We’re six months into 2017, a year chock full of bad news and insufferable cultural breakdowns, but we’re still watching movies. Arguably, it could be said that we need good movies now more than ever. Luckily, so far, we’ve had them. It’s a bit too early to start making Oscar predictions, but we’ve certainly had our fair share of shining prestige flicks and high quality summer blockbusters. As a well-deserved celebration of our favorite sub-culture, we’re taking a break today to breathe and recollect on what has been, against all odds, a rather standout year for film.
So join us in counting down our fifteen favorites, and feel free to correct us on what we might have missed or forgotten!
15. The Devil’s Candy
“Exceptionally well-shot and briskly paced, The Devil’s Candy creates an impactful, contemporary allegory about fathers lost in work, who sacrifice their children in the process. A fitting companion to The Loved Ones, The Devil’s Candy further displays Byrne’s ability to put horror tropes through a thresher and turn out something painfully personal. Sean Byrne is 2 for 2. We can only hope that the wait for his next foray into the genre isn’t as long.” – Read Richard Newby’s full review.
“…the movie feels both comfortingly warm and mournfully cold, with segments where Romi is intimately sympathetic but then chillingly protected and far away. This is why, even when the narrated story becomes one of tragedy and murder moving toward a final apocalyptic chapter, Kuro continues to also be a movie about committed and unconditional love, the sadness of life’s failing that love, and the narrative efforts we will put into preserving that love’s comfort, meaning, and power no matter what reality has done to damage it.” – Read David Shreve’s full review.
13. Personal Shopper
“Personal Shopper is a fresh and relevant movie, gripping and tense all at once. Assayas has delivered a stunning and strangely moving film that serves as a platform for Kristen Stewart to access the depth of her talent.” – Read Becky Belzile’s full review.
12. Hounds of Love
“Like all good thrillers, the themes in Hounds of Love run deep. There are moments that speak to the sacrificial nature of motherhood, the complexity of romantic and familial relationships, and divorce. All three women in the movie want or require something from their partners: Vicki’s boyfriend hooks her up with weed and does her homework. Her mother tries in vain to build her own life without her estranged husband’s wealth. Evelyn is trapped in an abusive relationship that provides for her but holds her back from what she really wants but can’t admit she’ll never have—her children. All three women then distantly judge each other for their choices and their wants. But as there are more pressing matters at hand, namely Vicki’s survival and the feasibility of the couple’s lifestyle. These ideas aren’t explored as deeply as they might be otherwise. Still, they play a big part in the characters’ interactions and add a richness to what could have easily been trashy criminal violence for its own sake.” – Read Becky Belzille’s full review.
“As an unconventional adventure film adopting a satirical target (or perhaps an experimental satire shooting with an adventure arrow), Okja‘s central mission ends on a note that is unconventional to either. The conclusion of all of Mija’s, ALF’s, and Mirando Corporation’s efforts is at once touching, saddened, hopeful, and hopeless. For Mija and Okja, the journey until this point has been a straight line, an adventure, an A-to-B rescue as familiar as anything in film, but surrounding the two of them are countless and complex narrative circles, all of the story’s main players having traveled through a full arc, the sort of development often lacking in main characters.” – Read David Shreve’s full review.
10. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
“Ritchie presents his interpretation of Arthurian legend with big-dicked swagger and impressive conceptualization of why these stories have lasted. While the film can’t entirely shake its boys club mentality, despite Berges-Frisbey moments of triumph as the enigmatic Mage, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword does add some much needed diversity to the faces that make up the fantasy genre and to Arthur’s fabled knights. But what’s most impressive is how much personality the film has. Ritchie’s nature runs through the artistry and themes at work here, creating a visionary experience that while occasionally messy feels like a clear extension of the filmmaker’s soul. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword takes risks while having a clear vision and ultimately becomes one of the most unique theatrical experiences of the last few summer movie seasons.” – Read Richard Newby’s full review.
“Split is a movie about a haunted house inside of a haunted house. As we learn the extent and instigating trauma of Kevin’s fragmented mind, Casey, the eventual hero of the film, explores and flees through the confusing architecture of her makeshift prison, which seems to grow more labyrinthine at every turn. Horizontal pipes placed midway up the hallway way suggest perpetual inescapability. Walls of stone and dirt, metal, and dry wall give the sense that Kevin’s domestic space is growing like a living thing. What starts as three rooms spreads out into more. The prison space of Split recalls Nightmare on Elm Street in its physical composition but functions as a hyper-clever psychic extension of Kevin’s condition.” – Read David Shreve’s full review.
8. Wonder Woman
“And while most films ultimately glorify war, sidestepping the innocent casualties in favor of revering our heroes, Wonder Woman doesn’t lose sight of our superhero’s mission or the realities of war in the human world. War, in no uncertain terms, is decided by well-dressed men in faraway meeting rooms, and innocent civilians will be casualties of those decisions. The film asserts this notion again and again, and while seeing women and children in trenches is jarring and witnessing men gassed to death on screen is alarming, Wonder Woman doesn’t gray the message or spare any of the brutalities that a PG-13 rating will allow. It asserts itself as the anti-war superhero movie not only with Wonder Woman’s certainty that love conquers war but in its depiction of its grim realities.” – Read Grace Porter’s full review.
“The pain runs deep in Raw, but so do the bonds. Justine’s family holds a strong tradition of vegetarian veterinary skills, and though we’re only given a glimpse, it seems like they live a specific comfortable lifestyle. Laurent Lucas (Alleluia, Calvaire) is given a small role as Justine’s father and even with his limited screen time, adds to the strong cast. Rumpf gives an understated and heartbreaking performance that complements Marillier’s completely. No matter what happens between the sisters, they display a sense of solidarity that cannot be erased even by the most hurtful acts. When they come face to face they must confront not only each other but their shared history and see if they are able to come out the other side together.” – Read Becky Belzile’s full review.
“Because I can’t pursue these questions without opening more questions, a sort of Fibonacci sequence of confusion, I can’t tell if Fraud is a masterpiece of filmmaking or a straight up con job selling a non-existent jewel hiding within the emperor’s new avant-garde clothes. But I can say that if it is a con job, if we are the ones being defrauded, it’s a victimization to which film fans should willfully and blissfully submit.” – Read David Shreve’s full review.
“Logan is a deeply sad and deeply satisfying film that’s almost difficult to believe that Mangold was allowed to make on his own terms. It’s the Wolverine film we’ve always wanted, a perfect analysis of the character that’s melancholy, expertly-performed, action-packed, emotionally fulfilling, and it’s also more than that. In its exploration of age, sickness, suicide, parenthood, and the legacies we leave. Logan slices through the supposed cage of the comic book movie, becoming an exemplary character study and parable for a world that’s healing factor is best expressed through film.”- Read Richard Newby’s full review.
4. The Lost City of Z
“The Lost City of Z is not an easy film, not in the way we have come to think of standard adventure movies in the last few decades. Its hero is increasingly honorable without being immediately (or perhaps even eventually) lovable, admirable without earning moral perfection or narrative victory. There’s no pre-packaged thematic summation or connect-the-dots contemporary allegory. It doesn’t even gift its audience with a singular targeted emotional reaction; this isn’t a film of hope, triumph, inspiration, or defeat. But it instead manages to comfortably fit all of that for those willing to work to properly navigate and survey its rich, lively landscape. It’s the kind of film that, last year, we might have said that they don’t make any more, but now James Gray has, and it very well might prove to be a timeless classic.” – Read David Shreve’s full review.
3. John Wick: Chapter 2
“Chapter 2 eschews the more grounded settings and villains of the first in order to play up Wick’s position as a man who exists as a plaything for the gods, a man cast down and forced to journey through several levels of hell. Like a story taken straight from classical mythology, Wick, his house burned down, is forced out of retirement (and his symbolic white shirt) to pay a blood debt to assassin royalty Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), and is sent to Rome to assassinate Santino’s sister. D’Antonio casts a devilish shadow, as a man of both immense charm and cruelty, whose feud with his sister for her inherited seat at the high-table of assassins is one of both profound jealousy and love. There lies the threat to Wick. He’s no longer dealing with impetuous, naive men of the real-world who never stood a chance against him, but power players who fancy themselves as gods with complex motives and no need for loyalty.” – Read Richard Newby’s full review.
2. Baby Driver
“Wright never shies away from pushing the boundaries of what is a fairly straight forward narrative, and in many of the best creative moments in Baby Driver make the film truly shine as one of the best theatrical releases from the past couple of years. Baby Driver uproariously upends expectations while delivering a tightly-constructed moviegoing experience that immediately begs to seen again and again. Rather than laying out all of his cards in one go, Wright playfully spins his latest motion picture into an immediately pleasing puzzle box full of wonders that couldn’t possibly be catalogued after just one viewing.” – Read Sean K. Cureton’s review.
- Get Out
“From the personal standpoint of a black man, there are few things more horrifying than being faced with the possibility that my black identity, my black struggle is seen as currency that devalues the life attached to them. Yet, one doesn’t have to reach far to see that this horror is very much a familiar realm of existence for every black person who has encountered someone who loves black music but fears black people, someone who treats interracial sex as a conquest to be bragged about in its aftermath, someone who sees black people as tokens through which to display their own liberal open-mindedness. Get Out displays a horror of being faced with people who want so much to be like us, but hate us in return, and it’s just one step over the edge of a reality we’ve sadly, horrifically become accustomed to.” – Read Richard Newby’s full review.
Featured Image: The Lost City of Z, Amazon Studios; Get Out, Universal Pictures; Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. Pictures