Here's the list of my favorite films released in Spain in 2017.
Runners-up (in alphabetical order) —
Directed by Edgar Wright and starring Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, with Lily James, but Kevin Spacey (not a typo). It's lightweight popcorn fare, but damn, is it expertly-crafted lightweight popcorn fare.
THE BIG SICK:
It's a romantic comedy that's more forgettable than I'd like it to be, but it's sweet and funny with really strong performances (particularly Ray Romano) and humor that manages its tone really well. It's the perfect R-rated film to watch with your mom.
Not sure why Steven Soderbergh used a film that literally dubs itself via a news-anchor "Ocean's 7-11" (a reference to another movie of his... ugh) to renege his retirement claims, but hey, it's a fun heist movie of the type we don't see anymore. I laughed.
THE LOST CITY OF Z:
I'm a huge fan of James Gray, and I was desperately hoping for it to make it into my top 10. It just doesn't quite gel well enough to merit it. Still, it's an excellent film with really insightful and fascinating insight into the nature of obsession.
Very few people are with me on this, but I really enjoyed this followup to one of the great films of the '90s. To quote perhaps my only other friend who liked the film, "Not great. Not terrible. Not as good as the first one, but also a lot better than I was expecting."
Now, the top 10, in ascending order —
Ruben Östlund's send-up of the art world may not have a cohesive through-line, but its overarching themes, riveting editing, strong performances, and plain ole hilarity make it easily among the best of 2017.
It's certainly overrated; I mean, come on, it's not some horror masterpiece on the level of ROSEMARY'S BABY or TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It just lacks that special cinematic flair the Great Horror Films have. However, Jordan Peele's perfect management of satire, comedy, and horror makes him stand out as a promising filmmaker. Above all, it's at least the definitive horror-comedy of our times.
I figure most non-Romanians wouldn't understand 90% of the humor (the Spanish audience I was with barely uttered a titter), but as someone who'd had to sit through countless Romanian family dinners of this ilk, it's certainly the funniest film of the year. For me, anyway.
Go ahead and shoot me, but I really liked the newest STAR WARS installment. It's too messy and disorganized, but I actually appreciated the gall it had to give the middle finger to many facets of the monster franchise. Was it wholly successful? Not particularly for some of it — some ideas were probably better on paper than in execution — but I was enormously entertained. And that's really what I care about.
It hasn't superseded INTERSTELLAR as Christopher Nolan's masterpiece; but damn, it's a close second. Totally stripped-down and almost completely without pretension (ahem, THE THIN RED LINE), it's the best war movie of the 21st century, up there with JARHEAD and AMERICAN SNIPER.
Much like THE LOBSTER, Yorgos Lanthimos succeeds in making another (seemingly) effortlessly weird film. It's difficult to characterize in terms of genre, but all I can say is to go into it blindly, without looking up anything beforehand. And prepare to be disturbed.
In a perhaps even-more-blasphemous opinion than liking THE LAST JEDI, I admit I was never the biggest fan of the original BLADE RUNNER. It's a good film, but all of its substance appears to be laid on it by theorists afterward. BLADE RUNNER 2049 takes those (admittedly fascinating) kernels of ideas and fleshes them out in one of the most thoroughly emotional cinematic experiences of the year. The original gets credit for putting these ideas and this world on the table, but let's face it: 2049 is superior.
It's shockingly been snubbed by practically every awards show, but Kathryn Bigelow's newest is tense, thoughtful, and painfully relevant. It's a film that should be screened for every high school American history class. Not because it's didactic but because younger generations need to know what happened.
As someone who cries at everything, I was surprised how bereft 2017 was in terms of tear-jerkers. SILENCE was the exception. Scorsese deftly balances between religious philosophy and historical drama. Andrew Garfield, while far from bad, is the only weak link in the work; otherwise, it's the masterpiece Scorsese spent decades trying to get made. I hope he's satisfied with it.
There may only be two aspects keeping me from labeling it among the two or three best films of the 21st century: its title (both YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE and A BEAUTIFUL DAY are bad) and it's about 10 minutes too short. I love short movies (this one doesn't even get to 90 minutes), but I would've liked slightly more fleshing out. That being said, this film is the closest to being called a genuine masterpiece out of any I saw this year. Besides the obvious pieces — the acting, the cinematography, the score — Lynne Ramsay's near-perfect fusion of surface-level B-movie plot with heavier themes about trauma and redemption are executed using every available tool of the cinematic arsenal. The effect of YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE is poetic and visceral, more akin to listening to a great symphony or listening to a great poet read their greatest poem. The film washes over you and grabs you and shakes you and leaves you feeling emotional but, interestingly, entertained. It doesn't get released in the States until Spring 2018, but I implore everyone reading this to seek it out.
The Worst —
This was a tough one because I, unusually, saw quite a few stinkers this year. And in the cinema! I doubt THE SNOWMAN is worse than PARIS CAN WAIT, but I can't in good conscience pick PARIS CAN WAIT (which I'm pretty sure is more likely a money-laundering scheme by the Coppolas than anything else) because I walked out of the cinema 20 minutes in. I also saw FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON, which is basically THE NOTEBOOK meets SHUTTER ISLAND minus anything interesting that you could imagine from that description. That film is saved from being THE worst by virtue of Marion Cotillard, who I just adore too much. And there was also THE MUMMY, but I was expecting it to be terrible. And it was, but its awfulness didn't surprise me quite as much as my final pick.
THE SNOWMAN has all the pedigree of a great film: great cast, director, the screenwriter of DRIVE, Martin Scorsese's editor (who almost never edits non-Marty films), best-selling pulp book. But good God, is it a mess. Disjointed, silly, and above all boring, it was certainly the most disappointing movie of the year. The only saving grace is that I know everyone else involved has better stuff ahead of them if they get the chance.