Best 20 Films of 2017 – part 1

Courtesy A24

It took awhile, but I wanted to participate in all the polls before settling on my picks for the 20 best films I saw in 2017, Here they are, in reverse order, and in two parts. Where available, there are links to full reviews to read my thoughts on these choice cinematic experiences of 2017. If I did not review it, I provide a paragraph of commentary. Otherwise, there is a choice pull quote with a link to my original review. There’s one film that my now former partner in IndieEthos, Ana Morgenstern, reviewed.

A key to the hyperlinks below: Where available, movie titles link to the item description page on Amazon for purchase, rent or pre-order. If you purchase via the link provided, know that you are financially supporting this blog and helping us match our Knight Foundation grant. We thank you. You can also jump over to our “Support Us” page and send a donation in one click via Paypal or credit card. Again, we thank you.

Let the countdown begin…

20. Brad’s Status

“Children are both blessed to the parents that create them and doomed to their programming by them. Writer-director Mike White never over-dramatizes this. He stays true to the internal, stoic male suffering that often leaves outsiders confused, which is why the film’s self-wrestling voice-over and Stiller’s ability to sadly gaze into the distance work so well in this movie…”

Read my review


19. Quest

I didn’t review this one, but it was our pick for the Critic’s Prize at the Key West Film Festival last year (it won). It was my personal favorite of the bunch of films us critics had to consider. It’s the closest I’ve seen an American documentary filmmaker come to capturing the feeling to the The Up Series of documentaries. Director Jonathan Olshefski — making his feature debut — spent 10 years following a family in an impoverished neighborhood in North Philadelphia, during the hopes of the Obama election, into his two terms and the election of Donald Trump. In that macrocosm unfolds a story familiar to those in urban areas of the United States, the gun violence that haunts neighborhoods on the margins and the unfair regard of its inhabitants. It’s an impressive documentary debut in naturally capturing the social milieu of people that the privileged only see in two minute news pieces on local TV news about shootings and the innocents who too often accidentally fall victim to the community’s violence, its disturbing code of self governance but also the tightness of family.

18. Frantz

“Ozon takes his time to look at humanity on both sides, from people’s hate to their love, which no matter what side you are on, is shared. It’s about uniting people across a seeming great divide. It’s surely no coincidence that the French pronunciation of France sounds like Frantz. And as the film rides its central twist to further developments, allowing for a deepening mystery, lies become complicated, rippling with repercussions. But as they complicate communication that drive the film’s suspense, they also rise to a profound kind of honesty that has a transcendent effect on these people’s lives…”

Read my review


17. The Lost City of Z

“When you look at them as aspirational, dreams can often seem concrete, but writer-director James Gray’s adaptation of David Grann’s book examines the drive inspired by dreams with more complexity. His film makes vivid an essence that is as much about doubt as it is about the enthusiasm that fuels their pursuit. It celebrates the mystery of the unattainable, the possibility of what seems impossible…”

Read my review


16. Personal Shopper

“In the end, the genre trappings are a portal to something more grounded and real: a sense of identity and how expectations weigh one down on a personal level. Stewart’s performative style is key, inviting the viewer to extract meaning on a more ineffable level…”

Read my review


15. Endless Poetry

“Jodorowsky is as much a realist as he is a surrealist, bringing to life the inconsistencies of existence, love and artistic expression with stark truths. He spins fabulist scenes like the one above to capture the role of trauma in art. At 88 years old, the director offers lucid wisdom into creativity and its impact on family with direct humor. Of course young Alejandro finds his first muse to be a sort of demonic representation of his mother (the same actress plays her)…”

Read my review


14. I am Not Your Negro

“Director Raoul Peck is not preachy, but his dynamic style of editing makes complex ideas and connections tractable through images and testimonials from then and today. It is not a confrontational argument, rather one that seeks to bridge communication and makes a point to say that to be inclusive one has to listen to different voices, especially the ones being affected or have been traditionally underrepresented…”

Read Ana Morgenstern’s review


13. Call Me By Your Name

“… a romantic movie that transcends gender, as it celebrates the openness of gender fluidity without short-changing the idealism of love. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by the legendary James Ivory, who adapted the 2007 novel by Andre Aciman, the film is exquisitely shot by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom with an often ingeniously timed use of piano-heavy classical music score that features Bach and Debussy, among others. At the heart of the film is an American graduate student named Oliver (Armie Hammer, wielding dashing nonchalance to utmost charm) on archeological research in Italy and the student’s host professor’s 17-year-old son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet in a breakout performance), a sexually confident teen with the ladies who falls to emotional pieces when he crushes hard on Oliver…”

Read my review


12. Raw

“Though the film features some visceral scenes where the camera lingers on wounds and raw meat, enhanced by brilliant colors that sometimes clash from frame-to-frame, like a rather vicious Wes Anderson movie, there’s a sensitivity to the film. Actress Garance Marillier brings a soulful performance to this sometimes hyper-stylized movie. Justine’s confusion and desire is a mix of hesitation and compulsion. She seems both repulsed and drawn in at once by her first taste of meat and soon, human flesh. It’s as much about aberrant behavior as it is about the excitement of feeling something for the first time that we all can relate with…”

Read my review


11. Lady Bird

Lady Bird is an incredibly sensitive movie that isn’t playing characters to be laughed at from some high and mighty distance. They are made earthy and relatable. Augmenting it, is a magical soundtrack by Jon Brion that is as fittingly dynamic as the movie — from bouncily orchestral to simple but sweet acoustic guitar work. Then there is the unobtrusive cinematography by Sam Levy, which also has moments of fancy in overhead shots but can also keep a distance in movingly dramatic scenes that allow the actors all the space they need to perform…”

Read my review

Visit this link to see my top 10 in movies of 2017:

Best 20 Films of 2017 – part 2 (10 – 1)

Hans Morgenstern

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