The Oscars are tomorrow! In the meantime, allow Wylie Writes’ writers to guide you through their picks for the best films of 2017. Don’t forget to click the highlighted titles to read each contributor’s review.
It was one of the year’s heavyweight champions. It was one of the rare examples of a scary villain benefiting from more screen time. Bill Skarsgård was exceptional as the notorious nightmare Pennywise, but the rest of the cast – all superstars with substantial characters – held their own just as well. Andy Muschietti’s remake is pure gold.
#9. Get Out
Jordan Peele’s feature film debut as a filmmaker was a huge surprise. The Oscar nominated writer/director did an excellent job of building dread and tension through uncomfortable confrontations, which also gave the film relevance when addressing themes of race and class.
This controversial film faces movie goers with unforgettable symbolism and allegories. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky elevates his film by using those devices to develop a thought-provoking multi-layered and multi-theoretical experience. mother! was the cinematic epitome of “go big or go home”.
#7. Dying Laughing
Dying Laughing, an incredibly underrated documentary, could be the rawest film about comedy ever made. Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood develop a levelled, ego-free documentary for comedians to come clean about how they persevered through their worst moments. I loved every minute of this movie.
I haven’t seen Mudbound, but this touching film from Bong Joon Ho should’ve been Netflix’s big hit. After stirring a debate at the Cannes Film Festival and winning the coveted Palme d’or, Okja went on to charm and emotionally move at-home audiences. The performances are all perfect (yes, even Jake Gyllenhaal’s madcap television personality), and the film serves messages with profound weight. Okja is a real treat.
#5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars’ most divisive chapter featured breathtaking action scenes, daring raised stakes for key characters, a genuinely exciting tease for what’s to come, and bittersweet moments that will go down as classic takeaways in this timeless franchise.
#4. The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s fairytale is an all-around marvel. The premise is a high-wire act of genre-blending, but del Toro – in his most natural element – finds beauty in this sci-fi romance about star-crossed lovers.
Logan is an excellent, swelling swan song to Hugh Jackman’s legacy as Marvel’s Wolverine. It’s relentless in the best ways possible – that’s what gives Logan its towering resonance.
#2. The Florida Project
The Florida Project is a new American masterpiece. Tangerine filmmaker Sean Baker gives an unmatched vibrancy to an often ignored and secluded community of people who are striving for their own sense of happiness. The film features star-making performances from Instagram personality Bria Vinaite and young Brooklynn Prince, as well as one of Willem Dafoe’s best roles.
#1. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright has made a number of excellent movies that have earned cult status, but Baby Driver is the ideal vehicle for him to apply his coordinated filmmaking talents. Baby Driver is a lightning fast thrill ride with a sharp sense of humour and a clever eye for detail. There isn’t a missed beat in this perfect film.
As someone who edits the work of Wylie Writes, I too watch a lot of movies – usually with Addison. Here’s my list:
#1. Window Horses
#2. A Ghost Story
#3. Baby Driver
#4. The Shape of Water
#6. The Big Sick
#8. Don’t Talk to Irene
#9. The Florida Project
#10. Get Out
A gloriously executed rip-off (though sufficiently innovative to constitute a different product) of Alien, Life is a tightly-directed, subversive take on natural selection. Released with little fanfare, it far surpasses this year’s Alien: Covenant.
#4. The Shape of Water
After a string of disappointing big budget genre films, Guillermo del Toro is back with The Shape of Water, which is closer to Pan’s Labyrinth than Crimson Peak in both content and quality. A beautiful, unconventional love story between a mute woman and a fish-man, The Shape of Water sounds outrageous on paper, but del Toro executes his bizarre vision grounded in a verisimilar historical-political context (the Cold War), while never straying too far from its more fantastical elements.
#3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos employs different genres to different effects here, and much like his previous film, The Lobster, it’s similarly brilliant. Combined with excellent, Brechtian performances from Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is as tense as it is darkly comedic.
#2. Ex Libris: The New York Public Library
Despite its lengthy running time (3 hours and twenty minutes), Ex Libris provides a carefully distanced yet pointedly analytical survey of the New York Public Library system, paying attention to how the institution provides services for marginalized members of the community. Simultaneously, Ex Libris points to the ways the institution contributes to marginalization within the context of late capitalism.
#1. 120 BPM
At the centre of this drama about ACT UP Paris in the 1990s is a tragic romance between two HIV-positive gay men. 120 BPM overcomes the typical over-dramatic approach to HIV/AIDS cinema (I’m looking at you, The Normal Heart). Director Robin Campillo never hesitates to demonstrate the anger, frustration, and urgency of moments of activism, while paying close attention to the raw emotionality of the central romantic plot. In recent years, France has had one of the best outputs of queer cinema (Stranger by the Lake, Paris 05:59), and 120 BPM represents another terrific entry into the queer canon.
#10. Patti Cake$
This indie comedy celebrates outsiders, as an unlikely trio try to make it as successful hip-hop artists in New Jersey. While Patti Cake$ is predictable and straightforward, it’s also an incredibly heart-warming tale of friendship and creative expression. Even months after seeing the film, the catchy song ‘PB&J’ will stay stuck in your head.
A fairy tale, a monster movie, a love story, and a period piece, The Shape of Water blends genres to appeal to almost anyone. Expertly directed by Guillermo del Toro, this film features his trademark practical creature design, with a fantastically realistic looking sea monster. Also, by utilising mute protagonists, the writers effectively weave a beautiful, compelling narrative that relies heavily on visual storytelling.
Director Kathryn Bigelow’s shocking depiction of the Algiers Motel incident would be much higher on this list if not for a poor third act, which features an odd tonal shift. Like this summer’s Dunkirk, Detroit is a visceral film that invites audiences to experience a horrifying historical event in real time. Viewers can taste the terror on screen as the film depicts humanity at its worst; cautiously riding the line with realistic portrayals of violence that narrowly avoid gratuity. It’s unfortunate that the film’s final moments radically shift gears, with John Krasinski trying – and failing – to step out of Jim Halpert’s shadow.
#7. Molly’s Game
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is everything you’d hope for – an effective whirlwind of fast-paced dialogue, incredible performances and a compelling true story. While the second act does drag and there’s a few too many poker-playing scenes, the drama and the evolution of the characters is riveting. Strap on your seatbelt for an opening sequence that moves so fast, it’s bound to give you whiplash!
#6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A dark and disturbing film, Three Billboards is most notable for an incredible cast and unpredictable narrative. Disappointed with local law enforcement, a mourning mother takes matters into her own hands when police fail to solve her daughter’s murder. It’s rare to come across a film that populates an entire small town with fully-developed, well-rounded characters. An ominous thriller with healthy doses of black comedy, Three Billboards features unforgettable performances from Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson.
#5. The Disaster Artist
This was bound to be an inevitable favourite of mine, especially as a massive fan of Tommy Wiseau’s disasterpiece The Room. I have been anticipating The Disaster Artist since it was first announced almost four years ago. While the true-story facts have been doctored to fit the Hollywood screenplay formula, what I love about this film is that it’s opened up The Room and the culture of its fans to a much wider audience. James Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau is far from perfect, but I still couldn’t be happier that this film exists.
A unique take on the war movie, Dunkirk depicts a successful evacuation rather than elaborate battles to the death. Instead of over-the-top heroics, this movie explores a terrible militaristic failure that was later spun as a great victory. The film puts viewers inside the action, with incredible visual achievement and detailed recreations. Notoriously, Dunkirk features the ‘Christopher Nolan Timeline Gimmick,’ and whether it’s superfluous or not is debatable, but I nevertheless enjoyed the style as an effective way to revisit scenes from a different perspective and with new contexts.
#3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This newest entry into the Star Wars universe is dividing fans, with viewers either loving it or hating it. As a long-time Star Wars enthusiast, I proudly fall under the loving it category. It’s certainly not a film without flaws, but I can’t think of a single movie in this series without unexplainable plot holes or gaps in logic. With great action and a unique story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an incredibly fun ride from start to finish – the new developments and characters are a welcome expansion to the series.
#2. Room Full of Spoons
Technically, this film wasn’t released last year due to a legal dispute, but I did see this documentary in 2017, and so I’ve included it on this list (if only to get the word out). While The Disaster Artist gives you the Hollywood version of Tommy Wiseau, Room Full of Spoons is a documentary film that explores his darker eccentricities with more depth than any other film or book I’ve seen on the subject. Canadian director Rick Harper goes to great lengths to interview the majority of the cast and crew of The Room, travelling the world to answer some of the biggest questions fans have about Tommy Wiseau’s mysterious past.
#1. Brigsby Bear
A love letter to creativity, Brigsby Bear caught me by surprise more than any film of 2017. This quirky, underrated little comedy has more heart and inspiration than anything else I’ve seen all year. Having grown up in isolation, a young man now struggles to adapt when he’s introduced to society for the first time. It’s a film that will leave viewers with the urge to create, a celebration of collaboration and friendship. It’s an unforgettably positive movie featuring incredible performances from Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, and especially Mark Hamill in multiple roles. This truly is a must-see film.
Nick van Dinther
#5. War of the Planet of the Apes
The combined efforts of the current Planet of the Apes series make up one of the best modern trilogies, and War of the Planet of the Apes does an excellent job of bringing this chapter to a close. Andy Serkis is phenomenal as Caesar, and brings a beautiful level of humanity to the character. Regardless of your thoughts on whether a motion capture performance should be acknowledged at the Oscars, I think we can at least agree that Serkis is the one of the best mo-cap performers.
#4. Baby Driver
This is so much more than a heist film. Edgar Wright brings audiences a play on the genre unlike anything we’ve seen before. The use of music in this film and the way it’s woven throughout the story fits perfectly, matching up with both the high-paced action scenes, and the softer notes in the film.
This is Guillermo del Toro’s best film. He has crafted a beautiful fairy tale, with outstanding visuals and a story that will stick with you for quite some time. I genuinely believe he deserves to walk away with the Best Director Oscar. The Shape of Water is just an incredible film.
Hopefully after the Oscars have passed, more people will see this movie. If you like dark comedies, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of the better entries in the genre in quite some time.
I was torn between what film was going to take the #1 spot, but in the end, it had to be Logan. The story, effects, and performances are off the charts. Director James Mangold made a violent and gritty piece of art that took what was already one of the best superheroes in cinema to a different level. I never thought there was going to be a superhero flick that was a better film than The Dark Knight, but Logan proved me wrong.
In Alphabetical Order:
Director Sarah Adina Smith is able to create a fantastic world for this psychological thriller through a creative narrative that engages the viewer. She creates characters that you can’t help but love, but should definitely hate. This movie will keep you guessing until the end, and you’ll have a blast trying to figure out the mystery.
The Disaster Artist
A really good movie about the worst movie ever made? I’m not the biggest James Franco fan, but the actor’s portrayal of Tommy Wiseau could be one of his best performances – he really deserved all the acclaim. I had so much fun watching The Disaster Artist, it couldn’t not make my best-of list.
A Ghost Story isn’t just making it into my top 5 of 2017; I think it’s made the list of my favorite movies of all time. I’m a sucker for experimental projects and the fact David Lowery and his filmmaking team decided to shoot in 1.33 aspect ratio already put this flm on a whole other level. Writer/director Lowery demonstrates an unconventional approach to storytelling (including minimal dialogue and lingering long shots) to grasp the beauty within this tale. I feel A Ghost Story will be studied in film classes in the next 10-15 years – hopefully sooner.
Read Nick’s interview with filmmaker David Lowery here!
KodaChrome is one of two films on my list starring Elizabeth Olsen in a leading role – she’s a great performer. I’m also a sucker for a good road trip movie. Drop Olsen in that sub-genre, and you have a movie I’m bound to love. What’s great about KodaChrome is the fact it’s not a standard “road trip” movie. It’s different and reinventive in the best ways possible.
One of the best crime dramas of 2017 marks the return of director Tyler Sheridan. He sets the bar quite high with Wind River by not only creating a great story, but also giving audiences information about an indefinable statistic of missing people. Wind River is a chance to inform people on real life issues that should be talked about more than they are.
In Alphabetical Order:
This triad of loosely-connected short stories centering on the everyday lives of women in middle-of-nowhere Montana is a masterwork of empathetic filmmaking. It’d been a while since I’d seen a movie treat its characters so compassionately and sensitively – a testament to the excellent writing and unmissable performances. To be clear, this movie is not for the impatient, as each story is delicately controlled to build up slowly. But, the emotional payoff is so worth it. Certain Women was incredibly memorable for me.
Basically this generation’s war movie, it was surprising how much I liked “the writing” for a film with little actual dialogue. I could go on and on about the genius of the editing and the particularly innovative use of nonlinear storytelling, but that’s all been said before and better than I ever could. What I loved about Dunkirk was how it made me care so intensely about characters that, even by the end, I didn’t get to know a whole lot about. I find it can be hard for war movies to distill events down to the way they affect specific individuals while also respectfully acknowledging the scale of mass casualty. But, this movie did an amazing job of that, and it gripped me from beginning to end.
Kong: Skull Island
I enjoyed the heck out of this monster movie – even the weird John C. Reilly subplot. All of the bizarre creatures and elements of the island were just so imaginative, it made for a super fun moviegoing experience. The story had twists and surprises – this film wasn’t afraid to kill its characters. Overall, great energy, well done effects, and writing that kept me invested all the way through. I will probably rewatch Kong: Skull Island ten more times over the course of my life.
One of my all-time favourite documentaries. The idea of making a film about the team of obituary writers at The New York Times could’ve been dismissed early as too esoteric and mundanely niche. But actually, this movie is really about, well, everything: the way a person’s story balances narrative and chaos, what it means to live a life that’s complete, the nature of history itself and how humans choose what we memorialize. Obit is informative, inspiring, and altogether energizing.
Read Jessica’s interview with documentarian Vanessa Gould here!
Wexford Plaza shocked me with its revolutionary sense of nuance. The perfect marriage of an inventive concept, outstanding writing, and a talented cast make this film essential viewing. The story is real, relatable, universal, but most importantly for the times, exceptionally balanced. I recommend this movie to any and everyone, but particularly those with an interest in better understanding “those dang millennials” and the elements that contribute to a culture of disaffected, reluctant idealism.
Read Jessica’s interview with filmmaker Joyce Wong here!
The Best Short Films of 2017:
#10. Great Choice (DIR. Robin Comisar)
#9. homer_b (DIR. Conor Sweeney/Milos Mitrovic)
#8. Clean Hands (DIR. Lauren Defilippo)
#7. Balloonist (DIR. Nathan Truesdel)
#6. Death in the Terminal (DIR. Tali Shemesh, Assaf Sudry)
#5. Madre de Dios (DIR. Gigi Saul Guerrero)
#4. The Death, Dad & Son (DIR. Vincent Paronnaud)
#3. homer_a (DIR. Conor Sweeney/Milos Mitrovic)
#2. Henna (DIR. Fami Kaur)
#1. World of Tomorrow Episode Two (DIR. Don Hertzfeldt)
The Best Feature-Length Films of 2017:
10) On Body and Soul (DIR. Ildiko Enyedi)
The sort of grand romantic film that would fail in the hands of a less capable director, Enyedi’s return to cinema after a decades long absence asks if true love actually exists. Can two people be made for each other to such a degree that they dream the same thing? Also, I have to give credit to Alexandra Borbely for one of the best performances of the year.
9) Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri (DIR. Martin McDonagh)
Martin McDonagh has finally broken through with this darkly comic and oddly timely film. The screenplay is brought to life with brilliant performances from everyone involved.
8) The Death of Stalin (DIR. Armando Iannucci)
This is probably the best comedy I saw in 2017 (it hits theatres later this month). If you’re into Soviet politics and dry British humour, this film was made specifically for you.
7) The Square (DIR. Ruben Östlund)
The fact that it took so long for someone to make a smart parody of postmodern art is quite surprising. The fact that Östlund does this with the humour and wit of Monty Python makes it even better. The Square is certainly one of the best comedies of 2017.
6) Looking for Oum Kulthum (DIR. Shirin Neshat)
An update on Fellini’s 8 ½ for the post-modern age, Neshat’s latest feature details the creation of a film by an othered woman in a masculine industry. What follows is beautiful imagery surrounded by creation, destruction and dreams.
5) In the Fade (DIR. Fatih Akin)
What Get Out did for black America, In the Fade did for brown Europe. A sure to be controversial film, Akin’s film follows the trials and tribulations that come with holding white terrorists accountable in a neo-nazi resurgence. If nothing else, this film’s ending is sure to create heated debate.
4) Get Out (DIR. Jordan Peele)
Get Out is the film 2017 needed. In the current political climate, we needed a horror film about being black in Trump’s America. It helps even more that this is as effective as horror gets.
3) Kedi (DIR. Ceyda Torun)
Another film that we needed in 2017. I have watched this one every opportunity that I got because it is such a calming experience. Cats walk around Turkey – doing cat things – which allows the viewer to sit in the dark and pretend that 2017 never really happened.
2) Happy End (DIR. Michael Haneke)
This is not what we have come to expect from Haneke; the distrust of technology and the modern world is still there, but it is the style that differs. Unlike his earlier works, this one is subtle with a newer understanding of violence. The violence is no longer sudden and perfectly framed, but rather repeating and everywhere. A Haneke for the internet age!
Read Shahbaz’s interview with filmmaker Michael Haneke here!
1) The Killing of a Sacred Deer (DIR. Yorgos Lanthimos)
This is what we have come to expect from Lanthimos: surreal performances, unusual dialogue and a sudden descent into hell! It is especially this descent, replete with nightmarish imagery, that really makes this film the best of the year. Upon my first viewing, a teardrop of blood, one which I was aware would happen eventually but still managed to shock me, was what made me realize that this is the best thing I was seeing this year.
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