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Jordan Raup’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Written by on January 2, 2018 

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A year of uncertainty–to put it lightly–at every waking moment, 2017 won’t be remembered fondly. Offering brief moments of solace, the best cinema of the year included both escapism and a glimpse of humanity that was undetectable when looking at headlines. It was also the rare year that didn’t ramp up in quality in latter months; in fact, only one film in my top 10 actually premiered in the fall, with a trio of others getting theatrical releases during that time.

It hurt to leave off Lady Bird, The Untamed, The Other Side of Hope, Ex Libris – The New York Public Library, and the year’s best blockbuster, Okja, but when all is said and done, here are the 15 films that most resonated with me this year. Along with the below feature, one can see a vague ranking of all ~150 films I’ve viewed here, as well as my 70 favorite non-2017 films I watched for the first time here.

Honorable Mentions

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10. The Work (Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)

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Set inside California’s Folsom Prison, three men from the outside join an extensive, profoundly candid therapy session spread over four days. There are no talking heads or even a great deal of context. The heart-wrenching brilliance of The Work is how we’re placed intimately into these circles, almost to the point that feels like we shouldn’t be privy to such emotionally revelatory glimpses of these souls, including the demons that consume some. Through an unflinching eye, we witness life-altering spiritual and psychological transformations, the likes of which prove that any screenwriter or actor can match up to the best of non-fiction.

9. A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)

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After last year’s extraordinary drama Sunset Song, Terence Davies returned this year with the equally astounding A Quiet Passion. With a script that would make Emily Dickinson proud, Cynthia Nixon embodies the famous writer with a combative spirit as the specter of death hangs over Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography as much as it does Dickinson’s poems. Year after year of conventional biopics, this is a shining, spiritually-rich example of how to capture the soul of an iconic, complicated figure.

8. Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone)

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Stephen Cone’s protagonists are often defined by an inquisitiveness, whether it pertains to faith, sexuality or maturation in general. In Princess Cyd, Jessica Pinnick captivatingly embodies these concern as her Cyd is the ying to the yang of her aunt Miranda, played by Rebecca Spence in an equally great performance. As the two delicately spar during a warm Chicago summer, Cone has carefully crafted another world bursting with humanity that any viewer would want to live in.

7. Good Time (Josh and Benny Safdie)

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Brimming with a vibrant ingenuity in every frame, Good Time feels like the kind of thrilling filmmaking that Hollywood will attempt to co-opt for wider appeal if they don’t just recruit the Safdies themselves, which it looks like they’re going to do. As a smarmy, go-for-broke low-level criminal, Robert Pattinson is utterly magnetic and as fascinating a leading man as one will find on screen this year. More than just feeling along for the ride in this nocturnal adventure through a Queens we don’t often see on screen, the experience is akin being directly in the passenger’s seat next to Connie and crew. It’s a train wreck one simply can’t look away from.

6. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)

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A feat of accentuated sound design, as hands run down staircases and across bodies, and arresting cinematography, luxuriating in the beauty of Italy and those that occupy it, Call Me By Your Name has the effect of being transported to this specific time and place of 1980s northern Italy. Luca Guadagnino’s disarmingly nice and intoxicatingly sexy queer romance is a film of overwhelming empathy and playfulness as loneliness turns into gratification and desires are slowly manifested into reality.

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