Welcome to the Movie Snob’s Best of 2017 column! Alas, circumstances conspired against me this year, and I saw a paltry 39 movies in the theater last year. And, sadly, I haven’t yet seen some lauded late releases like Darkest Hour and Molly’s Game. Still, I will give you my opinions, and you can take them for what they are worth!
Best Movie of the Year. Can the year’s best really be a comic-book movie?? Yes, but not a typically flippant Marvel creation or gloomy DC downer. My top honor goes to Logan, in which Hugh Jackman shines as an aging and ailing Wolverine. Maybe the gory violence and R rating should knock it out of my top spot, but if you can see past that, this movie had as much heart as anything I saw this year. Wolverine’s relationships with the broken-down Professor X and a mysterious little girl mutant are really wonderful.
Runner-Up. My runner-up is usually something completely different from my top pick, and 2017 is no exception. I’ll award the silver medal to Lady Bird, starring the incomparable Saoirse Ronan as a misfit high-school senior trying to find her way. Laurie Metcalf also shines as the hard-working mother who loves her daughter ferociously but just can’t avoid butting heads with her. Expect Ronan and Metcalf to contend for Oscars™!
Best Action/Adventure Flick. The aforementioned Logan would win this category hands-down this year. After that . . . let’s go with War for the Planet of the Apes. This film wraps up a trilogy that is of consistently high quality. Be warned that it’s pretty dark—Woody Harrelson is excellent as a sadistic military commander who actually has some logic behind his madness. And Steve Zahn shines with a few moments of much-needed comic relief as Bad Ape.
Best Animated Movie. Sorry, but I’ve got nothing in this category this year. The LEGO Batman Movie left me cold, and Coco was only slightly better. Thanks to my goddaughter, I saw 2016’s Moana several more times, and it has gone way up in my estimation. Check it out!
Best Comedy or Musical. Amazing—a comedy that actually made me laugh out loud! And what’s even weirder, it’s based on a true story! Yes, I’m talking about The Disaster Artist, a quasi-biopic about an eccentric amateur film-maker named Tommy Wiseau and the making of his amazingly, incredibly bad movie called The Room. Can you enjoy The Disaster Artist even if you haven’t seen The Room? My wager is yes, but I’m unsure. James Franco and the movie have picked up Golden Globe© nominations, so I say take your chances and give it a watch.
Best Documentary. I didn’t see any really great documentaries this year, but I’ll go ahead and give a shout-out to Disney’s nature special Born in China. Who doesn’t love pandas? The only other documentary I saw in 2017 was California Typewriter, and I’m sorry to say it was pretty mediocre.
Best Drama. Maybe this one really belongs in the Action/Adventure category, but at any rate Dunkirk is certainly among the very best movies I saw this year. Kind of like Fury did a couple of years ago, Dunkirk drops you right into the action and (I’m speculating) gives you a little taste of what it might be like to be lost in the terrifying fog of war. By coincidence I also want to heap some praise on another WWII drama, Their Finest, about some brave Brits trying to keep morale high on the home front. Too bad I didn’t make it out to see Darkest Hour, or this could have been a WWII trifecta!
Best Foreign Film. If we include English-language foreign films, this category goes to Their Finest, mentioned just above under Best Drama. But let’s set that one aside for a moment. I’ll give a mention to The Salesman, an Iranian/French production directed by Asghar Farhadi. But I must say, I liked his previous films A Separation and The Past noticeably more. I also liked a 2014 release I just saw this year, the black-and-white vampire pic A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. IMDB lists its country as USA, but the movie is in Farsi, so I’m calling it a foreign film.
Best Science-Fiction Film. This was a 2016 release, and the critics generally didn’t love it (Metacritic score 41), but I rather liked Passengers—probably because it starred the generally awesome Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. (Let’s don’t talk about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.) I can understand the folks who didn’t like Passengers, but I say give it a chance.
Honorable Mentions. Here’s a handful of other 2017 (and 2016) releases that I would say are worth your time and attention. First, how about a Nicole Kidman double-header? She got an Oscar® nomination for the tear-jerking drama Lion, and she also starred in a decent little Civil War drama called The Beguiled. DC did manage to give us an above-average comic-book movie with Wonder Woman. Or maybe just a far-above-average movie star named Gal Gadot? For a romantic dramedy, you could do much worse than The Big Sick. I may just be predisposed to like anything by Kenneth Branagh, but I enjoyed his take on Murder on the Orient Express. And I also liked the quirky independent flick Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, although not as much as its 86 Metacritic score and six Golden Globe™ nominations might suggest. I’ll wrap this section with soft shout-outs to The Edge of Seventeen, The Hero, Baby Driver, Brad’s Status, Thor: Ragnarok, and a little movie called The Last Jedi.
And one classic. I saw Gaslight (1942) as part of a local theater’s ongoing classic film series, and I quite enjoyed it. Ingrid Bergman shines as a sweet young woman who thinks she’s slipping into madness after she marries a fellow who seems to be the man of her dreams. Definitely worth looking up!
That’s a wrap! Happy movie-going in 2018!