The Best Films of 2017

Honorable Mentions: War for the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves), Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas), The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)

10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected), Noah Baumbach
9. Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott
8. Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino
7. Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson
6. Wonder Wheel, Woody Allen
5. Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh
4. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, James Gunn
3. The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro
2. Song to Song, Terrence Malick
1. A Ghost Story, David Lowery

Though I was skeptical going in (to the point where without the encouragement of my significant other I may never have hit the play button), "A Ghost Story" instantly became an all-time favorite that I had to immediately return to multiple times. It joins the likes of "Vanilla Sky" and "Young Adult" in a very specific family of cinema I can watch with the thought, "Was this made just for me, with my opaque, sometimes bizarre sensibilities in mind?" Simply searching for screencaps to use here that accurately represent the rounded 1:33:1 aspect ratio, I have put myself in desperate longing to visit it again (and, probably, again). Without preaching for a second, Lowery utilizes a would-be whimsical concept to present a comprehensively calculated and affectingly applicable penetration of our mortal attempts to comprehend and accept impermanence and how it connects with our perception of the ever-changing world's grander place in existence. Of course the whole is strung to a bittersweet romantic artery we can live in as its private moments feel as intensely real as struggling to balance the weight and momentum of a cheap rolling suitcase on an uneven sidewalk, or grief-eating an entire pie.

"Song to Song" clears the ultra-high bar of being the best Malick has been since coming to dwell on the sharper edges of the man-made world ("To the Wonder", "Knight of Cups") from his formerly preferred natural subject matter ("The New World", "The Tree of Life"), making for yet another true masterwork in the auteur's mighty canon of flowing, meditative, dream-like cinema. My comical reaction to first viewing it was, "Okay, Terry did it. They can stop trying to make other movies now." As with most of the multimedia poet's works, one can easily get lost in "Song to Song" at any time, and emerge fuller than before. Plus Michael Fassbender impersonates a dolphin, so.

"The Shape of Water" is del Toro at the peak of his impassioned abilities, combining his love of practical monsters with that of classic Hollywood storytelling.

Commercially homogenized as Marvel's ongoing serial may be, "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" improves greatly upon its predecessor with an intriguing conflict, a winning ensemble, and enviable verve, feeling more like a modern "Star Trek" than superhero fare (or actual modern "Star Trek", for that matter).

"Logan Lucky" rises above its potential as a working class "Ocean's Eleven" through an effective protagonist, Soderbergh's arithmetically precise cinematography, and Adam Driver being at his dopey prime.

"Wonder Wheel" combines several different versions of Allen for a superbly entertaining murder board of relationships that feels at home behind the very bests the storied filmmaker has given us.

"Phantom Thread" may be Paul Thomas Anderson's least inspiring film yet, but such a statement reveals little when considering PTA's absolutely monumental filmography that does not contain a single less than excellent feature.

"Call Me By Your Name" lends a European aesthetic to an English language romance, and would feel just right in a double feature with, for example, a Rohmer, accompanied by a bottle or two of Tuscan rosso.

Teetering on the strength of Michael Fassbender's David, "Alien: Covenant" leans back toward its franchise's more crowd-pleasing origins without wholly compromising the bolder narrative promises of Scott's "Prometheus".

Baumbach is extremely hit and miss with me, but with this undoubtable hit the characters of "The Meyerowitz Stories" feel more tangible by the film's climax than do many people in our day-to-day lives.

Complete 2017 list on Letterboxd (rankings subject to change).


Long-Term Booking Ronda Rousey's First Year in WWE

Photo courtesy WWE.com
I tend to shy away from armchair quarterbacking professional wrestling, at least publicly, not only out of regard for the endless variables but also because many such variables are simply unknowable for those outside the company. This entire post could conceivably be blown up in a multitude of ways as soon as tonight’s edition of Raw. That said, I took the time to imagine myself in a world of WWE logic to determine how I would realistically book a year+ build to what could be one of the most anticipated matches of the modern era.

Raw, February 5
After a video package highlighting her appearance at the Royal Rumble and an interview blurb about her WWE status, Ronda Rousey is announced to be next appearing at Elimination Chamber to declare her intentions for WrestleMania.

WWE Live: Road to WrestleMania, February 10
At this Saturday SmackDown-branded house show in Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, Charlotte Flair successfully defends her SmackDown Women’s Championship against Ruby Riott via submission. As she celebrates she is blindsided by Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan, who had been tossed out from ringside earlier. Riott watches as Morgan drops Flair with the New Jersey Buster, and Logan plasters the champ to the mat with a Kentucky Knee.
Carmella’s music hits. Social media explodes as the self-proclaimed Princess of Staten Island successfully cashes in, forcing the listless Flair to pass out in the Cone of Silence.

Elimination Chamber, February 25
After entering sixth, Nia Jax last eliminates Bayley via pinfall to become Raw Women’s Champion in a match that also sees Bayley pinning Banks, as well as defending champion Alexa Bliss attempting to hide in her pod before being pulled in to the fray by Banks, Bayley, and Dana Brooke.
Asuka watches from a chair at the ringside announce desk where Stephanie McMahon is providing guest commentary, but when she rises during Jax’ celebration, Ronda Rousey’s music hits. Rousey repeats her offer of a handshake to an intensely smiling Asuka, at which point McMahon takes a house mic to declare, “You will not spoil another moment of this women’s evolution! This isn’t about you!” Rousey smirks at McMahon, points at herself, then points at the WrestleMania sign. McMahon appears shaken as Rousey departs.

Raw, February 26
Stephanie McMahon suggests Kurt Angle rescind Rousey’s contract, as Rousey “just doesn’t know how things are done around here.” Angle refuses, in what he probably finds to be a pleasurable enough exchange despite McMahon’s scowl. He reminds McMahon that it sounds like she has a WrestleMania match to get ready for.

Raw, March 5
Stephanie McMahon announces that her WrestleMania match with Rousey will be a mixed tag, and she introduces her “husband, the King of Kings, the Cerebral Assassin, the Game,” Triple H as her partner. Triple H says he hopes Rousey thinks long and hard before picking a partner, because come April 8th he and Stephanie will be more ready than ever to prove their dominance in “sports entertainment.”
Rousey is announced to be making her first appearance on Raw the following week to select her partner.

Fastlane, March 11
Charlotte Flair becomes a two-time SmackDown Women’s Champion via submission in her contractual rematch against a showboating Carmella.

Raw, March 12
Ronda Rousey selects Kurt Angle as her partner. Angle says he was apprehensive at first because he knows Stephanie McMahon will be fuming at the news, but he is gleeful at the opportunity to compete at WrestleMania one more time.

SmackDown, March 13
During a Charlotte Flair promo in which the champion prefaces a WrestleMania title defense by declaring she’s “ready for anyone,” Asuka’s mask appears on the tron. On screen, Asuka removes the mask and states, “Queen. Empress. WrestleMania. No one is ready for Asuka!” Flair conceals a smirk as she looks on with a solemn nod.

WrestleMania 34, April 8
Nia Jax pins a freshly babyface Alexa Bliss to retain her championship in a one-fall-to-a-finish invitational on the kickoff show.

Stephanie McMahon wears MMA-inspired gear to the ring. Kurt Angle and Triple H start the match, but before they lock up Rousey asks to be tagged in. She and McMahon climb on to the canvas, and McMahon comically tags right back out. The men’s posturing and McMahon’s cowardly avoidance tell the story of the match before Triple H suffers an Angle Slam and Rousey finally, quickly, forces McMahon to frantically submit via armbar - the familiar technique Rousey will use to put away the majority of her forthcoming opponents.
Triple H comes at Angle with a sledgehammer after the bell, but Rousey fluidly ties Hunter up in an armbar as well. With the McMahon-Helmsleys' tails between their legs, Angle and Rousey celebrate together.

Asuka defeats Charlotte Flair via submission to become the SmackDown Women’s Champion, officially swapping brands.

Raw, April 9
Stephanie McMahon is announced to have reportedly suffered ligament injuries in her arm, and will need months to recover.

Ronda Rousey has her first match on Raw, in which she taps out Alexa Bliss in under a minute. The armbar pops Bliss’ elbow out of place.

With a handful of tights, Sasha Banks defeats Bayley via pinfall in a grudge match after the two of them screwed one another out of victories during prior night's invitational.

SmackDown, April 10
In a contractual rematch, Asuka defeats Charlotte Flair via submission in to retain her new championship - Asuka’s first victory in what will be at least a full year of continuing her undefeated streak in a variety of deck-stacking title defenses. Along the way Asuka will become cockier and cockier.

Raw, April 16
Ronda Rousey taps out Absolution’s Mandy Rose in under 30 seconds.

A Superstar Shake-Up brings Becky Lynch to Raw, and sends Bayley to SmackDown along with NXT call-up Nikki Cross. Both SmackDown newcomers will be perennial contenders for Asuka's title.

Raw, April 23
Rousey taps out Absolution’s Sonya Deville in under a minute despite Deville's MMA background.
Rousey issues a challenge to anyone in the locker room. Sasha Banks responds, and says she wants the match at Backlash.

Backlash, May 6
Rousey taps out Banks in under a minute.

Nia Jax retains her championship against the bandaged Alexa Bliss.

Raw, May 7
Citing her enviable record, Rousey stakes a claim to Jax' championship. Kurt Angle (or the current Raw general manager) confirms the match for Money in the Bank.
Henceforth, Rousey appears on WWE programming bi-weekly at most.

Money in the Bank, June 17
Rousey defeats Jax via submission in approximately five minutes - her toughest challenge yet - to become the Raw Women’s Champion.

Becky Lynch wins the Money in the Bank contract.

Raw, July 15
Lynch announces she is cashing in her contract for a proper title shot at SummerSlam.

SummerSlam, August 19
In a shock upset, Lynch defeats Ronda Rousey with the Disarm-Her in under a minute to become Raw Women’s Champion.
Later that night, cameras catch Rousey attempting to discreetly leave the Barclays Center. Rousey shuns questioning, and leaves in a vehicle with tinted glass.

Raw, August 20
It is announced that Rousey has not been heard from since SummerSlam. No one in WWE even knows where she is.

Raw, October 22
In a main event tag match featuring the team of Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, Shayna Baszler makes her main roster debut by interfering and beating down Lynch. When Banks tries to make the save, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir appear and together the three attackers leave their prey lying.
Ronda Rousey’s music plays, and in her first appearance on WWE TV since SummerSlam Rousey poses with her fellow Horsewomen of MMA to close the show.

Raw, October 29
In red Raw shirts, Banks and Lynch take the ring to call out the Four Horsewomen of MMA, insisting that they're on “Monday Night Raw,” not “UFC.” All four Horsewomen enter and face off with their adversaries. From the crowd, Bayley and Charlotte Flair enter wearing blue SmackDown shirts. In the ring, the three groups stand off in a triangle, until Bayley and Flair step over to side with Banks and Lynch.
When the quartets move in to go face-to-face, Rousey’s group backs off and exits.
Shortly thereafter, a traditional Survivor Series elimination match between the groups is confirmed.

Survivor Series, November 18
Baszler and Rousey survive in the Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen match, with Baszler last eliminating Bayley via submission with a merciless Kirifuda Clutch.

Royal Rumble, January 27
Rousey wins the Royal Rumble, eliminating Baszler along her way to also clearing the early record for most eliminations in a women’s Rumble with six. In a post-match interview, she says though she's been through rough times, she’s now been Raw Women’s Champion, she’s stood victorious with her Horsewomen, now she's won the Rumble... and the final act on her path to redemption will be ending Asuka’s undefeated streak and becoming SmackDown Women’s Champion at WrestleMania.

SmackDown, January 29
Asuka dismissively responds to Rousey’s challenge. This begins a cross-brand feud in which the two wrestlers are often reached for comment about the other but rarely if ever seen together, until...

Raw, April 1
Asuka appears on Raw for what is billed as a "face to face" with Rousey. In the ring, Renée Young asks questions of the competitors. The segment culminates in an intense staredown, after which Asuka begins laughing to herself as she leaves with her title.

WrestleMania 35, April 7
In what is called "The woman who began the revolution vs. the woman who rules the revolution," Asuka defeats Ronda Rousey via pinfall in an extremely close bout. Having earned a mutual respect, the two embrace, and Asuka holds up Rousey's arm to the crowd. Rousey then holds up Asuka's arm, and gives Asuka the ring.

In the fallout of WrestleMania 35, we ask ourselves... who can defeat Asuka? Will Ember Moon or Kairi Sane appear to challenge the Empress? How long will Ronda Rousey's tenure in WWE be, assuming it's not already over? What becomes of Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir? Will Shayna Baszler eat everyone for breakfast, or only the people who don't like Star Wars? Where does this leave the rest of the division? Will Carmella recover? Will Bayley rebound and become what we know she can be after a year of being fantasy-booked to tap out to everyone?

Of course, there are any number of ways this could all go down. The proposed WrestleMania 35 match seems inevitable, and perhaps we'll see it sooner than 2019. Perhaps something unforeseen will occur and whatever plans were in place will need to be reshuffled. Either way, one can imagine the boost to WWE Network subscriptions that will result from carefully thought out plans in this exciting time.