Blade Runner 2049
Its predecessor is considered a sci-fi masterpiece—and “Blade Runner 2049” is only better. Executive producer, and the original’s director, Ridley Scott recently said “2049” was “@#$%ing way too long.” Wrong. It was well worth the 35-year wait and every single minute, all the way to the 164th and, in particular, its final 15.
Dorothy Rabinowitz called it the “Dumbing Down of ‘Dunkirk'” in the Wall Street Journal because it didn’t include Winston Churchill. Curious, because it’s probably the smartest war movie ever made. Christopher Nolan structures his story of survival in three acts, each from the perspective of those who were actually at Dunkirk. Spoiler alert: Winston was not.
The only way “Baby Driver” could’ve been better would be if Christopher Plummer had replaced Kevin Spacey. This unique high-speed heist was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise exhausting year of blockbuster busts. Director Edgar Wright has teased a sequel, but it’s really not needed. On its own, this “Baby” will age just fine.
Want to see how the world of political connections works? “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” is your fix. It’s easy to paint the politically connected as nefarious; that’s ho-hum Hollywood. “Norman” takes a more unexpectedly accurate approach: Many are naively innocent, just plain nitwitted, or, as Norman sadly shows, nuts.
A Ghost Story
The closest we’ve come to a backstory for the classic sheets-clad ghost is Adam and Barbara Maitland from “Beetlejuice.” There, however, Delia Deetz’s designer sheets didn’t really work. Not in “A Ghost Story”—the plain white ghost conjured up some of the most iconic images on screen this year and a beautifully simple, quiet look at lasting love.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
If you like—or at least can stomach—the elevator scene in “Drive,” you’ll fall for “Brawl.” Vince Vaughn delivers the performance of his career as the criminal with a code—and a cross tattooed on the back of his head. It’s perhaps that ink that codifies his New Testament-like sacrifices for the lives of his loved ones—and Old Testament fire and brimstone in the Fridge, Redleaf, and, of course, Cell Block 99.
The Lost City of Z
Those hoping for a Herkermer Homolka prequel or sign-language Amy sequel to 1995’s “Congo” were likely disappointed. Readers of the bestselling book, followers of the ever-gestating film, or just everyday filmgoers out for an emotional exploration, however, found one of the year’s best in “The Lost City of Z.” If only Hollywood could finance more such expeditions.
First They Killed My
That Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” was produced by and released on Netflix is apropos. This is a film that would be difficult to watch in a theater; it’s more fitting for the solitude of one’s home. This true story, chronicling the genocide of the communist Khmer Rouge, is told through the eyes of a child, making the pain and evil all the more difficult to comprehend. Watch it. Talk about it. Remember it.
Superheroes anymore are just satirical. Their seriousness is sacrificed for patron pandering. Wonder Woman to the rescue—not the character necessarily, but the director, Patty Jenkins. “Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world,” Jenkins told the New York Times. “I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that’s what the kids like.” With such vision and excellent execution, how Jenkins didn’t get a major movie for 14 years, following her Oscar-winning “Monster,” is truly a wonder.
It’s very aptly named, more so had “Wild,” “Disturbing,” and/or “Unsettling” preceded it. If “Thor: Ragnarok” was this year’s flashy, retro arcade game, “Good Time” is the bubblegum stuck underneath. Robert Pattinson relives his “Twilight” vampire days traversing New York at night, evading and subverting the NYPD after his break in at a local bank and subsequent attempt to break out his incarcerated accomplice—his sibling with special needs. “Good Time” was one of the best times of 2017.