Best Of The Best 2017: Kurland On Films 10 Best Films

By Scott Kurland

                These "Best Of", "Worst Of", and "Hidden Gems" lists are hard for me to write for number of reasons. I can never seem to determine whether I should release them during the last three days of the year or take the retrospective approach and wait till the first three days of January. Last year I released them all in December. The year before, I released them in January. This year I’m releasing them in January for one simple reason... I ran out of time. Yes, there wasn’t enough time to see “The Post,” “Call Me By Your Name,” or “Phantom Thread.” I knew they’d probably make my top ten, but I was unable to attend the critics screenings for “The Post” or “Call Me By Your Name,” and “Phantom Thread” isn’t coming out in Massachusetts until January. What's a critic to do? So I compiled what is, in my opinion, my definitive list of the best films of 2017. It was hard to narrow down the films which belonged on this list. So hard in fact that this years “Hidden Gems” list is sort of my  "Best Of Part Two" list. So, without further adieu, here is the “Best of the Best 2017.”

10. “The Disaster Artist”

It’s amazing to think that one of the worst films in cinematic history could deliver one of the best films of 2017. James Fracno’s “The Disaster Artist” was one of the most anticipated films going into 2017. Fans of “The Room” always wanted to know what were the series of unfortunate events that led to that nightmarish lucid dream hitting the silver screen. Well, Franco tells you in the most poetic and heart-warming fashion possible. “The Disaster Artist” is not so much a cautionary tale as it is a story about the struggle to achieve the American dream. A crazy young (well, probably old) filmmaker named Tommy Wiseau was told that, in America, you can make your dreams come true, and by God he did it. Franco and his brother Dave played the leads with such purpose and urgency. The script was phenomenal and, most importantly, it was one of the best times I have ever had at the movies.

9. “The Florida Project”

Sean Baker’s realistic fairy tale about the pain, the truth, and the whimsy of being a poor child living in a gypsy hotel never left me after I first saw it in theaters. “The Florida Project” is one of those films that shines a light on society, but does it in a way that isn’t cruel. Baker’s characters aren’t bad people, they’re just trapped in a life of routine. Willem Dafoe gives the best performance of his career as the broken-down hotel manager and protector. Believe me, the man has earned all the oscar buzz he’s getting. “The Florida Project” is truly something special. This isn’t a tough pill to swallow like some critics stated in their reviews. Its' simply a dose of reality that we never knew we needed.

8. “Coco”

When Pixar hits it out of the park, they do so with both style and poise. “Coco” is one of those movies kids think they want to see but, in reality, its the parents that need to see it. Director Lee Unkrich once again hits us where it hurts (our emotions) and he does it with music... that monster. “Coco” is a film that everyone should see. It tackles difficult subjects like death, abandonment, and most surprisingly... MURDER. Despite these difficult themes, "Coco" is a film that everyone can relate to. The two things I loved most about this movie were the visuals and the theme of honoring your family. Unkrich is slowly joining the Pixar "Best Directors Club" with Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, and Pete Docter. “Coco” will certainly win Best Animated Feature and it deserves it. I loved this movie from beginning to end.

7. “Dunkirk”

Dear Christopher Nolan: Can you stop being so good at what you do? You’re making it look too easy. Nolan is an absolute genius. He tells a famous World War II story and yet he never shows a Nazi until the last thirty seconds of the film. “Dunkirk” is one of the most ambitious films of the year for many reasons, the first of which being that Nolan tells his tale out of order. Yeah, his timeline is all over the map; going from a week before the chaos, to the day before, and the hour leading up to this hectic rescue. However, this form of storytelling is not why it makes the "Best Of" list. It’s on this list because it’s just so good and, in my opinion, one of, if not the best war film in recent history. “Dunkirk” left me feeling hopeful, yet sad. Inspired, but also realistic about the military. That right there is a good war movie.

6. “Get Out”

This is the first of three films on this list that feature the directorial debut of accomplished artists. Jordan Peele is one of the most creative individuals working in Hollywood today. The way he and Keegan Michael Key reinvented sketch for Comedy Central was unheard of at the time. Now, Peele changes filmmaking forever with the invention of the "Social Thriller." “Get Out” holds a mirror up to the face of society. It shows us how much emphasis we place on race and that it’s done for all the wrong reasons. Peele’s vision is never once lost. Despite the fact that I saw this film back in February, it has stuck with me all year.

5. “Wind River”

The second of three directorial debuts, this time from screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. For the longest time I thought this film would be my number one film of the year. I can't exactly pinpoint what it was about the story of a professional tracker and an FBI agent searching for a murderer on a reservation that captivated me but I absolutely loved this movie. In my opinion, Jeremy Renner gives the best performance of the year and, sadly, I know for a fact he’ll get snubbed for a nomination. This film opened in August; one of the two reasons it was forgotten. The other is because it was produced by the Weinstein company and we all know that a studio scandal can hurt a movie. It’s a shame because Sheridan made a brilliant film and Renner drove it home. “Wind River” is, hands down, the fifth best film of the year.

4. “Your Name”

Some people will see this as a cheat because the Japanese non-dubbed version came out in 2016, but it was released in America in 2017 which allows me to put this masterpiece at the number four spot. Makoto Shinkai’s unconventional body swap film is one of the most beautiful films of the year. This is the best example of what happens when a studio greenlights an original idea and gets it right. The story of a boy in Tokyo and a girl in a small Japanese village walking a mile in each others shoes is the love story I never knew I wanted to see. The story is pitch perfect, the animation is gorgeous, and let us not forget that the soundtrack is amazing! “Your Name” is one of the best films I’ve seen all year and I have seen it a lot.

3. Lady Bird

Our final debut director is actress Greta Gerwig. I loved Gerwig’s semiautobiographical story of a young high school senior living in Sacramento, California trying to find herself. Saoirse Ronan is the only actress who could play Lady Bird and she truly captures that struggle of identity that comes with being a teenager. I have been very vocal about my love of this film and how it deserves all the good press it's getting. Gerwig is a bold director. What I love about her voice is how she writes from a place of love. Gerwig grew up with these people. She loves them and that’s why the movie works. “Lady Bird” proves that, if you love what you’re doing, everyone else will too because joy and positivity are contagious.

2. “The Shape Of Water”

Guillermo del Toro has made some odd features which, coincidentally, might also be some of the most beautiful films to grace the silver screen. In my opinion, the number two film of the year “The Shape of Water” is not only one of the best films of the year, it’s del Toro’s best film to date. “The Shape of Water” is one part love story, one part creature feature and, finally, a Cold War period piece. None of these components should work- not a one. However, del Toro is such a gifted director he crafts the film into a love letter to all three genres; as well as a homage to old Hollywood. Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins are exceptional, but Michael Shannon is pure evil incarnate as the film’s antagonist Strickland. Its evident in every frame that this was a role Shannon enjoyed immensely. As usual, I toyed with this for the number one spot. I love every moment of this movie. I love the cinematography, del Toro’s direction, and the ensemble cast. This is a film I could watch every day, but it’s not my number one of the year..

AND THE BEST FILM OF 2017 IS…..

1. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Martin McDonagh has been on my hidden gems list for years, but he has never made the best-of-the-best list…until now. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is my number one for one simple reason: it’s one of the best screenplays I have ever had the pleasure of watching play out on screen. McDonagh’s  screenplay fuses together three difficult subject matters to create a conclusion you never see coming. What should be a routine film about a mother trying to get justice for her dead daughter is filled with layers upon layers of emotional depth. It’s brilliant writing and direction from McDonagh. Sam Rockwell and France McDormand are shoe-ins for Oscar nominations. Their performances are simply stellar. Provided that the subject matter isn’t too intense for the voting committees, I have a feeling that,“Three Billbards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” could sweep come award season. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is the best film of 2017. Welcome to the list Martin. You’ve earned it.

scott kurlandComment