Favorite Films of 2017… So Far

Colossal is an underrated indie sci fi film from April.

It’s halfway through 2017, which means that the “best of so far…” lists are cropping up like weeds online. It may seem like a silly practice, but I like the opportunity to take stock and see which films deserve a second watch.

Before I jump to the films from 2017 that I like most so far, I’ll quickly mention two 2016 darlings that I just so happened to watch in 2017.

I encourage everyone to seek out Toni Erdmann. The three hour German farce was a subversive treat for my American brain. It’s frequently hilarious and/or cringe-inducing beyond measure. The hype is real.

I also fell hard for Mike Mill’s pseudo-memoir 20th Century Women. It’s a delightful coming-of-age film that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but has the bright characters and stunning sense of place to be a memorable entry in the crowded genre.

Now, the 2017 list. I chose not to rank my films, but simply present them in chronological order of release.

January

Nada. Not a good month for movies.

February

Get Out

Not the absolute best movie of the year, but probably my favorite. And I’m not alone: Get Out’s $175 million domestic gross is a stunning testament to the power of original horror storytelling. Director Jordan Peele spins a hugely crowd-pleasing film despite the potentially unpleasant thematic focus on racism and white envy.

Instead, the buzzy nature of the film’s conflict plus the stellar filmmaking serves up a winning dose of catharsis.

Get Out was the horror film America needed in early 2017.

The Lego Batman Movie

The weak third act not withstanding, this film is a very good spin off that benefits from a breezy tone. It’s got the joke a minute delivery that Warner Brothers Animation has made their brand. It takes committed vocal performances from the likes of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, and Zach Galifianakis to pull off the “everything goes” style of humor, and they do so with ease.

Personally, I found the hectic visual style a little easier to parse this time around than with The Lego Movie. I suspect subsequent viewings will help the film inch closer to classic than just solid. As it stands, I remember it as a good time at the theater.

March

Logan

I had the privilege to watch Logan twice in theaters. Two views helped solidify how unique and exciting Logan is for the super-hero genre and big budget filmmaking in general.

The super depressing, post-apocalyptic neo-Western transcends its host of influences (Shane, cough) to actually make a challenging piece of art. It’s usually a load of hot air when we hear a superhero film “subverts” or “deconstructs” the genre; not the case with Logan.

The film may make obvious connections between Christianity, corporate greed, immigration issues, etc. but it does so with conviction. This isn’t a surface level depiction of Wolverine as Jesus; it’s The Passion of Wolverine.

April

Colossal

Colossal is a rare high concept movie that doesn’t fall to pieces in the second half. It details the strange connection between an alcoholic writer (Anne Hathaway) and a Godzilla-esque monster destroying Seoul, South Korea across the globe. Other than that, I’ll keep my mouth shut. Why ruin the surprise?

In addition to the film’s solid performances — Hathaway and Sudeikis make fine convo partners — the movie spins two different but interlocking metaphors from it’s imagery. That helps the film maintain some unpredictability and keeps the ending from disappointment.

If you go for “quirky Sundance” flicks or feel like good sci-fi is hard to find, Colossal is the film for you.

May

May officially marks the start of the summer movie season. I like blockbusters and studio comedies as much as the next nerd, but May was underwhelming. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. had its moments and Alien: Covenant was one of the weirder big budget films in recent memory. Still, I have nothing to recommend.

June

Wonder Woman

Do I need to explain why Wonder Woman is awesome? Do I need to explain how the film wasn’t just a super enjoyable origin story (a tough feat) but a life-changing blockbuster for millions of men and women across the globe? Because if I do, you might as well go see the film and let it do the talking.

I won’t pretend that the film’s third act CGI-mush fest was good filmmaking. But I can honestly say that my estimation of the film has only grown in time. 15 minutes of “eh” can’t cancel the magic it shows elsewhere.

Like most great movies, Wonder Woman is excellent across the board. I hope that some technical and below-the-line contributions (think costumes, production design) get recognized at this year’s Oscars.

Baby Driver

In my full review of Baby Driver, I praised the film for its exhilarating action and potentially more melancholy message. And with a few weeks elapsed, it’s those elements that stick with me rather than the plot wobbles and shallow writing.

Every year, there’s at least one rave-reviewed movie that I merely like instead of love. Baby Driver fits that role, with just enough extra oomph that I can put it on this list.

The Big Sick

Other than Get Out, The Big Sick is the real triumph of 2017. Forget the film’s subtle discussion of immigrant identity and inter-racial dating, and you’re still left with the most charming rom-com in years.

It deserves all the cultural cache (and box office gold) as Knocked Up or any other Judd Apatow mega-film.

Go see this movie.


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