Best of film 2017: The times they are a changin’

2017 best films, best of film 2017, entertainment, film reviews, independent films, opinion and commentary, top 10 films of 2017, top films 2017, A Ghost Story, Detroit, Get Out, Lady Bird, Lady Macbeth, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

The film industry is enjoying its third of fourth year of great work where risk appears to equal rewards. Disruptors Amazon Studios and Netflix have forced traditional studios to up their creative game and rethink their business models for product delivery. This monumental shift has opened up opportunities for new voices and diverse talents. Exciting times for film lovers!

As usual, the films that I’ve chosen may not all be critical or popular favorites. Films that focus on great storytelling and well-developed characters tend to stay with me, along with those that intrigue, horrify, delight, challenge or transport. That’s why we love them, and make these crazy lists.

My long list of must-sees includes: The Florida Project; The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Mudbound; Call Me by Your Name; Darkest Hour; The Post; The Square; Faces Places and on and on.

The following 2017 list may be amended, but for now, we’re off – in alphabetical order.

1 > Detroit  Director Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film isn’t perfect, but it excels in being timely. The film examines the 1967 Detroit race riots with the police brutality and systemic racism of the time, and still evident today. Detroit is not an easy film to watch, but it’s hard to forget. With uniformly excellent performances, particularly by Will Poulter, I hope more people see it.

2 > Free Fire  Like his A Field in England, this film also bears Ben Wheatley’s original stamp. In a warehouse as a drug deal goes south, the entire film becomes one long, epic shootout unfolding in real time. It’s an explosive parody, and a better critique of the insanity of gun violence and the carnage it causes. The film showcases the writer-director Wheatley at his silliest, absurdist best.

3 > Get Out  Part horror, part dramedy, this is a terrific film debut by writer-director Jordan Peele. It’s smart, original and captures the culture and politics of our time. The film is well-cast and well-acted, and damn creepy at certain points. Peele’s unique voice examines racial paranoia and class entitlement like a psychosocial study – the garden party scene – whoa!

4 > A Ghost Story  The bizarre, mildly comic concept of an actor under a sheet with two eye holes cut out, when combined with mise-en-scène, terrific cinematography and a solid story, translates into a haunting (no pun intended) story about love, loss and the passage of time. This is beautiful work by writer-director David Lowery perfectly illustrating how filmmaking can be so transformative.

5 > I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore  A darkly observed, existential tale of human indecency – this film begins with a whimper and ends with a bang. Writer-director Macon Blair has concocted an oddball mix of comedy, suspense and vengeance. The eccentric leads played earnestly by Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood expose our worst assumptions about human nature at the same time confirming them.

6 > Ingrid Goes West  This twisted, savage, black comedy is a spot-on examination of a wannabe in the world of social-media celebrity. An unstable young woman travels cross country to meet her Instagram crush. Ingrid’s obsession with social engagement and emulation seemingly goes horribly wrong, or does it? Writer-director Matt Spicer exposes the highs and lows of living one’s life publicly.

7 > Lady Bird  Greta, Greta, Greta! As an actress, I’ve loved her quirky and down-to-earth characters. With this film, Gerwig shows a steady hand as writer and director of this coming-of-age tale showcasing terrific performances by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as the head-butting daughter and mother. It’s a sweet, beautiful story populated with nuanced characters throughout.

8 > Lady Macbeth  William Oldroyd’s period piece is as icy cold and tough as it gets in corsets. With the title character imprisoned in a loveless marriage, the film is an unforgiving study of a woman empowered gone so wrong. Florence Pugh delivers a mesmerizing performance as the manipulative Shakespearean namesake. The framing and lingering camera work allow the viewer insights into her mind.

9 > The Shape of Water  A period romance with a bit of perversion, Guillermo del Toro works his magic and creates a world where misfits find their place with each other. With stunning cinematography, and laden with symbolism, this otherworldly tale stars Sally Hawkins giving another terrific performance this year (see Maudie too) as a mute woman connecting with a classified, science experiment.

10 > Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Back in fine form after the disappointing Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh – my hero, my wordsmith – delivers a dark, suffocating story about a woman seeking closure on the death of her daughter, by any means necessary. Frances McDormand turns in a fantastic, don’t-need-to-be-loved performance, along with great turns by Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

Honorable mentions include: The Lost City of Z; Franz; The Lovers; Logan Lucky; Good Time, Marjorie Prime and War for the Planet of the Apes.

A mixed bag of indie, art house and mainstream on my list thus far, and I look forward to seeing many more films after the new year. As in 2016, this year produced a rich and diverse bounty of work.

What films were memorable for you in 2017?

Design + animation: © 2017 Janet Giampietro

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6 Responses to “Best of film 2017: The times they are a changin’”

  1. Tony Gandia Says:

    Hey Janet, how I love your film posts ! Brings back so many memories.

    I wasn’t that in love in “Detroit” and found that Bigelow’s effective documentary-style filmmaking that served her well for “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” made “Detroit” feel detached and a bit like watching a serious incident through someone’s iPhone. “Hurt” and “Zero” were helped by Jeremy Renner and Jessica Chastain anchoring the stories and giving us a force of gravity that made me invest in those stories. While I enjoyed, it doesn’t make my top.

    Am dying to see “Lady Bird,” “Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name” and “Three Billboards” as they haven’t arrived in Paris. It seems 2017 really back-loaded all the good films as the first half had lots of disappointing clunkers. “Get Out” is the only one that truly stands out.

  2. Janet Giampietro Says:

    Hey Tony:

    How wonderful to hear from you, and your weigh-in on films this year. Thank you!

    Totally hear you on Detroit. Judging by other best-of lists that I’ve read, you are not alone in your opinion of this film. I saw it the weekend it opened in a packed theater with an audience that was truly engaged. Perhaps that influenced me, along with some of the chats I had afterwards.

    When I saw Star Wars, the audience was full of haters. I’d like to see it again just to filter out the noise and judge for myself.

    If you don’t have access to film festivals these days, all of the best films are back-loaded. Everyone wants their films/press fresh in the memory of the voters.

    Hope we get a chance to see each other somewhere down the road, on either side of the pond. It’s been too long.

    All the best in 2018,
    Janet

  3. FilmFan201 Says:

    Curiousg:

    Of all the lists I’ve read, this is the most poor. Detroit and Ghost Story sucked and the others you picked are middling at best.

    You’re no film fan or critic.

    FF201

  4. Janet Giampietro Says:

    Hello FF201:

    Thanks for your comment, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I stand by my picks, and see my other comment re: Detroit.

    Put your money where your mouth is: Send a link to your picks/reviews so that we can have a civil dialogue about the films of 2017 instead of a one-sided critique.

    Cheers,
    Janet

  5. Mary P Says:

    Hello the curious g blog!

    Thanks for your list, I enjoyed reading it. I agree with you on Get Out and Lady Bird, and your mention of War for the Planet of the Apes. Some others I haven’t seen yet. Three Billboards was not for me.

    My list included The Florida Project, Faces Places, Raw, The Big Sick and Dunkirk.

    Mary

  6. Janet Giampietro Says:

    Thanks for including your list Mary. It’s a good one.

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