Top 10 — I Mean 11 — Movies of the Year

The 2018 Oscar nominees will be announced today. In preparation, BASH alum and Temple film student James Mason gives us his pick of this year’s best movies.

11) The Disaster ArtistImage result for the disaster artist

This list was originally a top 10, but I added one at No. 5, which meant everything below it got bumped down one, which meant that the No. 10 movie would get bumped off the list. That isn’t fair and makes me feel bad, so I kept it on and expanded the list to 11.

James Franco gets my vote for actor of the year. It’s kind of cliche and awards-baity for an actor to play another actor, but Franco nailed Tommy Wiseau far better than I could’ve anticipated. I even made an active effort watching  The Disaster Artist to try to convince my mind that I was watching Franco. I couldn’t. I could only see Tommy. Beyond him though, The Disaster Artist is very funny, insightful, and ultimately sad look into the making of the best worst movie ever made.

10) Logan Lucky Image result for logan lucky

How come everyone forgot about this movie? Actually, I’m gonna back up that question further: How come no one went to see it? The cast was great, with Daniel Craig winning my MVP award in a sea of great supporting players. It was fast paced, exciting, unpredictable, and really really funny (“you sucked my arm off”, “Did you say ‘cauliflower?’”, building a bomb out of gummy bears, the prisoners arguing with the warden about Game of Thrones, I could go on). It was the single most fun I had watching a movie this year, so much so I saw it twice the weekend it came out. Seriously, why didn’t anyone else go to see it?

9) I, TonyaImage result for i tonya

I saw I, Tonya before any trailers or footage had been released, which was kind of exciting, and also meant it took me completely by surprise. I knew the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, and not once did it cross my mind that it would make a good dark comedy. The fact that anyone thought it would is baffling, the fact they actually made it is ballsy, and the fact that it worked is remarkable. It doesn’t necessarily make fun of its subjects (well, some it does), as show us how ridiculous the whole thing was. Paul Walter Hauser has the greatest breaths-to-laughs ratio in the movie, Margot Robbie is effortlessly sympathetic and convincing as the title character, even though she doesn’t really resemble her. But it’s Allison Janney who steals the show as Tonya’s monster of a mother. Also, if you see it (and you should), stay for the credits. It’s hysterical (and a little concerning) to see how close the real-life characters are to the ones in the movie.

8) Dunkirk Image result for dunkirk

I’m not a big Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar) fan, so I wasn’t really expecting Dunkirk to rivet me as much as it did. It was also nice to see one of his movies that wasn’t two and a half hours long. It’s fairly lean and compact, but also very narratively complex. I’ve never seen a war movie like this, both structurally (showing three different plots happening simultaneously yet over different amounts of time) and viscerally. There’s very little dialogue and almost entirely action. But it’s never repetitive or boring. Each sequence flows breathlessly into the next, with the vice-like tension building with every minute. It’s probably Nolan’s best movie, certainly my favorite.

7) Detroit

 Image result for detroit movie

This is the other great movie from this summer no one saw. At least for this one I could understand why people didn’t want to see it. I saw Detroit back in July, which was roughly 50 years after the events of the film, at a 10 p.m. showing. It’s two and a half hours long, which meant I didn’t get home until 1 in the morning. I showered, climbed in bed, and I couldn’t fall asleep because I still had a knot in my stomach. Detroit was the single hardest movie I’ve ever sat through in a theater. It was unrelentingly brutal in its depiction of the ‘67 Detroit riots, mainly the Algiers Motel Incident, which is depicted in almost real time. For what feels like an eternity I felt like I was trapped in that motel, with my nose against the wall, having a gun pointed to the back of my head, screamed at for something I didn’t do. It was so brutal there was large parts of it I thought I would have to look away or walk out of. And yet it doesn’t end with the riots; it makes sure to show the trail afterwards, and even if you don’t know what happened to the real-life cops who abused their power, you can probably guess what happens. It’s infuriating to watch. Yet despite everything I’ve said, I can’t recommend seeing this movie enough. It’s power is undeniable, making me feel sick to my stomach and outraged in a way I’ve never felt from a movie before.

6) Blade Runner 2049Image result for blade runner 2049

I really didn’t want this movie to be made. I was happy they weren’t making a Blade Runner remake, but I wanted to leave good enough alone and not make a sequel 35 years later. I’m happy to eat my words on this one. Stunning visuals aside, Blade Runner 2049 is a deeply engrossing sci-fi film that feels more like a detective movie. I was so enthralled watching Ryan Gosling try to figure out the mystery of a missing child whose parents were both replicants (replicants can’t reproduce, or so it was thought, which sheds light on the weight and urgency of tracking the child down) that I actually forgot it was a Blade Runner movie until Harrison Ford showed up. It’s not only an outstanding sequel that asks a lot of questions about technology and consciousness, but even on its own, it’s a great sci-fi movie — an achievement easier said than done.

5) Call Me By Your NameImage result for call me by your name

This wasn’t originally on my list. I wasn’t as in love with Call Me By Your Name as everyone else seems to be. I saw it, thought it was OK, and that was it. But I kept thinking about it. And thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about it since I saw it. Something about it has stuck with me. I think it’s because it captures the pain of first love all too well, and for a while I didn’t want to accept that. That I felt the happiness and the pain Timothee Chalamet feels with his brief relationship with Armie Hammer (both great performances). Michael Stuhlbarg, who had a great year this year, will most likely get his first Oscar nomination for his final monologue in this movie, perfectly written by James Ivory. He talks to his son about the heartbreak he’s going through, and how he should embrace the pain that comes with it. And there’s a great amount of truth to that. Maybe that’s why it went from not on my list to #5. I still don’t love it. But maybe one day I will.

4) Phantom Thread

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The ranking from here was the hardest for me. When I sat down to write this list, these were the four I immediately thought of when it came to my favorite movies for the year.

Ranking is almost arbitrary. Any one of these four movies could’ve been my number one . But when I forced myself to rank them, Phantom Thread came 4th (more of a 1st, Part D). I’m very biased towards Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he’s the best contemporary filmmaker, and movies like Phantom Thread help me prove this point. There was nothing I didn’t love about this movie. The performances were perfect (which you’d expect out of Daniel Day-Lewis, but Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps hold their own so well against him they practically steal the movie). The writing was sharp, the plot was unpredictable. The directing and cinematography are smooth and dream-like. And that score. Jonny Greenwood better win an Oscar for his beautiful score after being snubbed for his last 3 scores for Anderson. I really loved this movie. It’s only one of two movies this year I’d describe as beautiful.

3) Lady BirdImage result for lady bird

Lady Bird is a perfect movie, through and through. The first time I saw it I knew it was perfect, but I had to watch it again to make sure. There isn’t a single frame that doesn’t belong. There’s not a single bad performance. Not a single joke that doesn’t work or land. Not a single emotional beat that doesn’t work. Not a single moment that feels untrue or unrelatable. Not a single moment that feels slow or too fast or poorly paced. There is nothing I would change about it because there is nothing that needs to be changed. It is a perfect movie.

2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Image result for three billboards outside ebbing missouri poster

It’s rare to watch a movie where everyone is producing their best work. I’m a big fan of Martin McDonagh, but I honestly thought he’d never top In Bruges. He does. I also thought Frances McDormand would never top her performance in Fargo. She does. As for supporting players Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, same applies, they’ve never been better. I’ve placed it above Lady Bird for a simple reason. I stand by what I said about Lady Bird being perfect, but I placed Three Billboards a notch higher for a bit of an ironic reason. It’s flawed. The plot about finding the killer of a woman’s daughter is messy in the fact there’s frustratingly few answers. The cops in charge of the case are racist and incompetent (Rockwell) or seemingly indifferent (Harrison). McDormand doesn’t easily evoke sympathy, even as the mother of a murdered daughter. The characters all have their flaws, and no one is the good or bad guy; it just depends on how you look at it. Qualities like that are rare in movies, and that’s why I liked Three Billboards so much.

1) The Shape of Water

Image result for the shape of water poster

Like I said, the ranking of my top four was difficult. In the end though, The Shape of Water felt the most fitting as number one. It’s hard for me to put in words exactly how or why I loved this movie so much. It’s the story of a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) who slowly falls in love with a humanoid sea monster in early 60’s Baltimore. It’s as out there of a movie premise as I’ve ever heard. And yet. there’s a quiet scene towards the end (this isn’t a spoiler) where Sally Hawkins is with the sea creature, and she very tearfully signs to him “you’ll never know how much I love you” because she is unable to say it out loud. The second she signaled the word “you’ll”, I knew exactly what she was going to say, and it took everything in me not to cry. I had become invested into the movie’s premise and fallen for its characters (Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Michael Stuhlbarg are terrific as usual, and Richard Jenkins is wonderfully heartbreaking). But it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how deeply I cared about it, how deeply it had affected me. For Guillermo del Toro to take as strange of a premise as this and make it as affecting as it is is nothing short of astounding. It’s a miraculous movie. A beautiful movie. My favorite movie of the year.

2017 seemed to be a particularly good year for movies. Sure, there were some bad ones. But there were a lot more good ones than I was used to. So many I had a bit of a hard time narrowing them down to a list. Even the ones that didn’t make my list were really good. I feel bad. So these, if I could, I would have included:

The Post

Get Out

Baby Driver

The Meyerowitz Stories, New and Selected

All the Money in the World

Last Flag Flying

Anything else I either didn’t see or didn’t like enough to include it, either as an honorable mention or top 11. So there.