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Best Of 2017

So…did anything interesting happen in the film industry this year? 

Sheesh, what a mess the sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood heavyweights have become, casting a long overdue shadow on a business that has always been corrupt and nasty.

The allegations should not, however, over shadow the great films of 2017. Like any year we had our share of disappointments (“Downsizing”), but we were also riveted with many pleasant surprises (“Get Out”). What follows are the ten best movies of 2017:

10) Thor: Ragnarok

Is it a great piece of art? Certainly not. It’s void of social meaning and really is just pure popcorn entertainment. But what entertainment! I did not have more fun at any other movie this year. Now in theaters.

9) Lady Macbeth

Florence Pugh is a revelation as Katherine, a young woman sold into a loveless marriage to a man twice her age in 19th century England. Her subsequent affair with stable boy Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) is only the beginning of her rebellion, and oh boy do people pay. Pugh’s performance is a star-making turn that could make her a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Now on home video.


8) Get Out

The simple scrape of a spoon stirring tea. The exuberance and innocence of young love led astray. This white male can’t comment on how well “Get Out” reflects the African-American experience of living in the United States, as writer/director Jordan Peele has asserted the film does, but I can say the film is exceptionally smart and well-made. Kudos also to the cast, particularly Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya (who play the young lovers), for keeping us believing every twisted step along the way. Now on home video.

7) Dunkirk

What it lacks in emotion it makes up for in terms of perfect execution. Director Christopher Nolan’s (“Inception”) triptych about the evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk during WWII is a masterful achievement of editing and sound. As such, it shows off a craftsmanship that’s a welcome sight for cine purists like me. If you appreciate anything at all regarding film technique, this is a must-see. Now on home video.

6) The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Weeks after seeing it, I can’t get it Yorgos Lantimos’ (“The Lobster”) movie out of my mind. Film aficionados will know what I mean when I say it’s a cross between Stanley Kubrick and Michael Haneke. To those who don’t know what that means, it’s dehumanization and cold, cruel reality mixed into one devious package that most definitely plays by its own rules. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It. Now in theaters; available on home video Jan. 23.


5) The Big Sick

We’ve seen plenty of dramas and comedies in which relationships get derailed due to racial differences. Rarely, though, do those movies follow the couple’s breakup with the female (Zoe Kazan) contracting a mysterious illness and essentially disappearing for the second half of the film, while the male (Kumail Nanjiani) deals with her worrisome parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). The film balances drama and humor perfectly, and the fact that it’s based on the true story of Nanjiani and his co-writer and wife Emily’s real relationship makes it that much sweeter. Now on home video.

4) Wonderstruck

What a lovely film. Especially perfect for movie geeks like me and the hearing impaired, Todd Haynes’ (“Carol”) latest deftly combines storylines in the 1920s and 1970s into one seamless package, and the result is extraordinary. Both stylistically and emotionally, this is a triumph. Now in theaters.


3) Wonder Woman

In a genre dominated by super-powerful men, our heroine (boldly embodied by Gal Gadot), saves the male lead (Chris Pine) on multiple occasions, which is a welcome change of pace. The story worked well, the visual effects were stellar, and it was nice to have a DC Comics movie directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), which perhaps explains why we could understand and follow the action, unlike in “Justice League.” It’s truly a substantial and – this year especially – important film. Now on home video.

2) The Disaster Artist

James Franco must be brilliant. He’s created a wonderful film based on the making of one of the worst movies ever made, “The Room” (2003). The tone – not mocking or condescending, but just right – is difficult to pull off, but with Franco in steady control both behind (as the director) and in front of (as the main character, Tommy Wiseau) the camera, this is surreal pop art at its best. Now in theaters.

1) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

It’s no coincidence that the best performances of the year came from the best script of the year. Just when you think writer/director Martin McDonagh’s unforgettable film is headed in one direction, it quickly shifts gears and gets better at each turn. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell especially stand out amongst the sublime ensemble. Expect 5-8 Oscar nominations, if not more, and see this as soon as you can. Now in theaters.


Honorable mention: “I, Tonya” was sadly funny and will likely earn Allison Janney a supporting actress Oscar nom; “Loving Vincent” was a stunning achievement in animation that took 125 painters seven years to create the 65,000 frames you see on screen; we’ve never seen a superhero go out quite like Wolverine in “Logan,” and probably never will again; “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” was wonderfully creative with action, ingenious story elements and spectacular visual effects; Jake Gyllenhaal gave a career-topping performance in “Stronger,” for which he should earn an Oscar nom; Gary Oldman will likely win the Best Actor Oscar for playing Winston Churchill in the stylish “Darkest Hour”; and “Daddy’s Home 2” got me into the Christmas spirit better than any new movie has since “The Polar Express” (2003).