It’s the most magical time of the year
Welcome to the After Lobby, 2018. Wrote more reviews and articles in 2017 than I had in any other year of my life. And I’m incredibly thankful to all of you lovely visitors who took the time last year to check out, comment, like and subscribe to the website. We got bigger plans this year in providing you quality entertainment; but before we do that, it’s time to take stock of what were the best films of 2017.
Now tiny qualifier: while I have seen 112 movies last year, I have yet to see Phantom Thread and The Post (UPDATE 2/7/18: I have, at this point, seen those films, this list is now updated to reflect their merits). Not for lack of trying mind you, it’s because the studios have been bizarrely selective more than previous years in keeping these big Oscar contenders until January. While I will classify both as 2017 films, if they make the cut for my best of the year, this article will be updated to reflect that change.
For now, here comes the Best Films of 2017:
Honorable Mention: Loving Vincent
As with previous years, my Honorable Mention goes to a film that I liked quite a bit, didn’t make my top 10, but was so unfairly ignored upon release that I have to dedicate a separate unique entry for it. And while that’s mostly due to Loving Vincent only being able to attract a small distribution worldwide, most people can easily see why this was most intriguing films of the year. The first fully painted animated feature film is not only gorgeous to look at, but offers a curiously unique story in discussing the life and legacy of Vincent Van Gogh. Utilizing a rotoscope technique over motion capture effects, a team of over 100 painters from multiple countries came together to deliver an experience you have never seen before and will likely not see again for several years. It could have gotten by on looks alone, but the fascinating neo-noir tale keeps you invested in surprising ways.
#10. Good Time
There’s something said to watching idiots committing crimes: it’s entertaining as hell. And Good Time delivers on giving you just that with a frenetic and dizzying style that was hard to take my eyes off of it. Surprising me most of all was Robert Pattinson, finally shedding his heartthrob image successfully to give you a performance that’s just mesmerizing to watch. All the more curious because portrays such a despicable cretin that thinks he’s a world class genius…only to find he’s woefully out of his depth. As he bumbles from scene to scene, lying through his teeth to whoever confronts him, you can’t help but feel nothing but pity and disgust at this guy and yet feel like you understand why he is doing all the horrible acts he commits. His rationale doesn’t redeem him, but it does allow you to see where he’s coming from and consequently want to keep watching how he messes up next. I give a lot of credit to films who try different ideas that land well, and Good Time fits nicely into this category.
#9. Lady Bird
A film that united all with…off relationships with their mothers, Lady Bird has several elements that I’m not particularly fond of (autobiographical script and slice-of-life narrative) and crafted something that I genuinely enjoyed. This is mostly thanks to the trio of Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan, and Laurie Metcalf all coming together to make something that’s intimately relatable, darkly funny, and overall affirming on how adults interact with their parents. And unlike other films of this ilk, Lady Bird doesn’t concern itself with making its protagonist sympathetic but instead as someone you want to follow thanks to her different perspective on life. This helps when she, inevitably, says some truly heinous crap to other people; the film doesn’t try to hide the fact that she really messed up in the worst way imaginable. Rather, it uses the experience, as with life itself, as a teachable moment in our protagonist’s development into becoming a woman. Perhaps even a good one, at that.
#8. I, Tonya
I must confess, that this year’s list is mostly populated by films with very messed up protagonists and this next entry has characters that are true gutter trash…and yet, there’s always a method to their delirious madness. Enter I, Tonya, Margot Robbie’s tour de force and latest in her pursuit of Oscar gold. As one of the most infamous figure skaters of all time, Robbie brings on a performance that conveys a wide degree of emotional range that would make her the envy of seasoned vets in the industry. But unlike other Actor’s Movies, producer Robbie makes sure the rest of her supporting cast have time to shine particularly with Sebastian Stan and Allison Janey’s legendary performance as Tonya Harding’s cruel mother. The stellar performances were great on their own, but what boosts I, Tonya to the Top Ten list is a delightfully sinister narrative of fourth-wall breaking hijinks as each of the major players involved with the attack on a fellow Olympic skater assign and take blame from each other as to Tonya Harding’s downfall to walking punchline. And, against all odds, making you sympathize with a pop culture leper in a way few movies have accomplished before.
#7. Your Name
The first and (at the time of writing) only time I’ve written a review of a Japanese anime film…and it winds up on my Top Ten list. In a year that delivered some truly awful anime interpretations, no less. But the body switching spectacular truly took me by surprise as it started off with a humorous and silly Freaky Friday bent before diving headlong into a science fiction nightmare straight out of Black Mirror. Providing a cast of sympathetic and relatable characters was one thing, but getting me to care enough that I almost busted out a tear at their plight? That’s a whole another feat that puts this film head and shoulders above other movies this year. Gorgeous to look at while giving you laughs, shocks and tears, Your Name is one of the year’s exceptional takes on proven ground while demonstrating new angles to take the genre and the medium of Japanese animation. The director, Makoto Shinkai, has been seen by many as one of the most exciting voices in his field and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Truly surprised by the reception to this movie upon release, even though I gave it a very enthusiastic review. Back in the summer, I saw many critics take issue with its lack of character development and odd narrative structure, only to find several of those same exact critics put this somewhere on their top ten list. Maybe it was because some resented some of Christopher Nolan’s overzealous fans, but I was still enamored with the film to the point that I couldn’t recall another movie that made me feel so tense, so incredibly anxious, that body contorted itself into multiple pretzel-like shapes. And while I still consider Inception to be my favorite of Nolan’s films, this is definitely his best directed work to date. Absolute mastery over actors, script, cinematography, score, pacing, action set pieces, twists and turns, Nolan has delivered a true technical marvel in the proud tradition of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Dunkirk is a thriller of the highest caliber, and demonstrates how a unique vision can come to life with a strong filmmaker at the helm.
A common thread among my best of the year, is that these are films that have given me something I never knew I wanted. So a movie featuring Anne Hathaway controlling a giant monster in Seoul, South Korea while she stumbles around drunk in a New York State playground…may seem like something that demands my attention. And while you certainly get this strange story detail, it’s utilized to weave a dark and tragic tale about alcoholism, addiction, toxic relationships, and seeking redemption any way you can. Featuring shockingly great performances from Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, this is a truly bizarre and emotionally devastating movie that just forces you to sit down and contemplate what you just witnessed. And no, I do not mean in trying to decipher an artist’s obvious metaphor of his wacked out mental state (no mother! isn’t getting on this list or indeed the runners up) , but I mean in a way that makes you think about other individuals in your life who have self-hating tendencies.
In all the years I’ve written about superhero movies, I would say only two managed to make my top ten of the year it came out: The Dark Knight and The Avengers (2012). Say hello to the third film born of a comic book to make my glorious year-end list: Logan. A true lightning in a bottle phenomenon that will only work this one time, this movie utilizes a classic Western cowboy narrative to tell the one last hurrah of a beloved character in popular character, the Wolverine. Easily Hugh Jackman’s finest performance to date, he brings on a level of pathos that many Academy Award-nominated actors strive for as he delivers the goods on a fully realized character. Boasting equally great performances from Daphne Keen and Sir Patrick Stewart, this film is an emotional roller coaster of a thrill ride that simultaneously deconstructs superhero narratives and brings on a fitting end to a character with shocking surprises and emotional follow through executed by the greats of cinema.
#3. Get Out
Talk about a film that has it’s pulse on the cultural zeitgeist, and one that has so easily claimed a place in popular culture that people of all races have begun identifying events and persons as being in the “Sunken Place.” At it’s core, the film is a relentlessly interesting horror movie that reimagines the science fiction classic of The Stepford Wives in the context of racism in America. Not your typical virulent racism of people discriminating and/or lynching Black people, but the kind that sees minorities as a means to an end whether in politics, fashion, fetishism, or labor. A clear labor of love from Jordan Peele who combines his talent for comedy with his experience as a seasoned writer to craft a tight dissection into the ignorance on part of many liberals and how their discussions on race can make others feel deeply uncomfortable…and highly paranoid.
One animated film usually makes my top ten list every year, but 2017 brought three heavy hitters and this is the highest rank I’ve ever assigned an animation. But Coco isn’t merely the best cartoon film of the year, it’s one of its best movies period. Mostly because no other movie in the past 12 months devastated me the way Coco did. The final fifteen minutes brought on multiple fits of tears streaming down my face, and the film had already shot its way into my heart with its breathtaking visuals and heartwarming story on pursuing one’s dreams and becoming loyal to one’s family. This is Pixar’s finest work since Up in 2009 while they delivered some of their most imaginative and colorful spectacles they’ve ever conjured up in their computers. Two of the film’s songs have yanked my heartstrings completely, and the movie occupies my thoughts in the six weeks since I’ve seen it. Coco deserves to be high on this list, and the only reason it didn’t take my number one slot was because another film delivered the best of my two favorite genres…
#1. Blade Runner 2049
One of the few sequels that surpassed its classic predecessor in almost every way, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best damn science-fiction films and neo-noir movies of all time. No hyperbole, this ranks high among even my favorites in both genres. Its director, Denis Villeneueve has made a movie that appeared in my top ten list three years in a row. For his third appearance, he’s claimed my coveted #1 spot and designation as Best Movie of 2017 through a spellbinding picture that accomplished what many films try and fail to do: delivering magnificent world building.
Every shot, every line of dialogue, every facial reaction, and every scene creates the illusion of a larger world just out of frame as the dystopian mind-bender world that Philip K. Dick once envisioned comes to life once more only bigger and more visually stunning than ever. But I would not have enjoyed this tour of this scary new world as much as I did were it not for one man: Ryan Gosling. Providing a subtle performance as someone slowly discovering the truth about his past and his world, Gosling provided a fresh take on the hard boiled detective archetype by going above and beyond even Harrison Ford’s take as Deckard in the original by providing a complete emotional range and being provided with a chance to stretch out in a fully developed character arc. Blade Runner 2049 contains everything I love about movies and then some. And while it’ll sadly be ignored this awards season, it will live on in my heart as one of the best films I’ve seen.
So that’s the Ten Best Films of 2017, but there was fierce competition for the top. So here we go, a complete list of every friggin movie I dug the hell out of for one reason or another in 2017 in convenient alphabetical order:
The Last Jedi was almost my #10. Don’t @ me.
Goodbye 2017, hello 2018. Once again, I do accept patronage through Patreon, and any amounts provided to the After Lobby are always appreciated!