These are the 12 films of 2017 that had the biggest impact on me and I thought were best. The first 6, in no particular order, are my favorites.
Lady Bird. I really enjoyed this film, maybe more than any other film in 2017. The mother-daughter relationship at the heart of the film just feels right, especially in the great scene in the thrift store. And then to have Tracy Letts, author of August Osage County and a great actor, as the father is a huge added bonus. Saiorse Ronan gives another sincere and fun performance, and Academy, please nominate Greta Gerwig as best director.
3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. My brother called it a love story between 2 crazy characters. It kind of ends that way in a quirky finish, but of course it’s so much more. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell provide amazing supporting performances to the singular sensation that is Frances McDormand. It’s a hard film but a rewarding one.
The Post. Well, I worked there a few years after the date of this film and met some of those people, so this was pretty cool for me. The story was brought to Spielberg by a 30-something, independent woman screenwriter so that’s a nice story. As others have said, it keeps you on the edge of your seat even if you do know the ending.
Faces Places. I only wish that the incredible, 89-year-old Agnes Varda would have taken the trip to DC after her appearance with the film in New York this fall. This is a beautiful film that follows Varda and her 30-something, amazing billboard-artist friend venturing to small towns in France to make a difference in people’s lives through art. The ending is sad, the film uplifting.
Last Flag Flying. I think this ‘Flag’ really flew under the radar. Vietnam Vets and former friends Laurence Fishburn, Steve Carrell and Brian Cranston form quite the entertaining trio as they head to Washington to help Carrell deal with the death of his son in Iraq. These are three of our most captivating actors and it shows. Nothing huge happens but their interplay with the army types is priceless and the ending satisfying. Cheers Richard Linklater.
Call Me By Your Name. The beautifully drawn characters do justice to their exquisite northern Italian setting. I agree with critics that it would be hard to see the key role in someone besides Timothee Chamalet – who I also liked in Lady Bird. I just felt moved by this story, and the father’s speech to his son at the end is spectacular.
The next 6.
Marshall. Like Last Flag Flying, not enough people saw this very well-done film. Chadwick Boseman is again the go-to to play a famous American, and his pairing with Josh Gad works wonders. Instead of the typical biopic, we get a slice of amazing life here where Thurgood Marshall must win a court battle without being allowed to speak in court.
Step. It helped that I saw this in the presence of all the stars, but what an inspiring story! It couldn’t have been scripted any better. A step team in Baltimore, girls with difficult and different family stories, persevere and conquer all. Very uplifting and well-done.
Columbus. Who would’ve thought that Columbus, Indiana, is a tourist destination? Apparently the director discovered the town—and its amazing, world-famous architecture—and built a movie script around it. The friendship that develops between the outsider and the hometown young woman has feelings beyond any romance. You walk out with a smile.
Mudbound. What a powerful film! Yes, you knew that bad things were coming, but still the performances, the circumstances, the filming all were excellent. Mary J. Blige does stand out as the mother but the two WWII soldiers were wonderful as well. This was another female director that should have been nominated.
Downsizing. Alexander Payne not only takes a crazy scenario – the Brigadoon-like idea of stepping into another world and never returning – but he specifically follows through with it showing the process agonizingly and humorously step by step. Once Chistoph Waltz shows up, laughs follow and a cool journey ensues.
Summer 1993. Spain’s nomination for the 2018 Oscar, this is a beautiful film that shows life as a 6 year-old whose parents die in an accident and she goes to live with her aunt and uncle. They are very welcoming but still the transition is difficult, and the acting that they get from the kids is amazing. Like Call Me By Your Name, I will go live in their small-town European villa anytime. Just tell me when.
Others I really enjoyed:
The Square (a breakout performance by 50 year-old Claes Bang)
Paterson (the joke with the dog and the mailbox is priceless)
Jane (wow, what a life Jane Goodall has lived)
Bombshell: Hedy Lamarr (another wonderful film by a female director)
Dunkirk (visually spectacular)
The Big Sick (maybe if it came out later it would have made my top 12 – really liked it)