It's 2018! The new year is here and as is tradition it’s time to reveal my favorite films from the last twelve months.

From a financial perspective, the domestic box office took a hit. Sales will likely surpass $11 billion, making it third-highest in history, yet it’s actually less than last year’s cume of $11.4 billion. That doesn’t mean much to the common moviegoer since none of that revenue is given back, but it’s an interesting bit of information as staying home has become the more appealing option.

If nothing else, it was difficult narrowing my list to ten. There are plenty of outstanding titles which deserve praise and recognition, but there simply wasn’t room.

Here are a few features that didn’t make the cut but are worth mentioning: The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name, Colossal, I, Tonya, IT, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Wind River, War For the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, The Florida Project, Personal Shopper, Last Flag Flying, and Good Time. The Big Sick is the one film I will likely regret keeping off the list because of its originality, and it's breathed some much-needed life back into rom-coms.

As of this posting I haven’t seen The Post and Molly’s Game, likely awards contenders. Hopefully I’m not leaving out a couple of possible greats (I fear the former, directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, may be another that should be in my top ten).

As always, I’ve always listed my ten in alphabetical order – I don’t like assigning my favorites with mere numbers. It seems like a copout but if you pay attention you’ll likely discover my absolute favorites.

I’d love to hear your opinion in regards to my top ten. No list is above discussion because tastes differ. But let’s get this over with – my favorite films from 2017…

Baby Driver

You have to hand it Edgar Wright. The man spent years developing Ant-Man for Marvel, only to leave the project due to creative differences. He’s a film geek’s director since he’s tackled “geek-friendly” genres over the years. Baby Driver shows the director at his most realized – Wright wrote and directed an original tale that’s funny, emotional, musically-conscious, violent and simply entertaining. Baby Driver is a personal favorite and was an unlikely hit back in June, and with the critics praising it, too, one can only imagine how his vision for Ant-Man might’ve turned out had he been given full creative control.

Blade Runner 2049

In my opinion, Denis Villeneuve can do no wrong. His take on Blade Runner is amazing and is the most visionary spectacle in ages. When it was announced a sequel would be made to the 1982 cult classic, I was skeptical. But when Villeneuve, who’s crafted such immersive films as Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, and Enemy, was hired to direct I knew that he’d create something special. Although it was a box office failure, 2049 embraces everything that made the original stand out and expands upon it. It’s visually stunning, the score is amazing and Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Ana de Armas throw in some great performances. This will likely gain cult status, like its predecessor, but for me this is an instant classic and is one of the few sequels to best its predecessor.

Columbus

This tiny film is likely a tale no one has seen or even heard of. And by little I mean it was made on a budget of just $1 million, was directed by an unknown in first-timer Kogonada, and played in limited release (less than 30 screens nationally) in late summer. That shouldn’t take away from its emotional impact – John Cho is in Columbus, Indiana after his estranged architect father is hospitalized. While in Columbus, which is considered an architectural hub, the son meets a young woman (played by Haley Lu Richardson) whose dreams are put on hold while she takes care of her mother, a recovering drug addict. The pair, as they explore the various buildings in and around Columbus, discovers things in each other they tucked away and likely refused to address. It’s a beautiful, discussion-filled film, and it somewhat reminds me of Lost in Translation. The idea of opening up to a stranger is appealing because there are likely no repercussions, and thus honesty takes priority. This isn’t for everyone because it’s so quiet, but it’s a somber and introspective story that will likely make one revisit their own hopes and dreams.

Dunkirk

Speaking of architects, Christopher Nolan approaches his films much like one. He may be cinema’s most-accomplished technical filmmaker because everything is planned down to the last detail - all precision and laid out meticulously. Dunkirk is the product of his filmmaking style – what it lacks in story or character development it makes up for with top shelf cinematography, score, editing and natural tension. Dunkirk is an ode to the old style of filmmaking since Nolan opted to shoot in 70mm, and much of the stunts are practical rather than digital. Dunkirk felt especially authentic since Nolan conducted extensive research and interviews of Dunkirk survivors. In short, this passion project played out like 106-minute third act – I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut came out of nowhere and struck like a sledgehammer. His tale of a black man going away for the weekend to meet his white girlfriend’s parents is a modern-day Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner full of social commentary within a horror setting. And with Peele’s comedic background, humor abounds, although some of it could identified as the "I'm-laughing-uncomfortably-because-I-may-be-a-racist" variety. Few films released way back in February still resonate nearly a year later, but the fact is that this is still well in our consciousness, and that it's also a part of pop culture lexicon, means this is an amazing blistering satire with plenty to say.

Lady Bird

Who knew Greta Gerwig was a talented writer and director? She’s made waves in the indie circuit as an accomplished actress, but with her directorial debut she’s created one of the best coming of age films in years (and possibly ever). Based on an original script which Gerwig wrote, her tale of a precocious teen (Saoirse Ronan) rebelling against everything around her is part pseudo-autobiography and part love letter to Sacramento. With Laurie Metcalf serving as Ronan’s mom, the two actresses are amazing and share great chemistry. On top of that, their performances translate into a realistic mother-daughter relationship that’s both difficult and rewarding. Lady Bird is phenomenal work and appeals to every teenager and parent, but most of all it’s a loving story with plenty of heart.

Logan

This is the superhero film that isn’t. What I mean by that is director James Mangold bucked convention and chose to tell a standalone story which doesn’t set up an X-Men film or follow typical superhero tropes. This is Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) swan song – an ending to one of comic’s most recognizable characters. In what is a recurring theme in a few 2017 releases, Logan plays unwilling father/guardian/parent to Laura (Dafne Keen), a mutant who Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) credits as being “very much’ like Logan. Mangold treats this moving story like a Western, and comes with the kind of depth normally reserved for Oscar contenders. With Jackman having played Wolvie since 2000, this is a rousing and worthy conclusion to a character that is loved both on page and on screen. Oh yeah, and it may be the best superhero film - ever.

The Shape of Water

Since Guillermo del Toro released Pan’s Labyrinth, I’ve been anticipating, with each of his successive releases, a film just as good. From a technical perspective, del Toro has gotten even better over the years, but I believe he’s finally made something that matches (maybe even bests) his 11-year old adult fairy tale. Water is another fairy tale, but this one’s an unlikely love story between a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibian male (Doug Jones). On the surface this looks something like the “creature from the Black Lagoon falls in love” and it could've easily come off the rails. But del Toro avoids any pretension and presents an honest tale depicting love between two outsiders. From that perspective, Water speaks to the LGBT community and any couple who feels left out. That makes del Toro’s latest a beautiful work which may be his most technically and creatively accomplished.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson is one of my favorite directors thanks to his work on Looper, Brick, The Brothers Bloom and a few crucial episodes of AMC’s Breaking Bad. His contributions to Episode VIII are never-before-seen in the franchise, and provide a distinct vision which adds a stellar beauty to “a galaxy far, far away.” The Last Jedi also subverts expectations, which has alienated longtime hardcore fans, but I believe it's necessary for the franchise to thrive beyond the Skywalker saga. It’s not a perfect film, but it goes in bold new directions, and for the first time in years I’m giddily unsure of what’s next.

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards won big last weekend at the Golden Globes, collecting hardware for Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell), Best Actress in a Drama (Frances McDormand), Best Screenplay and Best Motion Picture – Drama. But with it came some backlash – Three Billboards is poised to get a lot of heat much like La La Land and Moonlight received this time last year. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards is the most politically-charged entry on this list, but it’s also its most nuanced. There’s plenty of gray area throughout since the perceived good guys may not always be good, and the possible bad guys may actually have some good in them. Personally, I love this film because when you strip it down this is about a grieving woman speaking out against sexual abuse and violence by calling out those who, on the surface, are doing nothing about it. It’s a timely #MeToo film that was made before the movement (and the hashtag) was created. At the same time, McDonagh’s latest is an amazing work with outstanding performances and resonant themes.


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