Best Movies of 2017 – My Picks

10. FACES PLACES

JR, Agnès Varda | 94 mins | Documentary
Agnès Varda | JR | Jeannine Carpentier | Clemens Van Dungern

It seems as though Agnes Varda, the 89-year-old filmmaker whose previous works include Vagabond, The Beaches of Agnes and The Gleaners & I, made Faces Places just so she’d have as an excuse to meet random people. And what an excuse it is! She teams us with JR, a 34-year-old fan and fellow filmmaker who happens to have a photo booth that takes massive photos.

Together, they use the photo booth to bring people together in the communities they pass through, giving each person their 15 minutes of fame. Faces Places is a film that celebrates the contagious generosity that two people share with random strangers, and studies how small actions can have enormous impacts on the lives of others. And in doing so, it manages to be both the best documentary and best foreign language film of 2017.

9. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

Yorgos Lanthimos | 115 mins | Crime/Drama
Colin Farrell | Nicole Kidman | Barry Keoghan | Alicia Silverstone

It appears that when Yorgos Lanthimosis sits down to write a screenplay, he has just one goal in mind: to make his audience members feel as uncomfortable as possible. And somehow, he manages to outdo himself every time. He gained fame in 2009 with Dogtooth, a sadistic film about three teenagers who are not allowed to leave their house because their parents have brainwashed them into believing they will be attacked by a cat if they do. Six years later, he wrote and directed The Lobster, where Colin Farrell played a man who willingly agrees to be turned into a lobster if he’s not able to fall in love in 45 days.

And in The Killing of Sacred Deer, Farrell plays a doctor who must select a family member to sacrifice to atone for an unsuccessful procedure at his hospital. The Killing of a Sacred Deer isn’t easy to watch, but it’s every bit as suspenseful and fascinating as the most classic episodes of The Twilight Zone.

8. THE BIG SICK

Michael Showalter | 120 mins | Comedy/Drama/Romance
Kumail Nanjiani | Zoe Kazan | Holly Hunter | Ray Romano

There is nothing funny about being sick, especially when it’s to the point of hospitalization. And movies about illnesses are often a dangerous mix of risky and sappy, and never come close to achieving the greatness that Terms of Endearment did in the early 1980s. But The Big Sick gets about as close as any movie has in recent memory.

Much of the film’s success belongs to the film’s star, Kumail Nanjiani, who also cowrote the screenplay based on his own real-life experiences. He’s able to find humor in his family’s Pakistani traditions, the struggles of being a comedian and the difficulties of prejudices against his race.

7. DUNKIRK

Christopher Nolan | 106 mins | Action/Drama/History
Fionn Whitehead | Barry Keoghan | Mark Rylance | Tom Hardy

Given that Christopher Nolan might be the best director in Hollywood right now, it’s especially surprising that he never received a single Best Director Oscar nomination prior to Dunkirk. Fortunately, that wait is over.  And hopefully he doesn’t have to make another ten great films before he gets the actual trophy.

Dunkirk works because of Nolan’s brilliant direction and Hoyte Van Hoytema’s breathtaking cinematography. Since there are dozens of World War II films released each year, it seems like everything has already been said about the war. Perhaps that’s why there’s so little dialogue in Dunkirk? Nolan knows there’s nothing more to be said, and in doing so, he’s created a whole new WWII experience altogether.

6. GET OUT

Jordan Peele | 104 mins | Horror/Mystery/Thriller
Daniel Kaluuya | Allison Williams | Bradley Whitford | Catherine Keener

Who would have guessed that Jordan Peele, one of the stars from the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele, would go on to create the best horror film since 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs? But Get Out is just that – a horror film that brilliantly turns the Black Lives Matter movement into a suspenseful and unpredictable rollercoaster ride where nothing is as it seems. Except Get Out is much more fun than a typical rollercoaster ride.

Although, the BlackLivesMatter hashtag may have taken a backseat to #MeToo and #TimesUp in 2017, Get Out still stands front and center as the year’s most creative and most timely film. And, because of it, I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele does next.

5. DETROIT

Kathryn Bigelow | 143 mins | Crime/Drama/History
John Boyega | Anthony Mackie | Algee Smith | Chris Chalk

For five days in July of 1967, riots and police brutality left 43 people dead on the streets of Detroit. Although much of its history has been forgotten, Kathryn Bigelow’s suspenseful new film, Detroit, focuses in on the injustices at the Algiers Hotel during the riot, where a group of white police officers used their power to harass and assault a group of black occupants, despite having no physical evidence against them.

Detroit is gripping and unforgettable, but more importantly, it reminds us of how little we’ve learned in the past fifty years, and how far we still have to go.

4. I, TONYA

Craig Gillespie | 119 mins | Biography/Comedy/Drama
Margot Robbie | Sebastian Stan | Allison Janney | Julianne Nicholson

If your goal is to get to the bottom of the facts surrounding the Nancy Kerrigan attack, I, Tonya probably isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. However, if your goal is to be entertained for two hours, look no further than Craig Gillespie’s often hilarious and never less than engaging biopic of Tonya Harding.

Much of the film’s success belongs to Margot Robbie, who gives the performance of her career as Tonya Harding. She brings loads of sass and determination to her character and draw a whole lot of sympathy. At times, Tonya tries a bit too hard with its jokes, and its sympathetic view may be too much for some viewers. But when it’s at its best, I, Tonya earns the gold.

3. LADY BIRD

Greta Gerwig | 94 mins | Comedy/Drama
Saoirse Ronan |Laurie Metcalf |Tracy Letts |Lucas Hedges

With a 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes after its first 170 reviews, Lady Bird became was proclaimed “the best-reviewed movie of all time.” Although that is an overstatement of massive proportions, it is no understatement to call Lady Bird one of the funniest movies of 2017.

Lady Bird tells the semi-autobiographical story of writer-director Greta Gerwig’s teenage years, where she spent her time daydreaming about boys, irritating her mom and anxiously awaiting the day she escapes Sacramento for a place where “culture is.”

In creating Lady Bird, Gerwig has created a loving tribute to her mom and to the city of Sacramento, the two things she spent much of her teenage years pretending to hate.   Fortunately, as its 100% fresh score indicates, Lady Bird is a film that is absolutely impossible to hate.

2. THE SHAPE OF WATER

Guillermo del Toro | 123 mins | Adventure/Drama/Fantasy
Sally Hawkins |Octavia Spencer |Michael Shannon |Doug Jones

The Emma Watson remake of Beauty and the Beast may have been the box office champ of 2017, but no film was able to restore the magic from the 1991 animated classic more beautifully than Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water.

In The Shape of Water, Sally Hawkins echoes Belle as a brave, mute janitor who falls in love with a creature that is being studied at the top-secret facility where she is employed during the Cold War. Hawkins has been good in so many roles, and this is no exception.  Yet the film completely belongs to del Toro, who one-ups his previous best (Pan’s Labyrinth) by a landslide. He uses The Shape of Water to remind us of all the beauty in the world, whether it be found in the earth’s creatures, people, or resources (especially water). But del Toro knows that there’s nothing more beautiful than love, and he makes that the focus point of his film. And because of that, that The Shape of Water transcends into one of the most elegant films of the decade.

1. THE FLORIDA PROJECT

Sean Baker | 111 mins | Drama
Brooklynn Prince |Bria Vinaite |Willem Dafoe |Christopher Rivera

Once in a blue moon, a film comes along that works at so many levels. Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is one of those rare films.

In one hand, it’s a funny and loving tribute to the innocence and joys of childhood, where every day is an adventure and joy is found in the smallest of things, like watching an airplane fly through the sky. On the other hand, it’s a heartbreaking and compassionate social study of a single mother who does anything she can to make ends meet for her and her daughter, and a look at how the government treats such people.

The Florida Project is a film that makes you laugh and makes you cry and makes you think. But mostly it just makes you wish there were more films like it. And more directors like Sean Baker. This isn’t just the best film of 2017, it’s one of the finest films of the entire decade.

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