MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2017

Every year it seems that the influence of TV increasingly grows to the detriment of the movie-going audience. Streaming video makes nearly everything available instantly all at once at any time. TV has further evolved by offering progressively bold and adventurous programming. It’s certainly a persuasive argument that has many would-be theater patrons preferring to simply stay at home. However, I am not one of those people.

For me, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of sitting in a darkened cinema and gazing up at the great expanse of a widescreen to take in a film. Furthermore, there’s an art to telling a succinct tale. I still prefer a story that can be told in roughly 120 minutes than one that requires 18 hours of your time. The cinematic experience has gotten better too. There’s no need to line up early to secure a good seat with reserved tickets. Reclining loungers ensure that your chair is just as comfortable and relaxing as your living room at home.

These are the ten best reasons I left the house in 2017 to go watch a movie at the theater, followed by an additional 10 more examples.

1. The Big Sick

big-sickDirected by Michael Showalter – Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano.

You’ve heard the old adage before: Write what you know. Screenwriters Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon really took that to heart. They’ve been a married couple for 10 years now. The Big Sick is the story of their lives fully realized in cinematic form. The Big Sick embraces all the ideals of what makes the classic romances succeed. It’s a saga about when two people who are truly meant for each other, fall in love. It sounds simple to do but few movies detail the experience with this much soul and authenticity. Now if that set-up was all there was to The Big Sick, it would still be profound. But there’s a unique point of view that makes this drama unlike any romantic comedy I’ve ever seen. It’s a flawless testament to a couple who are truly devoted. What else can I say? Actors Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani captivated my heart.

2. Lady Bird

LadyBirdDirected by Greta Gerwig – Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges.

We’ve seen the chronicle of a youth entering adulthood before. However, Lady Bird elevates the medium. Saoirse Ronan is an absolute delight in the title role. It is a flawless performance that utterly embodies the lovable angst of a teenager. She is all earnest excitement. Eager to assert her point of view but unsure of the most effective way in which to do it. Director Greta Gerwig has taken the well-worn narrative of the coming of age tale and made it all her own.  No one could have managed a tale quite like this. This is both a cinematic devotion to her mother and a valentine to Sacramento. I came away with a greater appreciation for both of these things. No, it’s not all roses and caviar. It gently pokes fun at various targets with an amiable ribbing. This is a comedy after all and it’s really funny. It is unique, fresh, vibrant and fully alive.

3. Coco

Coco
Directed by Lee Unkrich – Featuring the voice talents of: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach.

This is a return to the greatness of Pixar. Not since Toy Story 3 has a Pixar flick touched my heart so profoundly. On the surface, Coco is a simple tale of a little boy that wants to play the guitar, but the screenplay goes much deeper. The Day of the Dead is a Latin celebration that underlies the central story of Coco. The idea that we are connected to the past through our ancestors and how present generations commemorate their memory is an integral component of the plot. I was astonished at how this stirred me so deeply. There was one twist that in retrospect I probably should have been able to predict but I was so hypnotized by what I saw, that I didn’t see it coming. Coco made me lose myself in the celebration of a young boy’s odyssey. The humanity completely overwhelmed me. Coco is full of heart and when I left the theater my heart was full.

4. Get Out

GetOut
Directed by Jordan Peele – Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones.

Get Out strikes a nice balance between terror and comedy. There’s a satirical edge to the proceedings that elevates this horror flick into something rather intelligent. Most of the scares are psychological. Hypnosis is introduced as a frightening state of consciousness. That the clicking of a teacup could be a weapon more powerful than a loaded gun is a concept that is both amusing and disconcerting at the very same time. A trigger with the ability to render a person powerless. As Get Out unfolds to its inevitable conclusion we the audience understand this environment from Chris’ perspective, The final twist is the perfect cap to a tale that has toyed with race for the entire duration. By the end, the script confronts the issue in a way that is both subversive and unique.

5. The Florida Project

Florida

Directed by Sean Baker – Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto.

The outskirts of the city of Orlando is presented as anything but conventional. The Florida Project details the unsavory life that percolates on the ragged edges of Orlando’s sprawling network of family-friendly resorts. Sun-drenched vistas burst with the crisp colors that stand in stark contrast to a childhood troubled by a grim situation. All of this is seen through the eyes of a child. Our protagonist is Moonee, a rambunctious, almost vulgar, holy terror that is allowed free reign to explore the compound. Her environment is hardly ideal. Adults are a part of this story, but their reality is an alien universe shrouded in mystery to these kids. Our understanding of what is truly happening comes across as a bit clouded too. Yet the atmosphere remains surprisingly upbeat. Baker’s presentation has the feel of real life. It is that authenticity that allows us to understand these depressing conditions. The emotional ending is a catharsis that is as welcome as it is heartbreaking.

6. Baby Driver

BabyDriver

Directed by Edgar Wright – Starring Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González.

The movie is a cinematic construct, a heart-stirring, toe-tapping production in which diegetic music is synchronized to the action on the screen. Think of it as a jukebox musical in which director Edgar Wright has decided to assemble a playlist of 30+ songs that just so happen to have a story attached. Selections run the gamut from various eras but they mostly favor oldies before the 1980s. The plot is rather incidental but it provides the framework for a charismatic ensemble that meshes together like a finely tuned automotive machine. The flashy production is presented with technique and panache. If action bang for your movie buck is what you want, then you’ll get your money’s worth. I simply can’t overstate how exhilarating this whole exercise is.

7. Good Time

GoodTime

Directed by Ben Safdie & Josh Safdie – Starring Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie, Barkhad Abdi.

Good Time is a production that feels alive. It’s a dynamic experience of dialogue and mood. A dark electronic soundtrack is provided by Daniel Lopatin, better known as Oneohtrix Point Never. Hand-held but steady camera work by Sean Price Williams reinforces an immediacy to the proceedings. I was so immediately immersed in the world of Good Time that the moment the opening credits finally began flashing across the screen, they felt like an interruption. I was fully engrossed in the crime thriller from the get-go. Robert Pattinson’s rabid performance as Connie Nikas is an actor reborn as a personality motivated by an all-consuming devotion to his brother. Connie’s frenzied desire to free Nick from jail has a galvanizing effect. Connie may not be someone to admire, but he’s someone with which to be fascinated.

8. Blade Runner 2049

Blade2049
Directed by Denis Villeneuve – Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks.

Could we be in a golden age of sequels? I need to rethink my former convictions. Perhaps long-delayed continuations of old movies can be more than crass attempts to make money. Apparently, they can be an artistic triumph in their own right. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner is a magnificent extension of an iconic classic. Instead of delving into explaining unanswered questions from the first film, he focuses on expanding the world. It remains somewhat vague but he imbues it with a deeper consideration. Production designer Dennis Gassner and art director Paul Inglis have created something reminiscent yet different. I was transfixed to the screen to see where the story would go as it gradually unfolded. It’s respectful and indebted to the past, but Blade Runner 2049 presents its own identity. It deserves to be a classic as well.

9. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian
Directed by Luc Besson – Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna.

Every now and then a film coasts by on a visual aesthetic that is so visionary in its daft mentality that it captivates the mind beyond all sense and reason. When it comes to story, Luc Besson is more fascinated by the question “How does it look” not “Why does this happen?” In that respect, Valerian isn’t going to expand your mind with philosophical thought. However, it will dazzle you with the exploration of creative worlds. It’s more about the physical display. When some gentle looking butterflies flutter by, their reveal as a dangerous threat is world-building at its most hilarious. Valerian is a production designer’s dream on a hallucinogenic trip. The popcorn flick works on that level throughout the entire film. It’s just so silly. I adored it.

10. Patti Cake$

Patti
Directed by Geremy Jasper – Starring Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie.

A New Jersey woman seeks fame and fortune as a rapper. Actress Danielle Macdonald is the arrival of an exciting new talent. She portrays Patricia Dombrowski. The Australian actress slips into the role of this American girl like she’s lived it all her life. Patti is a naturally charismatic performer. She also can rap with style and skill throwing down beats with the facility of a pro. You never question her authenticity as an artist. An impromptu rap battle in a parking lot is a lively game of one-upmanship. Her vocal defeat of a bully in a war of words is truly rousing. The odds are stacked against her so it’s so validating to watch this plus size talent put one over on her critics. We truly care about her and that’s perhaps the key component as to why the movie is so successful. There’ a reason why these inspirational rags to riches stories keep getting made. When they’re good, they inspire the soul. Patti Cake$ has heart, joy, and emotional heft.

Just barely missed the Top 10

11. Call Me by Your Name
12. The Disaster Artist
13. Thor: Ragnarok
14. Wonder Woman
15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
17. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
18. Mother!
19. The Square
20. Beatriz At Dinner

_____________________________________________

Worst of the Year

I love movies. I don’t like to concentrate on the negative aspects of something I enjoy. I only submit a “Worst of” list because it’s expected. Still, I admit it’s kind of cathartic to rank everything I saw and chastise what ends up on the bottom.  I purposefully avoid what I think will be truly terrible pictures, so the number of titles that I include changes from year to year.  This record is longer than 2016.  The particular sin of each varies, but they all have something in common: I hated watching every one. The very worst is at #1.  They get (somewhat) better as you go down.

1. Split
2. Song to Song
3. Justice League
4. Despicable Me 3
5. Baywatch
6. Alien: Covenant
7. The Mummy

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16 Responses to “MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2017”

  1. 1. Coco
    2. The Big Sick
    3. Lady Bird
    4. Wonder Woman
    5. The Florida Project
    6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
    7. Patti Cake$
    8. Thor: Ragnarok
    9. Baby Driver
    10. Get Out

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fantastic list! I didn’t realize you loved Spider-Man: Homecoming enough to put it up at #6 — even higher than Thor. Everything you put in your Top 10 made my Top 20 so obviously I have nothing to dispute. Great minds think alike!

      Like

  2. smilingldsgirl Says:

    It makes me so happy to see Valerian on your list. It is in my top 20 and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t seen The Florida Project or Good Time but I enjoyed everything else on your top 10 list. It’s been a pretty good year for movies I’d say

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m happy we both championed Valerian. It was such a beautifully realized piece of cinema that was disproportionately attacked for its flaws. I’ve seen it on several “worst of” lists which only encouraged me to champion it more.

      I didn’t want to officially denigrate the year because I did enjoy everything I put in my Top 20. However, I do think 2017 was a lesser year in terms of what I was a truly passionate about.

      For example, I’m not normally the biggest proponent of superhero films. Yet several made my Top 20. They ended up being more entertaining than a lot of the films that became the so-called critics’ darlings. Obviously, some of those titles made my list, but there were a few critically acclaimed films this year I did not enjoy….or at least didn’t come close to my Top 20.

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  3. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I’m a little surprised that Detroit didn’t make your top 20

    Like

    • You are so very observant of the films I am passionate about. Part of the reason I really enjoy discussing film with you.

      Everything in my Top 20 got 4 stars, as did Detriot. It would have literally been my #21. I wrestled with the placement of Mother!, The Square, Beatriz At Dinner and Detriot and ultimately Detroit lost, but yes I did appreciate that film very much.

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      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Well you were do responsible for getting me to see it so that’s part of the reason. I had it at 23 on my ranking so close to you

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  4. great list mark.

    So happy to see Valerian on ur list. I loved it because the visuals were amazing and it was so bold a film. I need to rewatch it.

    My top 2 films – Dunkirk and 3 Billboards didn’t even come close to ur tops 🙂

    Thats what I love abt movie reviewing, we all have diverse opinions which leads us to lots of discussions.

    My top ten wont be formed til the end of this month and then I’ll revisit it in June when I have seen even more.

    Keep up the great job!

    Like

    • Dunkirk was one of the greatest cinematic experiences I had in 2017. I saw it in IMAX and it was an amazing spectacle. As a story, it was confusingly edited in a way that kept me from loving it as much as the titles that made my Top 20. I actually had to see it twice just to truly understand it.

      Three Billboards is an interesting film because there was absolutely no one to root for. Everyone was so hateful and I couldn’t embrace any of the characters in that story.

      Looking forward to seeing your Top 10…and Happy New Year!

      Like

  5. Loved The Big Sick as well, but was not as big on Baby Driver like most. Still need to catch up with Good Time, Valerian and Lady Bird.

    Like

  6. Great work and solid list as always. I don’t know if I could put The Big Sick #1, but I’d definitely put it in my top 5, probably top 3.

    Like

  7. GaryGreg828 Says:

    i don’t watch many movies anymore, but I did recently watch The Big Sick and liked it a lot. It’d definitely make my top 10 list if i made one. And yes, I was so disappointed by Split; what a let-down! I was hoping for so much more…

    I’m not really qualified to make a top 10 list for 2017, but I can say my #1 would be a spanish mystery/thriller on netflix called “The Invisible Guest”. I did not see that TWIST coming at the end! You should definitely check it out. Happy New Year. 🙂

    Like

    • This is the first I’ve heard of it, so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      Happy New Year!

      Like

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Thanks! I think you’d appreciate the twist for “The Invisible Guest”; as the film played out I thought it was decent, but not necessarily great, but then once the twist was revealed at the end i thought it was brilliant.

        *Also, another great spanish mystery/thriller is “Secuestro” (Boy Missing) that came out in 2016, and was my #2 of that year; it’s also available on netflix. Maybe make these two a nice double feature on a day/night you want to stay in and watch. 🙂

        Like

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