The Top 20 Movies of 2017

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Even with 20, these films did not make the cut.

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.

 

I went back and forth as to whether make the traditional top ten, or go with twenty. I decided on the latter for a few reasons. First, in a great year for movies, there were too many to ignore (and even at twenty, films such as Wonder Woman, Detroit, Mudbound, and Darkest Hour did not make it). Second, so what if I added more than ten? If you really want see just the top ten, here is a trick: skip down to number ten, and go from there (though you will be missing a lot of great films along the way).

 

20.

The Disaster Artist.JPG

“YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!!!”

 

A passion project for director/actor James Franco, The Disaster Artist tells the tale of another passion project (and cult favorite), The Room. Franco is so wonderful in the role of the aloof Tommy Wiseau that it goes beyond comedy and becomes very human. It truly tears you apart!

 

19.

Molly's Game

Jessica Chastain, fantastic as Molly.

 

Renowned screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game, is full of electricity. As always, his dialogue snaps like fire crackers, no doubt due to the wonderful casting of greats such as Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.

 

18.

Faces Places

JR and Agnes Varda, on a quest you have not seen before.

The most recent film I have seen as of this writing, Faces Places is the unique documentary about legendary french film maker Agnes Varda and her friend JR (whose eyes she has never seen). They go around meeting people as they post big pictures of their subjects on vast walls. As in all great films, it goes far beyond that. It reminded me a lot about Errol Morris’s masterpiece, Gates of Heaven.

 

17.

Logan Lucky

No peaking!

Even with an all-star cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Hillary Swank, Seth Macfarlane, and (especially) Daniel Craig, a film like Logan Lucky could have gone wrong on so many levels. Thankfully, the script is so tight that every moment is real, authentic, and down right ludicrously hilarious.

 

16.

The Last Jedi

Sometimes, questions don’t need concrete answers.

A prime example of a movie you either love or hate, I am on the former when it comes to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. No, we did not get any “answers” to questions we may have had, but so what? It was a Star Wars film that gave us new twists and turns we had not seen before, plus was much better than the overrated Rogue One.

 

15.

Blade Runner 2049

Deckard returns.

From one sci-fi sequel to another, Blade Runner 2049 is full of a lot of questions that are also unanswered. What no one will question is the gorgeous scope of the film, thanks in part to cinematographer Roger Deakins (who may finally get his Oscar now).

 

14.

Logan

Logan and his daughter.

In one of the best years for superhero films, my pick still goes to Logan. A swan song of epic proportions, Hugh Jackman truly goes out swinging. Or clawing.

 

13.

 

The Post

Meryl Streep as Kay Graham, owner of The Post.

 

Even if the film was rushed, Steven Spielberg’s The Post has a fire burning in the soul, which shows in the cast led by Hollywood giants Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It is a movie that, had it not been made, I would not be reminded of the right I have to be typing these words in the first place.

 

12.

I Tonya

Just before the show, Robbie’s Harding is set to go…

How wickedly devilish is the film I, Tonya! So fun, and self-aware of itself, it gives a stellar Margot Robbie performance, and heaven knows how wonderful Allison Janney is as one of the worst mom’s in recent cinema history.

 

11.

Coco

Miguel’s passion for music knows no bounds…

As Miguel tugs at the guitar strings, so does Coco tug at our heart-strings. Which, by now, is totally the standard Disney/Pixar films have set for all animated films (and others in general).

 

10.

Lady Bird

Ronan as the title character.

One of the most original scripts in recent memory, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is full of outstanding wit and charm. It is also more proof why Saoirse Ronan is truly one of the best actors of her generation.

 

9.

Wonder

The Wonder that is Jacob Tremblay.

Of all the movies I saw this year, I fought the hardest (okay, fought myself) for Wonder to be in the top ten. Based of the book of the same name (which I highly recommend), this wonderful fable of why it is important to #choosekind is something I cannot imagine parents not taking their kids to.

 

8.

Dunkirk

Many of the soldiers at Dunkirk

 

Very few, if any, director has a current positive track record than Christopher Nolan, and Dunkirk is no exception. Packed with more than enough tension and grit, it is as fitting a war film as they come.

 

7.

A Ghost Story.JPG

Time moves by in an instant for the ghost

At only around an hour and a half, few films of this (or any) year have given me more questions than that of A Ghost Story. Like a pool, you soak in it, look at the reflection, and see all the questions you want answered. Multiple viewings are needed, and are something I plan to do in the time I have left on earth.

 

6.

TBOEM

Mildred is a role only Frances McDormand could play

Another one of the most original scripts in years, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tough sit through at many times. Yet it has so much dark peppered humor and spot on performances (mainly McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and especially Sam Rockwell) it is hard to turn away.

 

5.

The Big Sick

A love story unlike any seen before

The true story of how one man met his wife, The Big Sick is still the best rom com I have seen in nearly a decade. All the actors are hilarious and convincing, and the writing is top-notch. I still can’t get over that 9/11 joke.

 

4.

The Florida Project

Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the hotel manager who is tough but kind-hearted.

I had never thought of what could be outside the walls of Disney World before I saw The Florida Project. I doubt I am alone. With some of the best acting from children you will see, and a sublime Willem Dafoe, the movie takes us to a place that has been under the shadows of Disney for far too long.

 

3.

Phantom Thread

DDL, the master at work

Like most, I had to wait nearly a month before I could see Phantom Thread, but it was far worth the wait. Daniel Day-Lewis gives (no surprise) a perfectly majestic performance as a dress-maker in 1950s London, whose new muse (Vicky Krieps) must put up with him. Director Paul Thomas Anderson treats the film as gentle as the fabric that Woodcock works with in his shop.

 

2.

The Shape of Water

Though mute, Eliza (Sally Hawkins) lets herself be heard.

Of all the love stories of this year, my favorite still goes to that of a mute help worker and a sea creature in The Shape of Water. Guillermo Del Toro gives us a world of endless possibilities, filled with memorable characters (don’t get me started on how much we love to hate Michael Shannon here), astounding visuals, and a love that is not easy to forget.

 

1.

IT

“Hello Georgie”

I can imagine a lot of people being surprised at my number one pick, but after more than one viewing, I just could not deny IT. Undoubtably one of the top four or five adaptations of Stephen King, the film is far more than a horror masterpiece. It is also about coming of age (I have yet to meet anyone who though negatively of the kid performances, all of whom are perfect in their roles), young love, bullying, and, of course, clowns.

Floating has never been so terrifying. Or enjoyable.

 

And the Oscar Nominees (and my thoughts) are…(2017)

oscars-2017

In years past, the president of the Academy would be accompanied by some known movie star and announce the list of the nominees to the movie going public. This year, it was streamed live with interviews with past Oscar winners and nominees such as Jennifer Hudson, Ken Watanabe, Gabourey Sidibe (I forgot she had comic chops), and Jason Reitman. It was a nice change of pace.

Here are the nominees (and my thoughts)…

Best Picture

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

 

Thoughts: I wish a tenth spot would open up for Silence, but overall, nothing too surprising here.

 

Best Director

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

 

Thoughts: Again, no love for Scorsese on his work for Silence, but each of the nominees were no surprise to me. Sad though there was no room for Denzel Washington for Fences.

 

Best Actor

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

 

Thoughts: No surprise, as these were the five heavy hitters (sorry Tom Hanks. Tough year.)

 

Best Actress

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Thoughts: Here was the category that surprised me. As of now, I have only seen two of the nominees (Jackie and La La Land). Huppert’s surprise win at the Globes probably helped her here, as did Streep’s speech at the Globes (and the obvious fact that she is Meryl Streep). Still, the biggest surprise is Ruth Negga, who was probably the reason there is no nominations for Annette Benning (20th Century Women) or (more shockingly) Amy Adams (Arrival).

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

 

Thoughts: Despite a Golden Globe win in this category, Michael Shannon’s co-star, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, did not get a nomination. I was very happy though for Lucas Hedges, who did spellbinding work in Manchester by the Sea. This one may be a tight race.

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

 

Thoughts: No surprise, and the main category I can predict right here and now. This is a clear win for Viola Davis.

 

Best Animated Feature

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

 

Thoughts: Either Zucchini or The Red Turtle would explain why Finding Dory was not on here, which did not surprise me at all.

 

Best Cinematography

  • Arrival
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Silence

 

Thoughts: Nice to see Silence recognized for at least one category.

 

Best Costume Design

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La Land

 

 

Best Documentary

  • Fire at Sea
  • I am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th

 

Thoughts: I am very happy that Life, Animated was recognized, though I have heard nothing but praise for O.J. (the movie, not, you know, the player).

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • Extremis
  • 4.1 Miles
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

 

Best Film Editing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

 

Best Make Up and Hairstyling

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad

 

Best Original Score

  • Jackie, Mica Levi
  • La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
  • Lion, Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran
  • Moonlight, Nicholas Britell
  • Passengers, Thomas Newman

 

Best Original Song

  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, La La Land
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Trolls
  • “City of Stars”, La La Land
  • “The Empty Chair”,  Jim: The James Foley Story
  • “How Far I’ll Go”, Moana

 

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Land of Mine, Denmark
  • A Man Called Ove, Sweden
  • The Salesman, Iran
  • Tanna, Australia
  • Toni Erdmann, Germany

 

Best Production Design

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

 

Best Animated Short Film

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigareets
  • Pearl
  • Piper

 

Best Live Action, Short Subject

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

 

Best Sound Editing

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

 

Best Sound Mixing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

Thoughts: Yes, a Michael Bay movie is nominated for an Oscar.

 

Best Visual Effects

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Roge One: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Arrival, Eric Heisserer
  • Fences, August Wilson
  • Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  • Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney
  • Lion, Luke Davies

 

Best Original Screenplay

  • Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
  • La La Land, Damien Chazelle
  • The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
  • Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
  • 20th Century Women, Mike Mills

 

Congrats are in order to La La Land for tying All about Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) with 14 nominations. More importantly, congratulations are needed for the Academy for no longer having to hear about “Oscars so white”.

The 89th Academy Awards will take place on February 26th, 2017. Jimmy Kimmell will be hosting.

My predictions will be announced in the weeks to come.

 

Top Ten Movies of 2016

2016

To be honest, it took me sometime to realize that there were actually some really good movies to be released in 2016. So much so that the pictures you see above of movies like Sully, Hacksaw Ridge, Captain America: Civil WarMoana, Jackie, and Zootopia were not able to crack my top ten list.

Again, I don’t see every movie that was released (how I wish I could!), so please comment if I am missing one you liked.

A friend of mine said he does not like making lists like this, as they get harder to do every year. I am starting to get the idea of that more and more as the years go by. Some of the movies on my top ten edged each other out by the narrowest of margins.

If you must blink, do it now…

 

Wild Card

10-hell-or-high-water

Playing like a modernized version of an old western, Hell or High Water is refreshing in how original the concept is. Two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), desperate to keep their farm, resort to stealing from banks. Hot on their trail is the local nearly retired police sheriff Marcus Hamilton (a wonderful Jeff Bridges), who we don’t always root for when we see what the brothers (mainly the Chris Pine character) are going through.

 

10.9-arrival

Sorry fans of Rogue One, but the title of best sci-fi movie of the year belongs to Arrival. Clearly inspired from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, the movie  depicts how being approached by beings outside of earth would not always immediately mean war fare. The movie takes time to show that we as humans need to reason before pulling a trigger. All the cast is wonderful, but the key performance is the one of Amy Adams, showing once again how versatile an actress she is. Director Denis Villeneuve gives us some stunning images as well.

 

9.

8-the-vvitch

 

It is rare for a horror film to actually scare you these days, especially if it comes out very early in the year (which is when most of the forgettable movies are sadly released.) That is not all the case for The Witch. While witches are now nearly forever associated with the world created by J.K. Rowling, this horror classic reminds us that, when witchcraft was feared in the 1600s, it was truly feared. The images and gorgeous cinematography reflect that, making us fear as the characters do. The film is directed by Robert Eggers. Remember the name.

 

8.7-moonlight

A movie sure to be up for many Oscar nominations, Moonlight tells a simple story of a man growing up in slums of Miami. To say it is more than that is a gross understatement. Told in three acts, I am still finding it hard to believe that the main character, Chiron, was played by three different actors (the same can also be said of his friend Kevin). It was almost like they filmed the same actor years apart like Boyhood. The stand outs are Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, sure to be nominees in February (alongside director Barry Jenkins).

7.

6-manchester-by-the-sea

While some movies feel like a punch in the gut, Manchester by the Sea feels like (as Rick Blaine from Casablanca would say) your “insides have been kicked out.” Casey Affleck gives a mesmerizing performance as a janitor who is sent back to his hometown after his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies to take care of his nephew (an equally stunning Lucas Hedges) while face the demons of his past, including his ex-wife (the always reliable Michelle Williams). How often does a drama of this magnitude also produce laughs equivalent to a comedy? Kudos to the writer and director, Kenneth Lonergan.

6.

5-fences

It has been a while since I have seen a great film where the lead actor also directs himself in a performance for the ages. Yet that is what Denzel Washington does in Fences, based off the play by August Wilson. Casey Affleck may be the front-runner for Best Actor, but Denzel is clearly hot on his heels. However, no one will be catching up with Viola Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her performance as Washington’s wife is sure to give Davis her Oscar she deserves.

5.

4-silence

Moving from an actor/director to arguably one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, Martin Scorsese’s Silence just squeaked in at the end of 2016, meaning it was not screened in time for award consideration for the Golden Globes or SAGs. A shame, because it deserved to be. The film stars Andrew Garfield (who was also brilliant in Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren) as priests trying to find their mentor (Liam Neeson) in 1630s Japan. The movie is hard to watch, yet you still can’t take your eyes from the screen. It is rare for a movie to be so difficult to observe you may not want to watch it again, yet at the same time filled with unanswered questions that multiple viewings are needed.

4.

3-life-animated

As someone who has (mild) autism, I can safely say I have not seen many films that approached the subject as well as the documentary Life, Animated. It tells the story of Owen Suskind, an autistic man who learned to communicate through his true love, animated Disney movies. Very few movies this year have touched me more on a personal level.

3.

SingStreetRunning.0.0

This entry was actually inserted much later, which is something I don’t do long after the year is over. Still, I cannot say enough about the wonder that is Sing Street. After classic hits like Once (2007) and Begin Again (2014), director John Carney strikes musical gold again with this coming of age tale of growing up in 1980s dublin. Like his previous films, it did not take me long to buy the soundtrack.

2.

2-la-la-land

 

If you have not heard of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land by now, well, it will be surely mentioned when the Oscar nominations are announced next Tuesday, for I feel it is the clear front-runner for Best Picture (it already set the record at the Golden Globes for winning all of it’s seven nominations). It is more than a love letter to Hollywood, or even to musicals of the past. It is a modernized musical as well, with glamorous performances by Ryan Gosling and (in particular) Emma Stone (her solo song at the end about her aunt is the best acting I have seen all year). I have no shame at all in declaring I bought the soundtrack the day after I saw this film. It made me proud to be one of the ones who dream.

 

1.1-kubo

At the end of the day, movies are stories, as told by many story tellers. When I first saw Kubo and the Two Strings, I was clearly affected by it, but did not know at the time that I would be selecting it as my favorite movie of 2016. Only months later, when I got on Blu-Ray was when I realized it more and more as a masterpiece. Of course, the animation is gorgeous, but what impressed me the most was the story. Laika (whose movies I still have to see) does not have the history and resume of Disney or Pixar, but it has more nerve. I found myself hoping Kubo would not end the way the audience would have wanted, and it didn’t. It ended the way the audience needed it to. Towards the end, Kubo gives a speech to his grandfather while in the cemetery. If you think of it, that speech is one to bring hope to those who may not have had the best 2016 they would have wished for.

 

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

rogue-one

The Walkers have returned for Rogue One…

There are many elements of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that make it stand alone from other films in the Star Wars saga, but that does not make it any better. I won’t go into spoilers, but there is one key part of a Star Wars movie that you would expect to have and this film does not. I won’t say what it is, but when you see it, I hope you are not as let down as I was.

I was always a Star Wars fan since I first saw it at the age of 7 or 8 (the original trilogy came out before I was born), yet I admit I still was unsure of what to expect with the movie, but about twenty minutes or so into it, I started getting “a bad feeling about this”. If you don’t know the Star Wars films (and you should), Rogue One is supposed to take place right in between episodes three (Revenge of the Sith) and four (A New Hope). It tells the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose mother is killed after her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken by an Imperial Commander, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), to return to the Empire to help finish the Death Star, despite not wanting to go.

Eventually, Jyn  meets up with another rebel named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who is accompanied by a scene stealing K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). While he has nothing on R2-D2 (possibly my favorite character of all time), K-2SO does hold his own. We get other characters including a blind Baze Malbus (Donnie Yen), his friend Chirrut Imwe (Wen Jiang), pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and the mysterious gritty Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

One of the main problems that the movie (along with The Force Awakens, which I feel was much better) is that it lacks a good villain. Krennic is an imperial officer who does have other authorities to report to, mainly Moff Tarkin (originally played by Peter Cushing in the first Star Wars, though now is CGI enhanced on actor Guy Henry, which I must admit looked pretty awesome). Still, there is no way around the fact that it is Darth Vader (still voiced, as he always should be, by James Earl Jones) that commands the screen. No matter your thought on this or any film in the franchise, the image of the all black suit sends chills down your spine.

This also causes a dilemma, because the movie was apparently supposed to be known as a stand alone. Sure, some minor characters make appearances that I would consider as “easter eggs”, but we get other main characters (besides Vader) who make brief cameos. While I was ok with the one at the end of the film, there was another during a lift off scene that was totally tacked on and not needed at all (much like the titles of the names of all the planets).

Parents, despite it being a PG-13 movie, there is nothing completely wrong here at all that a child of 8 or 9 could not see. Characters die, but if they have seen any of the other films, they are fine here.

Is this movie better than the originals? Heavens no. Is it better than the prequels? I don’t know (it has been a while since I saw those, although I am still confident my least favorite of all Star Wars films is Episode Two). For one reason or another, Rogue One does seem to miss the gravitas that makes the Star Wars universe so wonderful in the first place.

Overall: Two and a Half Stars ** 1/2