Here is my annual top 10 list of movies, ranked according to mainstream standards. In other words, weird movies are allowed in this list, but I attempt to rank 2017 releases according to their general merit, as a guide intended for people who don’t specialize in the genre. Therefore, a provocative, nearly Surrealist film like mother! will rank highly in a year-end weird movie list, but only earns an honorable mention as a notable 2017 release here. (That said, there is an entry here to shock the unaware). Stay tuned for the top 10 weird movies of 2017 at a later hour.
2017 Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Baahubali 2; Baby Driver; The Big Sick; Brawl in Cell Block 99; City of Ghosts; Columbus; A Cure for Wellness; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; The Florida Project; A Ghost Story; Graduation; Jane; The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Lady Bird; The Lego Batman Movie; Logan; The Lost City of Z; mother!; My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea; A Quiet Passion; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Stronger; Thelma;Thor: Ragnarok; The Women’s Balcony; Wonder Woman; Your Name
10. Mudbound: The epic tale of two families–black sharecroppers and white landowners–in Jim Crow Mississippi, and the unlikely (and tragic) friendship between two sons who bond over their WWII service. Great historical detail, a fine ensemble cast, and a chilling ending are the high points in this excellent adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel. A Netflix production with a limited theatrical release.
9. Only the Brave: Trying to clean up so he can support his daughter, a recovering drug addict (Miles Teller) joins an ambitious wildfire-fighting crew led by a gruff workaholic (Josh Brolin). Nothing in this inspiringly macho adventure drama feels forced or exaggerated for effect; it is a honorable and touching tribute to the real life firemen who risk their lives to protect ours. Overlooked by both critics and box office patrons, this is a very solid, uncontroversial and inspirational movie that should move just about anyone.
8. I, Tonya: The true (?) story of Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding, from her abusive upbringing to the famous Nancy Kerrigan kneecapping incident that effectively ended her career. A tragicomic, distaff Raging Bull ripped straight from yesteryear’s tabloids, it’s entertaining, but also unexpectedly rich and quintessentially American. Chain-smoking stage mom Allison Janney makes for the year’s most hateful, unrepentant villains (at least, for those who miss Jonathan Banks in Mudbound).
7. The Disaster Artist: Struggling actor Greg Sestero befriends the odd, inept Tommy Wiseau—a mystery man of uncertain origins and bottomless wealth—who produces the disastrous self-indulgent camp classic The Room. The “making of” scenes of are very funny, but the core of the movie is the legitimate friendship between the two men—a call to stay loyal to those who show you loyalty, however weird they may be. If you’re looking for insights into Wiseau’s origins, the source of his fortune, or how he got to be so indescribably odd, you won’t find them here. But you’ll feel fondly towards him anyway.
6. Coco: A Mexican boy, the unhappy son of a family of music-hating cobblers, finds himself in the Land of the Dead, seeking the blessing of his great-great grandfather to heal a familial rift that’s lasted for generations. Adults will figure out the plot twist early, but the jewel-like Day of the Dead themed animation hits the eye hard—including, at the end, the tear ducts. This is Pixar doing what it does best.
5. Skins [Pieles]: Read the Certified Weird entry! Buried in an exclusive Netflix release, it’s safe to say you have never seen anything quite like this intricate, interconnected tapestry of the lives of people deformed both inside and outside before. It’s often unpleasant and even revolting, but the intricate plotting, aggressive stylization, and oscillation of cruelty and compassion make this bizarre debut from Spain’s Eduardo Casanova more than just a freak show. Hopefully it can somehow overcome its distributional constraints to become a cult movie of some sort.
4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Angered by the police’s failure to solve her daughter’s rape and murder, a bitter working woman buys advertising space on billboards accusing the local police of not doing their jobs—but the ads just create more tragedy for everyone connected to the case. It’s almost hard to believe that the premise isn’t based on a true story. The cast—a not-to-be-messed with Frances McDormand, chief of police Woody Harrelson, and corrupt (and kind of dumb) deputy Sam Rockwell—deservedly get a lot of praise, but most of the credit should go to Martin McDonagh for creating such complicated, nuanced, and humorous characters.
3. The Shape of Water: Against a Cold War backdrop, a mute cleaning woman forms a relationship with an aquatic creature she finds imprisoned in a military facility. Fun little bestiality-themed fairy tale from, with making for an excellent villain and the best musical number of the year. Honestly, this was not my personal favorite, but it demands to be recognized as high-level storytelling, nearly flawless in performance and technique.
2. Blade Runner 2049: Read Alfred Eaker’s review. 30 years after the first Blade Runner, the line between humans and the android replicants is becoming ever thinner; the discovery of a mysterious corpse leads K, a blade runner, on a mission to find Deckard and discover secrets about his own creation. Surpasses the previous movie in terms of art direction, equals it in script, and includes what may be the strangest menage a trois sex scene of all time. A movie about what it means to be a replicant.
1. Get Out: A nervous Chris goes to meet his white girlfriend’s wealthy family for the first time, but finds everyone at their country home acts strange—especially the docile and reserved black servants. Works brilliantly as a straightforward horror movie and also as an allegory of black paranoia about white society and the fear of cultural assimilation. The horror structure keeps it from being preachy, while simultaneously conveying Chris’ feeling of discomfort at being surrounded entirely by white people far better than a realistic treatment ever could. Lil Rel Howery, as Chris’ suspicious TSA agent friend, adds some of the best comic relief I’ve ever seen in a horror film. A terrific achievement, and well deserving of the many movie-of-the-year awards it’s getting.