There are cases to be made that 2017 wasn't that great of a year, but it was definitely one of my favorites. I may be a bit biased because it's the year I got married, but I think I can make a case in favor of 2017. Take my strong, beautiful, and funny wife; she's proud of herself and all the women who took a stand in 2017 and who aren't letting up even now. We're starting to see some real change in some previously untouchable places, and you have to admit - that's pretty rad.
But aside from that social movement, I found a lot to enjoy in the movies, television, music and video games of 2017. Between Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, I'd say I got more than my money's worth on the Nintendo Switch, and I've been playing it since day one, with a ton of indie gems and really convenient portable games. Then there's the phenomenon that is Stranger Things, and the release of a new album by the Flaming Lips, my all time favorite band.
And even with all that great entertainment, I found the movies of last year were quite enjoyable. Without further ado, let's run through my top 5 favorite movies of 2017:
I should note that Darren Aranofsky is my favorite director, and while I think it's going to be really hard, if not impossible, for him to top Requiem for a Dream, I still enjoy his movies. Mother! follows the same story beats as his previous films; we follow a character who slowly starts to unravel as the plot progresses. And I love that. I don't know if anyone I spoke with enjoyed mother!, but I honestly did.
I know it's allegory was bluntly smashed over my head, and that there wasn't really much new being said, and that's fine with me. I caught on to the Bible/God/Mother Earth metaphor soon enough and despite how obvious it was, I have to say I've never seen it portrayed in such a visceral and compact way. I think Aranofsky nailed the story beats of human history, and I liked the stark difference between start and finish... or was there any difference? Guess you'll just have to watch for yourself.
I didn't have high expectations going into Dunkirk. I'm not a huge World War II buff, and it didn't really seem like I was going to see anything new, which was disappointing considering Christopher Nolan was helming this. Well, I shouldn't have doubted him, because I think Dunkirk was a really well thought out film, and all the pieces came together for me. I did learn something about World War II that I had probably forgotten the day after it was taught in my history class, and I also learned that Harry Styles isn't a half bad actor. And I have to hand it to Tom Hardy, who manages to draw us into his tense moments, despite having half his face covered for most of the film.
But aside from the kid from One Direction, is anything here new? At first, I didn't think so. The score was well done, with the tense, rhythmic beat meant to emulate a pumping heart, and the visuals were breathtaking, but this only lent itself to what I thought was just a good war movie. Then I started to get confused. Why was it night? Where are we now? If you haven't seen it yet, I don't want to get into the finer points, but I think Chris Nolan made the right decision to mess with this movie in the edit bay, especially for a film that could have succeeded on it's acting, action, visuals, and score alone.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Oh boy, two movies by my favorite directors in the same year? How couldn't I love 2017? From the man that brought us In Bruges, comes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. What a fabulous title. I love saying the full sentence over the simplified "Three Billboards." It grabs your attention and I don't think anyone would fault you for being interested. What could this movie be about?
Turns out, it's got some pretty deep and sometimes dark messages. Unlike Martin McDonagh's past two films, this is not a comedy. The wonderful Frances McDormand plays brazen, yet likeable Mildred, who will do whatever it takes to get justice for her brutally murdered daughter. The problem is that the people she's upset with are also likeable, each in their own way. Woody Harrelson's Sheriff Willoughby is the exact kind of sheriff I'd want in my town, and clearly he's living a good life with his beautiful wife and kids. Sam Rockwell's Dixon is definitely a stupid asshole, and his behavior is loathsome, but you can tell that he has a decent soul, and that he wants to be a better person. But that said, we can see that no one here is really a paragon of justice and righteousness. Mildred takes some extreme actions that definitely cross the line, Willoughby is fighting cancer, and it leads to some very real, deep, and sad moments, and finally, Dixon just cannot become that better person he (and we) wish he could be.
Basically, you should watch this movie right now. Don't not see it just because of it's ridiculous title. It's about so much more than three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
2. Thor: Ragnarok
There were three very good Marvel movies released in 2017, and with Logan (and I assume Wonder Woman, which I have yet to see) five good superhero films. Someone in the big chair realized we need some fresh ideas and fun stories to keep the MCU going strong, and I think Guardians 2, Spiderman, and Thor all delivered. For my money, it was Thor that topped the rest. It marked the first time in a while I had returned to the theater to watch a film for a second time, and even though we got stuck in the far corner of the front row for the repeat viewing, it was worth it.
Thor: Ragnarok is basically everything I want in a superhero flick. It's got the action, the adventure, the cool settings, great characters, funny moments, killer music, and we finally got to see Thor using some sweet superpowers. I love that they broke his hammer, Mjolnir. It was definitely a crutch, and we don't often get to see magic-like powers in the MCU; it's a lot of punching and kicking in tech-infused super-suits.
I also loved the atmosphere of the movie. It felt inspired by the 80's, but not totally an 80's throwback like Stranger Things. And to further itself from that decade, we got treated to The Immigrant Song and a little Willy Wonka, so it was a general retro vibe that I thought worked well when juxtaposed with the ancient Norse myths. I want to see more of this. Yes, please.
1. Blade Runner: 2049
We took a poll in my workplace, and I was the only one that said Blade Runner: 2049 was the best movie of 2017. Get Out was the office favorite, but I have yet to see it, and I doubt it'd knock down this cyberpunk beauty. I was a fan of this movie before it released: I love cyberpunk, I like Blade Runner, I love Ryan Gosling, I like Harrison Ford, I love Philip K. Dick, I like Denis Villeneuve. This was never really going to fail for me.
I was worried, though. I had high expectations and some doubts. Why bother keeping Deckard? Are they going to nail the tone? What's Jared Leto doing here? Fortunately none of that tarnished the film, and it delivered. Seeing it in theaters was a treat, with some of the best production I've seen, ever. Dunkirk was beautiful, but this was just fantastic. And it was really cool to go places yet unexplored in this setting, like the farms and Vegas.
Some stuff was weird, sure. Jared Leto for one, and everything felt almost like it was pandering, but I was satisfied when the story went where it did. Denis set the audience up well, to really experience everything Gosling's K was seeing, hearing, and even feeling (feeling emotionally - this is still just a movie). Ultimately, this movie stands on it's own and if they can continue to build out this world in such a well-executed way, I'd watch the next one.