From a cannibalistic story of sisters to a socially relevant thriller, the year’s best movies brought screenplays to life and gave us material to reflect on.
1. Raw No movie ate at me more this year than French filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s Raw. Her unspoiled film about a young vegetarian who develops an impulsive taste for human flesh isn’t portrayed in the hardcore manner its story suggests, and it’s all the better for it. It’s a rather sweet and imaginative coming-of-age tale with biting originality.
2. Call Me by Your Name Love stories these days are either too cheesy or bitter to swallow. But every once and a while a good one sprouts up and has the power to blossom into something truly worthy of note. With a tender story, memorable performances and one scene centered around the concept of “better to have loved than not at all” that is the year’s best, Call Me by Your Name is no hang-up. It’s a towering achievement.
3. Blade Runner 2049 Most may remember Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the most entertaining blockbuster of the year. However, I’d make an argument for Denis Villeneuve's master class of filmmaking, Blade Runner 2049. The sly wonder of a film is as pretty to look at as it is thought provoking.
4. The Square The multi-language film (mostly Swedish) is one of those features that throws content at its audience and it's up to the viewer for how they brew the stew. It’s a well-rounded exercise in discomfort. Whether you relate to the material or not, you will undoubtedly be entertained by its eccentric nature and will discuss it long after it's over.
5. The Post Steven Spielberg’s finest work in years, The Post, stands the best chance at winning Best Picture at next year’s Oscars. It’s got the talent, the relevant story (more so than the already-forgotten-about Spotlight) and energy to do a clean awards sweep.
6. The Florida Project This movie shouldn’t be called a movie; it’s life documented with a sense of patience and realization that’s unfathomable. Sean Baker, director of 2015’s Tangerine, is no fluke. He captures a slice of life that’s both moving and eye opening.
7. Lady Bird Greta Gerwig (Mistress America) has a keen eye for storytelling and bringing out the best in the people she frames within her lens. Lady Bird is a clever spin on the coming-of-age genre.
8. A Ghost Story Dallas native David Lowery’s experimental film may be too quiet for some, but good things come to those who wait. It’s purely observational and requires audience participation to connect the dots. But once you discover what’s hidden underneath the film’s sheets, you’ll be glad you took the plunge.
9. Wonder Woman Patty Jenkins (Monster) directs a wonderfully wrought origin story. Her rendition of Wonder Woman is a movie that should be celebrated and honored, not for just being a good movie for the DC Extended Universe, but a good one in general. It's a strikingly bold and confident piece of blockbuster filmmaking that also happens to be thrilling and emotionally powerful.
10. Get Out Jordan Peele has always had a talent for delving into societal truths. Whether he's exploring our tendencies to misinterpret text messages or developing tactics for how black people can walk through white suburban neighborhoods, his amazing array of characters and strong points of view peel back the layers of tough topics with twisted irony. Get Out is no different.
Honorable Mentions: The Big Sick, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lost City of Z, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, Thelma, Mustang Island, Last Flag Flying, The Disaster Artist and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Worst movies and biggest upsets: Lemon (a movie so abhorrent, it deserves to be squashed), Transformers: The Last Knight (no comment), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (more of a chore than a sweeping adventure), Downsizing (I loved it until I absolutely hated it), mother! (one sinful sequence ruins the film) and The Book of Henry (so bizarre, it almost should be seen to be believed).
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.
FEATURED IMAGE: Raw, a film about a vegetarian (Garance Marillier ) who develops an appetite for human flesh can sure test your limitations, but it also presents a beautiful coming-of-age story. Photo courtesy of Focus World.