Below are Mo Money’s top films of 2017 only including films that premiered anywhere in the world in the calendar year.
2017 was a great year for movies. The fact that a number of good films by directors I love (Sofia Coppola, Henrique Couto, Edgar Wright, etc.) didn’t make the list shows that there was abundance of good films. At the same time, I didn’t fall head over heels in love with critically acclaimed films and audience favorites like Get Out, Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi, Girls Trip, and others. I feel myself increasingly distant from mainstream tastes as I age. There remains numerous films released in 2017 that I would like to see, particularly On Body and Soul and Zama, but couldn’t due to diverse reasons so as always this list may change in the future.
1.) Faces Places
Agnès Varda’s latest film follows her and co-director JR, a young artist who makes murals out of photographs, as they travel to small towns throughout France. It is a great look into Varda’s career and friendships for those new to her oeuvre and those who have followed her work for years. The ending, after Jean-Luc Godard snubs their visit, is a great reminder on how wondrous and impactful cinema remains in 2017.
The first feature of Léa Mysius, who co-wrote Arnaud Desplechin’s latest film and just happens to be my age, is a rousing success. It is the story of a thirteen year old girl named Ava who is slowly losing her eye sight. She becomes involved with an older Romani male with a criminal record. Throughout the film there are nighmares, flights of fancy, and amble nudity, which may turn some viewers off, but I recommend everyone to give it a chance. The change from a summer fling to a love on the run story has turned off some critics. I think it works, and Mysius’s direction, on 35mm film no less, is bold and so assured it feels like she has been making feature films for years. It is currently streaming on Mubi.
Noah Baumbach is a favorite director of mine, who sometimes makes films I hate. His latest ranks among his best alongside Mistress America and Mr. Jealously. The film features so many great performances, but I understand why Adam Sandler has received the most praise. His performance lets him be funny, but also gives him time to be vulnerable and worthy of love. For a great look at the Baumbach’s skill as a writer check out Nerdwriter’s video.
4.) What Children Do
The second feature film of Dean Peterson (his first is available on Vimeo for free) is my favorite film shown at the Indianapolis International Film Festival in 2017. Other attendees didn’t seem to appreciate as much, so your mileage may vary. It is a drama that is also funny like the films of Noah Baumbach. Dean Peterson cited Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding as an inspiration, which happens to be among my least favorite films of Baumbach, so it is interesting that I love this film so much. The story follows two sisters reuniting as they grandmother is dying. One is overly serious and the other woefully irresponsible, and both experience hurdles and growth as they take care of their grandmother. It is hard to write how funny the film is, but I can attest that the two stars are perfectly cast and give performances equally hilarious and somber. Check it out when it becomes widely available.
5.) Lost in Lebanon
A UK documentary by the sisters, Georgia and Sophia Scott, Lost in Lebanon deals with the humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian conflict. The film follows just a few Syrians trying to survive when laws make it difficult to stay in Lebanon and avoid being deported to Syria to a likely death. It is an important reminder on how so many countries and the international community at the United Nations have failed to address the crisis adequately. Of all the films on the subject, it is my favorite.
I have not seen many films by Sang-soo Hong, but this film is my favorite. When the film was released in South Korea, the director admitted to having an affair with the actress Min-hee Kim who stars in the film, which happens to be about an actress who traveled to Germany after having an affair with a film director only to return to South Korea. The film isn’t a biographical navel-gazing piece however. Things happen in the film that don’t lead anywhere narratively, but the style of the film is good enough to make this film worth a watch when Cinema Guild releases it in the United States this year.
I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign for this Latvian, American co-production. The fact that first-time director Matīss Kaža chose Nicki Cochrane as the subject of his film caused a stir in the New York theater community, and some of that is addressed in the film, but I don’t think that is relevant to the film’s goal. Whether the India-born Cochrane is a blight on the theater experience is less important than the story of her strained relationships with her children as she put theater over her family throughout her life. The film is somber, but I found myself relating with the clearly intelligent Cochrane as she lives her golden years still trying to get free tickets to overpriced plays in New York City.
Guillermo del Toro continues his career with this love letter to movies and to love. It combines the best of his Spanish language films and his English language ones. Think something between the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth. I understand why some critics have complained about the film, and I myself wasn’t fully on board with the film until the ending, but Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones are so great in this slow-paced film that I can’t help loving it. The film is not without fault, but it is works overall.
Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian film co-scripted with the author of the titular memoir on which the film is based is a masterful film about war seen through the eyes of a child akin to Ivan’s Childhood. Sometimes the narrative is pushed forward by visions that may feel odd to American, but feel authentic. There was some controversy about the casting process, but it feels overblown. Angelina Jolie’s worked well with her young cast, and they shine in the film. If this is how Jolie is as a director, I feel it necessary to track down her other films.
Dee Rees’s film is about two families in Mississippi during the 1940s. Rees juggles so many stories in one film that it is hard to not be impressed by her as a director. It is an economic piece, a study of racism, a war film, and so much more. The friendship between a white and black veteran that leads to the films climax and denouncement is my favorite part of the film. There are numerous great performances but Dee Rees’s insistence on Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige who give the best in the film makes this director one to watch.
What are your favorite movies of 2017?