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The 10 Best Films of 2017 (Eric W.)

2017 has been a really great year for movies. I'm confident plenty of readers are scoffing right now, but I can tell you I was consistently surprised and pleased to find almost every month delivering a few stand-out offerings; even months like February and September were bringing the goods. There are a handful of movies I was so positive were going to show up on my Top 10 when I saw them... and they didn't even crack the Top 15. (Sorry, IT.) Can't complain about a wealth of riches.

As can be counted upon, the list changes every time I think about it. Positions shift, movies float in and out of the 10, titles I thought hadn't left a mark suddenly reintroduce themselves as major contenders. I can only torture myself so many times before admitting that none of these things can ever be truly locked in. So, I'll say that this is my Top 10 of 2017 as of today; ask me next week and it might be different.

What isn't in dispute is that all of these movies really moved me, made a major impression, rocked my world, however you want to put it. It might not be accurate to call these "the best" movies of 2017, but they are my favorite.

1. The Shape of Water

THE SHAPE OF WATER may be the ultimate Guillermo del Toro movie. The tenderness of its outsider characters, the beauty seen in the unusual, the melding of the fantastical with the realistic, the threat felt from unsympathetic conformists. Not to mention the fact it's a love story between a mute woman and a half-man/half-fish being... THE SHAPE OF WATER is a touching fairytale for adults, brimming with imaginative detail and touting superb efforts on the parts of every department, from the pristine production design to the handsome cinematography to the thoroughly convincing make-up on the striking creature at the center of the story. It is also a film that is refreshingly frank about human nature, unafraid to allow its characters (human and inhuman) to be sexual, flawed and vulnerable. I was never less than utterly captivated the entire time I was in del Toro's most complex world to date.

2. Get Out

I'm well aware by now that there's a backlash against the film, that plenty of people think GET OUT was overhyped, but all the rest of us can do is shrug and acknowledge it's a shame those folks missed the boat. Having seen the film three or four times now, it actually gets better the more you watch it; the strange behaviors of its odious villains, the increasing panic on our protagonist's face, the way director Jordan Peele meticulously stages both the suspense scenes and the darkly amusing bits. Put aside the chilling social conscience of it for a moment (not easy to do) and simply judge it on how well it moves, how disturbing its ideas are, how much bite the damn thing has, and there's no denying GET OUT is not only a great horror film, but just a great film, period.

3. The Post

I love movies like this, and THE POST is top of the line. Steven Spielberg's best work in a long time, the film pulses with significance and urgency, though the director never rushes his story or overcomplicates what was surely a very complicated scenario. As he's shown us many times in the past, he is a director who can manipulate the medium like no other. The stresses and hurdles its characters face feel very real - and, of course, timely - and a great ensemble consistently brings their best. But it's Meryl Streep as publisher Katherine Graham who holds the entire enterprise together. We might take Streep for granted, she's perhaps the most reliable actor on the planet, but her turn in THE POST is next level. Graham is a person both vulnerable and strong-willed, sensitive and forthright, and Streep captures her every trait perfectly. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed watching the actress work this much.

4. Logan

LOGAN lives in several different genres and it understands all of them: Western, road movie, superhero movie, horror movie, dysfunctional family drama... I'm probably leaving out a few. James Mangold's film is as visceral and intense as it is emotionally gripping, and Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give two of the greatest performances any movie in the comic book genre has ever seen. What makes such an impression while watching it is how LOGAN, if nothing else, is a story about people, about family, about getting old and moving on. The action stuff is great, but the human drama (or superhuman drama) is even better. LOGAN may not be perfect (I still think the villains are kind of weak), but it reaches such harrowing heights so often that you leave it shaken, exhausted, moved, and absolutely grateful for the experience.

5. I, Tonya

I wasn't even sure if I liked I, TONYA for its first half hour or so. I had several of the same concerns plenty of its critics seem to have: that it trivializes the abuse Tonya Harding suffered at the hands of her mother and ex-husband, that it leans too heavily on GOODFELLAS and other movies of that ilk for its style and pace... But somewhere along the way I realized I couldn't take my eyes off it. Craig Gillespie's electric film had an utterly unique effect: it entertained the hell out of me while simultaneously making me ashamed I was being entertained. The story of Tonya Harding, and the sequence of events that made her a national punchline and pariah, are the things dark comedy are made of, even as Harding herself is quite a tragic figure. (And I believe the movie ultimately holds a very sympathetic view of her.) It certainly helps immeasurably that I, TONYA has three great performances from Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney at the center of it - although, of course, it's Robbie who completely demands your attention from start to finish. She's gold.

6. Raw

This was a very fine year for horror movies, and none packed a more primal punch than Julia Ducournau's macabre directorial debut, which follows a reserved (and vegan) veterinary student who discovers she has a troubling taste for meat. Human meat. Far from being as exploitive as it could have been, but still filled with plenty of thrillingly gruesome moments, RAW is a morbidly humorous coming-of-age tale that is boosted by its director's assertive vision and a stunning performance by Garance Marillier as the thoroughly tormented protagonist. I believe this one is still under-the-radar for lots of folks. Let's change that, shall we?

7. Trainspotting 2

Perhaps it's a heavy dose of nostalgia kicking in, but I reckon TRAINSPOTTING 2 hits almost every desired note with precision. It's a movie about nostalgia in so many ways, but more than that it's simply a delightful (albeit frequently distressing) reunion with beloved characters. I didn't think I wanted to see what Renton, Sick Boy and the rest were up to after all this time, but I was wrong. This is a sequel done just right because it's not a shameless, phoned-in cash-grab; it's a genuine continuation of the lives of its protagonists. And it's really quite startling to find the boys are just as exhilarating to watch as they were twenty years ago.

8. The Big Sick

What strikes me about this movie is the inherent happiness in its story... even if it is about someone in a coma. There is true love flowing throughout THE BIG SICK, and it's not hard to know why. Writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon lived this tale, and knowing they made it out the other side can only make your heart feel good. That they wrote such a humorous tribute (of sorts) to this frightening time - which saw Gordon on the brink of death and Nanjiani loyally looking after her and her parents - is remarkable. The funniest movie of the year and perhaps the most life-affirming.

9. Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. These two alone make LADY BIRD a must-see, a pair of pitch perfect, evenly matched performances that energize a lovingly crafted debut from Greta Gerwig. The moment you lay eyes on these two people, at the very start of the film, you think, "Yep, I know who they are." They hit it out of the park in the first few minutes. The authenticity of the characters combined with the charming atmosphere of Gerwig's world combine for an experience that is beguiling; there's really no other word for it. (For the record, I would totally watch LADY BIRD 2 in ten or so years.)

10. A Cure for Wellness

I dunno, I just can't stop thinking about this madness. There may have been several better movies (in the traditional sense) than A CURE FOR WELLNESS this year, but when a movie plants such indelible images in your head, you have to give credit where credit is due. I'm still amazed 20th Century Fox even gave Gore Verbinski 40 million dollars for his lunatic vision: A 2 hour and 20 minute horror movie about a wellness spa run by a faceless, incestuous mad scientist who uses eels to suck the life out of his patients. Hard to believe they lost money on this one! But I'll be eternally grateful they made the gamble, because A CURE FOR WELLNESS is a large-scale gothic nightmare that harkens back to the days of Hammer Horror and Vincent Price. That is definitely my jam.

Runners Up

15. Spider-Man: Homecoming

This year had a handful of really fun superhero movies, but SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is the one that had me smiling from start to finish. From the terrific presence of Tom Holland to the chipper overall tone of the piece, Jon Watts came out of nowhere and did an A+ job giving us a Spider-Man everyone can love.

14. Blade Runner 2049

Studio event pictures don't get much more somber, contemplative or existential than this. Is anyone really surprised it wasn't a hit? People expecting a rousing action thriller were likely confounded to receive what they did, but I was thoroughly fascinated by BLADE RUNNER 2049's brooding and eerie atmosphere, as well as the questions it raised about what it means to be human. Any day of the week will I take a $100 million movie that isn't just popcorn-munching fare.

13. Call Me By Your Name

What a beautiful movie. This year had a few exemplary examples of the "coming of age" tale, and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME gave us a most heartfelt look at the bittersweet nature of a young man's first taste of true love. Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stulhbarg give immaculate, lived-in performances, while director Luda Guadagnino's images are nothing if not transportive.

12. Hounds of Love

Want to see a tour de force of acting? Forget some of the typical Oscar bait, Ben Young's chilling Australian thriller offers three unbelievably great performances, and wall-to-wall nail-biting suspense to boot. Inspired by a true story, the film focuses on a disturbed couple (Emma Booth and Stephen Curry) who kidnap, rape and torture a teenage girl (Ashleigh Cummings). Sounds distressing - and it is - but it's handled so masterfully by Young that the film manages to be dramatic and horrifying while never succumbing to exploitation. The three main actors help ensure the film is grounded in gritty reality; they are beyond superb.

11. Wind River

I dig movies like this. It's a fairly simple story, really the kind you'd find in a B-level western, but it's given significant heft and pathos thanks to its elegiac presentation. I'd put WIND RIVER in the same category as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN; a pulpy thriller on paper that manages to dig into your gut when it reveals itself to be unexpectedly poignant. Writer-director Taylor Sheridan is clearly becoming a master of thoughtful tough-guy cinema, which isn't everybody's genre but it sure works for me (the Sheridan-penned HELL OR HIGH WATER made my Top 10 last year).

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