With the Oscars less than two weeks away, I have finally finished catching up with all of the films from 2017 that I had hoped to get to by this time. The end of the year always brings a wave of contenders leaving movie goers in a mad scramble to see every worthy movie. Top 10's grow increasingly difficult to compile. I am fairly content with the group as a whole, though numbers 4 - 10 could be semi-interchangeable at any given time. Alright, here we go:
James Mangold brings a quite satisfying conclusion to the saga of X-Men's Wolverine. An aging, battle-hardened Hugh Jackman is faced with one last mission, bringing with him what remains of Professor Xavier along with a feisty little girl who gives Logan a run for his money. What we're given is a raw, emotional end for one of Marvel's most beloved heroes.
9. A Ghost Story
Horror has never really been my thing, so don't let the title throw you off. Director David Lowery gives us the most somber film of the list. When tragedy strikes between Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara's relationship, the ghost of Affleck, simply donning a white sheet with eye holes poked out, is left to occupy the house he once called home. The audience is left to sit and contemplate the true toll of loss and loneliness, giving us a unique vision into each.
8. The Big Sick
One of the funniest yet honest movies about a relationship of ups and downs came to us this year in the form of Michael Showalter's The Big Sick. Starring comedian Kumail Nanjiani, Sick takes us into the world of Kumail and Emily, a couple divided by culture and circumstance. What results is a witty, touching dramedy that anyone would find endearing.
7. The Florida Project
From director Sean Baker comes one of the best movies of the year, one that could have made it as far as #2 on my list depending on the day. Baker specializes in giving his audience a genuine window into the lives of the everyday marginalized. In this case we see the world through the eyes of Moonee, brilliantly played by newcomer Brooklynn Prince, an adventurous 6 year old, living in an extended stay motel right outside of Disney World with her low-life mother. Moonee knows nothing different, spending each day of this summer exploring her world with her friends, often getting into mischief and being guarded/guided by the motel manager, Bobby, played wonderfully by Willem Dafoe. Baker leaves us with a gut-wrenching yet hopeful glimpse of a life in the shadows.
6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Directing a Star Wars movie has to be the coolest yet most challenging job in Hollywood. On the one hand, you're given charge of the most successful film franchise in history. On the other hand you have more critics than any other movie would have. In my opinion, Rian Johnson does a fantastic job handling Episode VIII, a chapter that could have gone any direction. I have my share of critiques here, but the bold visuals and narrative choices Johnson makes are respectable and exhilarating. The final showdown on the mineral planet stands out as one of the most visually arresting sequences in a movie this year and in any Star Wars film.
5. Get Out
Again, horror is REALLY not my thing, and while this movie does have some frightening dread built into it, it stands as one of the most thoughtful and unique movies of the year. We follow the story of an African-American man who is faced with meeting his Caucasian girlfriend's parents, which spirals into an uncomfortable series of events. We are then left to enjoy a funny, scary, and poignant film that gives any viewer plenty to chew on.
Pixar continues to churn out original material (albeit in the midst of their own often lackluster sequels) that tops any other American animation studio. In 2017 they have brought us Coco, a beautiful look into the world of a Hispanic family celebrating The Day of the Dead. We follow the story of Miguel, a boy who longs to be a musician in a family who has sworn against the art due to deep resentment. What follows is a moving spectacle of identity and longing that had me loving the film by it's final act.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand gives an electric lead performance as Mildred, a vengeful mother looking for justice in small town USA. Director Martin McDonagh treads the line between intense drama and black comedy to offer us a moving look at brokenness, revenge, forgiveness, and redemption. Some critics loathe this film. I found it to be haunting and thought-provoking, while somehow still managing to make me laugh fairly regularly; one of my favorites of the year.
2. Blade Runner 2049
Coming off a great run of expertly crafted films including last year's Arrival (a favorite of mine), director Denis Villeneuve was handed the reigns for a sequel no one was necessarily asking for to one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time. Ryan Gosling, in a familiarly stoic persona, plays a replicant tasked with hunting down the original Blade Runner, Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard. 2049 is my pick for the most beautiful movie of the year, anchored by (hopefully an Oscar-winning) cinematography effort from veteran Roger Deakins. The story is good, the acting is good, the music is good, and it looks AWESOME.
This would not be the first time a Christopher Nolan film has topped my list, and I doubt it will be the last. Nolan creates his newest epic against the backdrop of World War 2 on the beaches of France where hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers found themselves trapped. This movie, narratively, is constructed in a way that was completely unique. I won't even go into detail to avoid spoilers, but the movie interweaves three separate timelines and types of combat that I found to work really well for keeping the audience wrapped up in the battle. The movie does not do much in terms of character development but is more constructed as an experience, and what an experience that is. From the first gunshot ringing in your ears, to the sweeping shots of the shoreline, to the roaring dogfights in the air, to the pulsing soundtrack keeping everyone watching on edge the entire 100 minutes, Dunkirk is a movie made for the big screen, and it's my pick for the best movie of 2017.
There were, of course, several titles that barely missed the cut. At the same time, there are also several movies I probably should have taken time to catch up with and didn't. What do you think of the list? Agree? Disagree? What was your top pick? What did I miss?
Leave a comment and weigh in!