ReelBob: My best of 2017
By Bob Bloom
Choosing a top 10 list is more difficult some years than others.
As it happens, 2017 is one of those more difficult years.
Many films touched me, making me laugh or cry, taking me to worlds that — though they were cinematic — felt real and all-encompassing.
So, here are my top 10 movies of 2017
• “Lady Bird”: The angst and complexities of being a teenager — as well as the mother-daughter relationship, felt so real and honest in Greta Gerwig’s movie, that, at times, I believed I was eavesdropping.
The performances of Saorise Ronin and Laurie Metcalf rang so true that you it’s difficult to imagine that they are actors playing parts.
• “The Shape of Water”: You cannot imagine anyone but Guillermo del Toro conceiving this adult fairy tale that celebrates love, acceptance and isolation and the struggles of being one of society’s outsiders because you are different.
Sally Hawkins gives a strong, yet subtle performance that is deserving of an Academy Award. Without uttering a word, she conveys compassion, defiance and intelligence.
Del Toro’s feature is more classic Disney animation than Universal horror movie.
• “The Post”: A concisely crafted tribute to the printed word, newspapers, their reporters and the power of the press.
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks lead a strong supporting cast in this story about “The Washington Post” and its efforts to publish “The Pentagon Papers,” despite threats from the government as well as doubts by the newspaper’s board of directors, which is in the process of taking the company public.
The movie is a celebration of those tenacious individuals who go after stories and follow the facts, even if it means revealing a government that has misled its citizens.
• “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”: The latest movie in this now-iconic franchise moves the storyline forward as old – and favorite — characters fade away, and new heroes emerge.
But it’s the twin themes of redemption and hope that make “The Last Jedi” memorable.
Sure, some of the dialogue still sounds like comic-book balloon captions, but the way the George Lucas universe has changed — the inclusiveness of more female and minority actors in major roles is a portend of good things to come.
“The Last Jedi” closes in a manner that leaves you watching the calendar, hoping the days zoom by until the next installment is released.
• “Blade Runner 2049”: This sequel superbly carries the story forward, handling a variety of issues — ethical, societal, political and biological.
It has a seemingly seamless transition from “Blade Runner” to its Denis Villeneuve’s feature.
The film is grayer and darker and more oppressive than the original, drawing you in as it unravels its mysteries of identity and humanity
• “Dunkirk”: Christopher Nolan’s historical drama is a technological achievement, as the director bends time to offer various viewpoints on this heroic evacuation that saved British forces from annihilation by the German army.
The movie humanizes the soldiers trapped on the beaches on Dunkirk, spotlighting moments of heroism, but also those of cowardice and self-survival.
From the land, sea or air, “Dunkirk” held you in its grip, despite knowing the outcome.
• “Professor Marston & the Wonder Women”: A drama that details the unorthodox life of the psychology professor who created Wonder Woman as a method to advance gender equality and show that women are as capable and courageous as men.
The movie looks at the life of Dr. William Moulton Marston and the two women he loved and who loved him, as they entered into — at the time — was a scandalous living and sexual relationship.
A trio of strong performances by Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote bring this unconventional love story to life, while showing how the seeds for an exemplary superhero were planted.
• “The Big Sick”: A romantic comedy that shows how love is impervious to race, religion, color, gender or nationality.
Comedian-writer-actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, wrote this autobiographical story of their relationship.
The film rings authentic because it is no fairy tale love story, but one filled with missteps and detours, as it shows the warts and blemishes that make perfection nearly impossible, but still allow feelings to overlook flaws.
The movie offers strong supporting performances by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents who, at first, dislike Kumail, but are eventually won over by his dedication and love of their daughter.
This is a love story that feels more like real life than Hollywood mainstream cinema.
• “The Florida Project”: Sean Baker’s film, which he also wrote and edited, centers on a trio of children, about 6 or 7 years old, who live with their parents in near poverty not far from Disney World.
But, this is no dire look at the hard-scrabble life of poor people. Rather, it’s a celebration of childhood, its innocence and unawareness or uncaring about such sociological inequities.
The three children, led by Moonee, live in a rundown motel called The Magic Castle. Its premises and the areas around it serve as their playground as they mooch money from tourists from ice cream and create games and adventures to pass the time.
It is an appealing, heartfelt and touching movie that rings very true.
• “Get Out”: Comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a hybrid of horror, comedy and social satire about race in the United States.
A young black man visits the family of his white girlfriend, and though he is treated with warmth and kindness, something is brewing beneath the surface that makes your hairs stand on end.
The film, though at times scary and savage, also is well aware of its message and how it wants to convey it.
Peele’s feature is one of the most original movies of the year as well as one of the most insightful.
Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 more movies that I enjoyed and deserve recognition:
• “Brigsby Bear”: An endearing, almost childlike feature.
• “California Typewriter”: A wonderful documentary about the joy of these almost obsolete machines and the people who still repair and use them.
• “Call Me by Your Name”: A coming-of-age romance that creeps up on you.
• “Coco”: This animated feature nearly takes the sting out of death by stressing the importance and bonds of family.
• “Detroit”: An intense movie that makes you squirm and won’t let you turn away.
• “The Disaster Artist”: A singular look at misguided and inept artistic vision.
• “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”: The fun movie of the year. I love my time in space with these heroes.
• “The Lost City of Z”: An old-time historical adventure that reminds you of how large the world used to be.
• “Wonder Woman”: What can I say? Gal Gadot is a warrior and an idealist who sees the best in mankind and drags you along with her.
• “Wonderstruck”: A charming movie about discovery and family, told from the point of view of two children from different eras who share a common bond.
Finally, again in alphabetical order, are five movies that wasted their casts and potential and should be consigned to a cinematic trashbin:
• “Downsizing”: A waste of a very fine premise.
• “Hostiles”: An unpleasant and pretentious Western with delusions of grandeur.
• “The Mummy”: A stake through the heart for Universal’s “Dark Universe” franchise.
• “The Snowman”: It should have melted before reaching theaters.
• “Wonder Wheel”: Woody Allen as a third-rate Eugene O’Neill.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.