The frustrations of living in a small market like Halifax is not having the opportunity to see much-buzzed about late-in-the-year feature films until January. Last year it was 20th Century Women, a film that arrived in cinemas in mid-January that would’ve certainly been on my 2016 list.
So, due to my not having seen them yet, here are a few films not in consideration for the 2017 list (, damn it): Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, Craig Gillespie’s I Tonya, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, and PT Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Furthermore, there were other much-loved features and documentaries that I missed at the Atlantic International Film Festival, such as Agnes Varda and JR’s Faces Places or Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute). But, maybe they’re actually 2018 films… I’m also saving a few festival circuit features I did see that haven’t yet received a theatrical or video-on-demand release here in Canada for the new year. Here’s a tip: Look for A Fantastic Woman in 2018.
Here’s my Best of 2017 list, from 10-to-1, with a few honourable mentions to follow. (Feel free to click on the titles to read my original, and more detailed, reviews.
This pick almost found a home on my Under The Radar films of 2017 but it wouldn’t be denied from the main batch. Macon Blair stakes his claim as an auteur, having already performed with distinction in his buddy Jeremy Saulnier’s films. A surprising, violent, and quirky comedy, you can see the Coens in it, but it’s much more affecting than just a pastiche and much of that is thanks to the wonderful Melanie Lynskey as Ruth. Now available on Netflix.
9. Get Out
Whether you see this film as a horror or a comedy or a bit of both is probably an indicator of your specific demographics. It’s been awhile since a genre film took the cultural temperature like Get Out, and Jordan Peele wrote and directed it in a way that really appealed to a broad swath of filmgoers without sacrificing a fraction of smarts or wit.
A candy-coloured dip into a part of America we rarely get to see in that national cinema, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project balances perfectly its wonders and its horrors by showing them to us through a child’s eyes.
Christopher Nolan strips away all the politics, all the machinations of war to deliver wide-screen suspense and awe in equal doses. With a typically cerebral rigidity the British filmmaker locks together his story, but it’s at a level of sheer confidence like nothing I’ve ever seen him do. This and Blade Runner 2049, with their very different Hans Zimmer scores, were the year’s two essential IMAX experiences.
One of 2017’s most polarizing films, it inspired Stephen Cooke and me to watch freak-out films of the past for our podcast, Lens Me Your Ears. It turns out mother! is very much a part of a franchise of allegorical work from brilliant, contrary filmmakers who find new ways to piss people off. More power to them,to writer-director Darren Aronofsky, and especially to Jennifer Lawrence for a spectacular lead performance.
The always interesting, frequently delightful, and typically fantastic Guillermo del Toro delivers an evocative adult fable, slippery with sex, romance, and dance, while generously spiked by unexpected violence. Oh, and it’s a love letter to classic and not-so-classic cinema, too.
4. The Square
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund delivers a lacerating comedy of white, privileged discomfort and skewers the world of modern art along the way.
The impossible happened in 2017: A terrific sequel to Blade Runner arrived. I’m still struggling with the ways it inherited both the astonishingly immersive sights and sounds of its predecessor, but also maybe its problematic gender politics. I can’t entirely resolve what Denis Villeneuve and Michael Green are getting at with Joi, a female hologram programmed to serve a replicant, though I have my theories. I went back to see it three times in the cinema, and can’t wait to see it again on blu-ray. It reveals fresh secrets with every visit.
A gorgeous gift from formal, period master James Ivory and Italian sensualist Luca Guadagnino, a same-sex love story that isn’t the tragic affairs we too often get, but warm, loving, and beautiful. As a cinepanion of mine remarked after the screening, the film is “enchanted.”
People may accuse me of having a Kristen Stewart fixation, but it’s really only when she works with veteran French filmmaker Oliver Assayas—I was mesmerized by their Clouds Of Sils Maria, too. Personal Shopper is the year’s best film because it’s wholly original. It breaks all the screenwriting rules by dragging us through multiple genres without being defined by any of them. It’s a Hitchcockian suspense thriller for the 21st Century, a supernatural parable, a meditation on grief, and a meandering look at professional drudgery, all carried by a singular, remarkable performance that I keep going back to. It’s also a terrific Paris film, reminding me a little of Charade. Does that make Stewart our Audrey Hepburn? Makes sense to me.
I’d also like to give a nod to John Wick Chapter 2, and Atomic Blonde for the terrific scenes of hand-to-hand combat. That’s how you do it. Also to Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver for the way its soundtrack defined editing, and vice versa.
And A Few Dishonourable Mentions…
The one on a lot of people’s Top 10 lists whose charm escaped me was A Ghost Story, but for the always compelling Rooney Mara and the pie-eating scene. It was a clever concept—a spirit dislodged from time—but the whole Casey Affleck-moping-under-a-sheet aesthetic didn’t do much for me.
And, finally, Valerian might not have been the worst movie of the year, but it was the most disappointing relative to expectations. Some impressive visuals, but poor casting choices and a rotten script put me in a rage.
For my accompanying list of oddball, lesser-seen-but-still-excellent 2017 movies, please click here.
Thanks for reading my blog. See you at the movies in 2018!