'Get Out' tops Dann Gire's best movies of 2017
In 2017, we saw "Wonder," "Wonderstruck," "Wonder Wheel," "Wonder Woman" and "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women."
No wonder we had such a good time at theaters and on our favorite multiplatform entertainment outlets.
Here come my top 10 English-language motion pictures of the year. You can give me yours at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, I'll see you at the movies in 2018.
1. "Get Out" -- Years from now, film scholars will officially confirm Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone-ish horror comedy as one of the 21st century's most important social and political works of cinema.
Peele's ingeniously constructed feature fulfills the inspired but failed promise of Carl Lerner's 1964 drama "Black Like Me," starring James Whitmore as a white journalist who darkens his skin to discover what it feels like to be African-American.
"Get Out" also beats Desmond Nakano's less-than-inspired, gimmicky 1995 drama "White Man's Burden," a work of forced empathy in which elite blacks dominate society while whites live in ghettos.
By the ending of Peele's unsettling tale of a mixed-race relationship, white viewers empathize with Daniel Kaluuya's black man to the extent that they transcend their whiteness and suddenly see their world through a glass darkly.
Plus, it's funny. And strange. And a disturbing reminder that white racists haven't gone away. They've just changed their tactics.
2. "Lady Bird" -- This comically honest coming-of-age drama had me at California teenager Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) throwing herself out of a moving car just to get away from her incessantly critical nurse mother (Laurie Metcalf).
Actress and mumblecore icon Greta Gerwig directs and writes a universally insightful look at girls coming to terms with boys, sex, drugs, self-esteem, music, moms, dads and their uncertain futures.
3. "The Big Sick" -- A complex romantic comedy teeming with emotional authenticity gets packaged as a big-screen rom-com based on the actual romance between Chicago Pakistani stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) and white, Christian Chicago writer Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan). Stellar performance by Holly Hunter as Emily's surprisingly multidimensional mom.
4. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" -- Martin McDonagh's Coen-esque tale of one tough mother (Frances "Force of Nature" McDormand) doing whatever necessary to force a dying police chief (Woody Harrelson) to find the man who raped and killed her daughter.
It's an absorbing kaleidoscope of constantly evolving characters competing for our allegiances, featuring well-wrought performances by Sam Rockwell and Lucas Hedges.
5. "Call Me By Your Name" -- A gentle, almost-pastoral tale of first love directed with affection by Luca Guadagnino and based on Andre Aciman's novel about a highly educated 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet) whose world gets rocked by Oliver (an apparently never-aging Armie Hammer), a handsome scholar assigned to assist his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor working in Italy during a long, hot summer.
A charming, nuanced work of cinema exemplifying the very opposite of exploitation.
6. "Blade Runner 2049" -- The improbable, yet visually stunning and thematically consistent sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 original sci-fi thriller, now starring Ryan Gosling as a blade runner tracking down former LAPD Deckard (Harrison Ford) to solve a replicant mystery that could change the world in the same way Dr. Frankenstein changed his.
7. "Mudbound" -- Dee Rees' immersive, sprawling World War II-era race drama about two families, one black, the other white, farming the same patch of southern land feels like visualized John Steinbeckian literature. Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell and Jason Clarke load the drama with Oscar-caliber acting.
8. "Dunkirk" -- It took me a while to get past Christopher Nolan's deliberate avoidance of standard exposition devices and overtly sympathetic character traits in his visually sweeping, 70 mm. account of how more than 800 civilian boats transported more than 338,000 Allied troops to safety off the French beaches of Dunkirk while surrounded by advancing Nazi armies.
"Dunkirk" is not driven by movie stars or clever plotting, but by Nolan's sheer technical storytelling skills and his effusively obvious love of cinema.
9. "The Post" -- Despite clunky expository exchanges, Steven Spielberg's impressively detailed (love those vintage hot-metal linotypes!) newspaper drama celebrates how Katharine Graham (a luminous Meryl Streep) comes into her own as publisher of The Washington Post just in time to lead the fight against a corrupt government to publish the incriminating Pentagon Papers.
"The Post" offers my favorite ending of the year, too. The official 2017 release will open in Chicago Jan. 5.
10. "Phantom Thread" -- Paul Thomas Anderson's cold and elegantly visualized art house study of obsession constitutes an ideal swan song for Daniel Day-Lewis' acting career, as he has claimed. Every bit as fastidious and demanding as his character, Day-Lewis plays a 1950s London master dressmaker catering to the highest of society with ruthless efficiency and unbridled dedication -- until a charismatic waitress (Vicky Krieps) becomes much more than his prized model. This 2017 release won't open in Chicago until next month.