With 2017 coming to an end, it’s time to wrap up with the best movie list. After a long and hard consideration, here are my top 10 best movies of 2017 that I have watched over the past 12 months:
Toying with genre conventions is no stranger to Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo. Need proof? Watch his past movies such as Timecrimes (2007) and Extraterrestrial (2011). His latest feature in Colossal continues his knack for delivering an unusual piece of genre cinema unlike most others: a metaphorical monster movie with a dash of black comedy and bleak psychodrama. At the heart of the movie is Anne Hathaway, who is both amusing and compelling in her layered role as the alcoholic protagonist, Gloria. This is also the movie where you get to see Jason Sudeikis in a different light. Unlike the usual comedy performances that we used to see him in the two Horrible Bosses movies, Sudeikis displays an unlikely dramatic chop, particularly during a tonal shift midway which caught me by surprise. Colossal may have been an odd movie from a mainstream’s point-of-view. But if you are game enough for something different than your usual Hollywood offering, this should be your next watch list. (Read my full review here).
9. Wind River
After writing for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015) and David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water (2016), Taylor Sheridan continues to explore the gritty modern perspective of the American frontier in Wind River. The movie, in which he also penned and directed from his own screenplay, has the feel and look of a contemporary Western movie. Both Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen pull off great performances, while Graham Greene gives a solid support as the no-nonsense Sheriff Ben. Although the movie’s murder mystery is paced in a deliberate manner, Sheridan knows how to push the right button where it matters the most: a violent finale that jolts to life with a Mexican standoff.
8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Words like “bizarre” and “provocative” continue to loom large over Yorgos Lanthimos’ directing resume, the acclaimed Greek filmmaker who is no stranger to controversy. After all, this is the same director who made 2009’s Dogtooth and 2015’s The Lobster. In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he uses Euripides’ ancient Greek play of Iphigenia at Aulis as the major template to mirror the story essence of “sacrificing own flesh and blood”. Instead of setting the movie during the Trojan War, it takes place in the present-day urban suburbia. The Cannes-winning screenplay, in which Lanthimos co-wrote with Efthymis Filippou, defies easy explanations whatsoever. But that’s the beauty of this movie. The ambiguous storytelling approach is meant to provoke and disturb you at the same time. Barry Keoghan’s frightening portrayal of a vengeful young man who wants the doctor (Colin Farrell) and his family (Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic) “suffer” a painful ordeal, is one of the creepiest antagonists I’ve ever seen this year. As for the director, Lanthimos’ clinical approach brings a certain eerie touch of Kubrickian quality.
You will never see pig the same way again after watching Netflix’s Okja. Or more specifically, the meat that you eat every day. As his second Hollywood effort from Boon Joon-Ho following his 2013’s Snowpiercer, the acclaimed Korean auteur successfully interweaves a tale that is both thrilling, funny and heartbreaking. This movie is definitely more than just a “chubby girl with a cute super-pig” angle, as Joon-Ho also successfully explored the underside of animal cruelty, consumerism and corporate greed. Tilda Swinton brings a sublime touch to her dual performances as the eccentric Lucy and the cunning Nancy Mirando. Kudos also go to the lifelike CGI hippo and pig-like hybrid beast, while Joon-Ho has crafted one of the year’s best chase sequences through the streets of Seoul.
6. A Ghost Story
This year alone, the “ghost in a white sheet” figure has been featured in straightforward horror movies like Annabelle: Creation and Indonesia’s Pengabdi Setan (Satan’s Slaves). But in the case of A Ghost Story, the “ghost in a white sheet” figure isn’t designed to scare your pants off. Instead, writer-director David Lowery reunites his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara to offer a “ghost story” with a difference. Affleck, who plays a deceased musician returning to haunt his lover (Rooney Mara) and their house, is not your average ghost. He is more of a symbol of grief and despair, while Lowery’s meditative approach to his screenplay echoes a sense of isolation and intimacy like no others. Though impatient viewers might complain its painfully slow-moving structure, A Ghost Story is nevertheless an achingly beautiful romantic journey where love transcends through the past, present and future.
Christopher Nolan’s first foray into World War II movies isn’t your average war epic like you often seen in the past. Instead, Dunkirk is more of a sensory mix of visual and sound where Nolan made full use of IMAX and 65mm film stock to create a cinematic equivalent of a real war experience. From the piercing noise of shots being fired to a fighter plane zipping across the sky, every sound design is meticulously produced as realistic as possible. Even Nolan’s typically dense plot is reduced to its bare essentials this time around, with none of the obligatory flashbacks or political point-of-view usually featured in a war movie. Despite all the trimmings, Nolan still deserves a credit for able to tell a deceptively simple story of survival with his signature non-linear approach from three different perspectives: the land, air and sea. Easily one of the best movies worth watching at the IMAX cinema. (Read my full review here).
Imagine Clint Eastwood is tasked to direct Logan, and you will get a revisionist Western movie in the vein of his own 1992’s Unforgiven masquerading as a comic-book genre. It was evident that James Mangold draws heavy influence from the legendary Western director, even going as far as establishing Hugh Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine character as an anti-hero similar to Clint Eastwood’s William Munny from the aforementioned movie. Logan is also best remembered as Jackman’s swan song for playing his iconic character one last time before he hangs up his adamantium claws for good. (Read my full review here).
3. Get Out
Now, it’s not every day we get to find a horror genre and one of the Top 10 best movies of the year in the same sentence. But Get Out is one of those rarities. You can call it a horror version of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and 1975’s The Stepford Wives with a racial twist. It’s hard to believe this is actually Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, the same comedian who appeared with Keegan-Michael Key in the hit Comedy Central sketch series, Key & Peele. Not only Peele knows what makes a frightening horror movie that tapped into the darkest aspect of a human nature, he also uses the race issue to strike a fine balance between a black comedy and a socially-conscious drama. (Read my full review here).
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
If there’s a movie about a mother dealing with the death of a daughter, it can go either way: a grief-stricken drama filled with lots of onscreen depression or a revenge thriller where the mother take matters into her own hands. However, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a bit of both and much more. Instead of your usual expectation for this kind of movie, he subverts all the grief, anger and injustice into a brutally funny comedy-drama. It’s like dealing with pain and sorrow in a different manner, and McDonagh does that pretty well to ensure you are rooted in Frances McDormand’s Mildred’s ordeal to seek proper justice against the unsolved murder and rape of her daughter. McDormand’s unvarnished yet vulgar lead performance will certainly catch the award’s attention come Oscar time, while Sam Rockwell’s dim-witted and racist cop portrayal is likely to attract a possible lock for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
1. Blade Runner 2049
Like the first Blade Runner in 1982, the big-budget sequel of Blade Runner 2049 failed to make a huge impact in the box office. Despite being a critical darling, many general audiences didn’t see it the same way, labelling this movie either “long”, “slow-moving” or “ponderous”. It’s a shame that Blade Runner 2049 turned out to be an underappreciated effort because frankly, this is the best movie I’ve ever seen this year which truly draws me into its cinematic landscape. From the panoramic view of the dystopian Los Angeles in 2049 to the dilapidated burnt-orange Nevada desert, Blade Runner 2049 is a triumph of breathtaking visuals, thanks to Roger Deakins’ sumptuous cinematography that would make the late cinematographer great Jordan Cronenweth proud. Denis Villeneuve (2016’s Arrival) turns out to be a worthy replacement for Ridley Scott, the original director of Blade Runner. He successfully expanded the mythos of the Blade Runner universe while digging deeper into the meaning of being human, which is told in a deliberately cold and haunting manner. Although Ryan Gosling is credited as the main protagonist in this sequel, he brings a perfectly brooding vibe to his law-abiding character as K. Villeneuve, of course, didn’t forget to include Harrison Ford, whose late appearance as the first movie’s original protagonist Deckard happens to be the sequel’s among finest moments. (Read my full review here).
HONOURABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
1. Bad Genius
The highest-grossing movie in Thailand this year is definitely not a cheat. Thanks to director Nattawut Poonpiriya, he successfully brought Bad Genius to life with a rousing Ocean’s Eleven-like blockbuster and an engaging youth drama wrapped into one great package. Who could have thought a movie about an exam-cheating syndicate able to draw so much excitement? Surprisingly enough, this is actually the teen model Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying’s acting debut and her lead performance as the scheming mastermind Lynn is undeniably top-notch.
Kathryn Bigelow’s first movie in five years since the acclaimed Zero Dark Thirty (2012) is lengthy, but an engaging drama about race and police brutality during the real-life Algiers Motel incidents in 1967. Although the movie was well-received by critics, it sadly fizzled in the box office. Sure, the 142-minute running time could have used some trimmings. But Bigelow’s fearless and frequently intense direction remains worth praising for, while Will Poulter of The Maze Runner fame brings an unlikely frightening portrayal of a vile Detroit cop.
3. Good Time
Good Time is like an Abel Ferrara movie made in a Martin Scorsese’s mean-street style of gritty New York City on steroids. That’s how I see it upon watching this crime drama directed by Josh and Benny Safdie. Never mind the fact the movie does suffer from an erratic pacing every now and then. But this movie remains a worthy cinematic acid trip blessed with the Safdies’ propulsive direction and an appropriately tight, agitated-inducing camerawork. At the core of the movie is Robert Pattinson, whose scruffy look and goatee appearance is a mile away from what you used to see his brooding pretty face in the Twilight era. And yes, this is easily his best performance to date.
2017 turns out to be a banner year for horror movies. First, it was Get Out which made it into one of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2017. Now, if there are any honourable mentions for a horror movie worth including here, it would be the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s It. First developed as the two-part 1990 TV miniseries starring the great Tim Curry, it took 27 years before we finally get a cinematic treatment. Instead of condensing King’s 1,138-page novel into one movie, director Andy Muschietti alongside screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman smartly adapted the first half by focusing on the seven kids’ terrifying ordeal in Derry, Maine. Muschietti successfully brought the novel to vivid life with an efficient mix of shocks and brutality. All the seven kids are great, while Bill Skarsgård proves his worth as the creepy Pennywise. The Spielbergian coming-of-age storyline is equally solid, where the filmmakers wisely changed the original novel’s 1950s setting to a more relatable 1980s timeline. (Read my full review here).
5. Lady Bird
Once upon a time, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird earned a distinction as the best-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes with a perfect score of 100% fresh after 170 reviews. But it has since down to 99% following a particularly negative review by Cole Smithey. Still, even at 99%, it was a tremendous score. It’s easy to see why this movie is universally adored by critics. This coming-of-age high school dramedy is blessed with a witty yet relatable screenplay by Greta Gerwig, who also made her solo directing debut. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are another highlights here, playing the love-hate mother and daughter relationship where most of us can relate pretty well.