I feel I've never seen an adequate number of films to declare of "best of" until at least half way into the next year. As of writing this, I haven't seen many of the films I've been anticipating in 2017, such as The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread, and Baywatch. Rather, here are 10 films that stood out to me (and focusing-with one exception-on films not reviewed on the podcast) for better or for worse in 2017...
A Dog's Purpose
Worst film of 2017
This story of a dog's soul inhabiting various breeds is saccharine drudgery. Marketed as a family film, have fun dealing with your crying children, moms and dads! The movie believes reincarnation makes numerous dog death less traumatic for kids (and pet-loving adults). WRONG! Melodramatic, sappy, manipulative trash; I hope Dennis Quaid wishes finds a real life shrink ray from Inner Space so he can disappear from the public eye for staring in this. This film's only redemption is that it can never be worse than Kevin Spacey-turned-cat in Nine Lives.
The Great Wall
Most entertaining bad movie of 2017
Matt Damon speaks in a baffling, generic European accent not heard since Kevin Costner's in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Costume design inspired by the Power Ranger's colorful armor. Willem Defoe looks as confused as I was about why he was on set. There is a whole wing of the military dedicated to fighting monsters via bungee jumping (with inelastic rope???). And the evil creatures having a weakness so bizarre, you'll be asking, like the Insane Clown Posse, "Magnets? How do they work?"
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Best first five minutes in a 2017 movie
Luc Besson's Valerian is a galaxy-sized mess but features an awe inspiring first five minutes. Set to David Bowie's “Space Oddity,” various nations of Earth come together on an international space station, and then are joined by aliens across the universe. It's full of the optimism and discovery space travel can arouse. Truly, it is a moment of genius that balances out this very uneven film from its most embarrassing moments (any scene featuring Rihanna as a shape-shifting burlesque dancer).
Batman & Bill
My favorite documentary of 2017
Liked the caped crusader, documentarian Don Argott seeks justice. While everyone knows about Batman's credited creator, Bob Kane, there was another. Behind the scenes, Bill Finger contributed the most iconic elements to the Dark Knight. Finger died alone in poverty and, reportedly, buried in a potter's field. Argott's journey for an eligible heir to bring suit against DC Entertainment to have Finger's name added to the creator byline is full of twists and reveals in this engaging journey for recognition.
Best anti-commercial of 2017
I was expecting another (alleged) heartwarming, inspiring ad for a giant corporation the way Saving Mr. Banks tried to convince me Disney knows best and was the savior for a financially struggling artist. While Michael Keaton brings a lot of charm with his portrayal of down-on-his-luck, milkshake-mixer salesman Ray Kroc, the actor is equally capable of depicting the sinister turn Kroc takes as he steals the McDonald's brand from the brothers who conceived the fast food restaurant. Forget about the high calorie count in its food, this dark tale of capitalistic greed preying on naive innovators should keep you away from purchasing that next Big Mac.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
The best Sundance film that went straight to Netflix in 2017
Having starred in violent thrillers Blue Ruin and Green Room, Macon Blair's directorial debut reframes those movies' violence and tension into a dark comedy. Melanie Lynskey plays Ruth who undergoes an existential crisis after her house is robbed. She befriends Tony (Elijah Wood), a religious, heavy metal loving, ninja-weapons enthusiasts. The two go about reclaiming Ruth's stolen property; but, their attempt at vigilante justice goes horribly wrong. Funny, violent, quirky, tense, bittersweet. The film hits the right beats to balance its various tones to create a comedic thriller.
Best 2017 film reviewed on Now Playing
Patrons have heard my thoughts (along with Arnie's and Stuart's). A smart and tense social commentary on race in America, Get Out isn't only relevant but also a masterfully crafter horror-thriller. Sketch-show-comedian-turned-director Jordan Peele obviously loves horror and has studied the greats in this story that warns us about the dehumanizing effects of racism even if the stereotypes are positive. Reviewed on the podcast or not, this film deserves to be recognized on any top movie list.
Best 2017 movie based on It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
I only slightly jest. Looking at the poster of Casey Affleck dressed as a ghost-wearing a sheet with eye-holes cut out-I thought I was in for an indie comedy. Rather, this is a poetic story of the living haunting the dead. The camera holds on images until you stop asking what their narrative purpose are and, rather, focus on what you feel in each moment. Never have the folds and frayed edges of a bed sheet portrayed so much loss and sorrow. Director David Lowery channels Terrance Malick and Stanley Kubrick with this slow paced, beautifully framed journey through time and the cosmos.
Best film of 2017 most have an opinion about based on their politics before even seeing it
Political. Polarizing. Inflammatory. If you’re inclined to ignore this film because you think you know what it is, I ask then to focus on the craft. Katheryn Bigelow has created one of the tensest hours in film as she retells the Algiers Motel Killings during the 1967 Detroit 12th Street Riot. I would hope that anyone could watch this film and walk away with a little more understanding of why people of color have a seemingly innate fear of police authority. Fifty years later and these real life events feel more relevant than ever.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best acted film of 2017
There's good reason Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell received Golden Globe nominations for their acting in this film about horrible people trying to cope with loss and hard times in the unhealthiest of ways. Even Woody Harrelson and Caleb Landry Jones (who plays the opposite of his menacing character from Get Out) are at the top of their game. Writer-director Martin McDonagh knows how the audience expects this movie to play out and, therefore, zigs when we expect it to zag to create an unpredictable, emotional story of damaged characters.