Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Top Ten Favorite Films of 2017 (and more)

To repeat last year's top-ten statement: this is not a Best-Of list, because ranking art is silly. These are just the films I watched and liked most, and that I felt were fine exemplars of their respective genres. My favorites this year tend toward comedies and tentpoles. What can I say... It's been a year worth escaping.

2017 Favorites, in Alphabetical Order:
  • Lady Bird - I saw this one at AFF, with writer-director Greta Gerwig in attendance. We gave her a standing ovation because she deserved it. Really funny, and one of the most subtle bits of writing/directing I've ever seen.
  • Logan - The first of several tentpoles I watched this year that really worked for me - maybe because the studio let the filmmakers take an actual risk or two with its storytelling.
  • Mudbound - I watched this one at AFF as well, and if I was picking an absolute favorite for the year, this would be it. It was engaging and funny and real and raw, and made me evaluate my life and what matters to me most... so basically the best a movie can do. I also cried more times and for longer than in any movie in memory.
  • Okja - This weird mashup of a film from the director who brought us 2013 sci-fi favorite SNOWPIERCER is another crazy-inventive story, full of gentle humor, action, and a punch-your-face critique of factory farming. Yes, you could argue that it gets a little ham-fisted [ha ha] in its messaging... but still a great entertainment.
  • The Disaster Artist It's possible that I loved this movie because I'm involved in film production and it was about the making of a film. Regardless, it had me laughing throughout - even as I cringed over the sort of money-blowing delusion so insanely prevalent in La La Land. Watched this one on the last day of the year. 
  • The Founder - A magic trick of a movie that subtly shifts the audience's entire perspective on the protagonist over the course of the film - while offering serious insight into the Heart of American Darkness.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  - Writer/director Martin McDonough once again provides non-stop hilarity in this, the most emotionally engaging of his films thus far. Watched this one at AFF as well. Note to self: AFF is awesome.
  • Thor: Ragnarok - The most genuinely funny superhero movie ever. Full stop. The director of HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE didn't write this movie, but no doubt had an influence in bringing the absolute hilarity of that movie into the mix. I don't reckon this movie will live forever as a classic heart-squeezer or anything like that, but if you want a pleasant escape with a lot of real laughter, this is it.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes - Another great tentpole movie, digging a little deeper into the thematic dirt of the last Planet of the Apes movie - talking about the folly of war and the human blindness that gets us there.
  • War Machine - Watch this movie without preconceptions. It's an odd genre-mashup that I think suffered critically because folks just expected-and-wanted something different from it: something more peppy, perhaps? More jokey? Instead, it's sometimes-slow-drama, and a good satire of the braggadocious machismo of War.

 


2017 Films I Haven't Yet Watched, but Am Excited to:

  • A Ghost Story
  • Coco
  • I, Tonya
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
  • Molly's Game
  • Phantom Thread
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • The Florida Project
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water

Films from 2016 that I got around to watching and quite enjoyed:

  • Captain Fantastic - A funny movie that'll make any parent think about the effect of "civilization" on their children - not as hippie-centric as you might assume.
  • Doctor Strange - Big dumb fun with a secret brain.
  • Manchester by the Sea - Such an aching, insightful cry-fest. I loved it SO much... would've easily been a top-ten choice if I'd gotten around to it last year.
  • Other People - Yet another struggling-comedy-writer-with-mother-dying-of-cancer-and-gay-identity-issues movie. This one made me laugh and then tugged my heart-strings.
  • Paterson - Slow, thoughtful, beautiful, poetic. An intimate portrayal of a small person's small kindnesses.
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Sigh. Not the emotional experience of early Star Wars [can we ever get back there?], but as long as they keep making dependably entertaining sci-fi spectacles, I'mma keep giving them my money.
  • Silence - A beautiful film that takes questions of faith seriously.
  • The Red Turtle - A captivating animated film with little dialogue... it was Oscar nominated and the fact that it didn't win is a testament to the power of money to swing elections. I rarely if ever make these kind of public statements about art-valuation, but jeez - ZOOTOPIA was fun, but THE RED TURTLE is a transcendent piece of art.
  • Swiss Army Man - A crazy-weird, completely gross movie that still somehow made me cry.

Films from previous years that I watched and quite enjoyed:

  • A Man Called Ove (2015) A wonderful Swedish film about friendship, community, and a crotchety old man reconnecting with humanity.
  • Hit and Run (2012)  Not sure why this movie was so critically floppy. Yeah, it was a bit uneven. But it was also pretty funny, and had several moments of real human insight.
  • Matilda (1996) This is an absolute gem of a kid's movie that really holds up. No idea how I missed this one for so long.
  • The Big Year (2011) A good, clean family-friendly movie about birders. Sounds like a snore, right? But I watched this with my wife and son and we loved it.
  • Truman (2015) A beautifully shot-and-acted drama. Yeah, sure, it's about a dude going through something fairly dark (cancer movie, anyone?) but it's full of gentle comedy and human depth. I've yet to not love anything I've seen Ricardo Darin in, and it's always fun to watch something in Spanish.

Because there's SO MUCH transcendent work going on on the small screen (and because I watched a LOT more of it this year than last)...


My Top-Ten Favorite Television from 2017:

  • Better Call Saul - I'm still not sure how much of this show's juice it gets from being a spin-off of BREAKING BAD, but on its third season it just keeps getting better.
  • Big Little Lies - This limited-run show is funny and brilliant and provocative and amazing. A show created by and starring women, it's such a refreshing and perfectly crafted look into a too-often-cinematically-ignored HALF of all humanity. Engaging all the way through, and leading up to an absolutely riveting finale.
  • Black Mirror - Less a TV series than a series of thematically-linked short-ish movies, Black Mirror continues to provide what the nomenclature suggests: a dark reflection of where we're headed, often with a seriously dystopian slant. While the quality of these mini-movies can vary from off-the-charts brilliant to "meh," they always provoke thought and conversation.
  • Crashing - A comedy about a bad stand-up comedian going through a divorce sounds terrible, I know, but this is a gem for anyone who's grown up in a conservative Christian family [Jokes about Jars of Clay, anyone?],anyone who's experienced a break-up, or anyone who just plain enjoys watching funny people being hilarious on stage and in life.
  • Godless - If you like westerns - and that's key - then you'll love this show. It's a slow burn, but interesting all the way through, and some of the most beautifully-shot, most atmospheric television you'll ever see.
  • Game of Thrones - Don't watch this show if you're uncomfortable with the sexy-sex and/or people getting body parts chopped off with sharpened metal. Do watch it if you like crazy huge fantasy amazingness.
  • Room 104 - What a crazy premise! An entire TV show that takes place in one hotel room. Some episodes worked a little better for me than others, but it's always interesting and you never know what you're gonna get.
  • The Good Place - After the nutso, game-changing reveal at the finale of last season, I had no idea how they were gonna make a new season work. Answer: brilliantly. This show is a hilarious, surprisingly thought-provoking look at human nature.
  • The Leftovers - So sad to see this show end after only three seasons, but it was a crazy, amazing ride. Every season better than the one before, and each episode an amazingly thoughtful look at Big Picture Stuff. From one of the creators of LOST... but tighter.
  • Top of the Lake: China Girl - A powerful, intriguing mystery, while at the same time a beautiful look into the female experience... I also got around to watching the original mini-series, which was even a notch above this iteration.

And Lastly...

Filmed Entertainments Aren't Everything! 

So check out my latest 5-Star-Reviewed novel POUNDERS on Amazon! 

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