Unlike most years, the two films I most adored in 2017 came out in the first six months of the year, and no other film came close to knocking them off their initial ranking. One left me sobbing in the theater while the other had me gripping the armrests of my seat. Both were enthralling in their own way and reaffirmed to me that no matter the genre, the film budget, or the scale of production, cinema will never be a dying art. Great stories will always resonate with each of us uniquely based on our own life experiences, perceptions, beliefs and emotions. Here is my list of my top ten films of 2017:
- A GHOST STORY
A beautiful, haunting & poetic film about the passage of time and our profound ties to home. This is a story in which you follow a man into the afterlife as a white sheeted ghost, and it’s a cinematic journey unlike any other. It’s every bit as poignant and transcendent upon multiple viewings, and its gorgeous, ethereal soundtrack is just as timeless as this rare, very special movie. One of the best observations I read about this film is to not get too mired down in explaining its plot to convince one to see it. Wise advice, as it is far more impactful to urge someone to take the plunge without too much exposition, so they can to discover its staggering beauty for themselves.
- GET OUT
Jordan Peele has crafted a brilliant social commentary that is equal parts terrifying, chill inducing, intelligent and breathtaking. I fell even more in love with this film when I unlocked all the thoughtful mysteries and easter eggs within its superb, tightly constructed script. This movie is one for the ages. It’s immensely satisfying, and will leave you with indelible images that you never would expect to be so unnerving – from a mysterious auction, to an unplugged mobile phone, to even the stuffing from a chair. Despite being exposed to the film’s jaw dropping “sunken place,” you will be compelled to revisit this movie again and again, if only to share it with someone lucky enough to experience it for the first time.
- I, TONYA
A kinetic biopic that’s sharp, funny and heartbreaking. Its pop infused soundtrack, spanning from the 50s to the 80s is darkly amusing. Allison Janney is blisteringly good, and Margot Robbie’s portrayal of infamous figure skater, Tonya Harding, as a woman audacious enough to be herself in an unforgiving figure skating world that rewards conformity, is exceptional. Watching her life be unraveled time and again by the family and friends that were supposed to be her key support system is one of the most affecting modern sports accounts of our time. All I could think about when this movie was over was I wished I could give Tonya Harding a big, warm hug.
- FACES PLACES
Every face tells a story. French New Wave pioneer, Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist, JR travel through small towns in the French countryside to help illuminate these stories. They speak with local farmers to dock workers, take their photographs and paste them as huge murals on carefully chosen blank canvases from water towers to factory walls. The art they create together is mesmerizing, the conversation between the two is engaging, and we are reminded in this wonderful documentary that every human soul is intriguing, but it’s how we connect with one another that makes life enriching.
- WONDER WOMAN
After the initial hype of the film release subsided, I witnessed the typical backlash of any wildly entertaining picture that reaps box office success. I wasn’t having any of it. This is not only an important film for 2017, it was everything I hoped it would be- stunning, witty, moving, & beautifully written and directed. When Wonder Woman crosses “No Man’s Land” alone, directly into the line of fire simply because it’s the right thing to do, it was flat out electrifying. Exhibiting a heroine that is feminine, strong, warm-hearted and exudes confidence demonstrates an evolution in cinema that girls can be everything and anything. The possibilities are endless. It’s a powerful message for a world in desperate need of a hero.
- THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED)
There is nothing like being in a Noah Baumbach universe surrounded by genuinely distinctive characters who are flawed, quirky and utterly compelling. The Meyerowitz Stories chronicles a dysfunctional family and showcases each of their unique perspectives on their lives and relationships. It’s thrilling to watch them talk over one another, confront each other publicly, wrestle with their inner demons and confide in each other. I believe this captivating movie can be deeply rewarding for anyone— whether you have a big or small family, because you will sense a familiar persona, and it might just be your own.
- THE POST
Yes, this film is timely and fascinating as it takes you behind the exposé of the Pentagon Papers and impending threat of the fall of the American Press in the early 1970s. But what struck me most about it was the extraordinary story of the world’s first female publisher, Kay Graham. Watching her falling asleep in her notes prepping for a board meeting, endearingly trip over a chair as she enters a restaurant, to slowly ascending the steps of the Supreme Court was a historical portrait of a woman that I found not only achingly relatable but incredibly inspiring.
- THE DISASTER ARTIST
I spent a great deal of my twenties frequenting the Sunset 5 Theater in West Hollywood and walking by a baffling poster for a movie called The Room displayed outside the theater promoting a monthly midnight show. The poster just became a staple of the theater for me and I never satisfied my curiosity by going to see it, but this inside look at the making of the movie was the next best thing. James Franco lovingly plays Tommy Wiseau, the filmmaker who created the “so bad it went past good and back to bad again” cult film. Franco also directed the film from a comically spellbinding screenplay by talented Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter. This is a narrative that is endlessly surprising with perfectly timed quips by the incomparable Seth Rogen, and it’s an acutely enjoyable movie worth seeking out.
- LADY BIRD
Greta Gerwig is a revelation, and her voice as a filmmaker and writer is a gift I hope we all get to continually unwrap throughout what will undoubtedly be a long, exciting career. In this film, she lets us into the lives of amazingly complicated characters, most notably a mother and daughter, who frustrate and delight us and in the end, move us. Lady Bird is brimming with life and singularly captures the essence of all the conflicting emotions we grapple with as we become adults, and even those we never quite master.
My 3-year-old daughter got scared when we followed the main character, Miguel into the undead underworld and so we packed up our stuff and left the theater. I didn’t plan on going back to finish the film even though the animation was striking, because I just assumed where the story would lead. A good friend convinced me to go back and I’m so grateful I did. The story took a completely unpredictable turn that made my heart simultaneously break and soar. It was a magnificent tale that made me appreciate the value of never forgetting those we lost, and ensuring my daughter remembers and embraces stories of family and friends she never knew.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: THE FLORIDA PROJECT, PHANTOM THREAD, THE BIG SICK, WIND RIVER, LOGAN, IT, MOLLY’S GAME, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, OKJA, WONDER, JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, IT COMES AT NIGHT, COLUMBUS, ATOMIC BLONDE, DETROIT, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER