25) JOHN WICK 2
It’s just a perfect action film. Paper-thin characters, orchestral mayhem, total disregard for realism, it never has a dull moment and totally commits to its premise.
24) BRIGSBY BEAR
Kyle Mooney does one thing well, awkward excitement, so he was smart to write to his strengths. There are so many opportunities for cheap slapstick in this one, but it lets the comedy emerge naturally from its SNL inspired concept. The Mark Hamill casting was genius.
23) GERALD’S GAME
I’ve been on a Stephen King book binge recently, but I went into this film with no knowledge of what it was about or the genre or anything. Now I’ve seen countless King adaptations, and I can honestly say this is one of the best, up there with Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile. Brilliantly acted, terrifying, unpredictable, and sports a scene that even as a horror nerd made me queasy. People are calling it the “de-gloving scene”…
22) GOOD TIME
Robert Pattinson is on fire this year, between this and the excellent Lost City of Z, he’s showing a range and commitment that is incredibly exciting to behold. Every year a bunch of these types of films come out, bank job gone wrong, criminal underbelly hijinks ensue. But Good Time, beyond sporting a killer soundtrack and gorgeous neon-infused cinematography, both anchors its narrative with some true emotional weight and is by far the most unpredictable film I saw all year. Pattinson is a survivor, and it’s exhilarating to watch him turn every incident into an opportunity. Its the modern day After Hours.
21) BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
S. Craig Zahler is easily one of favorite new directors on the scene. Between this and Bone Tomahawk, he films brutality so impassively, so matter-of-fact. Scenes that would have been multiple days of complex shooting he coldly shoots in a wide shot, giving it a grindhouse aesthetic. This is also the first film I’ve seen that utilizes all 6’5″ of Vince Vaughn to terrifying effect, I mean in the first 5 minutes he tears apart a car with his bare hands. Zahler’s next film is called Dragged Across Concrete, and if that title doesn’t give you all the Charles Bronson vibes, then…. it should.
Critics have been calling Split M. Night’s comeback, but I feel like he already did years ago with Wayward Pines and The Visit. I’m a sucker for a good premise, but it’s McAvoy’s fantastic performance that takes the story from camp to top-rate thriller. He consistently acts circles around his costars in his films, yet still I feel like he isn’t given the level of prestige owed him. I was really hoping for more personalities, but they must be holding onto a few for the sequel Glass. This is definitely one of the stranger shared universes, which makes me even more excited about its direction.
19) THE SHAPE OF WATER
It’s quite possible that this film should be much lower on the list, but the screening I went to had a Del Toro Q&A and more than 3 and less than 10 beers were consumed in anticipation, so really all I remember of this film is a blur of blue and music and hissing and heartbreak. I remember the feeling of the film more than the actual film itself, and I never wanted the feeling to end.
Did it live up to the hype? Yes and no.The scare factor wasn’t as high as I expected, but I feel like that was intentional, they were going for atmosphere and authenticity to the source material. The acting of the kids was universally fantastic, and Bill Skarsgard totally reinvented Curry’s version into something far more sinister. It’s also been long time since a horror film made such a splash, it’s the highest grossing horror film of all time, AND ITS ACTUALLY GOOD. It totally defies the fast-food horror model Blumhouse popularized and I truly hope other studios take similar risks now that they know the potential of larger budget, prestige horror.
17) THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
I’m conflicted about this one. One one hand a part of me feels that the reliance on shock value (Colin Farrell’s story, I mean come on) and ambiguity that Yorgos Lanthimos is often accused of is a bit more apparent with this film. The tragedy felt a bit too inevitable, but for all its flaws its effective when it wants to be and terrifyingly so. As fantastic as Kidman and Farrell are (both co-stared in The Beguiled this year as well), the film rests on Barry Keoghan and his performance is one of my favorites of the year. He goes from troubled youth to the fucking grim reaper in the blink of an eye, unbelievable stuff.
16) SUPER DARK TIMES
THIS is how I like my coming of age movies, it tackles childhood with a candor that never feels artificial. The film keeps you on your toes, blending genres effortlessly with it’s fly-on-the-wall cinematography. The lack of stakes has always bothered me with coming of age films, and this directorial debut definitely doesn’t skimp on that front. Owen Campbell’s performance is incredible, and I loved how this film acknowledged the nightmarish side of growing up, the mistakes and guilt that can grow to impact the rest of your adult life.
Raw is so good guys. Cannibalism as a metaphor for female puberty? Genius and somehow totally not silly in execution. For all its gore and video nastiness, this film is wicked smart, and Julia Ducournau proves that female horror directors are taking the genre by storm. I truly feel like Raw will grow in the community to be considered one of the best of the decade.
14) THE FLORIDA PROJECT
This film flies by, from the first frame you are just IN. The pastel colors, Florida skyline, Disney parks, chirping crickets, pure childhood magic all juxtaposed to some harsh poverty reality. The film always has the option to succumb to the grind of hustling, the anxiety of finding this weeks rent as CPS knocks on your hotel door, but to succumb to the environment is to also succumb to the beauty. The everyday beauty of things. I just watched this film and honestly after a few days I would probably place it much further down.
13) THE DISASTER ARTIST
As hilarious as this movie was, honestly Franco and crew had a pretty easy task. The actual character and story of Tommy Wiseau are so absurd that all the heavy lifting has already been done. Wiseau has already become the new Christopher Walken, impression-wise, and Franco nailed that bizarre confidence and Dracula-vibe. Total winner.
12) THOR: RAGNAROK
Just when I think I’m done with Marvel, Taika Waititi shows up to bat. Miles funnier than Guardians, Waititi lets improve reign as he mixes Jack Kirby with heavy metal, and just when you think it can’t get any better Jeff Goldblum shows up in a dress and gold eyeliner.
11) GET OUT
Get Out is a film of details. Jordan Peele spent years developing it, and it shows after multiple viewings. The cotton in the chair, the black SUV’s at the party, everything has a purpose. 0 fat filmmaking. I’ve seen this film more times than any other on this list, and the more I watch it the more I appreciate Daniel Kaluuya’s performance. Its his eyes, how he does one thing but his eyes never lie, always observing and assessing his situation. Peele said that now he wants to do a series of socially relevant horror films, and honestly he might have shot himself in the foot because its unlikely he will ever make a film so perfect. I truly hope I’m proven wrong.
Let’s be real, Zodiac was like 3 hours long, and as far as I’m concerned Mindhunter is just the sequel. What I love most about it is how it defies the normal serial killer genre, there are no thrilling chase sequences or last-minute reveals, its really just people in rooms, occasionally cars, talking. And it’s fascinating. It doesn’t treat you like an ADHD kid, it takes its time to slowly sink into your subconscious, equal parts informative and unnerving. Cameron Britton’s performance as Edmund Kemper is up there with Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal, you grow to kinda like the guy right up to the point when he grabs your neck.
9) I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE
I love films that are hard to describe, genre-wise. I also love films that can surprise. This film does both brilliantly. There is a laziness to the proceedings that ties the absurd plot together, that acknowledges the absurdity of life as observed by Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood. Netflix is still figuring out its films, but this one was a total unexpected delight and one of the best surprises of the year for me.
8) A CURE FOR WELLNESS
THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. A hard R, totally original, gorgeously filmed anxiety nightmare with fantastic set design and score. Sure its not perfect, its definitely too long. I don’t know, maybe its film that only appeals to a select few, but I’m one of em and I couldn’t get enough. I’m sure the budget was a risk, and the more I think about it I can’t believe it got made at all. All I know is I’m glad it exists and I treasured every eel slurping moment of it.
7) 3 BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
There are a ton of coincidences in this film. Almost every plot point is a result of coincidence, but if you can get past that you’ll be rewarded with one of the best written/acted films of the year. It’s rare to get a “made for the role” performance in your film, but Martin McDonagh manages to snatch two with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. I’m sure McDormand will be an Oscar frontrunner, and rightfully so (I LOVE that woman) but its Rockwell’s performance that over time has stuck with me the most. I don’t want to spoil the viewing experience, but his arc is truly something to behold, and I recently learned that his character was actually written for him, which makes sense. Its a showy film, it has moments that had me rolling my eyes but it always found a way to violently pull me right back. I can’t wait to watch it again.
It’s such a shame that every superhero movie isn’t a Logan. And really they could be, because at its core Logan isn’t really all that special, it just seems like it is in contrast. Most superhero films start with the spectacle, the action scenes and fan fare and then work backwards, haphazardly adding character development and themes until it resembles a movie. Logan does the opposite, all the superhero trappings are in service of the story, this heartbreaking road trip about family, guilt, regret, and most importantly death. Every moment is earned, and the film brilliant uses its 15 years of prequels to make every character moment hit hard, because we know Logan. We know Charles Xavier. The bar has officially been set,and now to wait for Disney to fuck it up.
So I figured out the way to think of Mother!. Instead of saying, “It’s a Polanski-esque fever dream… but its really all about the bible!” you say, “Its just a adaptation of the genesis story… buuuuut as a Polanski-esque fever dream.” Somehow flipping it makes it sound more appealing. There are only 4 types of shots used in the film, and the behind the scenes of the production is fascinating. Aronofsky wrote it in a week, then spent months rehearsing it with the actors in a studio, daily reworking it as he tried to make sense of what was initially in his head. Once you “get it” the film can come off as heavy handed (because it is) but it does sport one of the best visual depictions of a waking nightmare ever committed to film, and is so unabashedly different that I loved it. I also found it to be hilarious, which may or may not have been intentional but it totally worked for me. Also, Michelle Pheiffer… she’s worth the price of admission alone. Meow.
4) A GHOST STORY
Either you will love this movie or it will put you to sleep, I don’t see there being any in-between territory. A24 is one of the most exciting studios, and when I saw the first poster and that they were attached I was immediately excited. What’s so great is that beyond a scene or two this film could be made for nothing, its conceptual and uses purely visual storytelling. David Lowery’s filmography has such a delicate touch throughout, even his attempt at Pete’s Dragon was too arthouse for mainstream. Its a tender, heartbreaking film in ways I never could have expected, and haunted me for days after viewing. #piescene
NOTATION: Per usual the last 3 on the list are all pretty equal in my mind and the order is pretty random. END OF NOTATION
2) T2 TRAINSPOTTING
How this film was even made is beyond me. Almost 20 years later to the day, Danny Boyle resurrects what is now considered a classic and brings back the entire cast and screenwriter, even the surviving technical crew from before and creates what I believe to a perfect sequel. While still capturing the original tone, T2 looks back on its manic, drug fueled prequel with wiser eyes, observing the selfishness of youth from behind glass. Sure the gangs back together, but whats so brilliant about the film is how it invites you, the audience to also reflect on who you were when you watched the orignial Trainspotting, what was important to you at the time and just how full of shit you were. This film seemed to come and go without much press or hype, but for me it was a highlight of the year and something truly special. (My favorite trailer this year too)
2) BLADE RUNNER 2049
I knew I was gonna love this film 13 seconds into it. The credits role, the score begins sinister and abrasive, and the Columbia logo appears, glitches, and the lighting on the Columbia woman switches to a back light making her appear as a specter. And so it goes with the rest of the film, Villeneuve and Deakins crafting a specific visual palette that puts most films ever made to shame, and I truly mean that. There is a scene (I’ll just call it the threesome scene but that’s not totally accurate) that by the end I realized my mouth had been comically open for God knows how long. (The only other scene this year to do that for me was the hyperdrive scene in Last Jedi) For me Jared Leto was the weak link, his character just didn’t work and dragged the film a bit, but the rest of the film is sci-fi majesty and with so much to unpack this is a film that will be discussed and studied for years. (Loved the scene where Gosling watches a hologram of Sinatra singing One for my Baby in Vegas)
1) CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Luca Guadagnino is what I would call a 5 sense director. His approach is holistic, when you watch one of his films you can taste, smell, and touch them. I loved how in this film two of the characters study art and sculpture because that is how he treats bodies, he conducts them like music, composes them effortlessly in frame. All the performances are career best, and for all the praise that Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer have garnered it was Michael Stuhlbarg that blew me away. He has a monologue at the end that is just… its just one of the greatest scenes I’ve seen in years. Between this and The Shape of Water, I hereby dub 2017 the year of the Stuhlbard.
This film could have easily gone the route of “forbidden love that eventually gets found out and shaaaaaaaaame” that I’ve seen a million times in LGBT cinema, but Call Me By Your Name smartly focuses and explores the summer romance without “hollywood” distractions. I kinda wonder if these people have ever actually existed, summering in northern Italy, biking through ruins and sun-soaked villas, stopping to swim in mountain creeks while discussing art. Its an almost fetishized classical romantism, oh and did I mention that Sufjan Stevens both made and rearanged new music for the film? Seriously, check it out here. (This one bring me to tears) This film overwhelmed me, and his next film A REMAKE OF SUSPIRIA WITH TILDA SWINTON… is going to hopefully change the horror game in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. Bravo good sir.
Films that Almost Made the List: Okja, Wonder Woman, The Meyerowitz Stories, Dunkirk, The Lost City of Z, It Comes at Night, The Last Jedi (high highs but low lows), War for the Planet of the Apes, Lego Batman Movie, Your Name, I, Tonya, Dean,
Overrated Films: Lady Bird, Colossal (sometimes genre blending is a hot mess)
Films I Hated: Wish Upon, Little Evil, Bye Bye Man, Rings, Snatched, Temple, Killing Gunther
Unseen Films that Could’ve Made the List: Phantom Thread (obviously), The Big Sick, You Were Never Really Here (Really wanted to see this one), Wind River, Logan Lucky, The Square, Mudbound, The Endless
Best Horror Films: Annabelle Creation, The Void, Creep 2
Delightful Oddities: Dave Made a Maze, The Lure, The Babysitter, Bright, Bad Batch
Disappointing Films: The Beguiled, Murder on the Orient Express, The Belko Experiment, The Dark Tower
Underrated/Not the Bad: Ghost in the Shell, Alien Covenant, Kong Skull Island, The Founder
Guilty Pleasures: The Mummy, The Great Wall, King Arthur, Happy Death Day, Justice League
Films That I Feel like I was Supposed to Like: Baby Driver, Valerian, Free Fire
Tired Shock Value: Kingsman The Golden Circle
Boring Films: War Machine
Film I keep Trying to Finish but Keep Falling Asleep: The Snowman