Here it is, better late than never, MoviefiedNYC‘s Ten Best Movies of 2017. It was not a banner year for great movies but once the last quarter arrived, September through December ultimately redeemed 2017 and proved to be an ok year at the movies! Here are the Ten Best of 2017 as seen by John David West:
Witnessing Christopher Nolan’s latest experiment with time was initially frustrating, but ultimately mind-blowing. It was a unique cinematic experience making for a refreshing departure from the sappy Hollywood war film—or any predictable narrative, plot-driven movie. Nolan takes viewers through a turning point of WWII with an immersive experience on land, sea, and air, revealing the soldiers’ confusion, fear, and drive to survive. Their experience is the viewer’s experience and is historic and important from a cinematic perspective. Hans Zimmer’s score is equally effective as are incredible visuals by Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar).
2. The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro is at the top of his game with this beautifully conceived fairytale for adults. With exquisite art direction, fluid cinematography by Dan Laustsen, a dreamy score by Alexandre Desplat (The Tree of Life), and a strong performance by Sally Hawkins; the world that del Turo has created makes this film stand out as one of the most unique movies of 2017. One can’t help but think of the 1955 classic B-movie, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but this m/animal has more depth and love. And there’s a Good versus Evil element, with Good represented by characters on the margins of society.
3. Phantom Thread
Director Paul Thomas Anderson delivers a quiet mood piece that is beautifully styled, and artistically stylized. It’s lovely to look at, thanks to Anderson’s careful attention to detail in every shot. The cinematography—by Anderson himself—brings viewers in close contact with the fabric and feel of dresses as the characters make them. The score by Jonny Greenwood equally matches the lush visual textures seen on screen. This is a film involving three people: dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), and Reynolds’ lover, Alma (Vicky Krieps). All actors are as exquisite as the other elements of this film and delicately funny.
4. Call Me by Your Name
Is this the annual pretentious film appealing only to lovers of high art, beauty, language, and the finer things in life that elevate us? Those elements are all there in a multi-linguistic script that is balanced and restrained, thanks to Luca Guadagnino’s measured direction. The film’s elements are indeed beautiful (the “Somewhere in northern Italy” location, the actors, and the soundtrack), but above all, the film’s subject is universally relatable. No matter whom you love, the pain of love and loss sticks with you long after the film’s credits end—and what’s portrayed behind those final credits makes the film devastating and unforgettable.
5. I, Tonya
Movie snobs beware, Tonya Harding is the subject of a narrative film and it’s funny and campy, it winks at its audience in a faux documentary style, it’s a tragic comedy about a comically tragic event, and it’s damn good. When I first heard about I, Tonya, I thought, “oh hell yes, this will be a hoot to watch,” a hoot in the campy Lifetime movie sense—certainly not in the Academy Award level sense! Margo Robbie kills it as Tonya. We are with her—elevated with joy—when she triple axels her way to the top of the podium at the US Championships, and we feel the pain of a too harsh sentencing when she’s stripped of her US figure skating rights and never allowed to skate again. One can’t help but think, “Jesus, at least let her skate in an animal suit in Ice Capades; she’s not a child molester or a drug kingpin—it’s just ice-skating after all!” Allison Janney also kills as Tonya’s monstrous mother. For a film about a kooky moment in sports history that centers on a bunch of foolhardy “Boobs,” it’s impressive how moving I, Tanya is.
6. Get Out
Jordan Peele brilliantly takes the anxiety felt by American minorities and submerges it into a thriller to capture today’s racial tension. This multilayered horror, sometimes-comedy draws on the ever-present U.S. issues of black and white racial tensions and the legacies of American slavery. Peele makes us question where all the racists suddenly came from when Trump became President, folks who were previously silenced and muzzled by political correctness. Get Out is not only a good horror film—a difficult achievement in itself—it’s a film that will be remembered as an important movie that reflects the time in which it was made.
7. Florida Project
Sean Baker’s latest social-realistic film introduces viewers to another set of enigmatic characters who live on the fringe of society. Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) survive on the edge of homelessness in a motel called the Magic Castle, near Disney World. The exterior of the motel is a vibrant cheap purple, and this creates a delightfully colorful world in contrast to occupants’ poverty, but at the same time reflects the children’s joyous summertime play. The film easily brings back memories of those days of childhood wonder, regardless of one’s economic status or what neighborhood you grew up in. Their world contrasts sharply to Disney’s with its pricy fun far out of financial reach to many. Too obvious a metaphor? Perhaps, but watching these characters live makes the film remarkable. Florida Project doesn’t have a deeply complicated plot and the mother doesn’t have a traditional character arc whereby she learns and grows—she’s a tragic figure. Above all Brooklynn Prince, whose naturalness infuses Florida Project with energy and charm, makes you want to keep watching her—and everyone—live and behave in their world.
8. Faces Places
At 89 years old Agnès Varda—a legend of the French New Wave—is still making movies, and this time she’s found sweet perfection as she teams up with 35 year old photographer, JR. Together they make for the most unlikely duo to entertain audiences in years. Faces Places is a road movie that travels through rural France and shows us the extraordinary beauty of seemingly ordinary people. And the movie may make a historic stamp on cinema when the father of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard, makes the mother of the French New Wave cry—he doesn’t even appear in the movie and yet Goddard is still affecting cinema.
9. Good Time
Who is that scruffy skinny actor so full of energy? Why it’s Robert Pattinson! He plays the worst brother a sibling could be cursed with, especially one who is mentally disabled. After a bank robbery that goes really bad, Connie’s (Robert Pattinson younger brother Nick (Benny Safdie one-half of the film’s brother directors) ends up in prison. Good Time has been compared to Martin Scorsese’s 1985 Tribeca odyssey After Hours. The comparison is certainly fair, only this NYC odyssey pushes it to full-throttle taking viewers in a rapid fire pace through Manhattan and God knows which borough of New York City.
Without a doubt mother! is the most polarizing film of the year. It pissed a lot of people off, made others laugh, and inspired endless “WTF” text messages upon its release. Once the allegory is clear, mother! sends your mind spinning. It’s an apocalyptic, biblical tale that layers on elements of war, invasion, and climate change, resulting in an experience that is disturbing, maddening, and sits with you for days. Michelle Pfeiffer delivers one of her best performances in years, and Jennifer Lawrence (this year’s Razzie nominee for worst actress), is well cast in one of her best role since Winter’s Bone.
1. Bladerunner 2049
2. Lady Bird
4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer