The year’s best and worst films; can you guess which one ‘A Bad Mom’s Christmas’ is on?
In a year of Wonder Women, Wonder Wheels and just plain “Wonder,” the movies left us wonderstruck.
It was hard out there in 2017, not knowing what kind of news we’d wake up to on any given morning. Sexual misconduct, fake news, nuclear war: 2017 came at us hard and never let up.
The movies provided an escape. The remake of “Beauty and the Beast” was the year’s top grosser (for now, at least; “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will likely knock it from its perch), and the rest of the Top 10 is all superheroes ( “Wonder Woman,” “Guardians,” “Spider-Man,” “Thor,” “Logan,” “Justice League”) and franchise fare (“Despicable Me 3,” “The Fate of the Furious”). The surprise entry in the list, “It,” is about a killer clown who terrorizes a group of bullied kids. Fun year!
Slogging through summertime it felt like we’d never get to the good stuff, and then fall brought us a bounty of special films, so many that it was difficult not only choosing a Top 10 but an auxiliary Top 10 to supplement it. So that extra list of 10 became 17, because why not?
These are my picks for the year’s best films and best performances, along with a naughty list of the year’s 10 worst films. Let the wonderment begin.
Best movies of the year
1. “The Florida Project” No other movie this year came close to matching the heart and soul of Sean Baker’s gorgeous, purple-and pink-lit masterwork, which took us inside the Tragic Kingdom that lies on the outskirts of the happiest place on Earth. A dizzying look at the other side of the American dream as seen through the eyes of a child.
2. “mother!” A stunning achievement: a claustrophobic, anxiety-riddled nightmare that is like a living, breathing panic attack. For director Darren Aronofsky, the fact that this parable about how poorly we treat the environment was so toxicaly received is probably a high compliment.
3. “Wind River” In his directorial debut, “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan digs deep inside the snowy desolation of a Wyoming Indian reservation and uses it as a backdrop for a murder-mystery as ice cold as its surroundings.
4. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” Writer-director Martin McDonagh uses this story of an angry mother seeking vengeance for her murdered daughter to lob a Molotov cocktail into the conscience of a small Midwestern town in this furious, fiery and extremely funny drama.
5. “War for the Planet of the Apes” Summer blockbusters are supposed to be boneheaded exercises in empty escapism, but no one gave that memo to Matt Reeves, whose big idea “Apes” extravaganza is the smartest, most daring entry in the Hollywood summer sweepstakes in years.
6. “The Disaster Artist” Wandering spirit James Franco tells the tale of the making of the worst movie ever made and finds an unexpectedly touching, only-in-Hollywood story of dreams, dreamers and the intoxicating allure of big screen stardom.
7. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” The year’s most unsettling film comes from director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) and stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as a couple forced to sacrifice one of their own after they’re cursed by a teenager with a score to settle. Disturbing doesn’t begin to describe it.
8. “Mayhem” “Office Space” meets “Crank” in year’s best genre film, a killer action-comedy-horror midnight mashup from director Joe Lynch.
9. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” A “Star Wars” movie for today, and the epic “Star Wars” movie “Star Wars” fans have craved since “The Empire Strikes Back.”
10. “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond:” More than a behind-the-scenes doc — though it certainly is that — this film about Jim Carrey and the making of the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon” explores the very nature of identity and the guises we put on for the world in our everyday lives.
17 more with feeling: “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Good Time,” “The Post,” “Happy Death Day,” “Get Out,” “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” “American Made,” “Personal Shopper,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Defiant Ones,” “I, Tonya,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Mudbound,” “Novitiate,” “Battle of the Sexes.”
10 great performances
1. Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!” Short of cutting herself open on camera, it’s hard to think a leading lady could give any more of herself than the level of psychological torture Lawrence endured for this film.
2. Jeremy Renner, “Wind River:” In his best work since “The Town,” Renner plays an agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who doles out his own brand of Wyoming justice.
3. Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project:” The year’s most startling and realistic performance came from this 7-year-old, who was so authentic on screen it never felt for a second like she was acting.
4. Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me By Your Name:” In a father-son scene for the ages, Stuhlbarg has the year’s single best monologue, offering a lifetime of compassion and empathy to his heartbroken child in the course of a few sentences.
5. Vicky Krieps, “Phantom Thread:” Daniel Day-who? Well, not quite, but Krieps more than holds her own against the three-time Oscar winner in Paul Thomas Anderson’s twisted romance.
6. Melissa Leo, “Novitiate:” Hellfire and brimstone have nothing on Leo’s Reverend Mother, who is so stern she could make a statue cry tears of mercy.
7. Robert Pattinson, “Good Time:” The “Twilight” heartthrob reinvents himself as a lowlife loser in the Safdie Brothers’ breathless crime thriller.
8. O’Shea Jackson Jr., “Ingrid Goes West:” As an endearing, sweet, “Batman”-obsessed, weed-smoking landlord, Ice Cube’s kid steals scenes as the year’s best boyfriend.
9. Daniel Craig, “Logan Lucky:” Has Craig ever smiled on screen before? Judging by his scene-stealing comedic performance in Steven Soderbergh’s NASCAR heist flick, he should really try it more often.
10. Florence Pugh, “Lady Macbeth:” The newcomer has ice in her veins as the wicked, conniving villainness at the center of this Nikolai Leskov adaptation.
Worst films of the year
1. “Transformers: The Last Knight:” How can the dumbest franchise in movie history get even dumber? Add a bunch of nonsense about the knights of the round table and stand back and watch Michael Bay go to work.
2. “Fist Fight:” Teachers smoke meth and attack their students with fire axes in this absurd comedy that is grounded in nothing resembling reality.
3. “CHiPs:” This bottom-feeding update of the late ’70s, early ’80s cop show had viewers longing for cinematic treasures like “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Starsky and Hutch” movies.
4. “Beatriz at Dinner:” A pandering fantasy about the divide between America’s rich and poor that seeks to further alienate people rather than bring them together. Gross.
5. “The Snowman:” A hapless crime thriller in which the protagonist’s name, Harry Hole, is the least of its laundry list of problems.
6. “A Bad Mom’s Christmas:” The imagination in this hurried sequel begins and ends with the words in the title. Bad moms, bad Christmas, terrible movie.
7. “A Cure for Wellness:” This bizarre, overlong, waterlogged tale about a spa facility that specializes in water treatments drowns in its own silliness.
8. “Suburbicon:” George Clooney misfires, big time, with this tone-deaf noir that casually tosses a subplot about racism in the mix for no reason whatsoever.
9. “The Circle:” Tom Hanks and Emma Watson must have been hacked when they agreed to star in this clumsy, poorly executed thriller about an evil tech company looking to take over the world.
10. “The Only Living Boy in New York:” A coming-of-age drama that is way too pleased with itself, with Jeff Bridges slipping into self-parody as a mysterious New York author.