The phones have been ringing off the hook. People have taken to the streets to demand it. I found a guy going through my garbage, hoping to find a clue to its contents.
Yes, it’s my top 10 of 2017.
It arrives with a major caveat: I saw fewer movies than ever this year, especially smaller indies that don’t play/play quickly in LA. I didn’t see A Ghost Story, which looks like it was tailor-made for me. That said, these ten films are great, and most of them could have been #1 in another year.
10) Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’m biased, because Spidey is my favorite superhero and this is the best version of Spidey we have ever had. But beyond that Homecoming is a fresh and fun film that opens the walls on the superhero genre in much the same way that Guardians of the Galaxy did, but in a different direction. Where Guardians took superheroes out into space opera, Homecoming brings them into the halls of high school. I truly loved this movie.
9) Raw. I saw this in 2016, but it was released in the US in 2017, and it’s fucking phenomenal and I didn’t do a 2016 list so there. Julia Ducournau’s feature debut is not just a great horror movie, it’s also a great coming of age movie and also a beautifully made movie that mixes sensuality with raw violence. The carnal metaphor at the center of it all is chewy and the ending is absolutely brilliant. How great is it that we live in an era when horror movies can be impressive gory genre pieces AND art films?
8) Get Out. Another horror movie! This time the movie is a bit more conventional in style, but exciting in theme and meaning. A throwback to old school social issue horror, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut adroitly balances tension and humor, creating a movie that had audiences laughing while looking at the screen through their fingers. A terrific achievement.
7) Good Time. The single most underrated movie of 2017, Benny and Joshua Safdie’s hectic indie crime tale is a low-key masterpiece. Not only is this a great, all-time New York movie, it’s a movie with the first truly worthy performance from Robert Pattinson, who has spent the last couple of years trying to get to this place. Holy shit, has he arrived. And because the world is unfair Benny Safdie will not get an Oscar nomination for his absolutely perfect, utterly convincing portrayal of Pattinson’s mentally handicapped, hearing impaired brother.
6) The Big Sick. Caveat: I know the people this movie is about. That said, even if I had never met Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon this film would have swept me off my feet. An unconventional love story that walks the line of being a weepie but stays firmly in a lovely and honest and most of all FUNNY place, The Big Sick is a marvel. I’m no Ray Romano guy, but wow did he knock me out here. I AM a big Holly Hunter guy, and she reminded me why that is. And Kumail proved that he has leading man chops, and that he can be more than the funny sidekick.
5) The Florida Project. Sean Baker’s the most exciting low budget filmmaker working today, and maybe in decades. His last few films – Starlet, Tangerine – have been splendid works of joy and sorrow, but The Florida Project is just next level stuff. It’s The 400 Blows by way of Little Rascals, a Hal Roach take on The Bicycle Thieves, and it’s all heart and humanity. Working with mostly non-pro actors, Baker is able to capture truth, but never at the expense of beauty – this is one of the most incredibly gorgeous films of the year.
4) Call Me By Your Name. Wait, another gorgeous lower budget movie! Indie filmmakers, you don’t have to shoot your movies like you’re unaware of how cameras work. Call Me By Your Name is hopefully the first in a wave of movies that take back the gay love story, removing it from the realm of tragedy, taking it away from stories where characters tragically pay for their gayness through AIDS or homophobia. A lively, sensual movie, Call Me By Your Name has two American travellers falling in love in Northern Italy and navigating their confusing and difficult feelings for each other and themselves. Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet are god-level, and director Luca Guadagnino makes his camera dance as it soaks in the gorgeous Italian scenery and the gorgeous leads.
3) Phantom Thread. The less I say about the latest PTA the better, as it hasn’t been released in most of the country yet. Swooningly shot, Phantom Thread is more than you think it is – funny, dark, sweet and perverse, this movie is one of the most surprising works of the year. And it’s a great film for Daniel Day-Lewis to retire on, as he doesn’t play a big character like Bill the Butcher or Daniel Plainview, but rather a more human-sized character… who happens to be a genius and then some. But the real star? Vicky Krieps as DDL’s lover, muse and mother figure. She is mind-blowing here, and I hope this begins a great career that doesn’t end in a Mission: Impossible sequel.
2) Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson made Star Warsrelevant again. The best in the series since Empire, maybe even better in some ways, The Last Jedi has all the fun and thrills you want from a Star War, but it also understands that if these films are to be modern myths they have to tackle some heavy shit at some point. They can’t all be candy cane nostalgia trips; Johnson trusts the spine of Star Wars can support his heavy thematic weight, and he’s right, and the entire universe is richer for it.
1) mother!. Not just the best film of the year, mother! is perhaps one of the best films of the millennium. People may not see that now, but they will eventually. It’s certainly the most ambitious – a retelling of the history of man, from a Biblical perspective, all set within the confines of one house. It starts as a thriller and it turns into a true horror show; the last act of this film is so intense and abusive that it gave me a headache in theaters. But it also made my soul sing and my brain do backflips as I worked through Darren Aronofsky’s tricky and dextrous mingling of metaphors as he compares the artist to God and God to an asshole and all of this to a big, self-centered mistake that keeps getting made again and again. Brilliant, next level stuff that you can’t believe came from the same studio that made Transformers: The Last Knight.