2017 in Film
What happened in 2017? Where were the blockbusters? Where were the iconic scenes? Apparently this past year was when Hollywood got a kick in the teeth. In some ways it was necessary, but at the box office, it was a painful reminder that big names and budgets don't always leave their mark. Nevertheless, here are some stand outs:
#5 Baby Driver
The only thing better than Ansel Elgort’s troubled character who gives the movie its name is the soundtrack that accompanies Baby Driver, that brings us Jon Spencer, the Beach Boys and Beck, all in one. It’s a typical heist – Baby drives a car full of robbers, part of the scheme of a heist artist to whom he owes a favor. But Elgort’s Baby steals the show. His kind-hearted gestures and choreographed routines makes us laugh, cry and and dance in our seats as the rest of the heist routine plays out on screen. Baby struggles to right his moral compass, but in the end we see the passion of this young man survive his days of heist work – we watch him overcome his trauma, and ride off with his girl, car and sunset, fulfilling the happy, wholesome ending, while also exciting the Need for Speed-esque hype. Baby Driver balances in a space where music, dance and action can mix, making it something that all viewers can find a resonance with.
With perfectly timed Spanglish and an entirely Latino voice cast, Pixar’s Coco broke the mold, celebrating Mexican culture with its bright colors and beautifully constructed animation. We fall in love with the Riviera family, as Miguel travels through the Land of the Dead to discover a love deeper than his love of guitar: the love of family. A children’s movie, yes. But Coco reaches beyond the superficial as we watch Miguel and his great, great grandparents (some of whom are already dead) learn through each other to discover their true selves. To move away from the “rip-off” of culture that was The Book of Life, Pixar’s Coco brings us characters that are human and real, who have a deep culture but also dynamic and emotional actions, giving young children (and adults) a bright celebration of what it really means to have representation.
#3 The Big Sick
Possibly the funniest film of the year starring a brown lead. Oh wait. Kumail Nanjiani finally took the helm of a project, instead of fading into the background. In his first major outing, he plays a Pakistani Uber driver who randomly finds love while performing a stand-up gig. This relationship blooms, until she realizes he is also being fixed up by his mother. It's a classic boy meets girl, boy secretly gets set up for arranged marriages, girl slips into a coma. This film is insanely funny, honest and transparent about modern relationships. Hopefully Nanjiani has more up his sleeve, because this was comedy at its finest.
#2 Lady Bird
Ladybird is a masterpiece in its ability to say something, nothing, and everything we could never say but wanted to all at once. It follows Christine “Ladybird” McPherson through her senior year of high school, capturing perfectly every emotion during that time. There is excitement in applying to college, worry about money, the all-too-familiar arguments and hatred of mom, the confusion of boys and sex, and the heartbreaking truth that home is not that bad. There is not any explanation: it simply happens, and Greta Gerwig uses the beauty of her shots to portray images that scream emotions louder than words. It is simply the portrayal of life. It isn’t just another coming-of-age drama: Ladybird has a best friend, a fake best friend, a job, a gay boyfriend, and a disappointing sexual experience that make her more real than we would ever care to admit. The film is nostalgic for something we’ve all felt or lived and it gives us comfort in being unashamed to be brutally truthful – it plays at no romances. It portrays, simply, growing up as real life.
#1 Get Out
The genre of “horror” was redefined this year with Jordan Peele’s rom-com-gone-psycho-thriller Get Out. Horribly relevant and finely-tuned with moments of absurd disbelief, Get Out speaks not only as an artistic masterpiece, but as part of a movement (see: Black Lives Matter) as well. The horror of Get Out rested not only in the confused visit young, Black and handsome Chris takes to visit his white girlfriend Rose’s family in Upstate New York, but in the reality that takes hold, the reality that Black Americans face everyday. In the chilling glances from the family’s servants and the dissonance between Chris believing his instincts and being blinded by the family’s “charming” ways, there is a beautiful interplay between suspense and confusion. Peele’s ability to portray real life as horror, in an impossibly unbelievable and yet not unfamiliar way, marks Get Out as a work of cinematic and activist genius, earning it a place at the top of its genre, not only now, but for many more years.