Although the status quo may not have been an admirable one in the Year of Our Lord 2017, the 365-day duration was marked by individuals seeking change. Something to shake the unjust and ordinary and unjustly ordinary from their souls.
Whether it was a teen exploring his sexuality in Northern Italy or the Norse god of thunder bringing about the end of the world, 2017 was the year the status quo wasn’t going to be acceptable anymore. Authority would be challenged, whether by a simian performance artist or a rebellious Sacramento teen, and, whether or not action resulted in change, the attempt was made.
It was also a year of identifying with the outsider, be that a black guy visiting his white girlfriend’s family, a Pakistani-American man questioning which side of his nationality hyphen to choose, or an assortment of societal outcasts attempting to rescue a monster.
The message of 2017 is clear. It’s time to start embracing the outsiders in your life. The status quo won’t remain intact much longer.
So, without any further ado, I present my annual picks for the best feature films that rapidly flicked across my retinas. Vive l’étranger!
10. Get Out
A modern horror movie that always manages to stay one step ahead of its audience. An assured debut from writer-director Jordan Peele and a rare movie that packs as much of a wallop in its social themes as its thrills.
9. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
A worthy sequel to the original. Director Matthew Vaughan delivers his signature-brand of bonkers action choreography and ingenious scene transitions. Let’s just hope we get more Channing Tatum in the inevitable third installment.
8. The Shape of Water
A stylish and heartfelt ode to the outcast. Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones give stellar performances as the less-problematic Beauty and the Beast fable of 2017. Guillermo del Toro astounds with his visionary passion project.
7. Baby Driver
Only an auteur like Edgar Wright would be confident enough to deliver a mainstream action-musical like Baby Driver. Your right foot will be tapping its toes even as it slams on the accelerator.
6. Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan delivers another astounding lead performance in a movie teeming with astounding performances (Laurie Metcalf, Tracey Letts, and Lucas Hedges, to name a few). It’s even more amazing that this work comes from yet another actor turned writer-director, Greta Gerwig.
A bunch of Parisian teens gather in a mall after-hours. It’s a premise that could belong to a comedy or horror movie. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more stomach-churning and cringe-inducing than either of those genres could ever be. Part Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, part George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Nocturama is a movie that manages to evade labels while constantly tightening its ever-creeping sense of dread.
4. Thor: Ragnarok
After a few squabbles with well-known writer-directors (Edgar Wright, Joss Whedon), the 17th entry into the MCU franchise is a welcome sign that Marvel is willing to collaborate with artists again. Almost unbelievably, Thor Ragnarok is every bit as odd and joke-driven as Taika Waititi’s last feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. With an authorial voice as strong as Waititi’s, it’s no wonder Marvel decided to share their toys.
3. The Big Sick
An immensely enjoyable romantic comedy that tells a story genuinely stranger than fiction. Written by Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick stars Nanjiani and his fake-life wife Zoe Kazan. The writers and cast (including a never-better Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) manage to land the heart and the laughs in equal measure.
2. The Square
The funniest movie of the year. The Square takes its sweet time landing vicious societal critiques and cringe comedy and is all the better for it. One scene in particular, involving Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actor Terry Notary at a banquet, is the best cinematic moment this year.
1. Call Me By Your Name
The only movie in 2017 that deserves the title of masterpiece. Luca Guadagnino’s gorgeous direction is only matched by James Ivory’s touching script. Featuring a breakout performance from Timothée Chalamet and an effortlessly charismatic one from Armie Hammer. Unimpeachable brilliance.
And lastly, here’s the only Oscar ballot that matters. Look on, ye mighty, and despair.
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Call Me By Your Name
My heart of course goes with Luca Guadagnino’s masterpiece, but my gut says voters will be entranced by Guillermo del Toro’s imaginative tale of semi-aquatic romance.
Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Should Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
The nomination is certainly the win for first-time directors Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig. This is a tough category (and I could certainly see Nolan pulling an upset), but I believe the deserving winner is the director who displays the most passion in his finished product. Del Toro’s a director who doesn’t just show you a monster, he makes you feel the monster.
Will Win: Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour
Should Win: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Most prognosticators are predicting a win for Gary Oldman in this category, and I almost can’t bear to write his name beside “Will Win” for a role that seems laboratory-designed to win an Oscar. Chalamet, on the other hand, gives a fearless performance in a breakout role that isn’t terribly Oscar-friendly. Especially given what he does to that peach. Alas, I’m sure Chalamet has many more years to impress voters. This time I’m going with the old man.
Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Voters will probably be swayed by the caustic vulnerability McDormand displays in Three Billboards (helps that she has terrific McDonagh dialogue), but Ronan is quickly becoming my favorite working actress and, with three nominations at the age of 23, probably has the oft-nominated future of Meryl heading her way.
Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell’s the frontrunner in this category, but Dafoe’s against-type tenderness should’ve, in an ideal world, been enough to win. He’s the best part of The Florida Project and will hopefully get more roles like the put-upon motel manager to show his range.
Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Should Win: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
In the battle of the malicious mothers, Janney will probably emerge victorious, but I prefer Metcalf’s three-dimensional performance. As the mother of a rebellious teenager, you get to see her nag her daughter in a thrift shop and cry during a college send-off. It’s an incredibly well-rounded character that will immediately make any human with a heart call their mother right after seeing the movie.
Best Original Screenplay:
Will Win: Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
McDonagh’s wit is razor-sharp and his dialogue is a fierce delight to behold, but I’ll take a well-crafted rom-com any day of the week. Especially when Gordon and Nanjiani go out of their way to make sure both sides of the hyphen work in equal measure.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will Win: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
Should Win: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
Truly, a moving coming-of-age tale for the ages. I’m betting Academy voters will recognize that as well as reward a talent so distinct, he’s known for an entire film aesthetic.
Best Animated Feature:
Will Win: Coco
Should Win: The Breadwinner
I would have preferred if Coco were an out and out musical (or even have given the song “Remember Me” a proper musical number). If directed differently, it could’ve been my favorite animated movie of the year, but that honor goes to The Breadwinner. The movie, set in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, can be at once harrowing and thought-provoking. I imagine Breadwinner won’t have much of an audience but what a world we could live in if parents streamed it for their kids instead of letting them watch Ferdinand for a fifth time.
Best Animated Short:
Will Win: Garden Party
Should Win: Garden Party
As always, “Animated Short” is one of the strongest categories of the year. I’ll give an Honorable Mention to the touching Negative Space, but Garden Party wins for me for its photorealistic animation and genuinely shocking ending. Good going, Garden Party. You got me. You got me good.
Will Win: Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
Should Win: Roger A. Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
And here’s the seemingly annual lamentation over the fact that Roger Deakins does not possess an Oscar. His odds of finally striking gold this year are fairly good, but I’ll still say that The Shape of Water will likely win. Voters seem to think this category secretly means “Most Steadicam”.
Best Film Editing:
Will Win: Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos, Baby Driver
Should Win: Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos, Baby Driver
If there is a God, Baby Driver will win for Editing. Because…COME ON!
Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: The Square
Should Win: The Square
For a film that should be competing for “Best Picture”, The Square should have little difficulty winning in this category. Go ahead and pre-order that celebratory reuben, Ruben. You deserve it.
Best Documentary Feature:
Will Win: Faces Places
Should Win: Faces Places
I’m willing to wager most people will vote for the whimsical Faces Places instead of facing real-world issues like the Syrian Civil War or endemic racism during the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. It’s hard to argue when a movie is as enjoyable as the Agnès Varda/JR odd couple road trip doc.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Will Win: Heroin(e)
Should Win: Heroin(e)
A sobering look at a very real American problem (especially in Appalachia). The movie’s heroines, hard-working women who work in local government and law enforcement, make the story incredibly compelling.
Best Production Design:
Will Win: Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola, Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola, Blade Runner 2049
There’s not much of a contest in this category. Seeing Blade Runner 2049 is like stepping into another world, a feat mostly achieved through the impressive alt-futuristic production design.
Best Costume Design:
Will Win: Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
Should Win: Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson shoots the dresses in Phantom Thread in an almost mystical fashion. It’s rare that a movie luxuriates in the creation of clothes, especially in such a visually breathtaking fashion and I doubt voters will ignore the obvious diegetic devotion to the costuming craft.
Best Original Score:
Will Win: Johnny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
Should Win: Johnny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
Alexandre Desplat’s work is fantastic in Shape of Water, but there’s simply no contest. Johnny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame) has managed to craft something soul-stirringly brilliant.
Best Original Song:
Will Win: “Remember Me” from Coco
Should Win: “Remember Me” from Coco
Although it doesn’t have a great musical number in the actual film, there’s no denying how immensely catchy and heartbreaking the song can be.
Best Live Action Short:
Will Win: The Silent Child
Should Win: The Silent Child
Despite an odd after-school special ending, The Silent Child is still the best of the scattered bunch. It has a budget and features solid performances, especially from writer/star Rachel Shenton. Honorable Mention goes to The Eleven O’Clock, a comedy in a category that usually shies away from the funny.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Will Win: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick, Darkest Hour
Should Win: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick, Darkest Hour
I’m not sure if “Best Makeup and Hairstyling” should be synonymous with “Best Non-CGI Magic Trick”, but damn it if they didn’t credibly add two hundred pounds to Gary Oldman. Damn.
Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Julian Slater, Baby Driver
Should Win: Julian Slater, Baby Driver
Best Sound Mixing:
Will Win: Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis, Baby Driver
Should Win: Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis, Baby Driver
Best Visual Effects:
Will Win: John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover, Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover, Blade Runner 2049
I’m pretty sure the Academy will go for the movie that blends its effects most seamlessly into the movie. Whether it’s the tangerine-hued exterior shots of the apocalyptic streets of Vegas or the bonkers love scene between Ryan Gosling and his holographic girlfriend, the visual effects of Blade Runner 2049 never feel short of immersive.