BY NATHAN DUKE
Although I wouldn’t go as far as proclaiming 2017 a banner year for filmmaking, it ended up being a pretty decent one. My top three films were all ones from the heart—occasionally heartwarming, but just as often heartbreaking.
Five films in my list are likely to draw Academy Award nominations across a variety of categories.
Also, before I dive into the top 10, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a handful of other very good movies, which are my 10 runners up. These include Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, a comedic horror film with one of the year’s most potent political commentaries; Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, a gripping western posing as a murder mystery; Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, a heist comedy with more on its mind than you might initially expect; Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, a follow-up to The Last Detail that is a soulful meditation on aging and loss; James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, an exotic explorer movie that is mysterious and hypnotic; Steven Spielberg’s The Post, a riveting paean to the Fourth Estate in the age of the reprehensible phrase “fake news”; Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, a beautiful and bizarre fantasy about outsiders, a theme that weighs heavy in 2017; Dee Rees’ Mudbound, a powerful drama regarding race relations in post World War II Mississippi; Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson’s innovative second chapter in the new saga; and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a funny and surprisingly humane exploration of grief.
And, now, on to the top 10:
10. Okja—The latest from South Korea’s Bong Joon Ho tells the story of a gigantic pig and involves evil corporations, a lovely animal rights theme and the best use of John Denver in a movie.
9. Baby Driver—Director Edgar Wright moves beyond genre satire and delivers his most fulfilling picture to date—a high octane action thriller shot like a musical that proves that the director has a mastery of film form.
8. Dunkirk—His best film since Memento, Christopher Nolan’s chronicle of the titular battle is a lean and impressionistic war movie. Beautifully shot and choreographed, Dunkirk is rousing and terrifying.
7. Detroit—Kathryn Bigelow took some flak for directing such a punishing film that depicts horrific police brutality against African Americans. It’s a movie that pulls no punches and refuses to sanitize the horrors of racism.
6. Mother!—Possibly the year’s most misunderstood film, Darren Aronofsky’s latest is the most insane picture to be released by a major movie studio in years. It’s also the rare movie in which I’d advise viewers to know what it’s about before watching it—this leads to a richer viewing experience.
5. Personal Shopper—French director Olivier Assayas reteams with Kristen Stewart for a ghost story like no other—a thought provoking, rewarding and open ended rumination on grief and loneliness.
4. Phantom Thread— Daniel Day-Lewis goes out in style in Paul Thomas Anderson’s visually lush and meticulous tale of a man and his obsessions and the two women who willfully engage in a power struggle with him.
3. Call Me By Your Name— First love and heartbreak have rarely been as gorgeously rendered as in Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel. Timothee Chalamet gives a star-making performance, while Michael Stuhlbarg plays the dad of the year and gives a speech for the ages. Breathtaking and haunting.
2. Lady Bird— Representing the best actor-to-director transition in recent memory, Greta Gerwig’s lovely film isn’t just a warm, funny coming-of-age story, but also a great movie about child-parent relationships and an astute observer of human nature that makes me believe that the writer-director is wise beyond her years.
1. The Florida Project— Equally hilarious and heartbreaking, Sean Baker’s film takes a look at how the other half lives. Drawing remarkable performances from his pint-sized actors and Willem Dafoe, the film takes a neorealist approach to the story, that is, until the end when it breaks off into a flight of fancy that left the audience with whom I saw the film in tears. One of the best movies ever made about childhood.