These are Big B’s top ten films of 2017.
10) I Am Evidence – directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Trish Adlesic
I Am Evidence is a clear, poignant exploration of an issue that needs more attention: the epidemic of untested rape kits in American cities. Most importantly, I Am Evidence focuses on specific steps that cities can take to resolve this problem. This documentary tries hard to make itself unnecessary by aggressively targeting sensible solutions to the problems highlighted during the documentary’s opening moments. I Am Evidence is concerned with progress, not proceeds—but I hope it gets both.
9) The Greatest Showman – directed by Michael Gracey
Hear me out! The Greatest Showman is an earnest film. But, for some reason, The Greatest Showman‘s sincerity seems to drive many moviegoers away from it. Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman explains this phenomenon in his article about the film: “[The Greatest Showman is] an entrancing romance-of-showbiz bauble, with songs so infectious they soar. ‘Moulin Rouge!,’ for all its visionary passion, was laced with puckish irony, and ‘La La Land’ embedded its sincerity in a heady look-we’re-making-a-musical! meta splendor. ‘The Greatest Showman’ never gets within a country mile of irony. It serves up its wide-screen emotion in big, sincere slabs. And that, let’s just say it, is something that now makes certain people cringe.” All that said, those who are able to embrace the cringeworthy genuineness of a beautiful, musical world filled with odd celebrities and an historically inaccurate P.T. Barnum can—and likely will—appreciate this movie. I reward movies that are unapologetic in their commitment to ideas. The Greatest Showman commits wholeheartedly to being a fun, easily inspirational movie with kick-ass music—and it succeeds.
8)Wasted! The Story of Food Waste – directed by Anna Chai and Nari Kye
Though the masculine egos of Anthony Bourdain and (more noticeably) Mario Batali are on full display throughout this film, the documentary’s narrative remains committed to tackling the massive problem of global food waste. This film offers a stylistically enthralling and emotionally impacting dissection of an incredibly nuanced issue. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste is like an extended blend of a less geographically specific episode of Parts Unknown and a more artfully edited episode of 60 Minutes. Wildly engaging and wholly distressing, this film is one of this year’s best.
7) Brigsby Bear – directed by Dave McCary
Breaking through the cynicism and tunnel-visioned self-aggrandizement of today is not easy, but Brigsby Bear offers enough whimsy, humor, and sincerity to wring the heart of any moviegoer. Kyle Mooney’s performance seems to pull from characters like Napoleon Dynamite and Sheldon Cooper, but Mooney’s character is more multilayered than Napoleon and more witty than Sheldon.
Not to mention Mark Hamill, who is always a pleasure to watch on screen.
6) AlphaGo – directed by Greg Kohs
This film managed to get me emotionally invested in a complex game that I had never played (nor fully understood). Extended scenes of two men moving black and white pieces around a wood slab of graph paper are, in this movie, captivating and nerve-wracking. This high-stakes board game competition sparks questions about humanity, national identity, and life. You will care about the outcome—a lot.
5) Wind River – directed by Taylor Sheridan
A harrowing, expertly crafted film that grabs your attention quickly and then pulls you through the snow all the way to its numbing, explosive conclusion.
4) Coco – directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
A kaleidoscopic adventure with heartwarming characters and surprisingly impressive music. It is an original story, and I loved experiencing it.
3) Get Out – directed by Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele created a horror/suspense film about systemic racism, and the film broke box office records. Is the film perfect? No. Is it a wildly impressive film? Yes. Does the film accomplish something that no previous film has been able to accomplish (and few have even tried)? Absolutely.
2) The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – directed by Noah Baumbach
I watched Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming several years ago, and my perception of what film can accomplish was forever changed. Though Kicking and Screaming has some cumbersome scenes and several incoherent plot points, the film captures organic dialogue in a way that is both entertaining and unnerving—because it’s real. The Meyerowitz Stories accomplishes this even more impressively, partly because Baumbach seems to have fine-tuned his writing skills and partly because the film itself offers a more relatable tribute to the f***ed-up aspects of being alive. To see how well Noah Baumbach captures real-life moments, watch the Nerdwriter’s video essay on the film.
1) Logan – directed by James Mangold
Logan is both a celebration of superhero movies (particularly those starring Hugh Jackman) and an indictment of what superhero movies have become. Logan asks us: Can superhero films be more?
Comic culture has, as I wrote in an indie comic review, “trudged its way out of the primordial swamp of subgroup obscurity,” but comic book movies remain imprisoned in a self-made cage of mockable blockbuster celebrity. Some graphic novels are now considered works of literature. But superhero movies are largely dismissed as pleasant distractions from important ideas.
Logan denies this characterization and dares the rest of the genre to do the same.
As a comic book fan, I am getting bored by superhero movies. But if the next phase of the superhero film genre offers more movies like Logan, I will enthusiastically buy tickets.
What are your favorite movies of 2017?