This is my Favorite Movies of 2017 list (along with a second opinion from Liz and Eric Sweeney). As all lists are, this list is highly subjective and probably has a few dumb movies on it. What can I say? It’s a sickness. Even then, there are still quite a few movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet (Baby Driver was in my top ten until Kevin Spacey was outed as a predator, so I’m bumping it off as a result). Also, all this year’s favorite movies are in movie montage mashup form if that’s your preferred manner of taking in best of lists.
1. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri – With as rough as 2017 was, you’d figure escapism would be the way to go, but why not go with a movie that steamrolls through all the year’s relevant issues. Racism? Check. Sexual Assault? Check. Police Brutality? Check. Homophobia? Check. Three Billboards confronts it all. There’s no denying this is a tough movie to watch at times, but it’s absolutely worth seeing. Even with its fairly deflating ending, this darkly comic take on tragedy, anger and empathy is my favorite movie of the year.
Penned and directed by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), this story follows Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother who erects a series of billboards damming the local police for her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder. Like his previous efforts, McDonagh’s third film has razor sharp dialogue and a pitch black underbelly, but the real allure of this story is that it’s ultimately about forgiveness. That’s perhaps the great divide I feel with McDonagh’s kindred spirit, Quentin Tarantino, whose movies similarly feature extreme bloodshed and stylized banter, but often devolve into pastiches of nihilistic violence that leave me feeling empty by the time the credits roll. Tarantino is a skilled filmmaker, but I need a bit more heart. And for all their faults, McDonagh’s characters have heart to them. Especially the film’s hardened protagonist, Mildred, played to perfection by Francis McDormand. Everyone should stay home this year, because Francis McDormand deserves to win all the awards. All of them! (Trailer)
Best Scene: Dixon reads his letter
2. Wind River – Wind River is haunting. A stark, Cormac McCarthy inspired thriller set on the frozen plains of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. I’ll be honest, Wind River may not be the best script Taylor Sheridan has written (Sicario and Hell or High Water being his other two) and its first hour may be a little on the slow and methodical side, but man, do the last forty minutes just sear themselves into your brain. What a great ending, especially the film’s final exchange, which, while heavy with sadness, has small slivers of hope present. Like Three Billboards, this film doesn’t shy away from grisly and relevant subject matter. The story feels timely and important. And while I’m not a huge Jeremy Renner fan, I think this may be his best role yet, playing a sort of cold weather Gary Cooper for the 21st century. Elizabeth Olsen, tasked with the Clarice Starling archetype, also performs admirably. I urge everyone to see Wind River and read more about the grim events it’s based on. This movie will sneak up on you. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Tie – Are You Flanking Me?/How Far Can You Run?/Death Face
3. Dunkirk – Dunkirk is easily the most technically impressive film I saw this year, a somber WWII masterpiece that favors its stunning visuals above coddling any of its shellshocked characters. Presented as an oddly shaped narrative puzzle, this steely take on the evacuation of Dunkirk is an edge of your seat experience from the very first frame. Once again, Christopher Nolan cruelly muzzles Tom Hardy behind a mask, and Hardy still finds ways to make his performance compelling as the heroic, but slightly Bane-garbled Spitfire pilot Farrier. I know this film has been divisive amongst viewers, some calling it an empty, exhausting experience, but I think the assault on your senses is intentional. I don’t think war movies should leave you feeling comfortable, or even satisfied for that matter. They should leave you a bit dazed and unsettled. And Dunkirk does that. I especially love what the end of the film has to say about its characters, too. One character who displayed varying levels of cowardice (understandable cowardice, but cowardice all the same) throughout the film is given a hero’s welcome at home, while the closest thing the movie has to an actual hero is left stranded on a beach behind enemy lines. How fitting. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Convergence at Open Sea
4. Logan – With Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox, Logan will more than likely stand as the best X-Men movie of all time. Mostly because I can’t see Disney putting out a misery seminar like this ever again. Logan is a movie about growing old and dementia and immigrants and swearing at children. You know, the cornerstones of the Disney empire. It’s subversive to the genre, a camouflaged road movie/western that parades itself around as summer blockbuster fare for the masses. And even though it can’t escape its comic trappings in the third act, I wouldn’t change anything about this movie. Especially the film’s closing image. I’m not crying, you’re crying! (Trailer)
Best Scene: So This is What it Feels Like (single tear)
5. Get Out – Despite being listed as a comedy for the upcoming Golden Globes, further proving that we can’t have nice things, this sociopolitical thriller cuts right to the bone on issues of race and prejudice. It’s cleverly scripted, thoughtfully constructed and perfectly executed. When asked how he would classify his own movie, writer/director Jordan Peele called it a “documentary”. All credit to him for producing something this smart and subtle, fresh off his broader and sillier sketch comedy days. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Getting Out
Watch This If You Like: Satirical horror, well written scripts, Social issues that need addressing, the Get Out challenge
6. Blade Runner 2049 – Blade Runner 2049 is a Jared Leto appearance away from being a masterpiece (I continue to fail my New Year’s resolution to be nicer to Jared Leto). Whereas Dunkirk was the most impressive “what can we strap a two hundred and forty pound IMAX camera to and still fly?” achievement, Blade Runner 2049 is the year’s best example of pure mood. Roger Deakins may be the greatest living cinematographer, Denis Villeneuve may be the most underrated genre director working and Harrison Ford actually tried in this movie. That’s a lethal combination. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Fuck You, Wall
Watch This If You Like: Phillip K. Dick, Sci-fi, Harrison Ford not phoning it in
7. It – The horror in the reboot of Stephen King’s clown terror classic may be a bit straightforward and even clunky at times, but the core of the movie, the kids that make up the Losers’ Club, are fantastic. Their strong and believable bond far outweighs any of the film’s underwhelming aspects. Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (The Handmaiden, Oldboy) once again produces some distinctly grim visuals, Bill Skarsgard’s take on Pennywise is effectively unsettling while avoiding any sort of imitation or mimicry and the script is legitimately funny at times (that placebo line killed in our theater). I mean, what more do you want? (Trailer)
Best Scene: Losers’ Club Unite/Rock Fight/”These are Gazebos!”
Watch This If You Like: Stranger Things, Stephen King, Child actors being traumatized, On point New Kids on the Block references
8. Coco – Coco is Pixar’s gorgeous and culturally rich film about family, music and personal drive. The animation is breathtaking, the songs are impossibly catchy and the film floats with an emotional vibrancy in every scene. It’s a shame that tone deaf 22 minute Frozen short film about Olaf pulling a series of home invasions on Christmas played before Coco, but it did emphasize how great Coco is compared to schlock like that. Even ol’ Olaf couldn’t ruin this wonderful Pixar gem. And if you don’t find yourself misty-eyed in the last twenty minutes, then you’re a monster. Plain and simple. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Remember Me
Watch This If You Like: Crying in front of children, Pixar, Family, Celebrating life
9. Lady Bird– The strength of Lady Bird is that it feels like lived in material. Everything feels genuine and authentic. I don’t think there is a single misstep in the film. I know writer/director Greta Gerwig claimed this coming of age tale is semi-autobiographical, but I do wonder if this wasn’t her teenage years beat for beat, because I felt like I was watching someone’s life. It almost felt like an intrusion at times. I remember a similar effect while watching Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Unlike Boyhood’s sprawl though, Lady Bird is presented in a series of choppy vignettes, effectively emulating the teenage attention span and gifting us a scattershot of Lady Bird’s formidable senior year. It’s sad, it’s bittersweet, it’s familiar, it’s elating. Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan are superb as the film’s bullheaded mother daughter combo, a pair that sees far too much of themselves in each other, echoed by the film’s opening image, a portrait of the two lying in bed together, a near reflection of one another. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Trip to the Airport
Watch This If You Like: Boyhood, Coming of age stories, Linklater vibes
10. Ingrid Goes West – Only Aubrey Plaza can make a character like Ingrid, a deranged social media stalker who moves west to insert herself into the life of her Instagram obsession, somewhat sympathetic (Plaza’s Ingrid is a sort of kindred spirit to Bryce Dallas Howard’s painfully insecure character in the Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive‘). The movie is peppered with uncomfortable laughs akin to a millennial’s version of The Office, but I thought it was great. It’s a scathing examination of social media obsession (the influencers and the obsessors are both taken to task) and I’m bummed more people didn’t see it. On a side note, there is a scene where Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the object of Plaza’s obsession, are singing K-Ci and Jojo’s ‘All My Life’ (the best slow jam of all time) in the car. Unable to contain herself at the prospect of their budding friendship, Plaza drops her guard for just a few seconds when she’s singing the chorus and all the darkness comes pouring out. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it exchange, but it’s one of my favorite movie moments of the year. Aubrey Plaza is so good in this movie. (Trailer)
Best Scene: K-Ci and Jojo Karaoke
Watch This if You Like: Black Mirror, Single White Female for the 2010s, uncomfortable comedy, K-Ci and Jojo
11. War for the Planet of the Apes – Bad Ape is my favorite character of 2017. Yes, a goofy Steve Zahn voiced CG ape who wears a puffy vest is the pinnacle cinematic creation of 2017 for me. I dismissed him as pure comic relief at first, but there’s something deeply tragic about him. It’s a little devastating to watch him. I’m serious. Go back and watch Bad Ape’s introduction. It’s heartbreaking. Most of the people I’ve talked to implied Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is still the best of the trilogy, but I think I preferred War’s strange ‘The Great Escape‘ meets ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai‘ inspired story. I really feared this would be a retread of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with more chaotic war scenes woven in, but it did an effective job distancing itself from its predecessor. This isn’t really a war movie at all. If anything, it’s an escape movie, with apes. It’s the Ape Escape movie you never thought you’d get (or want?). (Trailer)
Best Scene: Prison Break
12. Thor: Ragnorok – This year’s equally well made Thor, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy entries seemed almost interchangeable at times, despite each film stamping their product in discernible ways. Thor is the weakest of the four by dramatic standards, which would usually bump it down the list for me, but it’s also the funniest of the four, and in a year of bleak cinema and bleak everything, I suppose laughter wins out this time. Ragnorok also has Jeff Goldblum, a surprisingly funky soundtrack and more of director Taika Waititi‘s dry Kiwi humor that was so great in last year’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. All that is missing in Ragorok is a Ricky Baker appearance (do not despair though, look for Ricky Baker and his skux life in 2018’s Deadpool 2). (Trailer)
Best Scene: Get Help!
Watch This If You Like: Guardians of the Galaxy, Hunt For the Wilderpeople, Dry Kiwi humor
13. The Red Turtle – I still don’t really know what to say about the Red Turtle, a nearly dialogue free film from Japanese animated powerhouse Studio Ghibli. I didn’t always understand it, but it nonetheless felt deeply profound to me. And when I finished it, I just sat there for a long time, went for a walk and ruminated on life. It sounds corny, but it happened. I suppose at the heart of the escapism and comfort film offers, we secretly hope for experiences like this. Something that shakes us from our stupors. The Red Turtle is a film I’m sure I’ll revisit more and more over the years and appreciate exponentially the I older become. It might be a little slow for most, but I would still encourage people to seek it out. I especially like Mike Figures’ comment about the film’s universal appeal, “Once sound and language was developed, film became culture specific and lost its universality, and what this film does is reclaim that universality as there is no spoken language.” (Trailer)
Best Scene: The Circle of Life
Watch This If You Like: Castaway, Tin Tin, Ghibli movies, contemplating life
14. The Villainess – The Villainess is an absurd, violent marriage of La Femme Nikita and Kill Bill on bath salts. Whereas this year’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Atomic Blonde had superb fight choreography and jarring blasts of stylized violence, there is something in this Korean action thriller that feels far superior in its raw and kinetic bloodshed. There’s no sheen to it. The film’s bursts of adrenaline leave you breathless and concerned for the stunt crew. This is the sort of madness I wanted from Atomic Blonde, and while there were admirable elements to that Charlize Theron vehicle, I think you have to get out of Hollywood to find something this batshit crazy these days. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Opening Raid/Bus Fight
15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – It seems like a requirement these days that hyperbole be assigned to anything Star Wars related, but the truth is, I don’t have any brash things to say about this movie. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It subverted expectations in a way that was refreshing, but also signaled a clear lack of communication for the trilogy’s overall structure, something Rian Johnson himself confirmed. And while I like smart, subversive sci-fi, Star Wars is far too nostalgic for me, leaving me with a stubbornly strong attachment to traditional arcs and the hero’s journey in the Star Wars universe. Ultimately, Last Jedi felt more like an episode of Battlestar Galactica than a Star Wars film, which is perfectly fine, but it does take some getting used to. There is still quite a lot I liked about it though. Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are all great. Anytime they’re onscreen, the film is at its best. The Star Destroyer ramming sequence is also a stunning piece of visual filmmaking and Porgs are okay in my book. (Trailer)
Best Scene: “See you around, kid.”
Worst Offense: Space Witch Leia/Misuse of Benicio Del Toro
Watch This If You Like: Battlestar Galactica, plot subversion, Anti-Star Wars movies, Porgs
16. Okja – Okja is basically a traumatizing version of Free Willy for people who like watching movies at home with their cats. Korean director Joon-ho Bong is one of my favorite directors around and while this is arguably the zaniest movie he’s produced to date, there is still a lot of heavy scenery on this wild ride (that leaving the factory scene at the end is straight haunting). I don’t think all of Bong’s patented bizarre edges always work in Okja, like Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Hanna on angel dust character for example, but it does have double Tilda Swintons, a scrappy female protagonist to cheer for, Steven Yeun and a lovable hippo pig. That’s more than most movies can hope for. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Bartering for a Life
17. Spider-Man: Homecoming – The best cinematic depiction of Peter Parker yet meets the best Marvel villain in quite some time to form the weird John Hughesesque Spider-Man movie we didn’t know we wanted. Michael Keaton is great, Tom Holland is perfect for the role and for the first time ever in live action history, the kids in Peter’s social radius don’t look like 3o year olds playing high schoolers. Tony Stark’s scenes are actually enjoyable, which is surprising since the trailer made them feel like tedious dad face lectures and Infinity War propaganda (which they are to an extent, but not the interjected chores you’d think they’d be). Call this movie a pleasant surprise following the aggressively bland Amazing Spiderman films (seriously, try to recall anything about those movies? I can’t). (Trailer)
Best Scene: Meet the Parents
18. Wonder Woman – Wonder Woman is a fantastic and important film. We absolutely needed a female superhero movie and we got a great one. Hats off to director Patty Jenkins on filling some big shoes on this one. I was so happy that Wonder Woman was a runaway success. It deserves to be. The last 20 minutes are a disappointing Zach Synder nightmare CG fest, but other than that, this film soars, inspires and delights. Gal Gadot was born to play this role. (Trailer)
Best Scene: No Man’s Land
Watch This If You Like: Uh…let’s be honest, they repurposed most of Captain America: The First Avenger, so if you enjoyed that, you’ll probably like this.
19. Your Name – Japan’s record breaking anime is a body swapping tale that mashes up Freaky Friday and Frequency. While the animation is gorgeous and the story, sweet at times, I do feel like I’ve seen better animated movies out of Japan that haven’t received nearly the attention this did (Wolf Children for one). All the same, watching Your Name a second time, I did enjoy it significantly more than the first time through. It’s such a finely drawn piece of animation that you could mute it and just let it run as a vibrant screensaver. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Falling Stars
20. The Disaster Artist – I’m still stunned at how great a job James Franco did with this movie. He managed to imitate Tommy Wiseau perfectly, craft something that wasn’t totally at his expense and include most of the source material from the book it’s based on. It’s about the best adaptation of the Disaster Artist you could hope for. And yet, something still feels a little off about the movie. Franco’s Wiseau is pitch perfect, but also a bit more digestible than the real Tommy Wiseau. Tommy’s weird unquantifiable mystique is what makes the Room so great and I feel like Franco wanted to plug him into the starving artist lane and ignore a lot of the bizarre and darker Tommy nuances (although I did appreciate him keeping some scummy Tommy moments from the book like the mole freakout with Lisa). Still, this is the best Franco has ever been as an actor and director. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Zach Efron as Chris R.
21. I Am Not Your Negro – I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about James Baldwin until I saw this documentary. It may be my own ignorance, but he seems like an overlooked figure of the civil rights era, at least in the middle school classrooms I was educated in. But everything he spoke about seems staggeringly relevant today, proving he was ahead of his time. I’ve made it a point to read more of his work in the upcoming year and I plan to stick to that promise. If anyone out there has any recommendations, let me know. I Am Not Your Negro may not be an easy watch, but like Baldwin, it should not be ignored. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Baldwin’s writings
Watch This If You Like: Great documentaries
22. The Fate of the Furious – I thought Fate of the Furious was a notable improvement over Fast 7, which outside of the gravitas of Paul Walker’s death, was a pretty numbing barrage of chaotic set pieces. I know that every Fast and Furious movie can be accused of that dubious honor, but for whatever reason, Fate of the Furious worked a bit more for me. I think the Rock and Jason Statham’s scenes together may have been part of the reason this entry was more buoyant than its mealy predecessor. Charlize Theron’s villain was so-so, but her whisper threats were still very watchable in the kitschy manner that whisper villains are intended to be (if someone has a Charlize Theron whisper threat supercut out there, hit me with it). And yes, it’s odd that everyone suddenly forgot that Statham’s character murdered Han, but it’s okay. Han’s in drift heaven with Wonder Woman, so it’s not all bad. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Prison Break
Watch This If You Like: Fast 5-7, 90s James Bond movies, Charlize Theron with dreads, whisper villains
23. John Wick: Chapter 2 – Keanu Reeves wisely chooses to board his dog this movie, saving countless lives in the process. John Wick 2 reminds me a lot of ‘The Raid 2‘. It similarly expanded its scope, got way more violent, and is probably a better sequel than we deserve, but it also sags under the weigh of its ambition and sprawl, creating a richer but more bloated film. If this movie accomplishes anything, it once and for all proves that martial arts movies are just disguised dance movies. There are countless times in John Wick 2 that the numbing depictions of violence melt away and morph into bloody waltzes, Keanu Reeves grappling, rolling and embracing an endless string of soon to be deceased dance partners/victims. A sort of comic tragedy of a man that can’t find the right dance partner, but continues searching all the same. I thought it was going to be Common, but alas, no. We didn’t get the Keanu/Common bromance we deserved. Maybe in John Wick 3, Keanu will finally find his Patrick Swayze, and when he does, they’ll both fire their guns into the air while screaming. (Trailer)
Best Scene: An uncommon exchange with Common in the commons
24. The Shape of Water – I think I’m at peace with the fact that Guillermo Del Toro will never make another movie as good as Pan’s Labyrinth. I know this is the one that critics have championed as Del Toro’s return to form, but I still think there is a significant gap between the Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth. I like Shape of Water. I enjoyed the themes explored and its band of outcasts, but I don’t think it had the quite emotional devastation that Pan’s Labyrinth had in its last twenty minutes. Still, the art and creature design are top-notch (I still would have loved to see his version of the Hobbit movies) and Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Olivia Spencer and Doug Jones all turn in wonderful performances (I normally love Michael Shannon, but unfortunately he drifts a bit into a caricatured villain). (Trailer)
Best Scene: What is she saying?!
Watch This If You Like: Pan’s Labyrinth, a stranger version of Beauty and the Beast
25. The Lost City of Z – The Lost City of Z is a biographical adventure following the ill-fated expedition of Percy Fawcett, the famed explorer that served as the inspiration for Indiana Jones and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’. I quite like this film and the book it is based on, but I do think most would find it a bit boring. Everything about the film feels like it was made in a bygone era. The time period, the photography, the pacing, they’re all love letters to cinematic eras that no longer draw large crowds at theaters. This is also notable as the second movie this year that proved Robert Pattinson is secretly a really good actor (Good Time being the other). Go figure. (Trailer)
Best Scene: Descending at Dusk
Watch This If You Like: Werner Herzog, ill-fated expeditions, Nature photography
*26. 47 Meters Down – This is an awful movie, but sharks terrify me, so here we are. I mean, to give you an idea of the quality level of this movie, at one point it was a straight to video Mandy Moore shark movie that they pulled and repackaged after the success of last year’s stuck on a rock bottle episode shark caper ‘The Shallows‘ (notice I even used the old straight to DVD poster as a nice big fuck you to them). The characters are so aggressively unlikeable (who peer pressures their sister into shark diving to impress a douchey ex-boyfriend?) that you end up cheering for the sharks. This movie even stole the ending of ‘The Descent‘ and then couldn’t execute it to its full potential. If you’re going to lightly plagiarize something, you might as well stick the landing. But at the end of the day, they do get the dread of being in the pit of hell darkness swimming with sharks right and that is way high on my list of fuck nos. (Trailer)
Best Scene: The parts when the sharks are winning
Worst Scene: When the characters talk
Honorable Mention: A Monster Calls, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Good Time, Mudbound, The Lego Batman Movie, It Comes at Night, Paterson, 1922, Colossal, The Big Sick, The Girl With All the Gifts, Tour de Pharmacy, Step, What Happened to Monday, Blade of the Immortal, The Foreigner, Last Flag Flying, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Mother!, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, The Void‘s John Carpenterness, Split, Their Finest, Lucky Logan, Mindhorn, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Life, Shot Caller, Chasing Coral, The Little Hours, Atomic Blonde‘s fight scenes, Mayhem, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Mountain Dew James Bond aka XXX: Return of the Xander Cage‘s, Free Fire, Valerian‘s first 30 minutes sans when they talk
Still Haven’t Seen: Call Me By Your Name, I, Tonya, Downsizing, Kedi, Raw, Phantom Thread, Detroit, Battle of the Sexes, Hostiles, You Were Never Really Here, Sleight, T2 Trainspotting, The Bad Batch, Headshot, Patti Cake$, Anti Matter, The Square, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Murder on the Orient Express, Molly’s Game
Best Performances: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri, Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen in Logan, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Gil Birmingham in Wind River, Allison Williams, Betty Gabriel and Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, Robert Pattinson in Good Time, Seo-Hyun Ahn in Okja, Michael Rooker in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Andy Serkis and Steve Zahn in War for The Planet of the Apes, Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan and Rob Morgan in Mudbound, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones in The Shape of Water, Adam Driver in Paterson and Logan Lucky, James McAvoy in Split, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm in Baby Driver, James Franco in The Disaster Artist, Gal Gadot and Robin Wright in Wonder Woman, Joel Edgerton in It Comes at Night, Gemma Arterton in Their Finest, Noomi Rapace in What Happened to Monday, The Losers Club in IT, Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99, Aubrey Plaza in Ingrid Goes West, Melanie Lynskey in I Don’t Feel Home in This World Anymore, Tom Holland and Michael Keaton in Spiderman: Homecoming, Nikolaj Coster-Waldu in Shot Caller
Most Disappointing: No question, it’s Alien Covenant. This movie is so dumb. I refuse to believe horror requires its characters to have the situational awareness of flank steaks. Go back and compare the decision making of the characters in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine with the crew of the Covenant. It’s night and day how they arrive at their decisions. Covenant also further demystifies and devalues an organism that was completely terrifying from the get go. I’ve heard passionate defenses of this movie from intelligent people and I’m still not buying it. This movie is a misstep and it’s dumb as rocks.
Most Anticipated 2018: Annihilation, Parasite, Apostle, First Man, The Predator, Isle of Dogs, Fahrenheit 451, The Meg, Hold the Dark, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Psychokinesis, Mute, Roma, Black Panther, The Incredibles 2, Avengers Infinity War, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Sicario 2: Soldado, Ready Player One, Creed II, The Irishman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Deadpool 2, Venom, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Widows, The Favourite, A Wrinkle in Time, Tomb Raider, The New Mutants, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The Girl in the Spiderweb, Holmes and Watson, Mortal Engines, Bohemian Rhapsody, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Ocean’s 8, Metalhead, Kursk, Under the Silver Lake, The Trap, Ad Astra
Liz’s Top Five
2017’s Theme: I’m not crying. You’re crying.
1. Lady Bird – I’m sure many can say that Lady Bird reflected some part of their teenage life, but I’m also pretty sure it reflected MY teenage life so closely I tried not to tear up, especially during every scene between Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. The misunderstanding between daughter and mother but constant need for love and approval? Check. The desire to move far away for college and apply to schools I couldn’t afford? Check. Falling in love with a cute boy who ended up not feeling the same? Yep. The crying in the car while listening to Dave Matthews Band? Several times check. The film is brimming with emotion and beautifully depicted both tempered and quiet relationships Lady Bird had with everyone in her life. Bonus points for getting to watch little Briony not be a punk while coming of age and completely smash this role.
2. Step – Come for the stepping, stay for the feels. The documentary follows a group of seniors from an all-female high school in Baltimore. These young ladies all find refuge in the step team while battling to make it through school just to graduate. They have a lot standing in their way—from poverty to inner city social injustice—but their families, teachers and friends all stand together to get these women into college. The documentary might be missing a few steps (pun not intended) in the overall story, but it managed to keep me sitting up straight and paying attention to what it takes to get an education when resources are scarce and spent the whole time rooting for them as they found out their futures.
3. Okja – All of the personalities in this movie were as colorful as the costumes they were in, but Okja was the one who really stole the show. I wanted to cry and hug that animated hippo pig as much as I did with Bing Bong. The opening scene where we meet Okja, along with Mija is more heartbreaking to watch a second time through because of the pure innocence the scene encapsulates, knowing what lies ahead for the pair—corporate greed, deception, animal abuse—barely scratches the surface. The dark material may show a very real side to how humans are hungry for blissfully ignorant tasty meats at the expense of how animals and the planet itself are treated, but at the same time there are the little guys (or girls, rather) who fight with all of their heart to keep a little piece of it safe from harm. It gives me hope.
4. The Big Sick – I found myself relating to yet another movie about a strained child/parent relationship. It was even more relatable coming from an Asian background and having the same pressures of what parental expectations were and at the same time trying to find a voice. How many films can one watch as a minority and laugh cry at the exact same conversations I’ve had with my parents that are culturally relevant? Not many. If this movie had come out when I was younger, I would of stole all of Kumail’s comebacks in those conversations. But put that aside and there is the real story. Watching Kumail Nanjiani depict a version of his real life relationship with Emily Gordon—the distress he ends up in trying to figure out what she means to him, meeting her parents for the first time (the exchange between them in the hospital cafeteria is pure gold) and having to choose between a career and family/Emily—all while she is in a coma is well written, hilarious and shows a lot of heart.
5. Get Out – I don’t know what was more creepy. The poetic message of racism and ignorance, which is strongly relevant today in the form of a truly uncomfortable horror film, or watching the whitest white girl do the most white girl thing by eating Fruit Loops one at a time while slowly sipping a tall glass of white milk through a straw … while browsing the internet for her next victim. Not even with Google. Bing. BING. As I watched it was a slow unraveling of terror, as any brilliant horror film would do, but also a perfect blend of truth and comedy in true Jordan Peele fashion.
Apart from the extreme sadness and anger laced throughout the entire story, the moments I latched onto the most were the exchanges between Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson. They showed that even in utter disappointment in another person whom one might even despise down to their very living matter, there was still room for compassion and understanding.
My top five is pretty heavy material so watching Ryan Gosling be really moody and running through a wall in a visually stunning world doesn’t hurt. This slides under the Top 5 because of Jared Leto and whatever performance that was.
Sweeney’s Top 10 Movies
Denis Villenueve continues to be on a roll. Arrival was my #1 last year, and he now has another one atop my list this year. I legit think this is better than the original (which I believe is a bit overloved) and they’ve expanded the universe even further. I want to see more films from this universe.
This is my favorite of the three new Star Wars films. This one looks the best, has the most meaningful character arcs and plots, and includes some of the best sequences ever filmed for Star Wars. It really shakes up what was an already-derivative story, meaning I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next installment and I find that exciting and refreshing.
3. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright doesn’t make bad films. This is stylish and funny from start-to-end, and I wish he wouldn’t take so long between films.
The final film in a surprisingly-good trilogy is probably my favorite of the three. Has to be one of the best trilogies of all time too.
Nolan takes a simple war story and applies his unique take on it, creating three timelines (at different lengths) and weaving through them until they all meet at an exhilarating climax.
6. Wind River
A well-made mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, from the guy that wrote Sicario and Hell Or High Water.
7. Get Out
A horror film with social commentary laced into it. I really hope this gets some Oscar nominations because it’s a great script and directorial debut by Jordan Peele.
Had a lot of fun with this, which was not the case with the first two Thor movies. Taiki Watiti (had my #2 movie last year) brings his comedic chops to the Marvel universe with great success.
9. Molly’s Game
I’m a sucker for Sorkin, so there was no way I wouldn’t enjoy this movie. And of course I loved it. This is his directorial debut, and he directs the way he writes – with style and speed.
Dark but funny, which is where Martin McDonaugh wants to be with his films that I all love. Tho I’m not sure how I feel about the resolution of the main mystery in this one.
Still Haven’t Seen
The Beguiled, Okja, mother!, Phantom Thread, The Post, Lady Bird, Columbus, The Florida Project, A Ghost Story
Most Looking Forward To In 2017
The 15:17 To Paris – Clint Eastwood true story film, starring the actual people who lived it.
Annihilation – Didn’t like the book but love the concept and the director
Avengers: Infinity War – Gonna be a huge film with a lot of surprises
Black Panther – Trailers have made it look like something we haven’t seen before in a Marvel film
First Man – Neil Armstrong’s life story, as told by the La La Land guy
Incredibles 2 – Sequel to one of my favorite Pixar films
Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson returns!
Mute – A return to grounded sci-fi for Duncan Jones
The Predator – Shane Black takes on the franchise he helped start 30 years ago
Ready Player One – Book is fun but not well-written – Spielberg’s first big tentpole in awhile and I hope he has fun with it
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron’s follow-up to Gravity
Sicario 2: Soldado – Loved the first, but I wish they just called it Soldado. This one features Benicio more.
Solo: A Star Wars Story – They haven’t made a bad star wars film, so this could be good, but I don’t have high hopes. Still, it’s a Star Wars movie so I’ll see it.
*Just as a side note, Blade Runner 2049, Three Billboards and Get Out are the only movies to make all three of our respective top ten lists this year. Last year only Hunt for the Wilderpeople made all our respective top ten lists.