Another late Top Ten list, but I wanted to watch as many potential #ConTENders as possible before I made my final tally. Then, I found myself with more work in television than ever before. And yet, I STILL missed some big films. But, we will get into that soon enough. Catch up with my Top 15 of 2015, and my Top Ten of 2016 if you’d like.
All of the 2017 films in order of which I’d viewed them:
Split | It | Alien: Covenant | The LEGO Batman Movie | John Wick Ch. 2 | I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore | Logan | Get Out | Kong: Skull Island | The Belko Experiment | Life | Wind River | Colossal | The Discovery | Sandy Wexler | The Fate of the Furious | Sleight | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Baywatch | Wonder Woman | The Mummy | It Comes at Night | 47 Meters Down | Transformers: The Last Knight | Baby Driver | Spider-Man: Homecoming | War For the Planet of the Apes | Brigsby Bear | Dunkirk | An Inconvienient Sequel: Truth to Power | Atomic Blonde | The Dark Tower | Annabelle: Creation | The Big Sick | mother! | Kingsmen: The Golden Circle | American Made | Blade Runner 2049 | Cult of Chucky | Lucky | Killing Gunther | Thor: Ragnarok | Justice League | Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of The Dana Carvey Show | Happy Death Day | The Disaster Artist | Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri | Star Wars: The Last Jedi | Bright | The Shape of Water | Downsizing | Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle | Lady Bird | Rings | A Ghost Story | I, Tonya | Good Time | The Killing of a Sacred Deer | Call Me By Your Name
The Ones That I Missed…
The Florida Project | Ingrid Goes West | Mudbound | Roman J. Israel, Esq. | Phantom Thread | The Post | Okja | Coco | Logan Lucky | Darkest Hour | Molly’s Game | The Beguiled | Detroit | The Meyerowitz Stories | Brawl in Cell Block 99 |
And now, here are my Top Ten of 2017:
10. The Big Sick —
The Big Sick is arguably one of the best romantic comedies of all-time, let alone 2017. The film feels like a mash-up of the quality & heart of my generation’s classics like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, with the more raunchy humor of Judd Apatow’s fare like 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
The movie follows a budding romance as comedian, Kumail, and writer, Emily, meet and fall in love amidst family issues. Kumail’s family frowns upon him dating anyone that isn’t Pakistani, while Emily’s parents… haven’t met Kumail. In fact, his apprehension about his parents causes a rift between them, and soon, the isolation splits the new couple, just before Emily falls into a coma. Kumail sticks by her side and finally meets her parents – who could give two shits about him – and prefer that he leaves their ailing daughter alone.
The fact that this is the unbelievable real-life story of how co-writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani fell in love is a testament to the phrase, “Life is stranger than fiction.”
9. It Comes At Night —
Mismarketed as a horror film, It Comes at Night is better viewed through the lenses of a post-apocalyptic study on human behavior and the animalistic fight for survival emerging from a veneer of societal structure.
The film follows a family of three who maintain their small house to the very last detail while protecting it from intruders and the virus that killed 99% of the human population.
Joel Edgerton stars as Paul, Carmen Ejogo as Sarah, and newcomer Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Travis, their son. The family’s careful planning soon goes out the window when they encounter other survivors.
It Comes at Night also holds the distinction of having one of the most disturbing and effective openings that I have ever shot.
8. Baby Driver —
Director Edgar Wright has been known to use music and editing to an insane degree with his Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End), as well as in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but never has a film been so finely tuned with music at the forefront than his latest effort: Baby Driver.
I had never seen a movie with Ansel Elgort before, but I imagine this to be one of the only films in which I would enjoy his performance. With his filmography primarily known for the romantic death flick, The Fault in Our Stars, or the Divergent series, I can’t imagine why. Let’s just say those films weren’t meant for me.
Every single frame is carefully planned with the timing of an extremely particular soundtrack in mind. Nothing is wasted here, and the movie, as a result, is a non-stop marvel to behold.
Many people are turned off by this calculated effort or by Wright’s choice of music, but one thing is clear: This is the work of a true auteur; a man who is in sync with his various departments and executes a precise vision because of it.
7. Get Out —
Jordan Peele has made one of the most poignant films of all-time and yet, simultaneously, also a modern horror classic, all in one deft stroke. Set in the backdrop of modern-day racial equality, a young black man discovers a dark subsect of white Americans in his Caucasian girlfriend’s family in liberal upstate New York.
Chris Washington (played brilliantly by rising star, Daniel Kaluuya) must escape the horrors of white suburbia as a bizarre secret is revealed during his three-day stay with his in-laws.
The cast is comprised of some wildly talented actors like Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams, Stephen Root, Caleb Landry Jones, and a breakout performance from LilRel Howrey as TSA agent, Rod Williams.
Get Out takes the tropes of a trite Hollywood horror film, and repurposes and turns them to say something worth the digital memory cards that it’s saved to.
6. A Ghost Story —
I almost missed this one. A Ghost Story was a film shot in secret that David Lowery made soon after completing the remake of 2016’s Pete’s Dragon. The surprise indie film was produced for less than two million dollars and differed drastically from the tone of the Disney remake.
A Ghost Story follows a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) who have some unspoken wedge between them that goes unresolved as the former dies in a car accident.
What follows is a marvelous tapestry of segments of time from -at first – the perspective of Rooney’s ‘M’ until she moves out of their small Midwestern home. Then, we shift to the perspective of Casey’s Ghost as he flows through the multiple owners of the home over the course of the next two decades or so, all while trying to read one last message from his bereaved wife.
The film explores themes of life, death, and our attempts to leave some sort of impact on the world after we complete the circle of life. It’s a touching and frightful reminder of not only our mortality but our creative endeavor.
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri —
Frances McDormand has been gifting us solid work through her films since her career began in the eighties, so it was no surprise that a film centered around her performance as a grieving mother would garner all of the accolades that Hollywood could have to offer.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the newest film from writer/director Martin McDonagh, the acclaimed filmmaker who gave us In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. This time around, we follow Mildred, a mother of a young girl that was found raped and murdered a few years ago.
Mildred feels that the police department of Ebbing, Missouri (in particular, Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson) hasn’t done enough to track down the killer. To press the matter, she rents three consecutive billboards on a small deserted road near her home in– you guessed it, the town of Ebbing.
McDonagh has a knack for writing some contemptuous characters and social deviants with a sliver of familiarity in his two previous films, but he employs that skill with extreme precision here– especially in the two lead characters played by McDormand and Sam Rockwell. These two deliciously devious portrayals deserved the praise they received during the awards season.
4. Blade Runner 2049 —
Few modern directors have rejuvenated my love of the cinema (while also entertaining me) like Denis Villeneuve. He made my favorite film of 2016, Arrival, and now, he’s done the seemingly impossible: prove a thirty-five-year sequel to an iconic science fiction film, not only justified but worthy.
Villeneuve also crafted some of the most interesting thrillers of the past decade in Enemy, Prisoners, Sicario, but it’s in 2049 that Denis proved himself capable of adapting someone else’s style without losing the elements that made the original Blade Runner so unique like pacing and themes.
Yes, that means 2049 is slower than its contemporary competition, but its substance propels it into an upper echelon of quality. The storytelling shines via themes such as humanity in a world that devotes itself to the concept of artificial intelligence and autonomy. I fear that the science fiction of the world has always been a deft predicator of impending fates, and this theme, in particular, hits closer to home than anyone would have expected.
Not only is the story of Blade Runner 2049 so expertly crafted, but it’s visually stunning, shot by the Oscar-winning cinematographer, Roger Deakins (FINALLY!). And this film is Harrison Ford’s best film performance since The Fugitive.
3. Brigsby Bear —
Brigsby Bear flew under the radar of many filmgoers this past year. It was a Sundance darling, co-written by – and starring – one-fourth of the Good Neighbor sketch comedy quartet, Kyle Mooney, and directed by another, Dave McCrary. Years ago, the entire troupe landed gigs on Saturday Night Live to boot. But Brigsby Bear isn’t like their other, characteristically zany works, no, Brigsby is an awkward, light-hearted tale of a man who can’t transition into adulthood.
Kyle stars as James, a man who has been stuck in his childhood, obsessing over a children’s show called Brisgby Bear. The show taught him all of his life lessons over the years, and now he’s faced with letting that show (and his past) go. I will say, the less you know about the plot, the better your experience will be. I went into the film knowing a basic conceit of the first ten minutes, of which I wish I were oblivious.
James soon decides to create his own version of his childhood in a roundabout way to “grow up.” It’s his relationship to this fictional bear, and to his parents, that shapes him into his best self.
You can see me dancing around the plot, yeah? Just go watch it now. It’s available on Amazon.
2. The Discovery —
I’ve always been fascinated with the reality of mortality, and the unknown elements of the universe surrounding us. I’ve said for years that any religion shouldn’t tout to know “the truth” because we have no idea what awaits us the end of this mortal coil.
Amusingly, Men in Black said it best: “Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
I’m not one to pretend to know anything out of general human knowledge, so I’m drawn to the films that touch upon a perception of that final breath. That’s why Charlie McDowell’s newest film, The Discovery makes my number two position.
The Discovery is a film about a revelation surrounding the other side of death. In the film, Robert Redford unravels the ultimate question using science-based observations. He discovers life after death. Many people blame him for the deaths of their friends and family as they begin to commit suicide en masse. He’s forced to go into hiding as this knowledge soon swells into millions of people ceasing their life functions to experience this proven eternal life beyond their flesh.
We follow the son of this man (Jason Segal), as he attempts to visit his father to put a stop to this madness and denounce his findings. But together, they discover an even darker truth behind the initial discovery that jeopardizes the entire “cult” that has formed around Redford’s invention.
The film is available on Netflix (exclusively), and is well worth your time, no matter what belief system you hold dear.
Honorable Mentions (in order of viewing):
It | Wind River | The Disaster Artist | Lady Bird | Call Me By Your Name | mother! | Good Time | The Killing of a Sacred Deer |
1. The Shape of Water —
So since this list will have posted after the Golden Globes (and regrettably) the Oscars, one might assume that those awards influenced my decision for my number one film of the year.
That assumption is not only incorrect but removed from any personal knowledge of my tastes. Of course, if you don’t know me, then I understand the thought.
Science Fiction will always be my favorite genre, and in the case of The Shape of Water, I never expected to see a sci-fi film that truly evokes the silver era of the monster movie genre like the early sixties. And it must be known that I usually despise period pieces as a plot device or setting.
The film depicts the time period in a vivid visual manner, and in its hauntingly sweet composition, written by Oscar winner, Alexandre Desplat. I haven’t loved a score as much as The Shape of Water in years.
Guillermo Del Toro has created some of the best monster films of the past twenty years in Pan’s Labrinth and the Hellboy series.
The cast; what can I say about the cast? Doug Jones continues to impress with his brilliant motion-capture performances, and holds his own against the pure talent of Sally Hawkins. Then, there are two of my favorites, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins, along with Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer. Oh, and who can forget the busiest man of 2017, Michael Stuhlbarg?
I cannot imagine a better cast for this film, and yet, I hadn’t initially expected this professional group of people under the direction of Del Toro to coalesce into my favorite film of 2017, but that’s how unpredictable these things are. One year, it’s a sci-fi about an android overcoming the Turing test, the next it’s about humans learning the secrets of the universe from aliens, and finally, it’s about a creature mingling with a human amidst the backdrop of the civil rights movement. Oh, I guess you CAN predict my list to an extent. Sci-fi? Check. Killer score? Check. Sharp writing? Check. Okay, I’ll see you next year when Upgrade wins!
That’s my Top Ten Films of 2017! I’m already eyeing some potential #ConTENders for 2018’s list (clearly). Let’s just hope that I can turn that one around in a timely manner!
Keep up to date with which films may make my Top 10 of 2017 by clicking here.