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Mike Mazzanti’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Written by on January 2, 2018 

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2017 was a year of tectonic personal shifts; I graduated college, moved out of my first apartment, and left the suburbs of my Pennsylvanian hometown for the city of Nanjing. Amidst the whirlwind of change, one steadfast constant providing a vital anchor of familiarity was cinema. This year, I was captivated by a litany of cinematic trails, from explorations through cinema’s roots to the excited study of digital auterists, or the father-son Sunday afternoon double-feature of now-ness provided by Logan Lucky and Good Time a few days before shipping off to the East. For me, cinema remains not a source of escape, but of essential existence. Through this, my top pick is a film that calls lovingly back to cinema’s roots while still stunning with modern beauty. In short, this list is very subjective — but then, of course it is.

Honorable Mentions

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10. Alien: Covenant (Ridley Scott)

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Deep existential dread bathed in viscera, Ridley Scott’s latest is a wicked bastard of a movie. As thematically operatic as its younger sibling, and crueler than its towering mother, Alien: Covenant spits and screams with anger, its messy mouth covered in gurgling saliva curdled with blood. As adamant on eliciting a response as that last sentence, Scott throws his gnarled brush from a sordid easel of twisted, tar-black visual conceits in the name of watching humanity crumble by its own hand. Somehow, it’s a blast to watch.

9. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)

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A gripping blend of sight and sound, Dunkirk displays the intricate link between time and survival through Eisensteinian visual grammar and modern panache. I would be lying if I said form wasn’t the main source of excitement regarding Nolan’s latest; a year where I was particularly stimulated by both the old and new, Dunkirk satisfies in a way different than a film lower on this list, yet still effectively marries cinema’s history with today. While most of the surging emotions elicited (mostly from the upper third of Tom Hardy’s face) have all but left me, its cinematic language has not.

8. Free Fire (Ben Wheatley)

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Before films lower on this list knocked my socks off, Ben Wheatley’s latest kept me up at 3am with a massive grin on my face. Free Fire reminds me of the sheer joy cinema can wrap one up in; it’s the sort of film that made me perk up in my seat, cackling as it instilled a sensation of excitement over how much fun I can have alone with moving images. It’s a firecracker of pure energy, blasting an incredible ensemble off in a warehouse of madcap fun.

7. Get Out (Jordan Peele)

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Spine-tingling in a way few films could achieve this year, Get Out stands as a biting proclamation of where things (sadly) stand. Sharp and concise, it slaps the likes of white liberalism in the face while refusing to be defined as merely socio-political critique. Seemingly custom-fitted for rewarding rewatches, Get Out is immensely clever without being blunt. Still, it has a sledgehammer ferocity which demands to be taken seriously, anchored by one of the most enrapturing central performances this year. This is no comedy.

6. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski)

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Expanding on the world of its economical predecessor, and upping the body count that growth seems to necessitate, John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the titular hitman tired and pissed off. Though these films blow away almost any other franchise having a run at the gauntlet right now, Wick himself seems to be suffering from franchise fatigue. Thankfully, this exhaustion starts and ends with John’s battered and bruised face, for the rest of us get to delight once again in a fireworks display of lush visuals and a hearty dose of shin-cracking, head-spurting gun-fu. John, please keep coming back.

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