Gate crashers: The year in film

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The Florida Project
  • The Florida Project

Hollywood will always be at the center of any meaningful discussion about the year 2017, but not for the content of its movies. The spectacular fall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein (and many others) after decades of alleged sexual harassment and abuse led to exposure of similar behavior across the culture, changing the power dynamics of gender relations in the workplace and spawning the #MeToo movement.

It also lifted the veil on the open secret of sexism in Hollywood, which long has kept women from the opportunities and careers they deserve. Only time will tell if meaningful change is possible in the culture of the American film industry.

Hollywood’s endless scandals diverted attention from what was a consistently captivating year for films of every genre and type, including many made by women and filmmakers of color that hit big at the box office.

Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman became the most financially successful non-animated film directed by a woman. African-American comedian Jordan Peele’s audacious horror debut Get Out was the year’s sleeper hit, earning more than $250 million worldwide on a $4.5 million production budget. In Hollywood, social progress often arrives just after the huge profits.

Hollywood also continued its inexorable retreat to the small screen with high-profile films produced by Netflix (and others) primarily for home streaming, including Dee Rees’ Mudbound and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). Baumbach’s film caused controversy at this year’s Cannes Film Festival as officials and attendees debated the eligibility of films not made with the big screen in mind.

What follows is a list of my top 10 personal favorites from the movies that debuted in New Orleans during 2017, presented in order of preference. Follow the links embedded in the film titles to read my reviews:

The Florida Project. Warm, funny and ultimately heartbreaking, Sean Baker’s inspired tale of kids (and their parents) living on the margins of society felt more deeply connected to the harsh social realities of 2017 than any other film released this year.

I Am Not Your Negro. At a time when poorly made documentaries on important social-justice topics arrive at an alarming rate, Raoul Peck’s brilliant portrait of writer and social activist James Baldwin practically burns a hole through the screen.

The Salesman. Two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi makes films in his native Iran that resonate across the globe for their sharp insights on human nature, and searing suspense thriller The Salesman may be his finest work yet.

Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan’s immersive and epic-scale World War II tale of survival delivers a blast of pure big-screen cinema that carefully avoids glorifying military conflict.

Lady Bird. Greta Gerwig’s literate and heartfelt portrait of 17-year-old womanhood indirectly addresses Hollywood’s entrenched (and now widely acknowledged) sexism just by force of its creative achievements.

The Square. The winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes is a biting social satire by Sweden’s Ruben Ostlund that reveals the gulf between our private lives and public personas.

Toni Erdmann. German writer-director Maren Ade’s strange and disorienting character study balances comedy with dramatic insight to illuminate the endless struggles of familial love.

Good Time. Brothers Benny and Josh Safdie’s swirling cinematic fever dream distills the gritty spirit of classic New York City crime movies from the 1970s, updating that aesthetic for the world of today.

Columbus. An artist known for his “supercuts” (mash-ups of scenes from other filmmakers’ work), Kogonada invents the architecture drama with his beautifully rendered and gently mesmerizing feature debut.

Baby Driver. The first film in which all physical movement is carefully choreographed to match the soundtrack — an inspired collection of songs spanning 50 years — Edgar Wrights' Baby Driver expands the action film universe while delivering visceral thrills and endless fun.

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