1. “Call Me By Your Name” – It’s a funny year for a love story as blissful as this. Much has already been said about the sensory wonders of Luca Guadagnino’s wellspring of a movie. But nothing in 2017 bore such splendor and such genuine wisdom as “Call Me By Your Name.” There are the performances, the doozy of a last shot and the unforgettable monologue delivered by Michael Stuhlbarg. Most of all, “Call Me By Your Name” is an exquisitely alive movie, calling you to lean into life. Also: Italian summers look nice. I could go for one of those.
2. “The Florida Project” – Speaking of vibrant movies. Sean Baker’s latest and best is somehow both an affecting, thoughtful social drama and the most spirited movie of the year. Much of that is owed to its young star, Brooklynn Prince, whose performance is the equal of any in 2017, and her fictional mom, played by Bria Vinaite. More than most, Baker’s films are fully engaged with the real world.
3. “Dunkirk” – An awesomely colossal, purely cinematic experience of sea, sand and sky — and, no, I’m not talking about “Baywatch.” For maximalist cinema, nobody today is in the same league as Christopher Nolan. It’s not one for character development, but in the film’s sensory onslaught there’s something mythical — and perhaps timely — about surviving to fight another day. (See also another fine Dunkirk-related movie from 2017: Lone Sherfig’s under-seen “Their Finest Hour.”)
4. “Faces Places” – Hands down, the odd couple of the year was Agnes Varda and JR. One an 89-year-old trailblazing filmmaker of the French New Wave, the other a 33-year-old internationally renowned street artist, they’re an almost too-cute pair. In this radiant documentary, they traverse a working-class French countryside in a van painted like a giant camera, pasting giant photos of the people they meet on any large surface they find. Seeking random encounters, they meet people, and through their art, ennoble them. It’s that simple. In a cold year, “Faces Places” is a warm, inviting fire.
5. “Lady Bird” – Whereas most coming-of-age tales telescope into the lives of their adolescent protagonists, Greta Gerwig’s solo directing debut is more widescreen. While still acutely feeling every hope and pain of 17-year-
old Christine (Saoirse Ronan), Gerwig sees around her, too, particularly her parents (Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts). It will make a great double feature with 2012’s “Frances Ha,” which Gerwig co-wrote before we found out what a tremendous filmmaker she is, too.
6. “mother!” – What controversy? Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is a thrilling and provocative riot. Don’t be scared off by THAT scene because Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in the straightforward but riveting biblical allegory (that can also be about whatever you want — narcissistic artists, the subjugation of women, the environment).
7. “Get Out” – In a time where the future of the movies is so much questioned, nothing pointed the way forward like Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. It’s unquestionably a landmark movie in representing an African-American perspective in a way that has seldom, if ever, been seen before. But by seamlessly fusing genre with message — and finding droves eager to see it — “Get Out” was a reminder of a forgotten truism: Nothing makes a zeitgeist like a must-see movie.
8. “Phantom Thread” – For such a finely attired film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is funny. Its craft is mesmerizing and its couture is high, but don’t let that fool you. This is a very down-to-earth movie about finding your own idiosyncratic love, and getting outside your own head enough to appreciate it.
9. “Logan Lucky” – Efforts to faithfully capture heartland America in 2017 were admittedly imperfect. Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was thrillingly performed and raged gloriously but had glaring blind spots. Steven Soderbergh’s heist movie “Logan Lucky” delights in both dignifying and laughing at its slow-witted, folksy characters. But, man, is it fun. Movies this light on their feet don’t come along much anymore.
10. “The Lost City of Z” – James Grey’s drifting drama about the early 20th Century explorer Percy Fawcett, who sought a fabled civilization in South America, initially has the foreboding feel of “Apocalypse Now!” or “Fitzcarraldo.” But instead of finding horror in the jungle, Fawcett finds transcendence in otherness.
Also excellent: “The Big Sick,” “Lady Macbeth,” “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” “Okja,” “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”