2017 ended up being a great year for movies. When the multiplexes were clogged with sequels, remakes and comic book adaptations, smaller and defiantly weirder films stepped in to fill the void and challenge us with provocative premises’, ambiguous puzzles and flat-out button-pushing. We got dead babies, ghosts, more ghosts, medical horror, giant mutant pigs, androids in love, two movies about operation Dynamo and sea monster romance.
War for the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Matt Reeves) – A master-class in genre filmmaking, Reeves brings the weird, criminally underseen Planet of the Apes trilogy to a rousing and surprisingly nuanced and meticulous conclusion, subverting the usual final battle for a war prison-escape film with more than a few nods to it’s cinematic predecessors that was the most satisfying time I had at the movies this year.
A Ghost Story (Dir. David Lowery) – Deliberately still and slow to the point of mania, Lowery’s film about Casey Affleck under a sheet takes a low tech, seemingly silly premise and delivers it with such beauty and longing. The sheet motif is actually perfect, turning the dead into prisoners who drag around their burdens like Jacob Marley’s chains instead of being free. Lowery’s tale becomes a small, quiet but profound epic.
Blade Runner 2049 (Dir. Denis Villeneuve) – Don’t listen to the millennial bloggers, Blade Runner isn’t anti-feminist. What it is is another triumph for Villeneuve and a dazzling, moody and cleverly told neo-noire that sets a new standard for the genre.
Mother! (Dir. Darren Aronofsky) – Aronofsky’s insane, self-indulgent and completely thrilling parable about all life on Earth. Go for Javier Bardem’s perfectly cryptic performance, stay for a tour-de-force final act that rivals any bit of onscreen insanity ever put on film.
The Big Sick (Dir. Michael Showalter) – This year’s revelations about the inner workings of The Weinstein Company help explain why so many studio romantic comedies and love stories – aren’t romantic or sweet at all. But The Big Sick is a towering exception. It’s sweet and real and funny and unabashedly romantic. It’s also the best, most efficient and satisfying movie Judd Apatow has produced, maybe ever.
Personal Shopper (Dir. Olivier Assayas) – Following up the wonderful Clouds of Sils Maria, the director/star teaming of Assayas and Kristen Stewart again brings out the best in each other. Stewart carries the film and it’s an indie oddity – a loose story set in Paris of loss, murder, stalking, the thrill of the forbidden and ghosts. Yes, there are ghosts in this movie.
Logan (Dir. James Mangold) – A comic book movie that transcends the genre. Logan is a fitting finale for the wolverine character – it’s a Western, a post apocalyptic sci fi film, an action film and a surrogate father/daughter film all beautifully rolled together.
Colossal (Dir. Nacho Vigalondo) – Despite some first act tonal issues, Colossal wins over with an inventive premise, cleverly executed and complexly acted by Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. It’s a Kaiju giant monster story that trades quirky humor and action for a darker, uglier story of control and mental abuse with a cheery the hero thriller of a final act.
The Square (Dir. Ruben Ostlund) – A rare absurdist, deadpan satire. Yes, skewering the modern art world is a fish-in-a-barrel target but Ostlund has constructed a full immersive, surreally bizarre, literally explosive story around a selfish anti hero and the chaos that erupts after his wallet is stolen.
Okja (Dir. Joon-Ho Bong) – After being screwed over by the Weinstein’s with the best movie of it’s year Snowpiercer, one of the world’s best filmmaker has made another adult fantasy on his terms and with Netflix’s creative freedom. In Okja Bong continues to make his case to be the next Speilberg, concocting a R-rated live-action cartoon that skewers both sides of the GMO debate while being a fun Amblin-esque adventure in it’s own right.
Wind River (Dir. Taylor Sheridan) – The year’s best crime and mystery film.
The Shape of Water (Dir. Guillermo Del Toro)
Darkest Hour (Dir. Joe Wright)
Get Out (Dir. Jordan Peele)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Best 2016 Catch-Up Films
The Eyes of My Mother (Dir. Nicholas Pesce) – A slim, slow-burn horror film following a very disturbed young woman left to fend for herself in a family farm house. Shot in beautiful high def black and white, Eyes uncoils with one vicious revelation after another dropped with horrific casualness. It feels like a leftover from the French new wave horror movement in the best possible way.
Patriots Day (Dir. Peter Berg)
Boys in the Trees (Dir. Peter Verso)
Train to Busan (Dir. Sang-ho Yeon)