Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Top 5 Films of 2017

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:35

With the 2018 Annual Academy Awards right around the corner (and the invites to the official 2018 Blackwell-San Oscar Party sent last week), it’s time to rank the top 5 films of 2017! The list is topped by two absolutely extraordinary musicals and includes a sci-fi meets romance creature film, a heartbreakingly beautiful coming-of age movie about discovering one’s sexuality, and a very moving and well done tear-jerker about the true story of heroic firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to others. So, here are the Best Films of 2017, at least according to Dr. Blackwell!

#5: The Shape of Water

With the most Oscar nominations of any 2017 film, The Shape of Water spins a tale of an unlikely romantic relationship that forms between a mysterious creature that is being “studied” within a military-contracted research facility and a deaf woman who works at the facility as a janitor. While the story seems a little “out there,” it’s this precise mesh of oddity that creates an incredibly well paralleled storyline in which the love the woman develops for the creature and the way in which the creature is treated mirrors the timeframe of the American 1960’s during which the story is set. Being different, the creature is of course seen as an object rather than living being; and his cruel mistreatment is eerily similar to American society’s same disposable sentiments towards women, Blacks, and gay men. Three of the actors from the movie give absolutely phenomenal performances and bring the realism of their plight as being African American (Octavia Spencer), closeted homosexual (Richard Jenkins), and differently abled (Sally Hawkins) to the film’s incredibly dark, yet moving setting. The Shape of Water is nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Guillermo del Toro), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sally Hawkins), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Richard Jenkins), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Original Screenplay (del Toro and Vanessa Taylor), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Dan Laustsen), Best Achievement in Costume Design (Luis Sequira), Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Nathan Robataille and Nelson Ferreira) and Mixing (Christian T. Coke, Glen Gauthier, and Brad Zoern), Best Achievement in Film Editing (Sidney Wolinski), and Best Achievement in Production Design (Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau, and Jeffrey A. Melvin).

#4 Call Me By Your Name


With 4 Oscar nominations, Call Me By Your Name is set in Northern Italy in 1983. Seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape. The two main leads, including Best Actor nominee Timothee Chalamet, who plays Elio, and Armie Hammer, who plays his eventual love interest (I emphasize eventual because the story takes its time developing), give incredibly inspiring performances and bring the nuances of their characters to life perfectly. The story is at times frustrating, at other times incredibly sweet, and ultimately, tragically sad, and brings the audience through a journey with the gorgeous landscape of Italy in the background. Director Luca Guadagnino expertly crafts a picture that conveys the almost tangible and emotional impact the two young men have on one another. But the story also accentuates the culture of the conservative 1980’s, during which homosexuality was anything but approved of and the toll that takes on a burgeoning love between the two main characters. Call Me By Your Name is nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Adapted Screenplay (James Ivory), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Timothee Chalamet), and Best Original Score (Sufjan Stevens).

#3 Only The Brave

While failing to garner a single Oscar nomination, Only The Brave tells the remarkable true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire. While the cast is chuck-full of eye candy, the top notch acting genius of Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly leads the movie well beyond anything titular. In addition to the grit of the setting and ferocious physical tests the fireman are put to on a daily basis, the bonds they develop and the unique brotherhood they form is also given a chance to flourish thanks to the wise direction of Joseph Kosinski, who understood that the truly moving aspect of the film is the real life people it’s based on rather than the often romanticized action they take. With this in mind, much of the screen time is devoted to their individual stories, including one’s main quest for redemption. In the end, Only The Brave serves as a reminder that heroes everyday surround us that may make an incredible sacrifice to us, but often want nothing to show for it.

#2 Hello Again

From the mind of a well-established Broadway talent (musical extraordinaire Michael John LaChuisa) comes one of the best stage-to-screen adaptations I have ever seen. Hello Again is an outstanding musical motion picture based on LaChuisa’s off-Broadway play by the same name that focuses on the significance and insignificance men and women place on love, sex, and emotional attachments that develop from the interconnectedness of those three elements. The story unfolds across time during some historic and non-historic events and depicts an evolving exploration of love’s bittersweet embrace among characters that meet again throughout time, but in varying ways. The music is beautiful with an oftentimes simple yet multidimensional score; and the performers, most of whom come right from the stages of Broadway (including Audra McDonald, TR Knight, Martha Pimpton, Sam Underwood, Rumer Willis, and Tyler Blackburn, to name a few) lend their angelic voices and expert acting to weave an intricate and gorgeous story that transcends love, sex, and time. Hello Again was given a very brief theatrical run and was deemed ineligible for consideration for the 2018 Academy Awards.

#1 The Greatest Showman

While the Golden Globes rightfully showered 2017’s best picture with praise, nominating it for Best Picture and its leading star Hugh Jackman for Best Actor, the Oscars weren’t as kind, recognizing the film solely for its incredibly uplifting and empowering song, “This is Me,” which is nominated in the Best Song category. Despite its unbelievably horrific snubbing by the Academy, the movie is so amazingly good, it is downright difficult to convey that in words on a Blog. In a nutshell, the movie celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary by the name of PT Barnum, who rose from crippling poverty to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. That, however, is only the superficial aspects of the film. Deeper down is a commanding message of acceptance, tolerance, and equality along with a poignant warning about the consequences of ego and the failure to recognize the importance and value of those who contribute to our lives and successes everyday, including those who are deemed “lesser thans” by a cruel and non-empathetic society. This alone would make for a great movie. But, place this story into a score and give it life through the lyrics of a soaring and gorgeous musical in the context of breath-taking visuals, costumes, makeup, cinematography, and expertly-mixed sound, and you’ve got the recipe for a film that will remain a classic long-past the time when whatever film wins Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards has been forgotten. The Greatest Showman is an absolutely phenomenal example of filmmaking. High Jackman, who worked tirelessly to bring the movie to life, director Michael Gracey who translates the material flawlessly to the screen, and composers and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul should all be lauded for their accomplishment. And the supporting cast of choreographers, sound mixers, and cinematographers deserve the highest praises as well. The Greatest Showman is nominated for one Academy Award for Best Original Song, “This is Me.”

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