Published on January 23rd, 2018 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2017
Every year, we get the best writers and film critics in our circle, both professional and amateur, to give you their best and worst movies.
Every year, we like to round up the best writers and film critics in our circles, both professional and amateur, to give you a list of their best and worst movies. We love film and we love to talk about it endlessly and share our opinions with others.
It’s worth noting that while we have contributors in Vancouver, Toronto, New York, and even Paris, a good chunk of our contributors live in the middle of nowhere (at least, in terms of film releases), so many of them haven’t had a chance to see things like the new Haneke film or Phantom Thread. We start to see a lot of the smaller and more critically acclaimed films in the first few months of each new year.
For all their effort and time, we thank and salute the writers, critics, and film lovers, both amateur and professional, that took the time this year. Hopefully it engages you with joy (at movies you also loved), rage (at movies you hated and you can’t believe that guy liked that!), or just gives you some good recommendations for your own viewing.
Hey ho, let’s go. Here are your best movies of the year!
Dave Scaddan – The Feedback Society
Best: T2: Trainspotting 2
This well-aged sequel managed to avoid being piled with the likes of The Two Jakes and Godfather III, and in my opinion, pulled off a near miracle. By maintaining the feel of the original and yet extending the characters and narrative to new places, Danny Boyle gets many things right in this movie. The cast teems with actors who’ve all become better since their youths — most notably Ewen Bremner as Spud Murphy, whose role is the lynchpin of T2. Many Irvine Welsh novels have been made into mediocre movies, but Boyle has a knack for the wry twist of desperation that Welsh evokes.
Honourable Mention: Wonder Woman
I don’t often give more than a “good” to a superhero movie, but WW was great. The delicate dance of making Gal Gadot both an inspirational force and a sex symbol is handled masterfully by Patty Jenkins, and the Themyscura section is a great first act. Think about how many of these comic book hero movies hack their way through the origin like a chainsaw through pumpkin pie — Wonder Woman establishes the hero with great action and storytelling — a truly memorable tribute.
(You can find Dave’s Best Music of 2017 here).
Mike Fisher – The Saskatchewan Expo (SaskExpo), The Mike Fisher Show
Best: A tie! Coco, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2017 wasn’t a phenomenal year at the theatre. Looking back over the year’s releases, I was struck by the small amount of films that actually made a strong impression on me. In another twelve months filled with sequels, franchise and superhero movies, two movies really stood out. I’m having trouble choosing between them, so I’ve decided to declare a tie between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Pixar’s Coco. I realize that these movies wouldn’t normally be mentioned in the same sentence, but they were important to me in the same way — by presenting unique, important messages wrapped up in engaging stories. Three Billboards is dark, unpleasant, and hard to watch at times, but ultimately delivers a message of hope, asking us to believe that redemption is ultimately possible.
Coco is beautiful, bright, fun, and dives deeper than you might expect, all the while challenging us to question the ever-prevalent message that we should always Chase Our Dreams. I found myself thinking about these films for days and weeks afterwards, and in the current age of cinema, that borders on the miraculous.
Honourable mention: Logan
Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, Dunkirk…there were a few movies I really loved this year, but I have a special place in my heart for the movie Logan. Deadpool paved the (current) way for R-rated comic book movies, but Logan delivered far more. In creating a noir film that dealt with aging and death, featuring real performances with character depth that most of the Marvel machine is sadly missing, Logan was worlds more than violence and F-bombs, it was everything the other X-Men movies weren’t. A very close second for honourable mention was Wonder Woman, which was fun, well-written, exciting, and took great strides towards retiring the myth that people won’t want to watch a female-led comic book movie.
Worst Movie: Ghost in the Shell
There was serious competition when it came to disappointments in 2017, but the special honour for worst of the year goes to Ghost in the Shell. White-washed, boring, and ultimately a huge mess, Ghost in the Shell didn’t even remotely resemble the fantastic manga and anime that it was supposed to be based on. The worst part of failures like this is the wasted opportunity for something truly special.
Callen Diedrichs – Filmmaker, The Roxy Theatre
Best: Childhood of a Leader
How the debut film of a 27-year old American actor captured not just the style of European masters like Visconti and Haneke, but the thematic and emotional gravitas as well, is beyond me. But the artistic merits of the film are equaled by the unfortunate relevance of the story: a sociopathic rich boy on the path to becoming a fascist demagogue.
Honourable mention(s): T2: Trainspotting, Bladerunner 2049, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Much to my surprise, there are three big (well, from kinda big to huge) budget sequels among my favourites this year: T2: Trainspotting, Bladerunner 2049, and The Last Jedi. All of them received wildly mixed reviews, and indeed all three are sprawling, flawed, and occasionally problematic (again, from kinda to significantly). But rather than just coast on nostalgia, they subverted it by taking risks with the source material in ways that more often than not paid off artistically and emotionally. Finally, they all feature middle-aged men taking stock of their dubious legacies and realizing that maybe the best course of action is to just get out of the way.
Nathan Raine – Vice, The Feedback Society
Best: Good Time
You know those horribly embarrassing, forward-tripping stumbles, when after losing your balance, every attempted lunge forward to self-correct equilibrium only adds momentum to your inevitable face-plant into shame and the pavement? Like this, for example. This sort of bad trip is captured in the Safdie brother’s Good Time, a film that is essentially one long, anxiety-stricken chase movie about a bad decision compounded. But beneath its pulp and abrasiveness and urgency, the film is unusually sensitive. The Safdies address social injustice and exploitation of the disadvantaged without being political or assertive about it — in fact, you almost miss it within the nonstop hum of panic and depravity.
Their main character, Connie [Robert Pattinson, unquestionably his career best] is a sort of tragic anti-hero, one that has few redeeming qualities apart from a tireless love for his disabled brother; a love which fuels, and might even justify, all of his actions. The movie plunges to a stop in what is the most impacting final scene I saw all year, the Safdies crafting together loss, passage, and hope in a beautifully simple moment. And Good Time also confirms Buddy Duress, with screen presence up the wazoo, as the most compelling young[ish] actor to come around in years [see Heaven Knows What for further evidence]. If John Cassavetes, as a young man, was inclined to make a raw, compassionate crime thriller, it might’ve come out as something very much like Good Time.
Honourable Mention(s): The Square, Paterson, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Loveless, The Florida Project
The Square – is a sprawling satire of the contemporary art world. It manages to be hilarious while a biting social critique of our lack of humanity, assumed class privilege, and the pretensions that pollute the art world. In its most memorable scene, Ostlund seems to be suggesting, among other things, humanity’s devolution into animalism. Ostlund might be the greatest satirist working today.
Paterson – almost makes you feel ashamed for the colourless way we often see the world. Jarmusch’s career-long obsession with finding meaning through passage is perhaps most literally examined in Paterson. A poetic film that encourages you to discover beauty and value in life’s seemingly mundane details.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer – is unbelievably disorienting. Lanthimos’ use of sound, and his now signature dead pan, barely-human dialogue create a sustained menace, even if you haven’t a clue from where it comes. It’s challenging, and at times disturbing, but Lanthimos makes movies to distort your view of the world, and in that it certainly succeeds.
Loveless – is quietly devastating. Zvyaginstev presents a Russian wasteland, too harsh for sensitivity or love to exist [I’m sure that there’s a stab at Putin somewhere in here]. It’s not a fun ride, but my gosh is it a mesmerizing one.
The Florida Project – has no agenda, which might sound contrived, but considering the subject matter, is nothing short of a masterstroke. Poor children with reckless or altogether absent parents, running around in the [very mauve] housing projects in Southern Florida, just on the fringes of Disney World. Sounds like a recipe for nausea inducing sensationalism or sentimentality, but it’s neither. Baker is impossibly non-judgmental of his subjects, interested instead at looking at joy and heartbreaks that come with being a kid.
Worst: Brawl in Cell Block 99
If the essence of an Affliction t-shirt could be embodied in a movie, it would be Brawl in Prison Number Whatever. It’s only merit, unless you’re infatuated with iron cross head-tattoos [‘infatuated’ might be too weak a word for the obsession Zohler has with the back of Vince Vaughn’s head] is that it has constant brutal violence, if you’re into that sort of thing. Otherwise, this movie is atrocious. Its dialogue is relentlessly groan-worthy. Its full-hearted aspirations at being not ‘just’ an exploitation movie but an engaging social and relationship drama are pathetically dumb [the principle couple quickly solves extremely serious marital problems by agreeing to have a baby]. And the “brawl” teased in the title, which takes about two hours to get to, is not half as interesting as the opening scene brawl between Vaughn and his car.
Jody Cason – Shaw’s Punch TV
Best – Uh…TV?
2017 was the year TV gave the cinema a beat-down. Hooray! The best content on screens arrived in the comfort of my own home. Sure, I still went out and tried to be entertained, but nothing the Cineplex offered was better than Twin Peaks, Better Call Saul, or The Handmaid’s Tale. Even the best offerings at the movie theatre were just comic books for those too lazy to read: Wilson, Wonder Woman, and Thor: Ragnarok.
The TKO for 2017 and the most thought provoking thing I watched came in just under the wire on December 29th; Black Mirror reminded me that our consumption of entertainment is a meaningless distraction that feeds into our hypocrisy and fear. Nothing at the movie theatre made me consider stockpiling water or measuring my windows for plywood. Which, after watching Black Mirror on Netflix, I was conveniently at home to do.
Jorge Ignacio Castillo – Planet S Magazine, Prairie Dog Magazine, The Canadian Crew, Vancouver Film Critics Circle
Editor’s Note: Jorge has given us his top ten for 2017
Best: Call Me by Your Name
- Call Me By Your Name: This movie feels like summer. It succeeds at portraying a fleeting romance bound to define the characters’ lives while keeping the drama at bay. Wonderfully written, perfectly acted, impeccably directed. Will become a milestone in gay cinema.
- The Florida Project: Director Sean Baker has a voice worth listening to. His depiction of poverty in the United States is devastating without reveling in it.
- mother!: If you didn’t get it, watch it again until you do. People who want more than superheroes in their movies should have supported it.
- A Ghost Story: A delicate meditation on eternity. How audacious is that.
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer: I both laughed or covered my face in horror during the climatic scene. Not a small accomplishment.
- Lady Bird: As coming of age movies go, few are more realistic than this one: Mothers and daughters not jiving, teens being jerks for the sake of it, and the role of economics in shaping a kid’s future.
- The Shape of Water: Guillermo Del Toro finally delivers the movie he has been gearing up to make all these years. His beauty-and-the-beast tale is both timely (fear of the “other”) and timeless.
- Wind River: Taylor Sheridan’s nail biter works as a thriller and as a fierce indictment of the US treatment of First Nation communities today. The final face-off justifies the entire movie by itself.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Bo-hoo, so Rian Johnson didn’t deliver the expected answers nor he rehashed The Empire Strikes Back? Good! Now, grow up.
- Good Time: Robert Pattinson does more for his career in 90 minutes of pure adrenaline than in those middle-of-the-road Cronenberg high-brow borefests.
Hank Cruise – Punch TV, Hank & Kelso (@hankandkelso)
Best: Baby Driver
In Baby Driver, Edgar Wright delivers us a film that is more than the sum of its parts. At its core, the film is a heist movie featuring characters with one-word names trying to convince themselves that they can be team players for just one more job. The title character, Baby, is in fact a getaway driver who thinks he finished his career as a criminal only to be forced to drive again when the life of his beloved Debora is threatened.
Yes, we have seen this plot 100001 times before. What truly makes this film unique is the attention to detail, the lack of CGI (they used over 150 cars!) and the way that the music, along with Baby’s ipod and earphones, were used more as characters than a soundtrack and set pieces. Almost every gunshot and character movement is in time with the beat of the music playing, a song is almost always playing in the background and when there is silence you can hear ringing in the background from Baby’s tinnitus…yes, the getaway driver has hearing trouble. Music is involved in every part of this movie both audibly and visually. The lyrics to Harlem Shuffle are written on walls and signs as Baby drives by listening to the song and the title of the film is a Simon & Garfunkel song. Overall, Baby Driver is predictable in plot but amazing, creative and entertaining in every other way possible. An unexpected treat in 2017.
Honourable mention(s): I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, Darkest Hour, The Little Hours, Lemon, The Big Sick, Wind River, Call My By Your Name, Okja, Lady Bird.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore because it is a genre blend dipped in awesome sauce, Darkest Hour for Gary Oldman, The Little Hours for its audacity, Lemon for its originality, The Big Sick for the feels, Wind River for its gripping, tense and heartbreaking story, Call Me by Your Name for its honesty, Okja for the manatee-faced super-pig and Lady Bird because…her name is Lady Bird!
I went to see movies like Geostorm, Transformers and The Emoji Movie, knowing they were going to be awful and that is okay. The worst film of 2017 is Suburbicon because the poster told me that there were great actors in this film written by stellar wordsmiths and directed by dreamy George Clooney. The trailer was intriguing but it was all lies. And that is not okay! This film really dropped the ball. Shame on you, George. Shame.
Dan Nicholls – The Feedback Society, Roundhouse Radio 98.3 Vancouver
Best: A Ghost Story
Tucked away in the middle of the summer blockbuster onslaught slept one quiet little indie with nary a single superhero or CGI robot. It looked unassuming but it knocked my brain and heart around as if it were an introspective 3D spectacular: David Lowery’s magnificent A Ghost Story starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara is one for the ages. It might be cheap to say that it will haunt me for the rest of my days but it absolutely will have a permanent residence in my consciousness. It’s as intimate as it is vast, as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. A Ghost Story is 2017’s top masterpiece.
Honorable mention: Phantom Thread
The second best film I saw in 2017 is one that transcends year-end rankings, tidy plot summaries, and easily marketed trailers. Phantom Thread might appear to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s quietest film but it’s as intellectually vibrant and stimulating as any of the more showy pictures of the writer-director’s past. It’s artful, high-class cinema of the most delectable kind.
Honorable honorable mention: Logan
Though it undeniably breaks the mold for today’s ubiquitous superhero genre, Logan is a towering filmmaking achievement in any context.
Worst: Transformers: The Last Knight
I take no pleasure in piling on the hate for Michael Bay, but good god is Transformers: The Last Knight ever awful. Bay’s films have been incoherent, jumbled, and brain dead in the past but this fifth entry in the franchise simply takes the cake. Where once there was amusement (come at me bro, I maintain that 2007’s Transformers is a blast of popcorn fun) there remains now only disdain. The filmmaking is inexcusably inept for a production with such a large budget and scope. I got a legitimate headache trying to sit through this one.
Lauren Allen – The Feedback Society
Many people will disagree on this, but this movie was by far the best of 2017. The emotional journey it takes you on is surprising. I found myself on the edge of my seat for almost the entire thing. For the first ten minutes, I thought I had it all figured out. Then, a few seconds after my theory was concrete in my mind, something would come up to completely change it. The movie represents so much, and while director Darren Aronofsky is very open about what everything in the movie is supposed to represent, there is one thing that he refuses to clarify and I have been frustrated by not knowing it since the very end of the film. Never before have I left a movie thinking, “I need to research this thing.” I spent days watching interviews and opinions on YouTube. For me, this movie was the largest cinematic experience of the year, and the intrigue it sowed in me was what makes it the best. I cannot recommend enough that you see it yourself and come to your own conclusions, but be warned that there is some extremely graphic imagery in there that will haunt you for a good long while.
Honourable Mentions: Get Out, Coco
Representation matters on our screens and this year took us a step in the right direction. Jordan Peele’s ominous and funny story brings aspects of racism to light that we don’t often see considered on screen, such as the fetishization of black bodies. With stellar performances and a fantastic script, this movie was one of the highlights of my year.
Another great example of representation was Coco, from Pixar/Disney. The movie begins with the Disney theme (When You Wish Upon a Star) played by a mariachi band. From there on a rich celebration of the Mexican traditions surrounding Dio de Los Muertos feed the story about an individual family. The movie is beautifully and richly coloured, and also happens to touch on a theme we are seeing more and more in real life: celebrities not always being what they appear.
Worst: Song to Song
For two hours of my life, this film transformed me into a full-bodied eye roll. I was bored, I was irritated, and I was even offended sometimes. There are some great laughs in the movie — but you can tell they weren’t meant to be funny. It is the story of tortured artists (because there aren’t enough of those) who are haunted by the fact that they’re extremely wealthy and attractive, which is of interest to pretty much no one, and is possibly only relatable to the people actually in the movie. It’s such a shame that this great cast was wasted on a ridiculous and unmoving story, whose biggest question seems to be, “wait, does Michael Fassbender even know how to have sex?” and whose most memorable line is about a blue bug that we never see, playing as a voice over on top of footage of rolling in the grass. This movie made a lot of promises and delivered on none of them, and was cringe-worthy at best.
Craig Silliphant – The Feedback Society, CTV, CKOM/CJME, CBC, CFCR’s Reel to Reel, Shaw’s Punch TV
Best: Blade Runner 2049, The Florida Project
At the time of this writing, it’s a toss up for me. I need to see these two films again to see which ones will win the grand jostle for top spot. So I’m going to take a liberty here and choose two films.
The Florida Project – Sean Baker’s had my favourite film of 2015 with Tangerine (and the one before that, Starlet, was a good early indication of his talent). Sean Baker continues to amaze and show us that he can capture the human spirit, while not clinging to heavy plotting or gimmicky devices. We get snapshots of people living on the fringe, and by the end of the film, we feel we know them. He puts forth a film that is deeply sad, but also wonderfully uplifting at the same time.
Blade Runner: 2049 – The older I get, the more I dig the cold sci-fi of the original Blade Runner, in all its myriad of cuts. Denis Villeneuve is one of the best filmmakers out there right now (oh, please, let him make Dune and let it be great). His take on Blade Runner stays true to the original, but also carves out its own path, to become its own thing. Blade Runner 2049 is a haunting meditation on what it means to be human, and maybe even whether that’s a good thing or not.
And while it’s long, it’s never boring — there is a deep story there, perhaps deeper than the original, the sound design is insane, and there’s always something sublime to look at up there on the screen. If Roger Deakins doesn’t win an Oscar for his cinematography with this, then the Academy is more of a farce than we originally thought.
Honourable Mention: T2: Trainspotting 2
I keep a list in my phone so I can remember what I loved when this time of year comes. There are all sorts of movies in there, from the obvious ones like Get Out, A Ghost Story, It Comes at Night, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Personal Shopper, Good Time, and a few comic book movies to boot. There were lesser seen gems that could make my Top Ten, like Wakefield, The Little Hours, the excellent Netflix documentary about method acting, Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, and a little seen thriller from down under called Hounds of Love (that reminds me a bit of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (shudder)). But if you held me down and tickled me (uh, please don’t), I’d have to say that T2: Trainspotting 2 was holding my top spot for a good chunk of the year. I have heard mixed reviews on this movie, but I think it speaks to people of a certain age. I don’t mean that condescendingly and I don’t mean that it relies on nostalgia like so much stuff does these days. As Dave alluded to, T2 takes those characters we loved in our youths and uses them as a springboard to tell a story about getting old. A story about regrets, being too old to start over, and of course, about our oldest friends.
I saw a few stinkers, some you wouldn’t probably know (Beyond the Gates) and some you might (Ghost in the Shell, Gaga: 5 ft 2), but the one that stuck with me the most, made me upset, made me shout at the TV about how stupid it was, was the Sean Bean flick Drone, about a secretive father who runs afoul of a mysterious Pakistani businessman. It’s an after school special that confuses being incomprehensible with being enigmatic. It confuses idiotic or inane racially charged or political dialogue for profundity. It’s shot like a TV movie from 30 years ago. It takes a glacial hour and 11 minutes (believe me, I was keeping track by then) before anything really happens, and sort of limps over the finish line with a ho hum conclusion. Thinking about it made me mad all over again. The things I do for you people.
Tyler Baptist – CFCR’s Reel to Reel, Bad Monster Films, Videonomicon
Best: The Square
Ruben Östlund’s The Square was the best thing I saw this past year, a tour de force from one of the most interesting filmmakers of recent years (Östlund’s previous film Force Majeure was also on my year end Best Of list last year). The film follows Christian (Claes Band), an art curator at a prestigious contemporary art museum in Stockholm who’s working on the unveiling of the museum’s latest exhibit, The Square. When events and circumstances start affecting his life, both personal and professional, order becomes chaos and chaos becomes order.
The Square is a scathingly funny film, that like its principal backdrop is presented in a series of set-pieces or exhibitions that comment on art, life, love, entitlement, the state of the world, hypocrisy, and how redemption isn’t always enough. The film says so much in it’s 2 and a half over run time that you’ll be talking about it for days and features some of the most daring, powerful, and engrossing scenes in cinema in the last year, specifically the scene where at the opening gala dinner, a performance art piece doesn’t – or does – go as planned. Or the scene where Elisabeth Moss discusses the emotions and individual attachments to a romantic encounter while an art installation of falling chairs continues on in the background throughout the entire scene. The Square is purely brilliant.
Honourable Mentions: Casting JonBenet, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Love Witch, Endless Poetry, It Comes at Night, 20th Century Women, Lowlife, Good Time, November
Worst: The Honor Farm
Karen Skloss’s The Honor Farm was the worst film I saw this past year. This will be spoiler heavy, so if you don’t want to know why and still want to watch the movie stop reading here, otherwise here goes mostly everything wrong with the film. The biggest problem I have with The Honor Farm is its forced way it tries to subvert expectations. If you’ve seen the trailer it’s marketed like a horror film, and it starts off as such with a group of teenagers (aka cast members clearly in their late 20s playing people 10 years younger than they look – something that always takes me out of a movie) on their prom night who ditch to do mushrooms in a spooky abandoned mental hospital or jail or whatever. They encounter a woman that seems to have been abducted by some men in what looks like a Satanic ritual. But nope, the supposed kidnappers turn out to be just the town dentist, his friend, and a woman in a consensually kinky encounter, which also involves a goat sacrifice.
The movie as a whole is actually a bland and very sloppy coming of age movie. All the horror elements are imagined or a side effect of the psychedelics trip (which also cinematically looks like what someone thinks a drug trip is like). Nothing pays off in this mumblecore-inspired disaster, which is cheap and boring. Its reveals and supposed closure results in nothing important or consequential, especially when you don’t care about any of its characters or plot.