We're continuing our sampling of various lists of the best films of 2017 this week -- we might keep going all the way to the Oscars if we have enough material.
Jay Russell, director of My Dog Skip, Ladder 49, The Water Horse, et al.:
This is tough choice, but I suppose these are my Top 10 --
- 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 2. Phantom Thread 3. I, Tonya 4. The Shape of Water 5. Dunkirk 6. Lady Bird 7. Get Out 8. Call Me By Your Name 9. The Post 10. Molly's Game
Also -- Split, Baby Driver, The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected), The Big Sick, Brad's Status, All the Money in the World.
But this is minus any docs or foreign films or animated films or any others I might have missed -- just primarily narrative American released movies. I am way behind on a lot of specialty films.
Piers Marchant, critic, frequent program contributor:
The 20 Best Films of 2017
Wind River -- Taylor Sheridan's directing debut -- a whodunit conducted on reservation lands in frigid Wyoming -- has some glaring weaknesses (he does seem preternaturally fond of the whole "female agent in over her head" dynamic) but one thing he gets right is the landscape and a sense of just how thoroughly American society has largely turned its back on of our country's native peoples ... a murder mystery with more of a political kick than you might expect.
Logan -- James Mangold's more haunting vision of a Wolverine (played for the last time by Hugh Jackman) old, riddled with guilt and doubt, and loss of purpose felt like a revelation. The lion in winter, whose adamantium claws were still in effect became a version of the character we hadn't seen before, and one that proved to have much more emotional complexity.
The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected) -- I realize Noah Baumbach isn't everyone's cup of tea. But I've always found his stuff riveting, and here, with a full-blown cast (including Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Emma Thompson, and Ben Stiller), he's in fine fettle. Sandler, proving once again that he's capable of far more than brainless comedies when pressed by a good director, is very strong, and Hoffman, playing an irascible, egocentric aging patriarch, is excellent.
Berlin Syndrome -- Cate Shortland's cat-and-mouse thriller about an Aussie tourist in Berlin (Teresa Palmer) who has a brief affair with a German man (Max Riemelt) before he abducts her is smart and riveting -- featuring yeoman work from the two leads, and a pulse-tripping last act that welded me to my seat -- and, in this unofficial Year of the Female, featured a strong-as-nails heroine standing up to the worst sort of male oppression, a perfect metaphor for 2017.
Free Fire -- Ben Wheatley's absurdly entertaining shoot-'em-up has sterling cast -- including Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Oscar-winner Brie Larson -- and a can't-miss premise -- a pair of gangs during a gun-buy gone bad are forced to square off against one another in an abandoned umbrella warehouse in '70s-era Boston.
A War -- Tobias Lindholm's military drama stars Game of Thrones actor Pilou Asbek as a captain of an outpost in Afghanistan forced to make a difficult, but totally understandable, decision that leads to his court martial. Asbek is absolutely masterful, and Lindholm has a way of creating difficult and complex narratives that puts his characters and his audience in a moral quandary.
The Salesman -- Every film from Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi is a cause for celebration, and this film -- an interesting meditation on repressive misogyny, Iranian social politics, and Arthur Miller -- is no exception. The film utilizes Farhadi's trademark tightly wound, concentric narrative wrapped around a central core mystery.
Strong Island -- Yance Ford's deeply moving doc about the murder of his older brother and the ways his loss devastated his once-happy family, is shot in a pastiche of styles -- for most of the interviews, the camera keeps a respectful distance -- but for Ford's own confessions, he shoots almost uncomfortably close, almost daring us to look away. The somber themes are greatly enhanced by the addition of inspired poetic visuals: an angled roof against the blue of the sky, snow swirling in air against a dark night, a particularly haunting overhead shot of the grease stain on the concrete outside the garage where his brother lay down to die, which untethers the film from clear narrative delineation, and send it into spiraling layers of grief and acceptance. The result is uncompromising and almost impossibly raw.
Wonder Woman -- Gal Gadot's star turn as the heroine of the summer could not have come at a more precipitous time, given the political wave of female empowerment, and Patty Jenkins' film was thrilling and ground-breaking. DC might have only given us one winning film this year, but it certainly was a doozy.
Graduation --Cristian Mungiu's latest film, about a well-connected Romanian doctor (Adrian Tetieni) who uses his influence to illicitly aid his stricken daughter (Maria Dragus) on the eve of her college entrance exams, is another master study of moral nuance and precise scene composition.
The Unknown Girl -- After a young woman is murdered after first trying to gain entry into her small clinic after hours, an obsessive doctor, Jenny (Adele Haenel), devotes most of her time and energy not to try and solve the crime, but to discover the woman's identity so she can notify her family. You get the impression the Dardennes brothers -- whose previous oeuvre contains many unflinching dramas -- want to lay out the ways we need to respond to our fellow human beings in order to be truly happy with ourselves. It says something that their protagonists stand out so much for simply just doing the right thing.
Personal Shopper -- Kristen Stewart has become a bloody force of nature. Working again with Olivier Assayas (their previous collaboration, Clouds of Sils Maria, was also very strong), the two have made a film so filled with provocative energy, it can't stay in one place for very long. Part ghost story; part fashion treatise; part character study; part Millennial ode; it moves in so many directions, you can't catch your breath.
My Happy Family -- Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross' Georgian drama concerns a middle-aged matriarch (Ia Shugliashvili, in a fantastic performance) who suddenly decides to move out of her busy apartment where her vast extended family live, and move into her own flat where she can hear herself think. To her husband's consternation, she remains resolute, which comes to make more and more sense as the drama unfurls.
I, Tonya -- Craig Gillespie's black comedy plays out the life and times of Tonya Harding with verve, wit, and absolutely brilliant performances, none more so that Allison Janney's scene-stealing turn as Tonya's witheringly acerbic mother.
Lady Bird -- Greta Gerwig's directorial debut was a spiky, scintillating reverie on teen identity, and the difficulties of holding onto those things that most matter to you even as you strive to open yourself up to totally new experiences.
The Florida Project -- A kind of re-imagined Little Rascals, but set at an Orlando residence motel on the dirty outskirts of the strip outside Disney World, Sean Baker's film is filled with the vitality and spark of life, even as the lives it depicts are difficult and often suffering. Featuring fantastic performances from the children -- and a wondrous turn by Willem Dafoe, as the building manager.
Get Out -- Jordan Peele's stunning directorial debut is so tightly constructed and carefully put together, it works equally well on multiple levels. That a film so loaded with racial politics can also be so damn entertaining is a marvel that needs to be seen multiple times before fully appreciated.
Phantom Thread -- Paul Thomas Anderson is so fully in control of his craft he can make a riveting, emotionally wrenching film from a fussbudget dressmaker who likes his breakfast to be eerily silent. Delicate, nuanced, and absolutely gorgeous to look at with a wondrous score from Johnny Greenwood, it's almost shockingly good. If this is indeed Daniel Day-Lewis' last film, he has gone out with a hell of a swan song.
Call Me By Your Name -- The film's first couple of hours are perfectly entertaining, but is in its closing scenes that it goes from engaging to sublime, including a monologue from Michael Stuhlbarg, consoling his now-bereft son, that is truly one for the ages. The closing credits, set over a long, single-take of Elio's face in front of the fire, will sear your soul.
A Ghost Story -- Ladies and gentlemen, David Lowery's powerful meditation on love, time, and the fallacy of human legacy was the only film this year that very nearly dropped me to my knees in anguish as I departed the theater. You can actually view it as having something of a happy ending, but even so, it strikes nerves deep in your cerebral cortex you never even knew existed before. "It's a film of felt, quiet spaces, whose emotional intensity builds in small increments to become at times almost overwhelming. It goes places you don't expect, and keeps you there, frozen stiff in your chair, as it comes full circle. It's definitely not a film for everybody -- if, for example, you require three full acts and complete character arcs, you might want to take a flier -- but for the people who can hang with it, it has an enormous amount to offer."
Other Worthy Mentions:
47 Meters Down, A Gray State, Abundant Acreage Available, Atomic Blonde, Baby Driver, Bad Day for the Cut, Beach Rats, Beatriz at Dinner, Blame, Did You Wonder Who Shot the Gun?, Dunkirk, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Jane, Killing Ground, mother!, Quest, The Cage Fighter, The Endless, The Force, The Square, Thumper.
MovieStyle on 02/02/2018
Print Headline: More Top 10 lists from 2 cinephiles