best film: Dunkirk is a masterstroke and landmark film in the history of film editing. Nolan not only handles the three narratives in a completely distinctive and inventive way (here it may not be Rashoman or Pulp Fiction exactly but in the same class) but it’s also edited in scene (with countless wonderful manipulations of space and time) as well as any film by Spielberg or Woo for maximum effect. If you throw in that it’s all handsomely mounted on gorgeous 70mm photography where Nolan’s dedication to analog filmmaking and scope pays off greatly in the mise-en-scene you have a giant “M”- Masterpiece.
most underrated: Blade Runner 2049 sits at #15 on the TSPDT list for 2017 and I’m at #2 here below. In retrospect, we shouldn’t be surprised that this sequel, like its predecessor, would be underrated upon first release. The set design and Roger Deakins’ Oscar-winning cinematography are the best of the year, but the narrative and performances (led by an incredibly strong Ryan Gosling) are virtually peerless as far as 2017 goes as well. It’s a visual stunner and will age very well- I’m confident in that.
most overrated: I’m an admirer of Sean Baker’s Florida Project (though I’m a bigger admirer of Tangerine– his previous film) but it’s #3 on TSPDT and after one viewing I’m no higher than about 13th. I had a problem with the ending which seems so at adds with the neo-realism-like style and form set forth in the entirety of the film prior to the ending. Perhaps I’ll have a different read with a second viewing.
gem I want to spotlight: To me the break-out directorial star(s) of 2017 were the Safdie brothers’ with Good Time. The film is drenched in style. They have a penchant for work with close-ups (apparent right from the opening), a brilliant score that could be written by John Carpenter himself, fantastic editing, and a great use of neon light in their mise-en-scene.
trends and notables: Things are always fluid but as of right now I have Dunkirk as slightly better than Inception to reign as Nolan’s greatest work. Even if that doesn’t stick Dunkirk changes the narrative on Nolan and gives him multiple masterpieces this decade (and at this point arguably 3-4 overall) with three films as the best of their respective year (dark knight in 2008 included). That puts him in a very rarefied air of company. Only slightly less impressive is Denis Villeneuve who has back to back years with a top 10 film, 6 archiveable films this decade already and three top 10 films since 2015. That’s remarkable and I’m certain that Blade Runner 2049 is his best work to date so it’s a great time to celebrate him here. While these two make common appearances in the top 10, as do del Toro, PT Anderson and Sofia Coppola, we have space here for three fresh new American filmmakers in the top 10 (Peele, Gerwig and Safdie) which is great as well. Time will tell if this is Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film or not but even if it isn’t, with how infrequently he works it’s worth noting his fantastic work here again with PT. Also, although I’m not one for getting too sentimental about stuff like this, I think it should be noted how enjoyable it was to see the great Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks acting together for the first time in The Post. They’re both so reversed and are national treasures already, that it seems like it just had to have happened before 2017 but it hasn’t. Lastly, and I’ll make it below here in the best performance section but it’s the continuation of quite a great run for Ryan Gosling. With DiCaprio taking a nap since 2015 I think there’s a strong case to be made for Gosling as the actor of the decade so far. He’s not quite on Gosling’s level but Michael Stuhlbarg should be praised and noted for his work in Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water and The Post—quite a trio of films in one year.
best performance male: I’ve gone back and forth here between Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread. I think if forced to choose I’d go with the great master and his fastidiously studied performance but Gosling is in the slightly better film and he has several scenes that pack an absolute wallop as well. Behind those two leaders I think I’d go with Daniel Kaluuya’s boundless work in Get Out as the third best performance of the year. He’s intelligent confidence personified in most of the film but can also show his range and the variation in the important performance for the “sunken place” key scenes as well. Lastly, and I have only four mentions thus far here for 2017, I think I’d actually go with Harrison Ford in Blade Runner 2049. He’s better here than he is in the original, more than holds his own in the scenes with Gosling, and gets the final scene, which he absolutely nails, in the year’s second best film.
best performance female: There are four performances here in this category that stand above the rest but I don’t really have discernable order and can’t really pretend like I do. Newcomer to the archives, Vicky Krieps, is as good a place as any to start for her work opposite DDL in Phantom Thread. She holds her own which is why I’m naturally choosing to start with her here. Saoirse Ronan is basically in every scene in Gerwig’s stunning Lady Bird and Sally Hawkins pulls off a brave silent performance in del Toro’s work. Lastly, Margot Robbie gives the best performance of her career in I, Tonya in a film that sort of snuck itself into my top 10.
- Blade Runner 2049
- The Shape of Water
- Phantom Thread
- Good Time
- Call Me By Your Name
- Lady Bird
- I, Tonya
- The Beguiled
- Get Out
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives