Mike Birbiglia (“Don’t Think Twice“)
In no particular order:
“The Disaster Artist”
“Shape of Water”
“The Florida Project”
“The Meyerowitz Stories”
“Ingrid Goes West”
“The Big Sick”
“Gaga: Five Foot Two”
Kelly Fremon Craig (“The Edge of Seventeen”)
There are still a lot of films I haven’t seen yet, but here’s my list of favorites so far:
“Call Me by Your Name”: Watched this film late at night by myself, knowing very little going in. Half way through, I actually paused my screener to yell “WOW!” to no one in particular.
“The Big Sick”: The 4-slices-of-cheese scene goes down as one of my all-time favorite scenes in any film, ever.
“Get Out”: Wholly original and inspiring. Jordan Peele for President.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MIssouri”: The writing is so distinct and committed and somehow never misses the tiny tonal bullseye it aims for. Savored every bit.
“The Disaster Artist”: Beautifully off-the-wall and genuinely emotional in sneaky places. Also seemed like it was a hell of a lot of fun to make.
“Wonder Woman”: First time in my life a battle scene made me tear up. Had no idea how much I needed/wanted an ass-kicking lady who’s all heart.
“The Post”: Timely for sure, but also written with real nuance, directed in a way that doesn’t let you look away, and Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks somehow manage to exceed the outrageously high expectations.
The whole “Despicable Me” series: I’ve watched these movies about 600 times with my 4-year-old, so I am especially thankful for just how great they are. Every single time they’re on, I notice new hilarious little details in the artwork that I somehow never caught before.
I also want to spotlight two riveting documentaries: “The Keepers” and “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” and the gorgeous, strange, heartbreaking podcast “S-Town.”
Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water“)
10. “Brawl in Cell Block 99”
9. “Ingrid Goes West”
8. “Tigers Are Not Afraid”
7. “Good Time”
6. “The Meyerowitz Stories”
5. “Get Out”
4. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
2. “Lady Bird”
1. “A Ghost Story”
Xavier Dolan (“It’s Only the End of the World”)
Sony Pictures Classics
“Call Me by Your Name”: It hit so close to home that, for a while, it paralyzed me. I couldn’t really talk about it, even though I wanted to. What it did to me, fundamentally, was help me project myself in people I’ve fallen in love with in the past. People I judged as unkind, or selfish. Through Hammer’s character – that boastful giant who you’d think invincible – I had to, well, rethink my twenties. What I love here is that the rare moments where Hammer’s fragility isn’t concealed are almost only when Chalamet sits with his back to him – because vulnerability equals weakness of course, and from weakness arises pain, which by all means we shun. Not a lot of characters or human beings, in my own culture and experience, are capable of tenderness like Michael Stuhlbarg in this scene where he expounds his theories on our ageless incapabilities as lovers. It is so stirring to see filmmaking at its best, aesthetically, go hand in hand with the cruel truth about our romantic failures. To be able to attain such controlled contrast is just masterful, and something great to aspire to.
“Lady Bird”: Is there anything that makes me happier than Ladybird? No. Is Laurie Metcalf’s performance incredibly acute, simple, human, motherly, suburbanite and heartbreaking? I think so! Are all sets and costumes in this film entirely believable, inspired, and curated with taste and intelligence? Yes! Is there anything, on this planet, that makes my heart sing more than Lucas Hedges caught red-handed kissing another guy in a bathroom stall? Sadly for me, no.
“The Shape of Water”: Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer are a delightful duo! It’s been a while since I’ve seen such chemistry between friends on screen – well, Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein in Ladybird are a great match as well. We see great chemistry between lovers, but chemistry between friends often seems like a lesser concern. Also, there’s an interesting gay best friend character, which acts as a subordinate storyline until he actively takes part in the story, and I love what the character represents here in terms of providing us with a counter-narrative to standard storytelling. A 50-something LGBTQ protagonist being the lead’s aid and confident in a genre movie with that kind of means feels novel to me. Anyway, it just is one of the multiple successful aspects of Guillermo’s film, and well, as always with him, the world we are presented is so complete, and rich, and inventive. It’s romantic, eery, poetic, and reeks of sex! Which is great if, like me, your sexual life has ended. Meaning : I’ve started to think of the things I could steal from Michael Shannon in order for him to chase me.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”: I love everything in Killing of a Sacred Deer. I’ve seen it three times, quite alarmingly. What a fantastic piece on revenge! I find it so well designed- its warmth – in fabrics, props, costumes, curtains, etc.!- perfectly balances the cold-blooded, graphic violence throughout. Those accordion pieces by Janne Rättyä are bone-chilling, and reminisce Wendy Carlos’ works. Barry Keoghan is stunning and quite unique. I love a film where we are intellectually stimulated, and not given all the goddamn answers. You can bring that home and talk about it with friends. Or, if you’ve watched it alone and are home already, contemplate your first kill.
“Wind River”: I haven’t experienced such a thrilling, sickening film in a while. I’m not sure I’m doing the film’s poignancy justice with such phrasing, but of course it’s no light treat. The story’s already so powerful – and necessary – on paper, but it is the performances of the entire cast and the unforgiving white wilderness of the décor that bolster up the piece to an exhilarating extent. And then there is this bold flashback, quite disconcertingly, right in the middle of the film, which is great, and smart, and comprises one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever seen.
“The Post”: The Post is pure entertainment. My friends and I watched this and found ourselves screaming and jumping around like kids on a snowstorm morning. Well, there’s the perfectly fun and thrilling score by Williams, to begin with, and every set, every shot is filmmaking at its most pleasant, albeit occasionally oversimplified or preachy, but always congenially. Meryl Streep’s silences, and her shame, are something to marvel at. Because she’s been so empowered, and positioned herself as so eccentric, or severe, or energetically inspired over the past decade. But here, her modesty is everything, and exerts such a bemusing spell on all these men-only scenes. Her insecurity is so refreshing. She reinvents herself, and looks like she’s having mighty fun doing it. It just transpires and travels to you, and you’re having fun too. Also, MORE SARAH PAULSON IN MOVIES PLEASE.
“It”: I love It to the moon and back, for how smart and good-hearted the kids are, for its humour, its atmosphere, and its aesthetic standards. But the only problem is that I now know for sure that Pennywise lives in my basement. A part of me wants to focus on the positive side of this fact (Bill Skarsgard), but somehow that’s not who I picture when I soar upstairs, knowing he’ll grab my ankles and cut my tendons with a pruning shear!
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: Is Frances McDormand excessively good in this? Yes. Is she Anette-Bening-in-20th-Century-Women good? Yes! Does that mean she’ll be stupidly ignored like Anette Bening was last year? I sure hope not! Is Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell amazing as well? Hell yes! Did Martin McDonagh perfectly wrote and direct this? Yes! Is the tone between drama and comedy mystifyingly, oddly, inexplicably well-balanced? Yes! Will I mention Lucas Hedges’ talent and charisma again? Probably!
Robert Eggers (“The Witch“)
Regrettably, as usual, there are many films that I did not see this year (including several especially acclaimed titles). In no particular order, these were the films that I enjoyed most – all of them were complete in vision and execution, and all were riveting.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“The Florida Project”
I loved the photography and tangible atmosphere of “The Beguiled” and “The Lost City of Z” (Z also had some great fake mustaches). The impeccable film craft in “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dunkirk,” and “The Shape of Water” was inspiring. The first jump scare in “It Comes at Night” was a favorite moment that gave me a nightmare, in fact. And the performances in “Call Me by Your Name” were beautiful.
I am especially looking forward to seeing “Phantom Thread,” “Happy End,” and “Mudbound” before the year is out.