Best Films of 2017 Revised

         
 

20 July 2018| No Comments on Best Films of 2017 Revised     by Sean Chavel

 

 

I won’t remind you what inexplicably won Best Picture at the Oscars. There were 25 excellent to very good films in 2017, and so that means 25 films did not win the top prize. Whatever. Seven months into July I felt compelled to revise my year’s ten best list so this list is ever so slightly altered. It was obsessing me that the Christmas hit “The Greatest Showman” was one I caught up to way late on video a few months into 2018, and then took me awhile to realize it just had to be included. I wondered about adding the Russian film “Loveless,”  which was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film. But it was not really available to be seen until February 2018, so I am probably adding it to next year’s list. I don’t want Russia to win at anything, but this film is a remarkable and revealing look at middle class crisis in Moscow. Read the review.

“Molly’s Game” and “I, Tonya” were once on the list but were bumped off the top ten to the Honorable Mentions list. “Molly’s Game” was last at number 9 last, but over time, I realized I was too haunted by “Beatriz at Dinner” (it’s a greater film in retrospect) and so that remains at number 10 while “Molly’s Game” gets bumped. That’s not to say I don’t highly recommend it. We need more psychologically compelling biographies. What was also tough is that I became even fonder however for “The Post” and “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” films gaining power within me internally. Those two would be worthy for a ten best slot in most other years, but here they are numbers 11 and 12. Which means “Molly’s Game” is a [worthy] 13 and “I, Tonya” number 14. The top two films of the year are still in a class of extraordinary above the rest.

 

BEST OF 2017

MOVIE-REVIEW-DETROIT1. Detroit – How could a film this great be such a phenomenon in the worst way? I mistakenly forecast it to equal “Do the Right Thing” in becoming a national breakthrough cultural touchstone, but I was wrong. It was scorned all over the internet by professional and non-professional pundits whom many… hadn’t even seen the film. The outrage was over the excessive violence against blacks, but that’s why it should be praised: By letting us see the most vicious and inhumane attacks against blacks, we get closer to empathy and more attuned to digesting what the turbulence of the 1960’s race wars were about. One unnamed notable critic I read lambasted the film for not having three-dimensional characters. How can that be? One example, amongst a large credible cast, we see how the outbreak of violence crushed the dreams of a talented musician who gave up on the idea that he could ever have a future outside his hometown of Motown. There was no artist this past year more ridiculed for simply putting out good work than director Kathryn Bigelow. I guess that’s what you get for making a masterpiece.

Florida Project_2017_ Willem_Dafoe_Best-Films_Decade2. The Florida Project – Sometimes an indie film captures lightening in a bottle. While a modest success, this one ultimately did not capture that lightening. Meaning a masterpiece of this degree should have been an indie film phenomenon. Instead it came out and was just well-respected. Writer-director Sean Baker (“Tangerine”) explores lives at the poverty line, of people living day-to-day at a skeezy motel called the Magic Kingdom for thirty-eight dollars a night, while a few miles down lies the enchanting promise of Disney World. The punkish blue hair-dyed Halley (Bria Vinaite) is a twenties-something mom who is really just a kid, raising her own 7-year old kid (Brooklynn Prince) quite ineptly. As the motel manager does his compassionate best to accommodate the mom’s recklessness and eases her troubles, Willem Dafoe gives a performance miracle to round out a perfect trio. He is principal, referee, and arbiter, usually on Halley’s behalf, but he cannot turn a blind eye as to when this unstable parent crosses a line. Often the time, the film takes ironic delight in the 7-year old’s pranks and gags. Baker’s script is so natural that hardly a line said sounds scripted at all.

Battle-of-the-Sexes_ Years_Ten_Best 2017_Underrated-Masterpiece3. Battle of the Sexes – Some people might stay away thinking it’s a tennis fan’s only movie. Humongous mistake. While more shallow than anyone would want to admit, “Little Miss Sunshine” was fairly entertaining enough but no favorite of mine. So imagine my shock when I discovered co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris crafted  a nearly perfect sexual politics critique of the 1970’s era by dramatizing the circus match of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. One of my main revelations that dawned on me was that there was a time when the words male chauvinism was actually proudly declared and worn on its sleeve. The credibility of womens’ tennis was an upscale battle, but the movie proves that so for women in any field or occupation. Emma Stone has never given such an introspective performance of such hidden turmoil (King was a married lesbian) and Steve Carell is a hoot as a 56-year old hotshot who knows his words inflict damage on women but says them anyway because its a PR boost for the match to get national attention. This is a barbarously funny and insightful comedy-drama that at least gives us the reassurance that we have come a long way since 1973.

4. The Greatest Showman – It’s happened to me before with 1984’s “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” or 1994’s “It Could Happen to You” or 2011’s “Crazy Stupid Love,” a movie so deliciously corny and joyful and exuberant but totally against the grain of what critical establishment usually embraces. I don’t care, I love it. I fell instantly in love with the opening title song and the ensuing “A Million Dreams” which paired to its adolescent drama of P.T. Barnum discovering himself with scenes improbable but lovely and irresistible just the same. It took me a second viewing, or maybe a third, to fall in love with the rest of the songs, “Come Alive,” “The Other Side,” “Never Enough,” “Rewrite the Stars,” “From Now On” among them. The backlighting is gorgeous on the more intimate numbers, the dances often eccentric in the rambunctious anthems. I have come not to care that the movie is a stretch and historically inaccurate depiction of the circus king. The movie is blissful myth, and I got enough of an idea of what P.T. Barnum accomplished, and in the title role, Hugh Jackman is dashing. How underappreciated is Jackman? I actually think that for a long time his best performance was in the flawed but enjoyable time travel rom-com “Kate & Leopold” where he was endearingly gentlemanly and valiant, and classier than all of New York. Here he’s all that and more, maybe ballsy. And he’s at his greatest, truly.

Founder_Biopics_ Years-Best-2017_Michael Keaton Flick-Review5. The Founder – Could go down as the greatest film ever made to have been released in the dumping ground of January. Usually shabby movies come out that month, or the other reason to release it then is because the studio does not believe it will connect commercially. This one was released unceremoniously on January 20, 2017 (it had a one-week qualifying run on December 7, 2016 thrown out there with such nonchalance that it gained next to zero attention). That’s unfortunate because it is the best business movie since “The Social Network.” For the majority of my adult life I have hated Ray Kroc and his McDonald’s empire for many reasons, including the fact that he has done more negative impact than any other individual to warp the American food processing line. This biopic summed up even more reasons why I hate Ray Kroc. In a career best performance, Michael Keaton is a fearless and capitalist-driven Kroc who makes friends and then stomps over them after he’s done sucking them dry. Barely a modest success at the box office, people seem at large to only want biopics of people they can cheer for. Perhaps people should be more open to the idea of seeing biopics of scoundrels, and Kroc is one of the most historically significant scoundrels.

Dunkirk_War-Drama_FlickMinute_ Chris-Nolan_director6. Dunkirk – In hindsight, Adolph Hitler could easily have clobbered Northern France. If he had sent more powerful reinforcements to slaughter sitting ducks made up of British and French soldiers and other allies, Hitler could have taken the upper hand in the war. Director Christopher Nolan epic of resilience crosscuts between four scenes (sometimes jump-cutting to one of the lesser stories on a rescue boat a bit too often), and with the aid of music composer Hans Zimmer, the action is constantly throbbing. The best sequences are the aerial dogfights with one inexhaustible pilot (Tom Hardy) fighting brilliantly for days to neutralize the fly-by enemy. That itself was epic heroism.

Killing_of_a_Sacred_Deer_Colin - Farrell_2017_Best_FlickMinute_Reviews7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Surrealist horror film by Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) that doesn’t hit you with conventional scares but instead uses deliberate goose-bumping pace, gradual unnerving developments and long tracking shot eeriness to disturb the living hell out of you. Colin Farrell is a surgeon with a placid, easy materialist life whose one professional mistake years ago was losing a man on the operating table and is survived by a wife and son. The son, now in his late teens, and far from normal, expects friendship and maybe more which Farrell cannot repay. The ireful teen, who might just have antichrist powers, gives Farrell the most impossible of ultimatums. The way Farrell concedes to handle the no-win predicament is both chilling in its pragmatism yet shocking in a way that I’ll never forget it. Maybe you don’t want this film stuck in your head. As for me, I was spellbound.

Get-Out-Review _Flick _Ten Best_of_20178. Get Out – Two-thirds of it is mostly extremely well-written racial divide satire that’s ticklish and gutsy, with sprinkles of foreboding until it actually unleashes bloody horror in the final third. Daniel Kaluuya is the very jivey and charismatic black man named Chris Washington who dates a doting and subservient girlfriend (Allison Williams), whom he is not aware has a history of playing black widow. It’s the parents Chris should be wary of, except that they’re so enlightened and open-hearted that it’s easy to be sucked in by their generosity. When Chris does drop into the black abyss referred to in the film as the Sunken Place, well, it’s a trancelike sequence that is nearly the equal of the nightmare sequence in a landmark horror film from fifty years ago, that of “Rosemary’s Baby.” Writer-director Jordan Peele is to me an exciting new talent.

Three Billboards Outside_Ebbing_Missouri _FlickMinute_Films _20179. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Twisty, multi-layered writing and directing by Martin McDonagh (“Seven Psychopaths”), and an unforgettably damned Frances McDormand performance as the mom who wants a reignited investigation for her daughter’s death many months ago, are already a couple reasons why it is essential movie-watching. Then there are the performances by Woody Harrelson as a good-natured but ineffective Chief who has one powerful parting letter, Sam Rockwell as an unstable and racist deputy, John Hawkes as a self-centered ex-husband, Peter Dinklage gets a pitiful dinner date scene, not to mention another half dozen performances by bit players who add to the cultural mosaic of this backwards town lost in modern times. Best bit? McDormand’s merciless takedown of a hypocritical Catholic.

Beatriz_at_Dinner _Review FlickMinute_2017 Salma_Hayek10. Beatriz at Dinner – Salma Hayek and John Lithgow did the best acting of their careers with this perceptive piece of class warfare. Hayek is a holistic healer who gets stranded at her richest client’s house, then is invited to stay at this rich peoples’ dinner, attended by a heartless real estate billionaire who carves up ecological lands so his ego can be richer. Originally I mistakenly gave the film 3.5 stars until I upgraded it to 4, because I felt I had seen superior verbal jousting that had no creative space for visual flourish. It took a few weeks until I realized how visual the closing scenes were in their somber yet tactile way. In recall, I could feel the wind blowing over the sea, and what could I say – it haunted me. I also realized Hayek’s speeches about simple living and gratitude for the small things in life had humbled me. And Lithgow easily becomes a stand-in icon for the type of acquisitive money-grubber you love to hate.

 

David Lynch Radical Award

Raw_Transgressive Movies_2017 Remarkable HorrorRaw (France) – What the year gave us was the resurrection of the idea that a horror film is much better when it has an actual script behind it. This year, “Get Out,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” “Happy Death Day” and “Raw” had intelligent merits and gave hope that the horror genre can get back on track. With “Raw,” a young female college student who goes through hazing at a college society that is not like anything we know (maybe this is college thirty years from now?), and develops a cannibalistic appetite. It’s the portrayal of a sick hardened society that makes it disturbing and unsettling in ways that kind of makes you sick. Gross to the point of nauseating when it’s at its most extreme, but undeniably fascinating. The writer-director was Julia Ducournau, and it was her first theatrical film.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Blade Runner 2049; Brawl in Cell Block 99A Ghost Story; I, Daniel Blake (United Kingdom); I, TonyaLady Bird; MarshallMolly’s Game; Oklahoma City; Phantom Thread; The Post; The Square (Sweden).

 

Milestones:

Three Billboards Outside_Ebbing_Missouri _FlickMinute Remarkable_Films _2017Killing_of_Sacred_Deer_ Colin_Farrell_2017_FlickMinute_Best-Actor_Selection

Best Actress: For the second year in a row, the bevy of actress work was more remarkable than the male actors. Frances McDormand was stirring in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” lugging a need to seize justice in every scene. Bria Vinaite is so raw and electrifying in “The Florida Project” that you don’t see her acting, it comes across as spontaneous impulse. Salma Hayek is soul-stirring in “Beatriz at Dinner” and you believe for eighty-three minutes that she is a soft-spoken mystic full of wisdom. Margot Robbie in “I, Tonya” shed all vanity to become from the inside-out the Harding ugly duckling within. Jessica Chastain is gorgeous and untouchable as the game runner of “Molly’s Game” and her square-offs against greedy men are stinging. I could also easily gush over the brilliance of Emma Stone in “Battle of the Sexes,” Vicky Krieps in “Phantom Thread,” Saorise Ronan in “Lady Bird,” Meryl Streep in “The Post” and Garance Marillier in “Raw” who are all worthy of accolades.

Best Actor: Colin Farrell in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” I’m the only critic in the world who thinks him as the actor of the year. In a surreal film that resembles more a dream than reality, Farrell hits the right ambiguous notes which draw out the film’s queasiness to maximum effect. Runners-Up: Michael Keaton in “The Founder,” Steve Carell in “Battle of the Sexes,” Hugh Jackman in “The Greatest Showman,” and Tom Hanks in “The Post.”

Best Supporting Actress: Kirsten Dunst as a wallflower shocked she has a shot at love in “The Beguiled,” epitomizing a high percentage of women in the Civil War era who must have likely been immune to love and any positive life prospects to boot. Runners-Up: Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird” as the most impossible to please mom as there has ever been, and Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” as the most impossibly emotionally and physically abusive mom as there has ever been.

Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project” by a mile, if not ten miles above everybody else. Runners-Up: John Lithgow did the best acting of his life as well in “Beatriz at Dinner” as an egotistical billionaire and Christopher Plummer in “All the Money in the World” as a megalomaniac billionaire.

Best Ensemble Cast: “Get Out”

Best Film Editing: “Get Out”

Best Art Direction: “Blade Runner 2049.” Runner-up: “The Beguiled.”

Best Cinematography: “Detroit.” Runner-up: “Phantom Thread.”

Best Costume Design: “The Phantom Thread.” Runner-up: “Battle of the Sexes.”

Best Music Score: “Dunkirk” by Hans Zimmer.

Best Sound Design: “Dunkirk”

Best Visual Effects: “Dunkirk”

Best Documentary: “Oklahoma City.” It ties the Timothy McVeigh bombing to not only to the debacles of Ruby Ridge and Waco, but insightfully to the rising of the alt-right movements in this country. It’s great investigative reporting and requiem of terrible 1980’s and 1990’s events in this country.

Best B-Movie: “Brawl in Cell Block 99.” It’s a movie I feel Quentin Tarantino could have made twenty-five years ago between “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” Pic right.

Most Overlooked Movie: “The Circle.” No movie this past year was more hated, but not by me. Sure, it’s no home run. Yet there’s a whole lot more food for thought going on here than in most commercial fare. Do people not understand the concept of deadpan science fiction?

Most Overrated: “mother!” with its hundred superficial metaphors. It has its sycophantic fans, although it should be said the film contains only about ten minutes of powerful filmmaking.

Biggest Disappointment: “Alien: Covenant.” Maybe the best directed shaggy dog story ever, since as well made as it is, it goes nowhere and enhances no depth on the franchise.

Best Performances in a Bad Movie: Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman do lots with very little to work with in the interminable “Song to Song.” They’re great even though the film, with its tendency to shift gears two hundred times, is an affront to storytelling cohesiveness.

Book of Henry _Bad Movies Year_2017 _Flick MinuteFunniest Awful Movie and Camp Classic: “The Book of Henry,” so awful it’s kind of funny. When a main character dies, it took me a few minutes to realize, “Oh, maybe that character died a few scenes ago for real, and I just didn’t believe the movie was actually doing that. You know, killing that character so arbitrarily.” I mentally caught up. Then my jaw dropped and stayed dropped for the remainder of its running time as it got onto its next business.

Worst Actress: Zoe Saldana in “Live By Night.” Runner-Up: Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell.”

Worst Actor: Michael Fassbender in “The Snowman.” Fassbender is the worst, really, yet somehow he is absolved for the blame should be pinned on the director for making him look bad. Runner-Up: (Four-Way Tie) Ben Affleck in “Live By Night,” Dane DeHaan in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” Pico Alexander in “Home Again,” Steve Coogan in “The Dinner.”

Worst Films of the Year

Snowman-2017_ Michael-Fassbender_Worst Movie of the YearDinner_2017_-Richard-Gere_-2017_ Worst-Movies

1. The Snowman – Contrived, incoherent and directed with diabolical insanity and preposterousness. Michael Fassbender under-acts until it becomes a case of overacting as a terminally depressed detective who stumbles through Norway in search of a killer who discombobulates and decapitates women. Making a sinister looking snowman is his exit calling card. I’m still trying to untangle the knots out of my brain after experiencing this dumbening hell.

2The Dinner – God knows we need more adult minded movies in a superhero saturated marketplace. However, the morality issues discussed around the dinner table was torturous to put up with and the flash forwards and flashbacks torturous to decipher. Career worsts by Richard Gere and Steve Coogan, and somebody has got to force director Oren Moverman to make a comedy for once as his penance.

3. CHIPS – Dax Shepard and Michael Pena (pathetic casting) are so obsessed with homoerotic panic that how can we not groan every five minutes. The rest? Doesn’t help that the action choreography is crude. Some truth: Kristen Bell has a funny scene as a swim instructor who gives an adult male a sexy swim lesson, but even that scene could have used some better camera coverage. Note: I have no full-length review of this one.

4. The Book of Henry – The stinker that, by strong rumor, led director Colin Trevorrow from being removed as director from the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. It’s a deliverance that had to happen.

5. Ghost in the Shell – It’s sci-fi hell on Earth dystopia that’s so muddled that it’s hell to watch. Scarlett Johansson as a half human / half machine with a little Japanese blood in her is supposed to be a satisfactory complement to the original anime. It’s just more badness on what is already a spurious concept that says nothing new about future shock technology.

6. Live By Night – Laughable Prohibition Era gangster epic (!) that’s only worth a look if you just got to see how awful an actor Ben Affleck is capable of being. Honest, I thought Affleck was great in “Gone Girl” so seeing this is an act of stark contrast. The lamest thing about his gangster heavy here is his Boy Scouts moral code.

7. It – Superficial concern for the pre-teen back stories. It’s really just an airheaded Freddy Krueger movie.

8. Atomic Blonde – There’s nothing wrong with Charlize Theron’s efforts. But this comic book set in East Berlin uses intricate framing structures and obtuse language to try to come off far more complex than the simple story it actually is. There is probably an accumulation of about three whole minutes of the movie that I actually enjoyed.

9. Baywatch – The definition of a way dumb time-killer. It’s hard to imagine a frat house on a hangover Sunday even having fun with this movie.

10. A Cure for Wellness – There are a dozen gorgeously rendered shots in this “Shutter Island” meets “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” rip-off (with ingredients of Alan Parker’s 1994 bomb “The Road to Wellville” mixed in), but it’s overall callous and replete with oppressive despair. And it’s got the always despondent Dane DeHaan you have to put up with.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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