Cinema Roundtable: Top 5 Movies of the Year

 


Beau’s Top 5

 

5. “The Florida Project”
Directed by: Sean Baker

Child performances on film often make me cringe. That’s why I was a tad iffy about seeing this movie, which centers on kids raised in poverty at a knockoff Disney-themed motel. Man, am I glad I was wrong on this one. All the performances – from both the adults AND children – are absolutely mesmerizing.

The story follows little Brooklynn Prince as Moonee, who shows a lot of nuance and promises to be the next young star. Bria Vinaite’s debut film appearance has her playing Moonee’s mother Halley, and it’s a shock she wasn’t discovered sooner. Trying to hold it all together is the motel manager Bobby, played by a very charming Willem Dafoe, who turns in one of the best performances of his career.

The film is an unrivaled look at a poverty-stricken slice of America, made ironic by hiding in the shadows of the capitalism-fueled Disney World. It’s an often heartbreaking tale, but also perfectly captures the magic of being a child and maturing from the realization of one’s own tragedy.

 

4. “Good Time”
Directed by: Ben and Josh Safdie

A criminal plucks his mentally challenged brother out of therapy to perform a heist, the brother is caught and sent to jail, and the criminal decides to break him out. This is the premise of “Good Time,” one of those starts-bad-and-only-gets-way-WAY-worse sort of movies.

Aside from Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, Robert Pattinson gave the best male lead performance I saw this last year. There’s a lot of conflict in the nature of what his character wants; he is desperate enough to do anything to help his brother, and yet he is the reason his brother is in trouble and will abuse anyone who gets in his way to achieve his goal. Minorities, children, and the elderly are tricked, unjustly targeted, and tossed aside everywhere in this movie. These choices go above and beyond in showcasing the toxicity of young, white privilege, and the movie is infinitely more valuable in the greater social conversation because of it.

I’ll admit: I saw this movie alone in an empty theatre, and it was among my most thrilling experiences of the year.

 

3. “The Big Sick”
Directed by: Michael Showalter

This movie is the most extreme example of how two people can be at two different points in a relationship. Kumail, a Pakistani-American comedian, develops an unlikely relationship with a white heckler named Emily. Kumail’s traditionalist family expects him to enter an arranged marriage, which upsets Emily, who faints and enters a coma due to a previously undiagnosed disease not long after that. What follows from this entirely unexpected development is an even more surprising and touching journey of Kumail’s grief and relationship-building with Emily’s parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.

Kumail Nanjiani was one of my favorite comedians before this movie, but watching it revealed his talent as a writer and dramatic performer as well. He dances around his parents’ beliefs while still trying to keep their respect, balances his grief and his desire for approval from Emily’s parents, and attempts to stay afloat in the highly competitive Chicago comedy scene. The deck is stacked, and the incredible thing is this story actually happened to Kumail and his wife in real life.

And more than any other movie for me this year, “The Big Sick” is hilarious, and not many comedies make me laugh anymore. Sure, I cried, but I also laughed, and sometimes I did both. This will hold up as one of the best romantic comedies for years to come.

 

2. “Blade Runner 2049”
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Every decade or so, a science fiction film comes along that is entirely exceptional and cements itself as a masterpiece in the scope of the genre. In 1999 it was “The Matrix,” in 2006 it was “Children of Men,” and in 2017 it’s “Blade Runner 2049,” a sequel 35 years in the making that is arguably superior to the original Blade Runner, which itself was a masterpiece of the 80s.

This film reveres its predecessor while also finding its own voice, and Denis Villeneuve proves himself (again) as one of today’s best directors. The mystery of Ryan Gosling’s character is quite a slow burn, but I got wrapped up in it from start to finish for the nearly 3-hour runtime. And there’s not a weak one in the bunch when it comes to the supporting cast: Jared Leto is appropriately creepy, Sylvia Hoeks is conflicted and chilling, Ana de Armas makes us question our notions on true love, and Mackenzie Davis is full of surprises. This may feature my favorite Harrison Ford performance in any movie as well.

This film also looks beautiful. I see piles of cinematography and visual effects awards in its future, and it deserves them all. It is a marvelous feast for the eyes, asks a lot of intriguing questions on identity and being alive, and is far and away the best science fiction movie of the 2010s.

 

1. “Get Out”
Directed by Jordan Peele

I saw “Get Out” back in February and thought, ‘Boy, that’s the best movie of the year!’ and that feeling was never dethroned. It’s a movie I’ve thought about every day since I saw it. No, not every month, or every week. Every. Single. Day.

There are so many layers to this movie, so much to unpack about the experience of being black in 2017 America, and so much the movie does exceedingly well because of Jordan Peele’s sensibilities as a comedian and horror fan. I am usually not the type of person to dig genre mashups, but I found every moment of horror as effective as the hilarious comedic beats. I truly have never seen a genre blend I loved as much as this.

The best horror movies use metaphor and symbolism to reveal truths about society and the human experience. Without spoiling anything, I will say that “Get Out” communicates the horrors of racism so effectively by weaving in my favorite allegory-laced twists of the year. Everything feels eerie and off until a certain point that makes audiences go back and analyze everything before it. The act of researching this movie and the meaning behind all the imagery is fascinating, and talking about it with others gave me much fulfillment and satisfaction this past year.

If there’s a 2017 movie I think every person in America should see, based solely on what it has to say and its entertainment value, it would be “Get Out,” no question. I can’t wait to see what gift Jordan Peele gives to us next.

 

Haileys’s Top 5

 

5. “Lady Bird”
Directed by: Greta Gerwig

If you’re a Rotten Tomatoes user, you’ve probably heard of “Lady Bird.” It was the highest rated film in history on the website, currently sitting at a 99% critic rating, but was eventually dethroned and the title returned to Toy Story 2. There’s so much I love about this movie: the writing, the performances, the Aughts nostalgia, but my favorite part about Lady Bird is how relatable it is.

Gerwig is among few directors who was able to avoid romanticizing what it’s like being an adolescent girl with the desire to escape her hometown for more. Throughout the film we witness Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson make the same mistakes maybe we made ourselves during our own senior years of high school. This is what every “coming of age” movie should be: honest to the point it’s uncomfortable – because let’s be real, no one’s teenage/early adult years were too graceful.

 

 

4. “Wonder Woman”
Directed by: Patty Jenkins

The past few years have felt like a constant force-feeding of superhero movies and I can’t bring myself to watch every single one, but as soon as I saw the first trailer for “Wonder Woman” I was sold. This film pumped me up from the get-go with the Amazonian montages, to the Diana mid-fight slow motion hair flips.

Growing up I admired heroes like Indiana Jones and Spiderman simply because there weren’t any female leads, but going to the theater and seeing little girls wait eagerly in line to see a hero they can relate more too was a Hollywood milestone. “Wonder Woman” broke barriers this year, crowning Patty Jenkins as the highest paid female director in history as she’s hired back for its much-anticipated sequel. If you had the displeasure of watching “Justice League” as I did, having a female director definitely makes a difference in how Wonder Woman’s character is portrayed. Jenkins was able to prove that not only can women direct high-budget action films, but they can star in them, too.

 

 

3. “Logan”
Directed by: James Mangold

Saying goodbye to a character you’ve cherished through the years is tough, but Logan was the perfect farewell film for Hugh Jackman’s iconic Wolverine and Sir Patrick Stewart’s admirable Professor X. It is truly unlike any superhero movie I’ve seen, taking a look into the bleak future that is a couple of worn out X-Men. Touching on themes of aging, death, and sacrifice, Logan doesn’t dare holdback on the rawness of survival.

This film isn’t just an X-Men sequel, but a standalone film that focuses more on mutants’ humanity rather than their supernatural abilities. It relies very little on special effects, making the action sequences even more realistic and gut-wrenching. Throughout the movie I was both grieving and cheering, and not many superhero movies can accomplish that. For X-Men fans, Logan was a painful but necessary goodbye that I will probably re-watch in the years to come.

 

 

2. “The Big Sick”
Directed by: Michael Showalter

I love my fair share of silly romantic comedies (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is my favorite movie ever honestly), but The “Big Sick” was an unexpected pleasure to watch. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in this retelling of him and his current wife’s meeting. What happens when you start to get serious about someone and then they fall into a medically-induced coma? The Big Sick is one of many answers. Even though there are morbid and nearly heart-breaking moments throughout this film, it still manages to make you cry-laugh.

The film really focuses on Kumail’s journey while his girlfriend Emily is in the coma. He goes through an entire process of discovering who he is, his beliefs, and what he wants out of life that Emily doesn’t get to be a part of during her health crisis. It’s incredible that not only Nanjiani write this film based on his own difficult experience with his now-wife and family, but to also star in it was refreshingly genuine and raw.

 

 

1. “Coco”
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

One thing I did not expect from 2017 was for a Pixar-animated film to be my favorite movie of the year and yet here I am about to rave about “Coco.” There may have been some major drama with that Frozen short in the beginning, but don’t let that deter you from seeing what I think is the greatest Pixar movie since Up. This film is absolutely beautiful both story-wise and visually. The creators wonderfully captured the Mexican culture around the beloved holiday Dia de los Muertos, decorating the whole film with bright colors, captivating melodies, and heartwarming moments.

What made this film standout from other Pixar movies I think was the general newness of it all. They had never created a Mexican-based story, and it wasn’t focused on any princess or out-of-this-world character, but rather a regular boy who loved both music and his family. Coco made me laugh, cry, and sing, and I wouldn’t recommend missing it out on it.

 

Steffan’s Top 5

 

5. “Get Out”
Directed by: Jordan Peele

I love a movie that can keep me guessing. Even though some of “Get Out” was formulaic, quite a few important plot points kept me guessing. It’s sometimes classified with comedy and horror. I did not discover until earlier this year that I was a fan of Key and Peele, and if you come at this movie from that frame of mind, you will discover that this movie does not have the same kind of comedy found in Key and Peele unless you’re looking at the entire idea itself.

This movie is important in another sense. This is one of the first movies that got us motivated to pursue the idea of Cinema Roundtable. Get Out was the first Non-Marvel films that got me really excited to leave the house to see a movie. I loved “Get Out,” and I also liked “Keanu,” as such I am looking forward to whatever these gentlemen do together, or solo, in the future.

 

 

4. “Marshall”
Directed by: Reginald Hudlin

It’s hard to have specific things to say about this movie. The film is based on a young Thurgood Marshall and The State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell case. In other words, this film is based on true events. So I can’t really say what should and should not have happened in this movie.

What I can say, though, is that the writing and acting portrayals a top-notch. The movie “Marshall” focuses, of course, on Thurgood Marshall – however it ALSO features attorney Sam Friedman played by Josh Gad. Gad and Boseman play very well together on-screen. The film paid attention to, not only the case inside the courtroom, but outside the courtroom. This film took all parts of the case and successfully put them in the context of the social issues regarding race and class of the time period.

I’ve also stated, on Cinema Roundtable, that I hope Josh Gad finds his way into the Marvel Universe just so that we can see Gad and Boseman on-screen, together, one more time.

 

 

3. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
Directed by: Rian Johnson

As part of a film podcast, I would like to have the most pretentious choices on my Top 5, but I am making a couple of exceptions. I can’t ignore when a movie really impresses me.

If you knew me in person, you would know that Sci-Fi (especially in regards to space and robots) is basically my brand. However, I’m not as big a Star Wars nerd as you might expect. Maybe that’s because it’s a little more like a space-fantasy than Sci-Fi. That being said, I have been incredibly impressed with the latest Star Wars movies.

So far, Rogue One is still my favorite of these, but I’m very impressed with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” This installation in the franchise has been very divisive. Some have complained that too many characters have decreased the screen-time availed for each character to shine. This is a criticism I, personally, agree with.

There has even been criticism from the man behind Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill has gone on record saying that the choices made about his character don’t match the Luke Skywalker of old. Stating that the Luke Skywalker we know was always optimistic and would never have secluded himself to an island after failure. This is where I think the movie is right. I have never seen Luke Skywalker as a particularly hopeful or optimistic character, and I think the portrayal of Luke in this installment is exactly what would have happened after the failure with Ben Solo.

My only other gripe with the film is that it could have ended multiple times before it finally did end. There’s still another half-an-hour of film after what I considered the climactic resolution. I would have liked to see it end there and then save the Crait sequence for Star Wars Episode IX – although, there is a part of that sequence that would not be appropriate for the beginning of a movie.

All-in-all, I can see why people don’t like it, and I can see why people think it’s the best one yet. I don’t see either of them being wrong, but I think it’s a great Star Wars movie.

 

 

2. “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
Directed by: Jon Watts

I am going to start this by saying that I like the Andrew Garfield portrayal of Spider-Man. It’s not super-related to this review. I just wanted to use the platform to put that out there.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is probably my second-favorite Marvel film to-date; my favorite being “The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.” So, what makes this one so special? I would say that writing is probably the biggest of the elements at play here. The dialogue is some of the most realistic and least melodramatic of the Marvel films, yet.

The second largest element at play in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the acting. Tom Holland, first introduced to the Marvel Universe in “Captain America: Civil War” is incredible! He does adorable. He does brave. He does fear. But he does trying-to-prove-himself best of all.

Third, and perhaps most important, is the villain. Every super hero movie can be defined by its villain. In “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the villain, played by Michael Keaton, is the leader of an arms-dealing crew that specializes in weapons and other tech reverse-engineered from the debris of the alien-invasion from “The Avengers.” His in-suit persona is The Vulture – basically just a man with a VTOL backpack and articulated wings. The Vulture is set apart from other villains in that he is just an ordinary guy that took up an opportunity to support his family – as opposed to the Lokis, Red Skulls, and Whiplashs bent on the pursuit of more power or revenge.

There is one scene where the two cross paths and the two finally realize they are with their arch-nemesis. The acting in this particular scene culminated in my favorite scene of any movie this year.

 

 

1. “Blade Runner: 2049”
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Robots. Now this is my jam. This isn’t like most robot movies, though; which is great, because robot movies tend to fall flat.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a follow-up to the 1982 movie “Blade Runner” which stars Harrison Ford. The cinematography of the first Blade Runner film inspired Cinematography for so many of the great sci-fi films that have come since then. Even though the movie was not considered a financial success, it did have a life-span outside of its theatrical release – including multiple cuts of the film up until “The Final Cut” in 2007.

All of that sets up a lot for “Blade Runner 2049” to live up to. I think that “Blade Runner 2049” lives up to the expectations. This movie is about the Replicant, androids made to physically resemble humans, named K and his adventures to find the truth behind a particular discovery made in the beginning of the movie. It turns out there is a child out there that was born from the Replicant Rachel and Deckard, Harrison Ford’s character from “Blade Runner.” The child of a Replicant. K sets out to find the origin of this child which may very-well be himself.

Movies that surprise me ALWAYS get bonus points. While I expected the twist of the film, it was still different than I expected. Bonus points achieved. The on-screen performance of Ryan Gosling as K was also a surprise. I felt the same kind of skepticism that I felt about Ben Afleck being Batman. But, damn was I wrong. This was the first time I had seen Gosling in any role other than Romantic and/or Comedy, and he NAILED IT! I think that this performance will open a lot more doors for him in the future.

Additionally, the directing in this movie is incredible. “Blade Runner 2049” features the most realistic and uncomfortable fight scenes of any movie I have ever seen. Even though K is a replicant, he can die in almost all the same ways that humans can. In the final act of the film, there is a fight scene that really displays how difficult it really should be to kill someone. Each hit hurts. Each breath is spent clinging to life. It makes me uncomfortable without using shock or gore.

The runtime of this movie is a chore, but I think it is absolutely worth it.

 

Beau, Hailey and Steffan host “Cinema Roundtable”; a monthly KZUM Podcast. Like the program on Facebook and listen to recordings of the podcast on Soundcloud.

2018-01-16T20:52:35+00:00 January 8th, 2018|SigningOff2017|

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