Each August, as I start to put together my annual fall movie preview, I start to get excited about what’s to come: the year’s big award contenders. No matter how the year has been up until that point, that fall preview usually gives me a little bit of hope. But I’ll admit that not even my preview of this year’s award season could give me that little tingle of anticipation.
2017 was rough. The spring was nothing exciting. The summer blockbuster season fizzled out like a bad firecracker. And even award season felt a little…well…overrated.
While there weren’t a whole lot of great movies in 2017, there were at least some good ones. So before we move on to the movies of 2018 (with our fingers tightly crossed), here are my personal highs and lows of 2017. Up first, the highlights of the year, roughly listed from #10 to my favorite movie of the year.
The Post (review coming soon): Stephen Spielberg’s The Post is a remarkably timely film about a clash between politicians and the press. It’s a simple film that gets off to a slow start, but it also boasts noteworthy performances and a captivating true story.
Thor: Ragnarok: While DC Comics continues to flounder (with one spectacular exception this year—but more on that later), Marvel had another good year. The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow and expand and develop. And though Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has been a part of the MCU for six years, director Taika Waititi sent him on an adventure this year that was new and entertaining and—best of all—just plain fun.
The Disaster Artist: I’ll admit that I still haven’t ventured out to see Tommy Wiseau’s cult film, The Room, but James Franco’s behind-the-scenes comedy is so strange and captivating and wildly entertaining that I almost want to see it. Almost.
I, Tonya: Speaking of strange true stories…this unconventional biopic is far from the typical award season fare—and that’s what makes it so much fun. And the performances—from Margot Robbie’s performance as the controversial figure skater to Allison Janney’s performance as her tough-as-nails mother—just add to the film’s entertainment value.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri: Director Martin McDonagh’s latest is sometimes shockingly mean-spirited—but it’s also smart and darkly funny and filled with noteworthy performances. It certainly isn’t a film for everyone, but the sharp writing and remarkable ensemble cast make it one that will stay with you.
Blade Runner 2049: 2017 was definitely a year filled with drama—both in and out of theaters. When I saw The Post, I was reminded of the screening of Blade Runner 2049, after which the critics in attendance were given a very long list of all of the things that they could not say about the movie—a move that still does not sit well with me. That said, though, the film itself, while longer than necessary, is both fascinating and strikingly beautiful—a satisfying sequel.
Coco: In a year filled with overrated releases, Pixar’s latest animated adventure is smart and sophisticated. It’s moving and musical. And it’s absolutely gorgeous. Though it may be marketed as a movie for kids, it’s one that audiences of all ages can appreciate.
Baby Driver: Edgar Wright’s latest was one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year—and it didn’t disappoint. It’s fast-paced and gritty and fabulously creative, with music and action woven together to make something completely original. Sadly, the revelations this year involving Kevin Spacey take away from some of the pure enjoyment of it all—but it’s still worth watching (again).
Wonder Woman: 2017 may not have been a great year for film, but it was a pretty good year for women in film. This year saw some great female characters, some strong female performances, and a whole lot of talented female directors. To me, it’s all summed up in Wonder Woman. It’s a solid superhero movie—DC’s best movie in years—one that highlight’s a woman’s strength as well as a woman’s heart. So while I enjoyed the movie, I also love it for what it is: a strong, female-centric film, directed by a woman that took the box office by storm.
Lady Bird: My greatest regret this year is that I didn’t see Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird in time to give it the full coverage that it deserved. It’s the one movie that really struck me this year—that told a real, honest, heartfelt story. It’s a powerful film about the tricky relationship between mothers and daughters—and about a teenager who’s fighting to expressing her individuality and find her own way.
And now…for the lowest moments of the year—the hours of my year that I would love to have back. As is the case every year, I will record them here and then permanently delete them from my memory (though, admittedly, many of them are pretty close to forgotten already). I’ll list them roughly in order from least-horrible to worst.
Atomica: The concept behind this futuristic sci-fi thriller is promising, but nothing really works—other than Dominic Monaghan’s creepy performance. For a short, 80-minute movie, it feels painfully long.
Woodshock: In the past, fashion designers have made the transition to filmmaking with relative ease. But the directorial debut for Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy is edgy and fashionable and almost entirely incoherent.
Downsizing: Alexander Payne’s latest isn’t the worst movie I saw all year, but it definitely gets the award for the most perplexing. It’s a very long mess of a movie that really just doesn’t make any sense. The only thing it really has going for it is its marketing team, who somehow managed to make it look like a quirky comic adventure.
Fallen: Ever since Twilight took book stores and box offices by storm, people have been trying to recreate it (and its overwhelming success). Fallen has the supernatural beings…the love triangle…the moody melodrama…and the absolute cheesiness. But it doesn’t have any interesting characters or original ideas.
Transformers: The Last Knight: I’ll admit that some of the Transformers movies have been good for some big, noisy, over-the-top summer entertainment (in their own Michael-Bay kind of way). But the latest is just more of the same…to the point that it feels dull and repetitive.
Don’t Kill It: A Dolph Lundgren movie should at least be a guilty pleasure. But this one is just painfully bad—from the low-quality effects to the laughable action to its questionable tone.
The Mummy: This first installment in Universal’s Dark Universe is another one of this year’s head-scratchers. It’s big and action-packed—in true Tom Cruise fashion. But it’s also wacky and awkward, while generally taking itself way too seriously. And while the appearance of Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll was supposed to build the foundations for a cinematic universe, it just feels forced.
Rupture: This is another example of a decent idea gone horribly wrong. Poor Noomi Rapace is put through the ringer here—not just because her character spends most of the film undergoing some kind of torture but also because she’s also forced to endure a whole bunch of bad writing.
CHIPS: In recent years, some directors have managed to revisit classic TV shows and turn them into successful new movies—but, let’s face it, the failures have been more numerous than the successes. And Dax Shepard’s take on the motorcycle cop series is nothing more than a long series of bad jokes.
The Comedian: There was a time when Robert De Niro was a cool movie star who made memorable movies about tough characters. This is a forgettable movie about a bitter old man who sings songs about poop. It’s not funny; it’s depressing. If you never thought you’d be able to feel sorry for a rich, famous guy who made more money shooting this little movie than you did in the last several years combined, try watching this movie.
And now that I’m finished looking back, it’s time to look forward—to start the new year with hope for greater things to come. Here’s to a year of action and adventure and laughter and tears. Here’s hoping that Hollywood will learn from the (many) missteps of 2017 and build on the year’s strengths—and that I’ll have amazing things to talk about a year from now. Happy New Year, everyone!