2017 Year Enders, Film

Ben King’s Top 10 Films Watched For the Very First Time This Year


Ben King has been a writer for Boston Hassle since June 2017. When he is not writing film articles, he is an aspiring 3D Modeler (wanting to work primarily on video games), reads books that are collecting dust on his book shelf, listens to a lot of music, drinks an abundance of coffee and beer, writes short stories and plays, spends time with his girlfriend, and petts his two cats, Loki and Mako. He does a lot, and he loves how much it all overwhelms him.

During my time in undergrad, I took a hiatus from reading a lot of books and watching movies. I really hated that time. My bookshelf just got bigger even though I never had time to read, and there were so many movies that were on my to-do list that I was so happy to watch something twice a month. Since graduating in May, I’ve been working on numerous different projects for myself, but also ending the horrible hiatus. I thought it would be a good idea to do a list of films I got to see this year for the first time as my Top 10. Looking back at the films of 2017 that I saw, the list would be sad to say the least. Instead, sharing my thoughts on these 10 films might leave a better impact on you, the reader. If you haven’t seen any of these, I encourage you to sit down and watch them. Forget the numbers. Appreciate the work.

  1. Paper Moon (1973) dir. Peter Bogdanovich

I ask you to not fall in love with Ryan and Tatum O’Neal’s performances in Paper Moon. It is impossible not to admire how well the father and daughter duo perform on screen. Mr. O’Neal’s performance as the slick con man Moses Pray (an amazing name) snatching up money from widows is amazing. He could easily sell anything to anyone, and walk away rich. The way he and his daughter play off each other is sweet and hilarious. Though her father is fantastic in the film, it’s Tatum that steals the show as Addie Loggins. She’s wise, smart, charming, and a strong female character at the age of 10. When she’s not going along with all the cons, she is experiencing the world around her, which makes this a great period piece. We see the emotional toll the Great Depression had on the country through Moses’s schemes (which make people even worse off). Though we love the man, he is just another awful con man benefiting on the loss of others during an already horrible time in history. Meanwhile, Addie’s stubborn outlook on life reflects how the people around her feel. They’re mad at the circumstances they are in, the choices others have made to land them where they are, and a constant feeling that everything around them will soon crumble. Yet despite this, Addie still takes on the world with determination and enough attitude for us all. Another excellent film from Bogdanovich.

  1. The Company of Wolves (1984) dir. Neil Jordan

Stop everything you are doing and watch this gem. If not for the recommendation I got from a friend for this movie, I would never have thought to watch it. This is not only a fantastic mature fairy tale, but an excellent example of a strong female lead character. Jordan has talked about the theme of female empowerment being present in this movie in interviews.  Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) is thrown into incredible danger with wolves attacking her village, as well as herself. She is always told what to do, or how to act. Each time someone tells her to stay away, she is constantly only doing what she decides is best for her. I admire how she faces all this danger and horror head on instead of cowering in the corner waiting for the men of the village to protect her. She knows that no matter what happens, the wolves will always want to cause harm. The movie also has amazing effects for the wolf transformation that you must see. My jaw was on the floor for about an hour after watching a man turn into a wolf. This is a movie, I think, forgotten about by many, but which should be remembered for the greatness it possesses.

NOTE: DO NOT watch the trailer below because you should go in totally blind. It’s here for those who are merely curious.

  1. Ordinary People (1980) dir. Robert Redford

Ordinary People is a sincere, tragic, excellent, and human film. The film represents depression in perfect fashion. No matter who you are, depression brings people down in different ways. The Jarrett family suffers from depression, each dealing and suffering differently. After the loss of one son, the three surviving family members find each day harder and harder to deal with it. Conrad (Timothy Hutton) is the representation of depression for young adults. He finds every day difficult to get through, he is frustrated with life, and hardly finds the desire to interact with others. He is a character who is constantly trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but is yanked back every time he gets close by his depression. Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) are the masked parents. They both put on smiles for all to see, yet both will always be affected by the loss of their son forever. I admire the father because no matter how bad he knows it is, he tries to lift the spirits of his family. He offers to pay for Conrad’s therapy sessions, checks in on his son when he can, and wants so desperately for things to go back to normal. His story arc is also heart breaking because the two people who mean the most to him do not reciprocate this attitude. When we see him breakdown, it hurts a whole lot. Lastly, the mother is the representation of denial. She denies that things will be OK someday, that Conrad isn’t actually depressed and only looking for attention, and she will never move on. Your heart breaks multiple times while watching the family be torn apart. When you see the mother just flat out deny how her family feels, it kills you. You just want her to give her son a hug without flinching, or say “I love you,” without a frown. I love how awful this movie made me feel, and I think it is really important for people to watch this.

  1. Bringing up Baby (1938) dir. Howard Hawks

This film is almost 80 years old, and it is, without a doubt, one of the funniest films I’ve ever watched. There isn’t one joke wasted, a gag done cheaply, or a performance that is below greatness. Hawks meticulously crafts scenes to make sure when there is a joke, the music is on point, each performer hits their mark, and it leaves an impact on your funny bone. The jokes not only hit the mark every time, but Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are magnificent. It is insane how much they connect on every level on screen. The quirks of Hepburn’s character leading to Grant’s outbursts of frustration is excellent. One thing that Hepburn’s character does so well is that she never gets annoying. Often, during the course of any comedy with an outrageous character, I get very annoyed with them, even if they provide a handful of moments of great humor. Their attitude drags for some time. In Bringing Up Baby, Hepburn is lovable and hysterical for the duration of the movie. I could not take my eyes off her when she was on screen. She and Grant play off each other with no sweat broken. They do it with no effort. The magic just happens. What elevates the comedy even more is how Hawks paces the awful and funny situations these two get involved in. Again, when these situations arise, their payoff is rewarding. Be ready to be busting a gut while watching this.

6. Fitzcarraldo (1982) dir. Werner Herzog

First, I did also watch Aguirre, The Wrath of God the day before. I admired that film as well, but something stuck with me days after viewing Fitzarraldo. It was the dream that this character, as well as Herzog himself, had. This incredible, impossible dream of putting an opera in the middle of the jungle is extraordinary to watch unfold. This nearly three-hour epic is a trip through the imagination and the unbreaking resilience of someone wanting to pursue a dream. We all have one life, and no dream is too crazy. Klaus Kinski, just like in Aguirre, is a force to be reckoned with. He ranges from an optimistic entrepreneur to a hostile, belligerent storm of emotions. As a viewer, no matter how bad the situation gets, we want this ship to make it up the hill. We want the beauty of opera to be in an otherwise neglected part of the world, for better or worse. I couldn’t stop cheering for him to succeed. At the same time, Herzog does an excellent job of representing those who think him to be a madman. Even though I was rooting for him throughout the film, I certainly felt all the anxiety, fear, and hopelessness of his crew and the present villagers. How could one even partake in something so impossible? That’s the question that the film leaves you with. It begs the question to the viewer of what is their impossible dream? Why have they not set out for it?

  1. Southland Tales (2007) dir. Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko is one of my favorite movies of all time, reaching a nice spot on my Top 20 (that is as far as I’ve gotten to in ranking my favorites). I’ve watched that movie more times than I can count. Southland Tales was viewed during a movie marathon day with some friends (also viewed: Dark Passage, The NeverEnding Story, and In Order Not To Be Here). This was, hands down, the best viewing of the day, mostly because there was so much commentary from us such as, “’Teen Horniness Isn’t a Crime’ is a masterpiece,” “My brain hurts,” and plenty of “What the actual f!@#.” The movie weaves together an ambitious tale of homeland security, fuel alternatives, a missing Hollywood star, and much more, all while keeping viewers intrigued. I get that this movie is not for everyone, but for someone who wants something really crazy and abstract, yet seemingly flawless at the same time, this is it. Donnie Darko takes on big ideas, but on a much smaller scale. Kelly’s vision of a future where there is so much mayhem is almost too real at this point. Celebrities are on the highest pedestal of society, people are paranoid and violent, and the land is dying slowly. Did Kelly sell his soul to take a peek at the future? Besides the grandiose scale of the story, the cast is phenomenal. By far, this is my favorite Dwayne Johnson movie. His performance is memorable and hilarious. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Sean Michael Scott, and many others play great parts in the story, each with an interesting arc to their characters. They all result in satisfying conclusions that are as thought-provoking as the movie itself. To relate it back to the previous entry, Fitzcarraldo, this is Kelly’s impossible dream. It astounds me that this movie was created. It is so abstract, ambitious, and mind boggling that many audiences hated it. It remains as a cult classic for those that look for the strange.


  1. Beauty and the Beast (1946) dir. Jean Cocteau

When Beauty’s father first enters Beast’s castle, my jaw hit the ground. Arms extend from the wall holding candles, statues that he would never pay any attention to watch his every move, and there is a feast waiting, possibly, for him. As soon as we see this castle, director Jean Cocteau wastes no time enticing audiences with the magic of this fairy tale setting. And when Beast is first revealed, it is quite the entrance. Throughout the film, there are gorgeous moments, whether they come from the set, costumes, music or the movements of Beauty and Beast together. The preamble written by Cocteau appears after the opening credits, asking us all to put aside our thoughts of the real world, and be lost in the childhood fantasy. He doesn’t need to ask us; time and time again, we fall in love with the story. This is the best interpretation of this story for so many reasons. For starters, Beast looks remarkable. Even with all of the makeup, Jean Marais manages to evoke many different emotions as Beast. His eyes widen when he is alarmed, he cowers when he is saddened that Beauty is leaving, and he makes himself larger somehow when he is ferocious. His range of emotions brings out the true nature of Beast. As I mentioned before, the movements between him and Beauty during the film are almost like watching a ballet. They dance through this impossible love together. They are both at a loss of how to approach the other, yet when they show their love, we see them handling the other with care, as if one will hurt the other. Cocteau brings to life this beautiful tale with elegance and grace, succeeding in every sense. The gorgeous imagery and astounding production makes it one of the finest films ever.

  1. Waiting for Guffman (1997) dir. Christopher Guest

I quote A Mighty Wind just about every day. It’s an hysterical, charming tale of musicians doing a show honoring a man who made them big stars, even though they might not be anymore. The film is a celebration of music. In the Christopher Guest films I’ve seen, he always centers each around one big theme. Waiting for Guffman is a movie about community, and how each one member is unique. This movie has a lot of heart for a town that doesn’t exist. I completely forgot about halfway through that Blaine, Missouri doesn’t exist. Within the short runtime of 84 minutes, Guest and company bring Blaine to life in many ways. We are invested in its strange people, learn about its obscure history as told by obscurer citizens, and see a lot of sights. This is a welcoming town that represents an ideal place to live. People get along, there’s pride in their heritage, and much more. When we finally get to the big musical at the end, it’s heartwarming to see the townspeople with huge smiles plastered on their faces. The show is a mess by all accounts, but these people love every second of it because nobody in their right mind would acknowledge some no-name town like Blaine. For one night, they feel like they were graced by the greatest performers who ever lived. I caught myself shedding a tear as they took their bows. As usual for a guest film, every character on screen makes you howl throughout the whole movie. Somehow, with every movie Guest directs, he manages to have his cast come up with some of most hilarious lines I’ve ever heard in any media. A personal favorite is from Guest himself saying, “It’s a Zen thing, like how many babies fit in a tire.” This film is an excellent example of improvisation. Not only does the cast make up memorable, outrageous lines, but they also add to the character and narrative of the movie. These are jokes, not just a bunch of gibberish yelled out for no particular reason (I am looking at you, 2016 Ghostbusters and many more). The punchlines are unexpected, often making you laugh out loud simply because of how eccentric these people are. I have a hard time picking which one I like better, this or A Mighty Wind. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Both are masterpieces of comedy.

  1. Watership Down (1978) dir. Martin Rosen and John Hubley (uncredited)

Earlier this year, I moved to Chicago. I have loved every second of this new adventure. Around where I live, there are a lot of rabbits hopping about. Not now, because it’s winter, but when I would walk around, there was one every few minutes. It was so unexpected. You can imagine how I felt about seeing these cute creatures after watching the emotional Watership Down. My interactions with them got a lot more memorable. I watched this movie back in June, and ever since then, I have not stopped thinking about it. I felt so many different emotions while watching it: sadness, happiness, joy, dread, melancholy. You name it, I probably felt it. I was angry at one point because of how the evil rabbit treated the others. The movie starts off with a breathtaking animated sequence that is well crafted and a beauty to look at. It’s wonderful exposition to let us know that this may come across as a children’s tale, but it will challenge adults as well. The overall message of the film is that the world will always hunt you down. It is up to you to make sure it never succeeds. Too many times do we view the world as this constant danger that will eventually come and get us. Watership Down deals with the feeling of constant fear of the end while also celebrating life itself. The host of rabbits always look to the top of that hill that they so desperately want to get to in hope of security and a new life. From the very start of the movie, every creature wants to kill them simply because they are just trying to survive themselves, just like the other creatures of the world. They are cursed in that everyone is trying to kill them, and during the whole movie, it shows. No matter if it is man or animal, these harmless rabbits are hunted down. What good does it do to kill someone or something simply because it is an annoyance for some? Watership Down asks the audience a lot about life and the way they are living it. When the film isn’t trying to rip out your soul with these dramatic moments, it boasts outstanding visuals. The animation is top notch, while the composition of many scenes is remarkable. There’s one part in the film, where the camera pans around a small burrow revealing many different tunnels, that took my breath away. After the opening sequence, the film amazed me again when Fiver (Richard Briers) sees a vision of the blood of his friends spill across the land. It scared the holy hell out of me. Rest assured, there are moments of peace. The movie is not the constant barrage of fear I sort of make it out to be. There is a great sense of family here as well. You can easily connect with each rabbit during the movie, and feel the connection that all of them have. It makes the whole journey much more remarkable. In the end, all is well. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We will all find some sort of happiness, no matter what hill you must climb to get there.

  1. The Holy Mountain (1973) dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky

After watching this ridiculous roller coaster of imagery and emotion, I found out that we have George Harrison, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono to thank for this movie. They loved Jodorowsky’s previous film, El Topo, so much that they decided to help fund this gargantuan film. As soon as I finished, my body experienced both nausea, anxiety, beauty, and much more. The first viewing of this movie for many is that of pure confusion. I have no idea what really happened during the film. That being said, I must also note that it is all handled with so much care and attention to detail. Every set piece, abstract shot, setting, confusion, and more is executed with some sort of magic only Jodorowsky can accomplish. There is so much to be said about this behemoth. This is a mandatory screening for everyone just to see what it is all about. It’s a tour de force of emotion, seeped into vats of otherworldly substances that elevate the film to a level that no other will ever reach again. It sits at the top of the mountain in solitude because it knows no other film will try to accomplish the level of abstract filmmaking that Jodorowsky does here. The story is that of a thief who is tasked to go seek out the Holy Mountain with his alchemist master and seven awful people that are represented by planets. Each one leads a lifestyle equivalent to the negative aspects of each planet. For example, the man who sells weapons is represented as Mars. That’s a terrible synopsis, I know, but it is one of the most incredible journeys in film I’ve ever witnessed, possibly the greatest one. There are elements in the story that are similar to other epic journeys, such as the group being tempted by an extravagant party that would end their mission towards the mountain. All of them are challenged in a variety of ways that made me sick with worry the whole time. The Holy Mountain is the best example of “open for interpretation” film I’ve seen to date. This movie challenges the art form to an extreme degree, leaving an impact on many aspiring filmmakers including those still to come. Please see this movie, and discuss the movie at length with people. These talks, I’m sure, will be fascinating for the fact that everyone will take away something different from the movie, either in a horrid or great way.

NOTE: SERIOUSLY, DO NOT watch this trailer because everyone should go into this blind. Again, I’ve included the trailer here anyway.

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