Mike’s Top 10 of 2017

I’ve finally seen most of the titles I was planning to see this year, and so, like a good programmer, I am excited to present my Top 10 list for 2017. Most of the titles you have already seen at one of our theaters, and some have yet to come out, so stay tuned for more great movies!

The titular ghost from A GHOST STORY (Photo: A24)

10. A Ghost Story

Beginning my list is the admittedly polarizing A Ghost Story. The initial reviews out of Sundance were stellar, but once it was released it experienced a more lukewarm reception. I can completely understand why: on the surface this film about the grief of losing a partner evolves to evoke the study of one’s place in time and the physical world. That may sound like a big undertaking, and at times it can be a bit messy, but I was transfixed and utterly admired the attempt at an original screenplay and hypnotic filmmaking.

9. Good Time

Robert Pattinson in the fast-paced GOOD TIME (Photo: A24)

Teen star turned arthouse star Robert Pattinson proves that he is one of the most versatile working actors in the Safdie Brothers’ crime flick. This movie was brimming with energy and suspense and catapults you to the end of the film. The script is more clever than it seems to be on the surface and a wholly unique experience. Turns out it is entirely possible to revamp the worn-out “crime/thriller” genre.

8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan square off in KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Photo: A24)

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos hooked me with Dogtooth and last year’s masterpiece The Lobster, and this one did not disappoint. For a moody director this was arguably his moodiest and the comedic elements were delivered with such severe deadpan that it’s very likely you may have a completely different viewing experience than the person you came with. For my money, the young actor Barry Keoghan gives one of the best performances in recent memory.

7. Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas’ 2014 film Clouds of Sils Maria absolutely floored me. I’ll admit this one didn’t pack the same punch, but Kristen Stewart can easily carry an entire film, even if she has her face buried in her iPhone for a majority of it. What also impressed me was the pacing and direction of the film that managed to turn a simple script into a chilling, atmospheric art film.

Breakout star Daniel Kaluuya in GET OUT (Photo: Universal Pictures)

6. Get Out

Get Out is not a comedy though it has elements of humor and not quite a horror film though it has some terrifying imagery. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a genre-defying, thrilling piece of cinema. The film’s satirical tendencies are biting and complex, as a good screenplay should be. This timely film could have only been made in this moment in history, but will nonetheless be talked about for years to come.

5. The Square

The year’s most memorable scene from THE SQUARE (Photo: Sony Picture Classics)

This year’s Cannes film festival winner, The Square is another masterwork from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund. His last film Force Majeure picks apart morality, class, and masculinity effortlessly, and The Square picks up where his last film left off. An epic of sorts critiquing the highfalutin world of art curation and the social disconnect of the people who are the keepers of that brand of intellectualism. As someone who vaguely roams around that world, I have to mention just how spot on it gets it.

4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Frances McDormand’s iconic performance in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI (Photo: Fox Searchlight)

Martin McDonagh’s three films (four if you include his incredible short film Six Shooter) are some of the most exciting, funny, and daring works to have come out in the past ten years. Three Billboards is not only a catalyst for Frances McDormand’s undeniably powerful acting skills, but it seamlessly dances around the film’s complicated moral center and has the viewer constantly shifting allegiances. McDonagh balances humor and tragedy with more grace than nearly any other filmmaker that tries to do the same.

3. The Florida Project

Willem Dafoe and the prodigy Brooklynn Prince in THE FLORIDA PROJECT (Photo: A24).

Guerilla filmmaking at its finest. The Florida Project consistently stays in the perspective of its lovable five-year-old lead, which is a difficult task considering the very serious nature of some of the events in the story. Sean Baker impressed everyone with the iPhone-shot Tangerine, but his latest film fully realizes his aesthetic and social conscious. I can think of very few filmmakers who so compassionately deal with these types of subjects that most of the film world ignore. Baker truly loves his characters and it comes across in this film.

2. Call Me By Your Name

Timothee Chalamet & Armie Hammer shake hands in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (Photo: Sony Picture Classics)

This was the last film I saw in 2017 and it immediately jumped to the top of my list. This film is a terrific example of tender and gorgeous filmmaking. It’s the best in Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s oeuvre, which includes 2009’s I Am Love and one of my favorites from last year A Bigger Splash. The legendary James Ivory wrote a script that perfectly captures the universal feelings of nostalgia and heartbreak and the way we create a mythical ideation of our first loves. All of the actors are fantastic, but I found myself particularly drawn to Michael Stuhlbarg’s character who serves as the final piece of wisdom to tie together this beautiful story of yearning.

  1. Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis in his final breathtaking performance in PHANTOM THREAD (Photo: Focus Features)

Given his body of work and commitment to experimentation, storytelling, and direction, I will confidently say that Paul Thomas Anderson is the greatest living filmmaker. True, some of his films don’t appeal to as large of an audience as Spielberg or Scorsese, but his technical ability and craft is undeniable. He’s our generation’s Kubrick, but with a wider range. Phantom Thread is easily his most grounded work, but not without the grand flourishes for which PTA is known. This film is classically elegant like Lean and Hitchcock, but demands more attention from the viewer to seek out all of the nuances and confounding pockets of emotion that he embeds in his work. If this actually is Daniel Day-Lewis’ final acting performance, he exits proving exactly what made him the greatest actor of his generation.

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