Top Ten Films of 2017
From what I can tell, 2017 was a hard year for many and with rough times it is nice to go to be able to watch a movie and escape for a couple of hours. Luckily, this was a strong year for film, at least in one aspect. I can’t think of a stronger year for the horror genre without going back at least ten years. Even imperfect ones (like the heavy hitters Get Out and It to smaller movies like The Devil’s Candy and A Dark Song) were startlingly original and felt fresh all the way through. There is a reason my top 5 are filled with genre fair. Here are a few honorable mentions that I couldn’t help but bring your attention too, in no particular order:
*Logan, dir. James Mangold: Gave superhero movies a much needed makeover and new direction.
* Brigsby Bear, dir. Dave McCary: Morally questionable perhaps but it was nice to see an indie film not dive headfirst dive into cynicism.
* Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, dir. Martin McDonagh: Not as good as In Bruges, but McDonagh can mix tragedy and slapstick better than almost anyone.
*Columbus, dir. Koganada: A movie that could have been boring but becomes a hypnotic look into two people on the cusp of their dreams, with my home state as a sumptuous backdrop.
*Radius, dir. Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard: This low budget sci-fi film that is worlds better than how it looks was a grand way to end 2017.
Top Ten Films of 2017
10. Brawl in Cell Block 99, dir. S Craig Zahler: Zahler follows up his brutal western Bone Tomahawk with this equally brutal prison flick that is an absolute blast. Zahler is constantly compared to Tarantino, and it fits, but in some ways he is a little bit better. His approach to graphic violence (a mixture of glee and apprehension) makes this movie a little weightier than normal Grindhouse fare. And Vince Vaughan gives what might be his best performance ever as the stoic Bradley Thomas.
9. Wind River, dir. Taylor Sheridan: After writing two critically acclaimed neo-westerns, Sheridan jumps comfortably behind the camera to tell this somber story of the death of a young Native American girl. The snows of Wyoming might as well be the harsh desert of West Texas: a place where nature’s cruel indifference leads to very human tragedy.
8. John Wick Chapter 2, dir. Chad Stahelski: My favorite movie (in retrospect) of 2014 gets a fantastic sequel that follows the titular ex-hit man, played wonderfully by Keanu Reeves, deeper into this strange world created in the first movie. It also has unexpected depth as well, as we follow John as he forced to strip away what little he had after the first movie. It leaves a lot of questions I can’t wait for the third film to answer.
7. Lucky, dir. John Carroll Lynch: You couldn’t ask for a better final film from the legendary Harry Dean Stanton. This film about an aging atheist facing his mortality doesn’t cheapen things by providing easy answers. Instead, what we get is an odd and charming look at an impossibly small town and one man’s bittersweet reckoning with his impending death.
6. The Florida Project, dir. Sean Baker: This film is still an enigma to me. Is it about the gulf that exists between the rich and poor just outside what is the happiest place on Earth? Is it about the unspoken limits of altruism? Either way this sometimes appalling, sometimes sad movie had me hypnotized from it’s opening to its oddly magical end. And Willem Defoe gives my favorite male supporting performance of the year as Bobby, the put upon yet saintly hotel manager.
5. Good Time, dir. Ben Safdie and Josh Safdie: This fast-paced nocturnal odyssey of one doomed man wholeheartedly announced the arrival of an inventive new talent to watch. Mixing elements of Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out and Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, the story this movie tells is a hellish one, but one that demands and achieves our interest throughout. And Robert Pattinson gives my favorite male performance of the year as the sleazy, always unlucky Connie.
4. Hounds of Love, dir. Ben Young: This Aussie thriller about a serial killer, his kidnapped victim and his equally captive wife is the hardest movie I had to watch this year, but got such a reaction out of me without copious amounts of gore. It approaches its subject in a way that implies the horror and never revels in the details. Also, all three characters are fleshed out skillfully, which leads to an intense and finally cathartic finale. And Emma Booth as the wounded wife gives my favorite supporting female performance of the year.
3. Raw, dir. Julia Ducournau: While some would argue this is not a horror film, this story of one young woman’s discovery of some of her unsavory desires certainly has the violence and gore of a horror film. But it is also one of the most provocative films of the year, telling its story in a skillful way, unraveling the plot with one gruesome yet ingenious set piece after another until its jaw-dropping final shot. And Garance Marillier gives my favorite female performance of the year as Justine, the young girl who is appalled and intrigued by her new found desires.
2. Super Dark Times, dir. Kevin Phillips: It has been awhile since we have seen a good youth-gone awry film in the vein of Kids or Mean Creek, and I was surprised and overwhelmingly happy to come across this movie of a group of teens whose youthful shenanigans lead to a horrific death and the destruction of their lives. From its somber mood, its pitch perfect evocation of the mid-90’s as well as the most brilliantly executed dream sequence in years, this confident first film is the best debut of 2017.
1. A Ghost Story, dir. David Lowery: For all the risks this movie takes it should be terrible, but it swings for the fences and not only succeeds, but does so masterfully, creating the most audacious and original movie of the year and one I am still thinking about months after. It succeeds where others fail by asking eye-opening questions and making the audience think not only about the movie but about their own mortality in fresh but not always comforting ways, mapping out an interpretation of the afterlife that is the best since Jacob’s Ladder. It is both the saddest and most life-affirming movie of the year and easily my favorite of 2017.