Catching Up With 2017
Last year was a great year for movies and it took me into July of 2018 to finally catch up with everything I was curious to see. It's hard to contain this list to 20 or 25 entries so I'm going a little nuts and listing my top 30 of the 82 movies I saw that were released in 2017.
1. Thor: Ragnarok
For me, this is a perfect movie. Taika Waititi has directed some of my absolute most favorite movies of the last few years including What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople as he has established himself as an uproarious comedic voice. Ragnarok isn't just funny, doesn't just establish itself as a great episode in the MCU, but it is a visual and special effects feast, and imaginative story that plays deeply on Norse mythology and is incredibly re-watchable.
2. The Shape of Water
This is the first movie in a long time that gave me the feeling I got the first time I saw Amelie for the first time. Amelie was a movie that I was kind of avoiding when it first came out because I thought it was a chick-flick and The Shape of Water had a reputation as a monster movie with lady-creature relations. Both movies were so much more than their reputations and both found a way to give a warming, calm feeling that fuzzes just under the skin with their beauty and attention to detail.
It's easy to categorize Christopher Nolan movies based on biases based on previous Nolan movies. Do you like Inception and The Dark Knight and Interstellar? Maybe Dunkirk will be lumped in with those based on love or hate. It is a little bit of an outlier being shorter and historical in nature. It doesn't have the same sense of twistiness of other Nolan movies, however time is played with in such interesting ways as the three stories intertwine, often in the back ground of each other's story lines.
4. Lady Bird
This has been a pretty great year for first-time filmmakers, whether they're writers or directors. This is a coming of age movie that's more of a character study than a typical coming of age story. Greta Gerwig shows us two sides of Sacramento, through the eyes of a bored teenager looking to get out and a nostalgic look of a young woman who is leaving.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
While the mixture of Iron Man tech and Spider-Man humor and physicality are the main draws of this movie, it's the grounded villain that is the glue of the movie. One of the most colorful and fun movies of the year, Homecoming is a feelgood comedy that doesn't linger on the awkwardness of high school longer than is necessary for the joke.
6. The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon were fated to make this movie. Nanjiani is a standup and Gordon a writer who has also been a pretty talented producer of comedy mixed their genuine appreciation for rom-coms, stand up comedy and a harrowing real life story of their relationship to make an incredible movie.
7. Faces Places
This film from Agnes Varda and JR was easily my favorite documentary and foreign film of the year. An absolutely touching and heartbreaking story of an odd couple of friends with a countryside spanning art project.
8. Baby Driver
One of the most electric movies of the year that provides the freshest car stunts and sound track to go with the fresh faced leads of the movie. I'm not sure if I've every seen choreography of the soundtrack, action and driving like this anywhere before. I especially haven't seen it in a way that was able to sustain a gripping story for a feature length run time.
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This is a weird viewing experience. I loved it the first time I saw it, highlighted by the incredible sequence of Luke explaining the force to Rey on the cliff face. In the time between the theatrical and blu-ray release there was a lot of chatter online around the movie. Some people were disappointing in the use and perceived misuse of characters and others had to defend the casting and writing of the film. Then the blu-ray came out and that rewatch swayed me back away from the arguments surrounding the film to the amazing special effects, imagery, and inspection into what it takes to become a villain rather just having evil course through the veins because they need to see heroes in pain.
10. Get Out
I'm not a big horror person, but this is a classic horror/thriller that it rises above the fright of the movie like The Shining, Psycho and Rosemary's Baby before it. Much like Spider-man Homecoming and the Big Sick ahead of Get Out on the list, the humor lends itself to the brilliance of the movie that doesn't need to lean on humor to bail out the story. The one thing that hurt this movie the most was the release date so early in the year, yet its reputation remained fresh in the minds of film lovers enough that it earned Jordan Peele a screenwriting Oscar.
11. Battle of the Sexes
I was kind of surprised that this flew just under the radar for Oscar consideration as I thought Emma Stone put in a better performance in this than she did in La La Land the year before. The story is quite enjoyable and timely in an almost cartoonish way. It's a great movie with well acted tennis action, and I don't think that can be said of many other movies.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
It was hard to match the quality and storytelling of GOTG1, and although I don't think I needed a daddy story for Starlord, it is great to see such a vibrant story that builds off the origin story in the first. Emotional notes are expertly hit in different but just as effective ways as the first movie but with a range of color palate that I'm not sure I've seen before.
13. Brigsby Bear
A mixture of ideas ranging from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to In the Realms of the Unreal, this feels like a lost Wes Anderson movie. Kyle Mooney breaks out from SNL as a complex actor and writer who can drop comedy into drama without messing with the tone.
14. The Florida Project
This movie is made with a devastating hit as the two girls have their goodbye moment followed by a sweep of fantasy to bring the audience out of the viewing with a touch of hope. This touches on the complexities of childhood, imagination, mistakes and even vulgarity. Despite vulgarity, the kids still go into their own worlds to block out the realities of the adults around them.
15. Wind River
Taylor Sheridan has been in the front of this new movement of realism westerns and this movie brings the western to a part of the west that has been neglected in pop culture. It's brutal and stark but beautiful and captivating. I'm waiting for a Sheridan shared universe movie.
16. Logan Lucky
This is a bit of a hidden cousin to the Ocean's movies, this Soderberg heist sheds the glitz for a blue collar while keeps all the twists, turns and planning. It would fit right in with Ocean's 11, 13 and 8... let's face it, Ocean's 12 can be skipped.
17. The Lost City of Z
One of the first movies of the year, this was one of my favorites. It captured the gloomy yet captivating tone of the book while providing stunning imagery. The opening scenes of the buck hunt and the final scenes in the jungle are hauntingly perfect in the slow and beautiful ways that they were shot.
18. All the Money in the World
In the year that Ridley Scott turned 80 years old he released two pretty fantastic movies, All the Money in the World and Alien: Covenant. "All the Money" drops us into a world of hyper-rich dysfunction. Although Christopher Plummer was a late replacement, the reshoots are seemless and the presence he gives to the movie could not be matched.
19. Their Finest
Oh boy was I charmed by this. It was the first of three movies of the year to tell part of the story of Dunkirk. This could live on to be one of the movies from 2017 that I go back to rewatch the most through the years.
Oddly, this superhero movie is a film making wonder. The scenes where the whole world is shaking was only achieved by taking a motion stabilizer from a simple iPhone and shaking the crap out of it. The cinematography was so expertly planned for its contrast that the blu-ray release included a black and white version of the movie that is just as watchable and gives the feeling of watching a John Ford take on the X-Men. I could have done without the clone. I can always do without clones in movies.
In a year of Stephen King adaptations, It reclaims nostalgic kids on bikes stories for the master. Wonderfully weird, Pennywise gives frights and nervous laughs and the kids may have given audiences a lineup of the future stars of acting.
22. The Beguiled
Sophia Coppola gives a perfect, rose gold look at war from the eyes of civilians. It isn't quite a horror movie, or a romance, or a thriller, but a tone piece to remind us that Sophia is a master of slow movement and subtly perfect color.
The first act of the movie creates uncertainty over the style of storytelling and the focus of the movie in a genius move to put the viewer in the confused position of the people living through the riots in real life. This is a thriller that expertly builds frustration in ways that seem perfect for a stage play. Detroit is timely while some of tension is heightened because of the era it depicts and the feeling that injustice is inevitable even at the extremes seen in the movie.
24. I, Tonya
This movie reminds me that I never recognize Sebastian Stan on screen even when his characters come alive. It's quite dramatic and tense even though some of the characters were embraced for their wackiness, on screen and in real life. There is a lot of wackiness to this, but it's also a bit of a Rashomon on ice approached with sincerity.
25. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh's morality play around small town racism, sexual violence and internet culture of bringing private struggles public wrestles with whether people who hae been bad in the past can end up doing right things... for that matter, when people in the right do wrong in the name of revenge. Incredible performances and visceral set pieces maybe doesn't give enough time to all the issues while delving into the personal conflicts of the characters with ambiguity.
This stumbled into being the most timely documentary in quite a while. What was supposed to be a pretty ambitious project about doping in sports turns life endangering as it finds its way into exposing corruption in the Russian government. This ended up being one of my most recommended movies of the year.
27. The Little Hours
With the feeling of being a spin off of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Little Hours excels at being one of the funniest raunchy comedies of the year.
28. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
In the vein of Green Room, this action-realism movie asks "what if Napoleon Dynamite didn't have brain damage and was a bit more stab-y?" It's funny and muddy and dark and the closest thing to a Jeff Nichols movie this year.
29. Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot, the pulse pounding score and the world building of Wonder Woman make up for uninteresting villains. Wonder Woman has been the single bright spot in the DC team up movies she has been in and left to her own story with her own director, Patty Jenkins, the character sure makes a crowd pleasing and well made movie.
30. Alien: Covenant
How could I not have a second movie from 80 year old Ridley Scott on this list? I'm not the most chest bursting, face hugging guy in the theater but the special effects and strong characters in this make up for the weaknesses in Prometheus.
I hope a list of 30 wasn't too much. It's possible next year will be paired down more. Aaaaaand, the worst movie of the year was Valerian.