By Roger Costa
It was the year of social, political, economical and moral transformations, as well as the time when many people fought for their simple rights to be human, facing a constant wave of terrorism and scandals of all sorts among the powerful. Despite all the conflicts, 2017 was a fine year for movie lovers, with incredibly entertaining films that proved its power to unity, cheer and raise social awareness. After watching 313 new releases (including films shown in NYC Festivals), here is the list of my favorites, which reflect to the most pleasurable moments I had inside the dark sacred room:
1- THE SQUARE
A contemporary comedy of manners that look at how we connect, treat and communicate to each other in modern times. Composing a unique satirical mirror to society’s behavior, Director Ruben Östlund offers a metaphorical wake-up call to our individualism. A masterpiece that defines this century.
2- THE UNKNOWN GIRL
The Dardenne Brothers strike again with another Neo-realist moral examination on human values and compassion. As they follow the investigation of a young doctor searching for clues on the death of a woman whom she denied help, the film portraits the struggle of standing up for righteousness amidst a corrupt and competitive generation.
Gorgeously shot in B&W, Francois Ozon’s seductive melodrama digs up the uncontrollable force of love with powerful results through the story of a young widow, intrigued by the visit of a foreigner who knew her fiancée during war. Paula Beer embodies all the turbulence of desire, loss, grief and rejection with impeccable intensity, putting her on the top position as the Best Actress of the year.
4- AFTER THE STORM
An unsettled writer is reunited with his parents and community members, as he’s on his way to spend time with his estranged son in Hirokazu Koreeda’s lovely and heartwarming dramatic comedy. A profound and uplifting analysis on family bonds shot with the usual, accurate sensibility of Japan’s notorious filmmaker.
5- GOOD TIME
A wild ride through the streets of NYC as the criminal Robert Pattison tries to bail his brother out of jail, but before he gets into a lot of eccentric troubles, which makes this an unforgettable portrait of the city’s crime nightlife shot with fast paced hallucinating techniques and grizzly neon lights. The Safdie Brothers gave us the breakthrough film of the year.
Bulgarian filmmakers Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s witty dark comedy watches a battle between civic honesty and political corruption, as a railway man finds a bag full of money and tries to return it, only to have the Ministry’s arrogant publicist over heels. An authentic, nervous cinema vérité farce, with a fascinating ‘David and Goliath’ structure.
7- THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
A Syrian refugee seeks asylum in Finland and teams up with a restaurant owner, in Director Aki Kaurismäki’s hilarious comedic take on human relationships, financial trouble and virtues. Filled with lively sarcasm, it’s a kind, tender, funny and reflective social-political statement on modern conflicts and displacements.
8- THREE BILLBOARDS
Frances McDormand gives a furious-hurricane-like performance as a mother seeking justice for her daughter’s brutal killing. An impressive cast perfectly embody the irreverence and urgency of this year’s best screenplay, a wonderfully explosive blend of dark humor, crime tale and family drama that will keep you thrilled.
French Director Bertrand Bonello’s outrageous, explosively controversial portrait of society’s most fearing enemy, Terrorism, addresses its polemic current issues with devastating immediacy, creating a truly raw showcase of the so-frequently absurd violence that has been threatening our lives. Difficult to watch it, but necessary.
10- PHANTOM THREAD
American contemporary master Paul Thomas Anderson gets back on track with this fascinating study on obsession, luxury and melancholy provided by a hypnotizing Daniel Day-Lewis as a celebrity fashion designer dressing the royalties of London 1950’s and collecting the pieces of women’s hearts along the way. You just can’t take your eyes away.
Honor Mention: SWIM TEAM and LOOKING AT THE STARS, for teaching us tolerance.
Other Notable Films that should not be ignored: The animal/man friendship in POP AYE, the road trip sexual/existential crisis in FOUR DAYS IN FRANCE, the inovative spectacle DUNKIRK, the racial conflicts and mesmerizing cinematography of MUDBOUND, immigrant issues are depicted with honesty in NOBODY’S WATCHING, the spiritual and romantic self-analysis in THE WEDDING PLAN, the powerful and alarming trans-drama A FANTASTIC WOMAN, the provocative commentaries of OKJA, the witty sarcasm of THE LOVERS and the best summer escape, BABY DRIVER.
Plus: Journalism really matters in THE POST, the controversial rudeness of LOVELESS, the intensity of WIND RIVER, the bisexual coming of age tale CALL ME BY YOUR NAME delivering this year’s Best performance by an Actor, Timothée Chalamet, and Romania’s riveting moral study THE GRADUATION.
Worse Films: THE SHAPE OF WATER, PERSONAL SHOPPER, BEACH RATS, MOTHER!, THE CIRCLE, LOGAN LUCKY, THE GREAT WALL, SUBURBICON, RAW, THE BAD BATCH, SNOWMAN.