As always, there are a handful of potentials I just haven't had a chance to see yet, either due to lack of time, or due to the geographical restrictions of living in the great tundra that is Maine, where we aren't typically privy to early releases. So, some of the buzz worthy films that I haven't yet peeped... The Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, and Wonderstruck.
And then, I have to admit, shuffling the top ten deck was a bitch this year, simply because there were so many excellent films to choose from. I seriously feel that many of my 11-20 list could easily be considered for higher standing. But, as they say, you have to be prepared to kill your darlings.
I'm not going to regale you with any commentary on my "not quite" top ten (ie: 11-20), but I'll list them, and you should know that all of them are fantastic and should be on your cinematic radar.
19 Beauty & the Beast
17 Baby Driver
16 Gerald's Game
15 The Big Sick
14 Star Wars: The Last Jedi
13 Brigsby Bear
11 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
and for the top ten of 2017, in which I base my selections on emotional resonance, rewatchability, and cultural relevance, not necessarily in that order....
Soderbergh comes out of "retirement" to give us Ocean's Eleven with rednecks, but he never cheapens the experience with tired cultural cliches. The characters have depth and the actors are all in on this madcap adventure which finds them plotting to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the 4th of July.
9 Stronger (Dir., David Gordon Green)
This is the film Patriot's Day wishes it was. Choosing to focus less on the capture of the perpetrators of the cowardly bombing of the Boston Marathon, Stronger instead follows the story of bombing victim Jeff Bauman, played here with ferocious abandon by Jake Gyllenhaal, and the struggle of coming to terms with being thrust into the spotlight as a symbol of hope for an entire nation.
8 War for the Planet of the Apes (Dir., Matt Reeves)
The rebooted Apes trilogy comes to an end with one of the most heartfelt and well crafted war movies in recent memory. This series has gotten better with each installment, hitting all the right notes in the telling of Caesar's story. The special effects are unmatched.
7 Get Out (Dir., Jordan Peele)
It's not often you find a horror film getting so much attention during the awards push, but Jordan Peele's take on race relations in our society disguised as a genre film is simply outstanding in its structure. Funny, scary, and poignant- wrapped up in a tight script, Get Out is a breath of well intended and needed fresh air- conveying a necessary message in our current cultural state.
6 Wonder Woman (Dir., Patty Jenkins)
With undoubtedly one of the best scenes of the year- as Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) ascends to her rightful place as warrior princess in the Battle of No Man's Land, a female icon is finally emblazoned into the fabric of cinematic geekdom. Director Patty Jenkins was without a doubt the right choice to bring Diana's story to life on the big screen, and to see the impact on the faces of empowered women and girls is easily one of the hallmarks of the 2017 cinematic year.
5 The Disaster Artist (Dir., James Franco)
Based on the making of the 2003 "Citizen Kane" of bad movies, The Room, James Franco deep dives into the persona of eccentric writer/director Tommy Wiseau and the calamity that surrounded the production of his cinematic oddity. Watching The Room is highly recommended before jumping into The Disaster Artist. Having that context greatly enhances the appreciation for what Franco achieved here.
A deeply moving look at grieving and loneliness, A Ghost Story will not be for everyone. Each scene is a haunting portrayal of loss, shown from both sides of the equation- the living that must move on, and the dead that cannot. This is a deeply emotional and affecting film, shot in a way that can often be uncomfortably slow of pace. Those with a lack of patience may struggle, but if given a chance, this is a film that will resonate on a deep level.
3 The Florida Project (Dir., Sean Baker)
Having worked for Disney for nine years, this story felt very close to me. Knowing there were pockets of people living far beneath the poverty line mere minutes from the front gates of the Happiest Place on Earth make me feel equal parts ignorant and culpable. This film is an unflinching look at people living day to day in the shadow of a world that has essentially left them behind. Yet, in all of its squalor, the spirit of six year old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) and her friends is rooted in an innocence that is often as hopeful as it is bleak.
2 I, Tonya (Dir., Craig Gillespie)
Margot Robbie is fantastic as figure skating's bad girl, Tonya Harding. Gillespie shoots the film in a way that accentuates the zany humor of the scandal surrounding the 1992 olympic games, but he never cheapens the true abuse levied against Harding by her family and her on again / off again love interest, Jeff Gillooly. Harding, while not completely innocent, is treated mostly as a product of her environment, unable to free herself of the bad influences in her life, and she comes away here as a mostly sympathetic figure. Allison Janney, as Harding's Mom, is a stand out.
1 Lady Bird (Dir., Greta Gerwig)
In what seems to be a renaissance of coming of age films, Lady Bird raises the bar even further, perhaps to a place unaccessible for whatever comes next. Gerwig's scriptwriting is so tight, it's difficult to find any flaw in the narrative of high school senior Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, all at once head strong and in search of an identity. Her contentious relationship with her mother Marion (an award worthy Laurie Metcalf) provides the crux for everything happening on screen. The result is a heartfelt and sometimes difficult look at love and familial relationships, told in a refreshingly honest way.