Mike’s picks: best (and worst) films of 2017

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Michael Brzezinski

The Best:

#1 “Phantom Thread”
Director Paul Thomas Anderson

America’s wildest auteur returns with this full-blown vicious assault on the Gothic romance costume drama. It’s a morbidly hilarious tale of the power we hold over others, over our craft, over ourselves, and most importantly, the enchanting power that artists like Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis hold over their audience with films like this. It is beguiling to experience and impossible to forget.

#2 “The Work”
Director Jairus McLeary

It’s an incredible achievement in documentary filmmaking following a group of troubled men as they participate in intensive deep-dive group therapy. The goal is to trace down the root of their depression and masculine insecurities. It’s unpredictable, cathartic and a big achievement in documentary filmmaking.

#3 “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Director Martin McDonagh

Frances McDormand brings fire and fury in one of her most legendary roles as Mildred Hayes. A grieving mother out for revenge and justice as her daughter’s brutal murder case remains unsolved. What ensues is the most provocative filmfrom2017. It explores the cultural ebb of useless violence and brokenness in America with sharp wit and aching sadness.

#4 “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”
Director Noah Baumbach

Family dysfunction is a popular subgenre and few have been able to portray it in all its bitter and hilarious tragedy like Noah Baumbach has. Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller turn in their most emotionally realized work yet. It’s Baumbach’s best, warmest and most mature since “The Squid and the Whale” (which also functions as a distressing and amusing companion piece).

#5 “Faces Places”
Director Agnes Varda & JR

I can’t think of a better way for Agnes Varda to end her 62-year-long cinematic career. In this insightful and affectionate documentary we follow Varda and popular French street artist JR as they travel the countryside of France to meet people, build stories, and create art. It’s a thesis on what it means to create and how it helps us understand those around us.

#6 “Blade Runner 2049”
Director Denis Villeneuve

The follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult sensation is entirely fulfilling. It builds off its predecessor while also paying respect to the lore. Most importantly though, it subverts the tired “chosen one” trope with a narrative that emphasizes the importance of how our actions define us and our sense of place and purpose. Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Sylvia Hoeks give magnificent performances as well. It’s pure big-budget beauty.

#7 “Song to Song”
Director Terrence Malick

An emotional and cathartic exercise in cinematic freedom from the master of gorgeous free-flowing experimental filmmaking, Terrence Malick. Malick’s non-linear style of modern-art filmmaking explores the lives of four individuals in the Americana South as they connect and explore what it is to be at peace with yourself. Very niche, but for those that tune into the wavelength it is rewarding.

#8 “The Lost City of Z”
Director James Gray

James Gray evokes the most revered works of Francis Ford Coppola, Werner Herzog, and Stanley Kubrick for this sweeping adventure film chronicling the life and obsessive struggle of legendary archeologist, Percy Fawcett. Evocative in all the ways a film like this should be. It’s an old-fashioned 35mm trip into the heart of the jungle and man’s greatest desires to explore and discover.

#9 “Personal Shopper”
Director Olivier Assayas

French auteur Olivier Assayas crafts his finest work with this somber tale of how grief changes the way we view our surroundings. Kristen Stewart gives her best performance, channeling the painful yet enlightening sense of loneliness and guilt that comes with loss. Poetic, haunting and profound, “Personal Shopper” will go down as an achievement in cinematic ghost stories.

10# “Thelma”
Director Joachim Trier

An elegant, thought-provoking and terrifying thriller that explores the damaging and horrific effects of religious repression. Despite its cold aesthetic, there’s a lot of personal warmth in the journey of the titular character’s exploration of the person she never realized existed within her. It emulates the themes of “Carrie” but improves the execution 10-fold.

Honorable Mentions

“Logan” Director James Mangold

“Good Time” Directors Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Director Rian Johnson

“Landline” Director Gillian Robespierre

“A Fantastic Woman” Director Sebastián Lelio

The Worst

“The Last Face” Director Sean Penn

“Death Note” Director Adam Wingard

“The Circle” Director James Ponsoldt

“Daddy’s Home 2” Director Sean Anders

“mother!” Director Darren Aronofsky