Wow, 2017 was exhausting, wasn’t it? With a news cycle on hyperspeed and worldwide tensions amped up to nerve-wracking levels, it is unsurprising that we wanted to escape to the movies. Movies looking back in history were disturbingly timely, and the really good comedies seemed sharper than ever with their social commentary. Then came (FINALLY) a super hero that we were all waiting for, and, to no surprise to anyone except the male bigwigs in Hollywood, she made the most bank of any superhero movie of the year. Now if she were only real…
Here are my favorite movies of 2017…
Dawson City: Frozen Time – Uncovering the mysteries of the ultimate back yard treasure, this documentary unspools the story of hundreds of silent films preserved in the permafrost of the Yukon, dug up straight from the dirt during a modern construction project. I completely and utterly geeked out on this film, as it touched upon so many things I love: history, cinema, archives, Alaska/Yukon, and even finding cool stuff in the dirt. Made up almost entirely of clips from these lost films, this doc is truly a wonder.
Dunkirk / Darkest Hour – You almost have to wonder if Christopher Nolan and Joe Wright were commiserating while making their respective films. Nolan’s film is a visual marvel, showing the evacuation of 300,000+ British soldiers stranded on the World War II beach of Dunkirk. (See it on the biggest screen possible.) Wright’s film, centered around the amazing central performance of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, portrays how, politically, that evacuation decision came to happen. Even if these films weren’t released the same year, they would make a perfect double feature.
Get Out – (Stirring tea with spoon… scrape… scrape… scrape…) The powers of suggestion tell you that you should not miss Jordan Peele’s subversive horror comedy, about a black man who goes to the burbs to meet his girlfriend’s liberal white parents. For those who think we live in a post-racial society, this squirm-inducing satire will give you food for thought.
Columbus – The son of a famous Korean architect arrives in the college town of Columbus, Indiana where his father has collapsed and is hospitalized. A local young woman who loves architecture befriends the man, and they talk about buildings, life, and whatnot. Amazing cinematography, wonderful conversation, and even more wonderful silences… I loved it.
Hostiles – This gorgeous Western has no winners, just weary Army soldiers and Native warriors that try to come to an exhausted truce while still being surrounded by explosive violence.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – If you follow my dutiful reviews of the endless glut of Marvel and DC movies, you’ll know that I’ve been superheroed-out for a long time. Count me surprised that the latest (one more time!) reboot of Spider-Man is actually a delightfully funny and clever teen movie that just happens to star a kid that sometimes wears tights.
The Big Sick – Getting to know your future in-laws while your ex-girlfriend/future-wife is in a coma certainly isn’t ideal, but in this autobiographical comedy Pakistani immigrant Kumail Nanjiani finds the heart and humor in this most awkward and sobering situation. Also, this would make my list simply for having the best 9/11 joke that you thought you never wanted to hear.
Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig has always been a fresh, adorkable, welcome face in indie movies. But who would have thought her directorial debut would be so self-assured? This love letter to her hometown of Sacramento is a hilarious and touching coming-of-age film that is so perfectly cast, from the parents to the best friends, to the boy-crushes, to Saoirse Ronan as the teen who calls herself Lady Bird, that it simply can not be improved.
The Disaster Artist – Oh, hai, Mark! James Franco’s ultimate fanboy tribute to Tommy Wiseau’s modern cult classic of a terrible film, The Room, is actually pretty great. Nailing Wiseau’s bizarre accent and mannerisms, James Franco’s portrayal of the odd Hollywood dreamer seems like an exaggeration to those uninitiated. What is ultimately a sweet bromance, this movie made me laugh harder than any other this year.
Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird – Parents in coming-of-age films are usually one-dimensional, and are lucky if they get just one token “parental moment” to shine. But writer/director Greta Gerwig gave Metcalf (and co-parent Tracy Letts) wonderful depth: she is as an adult, who has a job, who has a family, who is trying to keep everything together. She may literally ground her teen daughter, but she totally grounds the movie.
Rory Cochrane in Hostiles – Cochrane’s weary soldier, suffering from “the melancholia” is a man of few words, having had his soul broken by the years of slaughter on both sides during the Indian wars of the American West. Try not to cry when he does speak, as you know that there is nothing left for him to live for.
Ray Romano and Holly Hunter in The Big Sick – With the main character’s love interest in a coma, The Big Sick instead became a love story between an ex-boyfriend and the young woman’s suspicious parents as they all waited at the hospital. Romano and Hunter were so good–so funny, so real, so disarming–that you couldn’t help but fall in love with them, too.
Actor with the best Hollywood agent
Talented Timothée Chalamet seemingly came out of nowhere and showed up in three acclaimed films, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, and Hostiles.
Best ensemble of kid-actors this side of Stranger Things
IT. Avert your eyes if you don’t want to look at the scary-ass clown. Instead revel at what really made this Stephen King adaptation really work: the kids. (I don’t think it was an accident that one of the actors, Finn Wolfhard, actually stars in the hit Netflix kid-horror series Stranger Things as well.)
Hottest people with the coldest chemistry
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba in The Mountain Between Us. The movie was also poo, by the way.
Best promotional item
At the Seattle’s SIFF screening for the cannibal-sisters horror movie Raw, everyone was handed a branded barf bag with their ticket! Almost needed it, too….
Most disturbing scene
Kidnapped heir Paul Getty wakes up (after being knocked out) in the middle of getting his ear cut off by his kidnappers in All the Money in the World. I swear, I screamed, my arms flailed, and I desperately tried to pull my coat over my head.
Weirdest need for CGI
Did anyone notice that Henry Cavill’s face sometimes looked… off… in Justice League? Apparently he was brought back for reshoots but at that point had grown a moustache that he was contractually required to keep for a Mission: Impossible movie. I guess using the erase tool on someone’s upper lip is harder than it looks.
Best use of silence
Fans can’t seem to decide yea or nay on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (space milk? ew.), but everyone I’ve talked to about the film agrees on one amazing, breathtaking scene: A Resistance ship turns around and hits light speed, cutting a First Order Star Destroyer in half. It is the ultimate, breathtaking kamikaze move, but what makes it so powerful is that the moment is shown in complete silence, making it all the more powerful.
Best fight scene
Stylish, kind of nonsensical, and smokin’-hot, the Cold War spy thriller Atomic Blonde reached jaw-dropping heights with a seemingly endless fight scene between spy Charlize Theron and a gaggle of thugs in a stairwell in Berlin. Superbly, seamlessly choreographed, and looking like a single take, you feel every punch, kick, and tumble as all involved end up a bloody mess (or worse) by the time they are done.
Breast performance (is on hiatus)
My campy award has to take a break this year, as modern Hollywood’s super-bad behavior has been dominating headlines. 2017 was a year that breasts and all things sexualized were discussed, at length and in grotesque detail in the media as famous powerful men, one after another, were felled in the limelight for their backstage pervy and worse behavior. Bill Cosby and Woody Allen seemed so yesterday as woman after woman (and some men) came forward with tales of sexual harassment and abuse from men like Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, and more (and that is just the movie industry). The overall grossness that was 2017 probably explains why Wonder Woman came out at the perfect time, symbolizing the kind of warrior that all women admire and strive to be. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince–compassionate, beautiful, good, and supremely badass in the fight for justice–may be a fictional fantasy, but she was the hero we all needed this year.