The Year In Review: The Top 10 Films of 2017
The Leftover Pizza in the Fridge Award (goes to the year’s most pleasant surprise)
Happy Death Day
The general pitch of Happy Death Day is 'Like Groundhog Day but aimed at teen girls.' As a PG-13 horror comedy based on an exhausted premise, the odds of it being good seemed incredibly low. But it is good! Really. Happy Death Day's secret weapon is an excellently told mystery at its core.
It takes what is a familiar film premise (a character who relives the same day over and over again) and uses to masterfully tease out information at the perfect pace, so you're always two steps behind. The reveal at the end is both surprising and completely fair. If you like mysteries and comedies, ignore your initial judgments and give Happy Death Day a try.
The Expired Can Of Tuna Award (goes to the film you saw and already forgot existed)
Generic title, generic movie. Life is the Jake Gyllenhaal led survivor-horror film that came out in May of 2017. As a complete rehash of Alien and hundreds of movies like it, it's hard to imagine a more disposable film.
The Gigli Memorial Award (goes to the worst film of 2017)
Bad Moms Christmas
If the goal of Bad Moms Christmas was to retroactively make the first Bad Moms look like a masterpiece, it has succeeded. If it was attempting to do anything else, it failed.
The writing is so lazy, even Rob Schneider would be ashamed. It's a comedy filled with unlikable, unredeemable characters and non-jokes. At about twenty different times in the movie, the punchline is that an unlikely character curses. And those are essentially the only jokes in the movie. It's hard to imagine a less funny, less likable, less entertaining movie than this one. An an all-time stinker.
TOP 10 FILMS OF 2017
Honorable Mentions: Stronger, Marjorie Prime, Happy Death Day, Loving Vincent.
10. Lady Bird: Lady Bird is a charmer. And while it doesn't exactly break new ground—almost every single plot point has been done before in movies and television shows about teens—it's so funny, likable, and well-acted, you won't hold it against it.
9. A Ghost Story: A Ghost Story is undoubtedly one of the most pretentious movies I've ever seen. But it's also one of the most memorable. And pretentious doesn't always mean bad. The story of a man who dies and then sticks around afterwards as a ghost (represented by a white bed sheet with holes in it), this is a film that really goes for it. While this movie is most famous for it's 5 minute scene of a character eating a pie—and literally doing nothing else—you'd be misled to think that the film is wasting your time. A very slow beginning is rewarded by an incredibly tripping second half of the film that goes places few other films are ambitious enough to try.
8. Baby Driver: Baby Driver is a blast to watch. But while I loved it when I watched it, I've found that very little of the movie has stayed with me. It's an impossible airy exercise in style and panache. But few movies that are all style and no substance are this stylish or this fun to watch.
7. Coco: If you were starting to lose faith in Pixar after the seemingly never-ending barrage of horrible Cars movies, Coco is just the remedy the doctor ordered.
The level of detail in every crevice of this film—both in animation and in the story—is astounding. It makes my head hurt thinking about how much work went into this film.
Pixar's very finest films feel equally well-suited for adults and children, and Coco doesn't quite reach those heights. You can tell that the plot is crafted with children in mind, providing hints about key reveals that will be subtle to children but painstakingly obvious to adults. And there's a comical dog sidekick that reeks of classic kid's movie story-telling. But that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty to enjoy as an adult viewer. Coco is a treat from beginning to end.
6. I, Tonya: I, Tonya is not content with being a simple biopic to its credit and to its detriment. Director Craig Gillespie essentially takes a famous real-life story and turns it into a postmodern dark comedy. This creates some tonal issues—its treats serious issues like domestic abuse with an irreverent touch that will surely be off-putting to many—but it mostly succeeds in making a familiar story feel timely, fresh, and relevant.
It doesn't hurt that Margot Robbie delivers the best performance of the year as the title character.
5. Raw: Although it's been billed as horror movie—and as a film about a young veterinarian student who develops a taste for human flesh, it's easy to see why—the french import Raw is really a comedy at its core. It excels by taking its concept and using it to bring fresh life to classic, well-tread observations. You've probably seen movies about siblings with a contentious relationship, but have you ever seen one where this love-hate relationship culminates in one sister eating the other sister's love interest because she's jealous?
If that description sounds up your alley, Raw is probably for you. If it doesn't, stay far, far away.
4. The Disaster Artist: When the Disaster Artist works, it provides an unmatched level of jubilance and pure joy. It's a delightfully bizarro take on the American dream, with the most unusual dreamer imaginable—Tommy Wiseau. James Franco does a nearly impossible task of making Tommy feel like a real, sympathetic person, which is no small feat, considering that the actual Tommy Wiseau barely seems like a real person.
It's not a perfect film though. The film is let down by its simplistic, naive depiction of its lead, Greg—both the role and the performance feel hollow, and not entirely truthful. Because the film uses Greg Sestero's autobiography as its source material, he gets an incredibly charitable portrayal, one that feels insincere and suspiciously uncomplicated.
But the moments with Tommy are so incredible, and the story is so good, the movie still delivers incredible highs.
3. Big Sick: Most comedies rely on escalation. The characters may resemble people we know in real life, but their behavior—actions, dialogue, decisions—are heightened to extreme levels. If any real people acted the way most characters do in just about any comedy, they'd be labeled as psychopaths and probably arrested. The characters in Big Sick are funny and charming, but they're funny in ways that are grounded in reality and believable for their characters—and in the ways the various people in your life are likable and funny.
It's this grounding in real, likable characters and intense attention to detail that make The Big Sick so terrific. Even better, it has an interesting story to tell and an uncommon perspective. What else could you ask for?
2. Get Out: I'll be flabbergasted if Get Out isn't the most remembered film of 2017 twenty years from now. If Get Out had nothing to say, it'd still be a genre classic—a masterfully plotted thriller that's tense, surprising, and shocking in all the right moments. Combine that with its social relevance and you have a film that'll probably be taught in college classes for the foreseeable future.
1. Phantom Thread: One of the most unusual 'romantic comedies' you'll ever see, Phantom Thread is strange, funny, and hypnotizing in equal measures. My problem with a lot of romances is that the audience is often miles ahead of the characters. It's transparently easy to see how a relationship will play out, we're just waiting for the pieces to fall into position. Phantom Thread is the complete opposite of this. The two leads have a remarkably peculiar and complex relationship, and the film is waiting for us to catch up—the climactic scene involving some dodgy mushrooms and the two lovers eventually gets us up to speed.
All that and some all-time classic quotable lines to boot. Feel free to use "Are you a secret agent sent here to ruin my evening?" the next time a friend or family member annoys you.