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The best 20 movies of 2017 (so far)

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20. The Villainess

It’s been an exceptional year for action epics featuring formidable female warriors, and none are as out-and-out insane as The Villainess, South Korean director Jung Byung-gil’s aesthetically frenetic revenge saga. Trying to keep up with the film’s convoluted narrative requires a Herculean effort, but being confused has rarely been this exhilarating, thanks to a series of set pieces that—defying the odds—manage to continually one-up their predecessors, from a motorcycle fight in which the camera does as many impossible things as Jung’s protagonist, to a finale that leaps between multiple speeding vehicles. It’s the cinematic equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the heart.

19. The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel (which was previously made into a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood) is a sweltering hothouse thriller guided by its director’s precise, penetrating evocation of female rivalry and pent-up desire. Building toward eruptions of ecstasy and horror, The Beguiled finds Coppola tilling familiar thematic terrain through an enchanting period-piece prism. 

18. Split

Even if it didn’t conclude with a gasp-inducing twist that forces one to reconsider everything that’s come before it, Split would stand as a triumphant return to form for director M. Night Shyamalan, the former The Sixth Sense wunderkind who’d lately fallen on tough studio-for-hire times. Unlike his sturdy 2015 found-footage thriller The Visit, Shyamalan’s latest boasts the menacing, meticulous widescreen beauty of his signature hits.

17. Hounds of Love

Putting a rugged twist on the serial-killer subgenre, Australian director Ben Young’s stellar debut concerns a young girl in 1987 Perth named Vicki (Ashleigh Cumming) who, after another row with her mother about her parents’ separation, is lured back to the home of a couple (Emma Booth and Stephen Curry) that, it turns out, has deviant plans for her. As it slowly elucidates the parent-child issues plaguing both its captors and their captive, the film develops into a chilling portrait of male domination and female liberation, all while providing, at every turn, an almost unbearable amount of methodical, nail-biting suspense. 

16. The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography

Errol Morris is one of cinema’s all-time great documentarians, and for The B-Side, he lavishes his acute, empathetic gaze on Elsa Dorfman, a Massachusetts photographer famed for using a giant (and now discontinued) Polaroid camera to snap 20x24 portraits. Its title referring to the alternate pictures her customers reject (and which she keeps), the film begins as a casual study of an eccentric artistic personality—only to blossom into a larger examination of more profound themes, including the transience of life and art, the twisty-turny relationship between an artist and her art, and the technology employed to create it. 

15. Icaros: A Vision

A journey into the deep, dark regions of the Amazonian wild, Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi’s Icaros: A Vision follows an American beset by a cancer to the Peruvian jungle in search of ayahuasca—a psychedelic plant that, along with medicinal chants known as “icaros,” is used by locals to remedy mind, body, and spirit. 

14. Wonder Woman

Like Logan, Wonder Woman breathes bracing new life into the increasingly moribund superhero blockbuster—although in the case of Patty Jenkins’ film, it does so less by reimagining its main character than by conceiving a grand, unique origin story for its heretofore-cinematically-neglected DC Comics icon. At once courageous, determined, and guided by a heartening belief in the inherent goodness of mankind, this Wonder Woman is brains, beauty and brawn, cast in a classical mold and yet tailor-made for the modern age. 

13. City of Ghosts

Since 2014, ISIS has claimed the Syrian city of Raqqa as the capital of its so-called Caliphate—and, at the same time, been opposed by a band of local “citizen journalists” whose mission is to expose the Islamic State’s horrific crimes. That group, known as “Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered” (RBSS), is the focus of director Matthew Heineman’s sterling new documentary, which embeds itself with three RBSS members as they struggle to continue their work from Germany and Turkey, where they’ve been forced to flee thanks to death threats from ISIS.

12. Baby Driver

Driving to the beat of his own iPod playlist, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the charismatically cool frontman of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, a rocking caper about a gifted getaway driver who discovers that it’s difficult to extricate one’s self from a life of crime. Reconfirming Wright’s preeminent genre mash-up skills, it delivers an electrifying action-romance-musical high.

11. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan dispenses with the exposition in favour of immersive aesthetics with Dunkirk, a dramatic account of the WWII evacuation of Dunkirk, France’s beaches in 1941. Through its towering scale, superb staging, and inventive structure, Dunkirk melds the micro and the macro with a formal daring that’s breathtaking, along the way underscoring the unrivalled power of experiencing a truly epic film on a big screen.

10. Good Time

Arguably the finest male performance of the year comes courtesy of Robert Pattinson in Good Time, the latest grungy New York City street drama from rising superstar directors Ben and Josh Safdie (Heaven Knows What). In this breakneck nocturnal thriller, Pattinson is Connie, a low-level hood who finds himself on a desperate search for bailout cash after a bank robbery goes awry and his accomplice—his mentally challenged brother Nick (Ben Safdie)—is arrested and given a one-way ticket to Rikers Island.

9. John Wick: Chapter 2

Rarely has a film seemed less in need of a sequel than 2014’s John Wick, a self-contained bit of action-cinema perfection. Nonetheless, John Wick: Chapter 2 manages to thrill through a constant barrage of masterful gun-fu carnage, with bullets flying at a jaw-dropping rate courtesy of Keanu Reeves’ nattily dressed assassin. 

8. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Director Osgood Perkins is the son of Norman Bates himself (actor Anthony Perkins), but he proves to be a horror maestro in his own right with The Blackcoat’s Daughter, a beguiling descent into dark, demonic places that’s all the more chilling for refusing to chart a simple straight-and-narrow course.

7. Atomic Blonde

With Blondie style and John Wick ferocity, Charlize Theron strikes a peerless ass-kicking pose in Atomic Blonde, director David Leitch’s electric Cold War extravaganza. Straddling a fine line between exploitation and empowerment, this adaptation of a 2012 graphic novel (The Coldest City) is a narratively tangled affair—told in unreliable flashback by its protagonist—about Theron’s MI6 spy navigating a sea of Berlin duplicity on a mission to learn why her espionage cohort-lover was murdered.

6. Alien: Covenant

Blending the body horror of his 1979 Alien, the gung-ho combat of James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens, and the philosophical grandiosity of his 2012 prequel Prometheus—not to mention the man-and-machine musings of his 1982 Blade Runner—Ridley Scott delivers a biblically scaled interstellar nightmare with Alien: Covenant.

5. The Lost City of Z

Acclaimed American filmmaker James Gray (Two Lovers, The Immigrant) ventures for the first time outside New York City— and into the dark heart of the Amazon—with The Lost City of Z, an adaptation of David Grann’s 2009 non-fiction book of the same name. Such a geographic relocation, however, does little to alter Gray’s fundamental artistic course, as his latest—about early 20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett’s (Charlie Hunnam) repeated efforts to locate a lost South American civilisation that he believed to be more advanced than any previously discovered – boasts his usual classical aesthetics and empathetic drama.

4. I Called Him Morgan

Lee Morgan was one of the mid-century jazz scene’s brightest lights, until his life was cut tragically short when his wife Helen fatally gunned him down in a New York City nightclub on the snowy night of February 18, 1972. Using copious archival footage, newly recorded interviews with friends and collaborators, and, most illuminating of all, a tape-recorded 1996 interview with Helen made one month before her death, Kasper Collin’s transfixing documentary I Called Him Morgan recounts this sad real-life saga as two separate stories—Lee’s and Helen’s—that eventually dovetailed, intertwined, and then combusted in horrific fashion.

3. Okja

Bong Joon Ho’s Okja is many things at once: a rollicking kid’s fable about the bond between a young South Korean girl (Byun Hee-bong) and her genetically enhanced super-pig (named Okja); a satiric critique of the corporate food industry; a wacko comedy about transcending cultural boundaries; and a fantastical adventure full of kidnappings and chases, buoyed by over-the-top performances from Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, and culminating with a Times Square spectacular and a Holocaust-esque trip to the slaughterhouse. Most of all, however, it’s the year’s most exhilaratingly idiosyncratic work, indebted to the spirit of both Steven Spielberg and Hayao Miyazaki, and energised by the distinctive signature of its director.

2. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Suspenseful and hilarious, despondent and optimistic, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a masterful genre film, one that immerses itself in the small, painful indignities of everyday life, and then casts the battle against those wrongs as a serio-comic odyssey of sleuthing, heavy metal, and nunchakus.

1. Lady Macbeth

Hell hath no fury like a woman oppressed, as is shockingly born out by William Oldroyd’s phenomenal feature directing debut—an adaptation not of the Bard but, rather, of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. In a breakout performance of coiled intensity and ruthless cunning, Florence Pugh is Katherine, a young woman sold into marriage to an older landowner (Cosmo Jarvis), whose nastiness is only surpassed by that of his domineering father (Christopher Fairbank). That union is rife with problems from the start, though despite the film’s Shakespeare-referencing title, the path it wends is an original and horrifying one. Like its protagonist, it’s a film that’s placid and refined on the outside, ferocious and pitiless on the inside.

(Source: http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a52209/best-movies-of-2017/.)

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