10 Top Movie Picks of 2017: The Geek List from “Dunkirk” to “Maurice”

We present the Top 10 list of movie picks for 2017:

Top 10: Dunkirk

You can practically see it from here… ” Kenneth Branagh’s stoical naval commander is talking about “home”, the word that recurs throughout Christopher Nolan’s long-nurtured epic of wartime retreat. Yet he could equally have been referring to the Imax 70mm presentation in which I saw Dunkirk, and which was also probably visible from France – a jaw-dropping spectacle in which the picture for the most part stretched beyond my field of vision, both vertically and horizontally. “We have a big love for the big format,” says cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who works agile wonders with the bulky film cameras used to capture such stunning images. Available in a dizzying array of projection formats (digital, 35mm, 70mm etc), Dunkirk hits our screens with aspect ratios ranging from square to oblong and all points in between, depending upon which version you choose to see. But see it you must. (The Guardian review)

Top 9: 99 Homes

Before it goes off the rails in the final stretch, 99 Homes is a riveting rabble-rouser that thinks it can make a difference. In these days when Hollywood typically dulls our wits, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes has a fire in its belly. It’s spoiling to be heard.

Michael Shannon explodes onscreen as Rick Carver, a Florida real-estate vulture who makes his living evicting families from their homes. When Rick does just that to Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), an unemployed construction worker and single dad with a preteen son (Noah Lomax) and a mother (a superb Laura Dern) in his care, Dennis wants revenge. At first. Later, he joins the bastard in capitalizing on poverty for easy profit. Maybe not so easy. Dennis still has a working conscience. But for how long? (The Rolling Stones review)

Top 8: The Baader Meinhof Komplex

At times, The Baader Meinhof Complex proceeds with the plodding meticulousness of a TV miniseries: No underground meeting or incendiary pamphlet is allowed to go undocumented. But this starkly unromantic epic ultimately benefits from its 150-minute running time, immersing the audience in the RAF’s journey from shared passion to collective madness as their movement runs its full, sad, bloody course. (Slate review)

Top 7: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester By The Sea is a bruising and bittersweet character study, with dark thoughts and a strong heart bursting from behind that deadpan expression. Affleck and Hedges are extraordinary in their portrayal of ordinary people on the brink of despair and as frosty as both the tone and the setting may be, there are unexpected pockets of warmth in Lonergan’s witty and understanding direction. (Den of Geek review)

Top 6: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures pays tribute to its subjects by doing the opposite of what many biopics have done in the past—it looks closely at the remarkable person in the context of a community. Directed by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) and based on the nonfiction book of the same title by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film celebrates individual mettle, but also the way its characters consistently try to lift others up. They’re phenomenal at what they do, but they’re also generous with their time, their energy, and their patience in a way that feels humane, not saintly. By refracting the overlooked lives and accomplishments of Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson through this lens, Hidden Figures manages to be more than an inspiring history lesson with wonderful performances. (The Atlantic review)

Top 5: The Way He Looks

Most of the dialogue feels recycled from countless teen pics, and were this a film about a blind boy falling in love with a girl, there’d be nothing to make it stand out. But this is a gay story, done with tenderness and capturing the hesitancy of expressing affection when rejection can have ugly consequences. Had “The Way He Looks” been made 20 years ago, it would be hard to overestimate the impact it could have had on gay teens desperate for this sort of positive representation; although the field has expanded somewhat recently, this could still be a meaningful catalyst in boosting confidence and self-worth for those struggling to come out. (Variety review)

Top 4: Die Blumen Von Gestern

As is all-too-commonly the case in features about middle-aged, crises-raged men finding solace in an eccentric younger woman, the storyline serves Eidinger better than Haenel, though neither ever appear as though they’re playing real people. With the more contemplative aspects of Kraus’ script coming through via dialogue rather than performance, the leads switch between the specific modes required at any given time rather than demonstrating genuine transition. That said, both fare best in later, more intimate and revealing moments. (Screen Daily review)

Top 3 (Bronze Award): Simpel

Technically, Goller doesn’t reinvent the wheel, relying on many of the same ingredients that make the films of compatriots Til Schweiger and Matthias Schweighoefer (the latter not only a director but also the star of two of Goller’s previous features) irresistible to German audiences. The countless montage sequences set to Anglophone soft-rock songs, the guitar-driven score stuck somewhere between pensive and dreamy, and the highly polished camerawork all mark this as a film that wants to give audiences what they expect when they come to see a German mainstream entertainment. (Hollywood Reporter review)

Top 2 (Silver Award): Er Ist Wieder Da

Er Ist Wieder Da runs for almost two hours, with Wnendt struggling to do much with his many unscripted scenes, which mainly feature people not taking “the real Hitler” seriously (one righteously angry man excluded). The fact that a man dressed as Hitler has become a selfie-opportunity in the Germany of today more than something that provokes anger or invites any kind of reflection is in itself interesting, but the film doesn’t contextualize or comment on this development enough to suggest something meaningful about either contemporary German society or whether Hitler’s ideas and methods could potentially take root again beyond some ultra-niche groups. (Hollywood Reporter review)

Top 1 (Gold Award): Maurice

Stately and tasteful, supremely confident, proud of its Anglophilia and shameless in its devotion to the upper crust, the Merchant-Ivory style of literary adaptation by now owes at least as much to Ralph Lauren as to E. M. Forster or Henry James. That’s no small part of its appeal. The Merchant-Ivory ”Maurice,” based on Forster’s long-unpublished novel about a young man’s coming to terms with his homosexuality, further perfects the approach that has worked better and better with each new film, particularly ”The Bostonians” and ”A Room With a View.” Seriousness and intelligence are certainly part of these successes, but a keen sense of the exquisite also goes into making Merchant-Ivory magic. (New York Times review)

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