I’m not sure I can say that last year was an awesome one for movies. The goal for the movies year in review is to come up with a list of my top 10 films, but the 2017 offerings have me suggesting for you my top five instead.
I’d waited my entire life to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. Once they announced this film, I eagerly watched all the developments, from Gal Gadot being cast as Diana to Patty Jenkins taking the helm as director. I had been disappointed in the offerings that had come before in the DC Extended Universe, and I was terrified that Zack Snyder and his company of canon-blasting nincompoops would ruin the character like they had done with previous DC legends.
Y’all, the film was amazing and stood out from all the other films of the year. Here’s what I wrote back in my June review: “Diana is who we need and want her to be. Director Patty Jenkins knocks it out of the park with this film. Diana’s humanity shines through despite the fact she could break you in two. She’s smart, fierce and compassionate. She’s the first true hero we’ve gotten in the DCEU, and she is glorious.”
“Wonder Woman” was a turning point for the DCEU and introduced a new role model for women of all ages all over the world.
Disney Pixar does such a good job of capturing the attention and hearts of its audience members. “Up,” which came out in 2009, made me ugly cry. (If you’ve seen it, you know why.) I’ve enjoyed their other offerings through the years, but “Coco” was something special.
This story of a little boy following his dreams and discovering his family was delightful. It tugged at our heart strings, and its realism, though an animated film, was fantastic. It wasn’t just a film but a human experience.
You might not be familiar with this one. The film dropped on Netflix and in limited release in a spatter of theaters across the country in November. So, you might not be familiar, but it’s a movie you need to see.
It’s a period piece that follows two farming families, one black and one white, just before, during and after World War II. It is an era defined by racism and poverty in rural America. Jason Mitchell portrays Ronsel, a black man who was good enough to serve his country but not to walk in the front door of a store. Garrett Hedlund is Jamie, a white man whose own war experiences have left him damaged, so he tries to use booze to forget. The two ultimately strike up a friendship that no one seems to understand.
The cast is rounded out by Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke and Jonathan Banks. The film is powerful, acutely observed, emotional and brilliantly made, thanks to director Dee Rees.
This one left me a bit of a wreck. I was just graduating high school when Hugh Jackman took on the role of Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, in the “X-Men” franchise. Over the next 17 years, he played the role in nine movies, concluding with the March release of “Logan.”
The film not only ended the character’s run, but it paid homage to the films that had come before. “Logan” was dark, gritty, crazy violent and everything a send-off to the character needed to be. It was also heartbreaking, and I really wasn’t OK when I left the theater.
“Logan” transcended the “comic book movie” stereotype, mixing western, noir and an intimate character study of one man’s last journey as he struggles through the battle raging inside him. It was the perfect ending to a story nearly two decades in the making.
“The Big Sick”
This film was a bit of a surprise hit for me. I’d heard good things about Kumail Nanjiani’s comedy, but I never made it to theaters to go see it. It’s based on the true story of how Kumail met his now wife and the struggles they went through in making their relationship work. He’s a Pakistani-American whose parents demanded an arranged marriage. She’s a white girl who doesn’t fit the mold. Oh, and she got sick, had to be put into a medically induced coma and almost died. It’s a totally complicated relationship.
The film is delightful in a lot of ways. I don’t know that I think Nanjiani’s funny, but watching his relationship grow with Emily (Zoe Kazan) was absolutely charming. The real magic came in the form of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who played Emily’s parents. They take the film from cute and rom-commy to something far more profound, leaving us with scenes overflowing with heart, humor and depth. They almost single-handedly took this film to the next level.
Obviously, this list is subjective, and there were renowned films that I never got to see, such as Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird.” It’s on my to-do list. And of course, I saw other noteworthy movies this year, such as “Get Out” or “The Shape of Water,” but the five films listed above stood above the rest for me. All of them brought something into my life and resonated on profoundly deep levels. At first glance, they might seem to be different. They create an interesting mosaic though, one that is focused upon acceptance, cultural inclusion, dysfunction, family, friends, life and death, regret and repentance. A lot of these themes were at the forefront of my mind this past year, especially acceptance and cultural inclusion. It’s hard, honestly, not to be drawn toward them when every waking minute is a barrage of negative news events. And, I guess that as I’ve gotten older and learned more about how things work (rather than how I’d like to imagine they do), I’ve begun to consider these things even more. Maybe 2018 will bring me the answers I seek.