Stormy's Top Ten of 2017
Hello and welcome, dear reader, to my list of the best films made in the year of our lord 2017. There are still a number of movies I'd like to see and honestly, this was a hard list to compile, as so many amazing movies came out last year. Alas, here goes nothing (the movies here are accompanied by some very brief thoughts which may contain spoilers so ~*Heisenberg voice*~ tread lightly).
10. HOUNDS OF LOVE (Ben Young)
Australian filmmaker Ben Young made a striking debut with Hounds of Love. This fresh take on the serial killer genre puts the psychology of killer couples under a microscope in a story so well-constructed, you won't leave the edge of your seat until the credits roll. You'll see nothing in the way of graphic violence on screen in this movie, but what you'll see in your imagination will leave you petrified for days.
9. RAW (Julia Ducournau)
I was all about coming-of-age films in 2017 and you'll see a couple more coming up. Raw is the story of Julian, a vegetarian veterinary school student who discovers she has a taste for meat...human meat. I'm a big fan of cannibal movies, but what's special about Raw is that it's not so much a cannibal movie as it is a psychological horror about virginity and sexual exploration.
8. LADY BIRD (Greta Gerwig)
I enjoy seeing indie queen Greta Gerwig in movies, but it turns out she is equally adept behind the camera. Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story a lot of women can relate to—fighting with our moms, struggling with independence and identity, buying up the rich kids’ old clothes at the thrift shop so your style is a season behind everyone else’s, etc. Lady Bird is a simple story, there’s no deep meaning to keep pondering days after you’ve seen it, but sometimes simplicity is rewarding.
7. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Yorgos Lanthimos)
Yorgos Lanthimos had in The Lobster my second favorite film in 2016. He’s continued his streak of making it into my top ten list with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, due in large part to how effective the stilted dialogue is at shaping moments of black comedy while also keeping me on edge. The terror of this film creeps up on you the way Martin creeps up on Dr. Murphy—slowly and methodically.
6. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (Martin McDonagh)
An early scene in Three Billboards depicts Red, the small business owner who rents the billboards to Mildred, reading Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. This is the quintessential southern gothic story and its presence in Three Billboards is certainly not an accident. Here in the rural south, we live in small towns where everyone knows everyone else, for better or for worse. Generally speaking, this results in at least a façade of politeness. Three Billboards is a dramatic example of what happens when that charade is dropped and leans fully into that dark O’Connor inspiration.
5. A GHOST STORY (David Lowery)
“It’s all about time.” That’s the tagline for this haunting rumination on loss, grief, meaning, and nothingness. It’s the perfect tagline, as this film skillfully makes the audience feel time the way its characters do. Gustave Flaubert famously attributed good writing to finding le mot juste or “the right word”. I read Madame Bovary in high school and found myself tremendously bored with pages and pages of Emma’s lengthy descriptions of mundane objects or room interiors until I realized that was the point all along. It’s been a long time since I witnessed Mme. Bovary’s slow descent, but I now always appreciate le mot juste in filmmaking, or as Tarkovsky would put it, “sculpting in time”. Lowery makes you feel eternity in this film and that is what makes it such a rewarding experience.
4. PHANTOM THREAD (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Y’all, this movie. A beautiful masterpiece as finely crafted as a dress stitched by Reynolds Woodcock (I laughed every time I heard or saw “Woodcock” because I am a child, thank you PTA and DDL). I’ve seen several people say this film is about misogyny—a man trying to control a woman. Maybe I’m wrong, but what’s happening here seems a lot more complex. I see in Reynolds a man coddled by his mother until her death. In Cyril, I see a sister who gave up her own happiness and comfort to care for her infantile brother. In Alma, I see an overwhelming but quiet sadness perhaps rooted in neglect. A lot of questions are left unanswered in Phantom Thread, and that’s what makes it so special—that and Jonny Greenwood’s score so incredible it is a character in itself.
3. THE SHAPE OF WATER (Guillermo del Toro)
Guillermo del Toro is known for crafting lavish, imaginative worlds and this whimsical fairy tale is no exception. The classic Universal Monster movies are so memorable and influential today because of their portrayal of “monsters” as sympathetic, mostly innocent figures reacting to monstrous humans. The Shape of Water reimagines Creature from the Black Lagoon as a love story, where Gill-Man and Kay finally find happiness together in spite of the hostility of the human world. Take that, dark universe.
2. GET OUT (Jordan Peele)
In the same year we lost horror icon and pioneer, George Romero, we got this perfect film in a similar vein to Romero’s own social commentary, written and directed from the perspective of a lifelong horror fan who sought to be a pioneer himself. Jordan Peele succeeded and will continue to succeed in giving horror heroes as diverse as horror fans and I can’t wait to see what he delivers next. He deserves a dumptruck of Oscars for this movie. Also, check out our episode on Get Out at www.pretentiouscinephiles.com
1. THE LURE (Agnieszka Smoczynska)
Ok, I know this is technically a 2015 film, but as it didn’t release in the U.S. until February 2017, I’m counting it because The Lure is still the most memorable film I watched last year. An amalgamation of three of the best genres--horror, musical, and weird as fuck, The Lure tells the story of two mermaid sisters turned night club attraction in a coming-of-age story modeled after “The Little Mermaid” if Hans Christian Andersen had written it from Ben’s apartment in Blue Velvet.
BONUS: TWIN PEAKS THE RETURN, EP. 8
God bless David Lynch and the ground he levitates above. I adore this man. Anyway, I am still endlessly thinking about the latest Twin Peaks, but especially episode eight, which stands on its own as a surrealist masterpiece. A blend of the Kafkaesque, black and white aesthetic, and the unsettling atmosphere Lynch is so good at crafting, this was the finest hour of television my eyes have ever had the privilege of viewing. Gotta light?
Honorable mentions: THE FLORIDA PROJECT, IT COMES AT NIGHT, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, BABY DRIVER, mother!