Jacob Hall’s Top 10 Movies of 2017

Call Me By Your Name sequel

5. Call Me By Your Name

Even before Luca Guadagnino’s transcendent love story hones in on the passions of its two leading men, it’s remarkable. Few films have ever captured so well the feeling of a lazy summer – warm days where you swim and read and explore the countryside. The sense of time (1983) and place (the Italian countryside) is woven into the fabric of the film with such care that you feel genuinely transported. By the time Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) act on their feelings, we have been invited into their world with such a warm embrace that it’s like watching two friends fall in love.

And love is what defines Call Me By Your Name. Love is in every gorgeous frame, in every conversation, and every nuanced interaction. These characters love one another and Guadagnino loves all of them, often pausing to give minor supporting characters a moment in the spotlight because the film has enough room in its heart for everyone. Our hearts are torn open by Elio and Oliver, but they’re healed and strengthened by the men and women in the margins. And then, when we least suspect it, Elio’s father (the great Michael Stuhlbarg) delivers a monologue so beautiful and heart wrenching that all of the pain and joy we’ve endured for the past two hours comes into crystal clear focus. This is Elio’s summer. This is Oliver’s summer. It is also our summer.

Three_Billboards_01

4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri believes in people. It believes that they will ultimately achieve grace, that they can fix their broken lives and protect those in need. It also believes that the path to get there is littered with land mines and potholes and that redemption is only achieved after you’ve stumbled a half dozen times and learned enough hard lessons to leave a mark. It’s a bitter pill of a movie, sweetened by Martin McDonagh’s searing, stylized dialogue and performances from likable actors bringing flawed and often loathsome characters to life. Not everyone will be on board for this tale of small town fury – the way it proudly waves a middle finger in the face of political correctness has ignited a storm on Film Twitter – but its coarseness, its uncouthness, completes McDonagh’s intentionally imperfect portrait. We can all do better. We can all try to be better. And we’re going to collect all kinds of scars and bruises to get there. Oh, and the movie is really damn funny. Because the best defense against the abyss is a good laugh.

Michael Caine Dunkirk

3. Dunkirk

In 2017, Christopher Nolan made his best and most experimental film, working from a premise that could have (and should have) been boilerplate. The evacuation of British soldiers from the shores of Dunkirk, a strategic retreat that allowed the Allies to hold on and turn the tide in the early days of World War II, could have been a standard war movie, a tale of brave men and harrowing action and fierce patriotism. Strangely, Dunkirk is a tale of brave men involved in harrowing action that creates a feeling of fierce patriotism (even if you’re not English), but it is also bold cinema crafted to be experienced in a theater, where you cannot escape the images on the giant screen in front of you and the booming soundtrack ringing in your ears. And experience it in a theater you must, because Dunkirk is practically a silent movie, one that tells its story through worried glances, accusing stares, and desperate gestures. (Dunkirk is now available on Blu-ray and such, but I imagine it being a perennial repertory favorite.)

And most harrowing of all is the film’s structure, which positions time as the enemy. We watch the soldiers on the beaches over the course of one week, as time slows to a crawl as their routes of escape diminish. We watch a British pilot (a stunning Tom Hardy) as he flies into action over the course of one hour, battling the fact that he simply doesn’t have enough time. We watch civilian ships come to the rescue of the troops over the course of one day, but it’s never clear if they’re going to be too late or right on time. The ticking clock woven into Hans Zimmer’s score connects these disparate events in a feature-length montage of emotion and stress. When the timelines converge, when time itself is defeated, the resulting catharsis is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in a war film.

John Wick pic 3

2. John Wick: Chapter 2

Earlier this year, I wrote 4,000 words about why John Wick: Chapter 2 is a masterpiece and one of the best action movies ever made, so another paragraph or two here can’t help but feel redundant. So I will just say this much: few films have ever utilized the specific skills of Keanu Reeves so well, few films have staged and shot such outrageous action so effectively, few films have created a live-action comic book world as rich and delightful, and few films have so effectively reinvented the “brooding tough guy” archetype. That last one feels especially important in 2017 – John Wick is an unstoppable killing machine, but he’s also a kind soul, a friend to dogs, a loyal friend, and a man wrestling with emotional pain that is slowly doing the job that a thousand bullets fired by a thousand bad guys cannot accomplish.

Chad Stahelski’s action movie fantasia blends the brutal action of Hong Kong cinema, the outrageous plotting of modern South Korean cinema, and the mythology and world-building of American comic books into a delicious cocktail that goes down so smooth that it feels…well, criminal. Usually, it takes a decade or two before we place the best genre cinema on a pedestal and admit that a concoction this clever and fun is a masterpiece. We could be all dead by then. Let’s celebrate John Wick: Chapter 2 right now.

get out

1. Get Out

Get Out is a great movie because it’s scary – it’s the best horror movie of 2017. Get Out is a great movie because it’s smart – its satire is so hot and sharp that it will cut you and then scorch that open wound into a lasting scar. Get Out is a great movie because it’s riotously funny – it always knows when to undercut the terror with a huge laugh. Get Out is a great movie because it announces the arrival of Jordan Peele – this is one of the most assured and confident debuts in decades.

But Get Out is more than a great movie. Get Out is a movie that changed me. After watching it, I knew that it was brilliant, but I couldn’t articulate why it was great beyond its gleeful genre pleasures. So I started reading and I started listening. I sought out writers of color who could shed light on what makes this movie so important. I read pieces from folks different than me whose personal and cultural perspectives illuminated details that I, as a clueless white man, never would have caught. Get Out encouraged me to open my ears and my eyes and listen to people, all so I could better appreciate the scariest, funniest, angriest movie of 2017. It’s made me a better person.

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