The Lists #35 by Brett Pribble
The Top 10 Films of 2017
Lists that rank the best films of the year are inherently subjective and often lead to argument. But hearing other people’s opinions can also lead us to check out things we might not have or think about a film in a way we previously didn’t. That being said, here is my list of the ten best films of 2017. If you’re interested in reading my list of the top films from 2015, click here.
10. Get Out
This movie would be at the top of its class if it was nothing more than a horror movie. It’s well-acted, well-directed, and well-written. It doesn’t stick to predictable genre formulas, and director Jordan Peele creates a creepy as hell atmosphere. What really elevates it, though, is its take on race. Normally, you’d have to see a conventional drama for insights on racism, but Peele manages to do both in a very bold movie. It’s a must-see for horror movie fans, and it’s worth watching even if horror movies aren’t you’re thing.
9. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
All Ruth wants is for people to not be assholes. After her dead granny’s silverware is stolen from her apartment, she goes on a quest for justice… or just for people to be nicer. She’s lost faith in humanity, as many of us have with each news cycle bringing a worse story than the last. Focusing on our indifference to the horrible ways we treat one another, this black comedy is reminiscent of a ‘90s Coen Brothers film. If Ruth weren’t so sweet and headstrong, I may even call her nihilistic (in a good way). After she enlists the help of her nunchuck-wielding neighbor (Elijah Wood), the adventure gets more and more gruesome while still hitting the right dark comedic notes. Also, I should mention this is a Netflix original film that’s currently streaming.
8. The Shape of Water
When watching Free Willy, did you ever wonder, how much better would this movie be if it opened with a woman masturbating in a bathtub? And then later, what if she fucked Willy? Well, now we know the answer. And the answer is a lot, like a thousand times better. The Shape of Water contains more raw creativity than anything else you’ll see in 2017. Aquatic blue cinematography illuminates the struggle between the kindest of protagonists, a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) tap dancing to romance and cinema, and Michael Shannon burning out his most deliciously sinister performance since the first season of Board Walk Empire. This movie has it all and is a can’t miss for cinephiles.
7. The Beguiled
No filmmaker captures the intimacy of female characters in isolated places like Sophia Coppola. Whether it’s the walled off home of the girls in The Virgin Suicides, the lonely isolation of Lost in Translation, or the lush social circles of Versailles in Marie Antoinette. In The Beguiled, Coppola brings us into the hidden world of a southern girls’ boarding school during the Civil War. After one of the girls discovers a wounded union soldier, the women must decide whether to turn him in to the confederate army or tend to his wounds. It’s based on the 1966 novel by Thomas P. Cullinan, which was first adapted to the screen as a Clint Eastwood film in 1971. Unlike the Eastwood picture, this film is told from perspective of the women, and the war is in background. Rather than being stereotypes, the lives of these women are nuanced, and the surrounding landscape and candle light conversations are—like everything in Coppola’s films—sumptuous.
6. The Big Sick
The Bick Sick is a romantic dramedy based heavily on the real life love story of writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Kumail plays himself and actress Zoe Kazan does a terrific job portraying Emily. For a movie that keeps the laughs coming, it delves into some heavy territory: interracial dating, culture clashes, the importance of family, and finding strength during a medical emergency. The film even manages to provide a hysterical joke while touching on racism against easterners after 9/11. It’s one of those films you’ll find yourself watching again and again because it’s lighthearted enough to make you forget your problems and deep enough to leave you with a sense of fulfillment.
If only all comic book movies could be half this good. Logan is more of a western than a comic book movie, and it’s a damn good western at that. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career as Logan/Wolverine, and Daphne Keen dazzles as a mysterious young mutant named Laura. In the final incarnation of Jackman’s portrayal of the character, we find Logan as a shell of his former self existing in a post-superhero world. His life now consists of caring for his former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and driving around drunken assholes in a limousine. He’s forced to choose between taking care of Charles, who is stricken with Alzheimer’s, and rescuing Laura from a nefarious task force hunting her down for reasons unknown to him. As you watch Logan make difficult choices along the way, prepare for the heartbreak that comes with them.
4. Call Me By Your Name
Ever wish you grew up in the Italian countryside? Well, you will after you watch this gorgeous movie, which probably couldn’t have been made by an American director. The film begins at the home of a young boy named Elio (Timothée Chalamet), and the arrival of an Adonis-like man named Oliver (Armie Hammer), who arrived for an apprenticeship with Elio’s father. The relationship between the two evolves throughout the movie in a truly genuine and touching fashion. The film culminates in a scene with Elio and his father, reflecting on everything we just watched transpire, perhaps challenging our perceptions of love.
3. The Florida Project
If this list was simply the saddest ten movies of the year, The Florida Project would be number one. This hard-hitting film takes place in a part of Orlando that Disney would prefer you not know about. It follows a single mother (Bria Vinaite) raising her daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) in destitution, alongside tourist traps and cheap motels, struggling to make the weekly rent. They live in a hotel called The Magic Palace, run by manager with heart (William Dafoe giving an understated performance that rings true). While her mother suffers to pay the bills, Moonee plays with children of other parents living the surrounding motels. Moonee’s adventures capture the awe and wonderment of childhood, as she isn’t fully aware of her situation. The Florida Project punches you in the stomach and kicks while you’re down without ever being didactic or preachy. It just immerses you in the lives of its characters and lets the reality that so many in poverty are forgotten send tears spilling down your face.
2. Lady Macbeth
In a year celebrating female protagonists, the film with the most complex of these was missed by the awards watchers. Katherine (Florence Pugh) brings the sky crashing down on the heads of her oppressors in a reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic. The story takes liberties in details and timeline of the original but brilliantly captures the cunning resourcefulness of the character, while providing her room for sympathy. It’s rare that multiple masterpieces come out in a single year, but 2017 had two of them, and Lady Macbeth is a masterpiece.
1. Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson may be the greatest filmmaker of his generation, and Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor on the planet. We last saw their talents combined in 2007’s There Will Be Blood, and Phantom Thread proves their compatibility was no fluke. Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a renowned fashion designer in 1950s London. Mr. Woodcock has many eccentric qualities, not the least of which is his impression that he is meant to be a life-long bachelor. The man who specializes in making alterations in fashion takes no pleasure in alterations to his routine-driven life. All of his perceptions are challenged by a new romance with young woman named Alma (Vicky Krieps), who delivers a brilliant performance in her own right. Their puzzling interactions illustrate the strangeness of attraction and deconstruct our preconceived notions of compatibility.
Brett Pribble (Episode 122) is the editor-in-chief of Ghost Parachute and is on the board of directors of the Kerouac Project writer in residence program. His work has appeared in such places as Stirring: A Literary Collection, Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, Crack the Spine, and The Airgonaut. Follow him on Twitter @brettpribble.