Top Ten Films of 2017
10. I, TonyaYou have to hand it to Margot Robbie, who proved her acting chops and her capability as a producer with the same film. Robbie transforms her voice and her physicality in order to play infamous figure skater Tonya Harding at various stages in her life. She's never a perfect match for the real-life Harding, but she's so different from the Australian bombshell that we see on the red carpet that it's the type of performance that wins Oscars. Also fantastic in the film are Allison Janney as Harding's mother, Sebastian Stan as her ex-husband, the consistently under-appreciated Julianne Nicholson as her coach. Also featuring zippy editing and a great soundtrack, I, Tonya raises some very timely questions about classism, the media, and the nature of truth.
9. Battle of the SexesIt was not immediately clear to me after seeing Battle of the Sexes whether or not it would end up on this list. But when it came time to for me to pick ten movies, I couldn't stop thinking about how good this movie made me feel while watching it. It's a movie about triumph, about winning. Directors Valerie Faris and Johnathan Dayton land an upbeat and inspirational tone that is perfect to tell the story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Steve Carrell is hilarious as Riggs. And as King, Emma Stone gives what might be my favorite performance of hers, which is saying something because I love just about every performance she gives.
8. Only the BraveEver since I've been in LA, where the 3pm news begins every single day with updates on yet another wildfire, I have tried to become more aware of the sacrifices of the people who fight these flames. Only the Brave tells the true life story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of firefighters in Arizona. The film has incredible visuals, powerful emotional stakes, and terrific performances from Josh Brolin, a never-better Miles Teller, and an affecting Jennifer Connelly. No other film this year has an ending that left me as devastated as the ending of Only the Brave.
7. Molly's GameThe first time Aaron Sorkin has directed one of his own scripts, Molly's Game is far better than most thought it would be. It's an absorbing real-life drama about Molly Bloom, a woman who runs an underground poker game for the rich and famous that becomes the target of an FBI investigation for connections to the Russian mob. Jessica Chastain is incredible as Bloom, as is Idris Elba as her lawyer. Although it is nearly two and a half hours long, Molly's Game is an energetic dazzler with a fantastic script that boasts some of the best Sorkin lines yet.
6. DunkirkTo quote my review, Dunkirk is "an artful, gripping, and truly unforgettable survival film." Perhaps the most technically challenging film of director Christopher Nolan's career, Dunkirk is an impressive feat of filmmaking and one of the best war movies that I have ever seen.
5. Lady Bird
I have long been a fan of Greta Gerwig, so my anticipation for Lady Bird, a movie she wrote and directed, was extremely high. Gerwig did not disappoint, delivering an era-defining take on the high school movie. So universal and yet so specific, Lady Bird beautifully elevates the pangs and triumphs of being a senior in high school to cinematic art. Saorise Ronan is wonderful as Lady Bird, as are Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as her parents.
4. Wind RiverAs I said in my review, "Wind River is a masterfully written look at a largely overlooked sector of American life that features several powerhouse performances" from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as investigators of a brutal murder on an Indian reservation. It's a bleak and brutal movie, but also one of the most resonant movies of the year - both emotionally and politically.
3. Personal ShopperIn my review, I called Personal Shopper "mysterious, elusive, and, at times, chilling". Although it has been almost a year since I wrote that review, no other impression has replaced the elusive nature of the film in my mind. It is so difficult to think of Personal Shopper as one thing because it is, by design, so many things at once. It's a thriller, it's a mystery, it's a ghost story about the power of human connection. And all of it hinges on the performance of Kristen Stewart, who has never been better than she is as a personal shopper/medium waiting for a sign from her recently deceased brother.
2. Murder on the Orient ExpressThe cast! The costumes! The train! The mustache! There is so much to praise about Kenneth Branagh's glorious adaptation of Agatha Christie's classic whodunit. The mystery is as sharp as ever and Branagh's resplendent visuals and Alexandra Byrne's Oscar-worthy costumes make Murder on the Orient Express a feast for the eyes. As I say in my review, "I had a smile on my face the entire time I was watching it."
1. The BeguiledEverytime Sofia Coppola releases a new movie, it's an event. It becomes a marker of time, as 2017 will always be, for me at least, the year of The Beguiled, or, alternatively, the year Sofia Coppola won Best Director at Cannes. With The Beguiled, Coppola uses her mastery overtone and atmosphere to maximize suspense in this story of a Union soldier who is staying at Virginia girls' school while he recovers from an injury. The cast, including Colin Farrell as the soldier and Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning as the women who come into his orbit, comprise Coppola's finest ensemble yet. While this remake of a 1971 Don Seigel film initially didn't seem like a good fit for Coppola's style, she, to quote my review, "shows a remarkable adeptness at creating tension and suspense." Now begins the dreaded waiting period, as Coppola fans eagerly wait for news of her next project.
What are YOUR top ten films of 2017? Put your list in the comments! Thanks for reading!
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