As this year comes to an end, so does the Cleveland Movie Blog. But first, one last obligatory year-end roundup article.
I had big plans for the last two weeks of December. I was going to get out and see most, if not all, of the big end-of-year awards bait movies playing locally. Alas, it was not to be. The whole family came down with various illnesses – flus, colds, sinus infections – that are still lingering as I write this.
So no, I did not see LADYBIRD, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI, THE DISASTER ARTIST, THE SHAPE OF WATER, or THE FLORIDA PROJECT. I didn’t even get to see STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.
Despite missing all those prominent releases, I still somehow managed to take in 160 first run features in 2017. Given that writing about film is more of a hobby than a job (i.e. no one pays me for this), those are respectable numbers. And out of those 160 films, there were more than enough exemplary movies that I still feel good about my list. If anything, not it means I have room to include some less ballyhooed movies that would, in any year, be worthy of inclusion on a “Best of” list. So without further ado, here are my best films of 2017, divided between scripted films and documentaries.
Top 20 Scripted films
20. (tie) HUNTER GATHERER – Andre Royo (“Bubbles” on ‘The Wire’) is the heart and soul of this character study about a lovable loser.
A GHOST STORY – A man haunts the house where he died, watching life move on without him. A bit heavy on the indie artifice, but it resonates nonetheless.
19. ENDLESS POETRY – Alejandro Jodorowsky continues the visually stunning autobiography he began with 2013’s THE DANCE OF REALITY.
18. MANIFESTO – Director Julian Rosenfeldt provides Cate Blanchett with the opportunity to deliver an acting tour de force in this examination of various artistic ideologies.
17. JULIETTA – Director Pedro Almodovar is in his comfort zone with this family drama about a mother trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter.
16. EVOLUTION – Comparisons to Lovecraft and Jean Rollin are fair, but it’s hard to truly describe this strange, poetic dark fantasy from French director Lucile Hadžihalilović. Better just to experience it.
15. THE LITTLE HOURS – Passions simmer and ultimately burst forth in a medieval convent with results both erotic and humorous.
14. SLACK BAY – A surreal black comedy of class warfare and doomed romance.
13. DAVE MADE A MAZE – A guy makes a box fort/maze in his apartment and gets lost inside it. His friends try to help him out, but soon learn what a dangerous proposition that is. One of the most entertaining and original films of the year, even if I did have some issues with it.
12. BABY DRIVER –Edgar Wright’s masterful direction turns what, on paper, is a fairly typical heist/romance film into a skillfully choreographed ballet of action and music.
11. MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI – It’s a travesty that this tale of an orphan finding a different kind of family was passed over for last year’s “Best Animated Feature” Oscar. Do yourself a favor and check this out, and see if you don’t agree. Note: probably not for younger kids.
10. NERUDA – More concerned with emotional truths than literal ones, Pablo Larrain’s stylish film isn’t your average biopic.
9. THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER – In Oz Perkins’ subtle horror film, being alone is more terrifying than demonic possession.
8. A MONSTER CALLS – Better stock up on tissues before watching this tale of a boy coming to terms with his mother’s mortality, and his own complex feelings about it.
7. MUDBOUND – This first rate drama about race relations in the south at the end of World War II is impeccably written, acted, and directed. It also has an ending that I did not see coming, something I always appreciate.
6. FRANTZ – In the wake of World War I, a German widow connects with the mysterious Frenchman who visits her husband’s grave in Francois Ozon’s beautifully shot romantic drama.
5. PERSONAL SHOPPER – Kirsten Dunst excels in this sort-of ghost story about a woman examining the big questions of mortality and life after death.
4. SUNTAN – A middle aged doctor’s pursuit of a much younger woman starts out playfully before taking a dark and tragic turn.
3. DUNKIRK – A finely crafted war film with a great ensemble cast, solid direction from Christopher Nolan, and a powerful score by Hans Zimmer that ratchets up the tension.
2. IT COMES AT NIGHT – In a world ravaged by plague, distrust proves as dangerous as any virus in Trey Edward Shults sophomore feature.
1. GET OUT – Jordan Peele’s racially charged riff on THE STEPFORD WIVES is a gripping horror tale mixed with satire and social commentary.
THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE, THE DEVIL’S CANDY, DONALD CRIED, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, HIDDEN FIGURES, KONG: SKULL ISLAND, LOGAN, THE LOST CITY OF Z, THE LOVE WITCH, LOVESONG, MIMOSAS, PATERSON, THE RED TURTLE, THINGS TO COME, UNCLE KENT 2, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, WILSON
Top 10 Documentaries
10. A MORE CIVIL WAR – A worthy time capsule of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
9. CHASING CORAL – Gorgeous underwater photography serves to bring home how much we stand to lose as climate change endangers the world’s coral reefs.
8. AMERICAN ANARCHIST – The author of ‘The Anarchist’s Cookbook’ looks back at his work with ambivalence.
7. BURDEN – The life and work of a groundbreaking modern artist.
6. ACCIDENTAL COURTESY – A black musician befriends Ku Klux Klan members, and ultimately changes the minds of many of them regarding race.
5. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO - The civil rights movement as witnessed by one of its key activists, James Baldwin.
4. CITY OF GHOSTS – Syrian journalists risk their lives to get the true story about the brutal ISIS occupation of Raqqa out to the world.
3. WHOSE STREETS? – The response to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Fergusson, MO as told by those in the community.
2. UNTOUCHABLE – An uncomfortable but necessary look at whether the way our criminal justice system deals with sexual predators.
1. DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME – Director Bill Morrison has crafted in a documentary that is part time capsule and part tone poem. A piece of history, but also a work of art.