Top Films of 2017: Bold, Bleak and Vital Cinema

It was a very difficult year. No other way to put it. 2017 revealed just how much trouble our world is in. Bleak, yes, but hope exists.

Cinema has always been my antidote for processing and trying to understand the contemporary world and how I may think about it – from intimate cultures that I inhabit daily to the lives on the margins, I never dared to see. A film can be used as a platform to amplify voices often silenced, and through this visual medium allow imagination to thrive and diverse directors to show what their truth looks like. The visceral experience of seeing an act in its authentic context is much more impactful than simply hearing or reading about it. My hope for 2018 is that the people in this country and across the world simply shut up, watch and listen.

The films of 2017 succeeded on many levels in my book. By not only informing their work by the current political climate, this year’s talented filmmakers were given opportunities to reach wider audiences with their unique cinematic visions. Some of those great gems found initial success at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival – Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ was an audience hit, and rightfully so, it’s a knockout – but missed opportunities became an underscoring theme this year. Unfortunately, Fox Searchlight’s distribution strategy was poorly tailored for Sundance-sensation Patti Cake$ and its edgy, niche market. Searchlight released the film too wide, way too fast. The heartfelt, coming-of-age drama couldn’t seem to find an audience beyond the film festival circuit, despite an unbelievable central turn from Danielle McDonald as a rapper from NJ trying to break into the industry. Other films, like Dee Rees’ powerfully realized American-epic Mudbound, took the Netflix route (Rees’ artful drama received a massive $12.5 million offer for US and other territory rights). However, the online streaming service opted for a film festival-focused-model and by adding Q + A’s with the cast/crew, the limited theatrical release of Mudbound felt intentional, rather than just a secondhand gesture to the fact that the film will already be streaming online. See! Theatrical spaces and streaming platforms can work together. Plus, Mudbound is stunning. It’s a powerful film that should be seen by many, many people in one room with a massive movie screen.

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A slew of great independent films came from such US film festivals like Sundance, Telluride, New York, BAMcinemaFest, but international festivals like Cannes, Venice, and Toronto added plenty more quality cinema to discover. There were occasional big studio releases that clearly gave creative control to their filmmakers (i.e. DunkirkBlade Runner:2049), but guess what?! Those directors started off their careers making dirt-cheap indies and earned their way to the top, able to have full creative control at major Hollywood studios. It’s independent films that ALWAYS create life-affirming, artful and vital movie experiences. It’s simply a fact at this point that creative freedom is not only essential to creating great cinema but it’s something audiences want to see in multiplexes as well (i.e.  Lady BirdGet Out).

Other notable runner-ups that just missed my Top 10 of 2017 include:

Twin Peaks: The Return; Faces PlacesThe Breadwinner; Pop AyeKediThe BeguiledBeach RatsGraduationThe Killing of a Sacred DeerUnrestDunkirkMarjorie PrimeOkjaThe RiderThe B-SideRawThe Post; The Lost City of Zmother!Whose Streets?Personal Shopper

After watching over 100 films from 2017, here are my picks for the very best 10 of the year (click posters to watch the trailer):

 

10. Good Time |  d. Benny and Josh Safdie  |  A24

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9. Jane |  d. Brett Morgan  |  Abramorama

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8. Lady Macbeth |  d. William Oldroyd  |  Roadside Attractions

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7. Loveless |  d.  Andrey Zvyagintsev  |  Sony Classics

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6. Lady Bird |  d. Greta Gerwig  |  A24

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5. Phantom Thread |  d. Paul Thomas Anderson  | Focus Features

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4. It Comes At Night |  d. Trey Edward Shults  |  A24

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3. The Shape of Water |  d. Guillermo Del Toro  |  Fox Searchlight

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2. The Florida Project |  d. Sean Baker  |  A24

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1. Call Me By Your Name |  d. Luca Guadagnino  | Sony Classics

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I want to thank The Future Project for providing me with the amazing opportunity to learn in the world and empowering me to pursue my dreams. Huge shoutout out to New Directors New Films, BAMcinemaFest, Human Rights Watch Film FestivalNew York Film Festival, and to all the incredible theatrical venues in NYC helping maximize audiences for foreign and American independent films. Going to miss the Lincoln Plaza Cinema – be sure to stop by before they close at the end of January!!

Another great year for cinema. Look out for these films come awards season between January-March. Have a great 2018 and go to the movies!!

– Eden S.

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