[2017 in Review]

Best of 2017: Films


Josh Bell

1. Colossal Anne Hathaway discovers a psychic connection to a giant, Godzilla-like monster halfway around the world in the year’s strangest, most exhilarating and unexpected movie, equal parts sci-fi mind-bender and darkly comedic examination of codependency and toxic masculinity. Available on home video.

2. A Ghost Story The main character is covered by a bedsheet with eye-holes for almost the entire running time, yet David Lowery’s story about a dead man (played by Casey Affleck) who can’t let go of his earthly existence is emotionally devastating, a profound meditation on grief and loneliness. Available on home video.

Mother! (Courtesy)

3. Mother! Darren Aronofsky’s abrasive, baffling thriller/allegory is the love-it-or-hate-it movie of the year—sometimes simultaneously—but it’s never less than visionary, a visual and thematic marvel starring Jennifer Lawrence as a woman beset by ingratiating evils seemingly invited by her powerful husband. Available on home video.

4. I, Tonya Given how many boilerplate biopics get released during the end-of-year awards rush, it’s refreshing to see one that has higher ambitions, and Craig Gillespie’s movie about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding does far more than just tell her life story, questioning the accepted “truths” about her career-ending scandal. Opens January 5 in Las Vegas.

5. Atomic Blonde Charlize Theron is fantastic as a sultry spy with many secrets in the year’s most stylish and assured action movie, an espionage thriller set in 1989 Berlin. Director David Leitch stages elaborate stunt sequences that are as punishing as they are graceful, and Theron makes every punch and kick count. Available on home video.

6. Hounds of Love This absolutely brutal Australian thriller about a teenage girl kidnapped by a sadistic couple is often difficult to watch, not only for its violence but also for its startlingly bleak view of humanity. It’s as heartbreaking as it is gut-wrenching. Available on home video.

7. Columbus First-time feature director Kogonada moves from online videos examining cinematic technique to demonstrating remarkably assured technique of his own, with this meticulously composed almost-love story about a jaded translator and a vulnerable student who bond over the beauty of architecture. Available on home video.

8. Get Out Jordan Peele’s acclaimed horror movie is smart commentary on race relations and the insidiousness of privilege, but none of that would matter if it weren’t also tense, well-acted and gruesome, with some top-notch comic relief and genuinely startling plot twists. Available on home video.

9. Split M. Night Shyamalan returns to the artistic heights of his early career with a lean thriller about three teenage girls held captive by a man with multiple personalities, all dangerous in their own ways. James McAvoy gives several great performances as the villain who’s his own army. Available on home video.

10. The Lego Batman Movie Sure, we had a lot of superheroes at the movies this year, but none were as entertaining to watch as the animated minifigure voiced by Will Arnett, a Bruce Wayne who’s lonely and brooding and just needs to make friends. Available on home video.

Mike D'Angelo

1. Mother! Is it a Biblical allegory? A warning about climate change? Writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s confession about what a nightmare it is to date someone like him? All of the above, plus the year’s most audacious rollercoaster ride. Available on home video.

The Florida Project (Courtesy)

2. The Florida Project A rare portrait of the dispossessed—in this case, residents of a cheap motel on the outskirts of Disney World—that has no time for sentimentality. Its characters are far too busy raising hell. Available on home video February 18.

3. Staying Vertical French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake) delivers another gloriously bizarre pansexual odyssey, as a blocked screenwriter travels the countryside getting horizontal with everyone he meets. Available on home video.

4. Brawl in Cell Block 99 Not for the squeamish, S. Craig Zahler’s follow-up to cult favorite Bone Tomahawk sends a bulked-up Vince Vaughn to the most horrifying prison in cinema history. This methodically paced exploitation throwback only gets uglier from there. Available on home video.

5. Nocturama The Cannes Film Festival famously refused to show Bertrand Bonello’s disturbingly sensuous terrorist saga, which first follows the culprits as they carry out acts of violence, then observes them awaiting the inevitable retribution while hiding overnight in a ritzy department store. Streaming on Netflix.

6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer The year’s single most arresting performance—courtesy of Barry Keoghan, also a standout in Dunkirk—energizes this utterly insane tale of a surgeon (Colin Farrell) whose past sins put his family in danger. Available on home video.

7. 4 Days in France Another film about a Frenchman driving around in search of connection, only this fellow is being pursued by the lover he abandoned, who’s tracking his movements with the help of the gay-hookup app Grindr. Available on home video.

8. Phantom Thread Daniel Day-Lewis’ final performance (or so he claims) sees him inhabit a control-freak fashion designer whose latest muse (Vicky Krieps) proves less pliant and malleable than he anticipated. An elegant two-hander with a sting in its tail. Opens January 19 in Las Vegas.

9. Félicité Set in Kinshasa, the Congo’s capital and largest city, Alain Gomis’ singular character study begins as an urgent story about a mother desperately trying to raise money her son needs for an operation, then shifts gears into something more raw and strange. Available on home video January 23.

10. From Nowhere Few people saw this low-budget indie about three teenagers threatened with deportation to countries they don’t remember, but the debate about DACA has made it timely as well as heartbreaking. Available on home video.

Tags: Featured, Film
  • From Avengers: Endgame to Toy Story 4 to Tarantino and beyond.

  • The event’s 12th edition runs April 28 through May 4 at the Palms and Downtown’s Inspire Theater.

  • This year’s event features another packed lineup of short films, with more than 120 selections spread over 20-plus thematic programs and four days.

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