*Disclaimer – I have not seen the following acclaimed films: “Call Me By Your Name,” “Phantom Thread,” “Darkest Hour,” “Blade Runner 2049”
#1. “Baby Driver”
Edgar Wright’s brilliant “Baby Driver” is a breathtaking collision of music, action, romance and crime, and my personal favorite film of 2017.
Here is a fast-pace, high-octane action-musical extravaganza driven by a killer soundtrack. It showcases an amazing work of editing and directing, sharp writing and colorful characters from the easy-to-love protagonist, Baby (played wonderfully by Ansel Elgort), to the fun-to-hate villains (Jamie Foxx’s Bats is a standout, here – menacing, ruthless and absolutely terrifying). It’s a wild movie that delivers the full package – a sweet love story, an extremely tense crime film, an exciting action piece and a fun movie-musical, of sorts – and is endlessly unique and wholly original in execution. We watch the film through Baby’s eyes, ears and personal soundtrack, and in it comes lots of tension and lots of great chases and shootouts synchronized to songs like “Tequila,” “Hocus Pocus,” Blur’s “Intermission” and even Barry White’s “Never Never Gonna Give You Up,” which is arguably the film’s most intense moment. Only Edgar Wright can take that classic Barry White track, stick it in a high-tension situation and actually make it work beautifully.
I’ve never seen anything quite like “Baby Driver.” Wright is a force of nature; a true visionary with relentless creativity. He’s undoubtedly one of the most exciting filmmakers working today, and his new movie is a phenomenal piece of work and one of the very best action films of the 21st century.
#2. “Get Out”
Another force of nature is writer/director Jordan Peele, whose “Get Out” is the only other masterpiece of 2017, right there with my #1 pick.
Peele’s psychological horror film – also his feature filmmaking debut – is truly a stunning work of screenwriting and directing. “Get Out” is a film that demands at least two viewings as subtle hints about the film’s ending are ingeniously weaved into much of the dialogue and actions of the first two, suspense-building acts. It’s a genuinely uneasy film, directed with vision and confidence, that takes its time unveiling its terrifying secrets.
As tension builds and things get weirder and scarier, Peele has a lot of fun taking us on a surreal, mystery-box thrill ride of psychological terror. What the film eventually builds to is simply outstanding. “Get Out” is visceral, surprising and emotionally moving, and its commentary on racism in America is cleverly implemented into the overall narrative.
#3. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Filmmaker Martin McDonagh, the genius father of some of the great dark comedies such as “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” came at audiences full-force in 2017 with what might not particularly be his funniest, but definitely his darkest and most mature film yet, the perfectly-titled “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
This is a very angry film, a powerful and emotional drama with some of the best performances moviegoers got to witness last year. Frances McDormand is absolutely superb as the emotional but fierce Mildred Hayes, along with Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell who are both marvelous and present some of the best work they’ve ever done. McDonagh writes an amazing, layered character in Mildred Hayes, who’s seeking justice for the grisly death of her only daughter. Underneath all of her blood, sweat and tears is the beating heart of a human being, and that’s the best thing about “Three Billboards” – it’s got humanity and a big heart under its explosions of violence and vicious laughs.
To be completely honest with you, I’m not completely sure that I fully understand “mother!” I don’t believe I’ve completely wrapped my head around what the hell the film is about.
I love “mother!” because it’s bold, audacious and absolutely bonkers. The experience of watching Darren Aronofsky’s nightmare-come-to-life on the big screen induced my girlfriend and I with so much anxiety. It’s violent, deeply disturbing and remarkably frustrating, and whether or not you understand the film’s core story shouldn’t stop you from being riveted by it as a horror movie experience of extreme proportions.
There are a lot of analogies out there, some of which describe the film as a retelling of the Bible and others that view it as an allegory about the horrors of fame and fortune. To me personally, either works. Aronofsky has created a nightmarish film of relentless terror that, love it or hate it, will be remembered for years to come.
#5. “The Shape of Water”
Guillermo Del Toro’s adult fairy tale about the forbidden love between a mute woman (played movingly by Sally Hawkins) and a mysterious fish-like creature being held and tortured in a high-security government laboratory is pure movie magic.
In “The Shape of Water,” Del Toro invites you to revel in his fantasy land of love, beauty and horror, accompanied with a gorgeous original score by Alexandre Desplat and stunning visuals that could have only been dreamt up by a true master. This is a film that clearly came from Del Toro’s heart. It’s romantic and dream-like, with moments of graphic violence and horror to remind you that nothing we have on this earth can be perfect.
This is a handsome film for sure, but the real beauty of it comes from the relationship between Hawkins’ protagonist, Elisa, and the creature. Something is missing from Elisa’s life – she is emotionally kept in solidarity. You’ll experience a connection between two misunderstood individuals who relate so much to each other and find peace in one another. You’ll fall in love with them falling in love.
Not since the early days of “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs” has writer/director M. Night Shyamalan crafted such a terrific film – or even a merely good film. “Split” is Shyamalan’s best and most accomplished effort since 2002; it’s a creepy, enigmatic little thriller, featuring a criminally underrated performance(s) by James McAvoy as twenty-two distinct personalities.
McAvoy, really, is the main reason I love the film so much. He delivers outstanding work, giving each personality a surprising amount of humanity and the creepy-funny ambience they need to keep the audience both gripping their seats and laughing uncomfortably. The movie’s best moment, hands down, is a powerful, super intense moment in which McAvoy’s character completely explodes and switches personalities over and over and over in just a matter of seconds. It’s a sequence that reveals the tragedy of McAvoy’s character.
There’s a dramatic undercurrent in “Split” that speaks in high volumes – you’ll be surprised how caught up you are in the film from an emotional standpoint. Shyamalan isn’t playing games this time around. He has made a great film; a taut thriller with a twist ending that’ll leave you excited for what’s to come next.
#7. “Wind River”
“Wind River” completely blew me away. Taylor Sheridan’s tremendous neo-Western murder mystery, set on an Indian Reservation in a freezing Wyoming, is a gripping punch-to-the-gut thriller led by the equally superb Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.
Bleak, suspenseful, and fueled with a cold intensity and dreadful tone, “Wind River” is guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
#8. “The Disaster Artist” / “The Big Sick” (tie)
I decided to tie “The Disaster Artist” and “The Big Sick” because they both moved me, made me laugh hysterically and feature strong writing, directing and acting.
The stars of “Disaster Artist” and “Big Sick,” James Franco and Kumail Nanjiani respectively, both have impeccable charisma and carry their films effortlessly on their backs. Both movies have some of the funniest moments of 2017, as well as some of the most human. It’s that balance of heart and laughs that make them both standout as the two best comedies of last year.
“The truth is out there!!!”
Julia Ducournau’s lurid and brutal yet stimulating coming-of-age horror film is dangerous, provocative and absolutely hypnotic. “Raw” is a stunning, unique take on the coming-of-age film as it spins its audience through a mirror maze of dark and disturbing sequences, which represent the maturation of a young female college student.
There are scenes in “Raw” that’ll force you to turn your head in disgust, and others that you’ll gaze upon in complete astonishment. This is just exceptional filmmaking.
#10. “Lady Bird”
I was by no means a teenage catholic school girl, however I grew up with a sister who was. So in a weird way, I kind of connected with and related to the mother-daughter relationship that writer/director Greta Gerwig and actresses Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf beautifully bring to the screen.
What Gerwig creates with “Lady Bird” feels so real, which is what I admire most about it. It felt like I was watching real life, which is a testament to Gerwig’s talent as a storyteller and the performers’ abilities to bring raw emotion and humanity to their characters. This is just a really enjoyable film with some funny moments, some sad moments and some really true moments that’ll make you think back to your years in high school. I absolutely loved “Lady Bird.”