Louie Ghalib’s Top Ten of 2017

Louie is a regular at Film Club who has an odd fascination with Jake Gyllenhaal.   Over the last year he has leveraged his Movie Pass like no one else and seen dozens of films. With that being said, it was a little tough for him to narrow it down to a top ten. If he could, he would make a top 20, but for the sake of being concise, these films were selected as his favorite and what he considers the best of the best.

10. Stronger (David Gordon Green, 2017)

Based on the real story of Jeff Bauman, a Bostonian New Englander who lost both legs during the Boston Marathon bombing, Jake Gyllenhaal transforms perfectly into Bauman. In a classic ‘Jake Gyllenhaal-performance’ I could only see Bauman and not an actor playing a role. As a Jake Gyllenhaal super fan, I might be a little biased, but I love the film from his performance alone and I encourage all to see it in Stronger. That alone is worth it.

9. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)

I really enjoyed Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film Lady Bird. Even though I couldn’t relate to every moment (I didn’t grow up in the United States), it is to the film’s credit how captivating I found Lady Bird’s every move. Saoirse Ronan gives one of the best performances of the year, and if not for Frances McDormand, I’d root for Ronan to win the Oscar. Timothee Chalamet and Lucas Hedges are well utilized in their supporting roles. Greta Gerwig’s direction is a triumph, and serves as a reminder of the need for more women in the director’s chair. The coming of age story is great, but it is through the main character of Lady Bird that the story succeeds. All in all, a superb coming of age story.

8. Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)

A wonderful movie about the city of Columbus, Indiana. Columbus is known for its modern architecture and public art, allowing Kogonada’s Columbus to authentically showcase this urban artwork. The film excels by dazzling cinematography and always on point framing. John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson give superb performances. They have amazing chemistry together due in large part to the parallels between characters. They’re both people who have emotional baggage and when they’re together they connect naturally. I’m happy to see John Cho in a leading role in such a good film, and I am excited to see what he does next. Surprisingly, this is Kogonada’s debut film, and is up on the list of best directorial debut films in my opinion.

7. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

It’s a movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Enough said.

6. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

I’m a huge Blade Runner fan. I am also a huge Denis Villeneuve fan. However, when I heard a Blade Runner sequel was to be directed by Villeneuve I was underwhelmed. Generally reboots and sequels released many years after the original are terrible. Notable exceptions like Mad Max Fury Road and Dredd gave me hope, but I still had reservations. After seeing the film, I am ecstatic to report that Blade Runner 2049 lives up to the name of the original. It is a shame that its box office success didn’t match the film’s quality which is nothing short of a must watch. As usual, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is a beautiful sight, and Ryan Gosling serves as a perfect spiritual successor to Harrison Ford who is a badass cool dude who shows emotion when necessary. Villeneuve’s direction is mesmerizing, leading to a great film through and through.

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (Martin McDonagh, 2017)

I am a huge fan of Martin McDonagh. Seven Psychopaths is one of my all-time favorite films, so needless to say, I had high hopes for Three Billboards. The film exceeded my sky-high expectations and left me speechless. Frances McDormand gives probably arguably the best performance this of the year, and Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson give fantastic performances as usual. They all play incredibly broken characters and  portray it realistically. The powerful cast is elevated by a great and timely script about trauma that we needed in 2017. If you haven’t seen it already, go see this film.

4. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

When I heard Jordan Peele was directing a horror film I wasn’t expecting much, and the release of the trailer made me think it would be an okay film, but ultimately it was one of the surprise hits of the year!  Much better than what I expected, Get Out boasts a fantastic script (probably my favorite of the year), and I’m elated that Daniel Kaluya got an Oscar nomination for his role as Chris. The reason why the script resonates with me deeply is due to the social issues it presents. It tackles the horrific feeling of being out place while calling attention the state of race relations. There was a time in my life where I lived in a white sunburn neighborhood and felt the same sentiments that Chris felt in the movie, and all I can say is the fear is real. With that being said, the horror elements, the subtle imagery, and the precise timing of events are noteworthy and make for a legendary script.

3. Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, 2017)

I have to be honest, I am a sucker for style and in terms of style this movie delivers in spades. A return to form by for Guillermo del Toro, the film is set in the Cold War-era 1950’s this blue tinted film portraying a romance between species. From the film’s blue tint color grading to the direction of its actors, style is always at the forefront of The Shape of Water. Sally Hawkins gives a career best performance as the muted Eliza. Hawkins conveys so much emotion without uttering a single word. Michael Shannon is great as always, and I love him when he takes on villainous roles. He is great at making you hate his guts but he does it so magnificently that you can’t help but admire it. The music is great at bringing the setting and the style together, and even though I wouldn’t consider The Shape of Water a musical, the scene where Sally Hawkins sings is one of my favorite musical scenes ever.

2. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

The Florida Project is a beautiful film in presentation and in theme. Its setting and colors are perfect, finding beauty in walks of life often ignored and rendered ‘hideous’ by society.  While some might be tempted to call it slow, Shaun Baker’s excellent direction actually puts motion in every scene, creating perfect pacing. Willem Dafoe gives a superb performance as Bobby, the manager of the Magic Castle. The film’s child actors give Oscar worthy performances of their own in perhaps the best child acting I’ve seen since Jacob Tremblay’s performance in Room. For many, The Florida Project went under the radar, and I urge everyone to see it. You will not regret it.

1. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)

Oh where do I begin with this film? One of the most beautiful pieces I’ve laid eyes on, the pastel colors, rural Italian settings, and retro feel make for a charming viewing experience. The acting and motion of the characters perfectly match the overall feel of the film. Michael Stuhlbarg’s closing monologue not only drives home the film’s themes, but demonstrates his incredible contribution in this supporting role (enough to make Frank Ocean proclaim him as his dad). Timothee Chalamet gives a wonderful performance as the lovable Elio and Armie Hammer is commanding as Oliver; here’s hoping Chalamet can bring home the Oscar to make up for Hammer’s snub! Leaving the theater, I was just so happy for experiencing this beautiful piece of art. I always believed the phrase “every frame a painting” was just a phrase, but after seeing Call Me By Your Name, I can safely say that idiom is true. Best film of the year hands down.