Hidden Gems: The Best Films of 2017 That Have Been Overlooked Or Forgotten

By Scott Kurland

                I see so many good movies that deserve to be on the "Best Of" list. Sadly, for one reason or another, they just don’t make the final cut. Usually it’s because these aren’t the typical “high caliber” films most critics are drawn to. Sometimes it has to do with the films genre. Let’s face it, sci-fi, horror, and comic-book movies hardly make any critic's top ten. That is the beauty of this little list I concocted (many many years ago). You don’t have to be an indie hit to make this list. So, sit back relax, and read about this years films that stuck with me and hold a special place in my heart.

10. “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton”

Netflix takes on some ambitious and sometimes downright controversial topics for their documentaries. Chris Smith’s film about Jim Carrey going a little too method for his role as Andy Kaufman in “Man On The Moon” is one of those documentaries. For this film, Smith interweaves segments of  an in-depth one-on-one interview with Carrey from present day 2016/2017 with stock archival behind-the-scenes footage from the set of “Man On The Moon.” What I loved about this documentary was how Smith and Carrey show the dark side of method acting. Carrey allows his footage taken from the 1998 movie set to come to light, and he does not come out favorably. “Jim & Andy” is a dark, sometimes funny documentary about the extremes people go through when it comes to truly inhabiting a role. This is a Netflix documentary everyone should see.

9. “Colossal”

 I watch a lot of sci-fi Monster films and a lot of indie "dramedies" about substance abuse. Never once did I think I’d see the day when the two would meet. That is what is special about Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal.” The cast is insanely talented and the chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis is electrifying. The reason it makes the list is how powerful of a film it was. The premise of an alcoholic woman waking up one day to discover she has a psychic connection with a Kaiju monster that's plaguing Seoul, South Korea sounds crazy. Even so, you cannot tear your eyes off the screen as you wonder how on earth Vigalondo is going to conclude this story. I saw “Colossal’ in April, and I can't shake away the power of this films messages and metaphors about the dangers of addiction from my thoughts.

8. “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”

Noah Baumbach’s “Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” at first glance, sounded eerily similar to Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenebaums.” It would make sense that Baumbach would make such a film since he’s worked with Anderson on more than one occasion. Still, you have to see it to realize how brilliant it really is. Netflix gave Baumbach free range to craft a loving portrait of a dysfunctional family that wants nothing more than to be normal. Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller give the best performances of their careers. Although this isn’t Baumbach’s strongest film, it is one of his best in five years. If you haven’t watched “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” on Netflix, you should. It’s got heart, laughter, and the number eight spot on this list.

7. “Split”

I never thought I’d see the day where I would be happy to see an M. Night Shyamalan film, but “Split” is his best film in seventeen years. Until now, “Unbreakable,” which came out in 2000, was the most recent of Shyamalan's films that I could say I actually enjoyed watching. I find that strange because “Split” is a sequel of sorts to “Unbreakable.” James McAvoy stars as a man with 24 split personalities-each of which has its own talents, mannerisms and, surprisingly, health problems. But its the 24th that has a nefarious plan brewing in his mind. McAvoy is nothing short of spectacular here. What he does with all these different personalities will leave you speechless. I’ve watched it a few times since it first came out in January, and what impresses me most is it's simplicity. The film was produced by Jason Blum and Blumhouse pictures whose entire business model seems to be using a smaller budget to make higher quality films. That strategy sounds insane, but “Split” proves that it can pay off big time. I loved this film and, though it did really well on first release, it got lost in the shuffle as the year went on. Hopefully, making the list will inspire people to give it a look.

6. “Logan”

Its the final Wolverine film starring Hugh Jackman and boy does it pack a punch. Everything about this movie does not scream “X-Men.” If they didn’t make it clear they were mutants from the get-go, you’d think you were watching a road drama about parents and children. James Mangold was the right man to make this heartbreaking western. "Logan" is the sharp clawed love child of “Walk The Line” and “The Wolverine." Seeing Jackman as a broken down Logan will leave you with a lump in your throat. This film is not the traditional “Old Man Logan” story, but it’s the one we needed in order to give Hugh the proper goodbye he deserved.

5. “War For The Planet Of The Apes”

I love me some damned dirty apes...and this entire franchise. Not only do I own every film, but I also have a vintage a Dr. Zaius action figure. I’m hardcore when it comes to this ape-filled world and I love how Matthew Reeves took inspiration from “Apocalypse Now” when it came to developing the final installment of this trilogy. Most importantly, I love Andy Serkis as Caesar. Like Caesar we’ve watched Serkis evolve through these three films and prove what a gifted actor he is. Never has a man done so much without ever showing his real face on screen. Well, not since Doug Jones of course as  both he and Serkis do a lot of hidden acting in the majority of their roles. Fox claims that there’s a fourth film coming and I hope that isn't true. “War For The Planet Of The Apes” ended perfectly. What Reeves and Serkis accomplished should be remembered, not built upon.

4. “Blade Runner 2049”

I don’t know why so many people skipped “Blade Runner 2049.” I know the three hour run time turned some people off, but it shouldn’t have. The film flew by for me. Denis Villeneuve's continuation of Ridley Scott’s story was masterfully carried out. This film is just another example of why the world needs longer movies when they are done right.There was a time when being a long movie was considered to be a badge of honor (some even had intermissions!). This generation has an attention span problem that is crippling the artistic vision of great directors. “Blade Runner 2049” was the film I have been waiting for since I was ten years old. More people should take the opportunity to see what an amazing film this is.

3. “IT”

Here’s a horror film that broke all sorts of records and shines as this list's nontraditional hidden gem. I say nontraditional because it reminds us of a time that was previously forgotten. In this day and age, you can’t seem to have a horror movie that isn’t torture porn. It felt like my generation no longer cared for a horror film that took it's time...that is until “IT” came out. “IT” proved that clowns are still scary and childhood needs to be protected. It also proves that if  you allow kids to be their foul-mouthed-selves you’ll get a better reaction from critics and audiences. “IT” was the first time I saw that critics were happy that kids were swearing, screaming, and beating up a clown with a baseball bat (on screen of course). I saw “IT” four times in theaters because it really is that good.

2. “The Big Sick”

The true love story of Emily V. Gordon and her husband comedian Kumail Nanjiani that was adapted for the screen. What makes “The Big Sick” special is how it doesn't hide its warts. The challenges that this couple faced when it came to pursuing their relationship is wrapped in a nice candy-coating of humor and sarcasm; one which is thin enough to reveal the heartache underneath. Nanjiani plays a great fictional version of himself and Zoe Kazan shines as the fictional version of Gordon. “The Big Sick” is the best romantic comedy in quite some time. Never does this film disappoint. Michael Showalter’s direction is near perfect, the performances from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are sensational, and it doesn’t hurt having the real life people involved.

1. “Baby Driver”

God bless you Edgar Wright. You truly know your stuff. ”Baby Driver”  is a pulse-pounding thrill ride with an old-school musical hiding deep inside its core. Wright crafts a complex story of a getaway driver that uses music to drown out a hum in his ear. How this film is executed is so beautifully done; like a ballet on chrome wheels. Ansel Elgort leads an A-list cast to victory. As you all know, if I don’t like the lead character then I can't recommend the film. I loved the character of Baby. His heroes journey unfolded like a Greek Epic. “Baby Driver” is my number one hidden Gem of 2017. If I could, I would make it number one every year.

scott kurlandComment