My Year in Film: 2017

My favorite things in film in 2017

The Top Films of 2017

Yes, I know I’m late with my lists. So sue me.

Favorite Film of 2017: The Last Jedi

Favorite Movie of 2017 — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

14 Runners-Up: The Shape of Water

Fourteen Runners-Up

Yes, there were good movies released in 2017 whose titles did not involve the words Star and Wars.

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Baby Driver
  3. Get Out
  4. It Comes at Night
  5. The Post
  6. Kedi
  7. Okja
  8. Blade Runner 2049
  9. Good Time
  10. It
  11. Colossal
  12. Marjorie Prime
  13. Dunkirk
  14. Super Dark Times

The Blackcoat's Daughter

Five Honorable Mentions

The Blackcoat’s Daughter worked the festival circuit in 2015 (when I saw it under its original title, February) and 2016, but A24 didn’t release it until early this year. I tried very hard to justify it as a 2017 film, but ultimately, I just couldn’t. If I could, these lists would look very different.

When I first wrote about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a couple of months ago, I declared it one of the best films of the year. Since then, I’ve given it some reconsideration and it turns out I don’t like it as much as I initially did. I’d hoped to do a full piece on it, but I never had time to write it. Oh well.

I wanted to rewatch Buster’s Mal Heartmother!, and Raw before finalizing this list, but ultimately couldn’t make the time.

Sicilian Ghost Story

The Five Best Non-Qualifying Films

I tend to find film festival programs work at odds with best-of-year lists. What’s the point of naming such-and-such a movie one of the best of the year if it played only a handful of film festivals? Here are the five best 2017 films I saw at festivals that didn’t see wider release.

  1. Sicilian Ghost Story (Chicago International Film Festival)
  2. Mohawk (Cinepocalypse)
  3. Trench 11 (Cinepocalypse)
  4. The Endless (CIFF)
  5. The Crescent (Cinepocalypse)

Individual Acheivements

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro

Best Director — Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Runners-Up:

  • Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Trey Edward Schulte, It Comes At Night
  • Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
  • Edgar Wright, Baby Driver

Best Leading Actress: Sally Hawkins

Best Actress in a Leading Role — Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Runners-Up:

  • Nicole Kidman as Dr. Anna Murphy, The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Noomi Rapace as Monday et alWhat Happened to Monday
  • Daisy Ridley as Rey, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham, The Post

Best Supporting Actress: Carrie Fisher

Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners-Up:

  • Carmen Ejogo as Sarah, It Comes at Night
  • Marianna Palka as Jill Hart, Bitch
  • Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller, The Shape of Water
  • Lois Smith as Marjorie, Marjorie Prime
  • Allison Williams as Rose Armitage, Get Out

Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya

Best Actor in a Leading Role — Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington, Get Out

Runners-Up:

  • Timothée Chalamet as Elio Perlman, Call Me by Your Name
  • Adam Driver as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb et alSplit
  • Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour
  • Robert Pattinson as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, Good Time

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Hamill

Best Actor in a Supporting Role — Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners-Up:

  • Armie Hammer as Oliver, Call Me by Your Name
  • Richard Jenkins as Giles, The Shape of Water
  • Patrick Stewart as Charles, Logan
  • Michael Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman, Call Me by Your Name
  • Jason Sudeikis as Oscar, Colossal

Best Ensemble Cast: Get Out

Best Ensemble Cast: Get Out

(Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, LilRel Howery)

Runners-Up:

  • Call Me by Your Name (Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garell)
  • It (Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård, Nicholas Hamilton)
  • The Post (Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Tracey Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross)
  • The Shape of Water (Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Frank Oz, Billie Lourd, Joonas Suotamo, Jimmy Vee)

Best Screenplay: Jordan Peele

Best Screenplay — Get Out, written by Jordan Peele

Runners-Up:

  • Colossal, written by Nacho Vigalondo
  • Good Time, written by Ronald Bronstein and Josh Safdie
  • Marjorie Prime, screenplay by Michael Almereyda, based on the stage play by Jordan Harrison
  • The Post, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
  • The Shape of Water, screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, story by Guillermo del Toro

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Best Cinematography — Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

Runners-Up:

  • Drew Daniels, It Comes at Night
  • Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Call Me by Your Name
  • Andrew Droz Palermo, A Ghost Story
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
  • Sean Price Williams, Good Time

Best Original Score — Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Good Time

Runners-Up:

  • Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
  • Daniel Hart, A Ghost Story
  • Kira Fontana, Kedi
  • Brian McOmber, It Comes at Night
  • Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk

Best Original Song — “Mystery of Love,” Call Me by Your Name (performed by Sufjan Stevens)

Runners-Up:

  • “I Get Overwhelmed,” A Ghost Story (performed by Dark Rooms)
  • “The Pure and the Damned,” Good Time (performed by Oneohtrix Point Never featuring Iggy Pop)
  • “To Be Human,” Wonder Woman (performed by Sia featuring Labrinth)

Best Use of Non-Original Music: "Love My Way" from Call Me by Your Name

Best Use of Non-Original Music — “Love My Way,” Call Me by Your Name (performed by the Psychedelic Furs)

Runners-Up:

  • “Bellbottoms,” Baby Driver (performed by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion)
  • “Dear God,” It (performed by XTC)
  • “Hocus Pocus,” Baby Driver (performed by Focus)
  • “Mr. Blue Sky,” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (performed by the Electric Light Orchestra)
  • “Voices Carry,” Atomic Blonde (performed by ‘Til Tuesday)

PORG

Breakout Star of 2017 — The Porg in the co-pilot’s seat on the Millennium Falcon, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Capsule Reviews: Get Out; Dunkirk; Good Time

Closing out December with Get Out, Dunkirk, and Good Time

Get Out

Get Out

Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, LilRel Howery, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stansfield, Stephen Root.

One of the reasons I find the present so exciting when it comes to genre films is the growing recognition that there is no distinction between “genre” films and “quality” films (or at least there shouldn’t be). This is nothing against the year’s crop of “quality” films such as Three BillboardsCall Me by Your Name, Phantom Thread, and Lady Bird, but I’m not seeing them dominate other critics’ rankings to the extent I’d expected. I think I’ve seen Baby DriverWonder Woman and even It on more best-of lists than The Square. And then there’s Get Out, which was not a film I’d expect any critic to name as the year’s best-of.

Not because Get Out isn’t a good film; by all metrics, it is, in fact, every bit deserving of the hype it’s received. Jordan Peele has managed to pull off a masterful juggling act, interpolating Carpenter-esque suspense sequences with the surreal artsiness of the Sunken Place. Daniel Kaluuya lives up to the promise I first saw in “Fifteen Million Merits,” his episode of Black Mirror, and he heads a brilliant cast that ranges from dependable character-actors like Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, and Stephen Root, to “where have you been hiding all these years?” revelations like LilRel Howery, Caleb Landry Jones, and Betty Gabriel. Get Out is scary when it needs to be scary, funny when it needs to be funny, and balances the two modes with a deftness I’ve not seen since The Cabin in the Woods.

And then, of course, there’s the social commentary. I doubt the conversation surrounding Get Out would be much improved by more white-guy-splaining, but I do want to say that this sort of commentary is the exact thing that horror, as a genre, is uniquely positioned to deliver. In fact, I believe that delivering uncomfortable truths with a dollop of entertainment value—especially, in the case of this film, to white audiences—is what horror entirely exists to do. Get Out inherits from a long tradition of horror-with-social-subtext that includes films such as Dawn of the Dead and They Live and The People Under the Stairs, films that critics and “serious” audiences overlooked because they were genre efforts. But our culture has changed since then, to the point where Get Out is recognized as one of the finest films of the year. And that’s all for the better.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk

Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy.

May 21, 1940. Eleven days into the Battle of France, and Nazi forces have the British Expeditionary Force, along with three French field armies and the remains of the Belgian and Dutch forces, trapped along the northern coast of France, near the port city of Dunkirk. The best course of action is to evacuate the soldiers from Dunkirk across the English Channel to Dover, a distance of about fifty nautical miles. That is, if they can make it past the German Luftwaffe (air force).

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, then, is less about heroism at wartime and more about simply not getting killed. The narrative follows the evacuation on three fronts: on the ground, a trio of British privates desperately try to make it off the beach; in the air, a pair of Spitfire pilots engage the Luftwaffe; at sea, a civilian sailor, his son, and his son’s friend sail from Weymouth in a civilian vessel. The Axis soldiers and pilots are almost never seen; the only markers of their presence are the bullets and bombs raining from the sky. Fighting can only effectively be done in the air. If you’re on land or in the water, your only option is to run or swim and pray to God the projectiles don’t follow you.

This is Nolan at his most straightforward and concise. While the three stories don’t all play out at the same pace, Nolan eschews the narrative trickery he’s become associated with. In terms of putting the audience in the middle of the action (such as it is), Dunkirk is perhaps the most effective war film since Saving Private Ryan. With so much going on, there’s very little room for character development. The civilian sailors—Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer), and newcomer Tom Glynn-Carney—are the only characters with time to register as people. And even at a comparatively breezy 106 minutes—the shortest running time Nolan’s delivered since his début, Following—too many scenes stretch on for too long.

Still, there’s an important lesson here. On the last day of the evacuation, Winston Churchill delivered his celebrated “we shall fight on the beaches” speech, rallying the British people and preparing them for the long road ahead. The Allies did, of course, eventually triumph over the Axis, proof positive that Nazis can be defeated…something it may help us to keep in mind in the near future.

Good Time

Good Time

Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie. Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress, Taliah Lennice Webster, Barkhad Abdi, Jennifer Jason Leigh.

There are movies that have to pull off delicate balancing acts, and then there’s Good Time. Robert Pattinson stars as Connie, a small-time hood who takes a trip through the seedy underbelly of New York culture to come up with bail money for his developmentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie, who co-directed with his brother Josh), recently arrested for participating in a bank robbery Connie masterminded. Imagine a cross between Dog Day Afternoon and Of Mice and Men, and you’re not far off.

Good Time shifts from exciting to disturbing to funny in turn, as Connie’s adventures draw in a motley gang of allies and antagonists, including Ray (Buddy Duress), a parolee who finds himself in trouble within hours of release, and Crystal (Taliah Lennice Webster), a rebellious and bored sixteen-year-old. The plot shifts into a rollicking new gear once the McGuffin—a 16-ounce bottle of Sprite, spiked with LSD—is established; a propulsive score by electronic artist Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) keeps the pace quick and steady.

Through it all, Pattinson keeps everything grounded. If you’ve managed to miss everything he’s done that doesn’t have the word Twilight in the title, prepare to be blown away—this is not the mumbly “hero” of the Cullen saga. Connie isn’t always a sympathetic or even likable protagonist, and he’s capable of some vicious scumbaggery. But his (admittedly unhealthly) love for his brother shines through in every inch of Pattinson’s electrifying performance and gives the film a heart you wouldn’t ordinarily expect from a New York crime drama.

Papillon

I Also Watched…

Papillon (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1973). I’m on a Steve McQueen kick lately. Papillon is apparently a true story about a French safecracker who was framed for murder and sent to a brutal prison camp in French Guiana that he then spent the next decade attempting to escape from. It’s engaging for about the first hour and a half or so, but after that it becomes a bit of a pointless drag. The thing I find really interesting about it, though, is the fact that the screenplay was co-written by blacklist target Dalton Trumbo; while I don’t know for sure that Trumbo drew parallels between his own struggle and Papillon’s bloody-minded obsession (even after being retired from the prison camp and moved to a comparatively comfortable colony for exiles, he continues to plot escape, because he’s not really free), but I like to think that.

The Best of 2017

Because I got such a late start on my 2017 movies I’m deferring my Year in Movies post until the end of January. I still have a lot of 2017 movies to see (just to name a few: Atomic Blonde, Logan, Logan Lucky, Untamed, Nocturama, ColossalThor: RagnarokThe Post…). I don’t want to close out my list without seeing the two year’s two big non-genre critical hits, Lady Bird and Call Me by Your Name, even though neither film could really be described as “my type of thing.” And I want to revisit a few films from Fantastic Fest 2016 (Buster’s Mal HeartA Dark SongRaw) and even 2015 (The Blackcoat’s Daughter, once known as February) that finally saw release in 2017.

However, as of right now my top ten films of 2017 are:

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. Baby Driver
  4. Get Out
  5. It Comes at Night
  6. Kedi
  7. Okja
  8. Blade Runner 2049
  9. Good Time
  10. It: Chapter One