It’s time to come up with my favorite films of 2017. As usual, I expect I’ll name things you’ve never heard of (except from my reviews), and unless you live in a town with a good art house may never have been able to see. (One you would have needed to see at a festival because it hasn’t been released in North America). But there are some that have generated a lot of attention and even did well at the box office. Here’s your chance to start shaking your head at my taste in film.
- Marjorie Prime. I admit I’m a sucker for think pieces and this is about as cerebral as they come. Family members (and cloned holograms of deceased family) sit around and talk about the past (or at least how they remember the past). It is really a philosophical examination of memory.
- Mudbound. Post-WWII south. A white family. A black family. Both struggle in different ways with the changing times. We may think the racism of that time is past, but we also see many ways it continues in our society today.
- The Florida Project. I think this is probably the film I most frequently recommended for people to see. Life as a homeless child in an Orlando, Florida motel. Living in the shadow of Disneyworld but as far from a magical kingdom as possible.
- Lady Bird. A coming-of-age story that focuses on a mother-daughter relationship—and a bit about what it means to find the home you’ve left.
- Wakefield. Another think piece. Coming home late from work one night, a man doesn’t go in to the house, but hides in the garage and watches his family in his absence. Then he keeps it up for months. It becomes a mediation on the value of the things in our lives.
- Baby Driver. This was by far the most fun I had at the movies this year. A caper story with a driver who envisions getting a new life with the girl of his dreams. But the others in his gang have different ideas.
- The Shape of Water. The Creature from the Black Lagoon as a love interest? Cold War paranoia comes in contact with the story of Ruth. A trans-species love story in fable form.
- And 11. [a double feature] Dunkirk and Darkest Hour. Two completely separate films that cover the same time, but in different locales and with different perspectives. Dunkirk is the story of the British army trapped in France while the Germans try to exterminate them. Darkest Hour is Winston Churchill’s first days as Prime Minister during which time he must try to save those soldiers. Each film is worthy on its own, but together they are both better.
- Hostiles. When a legendary Indian fighter just before retirement is assigned the duty of escorting a dying chief on a 1000 mile journey to his ancestral lands, the two long time adversaries have their own version of The Odyssey. A western that speaks not just to American myths, but shows that reconciliation, while very difficult, is possible.
- What Will People Say. This is the most obscure film on my list, the one that doesn’t have a North American distributor. That is very unfortunate. It’s the story of a 1.5 generation teenage Pakistani/Norwegian girl who must try to find her way in two cultures and value systems.
- See 8 above
- A Ghost Story. Not much dialogue. Not many special effects. It is very much a meditation on life and our attachment to people and things. Heavy on the Buddhist understanding of life.
A few honorable mentions (in no particular order):
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri
- The Post
- Tomorrow Ever After
- The Divine Order
- All the Money in the World