As has been increasingly the case, the movie year was consumed by super hero/comic book pictures, with six of the top 11 movies at the box office. But, of that lot, only “Wonder Woman” is getting notice as among the year’s best.
That’s not surprising. The pictures, while sometimes enjoyable, are formulaic and repetitive. But in a world where only box office really matters, they’ll continue to fill theaters and drive the movie discussion for years to come.
What did surprise is that some “Star Wars" devotees are disappointed, at best, with “The Last Jedi.” I found it a well-done, entertaining picture, albeit overhyped and way too long. But I’m far from a "Star Wars" geek.
Four performances from the year I can’t shake: Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour,” Hong Chau in “Downsizing” and Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project.” Almost certainly all will be Oscar-nominated for their work, with Oldman and Dafoe as near-locks to win.
My best of 2017 list is confined to movies that played in Lincoln theaters in 2017. So “The Post,” “The Shape of Water,” “Phantom Thread” and “Call Me By Your Name” aren’t here.
-- L. Kent Wolgamott
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This dark comedy from writer/director Martin McDonagh, the Englishman who made “In Bruges,” is a bitingly told character study that goes beyond Southern stereotypes to delve into rape culture, cover-ups, grief and criminality on all sides. It is powered by a searingly funny performance from the great Frances McDormand. And it’s not, as some would claim, cut-rate Coen Brothers.
I heard director Edgar Wright call his film a soundtrack with a movie attached — a perfect description of the heist picture for which he selected a series of songs, then wrote each scene to fit the songs. The music helped make the car-chasing, bullet-flying action even more exhilarating, and the structure took the film beyond genre. The good news — there’s going to be a sequel (I never say that).
Director Christopher Nolan, for my money today’s best “big” filmmaker, created a brilliant epic about the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk, in which 30,000 British troops had to be evacuated from French beaches under the Nazi blitzkrieg. Told in a triad of approaches — land, sea and air — hopping around in time and focusing more on the soldiers and survival, Nolan’s film is a very different, an almost-abstract war picture.
A companion piece of sorts to “Dunkirk,” “Darkest Hour” follows Winston Churchill during the weeks just before the civilian armada left England to rescue most of the Dunkirk troops. With Churchill finely played by an nearly unrecognizable Gary Oldman, Joe Wright’s film is a taut political drama and a finely crafted work that’s a study in the use of light.
Writer-director Sean Baker uses observational realism to look at hidden poverty and the struggles of millennials trapped in that world with this gritty film that’s set among the low-budget motels near Disney World in Orlando. It’s carried by near-perfect performances by 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince as the daughter of a very irresponsible single mom and Willem Dafoe as the motel’s nice-guy manager.
Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” made a true cinematic rarity — a horror movie that is funny and scary while delivering some pointed social commentary. As much satire as it is straight comedy, “Get Out” provocatively tackles racism as it delivers real-life terror — there’s no boogeyman in a hockey mask here.
Written expressly for its 90-year-old star by his old friend Logan Sparks, “Lucky” is the perfect goodbye to the legendary character actor Harry Dean Stanton, who died this year at 91. The low-budget indie picture reprised, in many ways, characters Stanton had inhabited, as he plays a prickly loner in a small desert town.
As always, Pixar has created the animated movie of the year, this time going where family-aimed films rarely dare to go as it deals directly with death. That’s because its young hero, an aspiring musician, has to traverse the Land of the Dead (a beautifully crafted, skeleton-filled animated world) to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.
Taylor Sheridan, who wrote “Hell or High Water,” my No. 1 movie of 2016, wrote and directed this taut, character-driven mystery set on an Indian reservation in Wyoming. Sheridan based the film on myriad true stories — making it resonate with truth, and his superbly crafted characters are well-played by Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and the always-superb Graham Greene.
The most widely acclaimed indie film of the year introduced a fine new director, actress Greta Gerwig, who wrote a screwball comedy based loosely on her life growing up in Sacramento, California. She got a superb performance from Saoirse Ronan as a lovable, if scattered, teen. Gerwig keeps the film crisp and funny throughout and transcends the coming-of-age formula.