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Culture Shock

Worst film of 2017: 'mother!'

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    This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from "mother!"


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For my final Blade story this year, I'll have my top 10 films of 2017.

Look for it Sunday.

For my final column of the year, I'm spotlighting something else: the worst film of 2017.

It's a list easily narrowed to mother!, a film so excruciatingly wretched that I left the theater on a sunny fall afternoon when I saw it with a throbbing headache (something that's happened only twice before).


This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from "mother!"


mother! is — well, I'm not sure the film knows what it is — something about a famous author giving birth to his creative art and the need to nurture it while others simply want to tear it apart.

The film is even worse than this description. For one, we're kept in the dark about what is happening in the lives of a married couple living in this secluded home that suggests mysteries and twists in every room.

They are joined by a couple who show up one night, strangers, who just so happen to be fans of the writer and are dying to see his latest work, which he is struggling to finish. The plot devolves into nonsense from there, with half-baked (or perhaps, too baked) twists served to us as deep film-making statements when really they're just ego exercises. Insipid, annoying, and peacock proud, mother! is a pretentious art film that gives pretentious art films their stigma. (Consider that mother! is spelled with a lowercase "m" and ends in an exclamation point, and isn't a comedy.)

Normally, this kind of naval gazing doesn't make it out of a high school film class student showcase, but mother! features two Oscar-winning actors (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) in the lead roles and two actors with multiple nominations (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris) in the supporting roles, and it was written and directed by Oscar-nominated Darren Aronofsky.

That's a lot of gold and acclaim in a film that is turgid and best when flushed.


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Polarizing critics, mother! has a 68 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And speaking of polarizing ... Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

As a be-careful-what-you-wish-for cautionary tale, The Last Jedi is the antithesis of fanboy/girl grievances against The Force Awakens. It's bold, challenging, and anything but predictable. As a critic, I was floored by what The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson did with the franchise (and what Disney-Lucasfilm let him do). As a devoted fan, there were those "wow" moments that were difficult to process ... in some ways that I'm still processing.

It was only upon reflection of the film that Johnson's artistic choices — if not license — made sense to me as something beyond those in mere service of his vision. Rather, these moments are instrumental to a much bigger and certainly grander future for the franchise and its myths.

As the saying goes, sometimes you have to kill something to save it. That's a major theme of The Last Jedi, one that Johnson presents onscreen with the fiery destruction of the Jedi's past.

And yet that ancient history lives on ... in ways we don't know (and won't until Episode IX or even after that).

With The Last Jedi, Star Wars is anything but dead. (Sorry, Frodo, but the Force lives!)

Contact Kirk Baird at or 419-724-6734.

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