What a strange movie year 2017 was. Twelve months ago, who could have imagined that M. Night Shyamalan’s Split would be the year’s first huge hit and provide a major comeback? Or that the all-star The Dark Tower would vanish quickly while the smaller scale It wound up being a genre classic? Did anyone predict that Jordan Peele’s Get Out would become a definitive 2017 satire while Alexander Payne’s Downsizing would prove a major bust? The good and the bad evened one another out.
The year was full of surprisingly great sequels (like Danny Boyle’s great T2: Trainspotting) and the expected turkeys (has there ever been a worse Tyler Perry movie than Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween?). Even comic book movies were drastically hit (Wonder Woman) and miss (Justice League). The films just outside of my Top 10 are Alien Covenant, The Beguiled, Jane, Wind River and A Ghost Story. My final Top 10 are bookended by Ryan Gosling flicks, include two Ridley Scott productions, an unintentional even split of mainstream and independent films and even a film directed by James Franco. Truly, it was a strange year.
1. BLADE RUNNER 2049
A dream come true for moviegoers and a gift to anyone who craves science fiction as more than a special effects showcase. Director Denis Villeneuve took on a seemingly impossible assignment and created a worthy, suitably challenging film that didn’t need nostalgia or even familiarity with the 1982 original to be satisfying. Every scene has dramatic power and purpose and every actor (from Harrison Ford’s MVP supporting turn to Dave Bautista’s haunting appearance) is in line with Villeneuve’s precise tone and complex narrative.
2. ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD
If you know all the behind the scenes drama, then what stands is kind of a miracle. Taken as is, Ridley Scott’s roaring true-life kidnapping saga is another recent triumph. Scott once again weaves a gripping, intoxicating story with his trademark exploration of class differences and the social divide. At the center of it all is Christopher Plummer’s towering performance, a portrait of a man so rotten and yet so fascinating, we can’t look away.
3. THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (OLD AND NEW)
Easily the best and funniest of Noah Baumbach’s movies about self absorbed adults acting like children. For a story about a rotten childhood, there’s a lot of laughter and compassion here. Another dramatic acting milestone for Adam Sandler and one of the best films ever made about a family rediscovering its identity after being broken apart
4. IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD
Sunao Katabutchi’s animated film depicts life in Japan before and after the bombing of Hiroshima. There is pain and heartbreak here but also a surprising amount of humor and sweetness. The animation (both photo-realistic and intentionally cartoonish) is breathtaking, making this somehow more real than any live action reenactment could have been.
This little gem, writer/director Kogonada’s debut drama, is about two lost souls bonding over their love of art. Starring John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson (of Split), this quiet but impactful, gorgeous work made a splash at Sundance and is currently on Hulu.
Some avoided “the scary clown movie” and missed out on its rich depiction of outcast kids overcoming the literal and figurative monsters plaguing their childhoods. As an ’80s-set fantasy with a young cast and big genre thrills, nothing in Stranger Things comes close to matching this.
7. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
The best of the new Apes trilogy and a stand-alone masterpiece that blends grand storytelling, neo-western elements and topical allegory. Matt Reeves’ film has moments that broke my heart and made my eyes widen in awe.
8. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
Not just a superior sequel but a master class in action movie filmmaking. In its own lean, compact way, it’s every bit as impressive as Mad Max: Fury Road. The final scene is pure poetry.
9. THE DISASTER ARTIST
James Franco’s bizarre-but-true Hollywood story made me laugh until I cried. Based on one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, Franco’s unexpected triumph somehow inspires with its tale of a desperate, untalented artist who wound up making movie history.
10. SONG TO SONG
The final in a trilogy of Terrence Malick’s experimental dramas about modern day romance, this one is his most problematic but is overstuffed with moments of visual bliss and intuitive, revealing performances.
Blade Runner 2049 photo: IMDB