By Jon Fuchs, Music Director
2017 was an absolutely exhausting year. With all the political conflicts, sexual assault allegations and worldwide tragedies flooding headlines all year, it felt like the only way to truly forget the cruelness of reality was through the music and movies released throughout 2017, which have been consistently excellent. Even though I have the title of music director for ACRN, I try my best to keep as up to date with as many mainstream and independent films as I can. Movies are an excellent form of escapism and this year especially had a wide variety of quality entertainment, whether you were looking for light-hearted laughs, fun thrills or disturbing symbolism. With that being said, here are the five best movies I saw this year.
5. Get Out [Blumhouse; 2017]
There’s a reason why Get Out keeps being called one of the biggest surprises of 2017: no one expected it to be so great. The directorial debut of Key and Peele’s Jordan Peele is easily one of the most entertaining thrillers made in years, filled with great acting, a clever script with plenty of twists and fascinating perspectives on American race politics, that discuss uncomfortable, controversial topics without getting preachy. Similar to movies like Dr. Strangelove, Get Out is the kind of film that can be enjoyed both as an entertaining film as well as a clever piece of societal satire.
4. Lady Bird [A24; 2017]
Lady Bird should’ve been this year’s cookie-cutter coming-of-age film you watch once on a plane and forget about in two months. But with acclaimed actress Greta Gerwig handling the direction and screenwriting, the film becomes a fun, well-written character study with excellent dialogue and tremendous acting, especially from the mother-daughter relationship of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. Thanks to Gerwig’s wonderful balance of light-hearted laughs and emotional melodrama, anyone who watches Lady Bird is guaranteed to find something to relate to, whether it be the struggles of living with family, high school angst or the search for an identity.
3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer [A24; 2017]
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 film, The Lobster, is an absurd, beautifully shot black comedy unlike anything that has come out in the last decade. Its still, dry approach to filmmaking was a breath of fresh air, and the lead acting from Colin Farrell in such an odd screenplay was fascinating to watch.
Lanthimos’ newest film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, continues The Lobster‘s unsettling, disorienting tone, but uses it to create a psychological horror film so disturbing, you’ll be squirming in your seat throughout the entire two-hour runtime. The stomach-churning cinematography makes for easily the best camerawork of any movie this year, creating a constantly unnerving, hair-raising atmosphere out of practically no movement. The disturbingly monotone acting from Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan is extremely effective, perfecting a nauseating world that only legends like Kubrick could master. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an insane nightmare that makes Mulholland Drive look like a children’s movie, and it’s an absolutely amazing thing to experience.
2. Brigsby Bear [3311; 2017]
Brigsby Bear is hands down the most creative and heartwarming comedy of the year. It’s a film that one should go into with no expectations, as it switches its plot around over and over again so you never know what’s going to happen next. To describe it as spoiler-free as possible, the film stars SNL cast member Kyle Mooney as James, a hardcore fan of the children’s show, Brigsby Bear Adventures, which abruptly ends, inspiring him to finish the show’s story himself. What follows is an unpredictable, feel-good story about friendship, societal norms and figuring out what you’re best at, that’ll make you cry of happiness by the end. But don’t just take my word for it; take it from the several people I saw this movie with, who all left the theater red-faced, crying of happiness.
1. mother! [Protozoa; 2017]
Let’s get one thing straight really quick: mother! is NOT a horror movie. It’s not a movie that’ll give you direct answers, and it’s not one that’ll make you satisfied. Instead, it’s a film that should be looked at years (maybe even decades) from now as an example of quality disturbing cinema. Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, the film is a series of allegories and metaphors that make for one of the hardest to watch movies you’ll ever witness. That’s not an over-exaggeration in the slightest, as I had problems watching what I was looking at multiple times during the two times I saw it in theaters.
It’s hard to describe the plot of this movie without straight up spoiling it, so I won’t say anything about it. Instead, I’ll just say it has Jennifer Lawrence’s best acting of her career, tons of mind-boggling visual tricks that perfectly pace the film like a literal nightmare and tons of really controversial political and social commentary that remains almost entirely ambiguous to the viewer. It’s the only movie I saw this year I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I saw it, and it still sends chills up my spine just remembering the final 30 minutes.