2017 in Film

In an ideal world we will have divorced the concepts of competition and accolades from any discussion surrounding art. Art by nature is about (or should be about, anyways) feeling and intuition and “the indescribable”. However that is mostly impossible not only because of our capitalist society and the concept of competition underpinning everything, but because of our inherent desire to rank and categorize as a function of better understanding and appreciating our world.

Which is why I hate the Oscars, and most award shows for that matter. However as a movie person it’s hard to talk about film while avoiding the topic of the Oscars. You simply can’t have a discussion about film without creating hierarchies and standards around which those hierarchies form. This occurs for a variety of reasons, mostly because I think the lingua franca of film is intimately tied to awards (“Oscar-nominee _____”), profitability (“blockbuster smash”), and value-based judgements (Rotten Tomatoes scores, Metacritic, social media).

At his moment I have absolutely no idea who won any awards. I did not watch one second of the telecast and I have avoided news/social media like the plague. My picks reflect purely my own feeling about these movies. I tried hard to separate these films from the cultural and critical circumstances they are so intimately tied to and judged upon. I think these are mostly unfair and give the films contextual baggage it usually can’t shake. I find observations like “Star Wars can’t win best picture!” and “Get Out was a comedy so it can’t win!” to be reductive and dismissive, therefore counterproductive to having a good-faith conversation about art and film. So here we go!

2017 TOP 10

  1. Get Out
  2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO
  3. Lady Bird
  4. The Big Sick
  5. Shape of Water
  6. Baby Driver
  7. Dunkirk
  8. Call Me by Your Name
  9. Thor: Ragnarok
  10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Picture – Get Out

Runner-Up – Lady Bird

Get Out was perfect in my opinion. The writing was simply unbelievable. In an age of sequels and reboots it stood out as something new and unique and different. More importantly, it felt like the only cultural monolith emerging from the 2017 class. I don’t think anyone will give a shit about Call Me By Your Name 6 months from now (mostly because it was a plotless and vapid film borne out of hype. WTF is that movie actually about?? Think about. It’s basically just people biking around Italy. No conflict. No actual struggle. I digress.) I think Lady Bird was the movie that best represented the state of movies 2018 which is why it gets the runner up. The waxing of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood and the emergence of strong female voices and characters was best encapsulated by Lady Bird. The powerful performances of Saorsie Ronan and Laurie Metcalf pitted two strong, independent, female main characters on a collision course that would leave them both changed. Lady Bird felt like everything I wanted Juno to be.

Best Actor – Who Knows Man

no other leading actors performance scratched the surface for me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Best Actress – Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Runner-Up – Saorsie Ronan, Lady Bird

The powerlessness and simmering anger felt by her character was undoubtedly the force driving Three Billboards. I was simply blown away by McDormands performance. Every moment she was on screen felt like watching a wild animal. It was a natural and seemingly effortless performance. 2018 was certainly the year of the angry/neurotic/multidimensional mother. I felt similarly about Saorsie Ronan in Lady Bird. Her performance defined everything difficult about growing up in a bumfuck town surrounded by dumb idiots you can’t wait to escape. I think Ronan’s star is rising and I don’t think this will be the last we see of her on the winners podium.

Best Screenplay- Get Out

Runner-Up – The Big Sick

The genre-busting genius of Get Out is due in large part to the writing. It’s too sharp for a horror movie, too compelling to be a comedy, and too self-aware for a drama. It’s a movie that by all accounts should have never been made because it’s too difficult to label, and for that reason I think audiences approached it with an open mind. The Big Sick was great for the opposite reason; it was the best comedy of the year by a large margin. It knew exactly what it was, and it was smart and tight. Perhaps that was a function of it being based on a true story being told via the hilarious and talented perspective of Kumail Nanjani and Emily Gordon.

Best Director- Guillermo del Toro, Shape of Water

Runner-Up – Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Shape of Water is the culmination of G.d.T.’s storied film career. It struck the perfect balance of rich storytelling that felt both familiar and novel, and showcased the cinematographic genius of G.d.T. The fish man was well-done, as del Torro is wont to do, however my only gripe was that it’s basically the same character from Hellboy. Also I’m sure the movie sparked a million “would you fuck a fish man?” conversations. Dunkirk gets the runner-up nod for a similar reason. Nolan’s layered, metaphorical storytelling style that plays with timelines and perspectives is on full display a la Memento, however in my opinion executed with slightly less subtlety in a much “safer” cinematic context (war movies have a somewhat limited ceiling).

Best Supporting Actor – Richard Jenkins, Shape of Water

Runner-Up – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This was close in my book. Rockwell was the perfect foil in Three Billboards that countered McDormand as best as he could, however I think Jenkins deserves a lot of credit for his role in Shape of Water. The main character was a mute, and Jenkins served as kind of the prism through which Sally Hawkins wordless performance can be interpreted for the audience.

Best Supporting Actress – Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Runner-Up – Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Thus continues the year of the neutoric, overprotective helcopter mother. In a movie about the strange, fucked up relationship between a young woman and her mother, there is no Lady Bird without Laurie Metcalf, and I think she really put Saorsie Ronan on her back and elevated her performance. A symbiotic, yin and yang performance. Janney did the same thing, to a much lesser extent, with I, Tonya, so the nod goes to Metcalf.

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