Top 10 Favorite Films of 2017
10. Get out
Jordan Peele created something special with Get Out and it deserves all the acclaim it is getting. Get Out is not groundbreaking cinema but it is a fresh genre flick that is both intelligent and enjoyable. I will admit, when I saw the trailer I thought it looked hilarious and was the exact horrific scenario a black guy could find himself in. I wanted to see it just for that but surprisingly the movie is deep. It has a terrific script, it is well paced, it is funny, the thrills are gripping and the climax is nothing but tense. It has great commentary about subtle racism that is heavily prevalent in today’s society. It something I myself have dealt with too. Adding to that, it was finally great to see a well written original movie let alone original horror that audiences of all kinds can enjoy. It being in my top 10 was a no brainer.
It took a second viewing for me to appreciate Dunkirk and I saw it in 70MM originally! I will admit, Dunkirk is definitely not in Nolan’s top five films but it is a pretty strong effort. The script for the film is weak but Nolan’s direction is unconditionally terrific. The movie is loud and I mean loud. It has some of the best sound I have heard in a war movie and the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. Nolan’s goal was to make us feel like we are in the war and he accomplishes that. The sound mixing, the lush cinematography and the fast paced score immerse us in the film. The film does have its flaws but Nolan manages to craft an entertaining experimental piece. Dunkirk is a film made for the theatrical experience and that is the only way to enjoy it. Dunkirk easily had one of the best cinematography and directing of this year and that is why I had to include it in my top 10.
8. War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes is a very remarkable film. War was advertised as an action film and the ending of Dawn left us to believe likewise. Instead War is an arthouse film disguised as a blockbuster. It has elements of revenge and escape films but managed to be its own special thing. It is Matt Reeves best directing effort. Reeves manages to craft a piece that is quiet, emotional and immersed in complicated themes. It is a ballsy approach and Reeves surprised me on how he subverted expectations. There is barely an action and even the showdown between villain and hero is done in a minimalistic fashion. To sum it up, the title of the film is a metaphor and I believe that makes the movie better. And you have to applaud Matt Reeves for making us care about CGI characters and as bleak as it can be, Reeves sprinkles a good dose of humor to not alienate viewers. Reeves even manages to have Michael Giancchino give some of us best musical work. That piano pieces are stunning. Lastly, it has to be mentioned that Andy Serkis’s performance is a powerhouse. He is jaw dropping and gave my favorite male performance of 2017. War defies the trilogy curse by being the best film in the series but it is also a daring movie that is willing to take risks. War might not have had a big audience or done well at the box office but it is an achievement in cinema and a new way of telling blockbuster stories.
7. The Big Sick
The Big Sick is a phenomenal film. It was really neat to see a movie about a Pakistani lead for once and him be a normal guy like everyone else. We all have great stories about ourselves that would make great films but the most important thing is how we present that idea. Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani do a terrific job of writing about their lives but also sprinkling a great amount of humor. Both the male and female characters are developed well and it is nice to see both perspectives in a romantic comedy. The other admirable thing about The Big Sick is it lets Kumail Nanjiani show us how talented he really is. He has had a career of playing stupid characters but Kumail is so much more than that. The Big Sick does have some romantic comedy cliches but it is different enough to be unique. It has a beautiful story behind it, the characters are all superb, the acting is terrific all around, and it is very funny. But The Big Sick is an important film too. It celebrates diversity and showcases stories we don’t get enough of in Hollywood. It breaks taboo by having an interracial couple (let a lone it being a Desi guy!) be the leads. There aren’t enough brown actors getting opportunities and we have a leading actor who is Pakistani and happens to be a normal guy like everyone else. With the rampant amount of islamaphobia, The Big Sick is a friendly film that audiences of all kinds can enjoy but also learn about another culture at the same time. I do not think Big Sick is great because it is a diverse film, I think it is great because it is a well made film that happens to celebrate diversity.
6. The Lego Batman Movie
I want to slap everyone who has been in charge of nominating animated films this year. The Lego Batman Movie IS THE BEST animated film of 2017. Yes, partly because Batman is awesome but it is also one of the best Batman movies ever made. The animation is beautifully done and it is a visually appeasing film. But Lego Batman is much more than a beautifully made movie. It is incredibly witty and smart. It homages all aspects of Batman and you can tell the film makers really love the character. Even the smallest musical cues reference Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Trilogy Bass. The jokes are not the typical dumb potty humor jokes found in kids movies but jokes that families can enjoy. Especially Batman fans of all ages. What makes the movie really special is it doesn’t try to parody Batman or make fun of him. It is a celebration of Batman and making a story about Batman’s loneliness was an ingenious move. At times it can get pretty emotional (Batman is an emotional character to write about), something Pixar has made a living off. I have to applaud the voice casting because it is downright near perfect. Will Arnett is the perfect choice for Lego Batman and Michael Cera was the perfect choice for Lego Robin. And massive points for reuniting Arrested Development Uncle and nephew. Lego Batman is a complete joy ride that is smart and a whole lot of fun. It is the ideal film parents can watch with their children.
5. John Wick Chapter 2
John Wick continues to defy expectations. The original movie looked like a silly dumb action movie but it was intelligibly self aware and well directed. There was no way a sequel could repeat the magic but John Wick Chapter 2 ends up being better than the first one. It ups the action and stakes and takes us on a bigger journey. Also it is quite gorgeous for an action film having Dan Laustsen step in on DP duties. Chad does a great job of directing action but he knows how to frame scenes well and his use of Dan Lausten gives us a lot of memorable moments. The end fight scene is miraculously creative and a whole fun to watch. What makes John Wick 2 special is how it pushes the story of Wick further. There is a lot more at work, there is a huge world out there and Keanu’s acting is some of the best in his career and there is some drama sprinkled in. John Wick is at a huge low point and Reeves portrays that angst well enough. John Wick 2 has so many great moments that I do not want to spoil but it reminded me of Spider-Man 2 (which is considered to be one of the best action sequels) of how to make a sequel bigger, better and stronger. What makes John Wick 2 better than other action films is like I said, it excels in all film making aspects and has great acting. That is something not seen in action movies. John Wick is slowly becoming a legendary cinematic character that will be on the same level as characters like Indiana Jones, The T-800 and Rocky Balboa.
4. The Disaster Artist
I remember seeing the Room for the first time 6-7 years ago and I was amazed by how terrible and hilarious a movie could be. There is absolutely no logic behind it and it feels like an alien made a movie. It is nothing like the other terrible movies made on a day to day basis. And the story behind it is even crazier, Tommy Wiseau really is an odd guy and possibly not human. I was excited when I heard they were making a movie on the basis of the Room as there was a lot of potential but I was surprised. Yes The Disaster Artist is absolutely hilarious from beginning to end but it’s remarkably a well made story about chasing your dreams. James Franco is so good as Tommy and he has wonderful chemistry with his brother. The Disaster Artist has a very independent film vibe but it is amazing how they took this crazy guy’s life and made a great story out of it. The flows superbly well. It sort of has a Boogie Nights vibe to it. I have to applaud Franco and the writers for what they did with Wiseau’s character. Tommy is not a very easy guy to write about and he could easily be written as someone unlikable but there is a good amount of depth inserted in to him that we can empathize. The best way to describe The Disaster Artist is that it is a twisted version of La La Land because they are both films about pursuing your dreams and achieving them in..ahem, drastically different ways. The Disaster Artist is an inspiring movie that is not only a very funny movie but well made.
3. Thor Ragnarok
The common consensus is that the Thor movies have been a bit lackluster. Even though I like the first one and the first half of Dark World, I agree they could have been better. Ragnarok is a complete reinvention of the character. It is a straight up comedy. A lot of people were thrown off by Ragnarok’s tone but being a long time Taika Watiti fan, I knew what I was getting into. I had one of my best cinema going experiences watching it. The film is easily the funniest movie of 2017 and the jokes are better than the generic humor heard in other Marvel films. The jokes witty, intelligent and incorporate “Kiwi” humor well. Even though this is a comedy, Taika seemed to understand Thor more than the other films. It is riddled with easter eggs (they even mention Thor as a Frog!). What makes the film splendid is Taika’s direction. He brings his stamp to the Marvel universe and shows his brilliance as a writer, comedian and bringing the best out of his actors. Thor Ragnarok is a creative film all around. The score is very quirky (a Watiti staple), and the art direction is some of the best I have seen on a superhero film. It is definitely one of Marvel’s most colorful ones (especially with the heat they get for color grading) And for once it was finally great to see an actual adventure fantasy film. So many adventure films in the last few years have been dull including the new Star Wars and Ragnarok felt like what the Star Wars movies should be. There has been a criticism that Ragnarok doesn’t take the armageddon plot seriously and I applaud it for not. Too many superhero films are all about saving the world and Taika Watiti has never been concerned about the over arching plot. He cares about characters and relationships. It is about Thor’s relationship with Loki and his friends and at the same time struggling to gain his confidence back. That is why the “if you were here” scene is beautiful, it is the most powerful moment in the movie and what the movie was building towards. Thor Ragnarok is a story about friendship and family that happens to be hilarious from beginning to end. That is Thor Ragnarok is easily one of the superhero movies and proof that superhero movies can be more than popcorn cinema.
2. The Shape of Water
I cannot express how much I adored The Shape of Water. Guillermo Del Toro has given us so many great movies (a few duds too) but The Shape of Water is his most personal and mature movie. It is a very stunning movie. Dan Laustsen continues to give us great cinematography and I think he & Del Toro make a good duo. The Shape of Water is not anything out of the ordinary story wise and nor does it have to be. Del Toro make his mark by fusing his love for monsters, love stories, and fairy tales. He manages to take an old fairy tale concept and make it his own. It is a homage at the same time as it is something new. The acting from everyone is ridiculously magnificent. Del Toro puts a lot of work to make this film better than it is. There is tons of symbolism riddled through out and Del Toro use of his color is . Also The Shape of Water is a film that knows how to use colors is commendable. There is some great deconstruction of the American dream as well. Most importantly it is how well Del toro develops The Fish Man and Elsa. As weird as their love story is, it is done in a believably touching manner. Alexandre Despot’s score compliments the film beautifully and there great tracks used in the film. Guillermo Del Toro poured his heart into this movie and you can really feel it. (Not to mention he worked off a limited budget). It has one of the best endings of the year and to sum it up, The Shape of Water is a piece of art that will touch your heart.
1. Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 is a very special movie and unfortunately it did terrible at box office. Denis Villeneuve is a hardworking director, he consistently gets better and better and has had 5 films release in the last 5 years. Blade Runner 2049 does not try to be like the original nor does it try to be a straight sequel. It is surprisingly an original film marketed as a sequel. Watching Blade Runner 2049 is like watching an odyssey. The film is nothing but an experience. At the core is a very strong character story that is reminiscent of Pinocchio with mystery elements. The film is incredibly immersive from art direction to cinematography. Roger Deakins does some of his best work here (and he is the greatest cinematographer of all time) so that is saying something. The sound engineering is out of this world. Denis took his time to make sure audiences can be transported out of their seats for 3 hours. The end climax of “Sea Wall” is imaginative and I have never seen a scene directed like that before. Blade Runner 2049 is a movie about androids, but it is about humanity. While the original film did touch on themes about humanity, it was pretty straightforward with its plot. The movie is not about saving the world, it is about what it means to be human and it hit so many cores with me. It is a very long movie but not once did I get bored. I was captivated from beginning to end. 2049 is not a perfect film but it is an extraordinary film. 2049 is a film that is built on existentialism and it is a fascinating piece of art to watch that forces us to think and ask questions. It is nothing but an experience to watch and it is made by people who love making movies. 2049 will stay with you once it ends and even though it did not find an audience, it will be a cult classic that many will talk about in years to come.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri