My Top 3 Favorite Films of 2017 (No spoilers)
Yesterday, I posted My 3 Least Favorite Films of 2017, and read them for filth. But today I'm going to put on my positivity cap to bring you three movies I was extremely satisfied by this past year. Steven and I can be extremely critical of film, but that's only because we've seen what incredible works of art the film industry is capable of giving us, and expect great entertainment for the price of our movie theater tickets. And these three movies are examples of creativity and character development that we hope to see even more of in 2018.
THERE ARE NO SPOILERS AHEAD
Before we get into the list, here is a little bit about Steven and my taste in film and what will probably inform why we feel the way we do about the following films:
Steven's favorite films are the ones that move and influence the film industry. He loves Spielberg classics such as Jaws and Jurassic Park and the way they form what it means to be a blockbuster hit, and adores the complexity of The Shining and the excitement of the first two Godfather films. He's also a huge Star Wars buff with an appreciation for fantasy and sci-fi.
My favorite films are the ones where you get to know the characters extremely well. I love films about relationships such as The Sound of Music, Titanic and Dirty Dancing, movies that give me hope like The Shawshank Redemption, and performances like Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Real people and real experiences interest me greatly. And I don't mind when a real life experience is embedded into fantasy and folklore. As long as it's fully fleshed out.
All films we saw in 2017
(In alphabetical order)
#3 - Get Out
When it comes to horror, just like chick flicks and action films, I don't grade films on a curve, or give them praise just because they're slightly better than the silly or low-quality movies they're in the company of genre-wise. Get Out was the pleasant surprise to rock the horror genre, but also a strong movie in general.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that our main protagonist is Chris, a black man who is meeting his white girlfriend's parents for the first time at their luxurious home in the woods. He soon realizes there's something up with the family, based on their strange behavior toward him and the bizarre way the black maid, gardener and other house guests are reacting to him. He then realizes he's trapped in a terrifying situation, filled with (for the audience) social commentary and political subtext. I won't give any spoilers away because I know some of you have not seen it yet (Which you need to hurry up and do.) But I will tell you what made it a fantastic film.
This film was directed by comedian Jordan Peele and was released right after Trump's inauguration, a time of political passion and frustration for much of the country. So when the trailers labeled this film as one about race relations, we knew we weren't in for your average everyday horror movie. Being written by a comedian, it has a lot of funny moments and relatability, and with the protagonist being black, it begged the question "What would you realistically do in a horror film-type of situation?" It's a common trope in horror movies that white people are always getting themselves into bad situations and basically "asking for it" when they make bad decisions along the way of the plot, which get them killed (Splitting up a group when trying to escape a killer, hooking up when they know the killer is still on the loose, and finally tripping, falling and crawling when the killer is chasing them.) For years I've heard people joke for example "If this were a black person, they'd hit the creepy talking doll with a shovel before she gave them her back story, and would run out of the house. Roll end credits." So I think I speak for many of us when I say I was excited to follow a character who was more sensible and less whimsical/curious than the stereotypical horror movie character, through a scary situation. And the tactics of the predators of this flick are so thorough and unique that you'd in fact say to yourself "I don't know what I would have done to get out of this situation," which adds immensely to the suspense.
In addition to the stress the movie portrays well, it also gets its tone right. It's a lot slower and quieter than horror movies of today, and it's that nature of the film that gives it some intensity and mystery when you watch it. It does a good job of showing you the setting in entirety and also outlining the stakes. You feel the energy of the environment, so you can get into the mindset of Chris, as to how difficult it will be to escape it. A lot of horror films just try to immediately scare you and assume you know all the tropes in order to get the film going, so they can pull stunts on you. This film takes its time to let you feel intimidated and confused. And it allows you the time to pick up on clues and vibes so you can start to piece together what tactics Chris will use to save himself. The only criticism I will give this movie is that I wish I got to know Chris better. All we really end up finding out about him is he is a sensible and calm person with a sick apartment, who loves music and is haunted by a tragic event in his life. Besides that, I still feel like he was an acquaintance to me even after a whole movie about him. But perhaps he's meant to be vague in order to get us to put ourselves in his shoes.
And the ending of this film is extremely satisfying. I remember the audience giving it a round of applause when I saw it in theaters, and remember joining in as well. And I'm usually the type who scoffs when people clap at ending credits or after a plane landing. So before I give too much away, I want to recommend Get Out as a great horror flick and a step in the right direction for cimena. I am excited to see what else Jordan Peele comes up with in the future.
#2 - My Friend Dahmer
This movie flew under the radar, and was not advertised that well, so I expect some groans from people that I put a more obscure film on this list, when I didn't even see Lady Bird and some other notable films this year. But this film is definitely worth talking about and definitely something I recommend people take the time to rent. And that's coming from a serial killer-buff like me.
Being that my father was a deputy probation officer before I was born, he's taught me a lot about the psychology of a criminal. So any film that's willing to take you into the mind of a killer (besides when The Cell did it literally,) is right up my alley. The problem is, in order to tell a compelling story about a killer in movie-form, you have to make them relatable and human enough for the audience to follow along and care for the character, but also not try too hard to humanize them or make excuses for them, because what they've done is immoral and still deserving of their consequences. It's a delicate and complex balance that most movies get wrong. For instance, in my opinion the film Dahmer starring Jeremy Renner as the titular character and infamous serial killer, was not only a lukewarm film because of its dialogue, but also because I believe it tried too hard to justify why Jeffrey did what he did and made it seem as though some long heartfelt discussion with someone was going to fix him emotionally. As if all we need to do is sympathize with people and they won't do what they're thinking of doing. But this film gets that balance of sympathy and realism just right.
It's based off of the graphic novel that animator John "Derf" Backderf published about his time knowing Jeffrey in high school. It covers their senior year, and Dahmer's odd tendencies up until graduation and Dahmer's first murder. And the film allows for such great detail that you can immediately tell it was inspired by events told by someone who actually knew and spent time with Jeffrey. In fact, the scenes of his childhood home were even filmed at Jeffrey's real life childhood home. It's the details like that that make you feel like you're looking at footage of a real life experience from the past.
And Ross Lynch of Disney Channel fame also gives a very mature and sympathetic, yet eerie performance as a young Jeff Dahmer. He gives off the same vibes as Dahmer that we remember from famous interviews, he takes you through the emotional rollercoaster that was Jeffrey's youth - struggling with fitting in, his sexuality, and figuring out what he's going to do with his life - but also his strange tendencies, mood swings and lack of a moral compass. Even though I've read up on Jeffrey Dahmer's life, and knew how many scenes in this movie would end, Lynch's performance combined with the movie's tactful writing had me squeezing Steven's hand throughout and put me on the edge of my seat.
This film gets the number two spot on my list because of how well it depicts one of America's most infamous serial killers, and how much I learn about a character I've already read a ton about. I recommend it for serial killer-buffs, as well as the rest of you normal people.
#1 - I, Tonya
And finally, Tonya Harding wins the gold medal!...For Sydney and Steven's favorite movie of 2017! Just as exciting as the Olympics, no? I am not exaggerating when I say this was by far the best movie we saw all year...even though we didn't get to see it until 2018 technically, due to how limited the theater release was in December.
I, Tonya is the film about figure skater Tonya Harding, and her rise to, and fall from fame after becoming the first woman to ever land a triple axel jump in competition, and then being allegedly involved in a conspiracy to break the leg of major competitor Nancy Kerrigan right before the 1994 Winter Olympics.
In this film, we follow Harding (played beautifully by Margot Robbie) throughout her competitive and stressful childhood with her curmudgeonly hardass mother (played hilariously by Allison Janney) right behind her at all times, through her adulthood to her Olympic career. With tumultuous relationships with her mother and love interest, the infamous Jeff Gillooly (played intriguingly by Sebastian Stan) playing a huge role in her attitudes and decision making.
As you can tell, I am a huge fan of the portrayals and of the performances in this film. I thought the casting was all spot on, and felt that there wasn't a single throwaway character involved. We as the audience got to fully see what impact every character in Tonya's life made on her. And each relationship had complexity to it, even the ones that got only 7 minutes of screentime.
And it gave a compelling look into the mindset of an abused person. Throughout her career, Tonya experiences physical, verbal and emotional abuse from the people most important to her. And we see how that all takes a toll in her performance as a skater and her attitude in competition. It was also nice to learn more about why these Olympic judges always favored other girls over Tonya even when her performances were more skillful than theirs. Apparently her image wasn't wholesome enough for them, and she felt pressured her into staying in her abusive marriage to seem less dysfunctional to the public. I think that says a lot about society.
The big mystery to a person when seeing the trailer was how they were going to write the ending. While Tonya did pay a fine and was barred from ever competing in the Olympics ever again after the incident involving Kerrigan, there's still much debate as to whether or not she had involvement. And I was wondering if the film was going to keep it vague as to what happened - as Tonya was heavily involved in informing the creators of this film on details of her life - or if they were going to flat out tell us what really happened. And I'll let you find out on your own, what conclusion the film came to.
All that aside, I, Tonya is hilarious, exciting, visually accurate (I was immediately reminded of all of the iconic scenes from the '94 Olympics as well as footage of Tonya growing up from various documentaries,) sympathetic, poignant and when it had to be, gritty. It had my full attention from beginning to end credits and taught me a lot about the hidden story behind what happened at the most exciting Olympic figure-skating competition of all time.
And those were my 3 favorite films of 2017
Two were based off of true events about people who stunned the nation with their wrongdoings, and one was social commentary done smartly. Funny enough, the only satisfyingly neat ending you get from this list is the one of the fictional story. And I think that's what makes life fascinating. There are so many ways I story can be interpreted depending on the lenses you view it from. And in my opinion, the best films are the ones that understand that, and strive to fully flesh out those viewpoints.
If you haven't yet, please go check out my last article, 3 Least Favorite Films of 2017 to see which films I felt were this year's biggest fails. And be sure to give me a like on Facebook to follow my posts.