This is the first year with this website up and running, and I’d like to thank everyone who has shown interest or read a review. This will serve as the inaugural Top Five of the Year list. As a note, I certainly haven’t seen all the movies I intended to this year, and hopefully will be catching up on some over the next several weeks. This reflects the movies that I have seen and loved this year. So without further ado, I give you my picks for the Top Five Films of 2017.
5. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
They don’t make movies like this anymore. Murder on the Orient Express is a wonder to behold, a joy to watch from opening to close. It’s a film that succeeds in sweeping the audience away on a gorgeous adventure and breathing new life into a classic story. And in so doing, it becomes an instant classic itself. It does what a good story does: it examines what is darkest in human nature, an investigation that leads to one of the most impactful emotional payoffs of the year. It asks real, deep-hearted questions about justice, morality, good and evil, right and wrong, questions that we would all be better human beings for asking.
4. A GHOST STORY
If most films are prose, A Ghost Story is poetry. It’s a film about what we share with those who were here long before us and those who will be here long after we’re gone, and what we all do to make our time here matter. It’s about those memories and moments that we wish would leave us in peace, and those that we hope never, ever leave us. It’s about the meaning behind normal – even mundane – things, the beauty and the tragedy of everyday life, the ghosts that exist within the walls of every house. It’s about grief and loss and love, and how each of those transcends time. It’s about the things that haunt us, both during life…and after. Beautiful, lovingly crafted, and cosmically contemplative, it’s a film that makes me wonder if I’m the same person now as the one before I watched it.
There are certain rare films that transcend their genre and become a great piece of work. IT is one of those. This film displays everything from the quaint atmosphere of small-town America, the awkward, terrible, and triumphant adventures of childhood, and the quiet, simmering terror that hides behind everyday things. Watching these young characters face the evil embodiment of their very real fears is a both a joy and a heartbreak, beautiful and poignant and hilarious. Even as this film terrifies you, it will make you ache for your own youth. Horror has virtue in what it has to say, and part of IT’s value are the lessons it has to teach. Face your fears. Look the darkness in the eye, and defeat it. And if you need help, let’s do it together. Because we are so much better together than we are alone.
There are a dozen films that display the bloody horrors of war, but there has never been a film that so poignantly conveys the massive, overwhelming terror of it. In Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan gives us an account of one of the most desperate hours in the history of mankind, a juxtaposition of stark humanity and vast, titanic, inhuman forces. It is a war movie like no other I have ever seen. It is a monumental piece of film-making, one that displays the desperate courage of normal people, a film that finds the heroism in tiny acts of human kindness. There is courage among overwhelming dangers, honor in the midst of the most dire of circumstances, and valor in the face of death. If Dunkirk has a lesson to teach, it is this: You do what's right. Even if it costs you dearly, even if it costs you everything, you do what's right. Because how we treat each other not only matters, it may be the only thing that does.
1. BLADE RUNNER 2049
Denis Villeneuve has locked down the number one spot two years running. 2016’s Arrival was hands-down my pick for the best film of last year. And I’m incredibly gratified to say that my pick for best film of 2017 is Blade Runner 2049, a masterful film that succeeds on every level. It’s the most visually arresting experience of the year, the story that carries the most emotional weight, and the film that I simply could not stop thinking about.
What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be…something else? What is the relationship between creator and created? If Descartes was right when he said “I think, therefore I am”, what is the difference between authentic humanity and synthetically-created life? And does that difference even matter? Blade Runner 2049 is a dramatic and poetically tragic tale of discovering who you really are, the meaning of being a living thing, and your true place in the world - both pre-determined and otherwise. With themes of identity and humanity, the value of life (both your own and those you care for), and self-sacrifice, it is a deeply poignant study of perhaps the only real question: What is the point of all of this?
Thanks for going on this moviegoing journey with me this year, and I look forward to bringing you even more content, and perhaps some surprises, in the next twelve months. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, and a fantastic new year. Take care of each other out there.
And as always, thanks for reading.