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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 Year-End Recap: Top 40 Through 11 Films


On December 29th, I will be publishing my Top Ten Films of 2017 list over at Why So Blu?. That same list will be posted here at a later date as well. For the time being, I still have a couple lists I wanted to share reflecting my thoughts on the many films from this year. The following post features my Top 40 through 11 favorites. It's a big list for sure, and as usual, I am always pleased with how these runner-up lists essentially look like a couple great top ten lists of their own. These picks may not have made it to my Top Ten (some were harder choices than others) but I still really appreciated what they had to offer. So here is a large batch of my favorites from 2017 (with links to the reviews for each when available).

Here we go:

40. The LEGO Batman Movie


What could have amounted to a series of gags ended up being an actual Batman movie that happens to be an all-ages comedic effort. Clever and inspired, here's a film with heart, laughs and plenty of innovation to please Batman fans and everyone else alike.


Another inspired comedy that could have rested on making fun of its subject but instead works to show what kind of passion was behind the making of one of the worst films ever made. It's also full of comedic stars, laughs, and Hollywood in-jokes.

Sophia Coppola's atmospheric thriller featured some of the year's best lighting, as well as excellent leading performances that really added to what amounts to a straightforward high concept horror film.



The first John Wick capitalized on exceptional action choreography, and a solid Reeves performance and this sequel pushes the filmmaking even further. It's a wonderfully cinematic dive into the criminal underworld setup in the first film, complete with more gothic influence and lots of color and gunplay.




This is a film series that can keep going if I have anything to say about it. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon make a great team and these Trip films continue to be a great pleasure. The dramatic bits have a significant impact once again here, but there are still plenty of hilarious moments and impressions to go along with it. Plus, Spain looks great.




A biopic that goes out of its way to play against a conventional structure. Thanks to multiple narrators, this dark comedy recounts the infamy of Tonya Harding and does a great job putting a new perspective on her, as well as making the sensationalized stories feel personal.

34. Call Me By Your Name

Here's a romance that has no interest in sensationalized or explicit moments. Instead, it's a subtle coming-of-age story with a strong lead performance from Timothee Chalamet and exceptional support from all involved. Most notable, however, is the depiction of 80s Italy and the great use of the camera and music to capture it.



Soderbergh's break from retirement delivered one of the most entertaining films of the summer. More than just a Southern riff on his own Ocean's movies, this is a solid heist film that lets us laugh with the characters without ever feeling mean-spirited. Some solid comedic turns from many involved and a surprising amount of heart made this quite the underseen treasure.



Given how secretive everything was about this release, I was thoroughly impressed that my fear of this film having nothing new to say didn't come true. Instead, we get a sequel fully invested in the mood of the original, with new ideas to add and some tremendous filmmaking on display.



Not only an emotional animated film but an emotional movie in general. It may not be reaching Grave of the Fireflies territory, but this story of a headstrong girl in Afghanistan who must pose as a boy does a lot to bring you into a sad reality where storytelling and hope play major roles in keeping investment strong. A real highlight of the already commendable Cartoon Saloon animation studio.



Aaron Sorkin steps behind the camera for his first story with a female lead. Wisely, he still lets his script do most of the work and has fortunately assembled a terrific cast to deliver his trademark fast-talking, sharp prose. It makes for a compelling story full of energy and comes together well enough for me to forgive Kevin Costner for nearly sinking it.



If you are like me, you were wondering when someone would combine an indie comedy-drama with a kaiju movie. This was the answer, and while there's an element that didn't quite work for me, the unique nature of this project, a strong performance by Anne Hathaway and the general weirdness of the story all made it plenty memorable.



Oz Perkins (son of Anthony) is a director I will keep my eye on. His wintery horror film is full of terrific atmosphere to help build a fairly standard story into something far more intriguing.

Yorgos Lanthimos is doing something I really like with his recent films. They are offbeat, to say the least, and I am all for what they have to offer. This is a film hard to really describe without taking a lot of time to do it, but I don't often compare filmmakers to Kubrick, so Lanthimos is doing something worthwhile for film fans.



A period drama steeped in racial tension that feels fresh thanks to the approach. Multiple voiceovers intercut with the narrative and help build this into a small-scale epic, full of strong performances.



Paul Thomas Anderson's ode to Hitchcock and gothic romance. It's a meticulously made piece of work bound to win an Oscar for costume design. And if it's indeed the final performance of Daniel Day-Lewis, he's gone out on another excellent note.



A ghost story that takes Olivier Assayas naturalistic approach to storytelling and moves in some creative new directions to build in a thrilling supernatural element. It's all the better for whatever Assayas is doing to get great performances out of Kristen Stewart.



The last of the atmospheric horror films that seemed to take a good chunk of this list and somehow a movie that didn't initially receive the love it so easily deserves. Here's a film that wonderfully develops tension, while delivering a cerebral horror film that utilizes terrific and intense performances, while letting the audience fill in the blanks where needed. 



A terrific display of humanity contained inside of a Floridian motel. This film puts a specific part of the American population on screen and rather than judging them, it finds a guide through the eyes of a young child, while we also see the struggles of her mother and a manager played with perfection by Willem Dafoe.

21. Lucky


The man, the myth, the legend - Harry Dean Stanton passed away, but man did he go out on the best tribute to him possible. Combining elements of his own life with the history of this fictional account of an old man living in a small town, Lucky is a wonderful little gem of a film, where Stanton does some great work in a lead role and David Lynch, of all people, provides a fantastic emotional supporting performance.



Todd Haynes has such a deliberate stamp on his films that I was surprised Wonderstruck was not applauded by more of his fans for how it combines his very precise efforts as a filmmaker with a dramatic story so open-hearted and willing to go in deep with its plot device involving a dual narrative. Well, that's why I'm here to point out how much of a treasure it is. 



Naturally, after mentioning a Todd Haynes film, it's only right that I dig into the complete joy I had going back to Skull Island for another adventure with King Kong. Between a great John C. Reilly performance and a ton of video game references, this adventure film was a lot of bombastic fun in the way I can appreciate when it comes to over-the-top pleasures that stem from a monster movie. Bring on Godzilla vs. Kong.


Here's a truly special film that gets by on how its awkward charm is never meant to humiliate the main characters. This oddball comedy-drama finds plenty of warmth in its silly story, composed in a manner that shows the study of real craft when putting together a clever film that could almost be a parody of indie comedies in the hands of lesser filmmakers.



The modern-art epic that hit on all the areas I would like to see in a comedy and then went even further. Sustained sequences of awkward comedic tension are made all the better for having the actors show no care for their own vanity. And just when you thought the time when unexplained chimpanzees in movies were over, they've come roaring back here.



Rather than make a boilerplate biopic covering the full life of Winston Churchill, Joe Wright has crafted a terrific drama focused on a critical time in Churchill's history. Gary Oldman goes all in with the performance and manages to come off much better than just an actor in makeup. He's earned plenty of acclaim for a reason, and this is just another example of why.



A dramatized take on a true story, and it's hilarious. Thanks to the nature of the major conflict that emerges, here's a film that gets away with playing with the conventions of a romantic comedy and gets to have all the makings of a great movie anyway. Thanks to how well this film embeds drama into a comedic narrative, The Big Sick finds a lot to say about a lot of things, and it does it incredibly well.

14. The Post


Spielberg's latest history lesson is a shining example of a master craftsman using his powers for good. Thanks to his incredible work ethic and the participation of two of the most well-liked actors in the world, let alone the involvement of many others, here's a wonderful look at the past that happens to be incredibly relevant and vital to the world of today.

13. Coco


Pixar's best film since Toy Story 3 and an incredible journey in its own right. One of the most colorful films of the year happens to be both hilarious and emotional for all the right reasons.



Imagine a director handing audiences his vision for an incredible sci-fi universe and having it denied. It's a shame Valerian wasn't accepted by more, but I stand by all aspects of this film. This is the movie that made me want more of it while I was merely halfway through the film. It's an exciting, visual spectacle, with the right attitude and a lot of grand ideas for what a space opera can be when it's not Star Wars.



The movie that I could only imagine being incredibly tough to make and all the effort was worth it. This was a brilliant picture devoted to the true story of an explorer caught up with his desire to find a mythical city in the Amazon and everyone brought their A-game. Fantastic cinematography, committed performances and more add up to a film I can only hope will be discovered by more in the years to come.

***

Stay Tuned for favorite moments, random shoutouts and my favorite films of the year.


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