I had to cut more great movies from my list this year than I think I ever have. My heart burns for Brigsby Bear, The Shape of Water, Free Fire, Coco, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, not to mention surely great movies I missed like Call Me By Your Name and Thor: Ragnarok… but tough decisions were made and this isn’t about them. I’ll bear down, chew a Tums, and get on with this dope selection of movies that did make the cut.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton give a pair of particularly whacked out performances in careers already known for that kind of thing. I mean truly — by hallway through this movie the concept of Jake Gyllenhaal, Normal Handsome Leading Man will be forgotten to the point is feeling downright alien. Oh and it’s emotional and funny and there’s a cool superpig and a reliably good Paul Dano, too.
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I will not argue the merits of Star Wars. It’s Star Wars, and these days they do it good, and they did this one good. My wife and I got our dog a Porg toy and he loved it more than he’s loved anything in his life. The way he shows his love is by bringing it to everyone he sees as well as ripping out the fur and stuffing. Eventually I had to take all the stuffing out, leaving a Porg husk that he further destroyed and we had to throw it out.
8) Logan Lucky
Had to stop just short of shouting from the rooftops that Soderbergh is BACK. And doing a quirky-cool comedic heist, no less. I love how little conflict there is, and that the only victim was the insurance company. As someone who spent a lot of 2017 on the phone with insurance companies (hospital visit and a minor car accident, separate events), I love to see those guys actually paying out.
7. The Big Sick
While watching Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (top TV of the year but that’s a different list), I realized that not only was the original movie a breeding ground for great comedic actors, but the show is starting to be that for directors, too. After a modest Sally Field rom-com, Michael Showalter has found rockstar indie success in The Big Sick. Written and experienced by Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, this movie about a guy realizing he’s in love with a coma patient is packed with pitch perfect jokes and genuine tears.
It’d be hard to get much more creative with the Kaiju genre (which in all honesty this hardly is) than this. The monsters in this movie are very clearly metaphorical: alcoholism, self-destructive tendencies, toxic masculinity. Anne Hathaway’s face acting and terrific sound design make a guy stomping around in a children’s playground one of the most devastating emotional scenes of the year.
5. The Disaster Artist
There’s a movie theater scene at the end of The Disaster Artist that often cuts to Zac Efron and Nathan Fielder sitting next to each other. As fun and resonant as this movie is, my favorite part is still imagining these two in between the hours of shooting. What do they talk about? Is the High School Musical star familiar with the alt comedy genius of Nathan For You (top TV of the year but that’s a different list)? Do they trade Seth Rogen stories? I want to make a movie about the making of this movie that just focuses on the worlds-collide budding friendship of these two dudes.
4. Get Out
Blumhouse’s best shot at Academy Awards, which is crazy. There’s a scene in fellow 2017 motion picture Home Again (starring the great Reese Witherspoon) in which three boys trying to make it in Hollywood meet with a Jason Blum-type producer. Out of these aspiring boys he expects one of three types of movies: a low budget horror, a found footage romance, or a good movie. Like an awards movie. Somehow the real Jason Blum has found two out of three in first time director (and all time great sketch performer) Jordan Peele. Sorry this was more about Home Again than Get Out.
I have a personal rule about experimental art and entertainment in any form. Any amount of wild divergence from the generally accepted can be forgiven if the art is entertaining in the first place. No amount of thematic depth can rescue a film that’s a slog just to get through. All this being said, I regret that this is actually what I expected mother! to be. However, I am pleased to report this movie blew me away by every possible standard. Every minute was riveting, and that includes 40 minutes driving home, recontextualizing all the events in it.
2. I, Tonya
Margot Robbie. She’s so good in this that I thought “maybe it’s time to finally watch Suicide Squad,” and despite that mistake I still think she’s great. Celebrity biopics have come a long way since the days of the solid-yet-ordinary takes on Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, it seems. I, Tonya feels at times like Tarantino, the Coens, and Edgar Wright (more on him in a minute) taking on a story ingrained into the consciousness of anyone who lived through the nineties. It is flash with substance, nostalgia that feels modern, and most of all a dang fish barrel full of great performances.
1. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright is the greatest working director. I say this a lot, and even this hides my true feelings. Edgar Wright is my favorite director. There is not an unenjoyable single moment among his filmography, and they are endlessly rewatchable moments at that. But what I want to say specifically about this one is that I have tinnitus. From before a frame of the movie starts, the sound of constant ringing is nailed… then it slowly morphs into a high violin note, which leads into the first song. And that’s how it is — having your ears ring is not a Big Deal affliction, but it is annoying, and drowning it out in the name of sanity is basically the only option. So yeah, not only is Baby Driver a tightly edited crime thriller filled with sick tunes and a skillful joy in both dialogue and action that is rarely seen. It also perfectly represents a random ailment that I and the main character of the movie happen to share.