Film lovers don’t get out to the movies as often as they’d like. For those who devoted 2017 to burrowing through soiled diapers or labor (paid or otherwise) and want to catch up with what they missed in the new year, film writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle call what’s best.
1. “Call Me By Your Name”: It’s a funny year for a love story as blissful as this. Much has already been said about the sensory wonders of Luca Guadagnino’s wellspring of a movie but nothing in 2017 bore such splendor and such genuine wisdom as “Call Me By Your Name.” There are the performances, the notable final shot and the unforgettable monologue delivered by Michael Stuhlbarg. Most of all, “Call Me By Your Name” is an exquisitely alive movie, calling you to lean into life. Italian summers look nice, too. I could go for one of those.
2. “The Florida Project”: Speaking of vibrant movies. Sean Baker’s latest and best is somehow both an affecting, thoughtful social drama and the most spirited movie of the year. Much of that is owed to its young star, Brooklynn Prince, whose performance is the equal of any in 2017, and her fictional mom, played by Bria Vinaite. More than most, Baker’s films are fully engaged with the real world.
3. “Dunkirk”: A colossal, purely cinematic experience of sea, sand and sky and I’m not talking about “Baywatch.” For maximalist cinema, nobody today is in the same league as Christopher Nolan. It’s not one for character development, but in the film’s sensory onslaught there’s something mythical – and perhaps timely – about surviving to fight another day. (See also another fine Dunkirk-related movie from 2017 – Lone Sherfig’s under-seen “Their Finest Hour.”)
4. “Faces Places”: Hands down, the odd couple of the year was Agnes Varda and JR. Pairing the 89-year-old trailblazing filmmaker of the French New Wave with the 33-year-old internationally renowned street artist was almost too cute. In this radiant documentary, they traverse a working-class French countryside in a van painted like a giant camera, pasting giant photos of the people they meet on any large surface they find. Seeking random encounters, they meet people, and through their art, ennoble them. It’s that simple. In a cold year, “Faces Places” is a warm, inviting fire.
5. “Lady Bird”: Whereas most coming-of-age tales telescope into the lives of their adolescent protagonists, Greta Gerwig’s solo directing debut is more widescreen. While still acutely feeling every hope and pain of 17-year-old Christine (Saoirse Ronan), Gerwig sees around her, too, particularly her parents (Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts). It will make a great double feature with 2012’s “Frances Ha,” which Gerwig co-wrote before we found out what a tremendous filmmaker she is, too.
6. “Dawson City: Frozen Time”: Oh, what you can find in an old swimming pool. Bill Morrison’s documentary recounts the unbelievable story of how several hundred reels of silent film were discovered in the foundation of an old athletic club in the far-north Canadian town of Dawson City, once the capital of the Yukon gold rush. The highly combustible nitrate film, dating from the 1910s and 1920s, survived, thanks partly to the region’s cold. With the degraded treasure, Morrison splices together two mirroring stories: of Dawson, a city built overnight and virtually deserted once the gold ran out; and of a lost Hollywood that blossomed before sound set in. In “Frozen Time,” two lost civilizations dance again.
7. “Get Out”: In a time where the future of the movies is so much questioned, nothing pointed the way forward like Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. It’s unquestionably a landmark movie in representing an African-American perspective in a way that has seldom, if ever, been seen before. By seamlessly fusing genre with message – and finding droves eager to see it – “Get Out” was a reminder of a forgotten truism: Nothing makes a zeitgeist like a must-see movie.
8. “Phantom Thread”: For such a finely attired film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is funny. Its craft is mesmerizing and its couture is high but don’t let that fool you. This is a very down-to-earth movie about finding your own idiosyncratic love, and getting outside your own head enough to appreciate it.
9. “Logan Lucky”: Efforts to faithfully capture heartland America in 2017 were admittedly imperfect. Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was thrillingly performed and raged gloriously but had glaring blind spots. Steven Soderbergh’s heist movie “Logan Lucky” delights in both dignifying and laughing at its slow-witted, folksy characters, but, man, is it fun. Movies this light on their feet don’t come along often.
10. “The Lost City of Z”: James Grey’s drifting drama about the early-20th-century explorer Percy Fawcett, who sought a fabled civilization in South America, initially has the foreboding feel of “Apocalypse Now!” or “Fitzcarraldo,” but instead of finding horror in the jungle, Fawcett finds transcendence in otherness.
Also excellent: “The Big Sick,” ‘’Lady Macbeth,” ‘’BPM (Beats Per Minute),” “Okja,” “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “mother!”
1. “Dunkirk”: I’m not sure I’ve ever been so wholly transported by and viscerally engaged in a theater-going experience as I was watching Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” but the filmmaker continues to innovatively use the generous budgets his success has afforded him to push the envelope of immersive cinema and storytelling.
2. “Lady Bird”: Thank you, Greta Gerwig, for introducing us to Lady Bird, her mother Marion, her friend Julie, her boyfriends Kyle and Danny, her brother Miguel and his girlfriend Shelly, her father Larry and all the other wonderfully complex humans who populate the world around a selfish, but also evolving, Sacramento teenager’s life. “Lady Bird” is one of those instant classics, one you want to start again as soon as it’s over.
3. “mother!”: Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is a thrilling and provocative riot. Don’t be scared off by that scene (the one involving a new-born carcass) because Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in the straightforward but riveting biblical allegory (that can be about whatever you want – narcissistic artists, the subjugation of women, the environment).
4. “Call Me By Your Name”: There aren’t a lot of truly sexy movies nowadays, which is just one of the many reasons Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” stands out among the rest. Deliciously indulgent in every possible way, it is a lovely, decadent time falling in love with Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) over the course of one pretty, wistful summer.
5. “The Florida Project”: Director Sean Baker is so good at showing us pockets of our world that most of us either don’t see or don’t want to see, and painting portraits of its inhabitants that manage to be both empathetic and unflinching. This time his subjects are the so-called “hidden homeless” living on the outskirts of Orlando in a low rent motel, featuring an all-timer nice guy performance from Willem Dafoe, and some truly exciting acting discoveries in the young Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite.
6. “Get Out”: This film isn’t your standard horror and that’s what makes it great. Writer-director Jordan Peele brilliantly wove poignant social commentary into a top-notch genre pic – a tricky thing to do, especially when it’s your directorial debut. With it, the man who had previously been known as a comedian and actor made himself a must-follow filmmaker too.
7. “Phantom Thread”: Paul Thomas Anderson went relatively small for his latest effort, a funny and wry chamber drama dressed up in couture. Vicky Krieps is a true find and holds her own and then some opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, as his muse and source of occasional annoyance. Thankfully, Day-Lewis’ possibly final performance is a very good one.
8. “Wonder Woman”: Patty Jenkins deserves all the credit in the world for doing right by “Wonder Woman,” which she molded into a highly enjoyable, warm-hearted and action-packed origin story about the Amazonian princess, who is perfectly embodied by Gal Gadot. This one will impact generations to come.
9. “Jane”: Director Brett Morgen uses never-before-seen National Geographic footage to craft a loving tribute to the extraordinary life of Jane Goodall, given extra grandeur from a stimulating Philip Glass score.
10. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”: Rian Johnson made Star Wars fun and funny again, while still delivering a truly exciting story (and fresh step forward) for the ageing franchise. Our old heroes might be fading away, but the future suddenly looks promising again.
Honorable Mentions: “Good Time,” “The Disaster Artist,” “I, Tonya,” “Their Finest”