Dearest Blog: Today we take a fond(ish) look back at 2017, grateful, at least, that it didn't fail us at the cinema as it did in so many other ways.
To start, the usual disclaimers:
1-a.) I live in a rinky-dink town, so most of the real awards heavyweights won't turn up here until they're nominated for Oscars, then they'll split four screens across two cinemas for one week and I'll need Hermione Granger's Time Turner to catch up with all of them.
1-b.) If we're being honest, most of said awards heavyweights wouldn't affect this list in the slightest, anyway. The Post would probably sneak on here, and maybe Molly's Game, but it's fair to say that the Academy and I do not share many common "best picture" criteria.
2.) A picture's original Weasley rating has little bearing on its end-of-year placement. Some movies wear well with repeat viewings, some not so much, and some I haven't had a chance to revisit since their cinema runs.
3.) This is gonna get long. If I can drop 1200 words on Batfleck, you can only imagine how many I'll need for ten winners, a handful of runners-up, a few disappointments, and other assorted miscellany.
So, without further ado, buckle up and let's get to it...
My Best of 2017
"We all float down here."
One of Stephen King's best works gets a worthy big-screen treatment. Sure, they screwed the pooch on Pennywise, whose CGI'd scares are too fake to freak, but the kids are extraordinary and the story is such a beautiful blend of nostalgia, hope, and melancholy that the film comes out a winner despite any petty quibbles.
"It's a war zone out there."
Kathryn Bigelow's harrowing trip down memory lane to the 1967 Detroit race riots is terrifying, compelling, and sadly still timely in 2017. Brilliant performances highlight a picture so tense as to feel almost like living the horrific events in real time. Difficult as it is to stomach, Detroit is must-watch cinema.
8. John Wick, Chapter 2
"Somebody please get this man a gun."
If you think the John Wick movies are nothing more than a lot of shoot-'em-up machismo, you haven't been paying attention. What appears, on the surface, to be a big, dumb, action sequel is a wonderfully choreographed, strikingly filmed bit of movie magic that serves as the perfect vehicle for its limited-but-lovable star, Keanu Reeves. John Wick, Chapter 2, is that rare sequel that's even better than the original.
7. Goon: Last of the Enforcers
"I need to protect my team."
It was never likely Last of the Enforcers would duplicate the pleasant surprise of the original Goon. The sequel has fewer laugh-out-loud moments and lacks the feel-good underdog vibe of its predecessor, but Last of the Enforcers is blessed with a great cast and tons of heart, as well as writers who obviously cared enough to make the right choices for its much-loved characters. It was a story well worth continuing.
6. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
"I hope you're ready for what comes next."
The Golden Circle is another sequel that had no real hope of matching the surprising perfection of the original Kingsman, but it was still one of 2017's most fun and exciting cinema offerings. Throw in the year's best cameo by Sir Elton John and Mark Strong's heartfelt and hilarious performance of Country Roads, and you've got an epic actioner that's not to be missed.
"We have a job to do."
Dunkirk is a big movie that manages to go small in its storytelling. Rather than relate the famous tale from a familiar grand standpoint, Christopher Nolan delivers intimate stories from ordinary folks who faced impossible circumstances. Gorgeous cinematography and stellar performances are the crowning glory of another Nolan masterpiece.
"There's something that makes me different."
Ladies and gentlemen, if there's one 2017 movie I would recommend to everyone, enthusiastically and without hesitation, it would be Disney/Pixar's glorious Coco. Coco is visually stunning, with a wonderful message underscoring its magical story. Delightful characters bring the celebration of Dia de los Muertos to life in warm, colorful, family-friendly fashion. Grab your friends, your family, and everyone else you can find and get out to see Coco on the big screen--as it's meant to be seen--while you can!
3. Justice League
"Dressed like a bat. I dig it."
Justice League brings DC's most notable heroes to the big screen together for the first time, while taking a much lighter tone than other recent DC offerings. It's a formula that works, thanks to excellent casting and mostly well-placed humor. Justice League's primary baddie is a bit underwhelming, but otherwise the movie boasts solid action and humor, terrific chemistry, iconic characters, and, for my money, the best live-action Batman/Bruce Wayne ever to have graced the screen, one of my favorite cinema experiences of 2017.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
"The dead have taken command of the sea."
Dead Men Tell No Tales earns a spot on this list as my favorite movie of 2017. It enjoys first-runner-up status thanks to its extraordinary rendering of the Silent Mary's ghost crew, the best thing to come out of the cinema all year long. Upon repeat viewings I found scenes that don't feature Captain Salazar and his men didn't hold up as well as those that do, but I remain overwhelmed by the exceptional effects, makeup, wardrobe and hairstyling, not to mention performances, that bring this cursed band of pirate hunters to life. Every viewing yields some new, remarkable detail, making Dead Men Tell No Tales a joy to watch again and again.
1. Baby Driver
"Your name's 'Baby?' B-A-B-Y, Baby?"
Writer/director Edgar Wright takes his striking use of music in movies to extraordinary new heights in this imaginative tale of a getaway driver who needs his tunes to get the job done. The result is exciting, clever, funny, totally unique proof that Hollywood is NOT out of good, original ideas, as so many complain. Baby Driver staked its claim to my number-one spot upon first viewing, and has had no serious competition since. Thank you, Edgar Wright, for always giving movie fans a real reason to get out to the cinema.
Widely Reviled/Ridiculed Movies that Tip-Toed Very Near My Top 10
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It should have been epic, and it could have been hilariously awful, but it's actually supremely entertaining and even surprisingly quick-witted at times, with nice-looking effects, cool action, and shirtless Charlie Hunnam. #winner
Transformers: The Last Knight. Yeah, you all hated it. I got that. Me, I go to the cinema for hugeness. Three Billboards loses nothing if I watch it on my TV or even on my phone, but Optimus Prime? I like seeing him transform in all the glory a 50-foot screen and mammoth surround-sound have to offer. The Last Knight boasts all the hugeness a hugeness fan like me could want, as well as some good laughs and a fair bit of screen time for one of my lesser-known favorites, Santiago Cabrera.
Power Rangers. Considered a flop in the US, its overseas box office may give this reboot a chance to grow into success. As a big fan of Power Rangers in any incarnation, I liked this story, loved the cast, and look forward to more. Plus, any year that gives me a Power Rangers or a Ninja Turtles movie is a win in my book!
The Great Wall. Ridiculous, but visually magnificent, I'd watch The Great Wall again and again just for the pleasure of looking at it.
Geostorm. A wildly improbable plot and ham-handed performances couldn't stop Geostorm from being the most fun movie outing of 2017. Terrific disaster effects didn't hurt, either. Can't wait to own this one when it becomes available for download!
Free Fire. Trailers led me to believe Free Fire would land near the top of my 2017 best-of list. Instead it's a clumsy waste of an extraordinary cast that was almost impossible to get through, despite its brief runtime.
Logan Lucky. Another movie whose trailers promised far more than it delivered. The caper is fun, but nothing new, and laughs are too sparse. Demerits for barely a hint of Sebastian Stan.
American Made. With the eminently-watchable Tom Cruise in the lead, this inspired-by-actual-events tale should have been edge-of-your-seat exciting; instead it's dull and overlong. It was still a nice rebound for Cruise after The Mummy, but nowhere near what it should have been.
Worst of 2017
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Every bit as painfully awful as the trailers promised/threatened. I can't remember the last time I suffered through something this horrible, and I have never in my life seen so many people walk out of a movie.
Flatliners/The Dark Tower. I almost put these two on the "Disappointments" list, but then it occurred to me that I'd have to have expected better for them to disappoint. I expected nothing of either, and they both delivered just that: nothing. A terrible waste of time, money, and in the case of The Dark Tower, the incredible Idris Elba.
Would Have Made My 2016 Top 10 If It Had Played Here In Time
Hidden Figures. An inspiring true story featuring lovely, sincere performances. Should be considered mandatory viewing.
2017's Individual Honors
Best Director: Edgar Wright.
Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. (No, I haven't seen it yet, but there isn't nor will there be any other answer to this question.)
Best Actress: Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World. (Likely to be displaced by Jessica Chastain once I see Molly's Game.)
Best Supporting Actor: Gil Birmingham, Wind River.
Best Supporting Actress: Hong Chau, Downsizing.
Best Original Score: Daniel Pemberton, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. (Along with POTC's
Silent Mary crew, this is the best thing the movies had to offer in 2017.)
So, dear reader(s), there it is, my take on the year that's ending. It's probably not much like anyone else's, but I guess if you wanted anyone else's you'd go read their lists instead. I remain grateful that you’re reading mine, and welcome civil discourse on our agreements and disagreements.
Happy New Year, and I'll see you at Marquee Cinemas in 2018!