Max’s Favorite Films of 2017

I want to apologize to our readers in advance that there are a great many movies that did not make this list. This is simply because of two reasons: 1) As many of you know one simply cannot get to every movie they so wish every year. It’s not impossible, but damn can it be immensely difficult. 2) I moved to Europe (more specifically The Netherlands) in July, and have been living here ever since. Because of this, I won’t always get the newest releases when they hit in the states. Though I get most of them, some, like The Shape of Water, I haven’t seen yet because it just hasn’t released here as of just yet. I’ve waited for as long as I can to publish this, but any longer and this would come out post- Oscars and I simply don’t want to wait any longer on publishing a ‘Best of List’ for last year. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

First, let it be said for the umpteenth time, that 2017 was a hell of a year. For both very good reasons (cinema was fucking dynamite), and very bad (you know…Trump). But we’re not here discussing that, instead I want to take a moment to give some love to the honorable mentions, films who didn’t quite cut it but were still massively enjoyable nonetheless.

Honorable Mentions: Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Driver, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, IT, Lady Bird, I, Tonya, Kong: Skull Island, and a giant host of other films that I either didn’t catch, or just failed to remember. Seriously, what a kick ass year for movies.

Now to what you all came here for, my Top Ten Films of 2017.

WARNING: Some or many will disagree with this list and thus become bold enough to tell me how “wrong” I am about MY opinions. Tough titties. I can’t please everyone, and I have also outlined above why this list is the way it is. This wasn’t an easy thing to do, so please read and think about that if you decide to be one of those individuals that insists I am wrong about what I found to be the best of the best in a year full of valiant efforts.

10. Thor: Ragnarok

They say third times a charm, so with that Marvel hired Taika Waititi of What We Do in The Shadows fame, gave him a massive budget, and said do what you want. Waititi replied in kind, making Thor a buffoon much like Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China while throwing him in an epic space adventure with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Valkyrie (the ever-loving amazing Tessa Thompson), and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Waititi did what I thought was impossible and suddenly made Thor interesting for me. He wasn’t my favorite Avenger, and could argued for being the most boring, but Waititi made him fun, while also giving him some awesome action beats, especially towards the end. SPOILERS (I hope Thor never gets his hammer back, and keeps his current outfit, because he looks great and is cooler for it. Sadly, I’m not sure this will be 100% of the case for Infinity War.) END SPOILERS While the story isn’t exactly amazing and Cate Blanchett’s Hela doesn’t really make an impression (besides killing off a bunch of side characters in a really bizarre way), this is more than made up for by Waititi’s charm both as a director and as the fantastic Korg (I left the theater saying “Hey Man” entirely too much) and just how damn funny the film is. I think it is by far Marvel’s funniest film yet and definitely one of my favorite Marvel films by far and large. For the first time, I’m excited to see what happens next with Thor.

9. John Wick: Chapter 2

Unlike the entry above, I wasn’t sure how the Hell they were going to top the first John Wick. They had a perfect one and done movie for action aficionados to go back to and enjoy for years and years to come. Yet they did it. Somehow, some way they did, and it was glorious. From the expansion of both the mythology and the choreography of the fights, John Wick: Chapter 2 beats its predecessor on almost all fronts. There’s Wick’s underground fight, in which he savagely impales some poor goon with his shotgun, while he reloads it, before firing into the same man to get him off the barrel. There’s a follow up to Wick killing three men with a *ahem* a fucking pencil. And when I say pay off, I mean my audience was in their seats cheering. And those are just a few of the damn good kills this film has (I feel beyond a shadow of a doubt, Chapter 2 will get a nod in the future as some of the best action movie kills ever). No stone is left unturned in this impeccably gorgeous film, and director (just the one instead of the two) Chad Stahelski wants you to see that as John drops one assassin after the other. More than any film from last year, the next entry has me beyond excited to see just when, where and how John gets out of the mess he put himself back into. The wait for John Wick 3 is far too long of one to be sure.

8. Dunkirk

Dunkirk feels like Nolan’s smallest movie in ages. It had a largely unknown cast (besides a muffled Tom Hardy), it wasn’t a roaring hype machine that his previous few entries have been, and yet it was still damn good. Dunkirk doesn’t tell a war story as much as it tells a story about survival in three different yet slowly entwining vignettes. You won’t find much in the way of characters here, or even really plot. But you will feel these men and their need to survive the next few hours, days, and weeks. You will see their desperation, their failure, and their triumphs. But ultimately, they have one goal, and that is to survive Dunkirk and get home. Nolan made sure that this film was to be seen on the big screen, and it is no less of beast than his other films. The jaw dropping IMAX sequences where Tom Hardy must shoot down German planes when he himself is running out of fuel by the minute is riveting. Mix in the subtle, ticking clock of Hans Zimmer’s score and you’ve got one of the most beautiful films shown in IMAX while you’re on the edge of your seat wondering how these men will live to see tomorrow. Nolan never fails to impress, and as always, my favorite director has me waiting anxiously to see what his next grand project is.

7. Alien: Covenant

Before I watched this in theaters, I made sure to re-watch all of the other Alien films. It wasn’t easy, as there are more bad films than good. And as I suspected after five years, Prometheus is still a massive disappointment. A stupendously beautiful film, that is utterly stupid in its plot and how it handles its characters. The sole grace of that atrocity was Michael Fassbender’s David, but even he wasn’t cool enough to save whatever the Hell Prometheus was. So, one can imagine the trepidation I had walking into this new one. Never would have I imagined that an Alien prequel would wind up on my ‘Best of List’. It jettisons the last of the characters from the previous film beyond David (who returns, delightfully so), while giving us a new cast of cannon fodder that aren’t completely insufferable. But the biggest news was the return of Xenomorph and boy was it nice to finally have it return to proper form, killing colonists left and right. With Ridley Scott returning to the director’s chair, he brings with him the returning themes of man and godhood that stumbled so much in the previous entry, yet here they shine brightly with David front and center. He is by far the most interesting antagonist the series has had, while also serving as the best protagonist since Ripley. As one of my emerging favorite characters from the last decade, I hope Ridley is able to finish David’s tale before it becomes too late. I’m enjoying how nihilist Ridley Scott has become in recent years, and Covenant is no different. The tale he’s woven here is an absolute ‘Fuck You’ to humanity, and I hope he’s able to finish it, especially with the super dark ending he leaves the film on. Maybe the studios will let him finish his tale, maybe they won’t, but the time is now to see just how these prequel Alien films tie into Scott’s 1979 original. Also…who the Hell would have thought Danny McBride would have been one of the standouts in the film, acting as a complete straight man? Absolutely bonkers, in the best way possible.

6. The Disaster Artist

Many people have issues with James Franco and his brand of comedy. Some find them funny, others do not. I continually find myself into his brand of tomfoolery. So, it was of little surprise that as The Disaster Artist approached I became more and more excited for it. It helped that I heard a healthy amount positive buzz for it, which in turn extrapolated my excitement. So, I prepped for the film the only way I knew how: By watching The Room. Look…mistakes were made, and the film truly is godawfully bad, but ridiculously hilarious (unintentional mind you). So, when I sat down for The Disaster Artist, a film about the making of The Room, I was surprised at not only how hilarious the film is, but also how much heart it has. A film starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, and the others that usually rotate in and out of their collaborations, is usually predisposed to be a certain type of way. Yet the Disaster Artist subverts those predisposed notions entirely for an amazing lead role by actor-director, James Franco, where he gives the mysterious Tommy Wiseau the heart of a man wishing to complete the simplest of tasks: Fulfilling the American Dream. Who can’t get behind that? The supporting cast is equally hilarious, and believe me when I say the film is improved a 1000% more so having seen The Room. But at the end of the day Franco made a film about the making of one of the most absolutely worst movies of all times, and while it could’ve gone one way or the other, Franco gives his Wiseau heart and somehow, despite all of the insaneness that is Tommy Wiseau, it works. After all, who doesn’t want to be loved?

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards is one of the very few films I knew little about in 2017. Maybe it’s because its one of those movies that seem geared for awards season fair, or maybe it’s because a lack of marketing over here gave me little to nothing about it. Either way I ended up watching this movie as blind as possible, and to my surprise it was very much for my own benefit. Let’s be real here for a second: Any movie with Woody Harrelson is bound to be at least somewhat enjoyable. Harrelson NEVER disappoints and that is still very much the case here. His brief screen time as Chief Willoughby is more than enough to make an impact (both for us and the other characters throughout the film). But most people will come for the draw of Frances McDormand as the grieving yet fiery mother Mildred Hayes, and the racist cop Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell. Both give astonishing performances, as McDormand is darkly funny, yet steely in her resolve to see justice for her daughter’s untimely demise while Rockwell’s Dixon is just a racist idiot that one can’t help but root for that he gets what’s coming to him. And while many will say that he does, others will say he doesn’t as the film is content to let the punishment Dixon receives be the end-all-be-all. The films racial and identity politics are iffy to say the least, especially in its treatment of black and LGBTQ individuals. It preaches one thing and disregards another, which could leave some audience members frustrated. I admit to ignoring that completely as I thought the film wasn’t about that, but the characters. And while I look back and feel that maybe there is an explanation that should be more justifiably earned, it doesn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the film. Ultimately it does ask whether some people can be forgiven for who and what they are, and it doesn’t entirely answer that question itself. Maybe it’s asking the viewer to, but then maybe it’s not. However, one feels at the end (this an ending that may leave some cold), Three Billboards is a very fine drama with some of todays best acting their asses off, and it wasn’t to be missed.

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

A Star Wars film being within my top ten films of the year is always a very distinct possibility. I’m not sure I fully expected it to crack my top five, and definitely not for the reasons I expected it to. Rian Johnson’s eighth Star Wars film in the Skywalker saga is for what could be the first time in the franchise history as “Not your grandads Star Wars”. I mean I expected at minimum a decent Star Wars flick. What I did not expect was one so fundamentally different than the others in almost every way. Most thought walking into this that it would be in some (Or many) respects, a remix of Empire Strikes Back. And in in some ways it is. But in the most minimal of ways. Does the Resistance put up a potential last stand on a planet while the First Order brings the hammer down on them? Yeah. Does our newly minted hero that is strong with the Force go to a far-off planet to train with a master? Yep. Is there a twist? You betcha. But what The Last Jedi does so well is that it gives these familiar inklings and set ups, and then completely refutes them at almost every turn. All of the old rules are practically thrown out of the window and its universally for the better. You want Luke Skywalker to be a badass? You may get it, but not in a way you expect. You want lightsaber fights? You’ll get one, just not the way you thought (and its hands down one of the best fights in the franchise). A vocal minority of fans have ragged on the movie because it doesn’t equal up to the last two years of fan theories they’ve made for themselves. For that I feel sorry for them. But what we have in its stead is something far greater than we could ever imagine. For the first time in a long time, Star Wars feels special again and not just because of what they do, but also what they don’t. Star Wars has been around for forty years now, and since Empire, it has become a series dedicated to one bloodline that determines the fate of all. But now that seems to be over. What happens next is anyone’s guess and were it not for this being a middle entry, I would have gone off the rails and thought this was the end of the trilogy. But it’s not and I don’t envy J.J. Abrams herculean task of trying to top this entry. The end for the sequel trilogy is more than a year away, but for the first time I have no real idea what to expect. For the first time we have a Star Wars movie to rival Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars came back with The Force Awakens, but it takes a whole new direction with The Last Jedi.

3. War for The Planet of The Apes

This series for all it has done right, will never get the praise it deserves. At least not from the Oscars. What it has done time and time again visually is nothing short of phenomenal. What Andy Serkis brought to the table as Caesar and what Matt Reeves did with these last two entries deserves nothing but the highest respect. But the Oscars won’t recognize that. They won’t see the legend that Andy Serkis created with Caesar and how he saved his people. How he thrived alongside them when things were at their absolute worst. After a devastating loss, Caesar is out for blood and he’s going to hunt down Woody Harrelson’s unnamed Colonel, the man responsible for his tragedy. In this final entry of Caesar’s story, we get Caesar’s mythification of how he became this legend among his people centuries later, and what that means for his people down the line. We get Woody Harrelson killing it as the villain, one whose backstory is probably the most tragic of all, yet it never takes away from the monster he has become. Michael Giacchino brings his A-game once again with a score that will haunt you long after the credits roll. The themes and allegories that run throughout the film are a gut punch in master filmmaking, and its something I hope director Matt Reeves takes with him in making the new Batman film. Caesar’s story comes to a triumphant end, and whether they continue making more after this remains to be seen, but whatever happens this is one of the best sci-fi trilogies to have ever been made, and it should be noted that it was never given the love it deserved when the time came to recognize it.

NOTE: Some will think that my final two entries are cheats in their numbering. Some of you may be right. The rest may be wrong. Truth is I don’t know because I debated time and time again which to choose and I simply couldn’t. So, recognize that these two flip-flop as number one or two constantly and both deserve the top spot. So, without further hesitation:

1 or 2. Blade Runner 2049

A sequel to the sci-fi cult hit Blade Runner should not exist. In no way whatsoever. How exactly does one top Ridley Scott’s 1982 moody masterpiece? A film where Harrison Ford walks down the futuristic rain-soaked streets of Los Angeles in 2019, hunting down escaped Replicants? Well according to 2049’s director Denis Villeneuve, you jump thirty years to the future, hire Hans Zimmer (to replace the now late, great Johann Johannsson), hire Roger Deakins and Harrison Ford, and BOOM. You have a movie that now rivals the other in how damn good it is, while also not afraid to reexamine what makes us human, and what doesn’t. This is the most gorgeous film from all of last year, bar none. It also has what will go down as one of my favorite soundtracks ever. Zimmer did what I thought was impossible and topped Vangelis classic electronic score. No film has ever given me the reaction this did (my girlfriend and I walked quietly for about ten minutes in the rain-soaked city before we finally divulged how much we loved the film). And it is all the better for it. It’s a crime that the both the general movie going public and the Oscars have failed to giver this film the due it so desperately deserves. In doing so it joins its predecessor in being a critical darling but a commercial failure. That I can never forgive, and it proves that ultimately, we do not deserve what a masterclass film this is and will continue to be fifty years from now. To say any more would spoil how utterly captivating this film is. So, with that I say go watch it. Go watch it on the biggest screen you can find and don’t look back. Thank me later.

1 or 2. Get Out

I have the distinct feeling that if you ask anyone what the most important film of 2017 is both culturally, commercially, and critically, the odds of it being Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is pretty fucking high. For a first timer, Get Out is an outstanding piece of filmmaking. For a first-time black director, Get Out is a ridiculously astounding achievement. For it to be both of those things while being the highest profiting film of 2017 and to have the accolades it does is nothing short of a damn miracle. This is the film of 2017. The perfect film in an era where Donald Trump is the fucking President of the United states (writing that makes me hurt). It is the perfect film for all those racist people you know who say shit like “I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could”. It was the perfect film for me, a black man who has recently started dating a white woman and now can endlessly make fun of her about this film (while also being just a little bit careful of her as well). In simplest terms, Jordan Peele made a movie about a black guy meeting his girlfriends parents. Who can’t relate to the anxiety that comes from meeting your loved ones parents for the first time? No one. That’s who. Get Out  is a film that endlessly sums up many of black folks encounters not just with openly racist white people, but also the subtle ones. The ones that say “I have a Black Friend”.  It’s a film for white audiences to take a step back a reexamine their racist crap that may or may not be overt. It’s also just really fucking good. It’s ridiculously tense, followed by laugh out loud funny moments by the films comedic liaison Lil Rey Howery. Don’t believe the hype of it being a “social thriller”, this is a horror movie through and through and it’s going to be looked back at decades from now as one of the all-time greats. I guarantee that the last few minutes of the film will have you holding your breath as most audience members will truly recognize what it means to be black in America. Truly Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is one for the ages and he is now the one to watch and see what happens next.

That’s it folks. That’s my list. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment down below and don’t be afraid to @ me on Twitter. Enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Max’s Favorite Films of 2017

    1. I’ll admit I originally had it lower on the list. I never would have thought that an Alien film would challenge me. In my opinion it’s definitely one of the smartest films of last year.

      Liked by 1 person

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