Finest Movies of 2017
Watching The Finest Movies of 2017
2017 has recently come to a close, and frequent movie-goers turn their sights on a new horizon of new releases and tales to be absorbed into, forgetting about the problems of everyday life for a couple hours or so. Ironically much of the social and political distress has been evoked by the industry itself. With the Harvey Weinstein's and Kevin Spacy's who followed with countless hesitant apologies, one could argue that it was the worst year for movies in its 122 year existence. I hesitate to say this, due to the following list of brilliant, moving, and important pictures many of which speak volumes about our current climate through the means of art. All thirty films left me gratified while reminding myself why we go to the movies in the first place, to escape. Roger Ebert stated that "movies absorb our attention more completely". The following list consists of films that completely absorb our attention.
Before I unveil the finest films of 2017 here are a few honorable mentions.
'Wonder Woman', 'All the Money in the World', 'Good Time', 'The Disaster Artist'. 'Wind River','Girls Trip', 'Split', 'The Oath, 'Mudbound', 'Logan Lucky'.
(I was unable to view 'Phantom Thread, 'A Fantastic Woman', and 'Ex Libris: The New York Public Library' before creating this list).
30. 'Personal Shopper'
As much of a gripping ghost tale as it is a psychological one, one that is a riveting and perplexing tale of envy and the coping of loss. With a career-defining performance from Kristen Stewart, this one grips us without the high octane thrills, yet manifests the art of the slow burn never daring to share its secrets until the movie's climax.
29. 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'
No one doubts it's overbearing length, however, Rain Johnson's decidedly non-complacent blockbuster can deliver on the same unadulterated magic seen in the original trilogy in its own light. Breathtaking Kurosowa esque lightsaber duels and scrappy dogfights keep audiences intrigued as we move through a ceaseless universe and exciting plot.
This is a Romance/Drama that is more infatuated with its architecture then it's characters. Although it still manages to be one of the most romantic films of the year. Its frame and scope are symmetrical yet the two leads could not be more distant in their qualities, yet both are humane and grounded in their youth and views on art. It's one of the quieter gems of 2017, yet will manage to resonate with you long after the credits roll.
'Lucky' is a genuine love letter to Harry Dean Stanton (Paris Texas, Cool Hand Luke) who passed away a mere week before it's release. Throughout his career he managed to be somewhat of an outsider, wearing his cool and collected presence with him to the grave. Yet this film unveils the characters warmheartedness that lay beneath his wrinkled eyes and skin. It's a story of contemplation, yet ends in quaint satisfaction of a career and a life well lived, one that had me in tears.
26. 'War for the Planet of the Apes'
2016 had viewers crying "you damned dirty blockbusters" as nearly every big budget and broad scale film was a disaster. Here, we acquire a 150 million dollar production that is equally delightful as it is poetic. Hints of Shakespeare and biblical allegories are subtle yet the stakes are as capacious as extinction. Pioneering in motion capture work is Andy Serkis as the hero who will make you root against your own species. Perhaps it may not conduct the same horror of 'Apocalypse Now' that it was shooting for, however, it proves summer blockbusters can be more than tactless mush.
25. 'The Big Sick'
With the superlative laughs of the year and a touching love story, there is not a lot this movie doesn't have going for it. It's a crowd pleaser that pleases all crowds (except the kids). Kumail Nunjiani is a revelation as he writes and directs this sympathetic romantic comedy, one that stands out as one of the greatest achievements the genre has seen in recent years.
24. 'Lost City of Z'
This one recaptures the film escapism and adventure of epic classics 'The African Queen' and 'The Treasure of Sierra Madre'. It speaks of imperialism and a mans obsession of his work while never losing sight of it's beautifully shot and scored exploration. Charlie Hunnam is at his best here, displaying a range of wonder and despair in hopes to find the lost fantastical city. It's a film that underperformed at the box office, but is still one everyone should seek out.
The latest film of the Romanian cinematic upsurge is a father-daughter tale centered around morals. It's timely in its themes of moral inquiries and captures our attention with performances and dialogue. It bears the age-old question "would you steal bread to feed your family", as a father, with good intentions, endeavors a future for her daughter absent of corrupt Romania that will leave you heartbroken.
22. 'The Shape of Water'
Utterly spell bounding, this is Guillermo Del Toro at his finest since 'Pans Labyrinth'. It's parallels being 20's monster movies fetching emotional weight from our understanding the humanization of the outsider. Films like 'King Kong' and 'Creature of the Black Lagoon' are meshed with a cold war thriller and Del Toro's fantastical charm as if to defy genre. Sally Hawkins is mesmerizing as she falls for the incredibly real looking creature to the backdrop of one of the most visually striking films of the decade.
21. 'Thor Ragnarok'
At times I have felt that the superhero genre had been becoming mechanical, teasing becoming tedious cash grabs. 'Thor Ragnarok' is anything but tedious. It's sharp, euphoric, and it's comedic genius and director Taika Waititi's wowing prowess for intellectual and physical comedy is nothing short of eye-opening. It's as fun of a time as you will have at the movies all year.
A common complaint I have heard recently is film is losing originality. That is when i will briskly recommend Darren Aronofsky's Mother!, a modern twisted allegory of Genesis that is unlike anything you have ever seen. Audiences are sure to be turned off by it's grotesque imagery and it's gyre of a plot will frustrate. But for those who sit through and understand, they will unearth an unforgettable masterpiece that is as bizarre as it is wonderful.
On the topic of grotesque cinema, no film has unnerved me to a nauseated state while sustaining my attention in the manner that 'Raw' has, ever. It will make you gasp, laugh, and cry as the metaphor of containing our raw instincts becomes devastatingly close to personal. Although the imagery is wholly horrifying, the message is simply petrifying.
Pixar's tear-jerking endings have stapled themselves into the history of cinema. The emotional gut punches, however, are always warranted through radiant warmth and rich heart that is not afraid to take risks. 'Coco' is no exception, and it's computer generated landscapes and anecdote of the day of the dead is a near perfect time capsule of bliss for the whole family.
17.' The Meyerowitz Stories(New and Selected)'
This New York intellectual drama flourishes in it's ability to find an exemplary middle ground between the sparkling wit of Woody Allen and realism of JD. Salinger. The characters are humane, the story one of redemption featuring a broken family made whole. It's a surprisingly funny and touching character study that manages to find art in Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller performances.
16. 'The Post'
Steven Spielberg delivers a timely and timeless drama that speaks out on the freedom of speech, press, and equality. Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and the rest of the cast of distinct white collar workers are captivating as they move to the cogent score and camera. Dialogue and pace are greeted with the same magical feel that has become normalcy for the king of entertainment, and along the way it has plenty to say about today's current conditions. 'The Post' is anything but "fake news".
15. 'Blade Runner 2049'
The apex of colossal entertainment, one that brings humanity to mankinds greatest artifice. A film that is as visually enthralling as any film to grace the silver screen goes deeper into the thought provoking questions that the original puzzled the world with all so many years ago. Denis Villeneuve is a director working at the top of his game. Alongside the muscle of Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford who contribute to a picture that will stand the test of time, one that will not "be lost in time like tears in the rain".
For 17 years Hugh Jackman has blessed us with the legendary and gritty character Wolverine. This is a lovely farewell, one that warrants it's tears, one that feels as mangled as it's characters. Underneath the jeans and ragged tank tops, we have come accustomed to the seemingly invincible. Yet like those who fill the seats of his movies, he wears with age, torn by the alienating world he has saved countless times. This is an R rated western, a drama, a character study, yet most importantly it still is mesmerizing super-hero flick.
13. 'The Red Turtle'
'The Red Turtle' is a wordless animation of a man stranded on an island. More importantly, it's a meditation of life, relationships, and nature. Harkening back to the silent era, where texture, light, and human reactions told a story. It very well could be the most pulchritudinous film released in 2017, as we view the up and downs of a man's life unfold before our eyes.
12. 'Baby Driver'
Playing to the beat of it's own drum, Edgar Wright's pedal to the metal heist film is an instant classic. Effervescent is it's tone, rapid is it's pace, it's a film that races by but manages to be unforgettable. Altogether a musical romcom that borrows from noir, westerns, and heist thrillers, this one still manages to be unique. Displaying laudable chase sequences featuring Ansel Elgort who's effortlessly commanding performance contrives James Dean and Steve Mcqueen.
11. 'I Tonya'
By finding the humor in misfortune, 'I Tonya' manages to humanize the loathed Tonya Harding. In telling her story through disparate angles and caricatures, director Craig Gillespie erects an ingenious sports film, one that triumphs. Margot Robbie gives one of the years best performances alongside her sadistic mother (Allison Janney), both transforming into enunciated personalities that are as explicit in their beliefs as any characters in recent memory. It's a vibrant emotional roller coaster, and of the best sports films of the 21st century.
10. 'The Florida Project'
A bittersweet look into children's lives in 2017, that through youth see a decrepit impoverished life through wide imaginative eyes. A rare film that is socially conscious and can camp in it's beatitude and sorrow alike. The kids explore the spirited vacation colored hotels and abandoned homes as if they were Luis and Clark. The standouts being Brooklyn Prince the adorable hold no punches protagonist who plays gaily off William Defoe, the caring motel owner. This is one hundred percent a Sean Baker movie, and all the better for it.
9. 'A Ghost Story'
We all have faint memories of our past stored away deep in our minds. We claw to rekindle these important memories in later years, memories that remind us of better times. Essentially this is an embryomic look at the idea, yet through a cold and merciless world. As haunting, lonely, and profound as anything I have seen in many years, this one teaches the manner of patience far better then your parents ever could. It's a slow burn no doubt, but it's payoff is nearly therapeutic.
8. 'A Quiet Passion'
The film like it's protagonist Emily Dickinson(Cynthia Nixon) is subtle in it's tone and thundering in it's thoughts. Cynthia Nixon as the ambiguous poet is frank and she nails the intellectual wit that is always two steps ahead of her traducer. There is something elegiac here that director Terrance Davies inserts to every frame and tender moment. Constructing an illuminating biopic that demands to be seen.
7. 'Call Me By Your Name'
One of the greatest romances of the 21st century is this lovely coming of age story from Luca Guadagnino. There is an impossibly pensive feel to it all as it traverses sight and sound to where you are so enamored you can smell and feel the intoxicating lush Italian countryside. It speaks on human nature, as Elio like a fruit fly (Timothee Chalamet) craves the peach, and who better to play his peach(lover) then Armie Hammer. Both of whom deliver astounding performances. From start to finish it captures, leading up to a climax that will leave a lump in your throat, but more important then the heartbreaking end is the way it inspires.
6. 'Faces Places'
For those familiar with the French New Wave the name Agnes Varda probaly rings a bell. And how couldn't it, her optimistic and distinct outlook on people, places, and life has left a lasting impression on millions. 'Faces Places' is more of the same marvelously particular brand of charm that finds the beauty in the simple. Here is an auto documentary that follows Agnes and a young European photographer as they travel the countryside taking pictures of the locals and posting them on giant structures. The ride is wonderfully human, and if it doesn't leave a smile on your face it is time to start questioning if you still have a soul.
One of the few modern directors that can sell seats on their name and reputation alone is Christopher Nolan, who's unparalleled visual story telling and range bewilders even the harshest of critics. His latest is a World War Two tale of survival, one where we never see the enemy, which similar to 'Jaws' thrives on our fear of the unknown. The groundbreaking visuals and camerawork are riveting putting us in the shoes of the surrounded irrevocable soldiers who yearn for wartime dissolve.
4. 'I am not your Negro'
Raoul Peck's documentary captures Jame's Baldwin's powerful words to tell the disheartening history of racism. The film is strikingly effective due to it's correlation to our own problematic times. It's the most important film of 2017, and is sure to be shown to younger generations at school hopefully as an urgent reminder, not as it is today, a frightening rumination of the now.
3. 'Get Out'
If it were not for the next film on the list, Jordan Peel's 'Get Out' would stand head and shoulders above any other directional debut in the past ten years. Focusing on racial paranoia this is dexterous entertainment that is incredibly well grounded and staggeringly smart. Peel's attention to detail is years ahead of it's time making it a flippant, decisive, and gripping viewing. It truly is a revolutionary movie, one that will be discussed not just for the next decade, but for the next century.
2. 'Lady Bird'
The greatest directional debut of the 2000's, this is as relatable and everlasting as any film from 2017. A love letter to Sacramento and the adjustment of adolescents, it reminds us why coming of age stories are so vital. Directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saorise Ronan in the "titular role" no other movie changed my perspective on my own life after I left the theater quite like this one. The story is by the numbers, but it's the telling that sets it apart. With phenomenal and convincing performances that add to it's favorable view on friendships, you really cannot help but be sucked into it's honest mirthful plot, that's protagonist like the city she inhabits is anything but ordinary.
1. 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances Mcdormand does not grace the big screen like many actresses today hoping to be on the cover of pretentious magazines, she is far more full of life, although she may not look it, delivering on the single greatest performance of the year, arguably the decade. Martin Mcdonagh's script flirts with a quintessential middle ground of comedy and drama seen in now Mcdormand's second greatest role 'Fargo'. As he lets his characters mature, the bleak plot twists and turns in and out of poetic and outrageous, while remaining captivating all the way through. It's a must watch and a masterpiece.