So, here we are, another year, another BEST OF list.
Now, while many lists have been published and revealed, even before the year 2017 has ended, we here at Night Film Reviews like to do something that others don’t; rewatching many of these films to see if they hold up for this prestigious and helpful list for the end of the year. While many of the time times, films from out mid-year list tend to move, sometimes not making it on the final list, its really interesting to see how these films hold-up after second or even multiple viewings.
While, I can proudly say, that out of our mid-year list, only five films made the cut to the final list, I am neither sad nor am I disappointed in this feat, for many reasons; one being, it goes to show the caliber of cinema quality come festival and Oscar season; two, I love writing and talking about new films that need to be discussed.
While we tend to wait until after the Academy Awards nominations are announced, this announcement never dictates our choices in any ways, as many will be able to see with, what many may consider, oddball choices for this list.
So, without further ado (I know you guys are biting your nails at this point), here is Night Film Reviews FAV and best rendered films of 2017. Also remember, these are films that were ONLY seen in 2017 and made in 2017. Also, it should be noted, that Night Film Reviews ALSO included a roundup of some of the WORST Films of 2017, and we have collectively decided against that from now on. We figured, “if you have nothing good to say, better not say anything at all” was a good mantra, even when it comes to cinema.
HERE THEY ARE.
The fear of the unknown is one of the most terrifying fears that plague individuals each and every day. While Trey Edward Shults uses the unknown as his greatest antagonist, its always said that, in film, some of the greatest films revolve around the unknown; like the briefcase containing the unknown contents in Pulp Fiction, the final frame and spinning totem in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and that incredible last vague smile of Oh Dae-Su in Chan Took Park’s masterpiece Oldboy. In Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night, the film is a masterwork of concentration, poise and technique, one that is rarely seen in film today. Usually, especially in the horror genre, overexposure of the malevolent entity is diluted by film’s end; this is never the case in It Comes At Night. Eerie, hideous and nightmarish, the end of the world never seemed so realistic yet so horrifying, than depicted in this 2017 gem.
14. Get Out
The horror genre has never been so stimulating, yet so applauded than it has in recent times. With the exception of classics like George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the horror genre was one that was overlooked and saturated with pure escapism and spectacle. The first two entries on our list are, in fact, two horror films. What’s ironic about this fact is that, out of all the genres, horror is the one that we try to stay away from, and, with all honesty, its usually because we are scared to bits with the genre; we won’t lie, we are little wimps with horror. Yet, when the first trailer for Get Out was first seen, we couldn’t help but be captivated by the twisted mind of Jordan Peele and what he had in store for us with his directorial debut. Writer, producer and director, Peele knocks it out of the park, brining back the social commentary that Romero made famous with Night of the Living Dead. But this time, instead of focusing on the issues of capitalism, Peele decides to put the relevant issues of race and culture at the forefront of 2017 America, with a hint of comedy, a whole bunch of satire and most of all, some of the most comprehensible subject matter for people all over the world. Get Out is not a warning, its a proclamation of guilt for the American population, for so many reasons.
While I am EXTREMELY regretful that I was not able to see Sebastián Lelio’s incredible A Fantastic Woman at TIFF as well, and only caught it in January, I was blown away by Lelio’s Disobedience, the second film of 2017 for the talented director, one of two of his films screened at TIFF. The film, which is a forbidden love story, is an excellent example of small films doing very big things. While the premise is nothing to marvel at, the film itself, which tells of a Jewish Orthodox community dealing with the arrival of a free spirited Rabbi’s daughter coming for the funeral of her father, Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz and Alessandro Nivola’s performances elevate the film to new heights. If you’re able to see this film, make sure you do.
12. Girls Trip
Girls Trip is easily my year’s favourite straight up comedy. Tiffany Haddish is a star; the film is a celebration of not only being a woman, but also being a beautiful, independent and black woman. Most of all, it is just plain fun at the movies BUT with a meaningful message to young women everywhere, regardless of race or culture. Luckily, a message like this, couldn’t have come sooner in this day and age.
11. Ingrid Goes West
Sure, Aubrey Plaza may be typecast as the kinda crazy, kinda cute, extremely weird girl in so many of her movies, but there is no doubt at all that she was meant and destined to play Ingrid Thorburn in Matt Spicer’s ingenious Ingrid Goes West. Spicer, who won the Best Screenplay Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, does an incredible job of truly encapsulating a generation of individuals who are obsessed with following the lives of complete strangers on social media platforms, even when the lives of these people are nothing the way they are depicted on the internet. Ingrid Goes West is a magnificent portrayal of an obsessed millennial generation with the perfection of their reality, by augmenting it with fake hashtags, even more fake lifestyles and truly inauthentic quotes and captions of the people they are to the audience they have created on Instagram, Facebook and other highly deceptive social platforms. Ingrid Goes West really questions what is actually “social” about social media, the fascination and obsession with a filtered life and most of all, Ingrid Goes West has my vote for the film that should be watched in education facilities to warn and breath life into the youth of tomorrow, with their poor decisions today, based solely on the attainment of likes, views and retweets.
Another holdover from the mid-point year list, Spider-Man: Homecoming was an unexpected Marvel success after the flop of the last Garfield film established over at Sony. What made Homecoming so memorable for the first time, is that the villain Vulture featured in the film, is such an empathetic character, his cause, motive and reasoning for crime is so relatable in a post financial crisis world. Add the amazing Vulture villain to a script that completely avoids the typical original story arc and narrative, as well as some wild special effects, wonderful character development for major and minor characters, as well as the star-making performance as Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Spider-Man is easily one of our most beloved (proven over again and again) comic book character of all-time. Plus, the opening alone is pretty kick-ass, especially when you actually realize that Peter Parker, is in fact, a teenager who texts, blogs and uses emoji’s. Check it out, below!
The God of Thunder doesn’t just slam his hammer in the latest instalment of one of Marvel’s least bankable superhero yet, with the help of cult director Taika Waititi’s very dry humour and comic style that truly shines in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor also bangs the box office and critical consensus. Never in my life would I ever expect that I would place a Thor film in higher praise than a Spider-man film, but alas, here we are. Packed with endless action, incredible new characters, including Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Cate Blanchett’s Hela and of course, Korg (voice by the director himself), the New Zealand native brings new life, not only to the way we watch Marvel superhero action films, but to the mighty and great Thor himself. Chris Hemsworth not only shows how funny he really can be, but he truly shows his talents as a action/comedy protagonist that we never thought we would ever see plus proves along side Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and his mighty Hulk alter ego, that the two are easily able to pull off buddy action/comedy film as well. Who says you can’t have it all? Brains? Braun? Wit? This film was my favourite superhero film of 2017. Hope next year’s Black Panther brings it as much as this film does, then again, in my books, Ryan Coogler can do NO WRONG. Only one way to find out, seems like we all have to wait for February 2018 to see if Marvel’s next instalment is truly as good as we all hope. Until then, Thor: Ragnarok reigns supreme.
Guillermo del Toro returns with a love story between an amphibian God and a mute woman. Yup, thats pretty much the pitch! The Shape of Water can be described as nothing short of majestic. The film itself, shot entirely in Ontario, partly in Hamilton and mostly in Toronto, the film features one of the best Female Lead performances of 2017 by Sally Hawkins, and she doesn’t even utter one word. Our menacing, God-fearing antagonist, is played none other than Michael Shannon, an actor who can easily rival Javier Bardem for go-to villain, in a film that has a voice in social, political and cultural commentary of today, even despite the fact that it is based in a 1960’s, Cold-War like Baltimore era. Surely going to be a huge player come in March for the Academy Awards, its finally nice to see a science fiction/love story pull all the punches, while looking magnificent and beautiful at the same time. The Shape of Water is a testament to the love of filmmaking, by one of the most loving filmmakers working today; a Mexican immigrant, who is truly living the American dream…while filming in Canada.
*Sidenote: I LOVE this clip just simply for the fact that you are able to see the front of Massey Hall as well as the iconic Elgin Theatre.*
7. Darkest Hour
Ironically enough, the next film on our list is easily the most rousing Male Lead performance of 2017. If you don’t recognize Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, don’t get too worried. Considered one of the greatest living actors working today, right next to Denzel, Daniel-Day Lewis, etc., Gary Oldman has been, by many, compared to a chameleon; whether its playing Commissioner Gordon is Nolan’s Batman trilogy; playing a stoned drug dealer in True Romance, Dracula, Sirius Black or a spy, Gary Oldman proves he can do it all, and make it look easily. While the fat suit Oldman dons throughout the film should not be your main concern, and while many people will not be able to get through this whole film, simply because the film is a centrepiece for Oldman’s performance, his performance is a true testament of how subtle yet effective seasoned actors can manipulate speech, nuanced mannerisms and glares to really encapsulate historical figures. Oldman’s Churchill will surely be a performance that will be studied and recognized for a long time, especially given the fact that so many other prominent actors, such as; Michael Gambon, Brian Cox, Timothy Spall and Brendan Gleeson have tried and never quite executed the same level that Oldman has. Darkest Hour may be a film of words, but Oldman elevates the material to make it one of the most sensational simple films depicting the harrowing second World War, and the actions, process and thoughts of a man who helped end it.
When Denzel Washington makes a movie, for the most part, people pay attention, especially when its the only film Denzel makes in 2017, and even more so, when its written and directed by Dan Gilroy, the fabulous mind behind 2014’s surprise hit Nightcrawler. Now, while Roman J. Isreal, Esq. absolutely BOMBED at the box office this year, losing money despite having one of the greatest actor to have ever lived, the film surely did have what many described as the Mudbound feel; a film that may drag on, only to come together fantastically in the last half an hour. Yet, for me, the film was a huge success and the year’s most underrated film of 2017. The film, which deals with contemporary situations of racism, social injustices and paradigms of black culture, has a remarkable story that, by the conclusion, offers an unbelievable scenario that could easily be implemented in the real world justice system. Again, this film is by no means a blockbuster with a large budget used for spectacle, action set pieces or large production designs. Instead, Roman J. Isreal, Esq. is an old-fashioned, out of touch, misunderstood and misrepresented sophomore feature film that gets muddled and overlooked for its most fundamental tool and skill; the spoken word and use of speech. If you get a chance, this is not a movie to miss especially when the world thinks you’re crazy, but you stand for something greater than yourself, only to see yourself give in to the normalities of society. Watch this film!
This is where the emotions of my list being to take charge. The Florida Project was a film that features some of the best, in recent memory, films to feature such an incredible cast of newcomers. Of course, there is Bria Vinaite, an Instagram Weed entrepreneur who was discovered by accident by director Sean Baker; Mela Murder and of course, the breakout little wonder Brooklynn Prince, a tiny little child actor who practically carries the weight of the film’s heart through her captivating first acting role. The Florida Project is a true wonder of the glory of childhood innocence, showing the struggles many lower-class families, more specifically, single mothers, navigate through within an impoverish America. While The Florida’s Project has its focus of showing a world so close to Disney Land, really intersecting the expectation of one of the most wonderful places in the world, to a world that is harsh, at times dark, and most of all, heartbreaking and drenched with crazy realities, it seems to be one of the most grounded films of the year. While Baker mostly had the film held together by a bunch of newcomers, the films glue is the most amazing Willem Dafoe, my pic for the Actor who is most deserving of the 2017 Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Dafoe showcases a side of himself that is rarely seen; he submerges himself into the role of a civilian; one who deals with the hardships of parenting, managing a business and most of all, the difficulties of being a good person. There will be no film this year that will have you crying and smiling at the same time more than The Florida Project. This is one film that needs to be seen; a film that needs to be spoken about; a film that needs to be loved. Watch the trailer below and allow yourself to be captivated into a true world of lower-class America.
Not bad for my number one choice at the mid-way point of the year, to hold off for the whole year at the number four position. Dunkirk proves with each new and repeated viewing, this is not your typical or average war film. Yes, while many have complained about the timelines and presentation of the different wards of the military being represented, Christopher Nolan’s take on war is a visceral cinematic journey. Many times brutal, several times harrowing, and relentlessly heartbreaking, Christopher Nolan proves that he is one of the greatest living filmmakers today, and could easily become one of the most memorable filmmakers of all-time. Dunkirk is an exercise in restraint, patience and the work of a master filmmaker. Drawing emotions from from all fields of the war-front; in the air, on the sea and within land, Nolan showcases the stories of individuals who intertwine in all areas of the battlefield, to show one of the most important aspects of war that goes mostly unnoticed in many historical war films; the impact of a life and the death of a single individual, and how it affects the life of many. Dunkirk is a truly unmissable war masterpiece.
3. Molly’s Game
It is in my most whole-hearted opinion that, there is no other writer in the world like Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin, who is infamous for snappy dialogue, cinematically pronounced one-liners and dizzying monologues truly has a touch of a screenwriter that has never before been seen, that is why, whenever Sorkin writes a film, it needs to be seen. With Molly’s Game, the newest film Sorkin has written, he also takes on directing duties, which showcases many of the signatures of so many talented filmmakers that have adapted his writing works in the past, most notably, Bennett Miller and of course, David Fincher. Molly’s Game is not only one of the most engaging films for me this year, it is also one of the films of 2017 that proved being a lot of fun to watch, but also have so much merit and value. The film follows Molly Bloom, a real-life person whose career in skiing takes a turn for the worse, and later begins running an illegal poker ring which catches the attention of some very shady and affluential people. While the script and story seems very simple, the film itself has a very polished feel, be sure to leave it to Sorkin to derive so much drama and pathos into the characters, their back-stories as well as the actions we see on screen, and makes one of the most engaging and explicitly relevant films of the year using real life people. Molly’s Game may be considered a guilty pleasure for many; while others may call it a film that was an experiment for Sorkin, a chance for him to explore and flex his creative muscles behind the lens of the camera. Either way, Molly’s Game is by no means a failure, nor is it an forgettable film. Also, keep an eye out for scene stealer Idris Elba in one of the most effective interrogation scenes since Inglorious Bastards! Molly’s Game is a testament to the writing legacy of one of the most effective screenwriters of all-time, and if that isn’t a big enough deal enough for you, maybe you need to start watching some better films.
Call Me By Your Name will easily be hailed as the most beautiful film on this list, a beauty that isn’t derived from war, spectacle or glamour, instead, the beauty behind Call Me By Your Name is solely from the humanity of the characters, the loses they endure and of course, the life lessons and revelations they achieve. Okay, I can admit, the aesthetic itself is a true wonder and beauty to behold as well; some of the most elegant and colourful landscapes of a 1980’s Italian landscape can truly be marvelled at with each and every passing frame. Yet, as much as we are captivated with the Italian landscape, the true essence of beauty is encapsulated by our lovers, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer). This very heart-wrenching love story between a young boy and a mature man is elevated to extraordinary heights thanks to the miraculous performances of a young breakout Chalamet and Armie Hammer (who, in our opinion was snubbed for best Supporting Actor). Call Me By Your Name is elegant, poised and endearing, fulfilling our idea of cinematic wonderment with each and every challenge the couple faces. The film is also an incomparable display of masterful acting, thanks mostly to Chalamet, Hammer, and of course, the always brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg (easily one of the most underrated actors working today). Call Me By Your Name is an indie darling, absolutely, but one that needs to be seen; one that needs to be relished, and one that provides us with, singlehandedly, one of the most memorable scenes in 2017, thanks no less to a peach.
While many have described the success and relevance of this film to 2004’s Best Picture winner Crash, a film that I personally LOVE, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a very essential film for 2017. In the midst of a very powerful movement for women, thanks to organizations like the MeToo and Time’sUp initiatives, Hollywood is quickly making the transition to including woman at the very forefront of Hollywood, and what better woman to do it, than the powerful, feisty and feminist Frances McDormand? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri isn’t just a film, its a statement, inside of a very interesting, entertaining and controversial set of images that seeks people to ask themselves if they are able to evolve, accept forgiveness and explore kind-heartedness over hate and evil. This film is a true testament of love, wrapped around so many instances of violence and death. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the man behind deranged and bizarre films Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges, his latest film is easily his most social, culturally and politically relevant to date, asking for commentary as well as action.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may not be the best titled film of 2017, but you can bet your tits its one of the most kick-ass, unapologetic and satirically yet brazenly funny films of the year. Blending comedy, with drama and tragedy like a Greek fable, the film is a true tonal testament to the very talented pen of Martin McDonagh, as well as a fine example of how genre’s can be blended, mixed and re-worked into one another to really groundbreaking results. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not a commercial film, this is an indie darling that has become widely seen and appreciated thanks to so much brevity of all the cast and crew involved. At its core, the film is about redemption, coming to peace with the circumstances of life and most of all, following your heart to doing what you feel is right, even when all of society tells you its wrong. Who benefits watching brave films like this? Everyone! Who actually watches films like this if they were never nominated for Oscars, or won big prizes at film festivals? Not many. Hence, like one of the first pieces of literature I wrote for the initiative of the website, Night Film Reviews, this site is a platform for change whether it be from film, literature, art or culture, we are here today, to introduce, expose and hand you films that will challenge, inspire and most of all, motivate you to learn, live and love, so that the person you evolve into, each and every day, is one that you are proud of, and embrace, always. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may not be the most polished, polite or politically-correct film of 2017, but you can sure as heck bet it is one made by anarchists and hooligans who want to stir the pot, kick the crap out of you a little bit, and enjoy doing it, because the person that comes out at the other side, is a better person than the one that came into it in the first place.
Honourable Mentions: Before I Fall, Blade Runner 2049, Gifted, Happy Death Day, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Lady Bird, The Boss Baby, The Circle, The Wall, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Tulip Fever.
SO…There you have it…our VERY BEST of 2017. Hope that everyone enjoys reading this list, as much as we enjoyed writing it. We cannot wait for 2018 and the whole new year of cinema and what is in store for us; from Ryan Coogler’s newest Black Panther which will surely either fly or fail in 2018, to Game Night, Annihilation and so many more, and thats only in the first few months of the year, 2018 should be another revolutionary year of one of our favourite art forms.
Oh, and before we leave, we will leave you with our favourite line of 2017;
“Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot.”
Here’s to 2018! Thank you 2017 for a memorable year of characters, words, stories and images we will NEVER forget!