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Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of 2017, By Patrick McDonald

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CHICAGO – It’s time to choose the TEN SCARIEST Donald Trump Tweets, excuse me, The 10 Best films of 2017 (got a lot on my mind). Selected by HollywoodChicago.com’s Patrick McDonald, the “Über Critic,” it is a list that celebrates redemptive spirit, love of the love and just all-out fun at the flickers.

In keeping with list-o-mania, and the need for fuller disclosure, here are the films – according to the Über – that came at 25th-11th (click highlighted titles for reviews/interviews)… 25th - Patti Cake$, 24th - Wonder Wheel/I Love You, Daddy, 23rd - Norman, 22nd - Novitiate, 21st - Free Fire, 20th - Coco, 19th - mother!, 18th - Beatriz at Dinner, 17th - Their Finest, 16th - Wonder Woman, 15th - Call Me By Your Name, 14th - Happy End, 13th - BPM (Beats Per Minute), 12th - The Square, 11th - Beauty and the Beast.

In categories from 2017, the top documentary was the biographical “David Lynch: The Art Life” (which was endearingly meditative). For animation, nothing beat Pixar Studio’s “Coco.” And finally, in 2017’s may-you-live-in-interesting-times Year of the Woman Filmmaker, the Best Superhero film was “Wonder Woman.”

Below each film description will be a link to full reviews and/or interviews, when applicable, that are associated with the tributes. Through the cosmic filter of Patrick McDonald, here are the 10 Best Films of 2017…


Dave Made a Maze
Photo credit: Gravitas Ventures

DAVE gets the ten spot for many undeniable reasons, but the main one is that it’s the most creative film of the year, especially in the category for “use of the cardboard medium.” Co-written and directed by Bill Watterson (from a Steven Sears story) it involves a nebbish artist named Dave (Nick Thune) who builds a cardboard fort in his living room – think childhood and refrigerator boxes – while his girlfriend (Meera Robhit Kumbhani) is away. Stuck inside this maze of his own making, he must be rescued by a team that includes Flemish tourists. Hilariously surreal and bizarre, with a touch of relationship angst thrown in, DAVE proves that filmmaking is “merely” an imaginative flight of fancy.

HIGHLIGHT: Supporting character Kristen Vangsness, literally chewing the cardboard scenery.

Click here for the full review of “Dave Made a Maze.”
Click here for a podcast interview with producer John Charles Meyer of “Dave Made a Maze.”


Photo credit: Sundance Institute

There are films that transcend the moment, and the experience of COLUMBUS is one of those free floating journeys. Like Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE, the town of Columbus, Indiana – an architectural utopia that actually exists – embraces and motivates the characters that inhabit the story rather than just being a placeholder for them. Written and directed by Korean director Kogonada (his feature debut), it involves a couple… portrayed by John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson… who take a mismatched connection and change each other’s lives. The background of these characters mesh with the meditation of the architecture in Columbus and propels them to an astral plane that could even suggest the afterlife. An exciting debut from Kogonada, with hopefully more to come.

HIGHLIGHT: How the director, and cinematographer Elisha Christian, photographed the spirit of the surroundings.


Baby Driver
Photo credit: TriStar Pictures

Wham, Bam, thank you Baby Man! This film will define the Summer of ’17, with the percussive beats of its soundtrack, the brilliant assembly of form by director Edgar Wright, and possibly the last film appearance of Kevin Spacey. Ansel Elgort breaks out as the title character, the youthful getaway driver, supported by a harsh Jon Hamm, a fantasy girl Lily James and a hilarious Jamie Foxx, all becoming one with the BABY DRIVER world. What sets this apart from Quentin Tarantino copy-catting is writer/director Wright’s creative soul of cinema, which uses the movie of moviedom to allow the Baby Driver to come to his – and the members of the audience – fruition. Let’s all have a smoke afterward.

HIGHLIGHT: The reward that BD gets after a slight rehabilitative incarceration.

Click here for the full review of “Baby Driver.”


The Beguiled
Photo credit: Focus Features

Birds do it, bees do it, etc. This re-imagining of a 1971 film – adapted and directed by Sofia Coppola – uses a feminine point of view to expound upon the various stages of sexual awakening in womanhood. A Union soldier during the American Civil War (Colin Ferrell, perfectly cast) is injured and abandons the battle. He is discovered by a student at a nearby Southern all-girls boarding school, and is brought there to mend. While coming to his healing, his gets undue attention by all of the girls and women of the school at various times, and embraces it (why not?). Coppola comments expertly on the Southern gothic genre and womanhood, in a tense and melodramatic story.

HIGHLIGHT: The stunning tableau for the last shot in the film.

Click here for the full review of “The Beguiled.”


Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Director Christopher Nolan is a talented and one-of-a-kind filmmaker, and he extends his opportunities with a savage inventiveness. His DUNKIRK is a symphony, from its underlying musical score to the kinetic motion of the film from beginning to conclusion. The audience feels the steely grip of desperation as they follow one World War II solider from the hellish battlefield to “civilization,” and at the end feels his “anti-deliverance.” There were three 2017 films surrounding the events of Dunkirk, and Nolan’s opus would fit snugly into the recent Churchill film DARKEST HOUR, and is viewed from another angle in THEIR FINEST. But of them all, it is Christopher Nolan that creates the masterpiece.

HIGHLIGHT: The use of familiar actors in key leadership roles, harkening to war movie throwbacks like THE LONGEST DAY.

Click here for the full review of “Dunkirk.”

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