Bill Goodykoontz ranks the top 10 movies of 2017 – AZCentral

The problem with Top 10 lists is similar to that of rating movies with a star system: Once you’ve made your call, you’re locked in.
Life doesn’t really work that way. We change our minds. The charms of one film may take longer to work their magic; six months later you’re thinking about a particular scene from a small film that haunts you and you’ve forgotten almost everything about that movie you loved above all others (till another one came along).
Oh shut up. Excuses, excuses. That’s all these are, really — hemming and hawing to create a little wiggle room in ranking the 10 best movies of 2017. There were a lot more than 10 good movies this year, so it gets tricky. But after much deliberation and scratching out one movie or another, this is my top 10.
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Anyone who loves movies should hope that this isn’t really Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film, but if it is, it’s a powerful exit. He stars in Paul Thomas Anderson’s story of a demanding dressmaker who falls for a waitress (Vicky Krieps, holding her own and then some). Their lives grow increasingly … weird. Where does Anderson come up with this stuff? Whatever the answer, Day-Lewis, whom he directed in “There Will Be Blood,” is the perfect actor to help him realize it.
More acting for the money than anything else on this list. Or any list. Frances McDormand is fantastic as a mother grieving the loss of her daughter, who was raped, murdered and set on fire. The case hasn’t been solved, so she rents three billboards to shame the local police chief (Woody Harrelson). One of his deputies (Sam Rockwell) doesn’t take too kindly to the billboards. It’s a big-time small-town drama with writer and director Martin McDonagh’s signature deepest, darkest humor. And everyone in it is great.
MORE: Frances McDormand is great in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’
Talk about urgent. This isn’t the best movie that came out all year, but it’s the one people need to see the most — as in, right now. Steven Spielberg’s movie traces the story of the Washington Post and the Pentagon Papers. Should the paper publish them after a court blocked the New York Times from doing so? Ah, therein lies a story, and it’s a great one. Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham and if you’re not cheering the First Amendment by the time it’s over, at least have the courtesy to take off your Make America Great Again hat while the credits roll.
Let’s see, it’s a science-fiction-romance-Cold-War-thriller-musical — what isn’t Guillermo Del Toro’s magical movie? Sally Hawkins is great as a mute custodian who falls in love with a sea monster being kept at the government facility where she works. Richard Jenkins is also outstanding as her closeted neighbor. Above all it’s a story of inclusion, which is a most welcome theme when the country remains most divided.
MORE: ‘The Shape of Water,’ Guillermo del Toro’s unconventional love story, is movie magic
Writer and director Sean Baker (“Tangerine,” “Starlet”) has always found beauty in unlikely places, but this takes things a step farther. He follows the step-away-from-homeless residents of a cheap motel within spitting distance (spitting plays a part, actually) of Disney World, specifically the lives of Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her precocious daughter Moonee (Brooklyn Prince, absolutely stunning). Willem Dafoe is an odds-on favorite to win an Oscar for his performance as the kind-hearted (!) motel manager.
MORE: ‘The Florida Project’ has more magic than Disney World
Urgent, relevant and scary as hell. Jordan Peele’s feature debut as a director is all of that and more. A black man (Daniel Kaluuya, underrated) goes with his girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her parents. In what may be the biggest understatement of the year, things do not go well. Peele’s film is obviously a look at racism, but it also pokes a stick at phony liberal inclusion. And it does not skimp on the horror. At all.
MORE: Get out to see ‘Get Out’
The word that keeps coming to mind when thinking of Luca Guadagnino’s film about first love (and, inevitably, loss), is “sumptuous.” Though “beautiful” and “gorgeous” will do. Words that might get lost in all that are “terrifically acted,” but they shouldn’t. Timothee Chalamet is outstanding as a precocious 17-year-old who falls for his father’s research assistant (Armie Hammer, also terrific). Their relationship, which Guadagnino studies with maximum patience, plays out with genuine emotion; these performances really are wonderful. And then here comes Michael Stuhlbarg as Chalamet’s father, and he’s great, too. A most fulfilling movie.
Everyone keeps saying what a tremendous technical achievement Christopher Nolan’s film is, about the heroic evacuation that saved the British Army in the early days of World War II, and that’s certainly true.  Nolan likes to keep effects to a minimum, and build massive sets for maximum realism. But that sells short the thrills and the moving aspects of this film, to say nothing of Nolan’s signature playing with time. (It takes a little getting used to, but it’s worth it.) Like all of Nolan’s best films, this is as much an experience as a movie.
MORE: World War II epic ‘Dunkirk’ gets five stars
I love this movie. Kumail Nanjiani co-wrote it with his wife, Emily V. Gordon. It’s the story of their relationship (Zoe Kazan plays Gordon), in which Nanjiani tries to break free of the constraints his Muslim parents have placed on him (as in, arranged marriage). It’s hilarious, heartwarming and a little heartbreaking here and there. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are terrific as Gordon’s parents. Just, you know, yay.
MORE: Why you’ll love rom-com ‘The Big Sick’
Writer and director Greta Gerwig says this movie, about a high-school senior (Saoirse Ronan, who’s great), isn’t autobiographical, despite some similarities with her own life. That’s pretty remarkable, because every second of this movie feels genuine. Lady Bird, as she calls herself, wants to get out of Sacramento and go to college back east. It’s a tough road, even by the standards of high-school torment. Bonus: Laurie Metcalf is going to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Lady Bird’s mother.
MORE: Greta Gerwig on ‘Lady Bird’ reception: ‘Nothing more wonderful’
Reach Goodykoontz at [email protected]. Facebook: Twitter: @goodyk.
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