The ending credits have rolled on 2017. It’s time to rewind as we look back on our best and worst in film for the year. Rebecca and Tamara make their picks for best movie, worst movie, screen surprise, favorite character and hidden gem.
“Get Out”: I had a difficult time narrowing down my pick for 2017’s best film, but out of the 46 films released this year that I have seen, it’s the only one that serves as the best time capsule of the times we are living in. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut stirred audiences like the hypnotic tea stirring into the sunken place in discussions that needed to be made. The horror film follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black photographer, as he visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend. It starts with the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” cliché, but quickly moves into territory not often shown in any format, showing black men’s fears. It’s rare for a person of color to survive the end of a horror flick, and does Chris, or America for that matter, make it at the end?
Honorable mention: “The Shape of Water” – director Guillermo del Toro makes the most haunting and beautiful fairy tales for adults, often serving as portraits of some of the worst times and environments of our times. He picks the best central characters, with lonely mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins) this time as a cleaner in a government facility housing a sea monster, and makes a beautiful tribute to cinema. “Dunkirk” – Christopher Nolan employs modern storytelling and suspense in a breath-taking war film. Seeing it in 70 millimeter was a treat.
“Matt Damon”: For the past three years, I haven’t been able to single out one bad movie. It has been a cluster of bad examples of filmmaking usually occurring between January and April. In 2017, however, I selected a single actor. Damon has appeared in a string of awful movies and tone-death flicks – “The Great Wall,” “Suburbicon” and “Downsizing” – and made some of the year’s worst sound bites as Hollywood is exorcising some of the accused sexual predators running rampant behind the scenes. If Damon is the example of the relatable everyday man, we need a 2018 replacement.
Honorable mention: “Life” and “Alien: Covenant” – I thought that “Life” was a poor man’s “Alien” and needed Ridley Scott to show them a real science fiction movie. Then “Covenant” came along, and I realized that Scott is a poor man’s Ridley Scott.
“Good Time”: I never watched any of the “Twilight” movies, so my only exposure to Robert Pattinson was in “Cosmopolis” and “Map to the Stars” in forgettable roles. What he brings to the spectacular “Good Time” by Ben and Joshua Sadfie is beyond words. As no-good New York crook Connie, Pattinson turns in a performance in one of the best New York movies ever made. You forget that he’s British as he takes on the persona of a Queens thug. I may be biased as this film takes place in my former hometown and makes me homesick at times, bu this high-paced drama with Pattinson as its star was a pleasure to watch.
Honorable mention: “Lady Bird”: I saw Greta Gerwig as a starlet who was in the same realm as Lena Dunham. The movies she made and wrote were annoying and full of the things that annoyed me in real life: hipsters, Brooklyn gentrification, young people without real jobs, indecisiveness, thrift stores. “Lady Bird,” her directorial debut, didn’t have as much of that stuff and had a great performance by the always-talent Saoirse Ronan.
Ryan, Sasha, Lisa and Dina (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish): For too long, I have wanted to see movies in which black characters are not oppressed or in shackles. As great of an actress as Octavia Spencer is, she shouldn’t have to be a Southern woman in the 1960s in every movie. I want to see characters that look like me and have the same basic life problems that I have. “Girls Trip” was a breath of fresh air; it was funny with fully developed characters and I felt good walking out of the theater. Everyone knows a shy Lisa who is ready to go wild, a Sasha who takes charge, an adventurous Dina who gets you out of your shell and a Ryan who projects an image of strength while struggling to keep things in order.
Honorable mention: Moonee (Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project” and Laura (Dafne Keen, “Logan”) – These girls play foul-mouthed, intelligent and imaginative heroines in dangerous situations. For Moonee, it’s the state of poverty she inhabits in the shadow of Disney World. For Laura, it’s the comic-book world of villains that are after her and her father, Logan/Wolverine.
“Professor Marston & the Wonder Women”: I bet you saw the female-directed movie about a comic book character, but if you saw two female-directed movies about comics, then you earn a gold star. “Professor Marston” follows the creator of Wonder Woman and the polyamorous bond he shared with his wife and one of his students. While much attention has been paid to the sex scenes, the gaze is different. The relationship is normal, but the reactions to it are from an outsider’s point of view. Director Angela Robinson is one of three black female directors to have movies in major releases in 2017, joining Dee Rees with Netflix’s “Mudbound” and Stella Meghie’s “Everything, Everything.” Much attention has been paid to Gerwig and Patty Jenkins last year, but several other female directors have also made waves.
Honorable mention: “John Wick: Chapter 2”: Keanu Reeves is a great action star, and this over-the-top sequel is full of comedy, rage and surprisingly, art. “The Incredible Jessica James” – It’s like a Greta Gerwig romantic comedy, but it stars Jessica Williams – a person you actually want to know in real life.
“Logan”: This was the movie I was both dying and dreading to see. After 17 years, “Logan” marked the culmination of a journey for X-Men mutant Logan/Wolverine and actor Hugh Jackman, who will be forever identified with the role he created onscreen. The gritty, neo-Western drama breaks through the boundaries of comic book films to become an excellent movie in its own right. As brutal as it is emotional, “Logan” is grounded in reality, exploring the human side of a fading superhero. I laughed, I cried, and I said goodbye to a character who has been a big part of my life.
Honorable mention: Full of joy, optimism and hope, “Wonder Woman” lifted the DC Comics Extended Universe to new heights. The iconic “No Man’s Land” sequence is my favorite in any film this year. “Dunkirk” is a stirring, mesmerizing war drama that thrusts the audience headfirst into its inescapable fear and suspense. Under the visionary direction of Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water” is a gorgeous and dark fairy tale where Beauty meets her Beast during the Cold War.
“The Circle”: This wannabe techno-thriller tries to lure you with its plum cast, featuring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and John Boyega. Instead, the meandering drama lulls you to sleep. It asks questions about privacy and freedom, but never bothers to dig deep enough to offer any answers.
Honorable mention: “Transformers: The Last Knight” is less than meets the eye, the most incoherent and convoluted of all the “Transformers” movies. That’s two-and-half hours of my life I will never get back. The unnecessary “The Mummy” buried the Dark Universe before it could even start.
Horror hits highs: Horror had a break-out year with films that transcended the genre. Jordan Peele’s directing debut “Get Out” is equal parts clever and terrifying. The horror satire takes on race relations in America by working within horror tropes, only to turn them on their heads. The nightmarish “It,” based on the popular Stephen King novel, is as much a coming-of-age story as it is a horror film. The story of a group of kids battling the shape-shifting demon Pennywise got under my skin. The disturbing psychological thriller “Split,” about a man with 23 personalities who kidnaps three girls for nefarious purposes, cemented king of suspense M. Night Shyamalan’s return to form.
Honorable mention: The month of March. I’m loving Hollywood’s decision to spread its blockbusters and tentpoles throughout the year. In addition to the masterpiece “Logan,” March gave us the magic and wonder of “Beauty and the Beast,” the fun and thrills of “Kong: Skull Island,” and the space tension and terror of “Life.” Who says beware the ides of March?
Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman): I’ve followed Jackman’s portrayal of the clawed mutant through nine different films since 2000’s “X-Men.” During that span, Wolverine has tackled villains, saved innocents, taken revenge for his past and struggled with his immortality. In “Logan,” the aging antihero becomes a caretaker for Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and a father figure to young mutant Laura/X-23 (Dafne Keene), sides we’ve never seen of the Berserker. Jackman plays them masterfully as the hardened superhero encounters the one thing he can’t beat: the ravages of time. “Logan” is a magnificent sendoff to the conflicted anti-hero and Jackman’s time in the role.
Honorable mention: In “It,” the brave and long-suffering Beverly (Sophia Lillis) faces down demons of the supernatural and human variety. The no-nonsense Sasha (Queen Latifah) in “Girls Trip” acts as the voice of reason for her friends while struggling with her conscience over maintaining her celebrity gossip website.
“Justice League”: Yes, I’m listing the DCEU’s superhero team-up here because as the blockbuster underperformed, I’m not sure how many of you actually sought it! If you didn’t, you really missed out. “Justice League” brings together Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Superman (Henry Cavill) in an exciting and fun adventure that improves upon past DCEU movies. “Justice League” has solid pacing, does a better job of streamlining the plot than “Batman v Superman,” has memorable action sequences, and adds well-timed humor. I really liked all the characters and enjoyed seeing them unite to take on the villain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds).
Honorable mention: The visually stunning and intense “War for the Planet of the Apes” provides an incredible motion-capture showcase for Andy Serkis as Caesar, the leader of the intelligent apes. The new “Apes” trilogy has become of one of my favorites, and “War” closes it out in powerful fashion.