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2017 at the Movies: the Best, the Worst & the Surprising

I’m not a big fan of end of year lists and scoring/ranking films. There are so many variables involved such that you might love some aspect of a film, like a specific performance, but not like something else, like a recurring directorial decision, making it hard in a seemingly one-dimensional ranking to justify placing one great film ahead of another. And one day’s reflections may not quite match another’s.

But, that said and after much consideration, here’s an unranked list of the ten (actually eleven with a superhero tie) films I can best remember enjoying the most this year, and a half-dozen runners-up:

“All the Money in the World”
“Call Me By Your Name” (not yet released in Sacramento)
The Disaster Artist
The Florida Project
Lady Bird
Patti Cake$
The Shape of Water
Spider-Man: Homecoming“/”Wonder Woman” (tie)
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“Your Name”

Runners-up: “The Big Sick,” “Colossal,” “Darkest Hour,” “Get Out,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Logan,” “Molly’s Game

I’m aware that it’s a predominantly white list – perhaps reflecting the bulk of industry resource allocation and focus. But the gender equity is building, at least in terms of storylines and lead performances – even though female directors and writers are still firmly in the minority despite phenomenal work this year.

Unpopular opinions

In looking back, I also came across several instances where my take on a film was significantly out of sync with the critical mass.

Here are a few examples that stuck out for me:

The film most widely admired that was a miss for me: “Dunkirk
A film that scored only borderline reviews that I really enjoyed: “The Wall
A film that was widely panned that I thought was great fun: “Table 19

The bottom of the (big) barrel

Watching as many films as I do, especially reviewing films for a festival and from youth and student filmmakers, one comes across some that are really hard to get through. But several are hampered by a significant lack of resources or experience, especially at the super low-budget or amateur end of the range. So these aren’t the worst films I’ve seen all year, by any means. But these are the ten films that had everything going for them in terms of talent, resources, and name recognition that just fell flat for me in assorted ways. And I don’t think this is artistic elitism, there are several superhero/comicbook films in the earlier lists. Many of these simply had plot flaws that could swallow up mega-budgets and everything else in sight, faster than a black hole. These were the blockbuster busts:

Baywatch
“Chips”
“The Great Wall”
“Justice League”
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Mummy
“Murder on the Orient Express”
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
“War for the Planet of the Apes”

Returns

And among all the films, all the reboots, and all the recycled ideas, there’s often a sequel to a film that we loved that seems to have strayed furthest from a much better original. For me, this year’s most anticipated but disappointing sequel was:

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

By comparison, probably my favorite sequel was a return after a long time away:

Blade Runner 2049

But all that ultimately matters is if we each had fun in the dark. If you dislike my choices or your favorites aren’t anywhere on my list, I hope you had as good a time at the movies as I did and I wish you the same for 2018!

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About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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