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Cottonwood Holladay Journal

Dan's Best and Worst Movies of 2017

Dec 28, 2017 04:08PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Dan Metcalf's Best & Worst Films of 2017

THE BEST OF 2017

2017 was not a great year for the box office and it doesn’t seem like there are any clear frontrunners or consensus among critics for top honors. Even so, there were a few films that really stood out above the rest, and some that deserve the trash heap, in my opinion. There was a wide variety of film types, including really good and really bad comedies, good/bad dramas, good/bad action thrillers and one very good musical. Oddly enough, Zac Efron managed to show up in both categories. My list does not include A Ghost Story or Get Out, both of which show up on a lot of other critics’ lists. I don’t apologize for not liking them, nor the films I love or hate. It’s my list. If you don’t like it, make your own list, and we can compare notes. 

1.     Dunkirk – The best film of the year, and Christopher Nolan’s true masterpiece. Interlacing the story with large-scale action and minimal dialogue gives Dunkirk a documentary ambiance and an authentic World War II experience, creating tension right up to the end credits. Using relatively unknown, young actors to portray the characters at the center of the story, gives even more authenticity to the film, while relying on talented veteran actors on the periphery. The sound editing, sound design, film editing, special effects (which do not feel like overproduced Michael Bay fare) and production design all come together to make a movie that is worthy of praise and distinction.

2.     The Greatest Showman – Not only a great musical, with excellent performances from an outstanding cast, but a great film. Hugh Jackman anchors the ensemble with perfect voice and spot-on dancing acumen, equally shared by Zac Efron, Zendaya and others. The music and lyrics from the Benj Pasek/Justin Paul team generates a powerful and moving experience for the whole family.

3.     Coco - A beautiful, compelling, and wonderful film about family, and the ties that bind us together. I was especially moved at the reverence given to those to whom we owe our legacy, especially the elderly folks who are still with us. The backdrop for this beautiful message is an incredible animated masterpiece with incredible music that rivals anything Disney or Pixar have done in the past.

4.     Wind River - An excellent film, showcasing Taylor Sheridan’s gift for cinematic tragedy and storytelling. Perhaps his greatest skill is drawing authentic and sympathetic characters and interpreting those personas to the screen in simple, understated fashion. Jeremy Renner also gives his best performance in years.

5.     Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig’s “coming of age” story of a Sacramento teen’s struggle to find her place in life was a sweet surprise. Saorise Ronan delivers a fantastic performance alongside Laurie Metcalf who plays her mother. Gerwig has a knack for finding humor and humanity in the margins of everyday family life, along with a talent for creating simple, yet powerful dialogue.

6.     Logan Lucky – It’s a movie that confirms Steven Soderberg still has a knack for comedy, especially ones involving talented ensemble casts playing eccentric characters. It’s the best comedy of the year, and conspicuously endearing on several levels. Even though Daniel Craig pretty much steals most scenes in the movie, some of the best scenes involve somewhat superfluous characters, played by a variety of well-known stars. If comedy is hard, Soderberg makes it look effortless.

7.     Baby Driver – It’s exciting, fun, funny and a beautiful all at once, showcasing Edgar Wright’s incredible talent for telling stories while gracefully manipulating every single movie frame, choreographing awesome cinematography, editing and most of all - music. Wright’s rapid-fire scene structure makes special effects moot, positioning all the action into feast for the senses.

8.     The Shape of Water - a beautiful film with a simple and profound theme about love and acceptance, especially for those who face roadblocks of racism, homophobia and neglect of people who have disabilities. Sally Hawkins gives a powerful performance in the lead role, using a soulful and loud voice without uttering a single auditory word. Del Toro has a knack for melding striking visual effects into his narratives about the human (and inhuman) experience, and The Shape of Water is no exception.

9.     Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - A quirky, coarse and profane dark comedy, propped up by three outstanding performances from Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

10.  Blade Runner 2049 - A visually stunning, mind-bending trip from the imagination of Denis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049’s running time clocks in just under 2 hours and 45 minutes. If you can allow yourself to get inside the deeper issues involving humanity’s relationship with artificial intelligence, you may enjoy the film. It’s a slow burn, but it’s worth the wait.   

Honorable Mention: Darkest Hour, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Wonder.


THE ABSOLUTE WORST OF 2017

2017 was a banner year for really bad films. From (yet) another Michael Bay Transformers installment, to two really bad movies based on really bad TV shows, there were so many awful films to choose from, I had a difficult time whittling them down to a workable list. I hope you people appreciate the sacrifice I made to get here. 

1.     Mother! - The biggest load of pretentious, cinematic rubbish of the year. It would seem that writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s gnostic vision of humanity (also a major focus of his equally pretentious Noah) is not a very good one, and he doesn’t really have much respect or use for God (or religion), either. I suppose Aronofsky was trying to champion some kind of environmental message in Mother!, but he offers zero hope, zero answers and even less wisdom regarding the role of man and nature, while taking a not-too-subtle swipe at religion. Good luck with that. Some critics and art lovers may marvel at Mother!’s nihilism, but most of the world a) believes in (some sort of) god, b) tries to make their world better and c) doesn’t give one flying crap about Aronofsky’s dark thoughts about all the above.  I certainly don’t.

2.     CHiPs  - It was less of a movie and more of a series of sexual, disgusting sight gags thrown together around a weak script and even weaker story. I did not laugh once during the one hour and forty minutes of the movie, and I can’t figure out what Dax Shepard (who wrote, directed and starred in the film) was trying to accomplish here, except to discover new ways to reach new lows, especially in terms of gross humor, sexual behavior and implausible plot lines. It’s one of those rare circumstances where a crappy 1970s or 80s TV show was much better than the movie.

3.     Baywatch - Another terrible film, based on another terrible TV show. It’s a special brand of movie drudgery, like that guy who wanders around a party, telling the same (bad) joke for hours, as if we needed a constant reminder that the TV show’s only reason for existence was an excuse to allow really attractive people to run in slow-motion toward a camera, with their body parts rippling and jiggling. It’s full of bad language, comedic gore, nudity, sex and failed sight gags showcasing male genitalia. It’s an experience not unlike visiting a beach after an oil spill.

4.     Fist Fight – A film that represents the basest form of comedy, mostly drawing upon penis jokes, foul language and the inappropriate student/teacher relationships (#MeToo, anyone?). Fist Fight also contains a lot of high-pitched, hysterical whining from Charlie Day, which has begun to grow a little stale, absent of any dialogue that doesn’t include numerous F-bombs and a few genitalia slang references, relegating it to nothing more than a long, dirty joke without a clever punch line.

5.     xXx: Return of Xander Cage - A really dumb film sequel intended to appeal to the basest of male denominators, including (but not limited to) extreme stunts, bass-heavy music, hyper sexuality, motorcycles, fast cars, cheap cologne and of course, violence.

6.     Unforgettable - There is nothing original, compelling or suspenseful in Unforgettable, right down to the clichéd climactic “catfight” between Katherine Heigle and Rosario Dawson, complete with aggressive one-liners reminiscent of so many “Fatal Attraction”-like movies of the 80s and 90s. Unforgettable might be one of those Lifetime TV movies, if not for the R-rated language and some sexuality. Drop the “Un” from the title, and you’re spot-on.

7.     Snatched -  Sure, the movie was “funny,” but only in the sense that it “smelled” funny, and not in a good way. There are almost no laughs, and most of the jokes have to do with Amy Schumer’s anatomy, body fluids and hygiene of her private parts. The rest of the film is spent on racist tropes about Third World countries and the obvious realization that Schumer’s on-screen character (or lack thereof) is a non-starter. 

8.     Transformers 5 - Two & a half painful hours of posturing machines and Mark Wahlberg is supposed to be a “knight?” The Transformers franchise feels like an ever-expanding junk pile. According to Wikipedia, Michael Bay has claimed that there are an additional 14 Transformer movie ideas in the mix, God help us all.

9.     Geostorm - Even if you discount the flimsy pseudo-science of Geostorm’s premise, there’s an overabundance of lame dialogue, unlikely behavior and absence of any kind of chemistry among the cast, anchored by another dismal performance from Gerard Butler. Geostorm takes its place among several other equally inane global disaster movies, like The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, The Core, Deep Impact, Armageddon and Independence Day.

10. The Snowman - A depressing, pointless, and sloppy mystery, that really wasn’t that mysterious, telegraphing the “whodunit” less than halfway through the film. It’s a movie that tried to capture the intrigue of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, but forgot to include anything resembling intrigue, a credible story, or sympathetic characters.

Dishonorable Mentions: Downsizing, A Cure for Wellness, Power Rangers, Life, A Bad Moms Christmas.

Note: I did not catch The Emoji Movie, which reserves space on several other year-end “bad” lists. It’s not a real priority for me to view it only to complete this list, considering all the other awful films I had to endure.