The Top 9 Films From 2017

Photos: clockwise from top left: “Long Strange Trip” (Amazon Studios); “Get Out” (Universal Pictures); Phantom Thread” (Focus Features); and “Lady Bird” (A24)   Photos: clockwise from top left: “Long Strange Trip” (Amazon Studios); “Get Out” (Universal Pictures); Phantom Thread” (Focus Features); and “Lady Bird” (A24)  

Each year at this time, the reading public is blessed by best-of movie lists emanating from every conceivable punditocracy, none of which seem to address the basic fallacy at hand: No one, not even the most dedicated critic, sees everything released in a given year. The current rate of releases makes it all but impossible, even if one forgoes sleep (and even then...). So what does any top-10 list mean? It means, “These are my favorite movies from the ones I’ve actually seen.”

For no other reason than to distinguish myself from the pack, this lineup includes nine films. All were released in calendar year 2017. All are films I have actually seen, and are the films I liked the most out of many films I liked. It was, overall, a pretty good year, and one that may prove a harbinger of better times to come in the movie industry, at least for women.

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“Wonder Woman,” which is not listed below, was a terrific action film and will do great things for the director Patty Jenkins, even if in the end it had to make too many concessions to the DC aesthetic and commerce in general. Greta Gerwig’s direction of “Lady Bird,” which is listed below, may mark the beginning of a brilliant second career. “I, Tonya” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” featured formidable female performances by Margot Robbie and Allison Janney in the former and Frances McDormand in the latter. If this were a Top-11 list, they would have been in it.

Nine films that raised our faith in humanity because, after all, humans made these movies.

To be frank, movies like “Blade Runner” and any new “Star Wars” entry are not going to appeal to me, no matter how technologically advanced they may be. The truth is, digital technology has made awe an obsolete concept at the cinema. They can do anything now, so who cares?

In the end, everyone has their own list, though some have seen more movies than others. I think it’s safe to say I have seen hundreds, and that the ones below satisfied my not-so-idiosyncratic list of demands: that they create a universe that is not only absorbing but makes sense; that they achieve something that makes one happy to be alive; and that they raised our faith in humanity because, after all, humans made these movies.

“The Phantom Thread.” “Seamless” is not a word one wants to use in describing Paul Thomas Anderson’s redemption tale, only because a pun seems unworthy of Anderson’s finely tailored period piece. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is the in-demand couturier of post-war London, a man of decided tastes and habits, one with a tendency to treat women as disposable. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) manages his life the way Colonel Parker managed Elvis. He sews messages and tokens into the clothes he makes for the rich and royal; his sense of line and luxury are unparalleled; and he has a rigid regard for order, which is shattered by the arrival in his life of Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress of uncertain European origin and a demeanor that disguises both her strength and sense of destiny. Despite his often dismissive regard, and the priority he gives his art over her gestures of love, she is determined to make him happy, no matter how hard he resists.

We must pray it’s not really Day-Lewis’s final film, which he has said it is.

While the romantic story is absorbing and the acting unimpeachable—we must pray it’s not really Day-Lewis’s final film, which he has said it is—what makes it a masterpiece is Anderson’s sublime cinematic sense of texture, mood and flawed humanity.

“Get Out.” Is it a comedy or a horror movie? It’s both, its laughs being rooted in an exploration of the black American nightmare, with perhaps the best ending ever. It is a triumphant directorial debut by erstwhile comedian Jordan Peele, who told this writer he wanted to make a movie that represented the black-horror audience. “It wasn’t a mistake that the ‘sunken place’”—the otherworldly dimension where the film’s hero, played by Daniel Kaluuya, occasionally finds himself—“was like this darkened theater, where no matter how much he screams at the screen he can’t affect what’s going on—that, to me, is what it was like being in a horror theater in a black neighborhood. You can scream, ‘Get out of the house!’ as much as you want, but the lead character doesn’t hear you.”

Guillermo del Toro’s fabulist masterpiece is half Cold War thriller, half creature feature.

“The Shape of Water.” Guillermo del Toro’s fabulist masterpiece is half Cold War thriller, half creature feature, in which a mute girl with an open heart becomes involved with a sea creature of supernatural abilities and, yes, a soul. Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” has been on my all-time top 10 list since that Spanish Civil War parable debuted in 2006, and in some ways “The Shape of Water” is not just its equal but a kind of older version: There is an innocent young woman, a mysterious creature and an embodiment of evil—played in “Shape” by Michael Shannon, as the brutal government agent who has dragged the creature back from the jungle to be used as anti-Soviet weaponry. It’s worth noting that the performances of the supporting cast—Olivia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones as “Amphibian Man”—are nothing short of exhilarating.

Lady Bird’s sense of self is rooted in her parents’ example of Christian charity.

“Lady Bird.” The actress Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this quasi-autobiographical comedy about growing up and attending Catholic school in Sacramento in the early 1990s, and did so with precocious aplomb. The story of Christine McPherson—who has rechristened herself “Lady Bird” (played by the gifted Saoirse Ronan)—is very much an original treatment of adolescent social adjustment, but is also largely about family ties. Lady Bird’s fractious relationship with her uptight mother (Laurie Metcalf), for instance, is incited by mutual love; Lady Bird’s sense of self is rooted in her parents’ example of Christian charity, understanding and selflessness. It is a wonderfully entertaining film, but never frivolous.

“The Florida Project” The kids are not all right in this sublimely scroungy comic drama set in a lavender-nightmare tourist hotel set on the margins of Disney World (and America). The veteran Willem Dafoe is terrific as Bobby, the long-suffering but reluctantly benevolent manager of a place that serves as pay-as-you-go housing for the drug-using mothers of a gang of delinquent cherubs who make his days long and his nights sleepless. But the director Sean Baker has also surrounded him with talented newcomers, among them Brooklynn Prince as Moonee, and Bria Vinaite as her mother, Halley.

“Ex Libris.” Frederick Wiseman is the very grand old man of American documentary, one whose epic-length, nonfiction movies pretend to a kind of supreme objectivity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Few viewers will check out of “Ex Libris”—his three-and-a-half hour survey of the New York Public Library, its branches as well as its majestic central location—not understanding Wiseman’s theses: that ignorance is evil; that those who would deny knowledge and its dissemination are doing the handiwork of Satan; and that a hunger for learning is a unifying aspect of human existence.

“No Stone Unturned.” The director Alex Gibney, an Oscar winner (for the Afghanistan War/torture exposé “Taxi to the Dark Side”), is equal parts muckraker and stylist and here essentially solves the long-unsolved, so-called Loughinisland Massacre of June 18, 1994, in which six Catholic men were murdered in their tiny Northern Ireland pub (while watching the World Cup match between Ireland and Italy). Five more patrons were wounded. Families were torn apart. The investigation was stymied. Gibney, using deft recreations and a dogged sense of justice, tells us who did it and why.

Even if you’re not a Deadhead, this nearly four-hour documentary is a breathtaking piece of work.

“Long Strange Trip.” Even if you’re not a Deadhead, Amir Bar-Lev’s nearly four-hour chronicle of the Grateful Dead is a breathtaking piece of work, a warts-and-all bio of a band that was its own subculture and in many ways ate itself.

“Call Me by Your Name.” A nearly ethereal, tonally perfect film about sexual awakening and memory, directed by the Sicilian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino and starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet.

Correction, Dec. 25: “Wonder Woman” is character from DC Comics, not Marvel as originally stated. 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Robert Killoren
4 weeks ago

I DON'T THINK THINK THESE MADE IT TO COLUMBUS, OHIO

Michael McDermott
4 weeks ago

What a disgraceful insult to the many Victims of Homosex Ephebophile Abuse resulting from the infiltration of the Priesthood by perverts targeting Adolescent Boys. Has the Church (or Amerika Mag-Rag) learned nothing from the destruction of so many Innocent Lives and the bankrupting of so many Parishes?
Call these Men (XY) by their Real Name - Homosex Ephebophile Abusers of Adolescent Boys!
Author Tammy Bruce had this scam pegged long ago, when she said:
"Almost without exception, the gay men I know (and that's too many to count) have a story of some kind of sexual trauma or abuse in their childhood - molestation by a parent or an authority figure, or seduction as an adolescent at the hands of an adult.

The other reason actually discussed in the community is that, because of the Aids crisis and the emergence of drug resistant strains of contagions like herpes and gonorrhea, gay men are compelled to seek new, untouched young men."

The gay community must face the truth and see sexual molestation of an adolescent for the abuse it is, instead of the 'coming of age' experience many regard it as being."
Tammy Bruce – ‘The Death of Right & Wrong’
&
Not Born This Way http://savecalifornia.com/not-born-this-way.html

Robert Lewis
3 weeks 3 days ago

There is no rape in that film.

Michael McDermott
3 weeks 3 days ago

Statutory Rape does not depend on the 'consent' of a MINOR. Were it a 17 year old Girl there would be little doubt that Statutory Rape is taking place, even if not openly depicted on screen. However, given it is a Homosex Ephebophile Rape being pushed as an erotic homo-anal coprophile ephebophile fantasy, that changes Simply Everything - Not.
SEE
Review of The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture by Philip Lawler
http://catholicism.org/faithful-departed-review.html
In 1985 the US bishops received a confidential report on sexual abuse by clerics, warning them that there was “simply too much at stake for the Church” for the hierarchy to ignore the issue. (From the Introduction to The Faithful Departed )

Perhaps no one but the one-time editor of Boston’s Archdiocesan paper could have written this disturbing book. Certainly, no one else could have written it with such intimate and comprehensive objectivity. It took a local Catholic writer, who lived through the worst of the sordid events that are recounted in these 258 pages, to present the painful history honestly and without attenuation. By the way, Philip Lawler didn’t last long as editor of the Boston Pilot - he was forced to resign after he stirred up too much controversy, not, as he had first thought, for his editorial in defense of Humanae Vitae , but for his searing article opposing “gay rights” legislation...

The Faithful Departed is a hard book to read. I do not mean in its prose but in its content... It was not written to exploit the clergy’s sex-abuse crisis in any way; it was written in order to give explanations as to the causes for the worst internal crisis in the history of the Church in America; it was written to provide correctives for the future; it was written for the sake of the victims; it was written for the sake of reparation to our offended God; and it was written to give readers hope in the strength of the Mystical Body, hope that good will triumph in a time when the scandal seems to have taken away all hope. It is a prudently written, serious analysis of the collapse of all that contributed to a once-vibrant Catholic culture in the Boson diocese and the causes thereof…

For Lawler, there are three scandals that make up the abuse crisis. The first, and most damaging for all the victims, was the abuse of children and teens, almost always boys, by priests and brothers.

The vast majority of the cases involved teenage abuse, ephebophilia, in distinction with pedophilia, which is the even sicker abuse of children.

The second scandal, which our author amply demonstrates is still unattended to, is the problem of homosexual priests and brothers. (He does not mention sexually disoriented sisters, but that is another crisis that certainly has affected some of the more liberal orders of nuns.) Lawler devotes a number of pages in his book to prove how ardently the collective USCCB and individual bishops avoid any question that raises the subject of accountability in purging the seminarians of those with homosexual proclivities. Nor do the bishops address the problem of sexually disoriented priests who promote, defend, or live the “gay” lifestyle. This scandal, so directly related to the first, has also left the Church still severely wounded.

The complicity of so many of the bishops, their tolerance of the abusing priests, their condonations (even with promotions in some cases) of known offenders, their cover-ups, their self-protecting, cowardly insularism, their lack of indignation and outrage, and their inability to take personal responsibility for their sins of indifference to the gravity of the crime, or, finally, their own personal malfeasance leaves our author with no alternative but to expose the guilty. This, I believe, is one of the major contributions of this important book. It is, what Lawler calls, the third scandal, and it is a wound still festering. Quoting Saint Augustine, the author puts the problem of episcopal dissimulation very succinctly: “God does not need my lie.” In other words, enough of the evasions and blaming others.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks ago

What all of this has to do with the film in question is beyond me--except for the obvious fact that you have not seen it, and do not understand that the sexual mores depicted in it are those of a much less puritanical society than the American. (In the book, the parents know and accept their son's desires, which would, of course, be impossible in a country that sets the "age of consent" at the ridiculous height that the Americans do.)
Where I would agree with you, however, regarding the scandals of sexual abuse of minors by priests, is that it is mainly caused by lies and dissimulation. There are many "gay" priests who are chaste and true to their vows, but those are the ones who have always been honest and open about their orientation, like the theologian James Alison. If everyone lived their love lives openly and were honest with their families, friends and fellow Catholics, there would be far less chance of predatory behavior; everyone might then be enabled to help everyone else bear their crosses in life. Honest "gay" folk should be welcomed into parishes; their unions should be tacitly accepted to be "sworn brotherhood"; women should be given a wider field of responsibilities in the Church's decision-making; annulments should be more readily granted. None of this need imply that the sacerdotal role should be given to women, or that same-sex genital activity shouldn't be considered to fall short of ideal sexual relationships, but, by the same token, regarding honesty, neither should a homosexual orientation be considered any impediment to sacred orders, so long as the "gay" candidate is honest about his nature, and so long as it is indisputable that he understands and accepts the finality of his vows. Gerard Manley Hopkins did, and Father Judge (of Twin Towers martyrdom) did.

Michael McDermott
2 weeks 5 days ago

Thousands and Thousands of Lives run ragged through a homo-anal coprophile sewer of filth and degradation; untold hundred$ of Million$$ of treasure that could have done so much good, diminishment of a worldwide reputation for doing Good despite the odds or opposition - and not Homosex Predation on Adolescent Boys...
That is what the Catholic Priesthood stood for, and saw washed down the drain, and replaced by open denigration and loathing throughout a previously ambivalent segment of society - for Failure to Care for Her Boys, as well as a silenced embarrassment from the Faithful whose donations helped keep the whole sick Homosex Scam going without ever knowing where the money was headed...
- although as we now see it was shepherded by a most zealous Gaystapo Bureaucracy from within, who are also attacking from without - without any respect for Church Teachings as cited above.

It is long past time to expose the GILBERT Gaystapo agenda - Inside the Church - for what it is, the grist mill designed to grind up and supply fresh Boys to the Ephebophile / Pederast Party.
All done with intent to cause the most tremendous Harm of the Church and Her Boys possible.

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