I already shared my favorite horror movies from the year. Here are my favorite new-to-me movies across all other genres.
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Clouds of Sils Maria is a complicated movie to explain. It’s centered around a film actress (Juliette Binoche) who is starring in the revival of the theatrical play that launched her career and her complicated feelings about now being in the role of the older woman. But the heart of the movie is her relationship with her personal assistant (Kristen Stewart), exploring the innate weirdness of this position, in which one is more than an employee and less than a friend, in the attention demanded and intimacies shared. Most of this movie is these two characters alone together, and Binoche and Stewart play off each other beautiful with deep, complicated performances that reveal the layers of their relationship. This movie is also about the nature of art and loneliness and so many other things. It’s a movie that brought me to such a depth of feeling that I could sit in stunned silence afterward. By far, my favorite movie of the year. (My longer review is here.)
Moonlight delves into the life of a black man at three stages of his life, from being a young kid who finds an unexpected father figure, to a teenager exploring his sexuality, to adulthood when he’s looking for redemption. With it’s gorgeous cinematography, powerful acting performances, and moving storyline, Moonlight’s Best Picture win was well deserved.
Lady Bird (2017)
A young woman comes of age in Sacramento, California, in the early 2000s. It’s a movie about life with all its humor and frustrations. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), as the main character has dubbed herself, is a confident teenager girl, fighting with her mom (played by the brilliant Laurie Metcalf), shifting friendships, looking for meaning in intimate relationships. The movie shares images of Sacramento with loving beauty, while also exploring the class structures of the community. A very funny and emotionally raw movie.
Hidden Figures (2016)
The true story of the black women computers that performed mathematical calculations as part of the space program at NASA, Hidden Figures hits all the right notes in terms of humor, science, history, and perspective. It’s smart and fun.
Two married women in India push back against the traditions that constrain them, claiming space for themselves, while falling in love with each other. Fire weaves together the life in this shared household in a subtle, intricate web, unfolding hidden feeling and constructing a space for such a love to grow. The symbolism of religious story provides a fascinating layer to the story as well.
The Meddler (2015)
A woman (Susan Sarandon) tries to figure out her place in the world with her daughter grown and her husband passed on. Not many movies are centered around the lives of middle-aged women, so the point of view is refreshing. The Meddler is an honest, sweet, funny, and sometimes romantic story.
A young girl who lives on a farm in the mountains, where her family raises a genetically modified pig, named Okja, begins an epic quest across nations when she tries to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from taking him away from her. Although sometimes the social satire is a bit on-the-nose, director Bong Joon-ho mixes clever action, wacky characters, and humor to make for a thoroughly entertaining movie.
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
A man and a woman meet a different points in their lives, from college into careers, building a friendship and intimacy over time. When Harry Met Sally is one of those movies I’ve seen bits and pieces of many, many times over the years, but never in its entirety. Watching it all together, it’s easy to see why this is a classic of the romantic comedy genre and it’s probably one of the best written movies I’ve seen.
Get Out (2017)
Chris, a young black man, goes on a weekend trip with his white girlfriend to meet her parents at their secluded estate in the woods. The weekend starts off awkward and grows increasingly unsettling as it builds into a nightmare. Yes, this on my top horror list as well. That’s because this movie is so good and so important in the way it cleverly explores issues of racism that it transcends genres. It’s also just a damn good film.
The X-Men are gone and an aging Wolverine spends his days caring for a senile Prof. Xavier, who’s abilities have become a hazard to the local population, if not kept under control. He aims to just lives out the rest of his days, until a young mutant appears needing his help. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart both provide great performances in their final roles within the franchise, and Dafne Keen as Laura is particularly bad ass. Logan is gritty, smart, and at times somewhat bleak, but is an overall great film.
Best Short Film
In a flooded a world, an old man dives into his past. La Maison en Petits Cubes (2008) is a phenomenal little film, beautifully animated and heartfelt.
Honorable Mentions (Superhero Category): Wonder Woman (2017) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) both do wonderful things with the superhero genre and delighted me, each in their own way.
What were your favorite movies from this year?