Chris Ryan's Top Five Fave Movies of 2017: Part One, the Top Five
The Top Five:
Call Me By Your Name
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A darkly comic horror movie about race in America - - how do you like them eggrolls, Mr. Goldstone? Written and directed by *Key and Peele* star Jordan Peele. Exciting, creepy, funny, unsettling, and completely original, full of surprises but not at all cute or clever (you know how I can’t abide cleverness). A dazzling debut!
Oh wow, what an incredible movie - - Sofia Coppola’s finest to date. I’ve seen every one of her movies in the theater, which I can’t say for any other director (I come close with Tarantino, but I missed his first movie, *Reservoir Dogs*). *The Beguiled* is titillating, exciting, gorgeous to look at, beautifully acted, expertly made. The use of music is genius. All three lead performances (Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst) are very strong.
Fantastic! Some of the greatest fight scenes I’ve ever seen. Charlize Theron tore the joint apart, literally and figuratively. Is she one of the people they’re considering to be the new James Bond? She would be killer! The director, David Leitch, has a background as a stunt double and stunt coordinator, so it’s no surprise that the fight scenes are so stunning - - but the whole movie works, never a bump in the road, always smooth sailing, narratively-speaking. I can’t wait for his next movie: *Deadpool 2!*
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
This movie was on my radar because of the director - - Luca Guadagnino did *I Am Love,* a rapturously beautiful movie from 2009 with Tilda Swinton, Marisa Berenson, and some other people. *Call Me By Your Name* is a romantic drama set in rural Italy in 1983. The two people involved in the romance are a 17-year old half French, half American guy played by Timothée Chalamet and an American graduate student played by Armie Hammer. They advance and retreat over the course of the movie, the atmosphere is heavy with unspoken desire. The younger guy is the point of view character, and the actor, writer, and director totally nail the romantic longings of a young man that age.
This movie had three great things going for it: it was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who I adore. It starred Daniel Day Lewis, who is always fascinating. And it was about a 1950s London fashion designer, which is totally my lane! It delivered big time on all three counts, and added a delicious element of surprise - - it wasn’t just a frothy fashion movie, it was also a creepy, terse drama with an intense power struggle. Love that! Day Lewis has said that this was his final movie. We’ve heard that from him before, haven’t we? This isn’t a monumental part, like Lincoln, but he started his career in quirky indie movies (hello, *My Beautiful Laundrette*), so it seems a fitting way to end his career. I think only he could play this role with such a careful balance of elegance and malice.
Karen, Bruce, and I first saw this as an art installation at the Park Avenue Armory. You can read my review of that experience here:
Divamensch.com -> Reviews -> Other genres -> Other -> Manifesto
Allow me to summarize, for those who don’t feel like reading the review: it was a work by Julian Rosenfeldt, twelve films shown on twelve screens, settings of the manifestos of many different art movements. My favorites were Fluxus/Merz/Performance, which was told in the context of a Russian choreographer rehearsing a group of dancers in an alien ballet, and Dadaism, which was told in the context of a woman doing a eulogy at graveside. Hilarious. All twelve films starred the one and only Cate Blanchett. In one film she played two characters, so she played a total of thirteen different characters.
Early in the show I wondered how Rosenfeldt would make it an immersive experience, instead of just being twelve films shown in a large space. He did this by having a moment in each film where the central character looked into the camera, in a close-up, and intoned the next section of text on a single pitch. This happened at the same time in all twelve films so it became this marvelous sense-surround experience.
So my new question became this: now that he proved he could make this into something more than a movie, how would he succeed in making it a movie? A 90-minute movie in a normal movie theater, no less. Well, he succeeded brilliantly. In the movie theater setting, the film seemed to highlight Blanchett more and the artistic texts less. She was astonishing, absolutely fearless and exploding with talent and ability.
When was the last time you saw a summer action movie (a superhero movie, no less) that addressed deep issues? This is the one. Director Patty Jenkins knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. Let’s see her direct a Bond movie, shall we (more about Bond in a minute)? Chris Pine’s character was a little too goofy for my taste, but not so bad that it threatened to derail the movie. Gal Gadot was the best thing in the movie, as she should have been - - she’s got all the charisma of an old school movie star. She grounded the movie.
STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI
Such a delight. Exciting, beautiful, somewhat surprising - - just plain satisfying. But Richard and I came up with a whole list of things that were being ripped off, or is it better to say “referenced?” The Harry Potter movies, the Jurassic Park movies, the Kill Bill movies, moments of Kurosawa, Richard Wagner operas, and I think there was a moment ripped of from a Steak-Umm commercial.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
A tremendous movie, a masterpiece of storytelling, storytelling of the highest order. Great performances by everyone. I wasn’t surprised to see Frances McDormand giving such a powerful, searing performance, she’s one of our greatest actors and has been doing extraordinary work for ages. But I was surprised to see Woody Harrelson give such a rock solid performance. Over the course of the movie we hear his character read two or three letters, we hear his voice over the visual onscreen. Those letters were the highlights of the movie.
The movie was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, who I know as a playwright - - we saw maybe his best-known play, *The Beauty Queen of Leenane,* last year, and it blew me away. He also wrote and directed *In Bruges,* a cute little caper with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes. I guess now I need to see the movie he directed before *Three Billboards,* *Seven Psychopaths.* Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, and Olga Kurylenko. And jeez, also with the inevitable Michael Stuhlbarg, Gabourey Sidibe, and the late Harry Dean Freaking Stanton!
My friend Lyn wrote a brilliant rant on how much she HATED *Three Billboards.* Clearly I’m not in her camp, but she certainly gave me a lot to chew on: