Tuesday, January 2, 2018

My Fave Movies of 2017

Ah, 2017. To be perfectly honest, most of the things that I watched last year involved old ladies (my beloved Golden Girls, and Grace and Frankie) or murder (whaddup Columbo and Poirot).

However, I did manage to make it out to the theater a few times and I liked a lot of what I chose to see. Colorful kids' movies, smart action movies, heartfelt indie dramas, and some seriously impressive horror.

That being said, here are some of my favorites of 2017, in no particular order.


Oh. My. God. Bless. This movie didn't get nearly the amount of attention it deserved. When little Miguel is forbidden to play music by his family, he takes matters into his own hands and accidentally ends up in the land of the dead. Seeking the approval of his ancestors, Miguel embarks on a journey to find his grandfather and win his blessing to pursue music. Far from scary (for those leery of a Corpse Bride, Burton-y feel), the movie is warm, bright, and colorful, with a heartfelt message and an incredibly overdue cultural perspective. Go for the songs, stay for the animation.

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig's directorial debut Lady Bird is so relatable it almost hurts your heart. Young Lady Bird (nee Christine) is a senior in high school navigating her relationship with her mom, her dad, boys, and her best friend, and trying to decide where to go with her life. The beauty of it is its simplicity in finding humor in the normal. Lady Bird is a slightly overdramatic, hugely empathetic character who thinks she has it all figured out, only to realize time and time again that she doesn't. Saoirse Ronin and Laurie Metcalf are captivating as Lady Bird and her mother, respectively -- spending equal screen time pissing each other off and wordlessly falling into unconditional mother-daughter love when they need each other. Ugh. Worth the hype. Achingly nostalgic for anyone who was a teenager in 2003.

The Shape of Water

Another visually stunning feat from Guillermo del Toro. As always, the plot is a little unorthodox: it's the 1960s and a mute cleaning lady has fallen in love with a reptilian man from the science lab where she works. Resolving to rescue him from the hands of her evil boss, she implicates herself in a scheme that could mean the death of both her and the creature. Characters with heart and an unusual plot steer the narrative, but it's the cinematography and the coloring of each scene that really make it worthwhile.

I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore.

This is such a cathartic film to watch for anyone at their wit's end with shitty people. Ruth is an ordinary woman trying to live her life. She lives in an unimpressive neighborhood, and doesn't have many friends. When her house gets robbed, that's the last straw. Enlisting the help of her neighbor, she tracks down the thieves, and ends up getting mixed up with some seriously bad people. The ending absolutely makes this.

Baby Driver

Baby is a professional driver who listens to music to drive with laser-like focus. Who's he driving? Bank robbers. When things start to go south, Baby has to assess how far he's willing to go for his life of crime--or figure out how the hell he can drive out of it. You HAVE to see this for the TUNES. Barring musicals, I feel like it's hard to find a movie that so gracefully integrates music into plot. And they don't even have to break the fourth wall!??! The synchronization of the music with the action sequences is...immaculate. Highly recommend.

Thor: Ragnarok

I've gotta say, I've loved Taika Waititi since his hilarious vampire reality What We Do in the Shadows, and that sense of humor is even more present in Thor: Ragnarok. Creating a surprisingly graceful bridge between the more serious Avenger movies and the more playful Guardians of the Galaxy series, Ragnarok is one of the movies that I recommended the most this year just because it's so much fun. Balancing a very current sense of comedic timing with a touch of 80s nostalgia (LOVE that synth music!), it's a bright, fantastical romp. It was nice to see a movie that can be funny without being dumb. (Side note: Cait Blanchett as the villain. Yas.)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I haven't wasted time seeing why the nerds didn't like this, and I don't really care -- more movies should be as fun, thoughtful, and entertaining as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. For the people knee-deep in cannon, or for those expecting something more like the originals, I'm sure that there were a lot of things that didn't line up. But as someone who appreciates the Star Wars movies as fun, sci-fi trips,  The Last Jedi provides a much-needed escape from reality, and a super satisfying peek into the upcoming capabilities of our two main characters. Party on, Luke.

Wonder Woman

I'm not usually a big super hero movie junkie, but I really enjoyed Wonder Woman. For a studio film, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the movie stepped out of the usual formula. Or maybe it was just amazing to see a self-empowered, confident woman on screen kicking some major ass. Either way, I loved it.

The Big Sick

Just when you thought romcoms were dead, this movie comes out. Kumail is a standup comedian and first-generation Pakistani American who is dating a white girl. As things between he and his girlfriend get more serious, things reach a breaking point when she learns that he has no intention of introducing her to his strict, Pakistani parents. Things reach even more of a breaking point when she goes into a coma and he is the sole person available to take care of her -- until her parents show up. His point of view as a conflicted son and boyfriend is very plainly aired with a crisp sense of humor that's smart and understanding at the same time.

Get Out

And on the more sinister side of interracial dating, the groundbreaking Get Out. Damn. Chris is a black man going to visit his white girlfriend's parents at their country home. But when he arrives, he gets more than he bargained for -- the servants act strange, the parents throw a mysterious party, and Chris can't seem to get out of there. Smart, biting, terrifying, innovative, and pulpy. Jordan Peele's directorial debut finds an incredibly unique perspective to talk about race relations in America. Think Django: Unchained meets The Twilight Zone. Everyone should see this movie.


Oh man, do I loooooove me some Stephen King. The kids of Derry, Maine keep going missing and no one knows why. When a particular group of "losers" starts seeing their worst, most terrifying nightmares play out in broad daylight, the experience draws them together and they decide to confront the monster at the root of all their fears. I was pleasantly surprised at how character-driven the final product ends up being -- something that the original mini-series lacks. This version, too, goes deeper in depth to give the kids their own narrative, letting you see what scares them personally. All-around good adaptation, and props to Bill Skarsgard for making us forget Tim Curry's Pennywise in favor of something a little different.

Alien: Covenant 

After the disappointment that was Prometheus, Ridley Scott pulls it back together for Alien: Covenant. After arriving on a strange planet, a group of colonists are trying to figure out the reason for the planet's lack of wildlife. While plants thrive, animals are noticeably absent from the landscape, and when they find out the reason, they wish they'd never come. This one is not for the squeamish--in a horror-genre triumph the movie is full of every kind of scare, from jumps to core-chilling realizations about human nature and morality.

Honorable Mentions:

Ingrid Goes West
Ingrid becomes a bit too attached to a specific Instagram celebrity, and decides to move to California to become her friend. Fascinating commentary on social media stars -- and their stalkers. Examines both the superficiality of social media and the psychological problems that they can encourage.

A man decides to murder his wife, enlisting his son to help him. I thought this was a fantastic atmospheric thriller and old-timey creep-fest. Available on Netflix!