The Ten Best Films of 2017

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With the Oscars fast approaching and the prestige pictures now widely released, now’s as good a time as any to give a retrospective on 2017. It was a fantastic year for cinema, containing entertaining blockbusters, thought-provoking indies, and everything in between.

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In an era of blockbuster cinema that has become increasingly risk-averse, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a breath of fresh air. It’s pulp art made from a singular perspective, taking an operatic, character-driven approach to the venerable science fiction saga. This has the most personal direction of every “Star Wars” movie since “A New Hope.” There are overt references to Kurosawa movies, Giallo Horror films, and even anime. It’s a thrilling joyride from start to finish and stands as one of the series’s best entries.

9. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright made me realize how few action movies really have energy. “Baby Driver” accelerated into cinemas (I’m allowed one pun per article), telling a whip-smart genre mashup with a level of style and control that only Wright can deliver. Featuring one of the best soundtracks of the year, incorporated in a totally revolutionary way, “Baby Driver” is going to influence action directors for many years to come.

8. Call Me by Your Name

We live in a very maximalist age of cinema, where basically every movie is trying to vie for your attention by being as loud and dazzling as possible. That might be why Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” is such a magnetizing experience. Charting the romance between a teenager named Elio and a grad student named Oliver, the film has the relaxed feeling of an extended vacation. Guadagnino never overemphasizes any moment, instead, filming the scenes in long, unbroken takes that allow the actors to playfully explore the scene at their own pace.

7. The Lost City of Z

A movie that should’ve gotten way more Oscar buzz than it did, James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” is a unique character-driven epic. Gray creates a portrait of self-destructive obsession while also critiquing the racist ideologies of turn-of-the-century colonialism. Featuring some fantastic performances including, surprisingly, a brilliant Charlie Hunnam, “The Lost City of Z” is an old-school adventure in the proper sense, never allowing the spectacle to overtake its compelling protagonist.

6. Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is recognizably familiar to fans of his filmography, yet still traverses new ground for the master filmmaker. Creating what is, ostensibly, a costume drama, PTA manages to sidestep the genre’s shortcomings to dive deep into his characters. Doing so, he turns a romantic chamber piece into a twisted Freudian psychodrama, complete with gothic imagery, manipulation, and poisonous mushrooms.

5. A Ghost Story

Following a ghost unwilling to leave his old house for decades, “A Ghost Story” is nothing short of an achievement, redefining who exactly an audience can identify with in order to send them on an immersive journey that sets out to tackle nothing less than the expansiveness of time itself. David Lowery seems to be obsessed with myths and fables and here he’s crafted an epic that manages to never set foot outside the front door.

4. Dunkirk

“Dunkirk” is directed so well that it’s easy to forget just how insane it actually is.  Christopher Nolan’s WWII thriller has landed upon an incredibly unique way of telling a story. The rhythm of the montage doesn’t just tell the story, it is the story. Film scholars in the future should dissect what exactly is going on under the hood of “Dunkirk.” They might have stumbled across one of the most revolutionary films made in recent years.

3. Blade Runner 2049

How do you follow up one of the greatest science fiction films of all time? The original “Blade Runner” is a genre masterpiece: a dark and contemplative examination of what it means to be human. “2049” could have easily been part of a long, and recent, line of unnecessary sequels that only serve as diluted versions of the original. Thankfully, Denis Villeneuve avoids sequel pitfalls, instead crafting an intensely personal science fiction epic that expands upon the original’s themes in a thoughtful and unique manner.

2. Good Time

The Safdie Brothers’ gritty New York crime thriller is one of the fastest paced movies to be released this year. It follows Connie, a selfish and erratic bank robber, on an all-night crusade to find enough bail money for his brother. The way this movie’s filmed recalls the gritty thrillers you’d see in the ’70’s like “Dog Day Afternoon” or “The French Connection.” Like those movies, “Good Time” has a great sense of texture and location.

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Here we have a sharply written dark comedy that never condescends to the audience. It features an all-time great performance from both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Its story is so dense and textured that I found that each re-watch provided a completely different experience. Here’s a film that’ll stand tall as a fantastic piece of storytelling that’ll remain timely at any point in history.

 

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