Hey, I posted this on Giant Bomb but it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are that into movies there. I know there is some crossover here but I don’t actually know the make up the audience. Sorry if you’ve already seen this.
As with every year, there are too many films to see and too many films I’ve missed. I haven’t had to chance to see many foreign films, arthouse films and there are a few domestic films coming limited around Christmas I doubt I’ll get to see until next year. I’m a big Paul Thomas Anderson fan so I imagine The Phantom Thread would be somewhere in this list if I had seen it. Critical darlings like Call Me by Your Name I’ll have to see what the fuss is about later and the list goes on and on.
Anyway, here are 25 from 2017 I liked to highlight (U.S. releases). The order is just for fun.
#25. Personal Shopper
Personal Shopper is a hard movie to pin down. It’s part ghost story, part mystery, and part drama about a personal shopper (Kristen Stewart), a girl who’s near fame and fortune by proximity through her work as a glorified deliverer. There is something about Kristen Stewart that makes me think she’ll turn in an undeniable performance down the line but for now, she’s interesting to watch but too cool for her own good as an actor. The movie itself, while decent to look at, is ugly in structure. It’s the type of movie that seems to be searching for its path like the protagonist, which gives it, on the one hand, an organic feel but on the other, a sense of aimlessly. It starts and stops, never finding a rhythm nor is it even interested in such things. So why is it in here? The simple answer: it has stuck with it. I don’t want to chalk it up to the novelty of a genre bender but the different elements do allow for things to happen in a single film you might otherwise see in 2-3 films, which at the very least paints an interesting and memorable world I want to be in longer and know more about.
I didn’t know anything about Coco when I saw the movie. I haven’t been that hot on CG animation movies for a couple years and kinda let most of it pass me by so I went in to the latest Pixar flick blind and came out pleasantly surprised. it’s a timely film with Trump’s relationship with Mexicans . Not only is a political statement but a beautiful movie about traditions as immigrants in this country. All around it’s a feel good movie with a ton of catchy songs and a tearjerker of an ending that’ll keep you entertained and leave you with a slightly wet face.
#23. Raw (WARNING: MAJOR BODY HORROR)
This is the only movie on the list I feel obligated to warn people up front because of one of its themes and the depiction of it. If you can’t handle graphic images of body horror, stay away ‘cause this movie is gross. If you’re okay or even into that sort of stuff, you’ll not only get plenty of that but also discover just underneath all that flesh and blood, a sometimes funny, and surprisingly touching relationship story between siblings.
#22. City of Ghosts
I know there have been a number of documentaries on Syria recently, I haven’t seen them except for this one. I do want to eventually watch more of them but for now, this is the honorary doc about Syria that’ll represent of all them and highlight the situation over there. It’s a revealing look at a place in the world, the lives and conditions of people there, and the extremists that took over a city. Some of the footage is as a graphic as Raw, if not more but absolutely appropriate and perhaps needed to give voice to ones who have little.
#21. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
I love Dogtooth and really like The Lobster so I was actually vaguely disappointed when I saw Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest. The same stilted performances don’t work as well here and doesn’t provide the same kind of dark humor to The Killing of a Sacred Deer as it did the director’s previous work. The premise is a lot harder to swallow this time and it feels like Yorgos is kinda on autopilot, doing his shtick. I know none of what I said is positive but at the end of the day, what a shtick it is. The movie is filled with situations and moments as a fan, I wanted, so in many ways, it delivers to expectation. It’s just when it’s all said it done, you wonder, to what end.
#20. Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater is pretty much the opposite of Yorgos Lanthimos and so are their individual films this year. Where Sacred Deer provides so many powerful scenes seemingly without purpose, Last Flag Flying is all about the grounded small moments of real life that gives it meaning. Where the directors and their films align is in my expectation as a viewer. If you’ve watched Linklater’s work, you know what you’re going to get here, which is not at all a bad thing.
#19. The Salesman
Asghar Farhadi delivers another super solid film. What’s great about it is that nothing feels played up, in fact, we’re so trained as film goers that, some of it actually seems played down. It’s a human story full of compassion and nuance that comes out of a country so often demonized in the Western world. Also, it’s just nice to see a film from Iran sometimes 'cause I just have so little knowledge about the country and the culture there. I’m constantly surprised by how modern everything is which goes to show my general ignorance. lol
#18. Lady Macbeth
I didn’t know Florence Pugh but I do now. Lady Macbeth is one of those movies that showcases an actor’s talent and (hopefully) allows her opportunities she clearly deserves. The movie is pretty singular in its vision and by no means perfect but Pugh’s performance is magnetic and hard to resist.
#17. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore
The biggest surprise of the year for me is this little movie about vigilantes and odd friendships. I didn’t know anything about it and the long title kinda turned me off of it but I decided to check it out and I’m glad I did. I Don’t Feel at Home is fun, funny, often touching, and good spirited but it’s also surprising in other ways, ways that might be familiar if you know what other films the director helped produce. It’s just an all around fun time that I wouldn’t be shocked if it picks up more and more fans as people discover it.
#16. Logan Lucky
Speaking of fun time, here is another fun movie, this time from Steven Soderbergh. You’ve seen a lot serious movies on this list already and you’re going to see a lot more but sometimes I wonder why I watch stuff that are so heavy. Logan Lucky is just good entertainment with a great cast and all kinds of great dialogue. That’s not to say it doesn’t have weight, it’s just easy to recommend to most people. Daniel Craig especially, seems to be enjoying himself so much out of the tux, no wonder it was so hard to convince him to get back in the Aston Martin.
#15. The Big Sick
As an immigrant, The Big Sick is a big deal. Aziz kinda did it for TV with Master of None but they say movies live forever and Kumail Nanjiani is representing minorities hard by telling a story based on his own story with all the baggage of living in a world as a foreigner. Even without all that political and social mumble jumble, The Big Sick is a strong movie that nails the dramedy genre that rarely feels forced emotionally and masterfully delivers laughs and tears through honest moments.
#14. Get Out
As someone not black or white, Get Out as a social commentary doesn’t work for me. Nevertheless, the movie does work me as just a genre film for the most part and it’s generally a entertaining ride. I’m impressed Jordan Peele not only stepped out of comedy but transitioned from TV to film so successfully. The picture is of full of memorable scenes and stunning performances by black actors. There are genuine moments of brilliance, new and inspired. I didn’t connect with Get Out like some people did but it can’t be denied its day in the sun.
#13. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig did a great job in her “directorial debut”. On the surface, there is nothing new about Lady Bird’s story but Gerwig reexamines and reimagines the coming of age tale and the result are scenes and relationships more real and realistic. At the center is Saoirse Ronan, who seems to always turn in a good performance but especially as the titular role of Lady Bird. She also has a great dancing partner in Laurie Metcalf and actually, many other actors who have smaller roles all do a fine job.
#12. Blade Runner 2049
There is a lot that I couldn’t connect with when it comes to Blade Runner 2049’s plot. I question the decision to set up a sequel(s) in a risky big budget sequel to a movie that didn’t need a sequel. K’s story of self discovery is good but other elements bogged it down in this ambitious film. Characters like Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and Liutenant Joshl (Robin Wright) felt cookie cutter and seems like squandered potential. When I think about 2049 however, I’m reminded of the things that really worked for me. It’s a stunning film to look at and hear. It has moments like the Baseline Test, the sex scene, the club shootout, and Sylvia Hoeks, my god Luv, what a performance. Despite not connecting with the way I wanted to, the images, sounds, and specific moments have remained in my mind.
#11. The Shape of Water
I had one of the worst movie-going experiences of my life when I saw The Shape of Water. In an empty theater, people sat right in front and behind me. The people in the front talked loud and used their cell phones throughout the entire film and one of the person behind me puts their feet up next to my face. It was a fucking nightmare considering I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a better part of a year. I was constantly distracted and taken out of del Toro’s latest because of a shitty circumstance. Anyway, I want to see it again hopefully with a better audience or no audience ‘cause the movie is really beautiful in so many aspects. Not quite Pan’s Labyrinth level but perhaps the movie he was always working toward.
#10. Faces Places
A movie I didn’t know much about but went to see on a whine and had one of the happiest times in the theater. The dynamic of the two directors, JR and Agnes Varda, as artists, as filmmakers, as people of different age and era provides so much humor, warmth, and sometime tension. Their travels together across rural France is a constant source of discovery and joy, of new stories from strangers. The way their art instantly allows them to bond with others feels magical.
Another movie I didn’t know about before seeing it. I enjoyed the director’s previous doc about Kurt Cobain but this is on a whole different level. I’m not much of an animal lover, not that I hate them, so these sorts of subjects don’t interest me nor did I know much about Jane Goodall. That said, Jane, the movie, is so easy to get into. The primatologist is so likable in her demeanor and admirable in her dedication. Seeing her at work in so many amazing footage is, 1, unbelievable how much they had to work with, 2, gorgeous, 3, kind of surreal.
#08. The Meyerowitz Stories
It’s unfortunate that the conversation around Noah Baumbach’s latest will be mostly overshadowed by Dustin Hoffman’s sexual harassment allegations. While The Meyerowitz Stories is a Baumbach ass Baumbach film, dealing with intellectuals of the upper middle class. their family lives and artistics pursuits, it is one my favorites I’ve seen of his. The dialogue flows as you’d expect but It’s also filled with likable characters and they struggle with universal problems, something Baumbach’s films might lack sometimes. A highlight is Adam Sandler who gives a really nice performance in a good movie, something we wouldn’t mind seeing more often.
#07. Good Time
Good Time isn’t a movie for everyone. The protagonist is dumb in a way that might push people away completely, as his stupidity takes the film is unexpected directions constantly. To enjoy it, you have to accept to take the ride. If you do, what you’ll be in for is something unlike anything this year. My favorite thing about Good Time was the heart pounding soundtrack, unreal.
#06. A Ghost Story
Speaking of movies that’s not for everyone, here is another one. A Ghost Story starts off like a by-the-number indie romantic drama but with a little patience, it reveals itself to be a really ballsy ghost tale that’s pretty original and quite moving as well. I really liked Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and this one made me a fan. If you enjoy films like Spirited Away, this film takes heavy inspirations from that movie in particular.
#05. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh does what he does, taking an otherwise heavy drama and consistently finds a lighter, funnier, truer tone. You have to give it up to the three central performers, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson who all play rather flawed character in a way that always elicits sympathy.
#04. The Square
I didn’t know what to expect from Cannes big winner. I knew it was from the director of Force Majeure but other than that, i went in blind. I was surprised by how ambitious it was and unlike Force Majeure, which felt pretty tight and singular, this felt more like a stream of consciousness. It has a lot to say, a lot to show you and as long as you don’t go in expecting some how for it to all come together, as long as you’re just there to experience it, it’s a beautiful thing.
#03. A Silent Voice
Didn’t know about this gem but caught a one-time screening of it and I’m so glad I did. It’s a much slower movie than one might expect from an anime feature which is great ‘cause it’s more about the characters than the plot. It also does what a good anime should do in walking the tightrope of comedy and drama through essential “genre” themes like friendship. The audience I saw it with was also one of best I’ve come across, very respectful and clearly there to enjoy the show. That doesn’t calculate into my feelings about A Silent Voice but it did often reveal what was working with the film. It’s not overstuffed with gag bits, it seems to provide them when you most need it, and the movie knows exactly when you do. What’s most powerful however, are the characters, particularly the two main protagonists and their development throughout the journey.
#02. After the Storm
I’m still chasing the joy I felt from Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Still Walking and After the Storm hits some of the same notes and provides some of what I’ve been yearning for. From the young to the old, the regular people in the movie resonate with me like none of the others on the list. It’s a narrative film that feels like a documentary, so accurately portraying and reflecting back reality, at least for me and how I grew up.
#01. The Florida Project
It doesn’t matter how high a movie ends up in a year end list, most of them won’t stick with me 5-10 years from now, most of them will turn into dust in my memory. Very few movies have the power to stay with you throughout your life. You might remember if you liked it or not and some bits and pieces but rarely will you carry them with you on a day to day. If i had to bet which film this year has the biggest chance to do that, I’d put all my chips down on The Florida Project. Don’t look it up, just go see it. Go go go go.
Let me know which movies you liked this year!