As usual by the year’s end, there are still several films capturing awards buzz that haven’t come to Wichita yet (such as “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Shape of Water” or “Phantom Thread”). With that in mind, here is my list of the 10 best movies of 2017. Let me know how it compares to yours.
1. “The Disaster Artist” – I didn’t have more fun at the movies this year than with the lovable filmmaking oddballs in this tale of the making of what is widely regarded as the worst movie ever – “The Room.” Director/star James Franco somehow crafted a love letter to that film while also poking fun at yet paying tribute to the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, “The Room’s” director and star. And Franco also somehow gave the best performance of his career playing Wiseau. Maybe I loved “Disaster Artist” so much because I’m a filmmaker myself, but regardless, I found it wholly enjoyable and wildly inspiring. It’s a testament to being who you are and following your dreams. (Now playing in Wichita)
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2. “Lady Bird” – This smart, tender coming-of-age tale nimbly captures the spirit of teenage angst, so wonderfully, fully realized in Saoirse Ronan’s Oscar-quality performance as a teen in her last year of high school navigating the tumultuous waters of romance and self-realization while also butting heads with her equally strong-willed mother (an astounding Laurie Metcalf). And that this is actress Greta Gerwig’s solo directing and writing debut makes it even more of an impressive feat. (Now playing in Wichita)
3. “Logan” – This wasn’t just another X-Men movie. It turned out to be something far greater and more meaningful than that. It was also Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine, and the film defied genre conventions in many ways by going to some dark places. But it was also tragic, as Wolverine grappled with his impending mortality and an aging, ailing Professor X. It was surprisingly powerful, emotional stuff that was thoughtful and beautifully resonant. (Available on home video)
4. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – There were no punches held back in Martin McDonagh’s searing portrait of a woman so outraged that her anger practically seeps out of her pores. And Frances McDormand as that woman – a mother protesting against the local police because they have not captured her daughter’s murderer – has never been better, with fine supporting work from Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. (Now playing in Wichita)
5. “Get Out” – It’s a rare feat that this is getting mentions during awards season since it was released way back in February. But that’s just how good Jordan Peele’s directing debut is, a thoughtful satire on race relations about a young black man who discovers things aren’t what they seem when he visits his white girlfriend’s family in the country. It’s equal parts horror, comedy and psychological thriller with a story that twists and turns in surprising, marvelous ways. (On home video)
6. “Baby Driver” – Just downright cool is the best way to describe writer/director Edgar Wright’s stylish, funny, lightning-fast comedy/actioner with a slickly suave Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver stuck doing one last job – or so he thinks. Fueled by a killer soundtrack that’s almost a character unto itself, the film strives to be nothing more than entertaining, and we can tell that Wright loved every minute making it. (On home video)
7. “Dunkirk” – Christopher Nolan’s sprawling World War II epic about the evacuation of allied troops from the French city of Dunkirk before Nazi forces invade is a dazzling technical marvel. But it also shows the director in full command of his craft, telling three stories on three overlapping timelines without it ever getting confusing. Nolan plucked Fionn Whitehead out of obscurity for his film debut, and he’s captivating in an almost dialogue-free role as the emotional center of the film. (On home video)
8. “Wonder Woman” – Director Patty Jenkins’ soaring, exuberant adventure gave us a ravishing, electrifying Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in a film that got everything right, including a game Chris Pine. Now was that so hard, Hollywood? (On home video)
9. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” – This was wildly divisive among fans, but I’m of the camp that found the second film in the new trilogy emotionally satisfying and a step in the right direction. Sure, there were some interesting story choices (and Snoke turned out to be one of the weakest villains in the series), but I still found the film exciting and a loving farewell to Carrie Fisher. (Now playing in Wichita)
10. “Mudbound” – Deeply rooted in detailed, robust acting is director Dee Ree’s tale of two soldiers struggling to fit in after serving in World War II and the effect that has on their families. Set in rural, muddy Mississippi, the film utterly drips with a sense of place. The story may be bleak at times, but it’s ultimately powerful and absorbing, and Rees presents the racism of the era as both routine and heartbreaking. It’s also unfortunately very relevant in today’s times. (Now streaming on Netflix)
Rod Pocowatchit: 316-268-6638, @rawd