One of the things that always worries me about writing Top 10 lists is that…I hate filling it with movies people have never heard of. Yet most critics end up doing that. We don’t generally have a list with garbage like The Fast and the Furious (though for some reason, those last few films got good reviews from many critics). At least this year, half of my list will be pictures people that aren’t cinephiles have heard of or seen. And for my colleagues that will see this list and question me about this movie or that…I’ll just address a few of the ones they’re going to be putting on their lists.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Meyerowitz Stories — if I was judging on the first 45 minutes, both of these would’ve made my list; since the last 45 minutes didn’t work, they get no consideration. I, Tonya — two great performances, but poor direction and an overall disappointing movie. Get Out — It was a fun, pleasant surprise. Despite it’s message, it’s hardly a film worthy of such praise [side note: Jordan Peele’s movie about a cat a few years ago was better]. Call Me By Your Name — Again, two good performances; make that three if you count Michael Stuhlbarg, but overrated and not the least bit romantic. Dunkirk — Needed more character development.The Florida Project — Almost made my list of “worst movies” of the year, but the incredible performance by Willem Dafoe and child actor Brooklyn Prince keep it off that.Phantom Thread — I’ve lost all faith in Paul Thomas Anderson as a filmmaker.The Disaster Artist — It was good, not great. It reminded me of when P.T. Anderson was great, and gave us Boogie Nights. Darkest Hour was okay; Gary Oldman will get an Oscar nomination. Both Baby Driver and Victoria & Abdul were so flawed, they should be closer to being on critics’ worst list than best.
But the movies below, had more than just one or two great performances. They also had stories that were captivating.
- MOLLY’S GAME. How can you not love watching Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain spar with each other? And I always enjoy Chris O’Dowd and Michael Cera in support roles. Aaron Sorkin’s first time behind the camera worked. Perhaps I’m biased, because I love poker films and courtroom dramas. This combines them both.
- WIND RIVER. I love when the snow is captured nicely with great cinematography. It’s a shame Tarantino did that, but ended up blowing it with the Hateful Eight. Now, my number 10 movie had a great screenwriter directing for the first time. This movie does, too. Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) wrote my favorite movie of last year — Hell or High Water. He wrote, directed, and brought Gil Birmingham back for this solid picture. A nicely understated performance from Elizabeth Olsen, too [fun fact: Graham Greene was in both pictures I have on my list so far]. Original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/08/09/wind-river/
- THE OATH. I always hate when a foreign picture makes it’s way onto my list, because I know nobody has seen it, and merely seeing it on my list won’t inspire them to, either. This great revenge story takes place in Iceland. I caught this at the Digital Gym. It’s great that we have places like that, and the Angelika Film Center, to see some of these smaller flicks that slip through the cracks. Here’s my original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/09/09/the-oath/
- ENTANGLEMENT. It’s not just those two movie houses and the Landmark where you can see interesting pictures. The last few years, it seems something I caught at the San Diego International Film Festival has made it onto my Best list. This movie didn’t even have a distributor when I saw it. When it comes out next year, do whatever you can to catch it. You’ll be surprised by how often you laugh, in a movie that deals with a guy that’s suicidal. It’s a shame the cast isn’t filled with bigger names (Thomas Middleditch is the top star) or it would be huge.
- MAUDI. Actress Sally Hawkins was great in Submarine (which made my top 10 list seven years ago). Her performance in The Shape of Water is the one she’ll probably get nominated for this year, but she’s just as good in this, playing disabled folk artist Maud Lewis. Ethan Hawke plays her dimwitted, and sometimes abusive, husband. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/07/11/maudie/
- THE BIG SICK. My wife was a bit bothered that the trailers made it look like more of a comedy than the drama it was. Hey…I laughed, I cried. And I adored the cast. Hopefully this makes Kumail Nanjiani a household name. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/07/11/maudie/
- THE DINNER. As an actor, Richard Gere doesn’t have much range; but playing a slimy politician is right in his wheelhouse. Comedic genius Steve Coogan should be bigger in America, and this is a different role for him. This movie isn’t going to be talked about during awards season, and that’s a shame. It blew me away, and went in unexpected directions. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/05/03/the-dinner/
- LAST FLAG FLYING. I expected the worst, because I’ve been disappointed by some Linklater films (Dazed & Confused and Everybody Wants Some). This has a terrific ensemble cast, and will have you weeping. It’ll also make you want to slap Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee when the flag comes out. Watching Steve Carell stand in front of a flag draped over the casket of his son…wow. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/11/08/last-flag-flying/
- GOOD TIME. All those Twilight fans should have a good time with this performance from Robert Pattinson, as a criminal with a mentally challenged brother. Ben and Josh Safdie, the writer, directors, and star of this movie…gave us a flick that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I saw it six months ago. It was a toss up between putting this at the number two spot or number one. I basically flipped a coin. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/08/27/good-time/
1….LADY BIRD. This movie is going to clean up in awards season, and it should. I hadn’t thought about Laurie Metcalf since the Roseanne show ended decades ago. And she’s now the front-runner for “supporting actress” Oscar. Greta Gerwig, another screenwriter (and actress) makes her first attempt at directing, and crushes it. How can there be three first-time directors on a Top 10 list? The three on this list give me a joy and anticipation of what’s to come from them in the future. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/11/14/lady-bird/
Honorable mentions: THE POST, FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL, JULIETA, TRUMAN, BAND AID, DEALT, and SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
The Worst Movies of 2017:
- JUST GETTING STARTED. They didn’t screen this for the critics. Never a good sign, and the commercials looked awful. Just saw it tonight, and it makes it in under the wire. An incredible cast of old-timers (Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pantoliano, Jane Seymour) acting like idiots.
- THE LOVERS. Nice to see Debra Winger back, but in this garbage? At least her co-star Tracy Letts got to be in a movie on the Top 10 list (Lady Bird). My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/05/17/the-lovers/
- THE WILDE WEDDING. You haven’t heard of this movie? Consider yourself lucky. How can a cast that includes Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Patrick Stewart be this bad?
- Boo 2! A MADEA HALLOWEEN. Two things you hate hearing in movies — a sequel and Tyler Perry.
- THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. How many cast members have to die before they’ll stop making this garbage? My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/04/12/the-fate-of-the-furious/
- FIFTY SHADES DARKER. So, if Hollywood is ending the careers of all these actors and directors for how they’ve treated women, how can we not get up in arms about this gratuitous stuff? Perhaps if they could write a decent script, I wouldn’t care. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/02/09/fifty-shades-darker/
- A GHOST STORY. Case Affleck wears a sheet over his head the entire movie, playing a ghost. Oh, and Rooney Mara spends 13 minutes eating a pie. How is this entertainment? My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/07/27/a-ghost-story/
- PARIS CAN WAIT. Does anyone with the last name “Coppola” get to make movies? [side note: Nicolas Cage’s real last name is Coppola]. This is from Francis Ford’s wife Eleanor. Gee, you’re not so swell. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/05/17/paris-can-wait/
- MOTHER! This movie was so bad, it ended the relationship between Jennifer Lawrence and writer/director Darren Aronofsky. You’re going to Red Box it anyway, I know you will. Don’t say you weren’t warned. And don’t ask me to explain it to you I didn’t understand it, either. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/09/12/mother/
1….THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER. Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos has a warped mind. That made for the interesting, but disturbing, Dogtooth. He also gave us the interesting premise, but not very well conceived The Lobster. Now this movie, that has an incredible performance from a young actor that was in Dunkirk, and it started promising. The third act is absurd. My original review: http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/11/01/the-killing-of-a-sacred-deer/
Honorable, or dishonorable, mentions go to: TABLE 19, A DOG’S PURPOSE, A CURE FOR WELLNESS, JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2, RAW, I LOVE YOU DADDY, BUSTER’S MAL HEART, THE LITTLE HOURS, GIRLS TRIP.