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The 10 Best Films of 2017

By Dustin Rowles | Film | December 29, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | December 29, 2017 |

10. Florida Project — In The Florida Project, Sean Baker orchestrates a truly sublime rug-pull. The film is the equivalent of one of those 3-D hidden images from the 90s, where a weird, transfixing picture is revealed after staring for a long time at a Technicolor pattern. Baker draws you in with an upbeat, well observed docu-style movie, but all the while another story is taking place in the background, hidden in the details, the language, the stolen moments. The force of this, the film’s real narrative, can hardly be overstated. — Caspar Salmon


9. Shape of Water — The thing about fairy tales is that they have always been darker than Disney would have us believe. That darkness is necessary to define the light, in fact, and no filmmaker understands that contrast better than Guillermo del Toro. He creates his own fables filled with misfits and monsters, and knows that the true villains are neither. His stories of love, compassion, and hope are shot through with veins of pure horror, and his happy endings come with an often literal sacrifice. If Pan’s Labyrinth was a spiritual successor to The Devil’s Backbone, then I’d argue that del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water, is the spiritual successor to Pan’s. On the surface the differences are apparent: instead of being set around the Spanish Civil War, Water takes place in Cold War-era Baltimore. Instead of a lonely child protagonist, we have Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute janitor working at a high-security lab. But dive below that surface and you’ll see the similarities. Elisa may have outgrown the fantasies that led Pan’s Ofelia into that Labyrinth, but the surreal waterlogged opening shots reveal the magic hiding in Elisa’s dreams. Both characters are on a journey to find their place and their purpose in the world — but how their journeys end depends entirely on how the audience chooses to read the film. — Tori Preston


8. Atomic Blonde — If you can manage to keep up with all the various state agents, double-crossings and motivations, you’ll be in for a treat. This film is like Lorraine’s drink of choice: Stoli, on the rocks. It’s cold and clear and lacks the frills we have come to expect from a summer blockbuster. It goes down smooth, it packs a punch, and it doesn’t let needless calories get in the way of your good time. But it’s gonna leave your stomach churning if you aren’t prepared. I walked out of the theater wanting a cigarette (oh god, Lorraine smokes so much, you guys) and a stiff drink… and I also wanted desperately not to ever get thrown down a stairwell. — Tori Preston


7. Lady BirdLady Bird is a soothing balm. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is like re-reading an old journal entry through a lens of simultaneous criticism and forgiveness, with an outpouring of love and the benefit of distance. It is a female coming-of-age story that is both nostalgic and unflinching, and it will ensnare you deeply in its grasp. In her directorial debut, Gerwig has crafted a film that pulls together experiences that are both undeniably universal (the desire to attend your high school prom, no matter how hackneyed it may seem) and supremely specific (weeping to the Dave Matthews Band song “Crash,” which I can say from firsthand knowledge was a very essential part of female adolescence in the early ’00s), and which tackles issues of youth, class, and sex for which there are no easy answers. Lady Bird is one of the best of the year. — Roxana Hadadi


6. Thor: Ragnarok — Thor has acquitted himself well enough in the two Avengers films, but as a standalone, he never quite found his footing. That all changed when Marvel decided to make another one of their weird, bold directorial choices and go with Taika Waititi to helm the third picture, Thor: Ragnarok. More importantly, they appear to have completely removed any semblance of a leash, and allowed Waititi to run wild with his unique, batty, and utterly delightful sense of style and characterization. The result is a complete departure from the sturm und drang of the previous films — Very Serious Films that were peppered with healthy doses of humor but also an excess of melodrama — and instead it’s the complete opposite. Thor: Ragnarok is instead an action-comedy film, more akin to James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy than anything else. I don’t know why it’s the intergalactic heroes who get to have the most fun, but goddamn is it fun. — TK


5. Colossal — Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is the kind of movie that critics will appreciate, but that mainstream audiences will hate, because it refuses to conform with expectations. The marketing campaign, such as it was, suggested that Colossal was a quirky indie romcom with a sci-fi monster element. It is not that, although it is an indie film, and it does have a sci-fi element. It may feel like it’s headed in the direction you believe it’s heading, but it is not. Part of the success of Colossal, however, relies on the jarring subversion of expectations, so to say what it actually is would rob viewers of the surprise. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for an Anne Hathaway/Jason Sudeikis romantic comedy — and will only be satisfied with an Anne Hathaway/Jason Sudeikis comedy — then you should look elsewhere. Colossal, however, is a wholly worthwhile endeavor, buoyed by the sort of strong performance we expect from Anne Hathaway and a sharp turn from Sudeikis, who you may not be surprised to learn plays a very convincing asshole. The movie works not only as a metaphor for alcoholism, but it’s also a surprisingly smart film about abusive relationships. I’ll also save you the effort of needing to watch Colossal a second time by just saying that the unsettling feelings that Sudeikis’ character provokes early on are warranted. — Dustin Rowles


4. Big Sick — All in all, The Big Sick is darling. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan create an onscreen couple as charismatic and compelling as Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. The humor is warm yet whip-smart, playfully poking at modern dating, race, and one really risky but hysterical 9/11 joke. Those who know the joys of Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily Gordon (upon whose relationship the film is based) will be satisfied, as they’ve channeled their enviable and geeky romance into a quirky love story that folds in The X-Files, Night of the Living Dead and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Those who are new to them will be easily enchanted by their script that’s big-hearted and hilarious, a cast that’s all-around charming, and a happy ending that’ll have you grinning so hard it hurts. — Kristy Puchko


3. Mudbound — An American masterpiece from filmmaker Dee Rees, Mudbound is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Rachel Morrison, has an evocative score from Tamar-Kali Brown, and boasts a fantastic ensemble with Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, and Carey Mulligan. It is also a reminder of the brutality of American history, of the weight of generations of institutionalized bondage and familial racism, and of the possibility of love as survival. It is worthy of being discussed alongside The Grapes of Wrath and Giant and The Deer Hunter and Days of Heaven and other classics that analyze our relationship with the land and the promise of the American dream. — Roxana Hadadi


2. LoganLogan is as stripped-down and simplified as its title, a clean break with much of the foofery and gobbledygook of the current, often-confusing slate of films. We don’t have to worry about alternate timelines or ancient enemies. Instead, it’s simply about Logan, the man, who he was and who he’s become, whether he has any purpose left in this life. Logan may well be the best of all of the X-Men movies to-date. It’s certainly the most elegantly executed. Taking the character almost entirely out of its most recent adventures works very much in its favor, and Mangold deftly and beautifully captures the beauty and violence and complexity of its characters and their various struggles. It’s a deeply intimate film, peppered with some gasp-inducing violence, capturing all of the best parts of one of our most memorable characters. If this is to be Hugh Jackman’s final performance as Logan, it’s good to see that he saved the best for last. — TK


1. Get Out — The marvelous thing about Get Out is that it feeds into our darkest (natch) fears, devours our stereotypes and our tropes, and spits out something wholly unique, terrifying, and entertaining as hell. I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that I’ve never seen a film anything like this one. And we are better for its existence. Get Out is probably going to be one of the best films you see this year. It’s going to make you laugh. It’s going to scare you. And most importantly, it’s going to make you think about race in new ways. It’s a riveting and intense horror movie, a terrific (and timely) piece of racial and societal satire, and just a great fucking film. — TK

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.