Movie critic Ed Symkus picks his favorite movies of the year.
I see a lot of movies. In 2017, I saw 164 1/2 new ones (I walked out halfway through “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”), and a couple of days ago, made a list of every one of them. The verdict: It was a pretty darn good year to be a film critic. Looking over that list, a few were stinkers, a bunch were good but not great, and a handful were gems. The criteria for those that I consider the best of the best isn’t that they were the best; they were the ones that I would watch again without having to think about it, the ones I really enjoyed.
This was one of the tougher times I’ve had winnowing down a yearly list. But I was determined to keep the number at 10, with one stipulation being that I could include runners-up, and the other that the Top 10 were just that: my 10 favorites, all equally terrific, presented in alphabetical order. Here we go!
BABY DRIVER – Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a getaway driver for some nasty robbers. It’s a car chase movie with characters to like and hate and be afraid of. Baby listens to a lot of music, and we hear what’s going through his earbuds, making the movie actually move, in choreographic style. Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey are the bad guys, but the soundtrack is the star.
DARKEST HOUR – Gary Oldman IS Winston Churchill in the true story of the first few weeks that he served as Britain’s prime minister. Important weeks, mind you, as they were just before England gets really involved against Germany in WWII.
THE DISASTER ARTIST – In 2003, an awful movie called “The Room” was made by and starred Tommy Wiseau, who didn’t know how to act or make movies. This is the story of the making of that movie, with James Franco playing Tommy and directing. Franco does know how to act and make movies. This is funny, sometimes cringe-worthy stuff.
DUNKIRK – Three, count ’em, three movies in one. Chris Nolan’s small yet epic WWII film covers a week on the beach at Dunkirk, where British soldiers are trapped by Germans; a day of that week when British pleasure boat owners crossed the Channel to help rescue them; and an hour in the sky as a Spitfire pilot tries to shoot down the Messerschmitts that were attacking the soldiers.
I, TONYA – According to this movie, Tonya Harding isn’t who you thought she was – a villainess who masterminded an attack on her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie is great as Tonya. Allison Janney will win an Oscar as her vulgar, cursing, hilarious white trash mom.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 – Like “Terminator 2,” “Aliens,” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” this is a sequel that was as good as if not better than the original, and the original was damn good. Keanu Reeves is a sort of unstoppable hit man, operating in a kind of alternate universe, who has his world turned against him.
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Simply put, this is Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction-horror-fantasy-romance-sociopolitical-Cold War-Space Race movie that happens to have a big dance number in it. Confession: It was my favorite of the year.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – Starting about a minute after “The Force Awakens” ends, this brings back a lot of characters we know, gives us some new ones, has good story twists, is really exciting, and sticks in a bit of slapstick. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read any reviews by anyone you don’t trust, and don’t get into any discussions with people who enjoy spoiling movies.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Here’s hoping this is the last in what should remain the trilogy that began with “Rise” and “Dawn.” It’s just a great point at which to end the story. It’s the most complex and ambitious of the three, as we get to know the characters – both ape and human – pretty well. Andy Serkis needs to win SOMETHING for his motion capture portrayal of Caesar.
WONDERSTRUCK – Only two movies in one, but this absolutely sparkles. Its stories, set 50 years apart, slowly merge into one, telling of two 12-year-old kids – one in 1927, one in 1977 – who head to New York City, each of them searching for someone special. The 1977 story is in color, the other one is in B&W, and there’s a great deal of silence. It may be told through the eyes of these kids, but it’s an all ages film.
THE 10 RUNNERS-UP (also in alphabetical order), all worth checking out:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.