Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Year In Movies: Shawn's Supersized Best List (PART TWO)

In case you are seeing this for the first time, here is the first half of this list.

Now, where was I?

14. Good Time
After the travesty that was the "Twilight Saga," I had zero hope for Kirsten Stewart or Robert Pattinson as performers. But as I said, the year 2017 was a year of cinematic surprise. Stewart redeemed herself with the magnificent "Personal Shopper." Pattinson has a great performer buried deep inside him, and now people know his name, I can tell he's starting to heat up. You can slightly see it in "Cosmopolis" and you can see it in "The Rover." But "Good Time," Pattinson has officially got himself out of any doghouse he put himself in. "Good Time" on the surface may feel like a typical crime movie. But the layers underneath it all is what makes it great. The way we feel guilt for our actions, the way we care for family, they way we throw ourselves in uncertainty and danger when protecting those we love...these are all delicately though eloquently highlighted in this neon hell of a movie.

13. Call Me By Your Name
I think there is a decent population of people who had a summer of love. When you meet a special someone and it grows to a fling, then that fling grows into something more serious. Then, before either of you know it, the summer is over and you go your separate ways. You may find out later that one of you has moved on and now has found love and courtship with someone else. We all have probably had at least one person in our lives where we wonder what would have happened, had we only acted on our feelings. Sadly, I think there are some who will overlook "Call me By Your Name," simply because the two individuals having very real romantic feelings happen to be two men. That's a shame, since the movie does an incredible job telling such a treatable, sincere and honest story that most people probably experienced at one point in their lives. Armie Hammer has never been better in this film, and Timothee Chalamet is so wonderfully innocent and creative that he remains one of the biggest discoveries this year.

12. The Square
When I first discovered Rueben Ostlund, I was watching his brilliant "Force Majeur." I missed its original release on in its given year, but I caught up with it on Netflix. "Force Majeur" is a darkly funny portrait of what happens when one freak, sudden decision can the people around you question the relationship they've had with you for years and years. It's richly debated and considered, and at the same time blisteringly funny. This year, Ostlund has outdone himself. "The Square" is easily one of the strangest, and at the same time, one of the most important movies I saw all year. The moment when Terry Notary shows up at a dinner, doing his thing, it's one of the most important scenes in any movie last year. "The Square" is a movie that challenges us to determine various pieces of art. What makes something a piece of art? Will everyone's art speak to everyone else in the world, and if not, is it still something that deserves to be in the world? We don't get too many movies critical about the process of creating art, and I've never seen one quite as weird as this. Oh, and its a masterpiece.

11. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
When a group of high profile actors come together, it can either be a recipe for success or one for disaster. Thankfully, this enriching drama about a mother hellbent on finding the persons responsible for raping and killing her daughter, and not caring who she has to upset or call out in the process of doing so. This movie shoots right for that primal place inside all of us, the need to get justice for our loved ones and to protect our families. Francis McDormant makes a big statement here, and Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklag and the many other talented actors who come by the state of Missouri made a huge impact in making such a great piece of work.

Now, the top ten of 2017. The cream of the crop. The movies I remember the most from the year, and the films that completely stole my heart.

10. The Charmer
The first film I saw at Chicago International Film Festival ended up being one of the films that made me relate to the world in a different way. What begins as a fairy funny drama quickly shifts into the unexpected in such a rousing, shocking way that it works. A story about an Iranian immigrant who must prove he's in a relationship in order to stay in Europe, on the eve of breaking up with his girlfriend, seems like perfect territory for a dramedy, and for awhile, that's essentially what "The Charmer" is. But when the film throws its twists at you, which it earns at every corner, by the way, and you reach the truth behind the characters, it highlights the blinding desperation immigrants feel to stay in the countries they move to. The film features the years most apocalyptic ending, and it is unrelenting in its message.

9. Mutafukaz
Out of the near 170 new releases I saw in 2017, it's "Mutafukaz" that was my favorite experience in a movie theater that I had all year. I had spent a long day in Chicago, seeing five movies in one day. It was getting damn close to midnight by the time I stumbled to my car to go home, and I felt like I had just been injected with an adrenaline shot. "Mutafukaz" tore the damn roof off the theater that night, and it was a movie that got your blood boiling, heart pumping, while "wooing" and high fiving the people you love the most. It's a French-Japanese anime based off a comic book from its country of origin. It's a little bit Scott Pilgrim, a little bit "They Live!" and oddly a little bit Pokemon, but always feeling original, like its a new breed of new wave. This is what cinematic punk rock looks like. I have no idea when this will get a wider release, but I hope the day comes soon, because this is drug that needs to be unleashed on the world.

8. Baby Driver
Its amazing looking at writer and director Edgar Wright's filmography, because what he's become increasingly good at is taking pieces of different genres and molding them into something of his own creation. Like he's forging someone's signature, but nobody in the whole world can figure it out, knowing they're being deceived. "Baby Driver" is a sugar rush for people who generally love movies, as it mixes action, adventure, crime, romance, comedy, drama and even musical into one delicious cocktail. Not only that, but Wright has always been able to pick the right actors for the characters he writes and highlighting each individual actors strengths. That's why it feels like Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Jon Bernthal are all at the top of their game here. And yes, I know it feels egregious to discuss Kevin Spacey right now, justifiably so, but there is a reason why so many of us are heartbroken. He proves here why he was considered one of the best of his generation, and that oily charm of his work shines through here.

7. The Disaster Artist
"The Disaster Artist" could have easily been a self-indulgent slap on the back to James Franco and all of his usual friends. Who else would have thought to bring to life the making of "The Room" and put themselves as the main actor to portray Tommy Wiseau, quite honestly the weirdest person to ever walk the earth. But somehow, not only is James Franco not merely doing an impersonation, which I think lots of actors are guilty of when bringing real people to the screen, no matter how talented they are. But Franco somehow made the best movie about America in 2017. This is a movie about people who are so dead-set on their goals that nothing else matters, about making what you want in this world, no matter who is at their side. It also has some sincere thoughts on friendship and how we all process art. We may think we are doing one thing, but when our audience gets ahold of it, then it could become something else, no matter our intentions. I would have never guessed to describe this movie as "clever" or "smart," but James Franco masterfully etches those descriptions with absolute glee.

6. A Ghost Story
Hats off to Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck for making us feel such a profound urge of complexity and urgency to each emotion presented in this underseen gem. This is a movie that damn near works as a silent film, but it speaks volumes about the human experience on this earth, and even gets somewhat philosophical without beating you over the head with metaphor and exposition. "A Ghost Story" is a movie that isn't going to be for everyone. Hell, when I saw it and ravved about it to whomever would listen, I got a lot of blank glares as I described this movie to them. Sadly, this isn't for everybody, but it certainly was for me. If you feeling adventurous, give this one a shot, you may be surprised.

5. Blade Runner 2049
Truly great sequels are a rarity, even in the 21st Century. There also seems to be a race to explain everything a predecessor didn't when sequel time comes around, even if its not progressive or organic storytelling. We have become a culture where every detail of every detail has to be overexplained in our popular culture. Every popular TV show has a few spin-offs. Every film franchise has an extended universe. Television are fusing shows that don't even go together because crossovers are so awesome right now. We are a culture that has also become obsessed with backstories and making everything make sense. I was expecting this franchise to lose all of its mystique with this sequel. Instead, I was surprised. It's a movie that features a bold step in a new direction. Its a movie that expands its story and its universe without explaining everything to the death. There are some big decisions made here, specifically based on what is explained and what isn't. We don't get sequels this good very often, so when something like this emerges, its enough to take my breath away.

4. Lady Bird
Growing up, there was an expectation of what my parents wanted me to be and the person I wanted to be. That seems to be staple norm in many households when kids reach adolescents and they edge closer and closer to adulthood. In "Lady Bird," Saoirse Ronan (who I knew years ago would transform into a beautiful, brilliant actress) and Laure Metcalf play a mother-daughter duo. They spend most of the movie acting like rabid animals as they attack and barraging each other over the littlest of circumstances. While navigating a senior of high school and getting in your first serious relationship, that can be lots for a teenager. "Lady Bird" was such a delicate flower, but packs such a huge punch.

3. Brigsby Bear
Kyle Mooney plays James, a boy who has lived underground ever since the Earth became uninhabitable. His only form of entertainment is a Muppet-Teletubbies style show called "Bigsby Bear" which he's been seemingly watching for quite awhile. He discusses the show with his parents, with the other lonely humans on the internet who watch the show, and its his prized posession. James' world gets turned upside down when he finds out the Earth is still habitable, and police come and tell him that his parents are actually two people who abducted him as a baby, and he is delivered back to his real family. He can't get "Brigsby Bear" out of his head, even given the circumstances, and he goes and finishes the story in the form of a movie. There seem to be lots of movies that deal with the making and importance of art in the world this year. And as we dive deeper in a world where people are afraid of what is different, and intolerant of what they don't agree with, movies like this are important. Something that seems stupid to one person may be the lifeline for someone else and we must always remember that when digesting art on a regular basis.

2. The Shape of Water
Guillermo Del Toro has always been one of my favorite voices in film. I like that no matter if he's making something like "The Devil's Backbone" or "Pan's Labrynth" or even "Pacific Rim" or "Hellboy," everything Del Toro makes comes from a very personal place. It's hard to make personal movies, especially in the realm of Hollywood. If you ever listen to Del Toro speak, he's almost defined by his misgivings over his achievements, which is why "The Shape of Water" matters. He is working from such a personal level here, that this movie could have failed miserably. Some could say that this is a modern "Beauty and The Beast" retelling with a Cold War backdrop, and honestly they wouldn't be wrong. But this is essentially a movie about how two misfits are slowly and lovingly drawn to each other, and its the most beautiful thing Del Toro has ever made. He has finally made his Opus Magnum.

1. The Florida Project
I haven't stopped thinking about this movie, and its been a few days since I've seen it. It is quite possibly the smallest film on this list. It's essentially plotless, and from the beginning to the end, not much really happens. But as I stated in my original review, writer and director Sean Baker does a very good job of highlighting a group of people who would never get a movie. Reading synopsis for this movie kind of breaks my heart, because it sets people up for a movie they aren't going to get. The synopsis' makes this feel like its some kind of Little Rascals riff, which couldn't be further from the truth. This is the day in the life of people who are just trying to get by, people making the most out of their situations even if those situations could crack and break at any moment. This is a movie about flawed individuals, instead of people considered as heroes or villains. So often, the marginalized are over-exaggerated in the movies, and Sean Baker dared to tell a story as it is, but with an emotional urgency that was hard to bare. "The Florida Project" absolutely destroyed me when I first saw it, but its a healthy, therapeutic pain, and it will be the movie I think about and return to the most from 2017.


It's been a great year, and seeing almost 170 new films this year, I think I gave it a good shot. I hope you enjoyed reading. Now, onto 2018!

The full list:

1. The Florida Project
2. The Shape of Water
3. Brigsby Bear
4. Lady Bird
5. Blade Runner 2049
6. A Ghost Story
7. The Disaster Artist
8. Baby Driver
9. Mutafukaz
10. The Charmer
11. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
12. The Square
13. Call Me By Your Name
14. Good Time
15. Dunkirk
16. War of the Planet of the Apes
17. The Big Sick
18. I, Tonya
19. Brad's Status
20. Raw
21. Mudbound
22. Logan
23. Sleight
24. Wind River
25. Split

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