The Florida Project
My pick for the best movie of 2017, The Florida Project is a drama about people living in a cheap Orlando motel outside of Walt Disney World. The film was profound, honest, and subversive and was a portrait of American life that so much of our mainstream media diet obfuscates. Willem Dafoe has been repeatedly nominated for his performance (and rightly so) but newcomers Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince should have been recognized as well.
Darren Aronofsky’s film Mother! was one of the most contentious releases of last year. Whatever we might make of the film’s meanings, it was a disappoint to see Mother! passed over even in the technical awards. The film had extraordinary use of sound and some astonishing visuals and seamless editing.
In the current political climate, Kathryn Bigelow’s movie should have been one of the most talked about releases of 2017. Instead it died at the box office and was ignored by the Hollywood awards circuit. It may be that Detroit was just too much--too grueling, too authentic, and too challenging--for the audience to accept at this time. Look for Detroit to gain a renewed appreciation in a few years time.
Taylor Sherridan’s directorial debut was another title that ought to have resonated with the current political climate but got lost in the shuffle. The movie was a police procedural involving sexual assault and complex characters.
Sofia Coppola's adaptation of Thomas Cullinan's novel was exactly the kind of movie that Oscar voters love but for some reason Hollywood forgot about it by the time awards season arrived. The Beguiled had a terrific cast including Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Colin Farrell and some exceptional cinematography and production design.
Good Time was probably too gritty and not commercial enough for the
Catfight doesn't suggest itself as Oscar material but this black comedy was one of the better and more provocative movies of 2017. Underneath its slap happy veneer, Catfight is a political metaphor for our time.
Ingrid Goes West
The tastes of the Hollywood award establishment, especially the Academy Awards, skew older and stories about the younger generation are usually dismissed. Ingrid Goes West was a black comedy for the millennial generation that featured a terrific cast including Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, and O'Shea Jackson Jr.
One of the best movies of 2017 that nobody saw, Novitiate is a drama about nuns entering the convent at the time of Vatican II. The entire cast of this movie is great, especially Melissa Leo and Margaret Qualley. It's a movie about spirituality and carnality that takes both of those cravings seriously.
This film was primarily a showcase for Harry Dean Stanton and he is terrific as a ninety year old atheist confronting his mortality. As heavy as that sounds, Lucky is actually quite funny.
Another 2017 title that passed under the radar, Strange Weather features a great performance by Holly Hunter as a woman investigating her son's suicide.
Comic book movies aren’t usually recognized by the Academy but Hugh Jackman really should have been nominated for his final performance as Wolverine. And if Patrick Stewart had given the same performance in a mainstream drama he would have been considered a shoo in for award nominations.
War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes earned a well deserved visual effects nomination at this year's Oscars but it should have been taken a little more seriously by the Hollywood awards circuit. In particular, War should have been recognized for Michael Giacchino's music which was one of the best film scores of last year.