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Christopher Schobert’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Written by on January 2, 2018 

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The year in film cannot be pondered without first mentioning something that may or may fall under the classification of “cinema.” (I’m on team Sight & Sound with this one.) Twin Peaks: The Return stunned, intrigued, cajoled, and rattled in deep and profound ways. Nothing else released in 2017 compared to it, really. However, like Twin Peaks, all of the films included on my list of the year’s best made a troubling world seem a bit more tolerable.

Note: The only major film I was unable to see in 2017 was Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. I recall the same happened with Inherent Vice in 2014. Vice would’ve rocketed to the top three on that year’s best list… and I wonder if I’ll have the same feeling after seeing Phantom.

Honorable Mentions

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10. Columbus (kogonada)

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Columbus might be the quietest drama of 2017. It’s also one of the best. This breathtakingly intimate, contemplative film is anchored by two stunning performances from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, and beautifully directed and written by newcomer kogonada. Much of the film involves sitting, chatting quietly, and thinking. These scenes are handled with such care and performed with such astonishing intimacy that they feel genuinely thrilling. There’s a sense of being present in “real world” conversations, not dialogue crafted to move the plot forward. kogonada has created a drama that will hold great appeal to architecture buffs, those interested in the presentation of Asian Americans onscreen, and, well, anyone who can appreciate an involving character study of two young people waiting for the rest of their lives to begin.

9. Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes)

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With Wonderstruck, Todd Haynes has created a bold, tremendously original film that I expect will be adored for years to come. It transports the viewer to places that are long, long gone: Manhattan in the 1920s, the down-and-dirty Big Apple of the 1970s. And it tells two stories — separated by several decades — that are as affecting as any in recent cinema. The gentle, heartbreakingly exquisite Wonderstruck may at first seem something of a departure for Haynes. However, he has always been a successful chronicler of the outsider. His adaptation of Brian Selznick’s 2011 book is a gloriously involving tale, one infused with imagination and mystery. And the performances from its three young leads — Millicent Simmonds as Rose, Oakes Fegley as Ben, and Jaden Michael as Jamie — are enchanting.

8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson)

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How apropos that early in The Last Jedi, we watch a bitter, aged Luke Skywalker toss his old lightsaber over his shoulder. It’s a joke, but a telling one — and a bold one, at that. Rian Johnson’s brilliant deconstruction of Star Wars and the importance of the Skywalker clan was the most entertaining film of 2017, and one that grows even stronger on repeat viewings. This is Rey’s story now, and what’s particularly exciting is the sense that the future of the saga is a question mark. Johnson has given the Star Wars writers and directors of tomorrow an opportunity to go someplace new. At the same time, he hit the required beats and feels (and Porgs). If I had fantasized about a new Star Wars film in the 80s or early 90s, The Last Jedi is what I would’ve imagined.

7. Get Out (Jordan Peele)

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Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a horror film, of course, and a psychologically overwhelming one. But it’s also a searing drama that is unsettling, disturbing, even awe-inducing. Peele’s twisty script was a marvel of tension and surprising reveals, but it’s his direction that makes the film such an entertaining experience. Watching Get Out in a packed theater was an essential 2017 moment. And Get Out might be 2017’s most essential statement. It is a rarity for a blockbuster to hit such profound heights.

6. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)

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There are several sequences in Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper in which no words are spoken, and the only sounds are the tapping of text messages. Thanks to Assayas’s direction and script, and the stunning performance of Kristen Stewart, these scenes are thrilling, nerve-wracking, and unexpectedly suspenseful. Re-teaming after Clouds of Sils Maria, this director and star hit new cinematic heights. Personal Shopper is a ghost story, yes, but so much more. In fact, it is bold, hugely original modern classic with a final scene that is unforgettable. The film does not supply answers, but why should it? Personal Shopper is all about the questions, and its sense of yearning is astonishing.

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