22 December 2017

2017 in the Ground: Best Films Seen in the Year 2017

This is something I started a few years ago - it's easy for anyone to make up a Top 10 list of all the films that came out in 2017, but that's not wholly accurate, is it? A more proper judge of my personal 2017 film experience is to rank every film that I actually saw for the first time this year. Most of these are still 2016/17 films because that's most of what I watched, but it's interesting to see what sneaks in.

For my mid-year list, check this out. What's interesting is how much my taste shifts constantly. At the very least, hopefully this offers an inspirational look at catching up on some flicks I've missed for the first thirty years of my life and you might be interested in!

Not enough zombie fighters just simply duct tape their wrists
#10: Train to Busan (2016)

This definitely came out of no where. I saw it on Netflix Streaming without thinking much more than "Korean zombies on a train," this could be a fun Friday night. Train to Busan was an amazing piece of action filmmaking that's also full of class conflict (what articulate zombie movie isn't?) and a very human struggle of a dude trying to get his daughter to Busan. I don't know what it is about Korea and train movies (see, Snowpiercer [2013]), but limiting the geography for maximum terror and action works really well.

#9: Silence (2016)

Marty Scorsese's excessively long meditation on faith and persecution in mid-19th century Japan is brutal, but also stuck with me for a long while. It's somehow one of his best-looking films ever but crafts tension, terror, release, faith, and spits on melancholic redemption brilliantly. It's a slog, one that I probably wouldn't watch again on that spicy Friday night, but it certainly deserves a look at one of the best things he's ever done in his extensive filmography, even if it stands out in time period, setting, and cast.

#8: (500) Days of Summer (2009)

This is another pretty innocuous flick that has stuck with me quite a bit. It's a wonderful romantic comedy that continually proves itself not to be. Its ending is ultimately saccharine, but the road to get there is long and heartbreaking. Joe Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are a couple who aren't right for each other in any way despite the former's inability to understand that. His grand gestures would be heart-throbbing in a Matthew McConaughey / Kate Hudson film. Here he's misinformed and delusional. He wants Zooey to be his manic pixie dream girl, but she's just a human. It's top to bottom underrated.

#7: Patton (1970)

This was my number one film at the mid-year point and it's still gargantuan with hardly a flaw, but probably not something I'm going to recall constantly with fond memories. It's all about George C. Scott giving one of the most insane performances of all time along in a dear love letter to America's greatest, most insane general. It's absolutely badass while also offering a sincere critique of how you can send a soldier off to die on some god-forsaken rock but you can't slap them.

Chad Radwell
#6: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Last year Richard Linklater cobbled together this ultimate bro flick that had some solid fanfare but largely missed any significant recognition. I watched this. I don't know if I've ever seen a film with less of a plot, where nothing happens from beginning to end. There's hardly even any conflict. But dammit...this is the ultimate hang-out film. No movie on this list was as fun as Everybody Wants Some!! and that's a notable achievement. It helps having a supremely likable cast of beefcake baseball players getting black-out drunk three days in a row and while it's in a "simpler" time where 80s college movie-style rape was totally accepted, it never dips into creeper territory.

#5: Shame (2011)

Before Steve McQueen was adored for 12 Years a Slave (2013), he made this wild flick with Mike Fassbender. All of his patient and unflinching style is there as we focus on the worst sex addict of all time, which Fassbender plunges into without any sign of hesitance. The depths of his addiction are pretty clear at the outset, but grows worse the more curveballs are thrown at him, culminating in a festering hypocrisy towards his sister and everyone else around him that tries to care. He'd rather go on YouPorn than have any meaningful relationship, and that irredeemable nature is a total bummer. Opposite of Everybody Wants Some!!.

#4: Baby Driver (2017)

The first 2017 film to make this list, Baby Driver doesn't have the most complex plot or anything, but holy shit this is the most highly articulated film, maybe ever? Ansel Elgort is perfect and holds his own against an incredibly deep cast. It'll be forever tainted as one of Kevin Spacey's last movies before he came out as a gay rapist, but there's still a lot to love. The action sequences are wonderful with an added layer of musical inspiration, but my favourite scenes are the slower ones, the blossoming of an Atlantean Romance and the hope it inspires. I'll be talking much more about this one in my Best of the Year lists coming soon.

Showers not need apply
#3: American Honey (2016)

Here's a tiny film that made a few best of lists last year and was otherwise forgotten. It's a nearly three-hour epic that tells a remarkably simple story, but honestly, no other film this year stuck with me so much. It's so identifiable for my generation - lost, stupid, and wandering the world without purpose, hustling trying to make a living while being scammed and trying to scam others. We're a leech and damn, American Honey lends a sympathetic ear to that. It's a tragedy over anything else, and even when the characters find a moment of happiness your heart breaks for how pathetic and misguided they are. It's a wonderful film that's also pretty damn hard to get through even though ostensibly it's nothing like cancer or racism. It's a keen look at spiritual depression, which is a true tragedy in its own way.

When Bae says she doesn't want to watch Star Wars
#2: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

I had never seen this whole thing before, and dammit, this shoddy 40+ year old masterpiece was a fucking trip. I watched it the Sunday before Halloween and shit, this is a near-perfect movie. It's a terrifying look at a slightly alternate reality, where corpses hang out outside and a constant stream of murders are reported on the radio. Wait, maybe that is out reality... it works because its grungy insane aesthetic totally matches the mysterious, broken down horror of what's going on on screen. None of the prequels or reboots really understood that and go for overt creepiness instead. Nah, set in daylight, offer lots of cannon fodder, some goofy knife-wielding hitchhikers and we're all set. The unending screaming and horror during that dinner scene is a cinematic triumph of uncomfortable editing. Oh, and Leatherface dancing in the sunset is still the most iconic horror image ever.

#1: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

So, #1 most anticipated film, will be #1 of 2017, and the #1 movie I saw in the calendar year overall. The only film on this list that I actually caught in theaters, as well. I love everything about this. I spent 4200 words talking about how much I loved this (except still for that fucking Deckard temptation scene, which is a blight on this movie forever). Just like the original, it's been largely ignored both critically and commercially. We'll come around. Again.

What movies did you watch this year that didn't necessarily come out this year? Have you seen any of the above?

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