2017 was the year of the actress. Sally Hawkins was possibly the highlight of them all, with Frances McDormand, Saorise Ronan, and the rarely mentioned Rooney Mara performance in A Ghost Story. Without these performances, the films on this list would not be what they are, or where they are placed. With that being said, the male leads were also intriguing- Robert Pattinson making a comeback, as well as Daniel Day-Lewis’ swan song, and rising star Timothée Chalamet’s performances in both Call Me By Your Name, and Lady Bird. Here is a compiled list, in order, of what films struck me the most.
Top Ten Films of 2017:
- Good Time/Blade Runner 2049
Good Time’s commentary on the judicial system, and lower-class crooks is something that only Ben and Josh Safdie could accomplish. Extremely gritty in it’s subject matter, although it cannot just merely be labeled as a heist film. It’s much more than that. Also, Robert Pattinson gives a performance that punches in the face, something that you wouldn’t expect from the Twilight actor, but now anxiously waiting to see more of in the future. 2049 on the other hand, was one of the biggest narrative and technical achievements in film in the past decade. Denis Villeneuve, of Sicario and Arrival fame, creates an atmosphere, with obvious help of the set design crew that could only be done by very few visionaries or auteurs. I want to say Kubrick would be happy that the original Blade Runner got such a unique follow-up, since he lent footage for Ridley Scott’s first entry. Even Villeneuve uses some of the same camera techniques Kubrick uses, but not without the help of Roger Deakins, cinematographer, who has been nominated for the 14th time in that Oscar category this year for this film.
- Call Me By Your Name
Films that tackle romances are inexplicably hard, especially when it’s not your usual heteronormative man-meets-woman type of film. When you see a movie that tackles the subject of being gay, it sometimes alienates their characters to the point where it’s offensive and dehumanizing. In my opinion, this is what Ang Lee did with Brokeback Mountain, trying to encompass a certain sexuality stereotype to just two characters. CMBYN is not just about being gay, even though it’s at the forefront. The film makes you sympathize with both of the lead actors, played by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. These performances come off as if they were just fly-on-the-wall conversations, as when you see them outside of the film, you still think they are in character. Luckily, for them, they both are major stars as of the past couple of years. Director Luca Guadagnino was snubbed at this years Oscars with what he did of the adaptation of the novel, creating imagery that juxtaposes Italian landscape with romance. It’s also a great commentary on coming of age, figuring out who you are at a young age, and what to expect of the future.
3. Phantom Thread
In my opinion, this is totally a horror film. It rings like the story of Stephen King’s Misery, but more subtle. Other than this, Daniel Day-Lewis gives his best performance possibly ever, rivaling his performance in There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson as is Thread. Jonnny Greenwood of Radiohead fame puts out his best soundtrack on Thread, putting together this gothic love story with dreamy piano tunes.
4. A Ghost Story
David Lowery, writer-director of A Ghost Story proves he is one of the best storytellers we have around today with a film about love and the afterlife. Rooney Mara gives her best performance to date as she grieves the loss of her lover, and also features a sheet-covered Casey Affleck as a ghost. This film seemed to split audiences in half, with distribution company A24 advertising it as a horror, as well as It Comes at Night. During my viewing, someone left during the 10-minute take of Mara eating a pie. With other films, these scenes wouldn’t be acceptable. But it’s the bravery of this film that puts the pieces together in the end.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This year seems to be the year of performances, as this is the most acting centered film on the list. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell both received Golden Globes for their performances in the film, and they are both, along with Woody Harrelson, nominated for Oscars. Martin McDonaugh took home best director at the Globes, but was snubbed a nom from the academy, which baffles me. Although this is McDonaugh’s best work, In Bruges is a close second for the same reasons. The acting, dialogue and setting take you into a remote location that you cannot escape.
- The Florida Project
Although Three Billboards is definitely the actor’s film of the year, The Florida Project is a close second, or even a tie. The director, Sean Baker, uses street talent, a young girl, Broklynn Prince, who auditioned and instantly got the part in her screen debut, and then Bria Vinaite as the mother of Prince’s character. Moonee, played by Prince could have easily been up for best actress, at the age of seven. Moonee navigates through the motels that reside outside Disney World, as her mother works as an escort, and only has Bobby, the manager of the motel, played by Willem Dafoe as a lookout for her and her friends. Dafoe gives one of the best performances of his career, as he is nominated for best supporting actor. The color palette and setting of this film is what makes it so great, complimented by these performances that project low-class struggle.
- It Comes at Night
Although this may sound like your average home-invasion horror fare just from the title- do not judge a book by its cover. Director Tracy Edward Shults shows in his sophomore feature that he can handle big stars like Joel Edgerton like he did with his debut picture, which only featured his family playing the roles in the film. It Comes at Night is a picture that haunts long after it is over, and is more about what you do not see than what you do.
- The Shape of Water
As cinephiles unite to praise Guillermo Del Toro’s every breath, this is the one that everyone gets to savor. In my favorite performance of the year, Sally Hawkins, who plays a mute janitor that falls in love with the monster inhabiting her working quarters, is directed perfectly by Del Toro, in a way that makes your adult self want to start reading fairy tales again.
- Get Out
This is one of the only pictures on the list that I have only seen once, the film instantly struck a chord that needed to be struck in 2017. The film, a satire of what it means to be black in America today, especially the use of the black body, encompasses a great lead performance by Daniel Kaluuya, and shows that Jordan Peele is more than comic talent, but also an important director. Yes, it is a satire, but by no means is the message of the film funny. And for once, one of the highest grossing films of the year is one of the best.
- Lady Bird
I wasn’t going to leave this off the list, and on a different day it could be higher than #10. With all of the talk about this being the year of the performance, with all of the above films including a powerhouse of one, Greta Gerwig crafts a little film about the small things in life (especially high school drama), and relationships with parents. Saoirse Ronan plays the lead so well that if she beat out Hawkins for best actress at the oscars, I’d be just as happy. The Mom, Laurie Metcalf, is terrific in her portrayal of letting a kid off to college. Also Tracy Letts is superb and underrated as Ronan’s Dad in the film.
Notable mentions: Wind River, Dunkirk, The Square, Mother!, The Disaster Artist, Thor: Ragnarok, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lost City of Z, John Wick: Chapter 2, Faces Places