Movies of 2017

Kai Christansen, A&E Editor

  Good Time tells the story of Connie (played by Robert Pattinson in his best performance), who must spend an entire night looking for bail money in order to keep his mentally challenged brother from going to prison after getting arrested for robbing a bank with him.
  Connie’s relationship with his brother is essentially what drives every decision his character makes, and it’s that bond of protector-and-protected that makes the film so memorable, along with it’s expertly lit neon cinematography and vibrant synthesized score.
  In the town of Derry, Maine, evil manifests itself in the sinister looking Pennywise the Clown, portrayed wonderfully by Bill Skarsgård, climbing out from the sewers to prey upon the young, naive inhabitants of Derry.
  Where so many otherwise well made horror films fail is in creating unique, compelling characters. However, this is where It truly shines. What works so well about It is how the film plays out closer to a preteen coming of age story rather than a horror movie. The story pulls you in and gives you characters to root for, from Finn Wolfhard’s foul-mouthed Richie, to Sophia Lillis’ tomboyish Beverly, the script is tightly packed with humor and heart. Characters are given a chance to come to life instead of being treated like slasher movie cannon fodder.
  Bill Skarsgård took on the enormous task of following Tim Curry’s iconic performance as Pennywise from the 1990 television miniseries. Skarsgård did a really excellent job making this character his own, elevated by the wonderful makeup and costume design. His nightmare-inducing grin concealing rows of sharp teeth, his eyes that can’t seem to agree on which direction they want to look; there are so many little touches to his performance that contribute so much to making him an absolutely terrifying horror villain and making It possibly the most noteworthy horror film of the year.
  Big Sick is one of those few films that comes along once in awhile, that exemplifies love in such a down-to-earth and human way, it feels like these are people you know experiencing the struggles. The autobiographical tale follows Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon in their relationship as they deal with Gordon’s mysterious illness.
  The heart of this film comes from Nanjiani, who co-wrote the screenplay, and his performance in the film. He expertly juggles comedy and emotion, tying this film together.
  Zoe Kazan is spectacular as Emily Gordon, and brings an extra level of realism to the film. Ray Romano, who I’ve never seen give a halfway decent performance, is great as Gordon’s oddball dad.     Holly Hunter, as usual, is amazing as Gordon’s hard and secluded mother. Big Sick is a comedy that mixes excellent performances, writing, directing, and heart, becoming one of the few comedies that succeeds on all levels of filmmaking. Most films that get released in February rarely get remembered during Oscar season. However, Get Out, is one of those great exceptions.
  Jordan Peele of the hit comedy TV show Key and Peele, delivers a tight, frightening, and sometimes funny satire in his directorial debut. Throughout the entire film, the viewer gets this sense that something isn’t right in the world of these characters, and that’s what makes this film a success.
  Already gaining a lot of awards season recognition, it will no doubt be one of the leading contenders in this year’s Academy Awards. Some of the biggest criticisms of Christopher Nolan are his use of on-the-nose and bland expositional dialogue, his priority of spectacle over story, and runtimes of at least 150 minutes. However, in Dunkirk, he seems to play to his strengths.
  The film is a recreation of the Battle of Dunkirk in World War II, told from three different perspectives. To tell this story, Nolan, who wrote the screenplay as well, decided to have the film contain characters who the audience never really gets to know, but it works since his intention was to have viewers be able to place themselves in the film and imagine what it would be like to experience the horrors of war. Additionally, the film contains very little dialogue, opting instead for visual storytelling.
Even with these techniques, there are still plenty of solid performances, specifically from Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Kenneth Branagh (and even Harry Styles, who I was honestly impressed by).
  As for the spectacle part, Nolan definitely delivers. I was able to see it at an IMAX theater on IMAX 70mm film stock, and it provided one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had. Seeing the gigantic images with booming sounds was a treat on a huge screen, and will most likely remain an immersive cinematic experience no matter where it’s viewed.
Lady Bird is a rare film whose story seemingly exceeds the boundary of its runtime. It’s a movie that ends but never really feels over. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion to its story, because it certainly does, but it ends and it feels like the film easily could have kept going for another 94 minutes. And another 94 after that. And even another 94 after that.
Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf bring to life two of the most well realized characters in film this year. Their mother-daughter dynamic is the core of the film’s emotional impact, however, it’s never the result of any overacting or flashy dialogue. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. Metcalf delivered easily the most grounded and subtle performance I’ve seen out of any supporting actor this year. The scene in which she hears how Lady Bird, played by Ronan, innocently refers to their low-income household as being “on the wrong side of the tracks” is just a passing moment in the film but holds so much weight due to her performance. Not to mention Ronan’s likewise fantastic performance, perfectly capturing what it’s like to be at that all too unforgiving stage in life.
Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s script is astonishingly real, funny, heartbreaking, and filled to the brim with truths about growing up and finding who you are. It’s almost hard to believe that the film isn’t a documentary, and hard to believe that the characters you’re watching don’t exist outside of the confines of the film. But that’s just a testament to the collective talent on display here.
Three months after first seeing Blade Runner 2049, it still sticks with me like I just watched it an hour ago. The powerful cinematography, performances, production design, and near-perfect script flawlessly mend together to deliver one of the best sequels ever.
This sci-fi masterpiece from Denis Villeneuve, while slow (because it needs to be), grips you from the first shot and releases you with a sense of closure for the characters. It’s sharp, ambiguous, and thought provoking as a sci-fi noir should be.
  While the film’s runtime might scare potential fans away, it does not provide any faults to the film at all. All 2 hours and 44 minutes are necessary, but once the credits roll, you’ll be demanding another viewing.
  I measure my enjoyment of a film on how long I hold in my pee during a movie. Shape of Water, which runs at two hours and three minutes, had me holding in my excrements for an hour and a half. I usually leave at the thirty minutes of holding.
I stayed glued to the screen because of Guillermo Del Toro’s masterful direction; creating emotion through subtle camera movements and builds suspense in such simple moments.
As usual for Del Toro, the set design takes on a character of its own, building and breathing life into the world the characters are in. Everything feels fully realized, grounding this film into reality.
Every performance is great in this film, with career-defining performances from Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon. Richard jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones give it their all, creating one of the most beautiful ensemble casts ever.
Martin McDonagh’s third film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, captures the essence of humanity in a comedically dark storyline that follows a broken women after the death of her daughter.
  McDonagh is already at a level of auteurship that some filmmakers have never reached throughout their entire careers. Every shot has a purpose and every line of dialogue builds character and develops story. There is a beautiful one take in the movie that is jaw dropping.
Every character feels real and fleshed out, which is best exemplified in a scene between Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson about halfway through the movie. There in an argument in an interrogation room and Harrelson’s character inadvertently does something, and McDormand’s character completely shifts tone.
Sam Rockwell, along with McDormand and Harrelson, is amazing, and perhaps gives the best performance of his career.