- Darkest Hour – A powerful, and surprisingly moving presentation of Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) lovingly cranky leadership of Britain on the eve of World War II. The stirringly Capra-esque ending tugged unexpected tears from my eyes.
- The Shape of Water – A beautifully conceived and acted “adult fairytale” (translation: unnecessarily graphic sex), with an overly simplistic worldview: in the 60s pretty much all straight white men were evil. Nevertheless, it’s a wonder to watch.
- The Post – I’m not a huge docudrama fan, but this story of the Pentagon Papers scandal finds its heart in Florence Foster Jenkins’s (Meryl Streep) personal road to selfhood. A class act.
- The Big Sick – A wonderfully offbeat mash-up of rom-com and meet-the-families. Hilariously and affectionately scripted, with some of the best ensemble acting in years.
- Coco – You have fun, you marvel at the animation, you laugh out loud, you hum along to the theme song, and then suddenly you’re crying like a baby. Does Pixar pipe something into the air?
- Lady Bird – An off-beat comedy-drama with nuanced, loving characterizations, subtly funny dialogue, and brilliant acting.
Best Action Movie
- War for the Planet of the Apes – A character-driven epic, and conclusion to one of the best action trilogies ever made. The mo-capped Caesar’s performance (Andy Serkis) is as richly subtextual as any inspired live actor’s.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi – So, apparently a lot of Star Wars fans were up in arms over Last Jedi’s character and story choices. Personally? I was thrilled to see the next generation boldly go where no Star Wars has gone before (yeah, I know, wrong franchise, so sue me) and stop recycling old plot elements.
- Logan – Wolverine and Professor X as we’ve never seen them before. This is not a “super-hero” movie, it’s a drama with Oscar-worthy performances.
- Wonder Woman – Proof that DC has finally figured how to combine wowie f/x with worthy thematic content (female empowerment, self-sacrifice, forgiveness)?
- Get Out – Not the slam dunk for me that it was for everyone else, but strikingly original. I’m looking forward to more from Jordan Peele.
- Dunkirk – I’m a longtime fan of Christopher Nolan, and enjoyed the tone, filmic look and old-fashioned air stunts. It just didn’t capture the character of the British people and the era for me the way Darkest Hour did.
- I, Tonya – A mean-spirited and not particularly funny dark comedy, held together by two phenomenal performances.
- Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri – Uniquely but unevenly scripted, with everyone, even a loving family, cheerfully overusing the f-word. Nevertheless, an engaging tome on forgiving and moving on.
- Blade Runner 2049 – I so wanted to love this film. But its terrific story is lost in the manatee-paced running time. They could have shaved off half an hour (of it’s almost three hours) just by trimming down on Ryan Gosling’s enigmatic stares.
- Brigsby Bear – One of the most original films in years, this dramedy about a boy-man raised in captivity delights until its uncharacteristically stock ending.
- Mudbound – Not perfect, but a passionately told parallel story of two families, one black, one white, both suffering from the ravages of racism.
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – It’s not a true sequel (it completely jettisons the tone and thematic content of the first Jumanji), and it’s formulaic. But the premise and execution are so fun, I just went with it.
- The Lego Batman Movie – Same frenetic energy, pop culture gags, and covert sweetness as the original Lego Movie. Those little plastic bricks have heart!