buzz’s top ten movies of 2017

By Elani Kaufman

As another year draws to a close it is common to look back and reflect on all the good and bad that accompanied the past 365 days. In traditional fashion, buzz sat down and had an earnest discussion about the films they deemed worthy of a spot on our list of top ten. Maybe the selection won’t align with the winners chosen by the Academy coming in the new year, but here are our rationales for why these ten are noteworthy.

10. Girls Trip

If it wasn’t already for the all-star cast of”Girls Trip” including Jada Pinkett-Smith and Queen Latifah, then the film is a must-see for those of us who are tired of wild and risqué nights being exclusively reserved for men in comedy. “Girls Trip” is uproariously hilarious, sentimental and empowering as it explores female friendships amidst budding romances, failing marriages, careers and one boozy weekend in New Orleans.

The film begins with Ryan (Regina Hall), who has just published a book titled “You Can Have It All” as an ode to her successful career and marriage to a retired football star. Ryan is then invited to be a keynote speaker at Essence Fest, when she decides to invite her best friends from college – aptly named the Flossy Posse – to come along. Lisa (Jada Pinkett-Smith) is a single mother who’s been out of the dating game for quite a while, much to the dismay of her friends, along with Sasha (Queen Latifah), a successful journalist turned failed gossip blogger and Dina (Tiffany Haddish), the pinnacle of comedy throughout the film.

Dina provides some of the most outright comical moments from describing how she smuggles drugs in her ‘booty hole’ to giving an in-depth demonstration of the ‘grape-fruiting’ technique.

But, entertaining and raucous moments are not exclusively hers as Lisa gets stuck in the middle of a zip line on Bourbon Street with a full bladder, or the women’s laughable absinthe trip in the club. Most importantly, “Girls Trip” is an empowering film for women working against the idea of how ‘girls can’t be funny’ as well as creating an absolutely hilarious take on the importance of maintaining female friendships – even when life gets hectic – and the power of women when they stand together.

-Lizzie Jedrasek

9. The Disaster Artist

Anyone who has seen “The Room” can agree with the following statement: It is truly one of the worst movies ever made. This is not just a petty critique of someone who didn’t like the movie, but rather, a general consensus. The production value is awful, with blurry shots and no coherence between scene cuts; the script is garbage, making no sense and throwing in blips of unresolved subplots and characters who were never introduced.

When I first saw “The Room,” the first thing I asked upon leaving the theater was “how could anyone let this be made?” Well, “The Disaster Artist” seeks to answer that, while also trying to paint a humanizing portrait of a man who could best be described by the term “cryptid.” “The Disaster Artist,” is based on the memoir by Greg Sestero of the same name, and unfolds the story of how Sestero met Tommy Wiseau and proceeded to be roped into creating a terrible movie.

Wiseau, played by James Franco in one of the best performances of his career, is an aspiring actor with no talent, rejected left and right. The solution to this? Creating his own film. Wiseau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in “The Room,” his plan to break into Hollywood and prove to everyone he could make it. And at every turn, there was a new disaster. “The Disaster Artist” is a romp, hilarious to both who have and have not seen the film it lovingly replicates and is an ode to Wiseau, the man who ended up achieving his goal – leaving a mark on Hollywood.

-Elani Kaufman

8. Coco

The latest feat for Disney and Pixar, “Coco” is a colorful and imaginative animation complete with a wholehearted ode to family and storytelling. Miguel is a 12-year-old boy living in Mexico City with an unequivocal gift for guitar. But, Miguel has a slight problem: his family has banned music ever since his great-great-grandfather walked out on the family.

On the eve of Día de Los Muertos, he finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead, where he meets numerous ancestors and his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. The Land of the Dead is where the film particularly triumphs, with stunning visuals and a plot twist like no other. The third act brings one of the most tear-jerking moments in the studio’s repertoire when Miguel reunites with his family to speak to his abuelita, Mama Coco.

This is where “Coco” soars, poetically integrating the living with the dead through the stories and legacies of family, and a touching rendition of the film’s mantra, “Remember Me.” Many often wonder how Pixar manages to stay at the top of the animation world each year, and films like “Coco” remind us why. Despite an opening “Frozen” feature (which is both disappointing, long, and has since been removed), going to see “Coco” will leave you reminded of why we go to the movies.

-Bridget Dunne

7. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s latest film is also maybe his finest accomplishment as a filmmaker to date. “Dunkirk” strips down the war film to its bare essentials and creates the most thrilling film to be made in a long while.

As a pure cinematic experience, it is hard to find fault with “Dunkirk.” Nolan’s staging of the film’s many massive-scale setpieces is incredible, and this goes all the more so for his use of practical effects. It features some of this year’s most gorgeous cinematography, by “Interstellar” and “Her” cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, and is backed by a fantastic, nerve-rattling score by Nolan’s go-to composer Hans Zimmer.

But best of all is the editing, the culmination of Nolan’s fascination with non-linear storytelling and cross-cutting action. Nolan presents three timelines of radically different lengths and locations, but of equal suspense, and cuts between them throughout the film, giving the film an unrivaled intensity at every moment. And it all builds to the breathtaking catharsis of them finally overlapping at the end.

The film has gotten some criticisms for its thin characterizations, and for not giving the viewer enough to hang onto with the people it follows beside basic empathy for those trying to survive in dire circumstances. But I found that that was all I needed, especially with the cast Nolan has assembled here, including Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, plus several promising newcomers.

While much of the hype around “Dunkirk” was centered on the importance of the theatrical experience, it is an incredibly immersive film viewed anyway, and one of the year’s crowning achievements.

-Bill Taylor

6. Logan

“Logan” takes the X-Men Wolverine storyline on its last ride. Directed by James Mangold, starring Hugh Jackman as Logan and Patrick Stewart as Professor X, “Logan” raised the bar, setting a new standard of what a superhero movie can and should be. This final installment of the X-Men generation of the early 2000’s is a perfect blend of Western and Noir and can be summarized as a cowboy’s last stand in his final chance for redemption.

The film grapples with the struggles of Logan’s demons, which have never left him even after decades since the X-Men disbanded and mutants have gone into hiding, and a progressively deteriorating Professor X.

But with the discovery of a new mutant, Logan is forced to be the hero he never thought he could be. The R-rating sets this film and Fox’s Marvel Cinematic Universe apart from that of Disney and DC’s never-ending hiccups. This rating really lets the film explore the griminess of painful aging in a dystopian world in contrast to a child’s hopeful, utopian dream.

-Nessa Steinberg

5. The Big Sick

Earlier this year, “The Big Sick” was released and impressed viewers of all kinds. Based on a true story, “The Big Sick” is about a comedian, Kumail Nanjiani (played by himself), whose ex-girlfriend unexpectedly falls into a coma and, while caring for her in the hospital, he develops a friendship with her disapproving parents.

While his girlfriend is in a coma, he faces his true feelings for her and fantasizes a future for when she wakes up. This dark comedy is both heartbreaking and hilarious; you won’t know whether to laugh or cry at some points. However, the happy ending makes it all worth it and this brilliant film will give you all the feels about love, friendship, and life in general.

-Molly Hughes

4. Florida Project

Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” is a film with a message about poverty on the outskirts of Disney World. But while that sounds like a chore, Baker has made a film that’s as delightful as it is tragic and never anything less than movingly humanistic.

As a writer-director, Baker has made a film of astonishing warmth, genuinely reveling in the fun the central kids are having while also not underselling the direness of their and their parents’ situation. And as a visual filmmaker, he has made a gorgeous film, with lush widescreen images and candy colors giving the viewer something to delight in even as things get sad.

Baker also excels in directing a cast mostly made up of first-time actors. Best among them are six-year-old Brooklynn Prince, who is both hysterically funny and totally heartbreaking when the scene calls for it, and 24-year-old Bria Vinaite, who gets the brunt of the film’s most heart-wrenching scenes as Prince’s loving but struggling mother.

Willem Dafoe has gotten the most attention of anything in the film, but the beauty of his performance is how he’s just as quiet and natural as his co-stars, with a modest generosity too often ignored when he is cast as scenery-chewing villains. Dafoe’s character, the owner of the seedy motel housing the other characters, is continually understating his love and investment in the lives of the people he cares for, which makes his showings of overt protection, like him taking out a potential child predator, all the more powerful.

“The Florida Project” is a tight-rope walk that Baker totally succeeds at. He has made both the year’s funniest comedy and most devastating tragedy in one beautiful package.

-Bill Taylor

3. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” is an innovative, new take on the average getaway driver film. From the beginning, the movie is accompanied by a killer soundtrack that’s been chosen with great care. This alone isn’t the makings of a top 5 movie, though. Countless movies have great soundtracks.

What sets “Baby Driver” apart—what allows it to secure a top spot in the best movies of 2017—is its utilization of the soundtrack, which becomes the heart and soul of the film. Arguably, it’s even an extension of the plot itself, given that it’s so entwined with the action. Each step taken, every gunshot heard, every single moment is lined up to the beat of the song that’s playing. There is a purpose in every song, too, which only enhances the viewing experience. Wright’s broken new ground with this film, setting a new expectation and raising the bar for future action films to come.

-Zoe Stein

2. Get Out

Comedian Jordan Peele took a step out of the spotlight for his highly anticipated film which was released this past February. Although Peele isn’t onscreen, comedy still plays a large part in “Get Out” in a way to deliberately cause audiences to feel uncomfortable. It’s a seemingly normal plotline about a boyfriend (Daniel Kaluuya) going away for the weekend to stay at his significant other’s (Allison Williams) home and be introduced to her family.

Kaluuya’s character is used to being treated differently and expressing further tolerance because of his skin color, but as things become more blatant from interactions with the family Peele pulls the viewer into an even darker story than one could have imagined. Ultimately, it shapes up to be the worst ‘meet the family’ encounter possible.

However what grounds the film in real life, despite the plot that may seem at times outlandish or unbelievable, are the nuances of racism woven throughout the movie. The unveiling of the truth about Williams’ character’s family is built upon subtleties through actions; the real reason for the trip to meet the parents is meant to be satirical, but the film works because it reflects actions and attitudes that have plagued most of 2017 in terms of racial tensions.

“Get Out” will make you laugh and cling to the edge of your seat, but it is definitely one of the most important movies released this year due to its statement alone.

-Jess Peterson

1. Lady Bird

An intimate coming-of-age portrait, Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” lands buzz’s top spot of 2017. The film marks the latest achievement from A24 – which also released “The Disaster Artist” in early December – receiving critical acclaim with a 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and plenty of award show buzz.

“Lady Bird” tells the story of Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento as she navigates college applications, early 2000’s fashion, and a tumultuous relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). Christine decides to craft a new identity for herself, using her new nickname as she hurdles boyfriends, drama club, uniform skirts, and getting her chance to be a “cool” kid.

With a stunning performance by Ronan, we see Christine jump past each obstacle with college – a chance for Lady Bird to get as far from Sacramento as possible – looming overhead. Gerwig’s sharp screenplay allows Metcalf, Ronan, and the supporting cast to shine with some of the most truthful lines of any teenage story. What makes “Lady Bird” stand out, however, is its honesty. The loving portrait Gerwig paints of her adolescence will make you think about the hometown, kind teachers, and forgotten friends you didn’t appreciate when you were seventeen. And, like Christine, it will make you want to call your mom.

-Bridget Dunne