideration of some kind.

The exception are my picks for the two best films of the decade, tied at #1, and a brief explanation about why they are at the top. After that, I hope that you'll join me through this decade of writing and growth. I've had stumbles, to say nothing of trying to figure out my voice, and haven't been able to review much recently. But I'm hoping to change and get back on my feet again starting with this overview of the last decade in film.

Let's begin at the top.

Our always-connected age means that we are more directly in contact with one another's feelings than ever before. It's overwhelming. One minute you could be happily watching a puppy play in snow then scroll down to find live camera footage of someone being killed. Scroll further and you'll see someone trying to sell you hair grooming products then further down a friend talking about the crippling pain they live with. It's overwhelming trying to figure out what to do with yourself amidst this never ending deluge of feeling. Good, bad, elated, traumatic - if you want to live in this world there's no way of turning it off anymore.

The best two films of the decade both confront what it's like to live in our always-connected age but take vastly different approaches. Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz's Upstream Color approaches our connection with experimentation and uncertainty. Zack and Deborah Snyder's Man of Steel mythologizes the open nerve of connection with grandeur and spirituality. Upstream Color is the angrier of the two, seeing those that would profit on our pain as aloof emotional vampires. Man of Steel is the more hopeful, watching the savior we don't deserve experience the worst of humanity while still finding the strength to go on by our ability to sacrifice for one another.

It feels impossible to discuss these two films in some kind of neutral state. In Upstream Color's case, the film has so few that have seen it and those that have struggle to find the words for the pain it so directly confronts. For Man of Steel, passions between what it did or didn't do to the legacy of Superman have become so embedded in neverending cultural and political warfare. Neither benefits from languishing in relative obscurity or being the cultural battleground for online liberals and conservatives alike.

Both have exquisite music that highlight our connection while confounding it. Upstream Color's melodies shying away from catharsis as one of Carruth's messy tracks bleeds into the next. Man of Steel never shies away from hope, finding the note to soar even in the most militant-sounding of Hans Zimmerman's compositions. One might seem sonic years away from the other, but in each I hear the same yearning to be felt and touched. To be reminded that what we feel is not what makes us alone.

The images match their conclusions. In Upstream Color, two people huddled in fear that don't understand their connection grow to accept the mystery, and one another, while they reach beyond species to comfort all living things. In Man of Steel, the scared boy who doesn't understand why his sacrifice frightens others grows to draw strength from that sacrifice as he inspires the best in his fellow humans. We are always connected and, many times, we are scared. But there is hope at the end of that painful connection.

Let their examples guide us. Do not accept the vultures that seek to profit off of your misery. Do not accept those in power who would deny the possibility of a messiah because they weren't born in your homeland. Accept that we are all that we are and, even if it doesn't feel like it, we have the capability of inspiring the best of one another in our darkest moments.

The Best

Great

Good

Zone of Indifference

Bad

Wretched

20Nov/180

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

One constant over these last few stressful months has been the zen-inducing gameplay of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (just Getting Over It moving forward as I have separate thoughts for Bennett Foddy). For those of you who may have missed the multitude of rage reactions published on the internet in reaction to Getting Over It, the premise is simple. You play as Cauldron Man (apparently also named Diogenes but I'm sticking with Cauldron Man) who, equipped with his trusty Yosemite hammer, must scale the obstacles placed in his path using the mouse to control the climbing gear. When I write "must" it's more as a reaction to having an obstacle to climb than any narrative reasoning. I want to get over the obstacles because they are there and I want the satisfaction of successfully scaling the obstacles.

Foddy, in his voiceover narration, explains that he made this game to hurt a specific type of person while paying homage to Sexy Hiking. During the 22 hours or so it took me to finally "get over it", I convinced myself I was not the type of person Foddy wrote and spoke of. Rather than feeling frustration at my climbing failures I achieved a peace with myself. There was no result of swinging my climbing gear or landing thud of the cauldron that I could blame, or reward, anyone but myself. If I fell, it was because I misjudged the force needed or got too haphazard in my swing of the gear.  If I succeeded, it was because I finally gathered the necessary skill to harness the momentum of the cauldron with correctly timed swings.

16Nov/181

Podcast Special: Night in the Woods (2017) with Tevis Thompson

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

When I first reviewed Night in the Woods, I was left in a sort of awe at its ability to see us in our pain and end on resilient optimism. Night in the Woods has become one of my undeniable favorites with its distinct art style, poetic character writing, emotionally resonant mini-games, and continued relevance to our collective moment. I haven't been able to get it out of my head in the months since I finished it.

In my restless way I needed to discuss it more. So I reached out to critic and author Tevis Thompson (Second Quest, The Existential Art, 100-Word Game Reviews) for a conversation on Night in the Woods. Over the course of our conversation we talk about how traumatic identification bonds characters to our memory, the exhilaration of platforming, why protagonist Mae is seen as problematic, the difficulties in giving existential threats literal form, and playing Night in the Woods in the age of Trump.

Please join us in this conversation and I'd like to read what Night in the Woods means to you. To listen to the podcast you may click play below, the image above, or download a copy.

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10Jul/180

Detention (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Detention defines itself through absence and horrific spectacle.  The former weighs on the latter after Wei Chung Ting disappears searching for a phone to call for help.  The latter makes its presence felt as soon as Wei goes missing with Fang Ray Shin waking up in a nightmare version of her auditorium with Wei's corpse hanging upside-down above her.  There is no way this story can end well, at least in the way we're accustomed to with survival and acceptance.  The only way Detention can end is through repetition or resignation, repeating the horrific spectacle or wearily letting go of the time lost.

Playing Detention is a sometimes exhausting experience but - save for one break I needed to get some outside air - it's one I willingly took on myself from start-to-finish.  The only other game I felt compelled to do this with in recent memory is Night in the Woods.  The parallels aren't immediately apparent, yet they're pressing.  Both have to do with the ways struggling communities under the weight of some oppressive regime expect their young (women, in particular) to sacrifice themselves for temporary relief.  There are even matching scenes where the depressed protagonists stare at themselves in the mirror and are saddened or disgusted by the person peering back.

3Jun/180

LOCALHOST (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

LOCALHOST can be purchased on itch.io.

"My mind feels too clear. My memories are automatically sorted, processed. And all of human experience isn't enough."

These words come from the red drive, arguably the most tragic of the artificial intelligences I'm tasked to delete in the middle of LOCALHOST's night.  I've felt that inability to stop the rush of memories before where every decision and feeling I've made or experienced blindsides me at once.  But that rush, that overwhelming sensation, is part of the human experience.  That the red drive, supposedly a man who uploaded his consciousness as he lay dying of cancer, never experienced the existential anguish of feeling the entirety of your existence laid bare brings up two important questions.

The first - am I being tricked?  Red has a personality and communicates terror but using broad strokes.  It's as if red's AI learned the words of existential angst but didn't quite get the hang of the helpless intensity of being painfully present.  The second - why don't I care?  Or, more to the point, why don't I empathize?

I'm aware as I make my conversation choices that these are fictionalized drives of AI, programmed by fictional programmers but made by a real team that had to include some programmers.  Even as I write that I realize I'm uncomfortably aware of exactly where I am and what I'm doing.  This collection of electronic signals communicates artificiality through carefully constructed encounters that are animated with uncomfortably familiar mannerisms.  My brain fires similar electrical signals to make these hands work, and I'm struggling to contain the associated feelings.