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The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)

Written by on July 3, 2017 

Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)

Hermia and Helena

For beginning with a dedication to Setsuko Hara, recently departed muse of Ozu and Naruse, Hermia & Helena — the new film by Viola and The Princess of France director Matías Piñeiro — perhaps aligns us to be especially attuned to the Argentinian auteur’s use of female collaborators. One to already emphasize the charisma and big-screen friendly faces of frequent stars Agustina Munoz and Maria Villar, he still seems to have an ability to make them points of representation, not fetish. – Ethan V. (full review)

The Hero (Brett Haley)

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It’s commonplace for a fan to say of an actor or actress they like: “I would watch him or her in anything.” The Hero, written and directed by Brett Haley, makes the case that one could watch Sam Elliott do most anything and be enraptured. Mind you, this is in no way a backhanded compliment. There’s plenty to grab on to here. – Dan M. (full review)

In Transit (Albert Maysles, Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu)

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Ripe with rich source material each worthy of their own feature films, In Transit provides a glance into various lives and narratives. Some intersect and interact with each other, if only for a brief moment, others are singular: they opt to tell their story to us directly as we share an aural overview of a whole life, relationships, connections, missed opportunities and narratives yet to be written, each in transit. The final film by master vérité filmmaker Albert Maysles, the filmmaker and team (including co-directors Lynn True, Nelson Walker, David Usui, and Ben Wu) spend a few days aboard the Empire Builder, Amtrak’s long-distance line carrying passengers from the Midwest to the Northwest en route to Portland. – John F. (full review)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski)

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Closer to an expansion of its predecessor than a true follow-up all its own, John Wick: Chapter 2 offers a fair share of what already worked while ironing out a few rough spots. Which isn’t to say the formula’s been perfected just yet. The basic set-up might hint at this: some unfinished business from John Wick’s last crusade rears its head in an explosive, fiery way. Before you ask, worry not: his new dog makes it through all right, as revealed in one of this movie’s simpler and, tellingly, more clever images, a quiet subversion of where you think things are headed. The reluctant killer now finds himself carrying out an assassination plot, caught in a double-cross, the subject of a big-game bounty hunt, and some other scenarios that, who are we kidding, are the threads stringing us from one action sequence to another and one killing to the next. So, so many killings. – Nick N. (full review)

Kedi (Ceyda Torun)

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I’m not going to mince words: Kedi will go down as the most unabashedly adorable film of the year. While there are self-proclaimed “dog people” out there, it is difficult to deny the power of a gorgeously composed, blissful image of a cat loving life. Nor can it be understated how infectious their playful and sleuthy energy is. This is the sweet spot in which Kedi resides. However, it has more on its mind than a cute YouTube compilation. Instead, the film is focused on the fascinating existence of our feline friends, and how they interact with — and occasionally guide — us humans. – Mike M. (full review)

Logan (James Mangold)

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It will be a little worrying for some readers to consider that it’s been 17 years since Hugh Jackman first broke out the adamantium claws. Since then, the affable Aussie megastar has enjoyed nine outings as the mutant Wolverine to varying degrees of success. He bows out of the series with a considerable amount of class in James Mangold’s Logan — a rather brilliant mesh of dystopian and superhero tropes that proves to be as entertaining as it is timely. – Rory O. (full review)

The Lost City of Z (James Gray)

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It is the little-stated, undeniable truth that critics are surrounded by nearly innumerable factors when experiencing the work they’ve been assigned to review. Presentation is rarely treated as a basic on the level of form, theme, or auteurist interest, and most mentions will come only if something had gone terribly wrong. This issue sometimes being rather important, I feel compelled to say James Gray’s The Lost City of Z is a rather forceful thing when projected on 35mm, as befits the writer-director’s wishes and with which the New York Film Festival, premiering this picture as the closing title of their 54th year, complied. I can and will compliment the movie for a number of reasons not necessarily pertaining to what material it was printed on and what machine it came out of, so let it be stated upfront that this is most likely the best (only?) way to experience what Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji, reuniting from The Immigrant, have achieved: a film that will often truly and totally appear to have been made in decades past and just discovered today. – Nick N. (full review)

Lovesong (So Yong Kim)

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Tender and haunting, So Yong Kim’s Lovesong is a carefully observed, nuanced character study beautifully written, directed and edited. Much of the action, like in her pervious features In Between Days, Treeless Mountain and For Ellen occurs at the edge of the frame. Exploring the bounds of motherhood, childhood and maturity, Lovesong is an impressive and observant feature in which Kim allows the relationships the breathing room they require for authenticity. – John F. (full review)

Mimosas (Oliver Laxe)

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A “religious western” is how Moroccan-based Spanish director Oliver Laxe describes his second film, Mimosas, winner of the top prize at Cannes’ Critics’ Week. It’s a spiritual, ambiguously plotted journey through the Atlas Mountains, and those willing to give in to its mystical embrace and gorgeous visuals should find it a sensual, engrossing watch. – Ed F. (full review)

Okja (Bong Joon-ho)

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A dystopian story about a genetically engineered beast with overt anti-capitalist connotations, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja represents a synthesis and an upgrade – in scale as well as quality – of the director’s previous outings The Host and Snowpiercer, confirming him as one of the finest contemporary craftsmen of intelligent, ambitious blockbusters. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

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