So long, 2017. Don’t let the door hit you. It was a good year for movies and not much else. Movies weren’t an escape; they were a mass exodus from terrible news, lately about Hollywood itself. Yet many of the best movies showed what we were dodging, entertaining parables of oppression and misfortune. Or else they demonstrated the resiliency pulling us through tough times. At least that’s my thinking about 2017’s finest films. Yours is just as valid. After such a contentious year, I don’t want to argue about it. Happier 2018.
The Shape of Water
An erotic fairy tale with horror the Grimms never dreamed of. Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War fantasy is an emotional and technical marvel, from Sally Hawkins’ nearly wordless performance to the best monster suit ever. Michael Shannon’s sadist is the year’s top villain, a "man of the future" and the future is now.
The Florida Project
The simplest production on this list, held closest to my heart. Sean Baker’s peek at poverty through the eyes of children living in discount hotels near Disney World is a very funny, incredibly warm tale of what amounts to child endangerment. The ending gets me every time.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A pungently overwritten revenge saga featuring three of the year’s top performances: Frances McDormand as a mother wanting answers, Woody Harrelson as a police chief not providing them and Sam Rockwell as a dim, dangerous deputy standing his ground.
Christopher Nolan’s clockwork retelling of a crucial World War II evacuation told from land, sea and air in three separate time frames. Hans Zimmer’s tick-tick-tick musical score adds to tension Nolan has already secured. The most technically proficient movie of the year.
Call Me By Your Name
Remember this name: Timothée Chalamet. His portrayal of a teenager attracted to an older man (Armie Hammer) in sun-dappled Italy may win an Oscar. Luca Guadagnino’s elegant direction of James Ivory’s screenplay results in the year’s swooniest romance. Opens locally Jan. 19.
I’ll confess to initially underestimating Jordan Peele’s subtly savage satire of racial appropriation. Probably because I’m white, which is clearly Peele’s point. Get Out is an eye-opener equaling Do the Right Thing in expressing a contemporary black experience amid white privilege. Plus it’s funnier.
Margot Robbie delivers a triple axel portrayal of rough character/world class ice skater Tonya Harding. Nancy Kerrigan’s knee-capping is just a blip in Harding’s hardscrabble odyssey from Olympic hopeful to America’s punchline. Allison Janney as her venomous mother is superb. Opens locally Jan. 5.
Style is the substance of Edgar Wright’s heist flick, synching music with getaway mayhem to literally turn the genre on its ear. "… a movie so full-throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen," my review declared, along with the promise of a slot here. Boom.
War for the Planet of the Apes
When practically each weekend brings a new blockbuster, cherish those with intelligence matching the special effects. Matt Reeves wraps up the finest trilogy in years with Shakespearean drama, poetic justice and Andy Serkis’ astonishing motion capture performance as apes savior Caesar.
The Greatest Showman/Logan
Okay, I’m cheating but two Hugh Jackmans are too much to resist. He’s a singing, dancing dynamo as P.T. Barnum and a brooding kettle of violent regret as Wolverine. Both movies are sterling examples of their genre, each performance thrilling in wildly different ways.
Honorable mentions: Battle of the Sexes; The Big Sick; A Ghost Story; Good Time; Lady Bird; Okja; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Stronger; Wonder Woman.
UPCOMING RELEASES (Dates subject to change)
Jan. 5: I, Tonya, Insidious: The Last Key
Jan. 12: The Post; Phantom Thread; The Commuter; Proud Mary; Paddington 2
Jan. 19: Call Me By Your Name; Hostiles; 12 Strong
Jan. 26: White Boy Rick; Maze Runner: The Death Cure