25. Brigsby Bear
Inventive and surprisingly heartfelt, Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear is a delightful comedy about creative expression. Additionally, the film features Mark Hamill’s best performance of 2017 (hot take?).
24. Good Time
Robert Pattinson is the driving force behind this constantly driving dramatic thriller. The film is one of nearly constant movement, and a lot of it feels electric. Even where it is rough around the edges, Good Time has this unshakeable quality to it that has only stuck with me over time.
Perhaps The Meyerowitz Stories is so high on this list because I have a shaky relationship with Noah Baumbach films, and this one was a pleasant surprise. The acting is strong and the narrative structure is interesting. Maybe I need to go back and re-watch The Squid and the Whale…
22. Beach Rats
Some beautiful cinematography and a quiet performance from Harris Dickinson lead the charge in this coming of age drama about the self-repression of identity in an environment of perceived hyper-masculinity. Beach Rats is an underseen 2017 film that deserves to be seen.
Kogonada’s love letter to the architecture of Columbus, Indiana is a quietly riveting piece. Shot to house, as majestic as the camera can provide, the buildings and structures on display, the film is elegantly designed. The narrative involving a young woman stuck at an intellectual crossroads and a man whose father, an architect himself, is fatally ill: less compelling, yet respectably earnest.
Mudbound has a lot of the formulaic elements of a Southern Americana period piece, but it never feels tired or overwrought. Instead, many sequences in this film are powerful—the ending: utterly stomach-turning. And the acting performances from the ensemble are all electrifying.
19. Personal Shopper
Olivier Assayas’ supernatural mystery thriller is one of the best mood pieces of 2017. An unknown entity contacts Kristen Stewart’s Maureen, a medium who believes her deceased brother will try to contact her from the other side, via text message. While this sounds inert and distinctly un-cinematic, that Assayas can make a prolonged scene in which Stewart stares at a phone while riding a train engaging and tense is a testament to his direction.
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Leviathan, Loveless, is a haunting attack on Russian life. What works better than this subtext, however, is the actual narrative of the film. It is an almost punishingly slow plot that tracks the loss of hope as two separated parents search for their lost boy. Sumptuous yet bleak, Loveless is a gorgeous film.
17. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
The Grand Jury prizewinner at Sundance, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a dark comedy about a woman who will do anything to track down the people that broke into her home. Macon Blair’s directorial debut is promising, even if it is Melanie Lynskey’s performance that truly steals the show.
While certain action sequences in the climax of the film are not as elegant as they could be, and Woody Harrelson’s arc is strange, War for the Planet of the Apes continues to tout what is magnificent about the Apes franchise. The effects work and Andy Serkis’ performance has created in Caeser a more compelling and human character than most human characters in action cinema. Dawn might be a better film than War, but War wraps up Caeser’s story incredibly well.
My original review of Blade Runner 2049 was very wishy-washy. I had my opinions, but there were nagging uncertainties in them. Given time to ruminate, I think most of what I wrote still holds. 2049 is one of the most beautifully-shot films of 2017 (as in, it is either number one or number two). It is a glorious cinematic film that eclipses the original in many regards. The story, the acting, the themes: they still read too shallow for a film of this length. Regardless, Blade Runner 2049 is something spectacular to behold.
Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father tells the story of young siblings caught up in the Cambodian genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. It is surprisingly tight-focused and continually heart-wrenching. The young actress Sareum Srey Moch is flooring in her role. Perhaps some of the credit for this should go to Jolie, this being her finest directorial work to date.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 is an exploitation film. It is a bloody, bare-knuckle action beat-em-up. This might not sound like anything remarkable, and perhaps it really isn’t. But writer/director S. Craig Zahler and lead actor Vince Vaughn combine to make a product that feels like the best grindhouse film of the 1970s.
12. A Ghost Story
A cosmic story about the transience of existent, the fleeting notion of what it means to be alive versus what it means to be remembered, A Ghost Story manages the seemingly impossible task of remaining small-world while tackling such broad themes. It also is the film that proves that even when hidden under a sheet Casey Affleck can act his stoic ass off.
Since writing my mixed, but mostly positive, review of Okja, Joon-ho Bong’s film has only grown to prominence in my mind. Its shortcomings and idiosyncratic characters now read more charming than problematic. The emotional center of the film reads less tonally lopsided than it did on first viewing. Of all the Netflix original films of the year, Okja has been the one that I have remembered, and it is the one I want to watch again the soonest.
10. Lady Bird
Perhaps the most critically-acclaimed film of 2017, Lady Bird is certainly a resounding success. Greta Gerwig, if she wasn’t before, has essentially solidified her place among the A-list crop of Hollywood talent. Honest and vibrant, Lady Bird is the latest in a long line of great coming of age films. And Laurie Metcalf deserves an Oscar.
Much-maligned by audiences who were expecting a straightforward cabin in the woods story, It Comes At Night is, regardless, a nail-biting experience. It is a narrative about self-preservation, paranoia, and distrust (i.e. it is a narrative about primal survival, about humanity rendered animal). It is more than merely its subtext, however; this thriller is just that: a thriller whose tension never lets up.
8. Baby Driver
Baby Driver is, like other Edgar Wright films, a film that pays homage to the traditional tropes of a given genre. So, yeah, the characters don’t have much depth and the female lead isn’t afforded much to do beyond being the love interest. These are fair criticisms of Baby Driver. But what the film does well—seamless integration of soundtrack and visual track, genuinely astounding car chase sequences, carefully articulated pacing—it does exceedingly well.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer may be Yorgos Lanthimos’ least-accessible film to date. That it comes off the heels of his most accessible (yet still highly eccentric) The Lobster makes Sacred Deer a harder pill to swallow. It isn’t a sugary pill and it sticks in the throat, but you come out of the other side strangely both moved and unsettled. Lanthimos is one of my favorite working directors, and Sacred Deer certainly hasn’t changed my mind on him.
The initial rush of seeing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has worn off a bit, and I am coming to find that Martin McDonagh’s best film remains In Bruges. This takes nothing away from Three Billboards, though, a film which has arguably the best ensemble cast of the year (Mudbound is the only one that could really contest it, or The Post but…I haven’t seen it). McDonagh’s grasp on dark comedy and his ability to depict characters that are, on first glance, unseemly is masterful.
5. Get Out
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a masterclass on blending mainstream genre tropes and pertinent contemporary issues. Many classic horror films contained this very blending. Whether Get Out will go down as a classic horror film is unclear (my main concern with the film is that it isn’t very scary), but Peele has made a convincing case.
Additionally, after seeing Daniel Kaluuya in this and (my personal favorite) episode of Black Mirror, I want him in way more films. With the success of Get Out, that just might happen.
Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, not unlike his previous film Tangerine, feels vibrantly and refreshingly new. From the way its paced, to its narrative focus, to its acting performances, the film is simply an engaging experience. Add to that important thematic concerns and some beautiful location shooting and you have one of the best films of 2017.
This may be Christopher Nolan’s best work as a director, at least in terms of creating a cinematic experience. Dunkirk is a sensory experience more than it is a narrative film. What narrative we do get even gets in the way of the sensory experience at times. It won’t survive as well outside of a theater environment, but that isn’t to discredit it at all. It is a genuine achievement.
My initial experience with Raw was fantastic. On first viewing, it blew me away. It is gnarly and unsettling, yet it also has something more to say for itself. It is art house horror at its best. At least, on first viewing it is. I don’t know how it will hold up to multiple viewings. But when you don’t quite know what your in for, Raw is explosive.
1. The Big Sick
The Big Sick is not a risky or overly original film. It doesn’t shake the artform at its core, breaking new ground and becoming an instant classic. It is much more quaint than that. Still, The Big Sick resonated with me. It has genuine comedy; it does not sacrifice this comedy for saccharine rom-com plot beats or hackneyed rom-com characters. When the film does take its more dramatic turn, it successfully blends the two polar opposite tones without any issue.
The cast is fantastic. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are at their absolute best. Kumail Nanjiani does surprisingly well with his character’s more dramatic character (he is playing himself, but it is nevertheless impressive). Looking back on my review, I was more critical of the film than the A-rating would suggest. But, having seen the movie multiple times, it remains at the same level of entertainment value. I acknowledge that it is not necessarily the best film of 2017; it is the one that stuck with me the most.
Well, that’s 2017, folks! Happy New Year!
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)