For film fans, January is a busy month. In addition to ceremonies like the SAG Awards, the Critics’ Choices Awards, and the Golden Globes, there is also the announcing of the Academy Award nominations. Because of all this, instead of doing the usual Monthly Movie Round-Up, we at A Place for Film thought that we should instead do a Yearly Movie Round-Up. The principle essentially stays the same; however, rather than the regular bloggers selecting their favorite discovery-of-the-month, they will discuss which film they pick as the absolute best film they saw in 2017. These picks aren’t restricted to 2017 releases, either. Any movie is up for grabs, so long as it was watched for the first time in the past year. Please feel free to share your own choices via any of our social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Michaela Owens, editor | The Nice Guys (2016)
This idea proved a little tricky for me. While I try to watch at least one new-to-me movie a week, I don’t always keep track of what I’ve seen. I’d also like to point out that there are many recent films I still haven’t seen, such as Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Get Out… basically, if it’s been nominated for a major award, I probably haven’t viewed it. (It’s not that I didn’t want to see them, it’s just a matter of my budget and general convenience.)
That being said, I was able to see some great 2017 releases, like The LEGO Batman Movie and The Big Sick (both hilarious), Wonder Woman (immensely inspiring), Beauty and the Beast (lovely but doesn’t best the 1991 version), and Murder on the Orient Express (a fun way to pass the time). I can’t even remember half of the classic films I saw, but some standouts were Ernst Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown and Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot.
When considering the single best movie I viewed in the past year, there were three that kept popping out at me. Two of them, Dunkirk and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, were incredible experiences – moving, visceral, heartbreaking, bittersweet, and sometimes even breathtaking. I honestly couldn’t pick the winner between the two… and then I remembered Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. It’s a controversial choice, I know, but I love this movie. It’s clever; it has brilliant, well-drawn characters; it handles poignant moments with sincerity and just the right amount of tenderness. There’s even a scene where Get Smart is playing on a TV!
Ultimately, I choose The Nice Guys because it has to be one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, largely thanks to the absolutely perfect performances of Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter. I just know I’ll be rewatching this for the rest of my life. If a movie can accomplish that, it must be doing something right.
Warning: contains some language and mild violence.
Nathaniel Sexton, contributor | The Long Day Closes (1992)
Below is a list of the best movies I saw for the first time in the year 2017, excluding (then) new releases (my favorite of which was Good Time, dir. Josh & Ben Safdie). I have ordered the films by the strength of impression they have left on me now in the beginning of the new year. Each title comes highly recommended.
Terence Davies’s 1992 autobiographical film The Long Day Closes leads my list in cinematically realizing memory and the wistfulness of recollecting one’s childhood. Full of rain and period pop music, Davies’s film freely associates as if rawly emerging from the filmmaker’s mind, revealing a longing pain and sadness, the contradiction of loss and permanence in adolescent feeling, and the crystallization of those things, often so small in the moment, that become grand and unforgettable later in life. One scene in particular features one of the most impressive camera movements and most lyrically beautiful juxtapositions I have ever seen in film, as the lens glides seamlessly over an impromptu jungle gym, over the audience of a cinema, the pews of a Catholic church, and through the seats of a classroom. Davies blends the spaces of childhood instruction, joy, development, and coming-of-age with such sweeping finesse and confident insistence that we feel, immediately and immeasurably, the weightiness of memory and the impressions of those places, the impact they have on Davies’s younger self (ourselves) and the marks one leaves there, a rusty metal bar bent like birch wood in the wind.
Remembering and imaging also figure heavily in several other included titles (e.g. Return of the Secaucus Seven, Millennium Mambo, Two Marxists in Hollywood, and Close-Up), positioning Davies’s film as an exemplar on a repeating theme.
- The Long Day Closes, dir. Terence Davies, 1992
- Tampopo, dir. Juzo Itami, 1985
- Safe, dir. Todd Haynes, 1995
- Mickey & Nicky, dir. Elaine May, 1976
- The Boy Friend, dir. Ken Russell, 1971
- Millenium Mambo, dir. Haou Hsiao-hsien, 2001
- Scum, dir. Alan Clarke, 1979
- Close-Up, dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 1990
- A Summer’s Tale, dir. Eric Rohmer, 1996
- The Terrorizers, dir. Edward Yang, 1986
- Modern Romance, dir. Albert Brooks, 1981
- Return of the Secaucus Seven, dir. John Sayles, 1980
- Daddy Longlegs, dir. Josh & Ben Safdie, 2009
- The Wanderers, dir. Philip Kaufman, 1979
- A New Leaf, dir. Elaine May, 1971
- Girlfriends, dir. Claudia Weill, 1978
- The Blue Note, dir. Andrzej Zulawski, 1991
- Stinking Heaven, dir. Nathan Silver, 2015
- Dogfight, dir. Nancy Savoca, 1991
- Monterey Pop, dir. D.A. Pennebaker, 1968
- Solaris, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972
- Vagabond, dir. Agnès Varda, 1985
- Two Marxists in Hollywood, dir. Zoe Beloff, 2015
- Rich Kids, dir. Robert M. Young, 1979
- Angel’s Egg, dir. Mamoru Oshii, 1985
- Katzelmacher, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969
- The Patsy, dir. Jerry Lewis, 1964
- Slap Shot, dir. George Roy Hill, 1977
- The Young Girls of Rochefort, dir. Jacques Demy, 1967
- River’s Edge, dir. Tim Hunter, 1986
Laura Ivins, contributor | Personal Shopper (2016)
Honorable mentions – Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig), Columbus (Kogonada), Get Out (Jordan Peele), and Mudbound (Dee Rees) all stand out for their complex performances and stories that linger in the mind for days.
5. Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins) – Yes, Wonder Woman. She was written as sincere, full of conviction, unafraid to charge forward across No Man’s Land, an elite warrior. With badass armlets! I saw this twice in the theater, and it was even better the second time.
4. The World of Tomorrow, Episode Two: “The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts” (Don Hertzfeldt) – The amount of feels that Don Hertzfeldt can pack into 23 minutes and a few stick figures is astonishing. The story about the bug shot right into my heart.
3. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky) – I’m not really interested in Aronofsky’s intended metaphor about God and Mother Earth. For me this film was about every woman who’s been dismissed by male egos, had her space disrespected, who’s not been listened to. It was a panic dream for the destructive cycles that undermine women with little cuts at first, escalating to trauma.
2. Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch and Mark Frost) – Lynch and Frost toyed with our expectations, suspending narrative satisfaction in favor of mystery. They offered us a world to step into, to experience, to puzzle over, but never to fully understand. The girl who swallowed the moth-frog continues to haunt me.
1. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas) – I love a good ghost story, and Personal Shopper was an especially stylish one. The film cultivates an unexpected intimacy between the audience and the lead character, Maureen. In another film, the way things end for Maureen would feel like a tragedy, but somehow Assayas and Kristen Stewart make it feel like a release.
David Carter, contributor | Phantom Thread (2017)
I’ve said it elsewhere, but it’s insane to think that on the 10-year anniversary of the year that gave us There Will Be Blood, Superbad, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Hot Fuzz, Zodiac and countless other masterpieces, 2017 came along and established itself as what might be the greatest year for cinema of this decade so far. Picking my favorite film of the year was an emotionally draining process, but somehow I managed.
However, instead of talking about my favorite film(s) of the year (if you’re interested you can find that list over right here), I want to talk about my favorite film score of the year. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is mostly known for being the maestro of the mopey but with Phantom Thread he has truly reached inside himself and pulled out something that can only be described as beautiful and hauntingly sumptuous, a score so lush that you would need a machete to cut through the greenery of theme and variation on display.
Even removed from the film itself the score stands as its own device for telling about love, grief, and control in the world of ’50s London fashion. Yet, it takes the time to elevate an already near-perfect movie about…well, I won’t spoil it, but the power dynamics of the relationship between the two leads is present in the evolution of the score’s main and recurring piece “Phantom Thread.” Both baroque and romantic at any given point, Jonny Greenwood’s work on this score is the aural highlight of a year filled with interesting and exciting sounds. Grab yourself a Welsh rabbit with a poached egg, bacon, sausage, scones, butter, cream, strawberry jam and a pot of Lapsang souchong tea and put this record on while you savor every flavor you can handle.
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | Get Out (2017)
2017 was a great year for movies. I made this top ten list near the end of December and even though I could revise it twenty times, I think it still stands up:
- Get Out
- The Shape of Water
- Call Me By Your Name
- Phantom Thread
- Lady Bird
- The Big Sick
- Baby Driver
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
I loved Get Out so much because it was both very old and very new. It takes the structure and pacing of an old school horror movie and marries it to trenchant social commentary and a perspective that has not been given as much width in American cinema as it deserves. Writer-director Jordan Peele fills Get Out with nods to older horror movies (including an Easter egg to Rosemary’s Baby that made my eyes lit up when I first saw it in the theater) while creating shots that are so iconic that they immediately burn themselves into your brain (those close-ups of Betty Gabriel as Georgina, Chris’s wide-eyed weeping, and The Sunken Place spring to mind). Get Out is not going to leave my head for a long time, and it made me happier to see TSA agents at the airport.
Warning: may contain spoilers.