I saw 75 movies this year and I still have 3-4 left to finish up over the next few weeks. I haven’t seen The Post, Call Me By Your Name, or Phantom Thread yet. Phantom Thread is the only regret I have but it doesn’t come out until mid-January and I like to finish my list before first week of January ends. A few special awards before my top 12.
The Silver Lining Playbook Award
…for the vastly overrated movie that no one will remember or claim they ever really liked a few years from now. Previous winners include Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, The Revenant, and Manchester By The Sea.
This year’s winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Great performances. Not a good movie.
Movie I didn’t like that everyone else did so I’m probably wrong
Worst Movie I spent money to see
5 Favorite Movie Moments
No Man’s Land in Wonder Woman
The Throne Room Sequence in The Last Jedi
The final song in Coco
The apartment fight in Atomic Blonde
Every single thing Tiffany Haddish said or did in Girls Trip
The Top 12 in no particular order
The Florida Project
The fact that this movie isn’t getting as much recognition as it deserves is a travesty. Sean Baker directed a film that is the most human, affecting, and real that I saw this year. As I said in my review a few months ago, this isn’t poverty porn. The characters are in less than ideal circumstances but that isn’t what the movie is about. The circumstances of the characters drive their interactions, choices, and arcs. I’ve used the term “real” in my review of this film because at any point I feel like I could drive by a motel and someone getting by could be living this story. It is a story that is harrowing, happy, tragic, and hopeful all at once and that is largely due to the wonderful performances. When the film hits its inevitable conclusion it turns into a magical odyssey with one of the best cries you’ll have at the theater this year. You’ll cry because it is sad, because you are hopeful, because a character is happy, and because every single day you probably walk by this story playing out in your home town and you never even pause to look at it.
Blade Runner 2049
Sequels should never be this good. Blade Runner 2049 is Blade Runner adjacent. It is packed with so many themes and things to discover on repeat viewings. The connection to the original is blatantly there but this movie pushes so far beyond the original and expands the World. Dennis Villeneuve directed such an incredibly looking movie and it doesn’t hurt that he has arguably the most dynamic actor working consistently right now in Ryan Gosling to bring the thesis of the movie bubbling to the surface with a fantastic nuanced performance. This really was the best looking movie of the year and I think down the road I’ll only appreciate it more.
Christopher Nolan’s most Christopher Nolan movie is nothing short of a masterpiece of storytelling. Nolan’s ability to write and direct a film that is juggling 3 different “timelines” that all weave together at the end by catching up with each other is a miracle. To have a film maker trust the audience to be adults who can follow a plot in 2017 is actually pretty audacious considering many studios and directors don’t even trust the audience to follow the most basic plot structure imaginable. This was the one movie in 2017 that absolutely deserved to be seen in IMAX.
The fact that this film is nominated as a comedy/musical at the Golden Globes is so stupid. This movie has a few laughs including a very important one at the very end but it is an unmatched psychological thriller at its core. Full of so many cringe-worthy race related interactions that would make even the most liberal person uncomfortable. I know the film’s meaning and place in history has taken on a life of its own in these Trump years but no matter where you land on that it is a brilliant social thriller written and directed by one of the freshest and newest voices in Hollywood. When talented people offer new perspectives in any genre the result will always be at a minimum interesting. Get Out blew interesting away and was one of the best movies of the year.
The Disaster Artist
A movie based on one of the worst movies of all time has no business being this funny or heartfelt but it is. Franco deserves all the acting nominations he is receiving. I can’t really describe this movie much more than to say it is a really good exploration of friendship, movie making, and having the courage to chase your dreams.
John Wick 2
John Wick 2 may go down in the pantheon of greatest sequels ever. I’m not exaggerating. This movie is a staggering achievement for the action genre and sequels in general. It is damn near perfect. Every single action sequence builds on the last until we reach a climactic shootout/fight amongst mirrors that is so damn impressive that my HBOGO account should have its own link to that scene. In an era where world building is either in short supply or rushed, John Wick builds a mythology that I would actually by a history book to read about. I can’t wait for the 3rd installment in 2019. If it achieves 25% of what this chapter did then this series will go down as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.
Coming of age stories arrive several times a year and more often than not you can skip one after gleaning every point of the movie from the trailer. Ladybird is not this kind of coming of age story. Ladybird is a smart slice of character growth and an examination of the relationship between parent and child that won’t be replicated for years. There is so much truth to the feelings that every single character has in this film. Marion has such an honest frustration with her daughter’s behavior and such a remarkable true love for her even in the loudest arguments that felt so real. Ladybird is relatable in the way she forces you to reflect on things you said or did at that point in your life and how they may have made your parents feel causing you to realize what an asshole you were. Ultimately, the lessons learned in the end aren’t groundbreaking or unique, it the honesty in how it is delivered that is so powerful.
Superhero films are their own genre now, with their own expectations and clichés. We know that in the end the heroes will win and there will be at least 15 minutes of heavy CGI punching. What makes Logan so beautiful is that all James Mangold did was decide to write and direct a great aging hero/redemption story with a superhero. Instead of an all-powerful Wolverine who cannot die, we see Wolverine when his immortality is a curse. He’s had to watch his friends die and everything he ever remotely cared about be stripped from the World. Even the most powerful mutant, Professor X, is suffering from dementia and fading from the World. Logan was a man who originally cared about nothing, learned to be part of a family only to watch all of that be stripped from him by everyone’s greatest enemy, time. Enter a young girl, Laura, who was created from Logan’s DNA and the same experiment that created him. Watching a character we’ve loved for almost 20 years come full circle and make the ultimate sacrifice so that his daughter can live a better life than he did was powerful. In the final moments when Laura turns the cross at Logan’s grave to an ‘X’ there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Logan proved that superhero films can be a delivery system for major themes, arcs, and stories beyond punching for the next sequel.
The Shape of Water
This is Guillermo Del Toro’s best film. This is a fully realized and executed vision that just excels in every way imaginable. The acting is great, the sets are fantastic, the effects are jaw dropping, the story is perfect, and the costumes are beautiful. I have never been a huge Del Toro fan but this movie finally made me shout from the rooftops what his fans had been telling me forever, he is a visionary filmmaker.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I’ve seen this 3 times now and read every single think piece on it. Let me be clear, it is the best Star Wars film ever made and a very important blockbuster. It may not be your favorite Star Wars but the writing, directing, and acting are better than any other entry in the series. This was a blockbuster who’s entire thematic point is that failure is the best teacher and that we cannot allow hope to ever die. Heroes are allowed to make mistakes that have negative consequences in this movie. Heroes we grew up idolizing can be broken and lost after mistakes. It isn’t a perfect movie and there are legitimate criticisms to be had but this movie expanded a 40 year old saga further than any film before it. It expanded the galaxy, the characters, the themes, and ultimately the conflict. Darth Vader is worthless compared to Kylo Ren because Kylo Ren is interesting. Vader was an attack dog for the Emperor, nothing more. Kylo is the most interesting film villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker and assuming JJ Abrams doesn’t blow it he will be up there when all is said and done. The Last Jedi was the movie film fans deserved too. It upended the constant spoiler, mystery box, and theorizing that frequently ruin people’s enjoyment of the movie they’re excited for. We fans spend too much time guessing what will happen and making it up in our mind that when it doesn’t manifest the way we imagined we feel disappointed. Sometimes letting a talented filmmaker like Rian Johnson tell a great chapter in this story is the best thing that can happen to an entire saga.
We need more adult movies. PSA: Don’t google more adult movies. What I mean is Taylor Sheridan who wrote Sicario, Hell or High Water, and now wrote and directed Wind River should be allowed to make films like this once a year and hopefully other talented filmmakers will follow his lead. A modern day western, Wind River follows a game hunter tasked with assisting a young FBI agent’s murder investigation on an Indian Reservation. It is one of Jeremy Renner’s best performances and takes some narrative risks that pay off in incredible ways despite their difficulty to watch. It is a perfectly executed tight crime/mystery film with truly breathtaking shots. It also explores loss and grief in a manner that few other films would. With the love that Hell or High Water got during awards season, I was hoping to see some more exposure for this movie. It is just as good.
A documentary set in Folsom State Prison where a few men from the outside come in for an intensive group therapy session. This is as real as it gets. Ordinary citizens sitting with gang members and people spending life in prison as they work together through their pasts and all of their fears was an incredible thing to watch. There is no huge payoff. It is simply a group of broken men from all different backgrounds pushing each other to become better people in the most unlikely setting.