My Top Ten Films of 2017
Tis the season for critics to pick their top ten films of the year. That’s always easy for me because my picks are the movies I would most like to see over and over again. During 2017, I am pleased to report that two terrific mainstream musicals were released. As the world’s most avid movie musical fan, that made me very happy indeed. So, of course, those films made my list. Surprisingly, my top movie isn’t a musical – though it includes some musical clips I love dearly. It’s an amazing motion picture difficult to categorize. My list also includes a documentary, a romantic comedy, a sci-fi thriller, a serious romance, a biopic, an action epic, and a crime drama.
Below are my top ten favorite films of 2017 in order of preference.
THE SHAPE OF WATER. Fantasy, thriller, cold-war spy drama, romance – there are elements of each in Guillermo del Toro’s mesmerizing The Shape of Water, a magical and poetic film that does everything right. It’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful films I’ve ever seen. And leading lady Sally Hawkins delivers the best performance of the year as a mute who falls in love with an Aqua Man creature whose life is in danger. When she decides to save him, exquisite suspense ensues!
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Wonderful musical numbers abound in this live-action remake of Disney’s animated movie. Dan Stevens, as the Beast, even gets a chance to sing the best original song of the year. It’s called “Evermore,” and I was blown away by the marvelous presentation of that scene. Excellent performances by everyone in the cast also helps make this film something special for movie musical fans to treasure.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. Hugh Jackman seems perfect as P.T. Barnum in this original musical about a visionary who rose from poverty to create “a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.” As he sings and dances in his own unique way, Jackman oozes showbiz moxey here. I’ve been waiting seven years for this flick, and it was worth waiting for!
MAUDIE. Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Maud Lewis, a Canadian folk artist, who becomes famous despite her physical challenges and the lack of support from the people close to her. In any other year, she would be an Oscar contender for this role. But she is competing against herself now in The Shape of Water.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. To me, this is the most astonishing movie of the year. It boggles my mind to see how talented actors and the make-up artists transform individuals into apes who seem as real as any human being. In fact, Andy Serkis gives one of the best performances of the year as Caesar. I hope he gets an Oscar nomination for his work in this thrilling and emotional action epic.
OUR SOULS AT NIGHT. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford pair up beautifully in this romantic film that made my heart sing. It’s a lovely movie about how two lonely people manage to change their lives and the lives of others -- for the good -- through their unexpected connection. What a great love story for grown-ups!
NALEDI: A BABY ELEPHANT’S TALE. This amazing documentary uses the true story of a baby elephant orphaned at one month to gain our attention and empathy regarding the extinction of African elephants. The poignant scenes of Naledi and her caretakers interacting can’t be described in mere words. I’ll just say that they touched me deeply.
WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY. Noomi Rapace takes charge of the screen in this thought-provoking sci-fi thriller. She rises to the occasion with her splendid interpretation of seven sisters in jeopardy sometime during the near future. The film also impressed me with its skillful combination of intense action, fascinating mystery, and excellent production values.
WIND RIVER. I love a film that gives me a sense of place while telling an intriguing story. This 2017 crime drama fits the bill, for sure. It drew me in to the investigation of a murder on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. I even felt the cold as wild life guide (Jeremy Renner) and FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) try to solve the mystery. And I became even more interested when they find their own lives in danger. The old cliché “edge of your seat” really fits this excellent movie.
THE BIG SICK. Based on a true love story, this romantic comedy charmed me completely. Right after breaking up, the woman falls into a coma and the man is the one left to tell her parents, who don’t know about the break-up. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan play the couple in question, and they are so cute together! But the highlights in this movie involve Kumail’s amusing interactions with the parents, played wonderfully by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.
Honorable Mention (in no particular order): OKJA; THE SQUARE; STRONG ISLAND; THE DISASTER ARTIST; VICEROY’S HOUSE; BEATRIZ AT DINNER; THE DINNER; GIFTED; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI; THE HERO; VICTORIA & ABDUL; WONDER WOMAN
The scene in GET OUT when Catherine Keener hypnotizes Daniel Kaluuya simply by stirring tea in a teacup. I believe my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock, would definitely approve.
The scene in LADY BIRD when an athletics coach takes over from the drama teacher and uses the chalk board to explain a play in the same way he would diagram football strategy. This is a present from writer/director Greta Gerwig that keeps on giving. I think about it often -- and can’t stop smiling when I do.
He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. --- Viscount Halifax about Winston Churchill in THE DARKEST HOUR