#1 - Get Out
There are benchmarks in cinematic history, and they’re not always apparent at first. It takes time to realize how much a film shapes future work. Get Out is one of those benchmarks. Not because of the triumphant work of a black director and black lead actor. Yes, those are absolutely important points, but it would be unfair to such a revolutionary film to only be acknowledged for overcoming a barrier that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Rather, Get Out matters because it changed the way that cinematic stories are told. Much like Pulp Fiction and Memento, the film has given future storytellers an entirely new device to work with. An entire generation of filmmakers, and hopefully many of them are women and POC, will benefit from the wall that Jordan Peele has torn down. The film is terrifying, even after you know what’s happening, and it remains self-aware throughout. And that’s the quiet genius.
We have three rules when determining whether a movie is great:
- Is it a good movie? The simplest mark. Script, acting, story, and all of the surface components that make up a good film.
- Were we entertained? Some movies are really good, but not very entertaining. They may even be entertaining at times, but not something worth sharing or raving about.
- Would we watch it again and again? This is what separates the best from the rest. A film can be great and entertaining, but for a number of reasons, it may not hold up to repeat viewings, or you may just not want to go back. Most big award winners fail this test, because they’re often stories that are too much to take.
Get Out passed the test with flying colors, more than any film we’ve seen in years. Is it the best movie of the year? No, Lady Bird is. Is it the most entertaining film of the year? No, The Disaster Artist is. But this is the kind of movie that you can’t turn away from and will only get better with age. It’s too important to be ignored and too entertaining to pass up. When you take 2 hours out of your day to go to the movies, you want your money’s worth. We can’t think of a film that gave us more bang for our buck in a very long time. Get Out is a milestone in the history of cinema, and regardless of award season outcomes, it’s the year’s top film.
#2 Lady Bird
We ride rolling hills of expectation and disappointment. The peaks and valleys are at their worst when we’re figuring out who we are, and where we’re going. Greta Gerwig has given this generation it’s relationship litmus test film–the one you show the one you think is the one, and if they don’t get it, you’re not sure that they get you. The love song to one’s hometown has kicked off the careers of quite a few auteurs, and we’ve seen another one. What makes Lady Bird stand apart from the rest, like Garden State or Jersey Girl, is her focus on the frustrations of family. How Gerwig saw the performance of a lifetime in Laurie Metcalf is beyond us, and it’s why she deserves the Oscar for best director. The story is small and efficient and unremarkable. And that’s what makes it special. It’s a story that anyone could tell, but only a master can sing.
For Tara, the film reflected more specific experiences than she’d care to admit, and that’s what makes it work. Lady Bird is every girl growing up in the middle of the Millennial generation. Gerwig brilliantly set the tale in 2002 rather than modern day, capturing the last gasp of American innocence. Our world changed, and just a few years later, it was unrecognizable to its youth. The Christine/Lady Bird we see at the end of the film is all too real for most of us who were figuring out our place in a time of fear and futility. Lady Bird is the best film of the year, and the best female-directed film since Lost in Translation (no disrespect to Patty Jenkins). We’ll add one more, it’s arguably the best high-school coming of age film since The Breakfast Club. Saoirse Ronan has cut her path, and it’s one we’ll gladly walk over and over again.
#3 The Big Sick
Annie Hall was the last great Hollywood film before the studios took the reigns. For almost 40 years, anything teetering on greatness has either been epic or indie. Small stories about big ideas are rare, and big stories about small ideas are the unfortunate norm. Movies either had to be too funny, like When Harry Met Sally, or too saccharine, like Sleepless in Seattle. A hard look at real romance evolved into films that we love, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Brokeback Mountain, but they’re either too dark or reliant on an external plot device such as drugs, alcohol, etc.
The real-life story of Kumal Nanjiani and Emily Gordon works because you simply can’t write something this efficient out of thin air. They took what works in the modern romance and grounded the story in nostalgic Hollywood charm. They’ve crafted a near-perfect film. A simple boy meets girl comedy manages to cover religious fundamentalism, interracial relationships, the endurance of love in the face of infidelity or illness, commitment, family, the struggles of immigrant parenting, and so much more! And all without ever losing focus. There are no subplots, no comic relief, and no sidebars. The Big Sick is a masterclass in screenwriting, and it’s a damn fine movie thanks to a stacked cast that fit every role like a glove. It’s the one movie we saw this year that you can watch over and over again, much like it’s spiritual predecessors, and only fall more and more in love.
#4 Blade Runner 2049
Anticipated would be an understatement. Dread and fear would suffice, too. Blade Runner didn’t need a sequel, and it didn’t need answers. Even after the superior Director’s Cut, we never had our answer: is Deckard human? And we didn’t know if we wanted that answer. So many beloved classics have re-opened the conversation only to disappoint or downright shit on what was. From Star Wars and the disastrous midichlorians to Prometheus ruining the mystery behind Alien, we really weren’t asking for Ridley Scott to take us back. But in our house Denis Villeneuve is a hero. Sicario, Arrival, and Prisoners are some of the most accomplished films in recent memory. And Ryan Gosling has made few mistakes in his career.
When we worked up the courage to read the first few reactions and reviews, we breathed an audible sigh of relief. And then we saw the film. Tara said that she hasn’t been this anxious in a movie, ever. The score, the cinematography, and the pacing are relentless without ever wearing us out; rather, it wears us down. That’s intentional. There are so many moments in this film that are forever burned in our brains. It’s beautiful and terrifying and tragic, like a great work of art. There are too many moments to recount, and too many performances to praise, so instead we just slow clap for what was done here. An absolute masterpiece from script to screen.
#5 The Disaster Artist
Oh, Hai Mark. We’re suckers for movies about movies, but this one was special. Brad grew up hosting B-movie nights throughout high school and college. One of his favorite themes was the auteur who lacked self-awareness. After seeing The Room in 2006–thanks to an unhealthy knowledge of random Veronica Mars references–it carved its way into his heart, tearing him apart. Now, it’s important to point out that we’ve had quite a few Blade Runner showings in our house, and that the anticipation for Blade Runner 2049 had been building for about three years. But somehow, this little movie might have been even more anticipated. And we couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome. Yes, James Franco is a slimeball weirdo. And we still can’t figure out why Alison Brie is with Dave Franco. But dammit if those brothers aren’t talented and sincere.
In many ways, it’s a better movie about movies than last year’s darling, La La Land, and it may be even more charming. It packs in some of the funniest people working today including Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, Ari Graynor, June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson, Zac Efron, and Jason Mantzoukas. The joy of watching some of our favorite people work together on a passion project about passion projects wasn’t lost. The smiles never left our faces, and that’s what going to the movies is all about. The script is a subtle work of genius, and the irony is part of the story. The film is sweet and kind and loving and it never reaches too far into parody. You can tell that Franco understands Wiseau, at least as well as anyone can, and he pushed the right buttons to create a fair portrait of an enigmatic soul.
#6 The Shape of Water
In many ways, this was the best film of the year. A distorted love child between a classic Universal-style monster movie and Patrick Swayze’s Ghost, the film reaches, much like LaLa Land, for a certain kind of nostalgia that’s not for everyone. There were moments throughout where quiet chuckles or grunts of confusion would rise in the theatre. And we understood. This is a movie for cinephiles who love movies, not movie lovers who think they’re cinephiles. And there’s a big difference. It’s a smart film wrapped in a simple story and dazzling production design. If you love it, you absolutely love it. If you poke holes in what it is, you’ll throw it out with the trash. Sally Hawkins is flawless in a role that will be the model for an entire generation of actors. Michael Shannon does what he does best, oozing menace and malice until it boils into a flaming rage. Richard Jenkins is delightful, giving his best performance since The Visitor. And Michael Stuhlbarg almost steals the show and has you root for one of the bad guys.
Hawkins is known for her devastating vulnerability, and this one had us in tears. And still, thanks to national treasure Octavia Spencer, the movie is in many ways a comedy. There is a levity throughout that would feel forced in just about any other setting, except a Del Toro film. Our jaws hung open as the credits rolled. The best films are polarizing, and The Shape of Water is no exception. It’s likely to win a number of awards, notably for Hawkins, but there’s that little bit that’s off that keeps it from being perfect. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
#7 Ingrid Goes West
Ingrid Goes West is so much more than the Instagram movie. There are films that are “must see” because they’re simply good. Others because they’re groundbreaking. This film is critical, we’d even say mandatory, if you live and work in the age of social media. It’s a hidden gem you can watch for free on Hulu right now, so no excuses. It’s a satirical, yet accurate, depiction of modern mental illness. In particular, it’s a hard look at comparison and severe imposter syndrome through the lens of one woman’s quest to be Instafamous. If it had stayed on that path, the film would be forgettable and meaningless. Instead, we’re gifted with a raw exploration of both sides of the equation. Not just the quest, but the settled quiet. A juxtaposition of pursuit and stasis, it’s clear that the grass truly isn’t greener on the other side. There are important minor subplots exploring the cult of celebrity. And a hilarious look at the wide-eyed optimism someone could have for making another Joel Schumacher style Batman film. It’s not afraid to laugh at where we are, but caution against where we’re headed. It’s far from perfect, with an ending that we accepted but didn’t love, but it’s an experience that you shouldn’t pass up.
On a repeat viewing a decade from now, we’ll marvel at the sheer talent on screen in one small story. Aubrey Plaza is one of our favorites, and you’ve never seen her like this. Elizabeth Olsen continues to prove that she’s the superior Olsen sister. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (that’s Ice Cube Jr. for those who don’t know) carries right on from his stellar performance in Straight Outta Compton. And Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, sets himself up for a very bright future. If you’ve found yourself in Instagram zombie mode–endlessly scrolling, liking, and comparing–get ready to squirm. And if you’re a little Instafamous yourself, prepare to buy new locks for your doors. But don’t let that fool you, the film is far from predictable. It’s heartbreaking, heartwarming, cautionary, and (somehow) optimistic.
Butt jokes, talking pets, product placement, and terrible pop songs. Most of today’s kids’ movies are bad. In our house, we love a good poop joke. We own every Dav Pilkey book and fall victim to one too many fart parades thanks to our boys. But we’re also an intelligent and cultured family who want to be challenged in our beliefs and ideals. We love to be wrong. Pixar has mastered the art of challenging long-held beliefs and norms. With a few exceptions, the master storytellers disarm us before opening our hearts and minds in ways that a live-action film can’t. Coco is possibly their most successful effort to date. Mexican culture is misunderstood, and an entire generation has been shamed for their roots. Could a cartoon really open hearts and minds to what it really means to embrace one’s heritage? We believe so.
As designers, Coco brought us to tears with the meticulous process behind its creation. The powerful, and simple, story that so many of us lived in our youth–rejecting our heritage in favor of something newer and “better”–cut to the core of the modern human condition. Culture, heritage, and tradition are under attack from all sides–for better or worse–and it’s never been more important to teach new generations that there’s still much to be learned from those that have gone before us, and the debt we owe them. Coco honors the past and embraces the future in beautiful, sun-soaked tones that warm the heart and renew the soul. It’s a story even the most seasoned of us need to hear.
#9 Good Time
Let’s get the Twilight jokes out of the way. If you haven’t seen Cosmopolis or The Rover, then you haven’t seen what Robert Pattinson can do. In our house, Twilight is either beloved (Tara) or a punchline (Brad). We can both agree that Kristen Stewart is the worst, but she’s actually been turning out solid performances lately. Yet Pattinson is still the brooding pretty boy in most people’s book. If you take one thing away from Good Time, which is the furthest thing from a “good time”, it’s that Pattinson is not to be trifled with.
Watch this film with as little knowledge as possible and set no expectations. Heartbreak, disgust, anger, and genuine fear will wash over you. The cinematography, the soundtrack, the production design, and the story itself are greasy, grimy, and haunting. The story escalates until it’s hard to breathe, and you think about hitting pause. The truth is that this film is, well, true. And that’s why it’s important. The world is descending into a new caste system. Here, we aren’t gifted with the hard-luck backstory of how someone got there, or the false hope that they’ll ever get out. Instead, we see what it takes to survive in the face of escalating circumstances–real, life-altering circumstances. A genius twist isn’t the plot device that matters. Rather, it’s the collateral damage facing an underage black female played by first-time actress Taliah Webster, who floored us. There are moments that become unbearable, devastating, and exhausting, yet you can’t turn away. It’s a haunting look at a world of staggering income inequality and social irresponsibility. One that hits too close to home.
#10 Baby Driver
Steve McQueen is Brad’s Patronus. So it goes without saying that he’s seen Bullitt an unhealthy amount of times. Year after year, films promise car chases that are bigger and better than ever. And no, we’re not talking about our national treasure Fast and Furious franchise, those are not to be fucked with. Instead, we get transforming robots or nauseas shaky cam in European matchbox cars. But hallelujah, our prayers for a great “driving movie” were finally answered! Even better, it lives and breathes right here in Atlanta, baby! It’s become the new normal to pass A-List stars on our way in to work. So when our beloved Edgar Wright set out to make a quirky little movie set in the heart of our city, we were intrigued.
The man behind two of the funniest films in the modern era–Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz–was making a hardcore driving film with Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx. Brad was lucky enough to work with Ansel Elgort a couple of years ago and in the weeks spent with him, it was clear that this kid has something special. His charm and vulnerability came through with such saccharine bliss that we believed he and Lily James were destined to be together forever. Play this one loud on the biggest screen you have (especially because the soundtrack kicks ass). Revel in Jon Hamm chewing scenery like a Peckinpah anti-hero. And see Kevin Spacey in a role that fits his unfortunate new persona a little too well. If there’s one thing we look for in a film, it’s to be engrossed and entertained. This film does it in spades, taking you to places you never expected.
*Please note: we didn’t get to watch Call Me By Your Name, but more reviews to come!!
Tell us what you think of all the movies (good and bad) that came out in 2017. What made you think, laugh, throw things at the wall in a fit of rage, or curl up in fetal position on the floor sobbing? What should we watch next?