Jacob Hall’s Top 10 Movies of 2017

 Top 10 Movies of 2017

Insert obligatory opening statement about how much 2017 stunk overall! Insert obligatory follow-up statement about how the movies of 2017 were a highlight in 365 days of raw sewage!

These are my top films of 2017. So let’s go ahead and insert another obligatory comment about how many great movies didn’t make the cut. Here are the honorable mentions that are all tied for #11: Baby Driver, The Disaster Artist, Good Time, Colossal, War for the Planet of the Apes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ingrid Goes West, Logan, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Free Fire, and Thelma.

Garance Marillier in Raw

10. Raw

Raw is the best movie ever made about leaving home for the first time and battling intense and emotionally crippling loneliness as you attempt to carve out your identity in the “real world.” It’s also a movie about cannibals. Julia Ducournau’s coming-of-age horror tale veers between uncomfortable depictions of college life and gross-out flesh-eating with effortless aplomb, a genre mash-up that has no right to work as well as it does. At the center of it all is Garance Marillier as Justine, a young veterinary student who finds herself out of place at college and craving human meat. It’s an astonishing lead performance in an astonishing film, one that manages to be about the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood, our inability to escape our parents’ shadow, and just how damn hard it is to grow into an adult. And yeah, there’s enough gore to turn your stomach. It’s tremendous.

shape of water top 10

9. The Shape of Water

Eat shit, Dark Universe. Seriously. Why waste $150 million on a remake of The Mummy when Guillermo del Toro can remake The Creature From the Black Lagoon as a fairy tale melodrama about about a mute woman who falls in love with a beautiful fish-man held captive in the government facility where she scrubs the toilets? This tale of men and monsters and the blurry line that divides them is the modernized take on the classic Universal Monsters formula that we need, a creepy and sincere and wholly empathetic creature feature that is about loving who you want to love and not letting society dictate your desires. What a beautiful lead performance from Sally Hawkins and what a beautiful supporting turn from Richard Jenkins. What a beautiful fish-man (played by the great Doug Jones). What a beautiful movie.

blade runner 2049

8. Blade Runner 2049

The most incredible thing about Blade Runner 2049 is that it’s a proper Blade Runner movie. Pure and unfiltered. For better and worse. Major corporations gave director Denis Villeneuve over $150 million to make a science fiction movie starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford and he turned around and delivered a long, slow-moving, deliberately obtuse meditation on the meaning of existence. In other words, he made a Blade Runner movie. A Blade Runner movie that may actually be as good as the original. Holy mackerel. How did that happen? Gosling and Ford both impress and the visuals are nothing short of astonishing, but it’s the ideas that star in Blade Runner 2049. What does it mean to be human? How do we define humanity? How do you grapple with the knowledge that you are not important to your world? How do you deal with the insignificance of your own existence? Villeneuve ponders these questions without holding your hand, letting minor details and stray lines of dialogue fill out the unspoken history of a desolate, fascinating dystopia that feels more fascinating than ever.

The Big Sick Review

7. The Big Sick

Can you imagine how hard it must be to make a great romantic comedy? Can you comprehend working in a genre that is so familiar, so prone to mediocrity, and so defined by a handful of classics that everything else that enters their orbit invites an immediate and damning comparison? The highest praise I can give The Big Sick is that you can place it side-by-side with the greatest rom-coms of all time and realize that yeah, it belongs in that company. Michael Showalter’s film is hilarious and sweet and sad, a movie that hits just enough familiar beats to feel comforting while straying from the path and into enough specific tangents to feel proudly unique and personal. The screenplay by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (adapting how the couple actually met in real life) is a low-key triumph, as are the lovely, natural performances from Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter.

the florida project

6. The Florida Project

A great deal has been written about The Florida Project from my colleagues at /Film, so I’m just going to focus in on a single scene. Gruff but kind-hearted motel manager Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe) is working in his office when a gaggle of children, led by the adorable and abrasive Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) barge in, looking for a place to play hide and seek. Bobby is annoyed and demands they go elsewhere. They don’t listen and crawl under his desk. Quietly admitting defeat, Bobby just asks them to not mess with his computer cords. Right on cue, his monitor is pulled across his desk. But while Bobby is clearly irritated, Dafoe allows a smile to creep across his face – this is a distraction and an annoying one, but goddamn it, he loves these kids. And he knows they live in abject poverty, spending their days hanging around the crappy motels (15 minutes from Walt Disney World) that many impoverished central Florida families call home. He knows that these kids mean well, that they’re blissfully ignorant of what they do not have. And who is he to stand in the way of them being happy, just for now? Because it’s not going to last.

All of this is communicated in a smile from Dafoe, giving the warmest (and possibly best) performance of 2017. Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a machine powered by empathy and Bobby Hicks is its avatar.

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