Steve’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Despite all of the turmoil oozing out of Hollywood this year, 2017 still managed to supply us with a bevy of wonderful films to enjoy. I feel like a lot of blockbusters rose to the next level this year, and as always, there were plenty of fantastic independent films to balance everything out. My top 10 of the year is indicative of this balance.
As always, there were a handful of potentials I just haven’t had a chance to see yet, either due to lack of time, or due to the geographical restrictions of living in the great tundra that is Maine, where we aren’t typically privy to early releases. So, some of the buzz worthy films that I haven’t yet peeped… The Darkest HourPhantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, and Wonderstruck. I’m sure there are a few more, but these stand out for me at the moment.

Shuffling the top 10 deck was difficult this year, simply because there were so many excellent films to choose from. I seriously feel that many of my 11-20 list could easily be considered for higher standing. But, as they say, you have to be prepared to kill your darlings.

I’m not going to regale you with any commentary on my “not quite” top ten (ie: 11-20), but I’ll list them, and you should know that all are fantastic and should be on your cinematic radar.

Those are…

20     Logan
19     Beauty & the Beast
18     Detroit
17     Baby Driver
16     Gerald’s Game
15     The Big Sick
14     Star Wars: The Last Jedi
13     Brigsby Bear
12     mother!
11     Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And the top 10…
10 – LOGAN LUCKY
Steven Soderbergh comes out of “retirement” to give us Ocean’s Eleven with rednecks, but he never cheapens the experience with tired cultural cliches. Okay, there are a few tired cultural cliches, but they don’t drag the film down. The characters have depth and the actors are all in on this madcap adventure which finds them plotting to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the 4th of July. What could possibly go wrong?
9 – STRONGER
This is the film Patriot’s Day wishes it was. Choosing to focus less on the capture of the perpetrators of the cowardly bombing of the Boston Marathon, Stronger instead follows the story of bombing victim Jeff Bauman, played here with ferocious abandon by Jake Gyllenhaal, and the struggle of coming to terms with being thrust into the spotlight as a symbol of hope for an entire nation.
8 – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
The rebooted Apes trilogy comes to an end with one of the most heartfelt and well crafted war movies in recent memory. This series has gotten better with each installment, hitting all the right notes in the telling of Caesar’s story. The special effects are unmatched. And I’m coming around to the idea that Andy Serkis deserves some recognition from the Academy for his motion capture work.
7 – Get Out
It’s not often you find a horror film getting so much attention during the awards push, but Jordan Peele’s take on race relations in our society disguised as a genre film is simply outstanding in its structure. Funny, scary, and poignant- wrapped up in a tight script, Get Out is a breath of well intended and needed fresh air- conveying a necessary message in our current cultural state.
6 – WONDER WOMAN
With undoubtedly one of the best scenes of the year- as Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) ascends to her rightful place as warrior princess in the Battle of No Man’s Land, a female icon is finally emblazoned into the fabric of cinematic geekdom. Director Patty Jenkins was without a doubt the right choice to bring Diana’s story to life on the big screen, and to see the impact on the faces of empowered women and girls is easily one of the hallmarks of the 2017 cinematic year.

5 – THE DISASTER ARTIST

Based on the making of the 2003 “Citizen Kane” of bad movies, The Room, James Franco deep dives into the persona of eccentric writer/director Tommy Wiseau and the calamity that surrounded the  production of his cinematic oddity. Watching The Room is highly recommended before jumping into The Disaster Artist. Having that context greatly enhances the appreciation for what Franco achieved…..Oh, Hi, Mark!

4 – A GHOST STORY

A deeply moving look at grieving and loneliness, A Ghost Story will not be for everyone. Each scene is a haunting portrayal of loss, shown from both sides of the equation- the living that must move on, and the dead that cannot. This is a deeply emotional and affecting film, shot in a way that can often be uncomfortably slow of pace. Those with a lack of patience may struggle, but if given a chance, this is a film that will resonate on a deep level.

3 – THE FLORIDA PROJECT

Having worked for Disney for nine years, this story felt very close to home for me. Knowing there were pockets of people living far beneath the poverty line mere minutes from the front gates of the Happiest Place on Earth make me feel equal parts ignorant and culpable. This film is an unflinching look at people living day to day in the shadow of a world that has essentially left them behind. Yet, in all of its squalor, the spirit of six year old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) and her friends is rooted in an innocence that is often as hopeful as it is bleak.

2 – I, TONYA

Margot Robbie is fantastic as figure skating’s bad girl, Tonya Harding. Director Craig Gillespie shoots the film in a way that accentuates the zany humor of the scandal surrounding the 1992 olympic games, but he never cheapens the awful abuse levied against Harding by her family and her on again / off again love interest, Jeff Gillooly (here portrayed by Sebastien Stan). Harding, while not completely innocent, is treated mostly as a product of her environment, unable to free herself of the bad influences in her life, and she comes away here as a mostly sympathetic figure. Allison Janney, as Harding’s Mom, is a stand out.

1 – LADY BIRD

In what seems to be a renaissance of coming of age films, Lady Bird raises the bar even further, perhaps to a place unaccessible for whatever comes next. Greta Gerwig’s scriptwriting is so tight, it’s difficult to find any flaw in the narrative of high school senior Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, all at once head strong and in search of an identity. Her contentious relationship with her mother Marion (an award worthy Laurie Metcalf) provides the crux for everything happening on screen. The result is a heartfelt and sometimes difficult look at love and familial relationships, told in a refreshingly honest way.


Steve’s first cinematic experience dates back to 1972, when his Aunt took him to see Dumbo at Buffalo’s historic North Park Theater.  With the seed planted, his love for movies has blossomed into a full time obsession over the years, and he will happily engage in conversation about all things film related, especially the works of Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino.  He also manages to find time to keep current on the plethora of great television shows and comic book series, and build upon his retro vinyl collection.

He lives in South Portland, Maine with his wife and a menagerie of small furry pets.  When not engaged in the latest pop culture phenomenon, he spends time working on creative writing projects or updating his personal blog, popcornconfessional.com.  Follow him on social media at facebook.com/popcornconfessional/ and Twitter@woosterbbb.

Don’s Top 10 Films of 2017

The end of the year brings grading and reflection points for both the school teacher in me and the film critic.  Looking at the online Trapper Keeper portfolio called Every Movie has a Lesson, I published 126 full film reviews in 2017, topping last year’s 114 and setting a new high mark.  When I did my website’s first “10 Best” year-end list in 2011, that number was 53.  Humming along with press credentials, festival access, and being part of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle as a recognized awards-voting body, I can’t even remember what 53 feels like.

Even at 126, I feel like I left plenty of opportunities on the table living in a big market with a great reach of films.  For the purposes of a proper “10 Best” list, short of not making it to The Disaster ArtistMudbound, and Molly’s Game quite yet, I feel sound about 2017 and have no problem calling it a fair to middling year.  By this teacher’s math and reflection, 2017 < 2016 < 2015.  Give me the likes of SicarioCreedBrooklynSpotlightRoomLa La LandJackieMoonlightA Monster Calls, and more compared to most of the 20 films listed below.

Focusing back to now, only three of my “so far” picks from this past June made the final ten this year.  Here’s my definitive list.  True to my website’s specialty, each film will be paired with its best life lesson.  Enjoy!

THE 10 BEST FILMS OF 2017 AND THEIR LESSONS

1. LADY BIRD

This was like watching a no-doubt home run off the bat of a muscle-bound slugger fly over the stands and out of the park.  Like that home run crack, Lady Bird’s effect was unmistakable.  I knew it as soon as film made contact.  From that opening car ride argument between surefire future Oscar nominees (if not eventual winners) Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird was going for something reinvigorated conventions and oxymoronic cadences with the coming-of-age film framework.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: PUNCHY WHIMSY— All of Lady Bird’s conflicts and clashes build to swelling peaks of emotion and legitimate feels.  Gerwig’s film is one heck of a debut and shows that a good cry and awkward laughs do go together when assembled with truth and care.  When it hits, my goodness, it hits.  When it charms, by golly, it charms.  Few films this year can tout such towering achievements of writing and performance to create such a genuinely satisfying experience.


2. I, TONYA

In a fierce performance, Margot Robbie proves without a shadow of a doubt that she is a talented actress beyond her bombshell looks.  From the director of Lars and the Real Girl and the writer of Stepmom (I know right?), the dark comedy, pushed often by Allison Janney’s Oscar-worthy rants, fuels an unconventional sports film and true story American dream saga with kinetic sizzle.  It’s the wildest and brashest film I saw this year.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: EVERYONE MIGHT BE TELLING THEIR TRUTH, BUT NO ONE IS TELLING THE REAL TRUTH–The true merriment of I, Tonya is the trying to sniff out the bullsh-it.  Many of us remember witnessing the tabloid history unfold on television before our very shocked and captivated eyes in a era before the 24-hour news cycle.  Even know the fate of the characters, this film’s spin of such events will glue you to the screen preparing for the suspense of possibly observing a few chapters of “what really happened.”  Who’s right and who is full of it?


 

3. WONDERSTRUCK

From what I can tell viewing the year-end lists of fellow critics, this one is going to be a unconventional choice and I don’t care.  I see a great deal of perfection in the whimsy and introspection of Wonderstruck.  Artful to no end, I cannot help but compliment the care and consideration given to the Brain Selznick source material from a skilled filmmaker like Todd Haynes stepping into PG material in a manner as impressive as Scorsese doing Hugo.  In a landscape where people are craving rich and compelling films for family audiences instead of mindless animated entertainment, I adored what this film accomplished. (full review)

BEST LESSON: THE MAJESTY OF MUSEUMS— Both in the novel and in film form, Wonderstruck is a love letter to museums, their history, and their continuing presence as authentic experiences.  It starts with one person gathering a collection of interest, a “cabinet of wonder” if you will be that in a single room or an expansive complex, and deciding to share it with a larger audience.  In the present-day of Google, Wikipedia, content apps, and innumerable virtual experiences, there should always be a place for the tangible and real wonders right before our eyes in museums.  Calling them magical is not enough and calling them antiquated should be a compliment and not a slight.


4. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

The closing chapter of what has quietly become one of the best film trilogies of all-time (it’s that good as a sum total) elevated the impressive soaring themes, blockbuster action, and the performance-capture brilliance of Andy Serkis that have enraptured myself and many others.  Serkis, present and emoting in every scene behind the finished special effects, deserves the Oscar for Best Actor even if he doesn’t stand a chance against the stigmas towards the technology.  No film this year hit me the full roller coaster of feels like this one, from heart-stopping thrills to blubbering tears.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: APES AND HUMANS HAVE MORE SIMILARITIES THAN WE ALL REALIZE— Due to the increases in peril and consequences, this is a repeated lesson from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that is cemented even further in this third film.  Both primate species love their families, cling to their homes, and possess tangible feelings and emotions that drive their actions and personalities.  “Humanity” doesn’t have exclusivity to those behaviors in this fictional world anymore.


5. THE BIG SICK

The Big Sick, written and inspired by the real-life duo of Emily V. Gordon and leading man Kumail Nanjiani, offers wide hopes that smart romantic comedies are still possible since their 1990s hey-day and that they don’t require man-child actors and full-on toilet humor.  When people have asked me this past year for a no-doubt winning movie suggestion or hidden gem to entertain them for any occasion, The Big Sick has been my top recommendation for its maturity and humor while still carrying the right heft of drama to keep it honest.  In my eyes, this was the best screenplay of the year and I hope the Oscars notice.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: FIND SOMEONE YOU CAN BE OVERWHELMED BY— This lesson is going to sound like one of those “find someone who looks at you the way so-and-so looks at such-and-such” memes, but captivating ga-ga devotion is a real draw.  The film uses the word “overwhelm” when it talks about measuring such love and it couldn’t be more spot-on advice.  Love has its own rules and it’s just as hard to keep as it is to earn.


6. LUCKY

The directorial debut of character actor John Carroll Lynch stands on this list as the “Little Engine That Could.”  Far from a blockbuster and puffed with zero muscles for Oscar bait on the 90-year-old frame of its star Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky is a straight-shooter of writing and performance brilliance to make cantankerous endearing.  In different hands, this would be a Coen brothers quirk-fest or a Grumpy Old Men farce.  Instead, Lucky plainly might have the most heart of any film on this list, and that’s saying something.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: ACCEPTING MORTALITY— Nothing is permanent and the biggest truth to be told is the finality of the human condition.  No matter the level of your faith or depth of character, misgivings about your own ephemerality are inevitable feelings we all share.  We would all be so “lucky” to reach our nineties to have that revelation.


DF-13002 – Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine in LOGAN. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.

7. LOGAN

Sharply shrinking the comic book genre’s towering current scale down to the marrow inside of its bones, James Mangold’s Logan nails the western motifs to make one of the best comic book films of all-time.  For me, this movie is like what young songstress Ella Mae Brown did to slow down with Bonnie Tyler’s 80s classic “Holding Out for a Hero” a few years ago.  This is energy boiled down to bold substance, making something rightly stoic as the conclusion for Hugh Jackman’s lovable anti-hero.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: THE POWERFUL NEED FOR FATHER FIGURES— Loganopenly creates a parallel with 1953’s seminal western classic Shane and it is an ideal thematic pairing.  Alan Ladd’s reluctant gunfighter and Jackman’s Wolverine embody the fight for the defenseless as well as the influential father figure role of this lesson.  Laura is another Little Joe and but one more person Logan leaves a positive mark on in his world.  Tales may be written on the actions of heroes, but the personal connections they build and leave behind are where the real legend lies.


8. THE FLORIDA PROJECT

Sean Baker’s sprightly dose of youthful fantasy mixing with socioeconomic reality was one of the few times I’ve ever gone back to a review and changed my rating after some thoughtful reflection.  This film went from a four-star film to a five-star one on the strength of the impact of that aforementioned storytelling and emotional mix.  The level of empathy stoked by this film’s fire is off the charts and I cannot help but respect that.  (full review)

BEST LESSON: THE CAPACITY TO FEEL EMPATHY— The crucial emotional response The Florida Project demands of its viewers is empathy.  If you can’t find that, if you turn your nose, close your eyes, and refuse to accept that this kind of American lifestyle exists, you are missing the hard truths, the teachable moments, and the larger points being presented.  Become compassionate enough to remove the negative prefixes from Mother Teresa’s quote of “unwanted, unloved and uncared for” when it comes to addressing poverty.  Take her advice and start in your own home and community.


9. PHANTOM THREAD

Five years ago, after beating my head senseless over the pretentiousness of The Master, if you would have told me I would have a Paul Thomas Anderson film in my “10 Best,” I would have said you were nuts and wondered how the sequel to Boogie Nights could have been achieved.  Yet, here we are and Phantom Thread is the real deal.  Exquisitely crafted and intensely nuanced, I was impressed like I’ve rarely been.  If this the last ride of Daniel Day-Lewis, he leaves us with a gem. (full review)

BEST LESSON: “WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT CAREFULLY”— This quote from Lewis’s Reynolds, the peak of the film’s trailer, sent in the direction of his new muse could be echoed in dozens of aspects of one’s life.  Mundane activities could become effective and even artful with an extra level of paid care and consideration.  At the same time, there is an unsettling level to that rigidity.  Often there is a missing flexibility to perfectionist who cannot get over themselves or adjust their idiosyncrasies.


10. LOVING VINCENT

In terms of sheer creation of a finished piece, Loving Vincent might be the most miraculous film of the year and greatest technical achievement as the first entire oil-painted feature-length animated film.  125 painters combined their efforts on over 65,000 canvases shot on film to create this incredible achievement.  Beyond the art, the enriching whodunit drama of investigating the final days of Vincent Van Gogh backed by Clint Mansell’s rich musical score create storytelling worthy of all the work. (full review)

BEST LESSON: INTERPRETING AN ARTIST— Subjected to ridicule and criticism from a young age to his last, Van Gogh’s talent and purpose were always questioned before the established reverence that followed his death.  Another Van Gogh quote in the film reads “We cannot speak other than by our paintings.” Sometimes artists are not peaceful souls.  The few people that did realize his greatness in the moment were not enough to save his.


HONORABLE MENTION:

NOT YET

When I can, I dip my toe into the world of short films and I’m beginning to love the art form and the efficiency of its skill.  Merely scratching the surface of this form of film medium, among the handful I saw and reviewed this year, Not Yet was a five-star gem.  Picture one of those expressive and imaginary Pixar shorts that open their films and apply live-action human emotion to it  That will give you a taste of Not Yet.  My full review has a link to the short for you to see for yourself.  I promise nothing but smiles.

BEST LESSON: THE IMMENSE CHALLENGES OF CHEERING SOMEONE UP— Some folks are tough nuts to crack in the cheer department.  Add the physical drain and toll of illness into that equation of happiness and the challenge is even greater.  Self-deprecating humor in this situation often works in spades, but there’s one action that’s even better: Love.  In Not Yet, you have a man that unabashedly loves his wife with every ounce of willingness and companionship.  Love always wins the best cheers.


THE NEXT BEST TEN:

11. Wonder

12. All the Money in the World

13. Get Out

14. The Shape of Water

15. Princess Cyd

16. Baby Driver

17. Wind River

18. Battle of the Sexes

19. Stronger

20. Darkest Hour


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

Patch’s Top 10 Films of 2017

As I sat down to write this list, I asked myself why these particular films stood out to me. I realized that each one of them for one reason or another are compelling enough to merit an almost immediate re-watch. The experience was enough to make we want to repeat it, maybe because I missed something, maybe because I wanted to feel a certain emotion again. With that said, here are my top 10 movies for 2017.

 

10. Baby Driver

2017 introduced me to the cinematic world of Edgar Wright, with a first time viewing of Scott Pilgrim vs The World. With the excitement of that film still fresh in my brain, Baby Driver made its way to the big screen. While I wouldn’t say the movie as a whole wowed me, what drew me in was something that Wright does well, and that is using non-human components to bring his story to life. Scott Pilgrim personifies its protagonists life in the form of a video game world, complete with power ups and super powers (if you could call them that). Baby Driver uses music as it’s supporting cast in a way that few other films do. Where many soundtracks accent scenes and fill in gaps aurally, the music itself feels like a necessary part of the team we are introduced to, and without it, the team feels less impactful. That creativity alone makes Baby Driver worthy of being on my list.

 

09. Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin is writing a new screenplay? Yes please. Wait, he’s also directing the film? Count me in. It’s a biopic that involves gambling? Why are you still talking? Molly’s Game was a late arrival to the theater this year, but I was anxiously awaiting it’s release since I heard it announced back in September. Finally getting a chance to see it did not disappoint. And how could it? Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba are fantastic bringing the energy of Sorkin’s screenplay to life. There are moments of real heartache, surprise, and tenderness that I didn’t expect. The story itself is compelling and entertaining, two solid character traits of a successful biopic. It’s one that I can’t wait to see again when it hits home video.

 

08. Brigsby Bear

One of the things that I absolutely love about the Feelin’ Film community is the diversity of those connected to it. I get to see what other people are interested in and watching, and it’s because of that that I find out about more corners of the film world. Brigsby Bear came highly recommended by show contributor Jeremy Calcara. The only information I had to go on was this:  a guy is obsessed with a kids show and something happens. That’s it. So over Thanksgiving weekend I queued it up wondering what the heck I was getting myself into, and I came way saying “wow, that was something.” I can’t say much about it because even talking about the first few minutes of the film will give away a lot. What I will say is this: It’s incredibly unique, it leaves you smiling, and it presents a message about forgiveness and purpose that is overwhelmingly refreshing.

 

07. The LEGO Batman Movie

If you know me, you know that I would much rather see the word Superman after Lego. Still, I can’t hide the fact that this was probably the funniest movie of the year for me. From beginning to end, everything about it was overwhelmingly entertaining. What I dig most about this kind of movie is that it didn’t feel like a bucket full of joke after joke. There was a story with substance (as much as one can have with characters based on plastic construction toys), and an overall message that, while used numerous times, felt refreshed here. I was also grateful to be able to share this one in the theater with my son, something I’ve wanted to do since he was old enough to go to (and care about) the movies. Here’s to hoping Lego Superman makes his way to the big screen. A boy can dream right?

 

06. Dunkirk

I’ll never forget my reaction coming out of Christopher Nolan’s latest feature. I asked myself, “What did I just watch? Did I love that or hate it?” Well, by making this list, I’m sure you can tell where I landed. Looking at this film, not as a war story, but as a survival movie, really allowed me to immerse myself in the world Nolan was trying to put us in. The abrupt visual changes, the non-linear storytelling, and the lack of any real understandable dialogue allowed me to feel like those trapped in this city, not knowing what to do next or where to go. I felt isolated, scared, confused, which is what I believe the director wanted. I’m glad this wasn’t a typical war story. It made more of an impact that way.

 

05. Blade Runner 2049

Earlier this year, I got introduced to the world of replicants, a man named Rick Deckard, and a gritty imaginative world created by Ridley Scott. This of course was the 1982 classic Blade Runner. I didn’t understand the hype surrounding this movie, particularly by my co-host. But we support one another and I knew BR2049 was his most anticipated film of the year. I imagine it would be difficult to continue a story like this, literally 35 years later, and maintain the tone, mythology and undertones that it’s previous entry contained. Denis Villeneuve perfectly executed this chapter of the Blade Runner universe, and he did it with his own style and substance, but at the same time, married up with the original incredibly well. In short, BR2049 was a logical extension of its predecessor and leaves room for more exploration into this gritty and beautiful universe.

 

04. War For The Planet of the Apes

I should NOT care about what happens to an ape. I should NOT care about apes more than humans. It’s not…..human. I actually hadn’t seen the second installment of this trilogy until this year, so I geared up for my movie experience by watching the first and second leading up to the third. What I found was a trilogy that got better and better with each installment, something very rare these days. But this trilogy was held together by the performance of one Andy Serkis, who I think needs at least a nomination for Best Actor at the upcoming Oscars. His portrayal of Caesar, specifically in this last installment, gripped me emotionally. But it wasn’t the strength of dialogue that did it. It was the way he emoted with his face, making me feel things without saying a word. When you can do that, you’ve accomplished something pretty amazing.

 

03. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Divisive. Spectacular. Different. Three words that I would attach to the 8th entry into Star Wars proper. Riann Johnson did something that I haven’t really seen from other Star Wars directors. He gave me reason to care about the characters. So many times, I found myself asking “is so-and-so going to die?” This wasn’t a thought in my mind in previous entries. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. The Last Jedi gave me stakes, and that’s what I want from movies like this. Give me reason to care about characters, enough to feel that emptiness when we lose them. The Last Jedi is a film that left me satisfied and curious, satisfied because I would have been okay if this saga concluded after this film, but curious because I know we have one more installment. I know JJ Abrams is currently sitting in the director’s chair for Episode IX, but it would not make me unhappy to see Riann Johnson’s name sitting under the words “written by.”

 

02. Your Name

I’m not a fan of anime. This should come as no surprise. And when I say I’m not a fan, it’s not a knock on the genre. I feel the same way about westerns and period pieces. So when a movie comes along and rocks me to my emotional core through stunning visuals, an incredibly unique premise, and a poppy soundtrack, I sit up and take notice. Your Name surprised me, in a way that made me appreciate this genre on another level. It also inspired my to check out more work from its director, Makoto Shinkai. I hope to get more exposure to it in 2018, but more so I hope to get more stories like this. Who knows, I may even be championing anime by the end of this next year.

 

01. The Greatest Showman

It shouldn’t have surprised me that this film showed up in my top 10. Heck as early as this past summer, I wanted to cover this because Hugh Jackman + Musical = yes please. What surprised me was how much this movie surpassed my expectations. Maybe it was because I wanted it to be good, but I think it had more to do with the unpredictable visceral reaction I had to the story, the characters, and the way the music intertwined both. It’s a film I wanted to go back and see immediately (I had to wait five whole days to do so haha). I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about it and that is a rare thing when a film does this to me. This film may not be perfect, but it’s place at the top of this list signifies why I enjoy film so much. A movie doesn’t have to be perfect to be the best for me. It just has to leave me with a wow factor and a desire to revisit it because I want to capture all of those emotions again.


Patrick “Patch” Hicks is an Arkansas-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. When he’s not podcasting, he’s working on various design projects as a freelance multimedia designer and is also dabbling in the art of writing and directing. You can find him floating around the web on Twitter, Facebook, and his home on the web, ThisIsPatch.com.

Aaron’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Christmas-time, a season of joy. A time when many take a much needed break to relax, enjoy family, and celebrate religious traditions. Oh, and there’s also that fun little part of gift giving. Well, Christmas is also the time when film critics are finalizing their year-end lists, a gift given to the world (but without that whole relaxation part). So, after much debate and internal stress, I’m ready to discuss my Top 10 favorite films of the year. There are many lists out there, but I expect you won’t find another one that matches up perfectly with mine.

2017 was a banner year for me as both a film critic and podcaster. Some of the biggest highlights:

  • Feelin’ Film’s inaugural listener-nominated and listener-voted 2017 Feeler’s Choice Awards
  • The addition of contributors Don Shanahan, Steve Clifton, and Jeremy Calcara to the Feelin’ Film staff team
  • Gaining press credentials to screen films early for review purposes and covering the Seattle International Film Festival
  • Becoming a member, and then Communications Director, for the newly re-formed Seattle Film Critics Society
  • Feelin Film’s two incredibly fun themed months: Christopher Nolan Month (January) & Book-to-Movie Month (September)
  • Voting in the 2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Awards
  • Witnessing the amazing growth of our Facebook Discussion Group that offers daily film conversations and relationship building among our listeners
  • 155 films seen that were released in 2017, by far a new “career high”

Now about those movies. 2017 was a fantastic year at the cinema. Offering numerous superb indie hits, documentaries, and some big, unique blockbusters as well, the wealth of exceptional and diverse content was both a blessing and a curse. Experiencing all of these wonderful films was great, but trying to rank them, not so much. So my disclaimer is that while 10 have been highlighted, with 10 more selected for recognition as just missing the cut, even these films don’t scratch the surface of what 2017 provided in terms of quality.


10. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – This spot on a Top 10 list is always a brutal decision. No less than five other films got serious consideration here, and I could make an equal case for any of them. Ultimately, I had to go with a film that blew me away my expectations and reinvigorated my childhood love of a franchise. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is not without faults, but it is a wonderful next step in this new trilogy and one of most epic cinematic space operas since THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Its unexpected plot choices had me gasping in surprise, and several emotional moments brought me to tears. Its impossible not to respect director Rian Johnson’s talent, ambition, and passion, especially as the film’s momentum builds and races home to its incredible climax. I LOVE the direction this film takes the series and can’t wait to see where it goes next.

 

9. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN – Hugh Jackman has said that “A bad musical stinks to high heaven, but when a musical works, there’s nothing like it. It’s everyone coming together and opening their heart.” THE GREATEST SHOWMAN worked for me and opened my heart, too. Its reverence for musicals of old shines through every frame and its impressive soundtrack has been played on repeat endlessly since my first viewing of the film. It may not be a perfectly accurate historical representation of P.T. Barnum, but as entertainment it is a fun and emotionally provocative family-friendly film complete with several inspirational messages. It’s the kind of film that deserves being seen with an audience, a real crowd pleaser.

 

8. DARKEST HOUR – Winston Churchill is a fascinating figure. Historian and politician, but also extraordinary leader. His actions within that first month as British Prime Minister changed the course of world history. Had he sued for peace, who knows if Hitler would have been stopped from overtaking Europe (and beyond). DARKEST HOUR is a high-energy thriller as much as a period piece drama, with Wright combining the two styles to form an incredible, visceral, inspiring film experience that is anchored by Gary Oldman’s award-worthy transformation and performance.

 

7. THE FLORIDA PROJECT – THE FLORIDA PROJECT wowed me in a way that few films did this year. I resonated deeply with its primary theme of empathy. As a parent myself, watching it was sometimes difficult but always worthwhile. My hope is that many will see this poignant film and begin to look a little more closely (and with more compassion) at those outside the margins as they go about their everyday lives, and perhaps even be called to action. Sean Baker continues to be one of our best young directors and he has created a film that is unforgettable down to the final shot.

 

6. SONG TO SONG – For those willing to meet director Terrence Malick halfway and open themselves to engaging with the film, SONG TO SONG offers a moving emotional experience. Its dialogue is lyrical poetry that works perfectly in concert with Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunning cinematography, an expertly balanced soundtrack, and wonderful acting performances all around. This may be some of the least abstract and aimless work Malick has ever produced, but it is also among his best, and quite possibly my favorite. SONG TO SONG is a film that needs to be more than just seen, it demands to be felt.

 

5. DUNKIRK – Christopher Nolan’s vision of this important but little known battle is a hold your breath affair, set to an almost never ceasing Hans Zimmer score that is pounding with atmospheric dread. Fear, after all, is at the heart of this portrayal of the civilian rescue of nearly 330,00 allied troops pinned down by Germany on the beaches of Dunkirk. It is a wholly unique war film, gorgeously shot and focusing on the authenticity of its characters’ feeling, displayed much more in act than exposition. A truly remarkable achievement that left me shaking in amazement and raw emotion.

 

4. PHANTOM THREAD – In what has been proclaimed to be his final performance, Daniel Day-Lewis once again collaborates with director Paul Thomas Anderson for a story about an obsessive man, this time with an unconventional view of romance set around the industry of high fashion. Though PTA’s films have never spoken to me before, PHANTOM THREAD is captivating from the opening scene to the end credits and casts a spell unlike any other film experience in 2017. Thematically, it’s exploration of submissive/dominant relationships makes it feel like the arthouse version of MOTHER! combined with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Cinematically, it is one of the most well-crafted, stunningly beautiful, perfectly scored, impeccably acted dramas I’ve seen in years. PTA’s meticulous attention to detail marries so well with Daniel Day-Lewis’ devotion to character immersion, and on top of that newcomer Vicky Krieps is every bit DDL’s equal, flat out owning the screen in every scene. This film left me unable to shake it for a month and dying to talk to others about it. If this is really Day-Lewis’ last hoorah, he goes out with a bang, and PTA has a new fan.

 

3. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Matt Reeves’ WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the rare third film to end a trilogy on the highest of notes. It is a spectacular marvel of technical achievements, acting, and thematic blockbuster storytelling that uses Biblical, historical, and cinematic references to craft a compelling epic. It has surprisingly limited action and the film lives in bleakness, but out of that comes a celebration of the human spirit – embodied by apes. Caesar’s journey is gripping from beginning to end, filled with emotional depth and moral complexity. His place among the greats is now secure, and the trilogy stands as one of the finest the 21st century has seen. APES. TOGETHER. STRONG.


The films above are all exceptional works of art which I expect to remember many years from now. These last two films, though, are special to me, and choosing between them was an impossible task. Both of these films are guaranteed inclusion in my next Top 100 Movies update, and as much as I just want to make them 1a and 1b, I made the hard choice. So for today, this is where they fall.

2. YOUR NAME (KIMI NO NA WA) – Like many Americans, my only exposure to anime films prior to this were the works of the great Hayao Miyazki. But when I heard that this film had broken box office records to become the highest worldwide grossing anime film in history, I took notice. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, YOUR NAME is the story of a star-crossed boy and girl, perhaps destined to forever yearn for a meeting that will never come, connected across space and time by an unexplained magic and framed against the backdrop of an impending supernatural disaster. It is a story of dreams (and desperately trying to not forget them), time travel, body swaps, natural disaster, coming of age, and romance that is emotionally riveting from beginning to end. Comedic at all the right times, soul-crushingly painful, and yet tender and hopeful. This is an animated masterpiece that goes far beyond its dazzling visuals and one of the very best films I’ve seen this decade.

 

1. BLADE RUNNER 2049 – It took more than one viewing to get there, but after seeing my most anticipated film of the year three times, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 classic BLADE RUNNER is more than worthy of its name. Staggeringly incredible cinematography by the masterful Roger Deakins is matched by a thought-provoking, multi-layered script. Not a single word of dialogue is wasted. So much emotion is conveyed through expression and silence. Performances are brilliant and memorable. The film strikes an ideal balance between cerebral and action-packed while remaining so mysterious that even more is revealed with every subsequent viewing. Despite being over two and a half hours long, it is so immersive that I would have gladly lived in this world for two and a half more. Inconceivably, an improvement in every way over than its hallowed source material. Cinematic perfection – the best film of 2017.


And now for the rest. In many cases, multiple viewings and rewatchability were major factors in determining how to order these.

11. LADY BIRD
12. THE LOST CITY OF Z
13. THE POST
14. A GHOST STORY
15. FACES PLACES
16. LA 92
17. GET OUT
18. THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
19. COLUMBUS
20. MOTHER!

Keep in mind that just because a film isn’t listed doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredible. I could list another 20 “great” films from this year that deserve attention. 2017 was truly an excellent year. Here’s hoping that 2018 is even better, but if it’s not, we’ll always have these gems.


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted. 

ANNOUNCING: Connecting With Classics

If you’re a longtime listener to the podcast, you may have heard us tease this out from time to time, but we are now very excited to announce that a new recurring feature will begin in January. “Connecting With Classics” will be a series of episodes hosted by Aaron White and Don Shanahan (Feelin’ Film contributor and film critic at Every Movie Has a Lesson). In this special series, Aaron & Don will have conversations about some of the most beloved and respected classic films in movie history, initially utilizing the American Film Institute (AFI) Top 100 list as a source. For the purposes of this series, we will consider films 30+ years old to be classic.

“Connecting With Classics” is intended to encourage listeners to watch older films and will hopefully generate conversation about them. We will be taking an approach that merges the core perspectives of both Feelin’ Film and Every Movie Has a Lesson by focusing on emotional takeaways and life lessons, as well as film history. As appropriate, we will choose films that relate to present releases or are relevant to the times. For example, our first episode will cover All the President’s Men (1976) and will correspond with the nationwide release of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film The Post, which in many ways is a direct prequel to the former.

Another central goal of “Connecting With Classics” is to make a participatory experience. To accomplish this, we will be hosting prize drawings for podcast swag and more at the end of each calendar year. Entries into the drawing can be earned for every episode by watching the film and posting your own review or thoughts about the podcast episode in the comments section of the episode announcement post in our Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group. For listeners who do not wish to be a part of the discussion group, emailing reviews to feelinfilm@gmail.com will also be accepted. More details on this will come when we release the first episode, but we’re hoping you’re as excited as we are and will take this journey with us.

See you in January!

 

 

The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through 2017.

Traditionally, the first half of the year is a mixed bag. We must endure the dumping grounds known as January and February, hoping maybe something of note will slip through the cracks.  Summer seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, as some big budget players try to get a jump on the blockbuster season with notable releases in March and April.  And then the popcorn season officially begins in earnest on that first week of May, and the cineplexes fill up with loud explosions, CGI, and cute animated critters.

When looking back on films you’ve enjoyed from January to July, it’s always interesting to think about how many of them will actually land high on your top ten list come year’s end.  Let’s face it, for many of us, some of the best films roll out after October first, either as Oscar bait or holiday blockbusters.  The back half of 2017 is loaded with some serious heavyweights in both regards, so it’ll be fun to see how it all shakes out.

That said, the staff at Feelin’ Film has compiled our individual top three films of the first half of the year, presented for your reading enjoyment below.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on our picks, and invite you to leave your thoughts and own lists in the comments section or on the Facebook page.  Or, if you just want to mock Aaron for his pretentiousness, that’s okay too.

Without further ado….

#3  Steve – Beauty & the Beast

I admit I’m a bit bias here, with having been a slave to the Mouse House for nine years of my existence.  I met my better half at Disney and our first date was actually seeing the animated version in theaters.  Personally, I think this is one of Disney’s best tales, and the live action film was everything I hoped it would be.  Haters gonna hate, but I think Emma Watson was a perfect choice for the role of Belle, and the production value is a high point.

#3  Don – Lucky

In a rare and perfect leading role for his stature, Harry Dean Stanton play the titular nicknamed war veteran, diner regular, and barfly slowly coming to grips with his own quickly approaching mortality.  In “…if it hasn’t killed me yet” fashion, the rough edges of this straight shooter melt away to a warm heart at the core as he looks into himself and his small town connections.  Lucky washes its salty kick with a soft finish, without a wasted spec of storytelling patience.

#3  Patrick – Spider-Man: Homecoming

My man Peter Parker comes swinging onto the big screen once again, but this time I think the filmmakers found the perfect balance of what makes your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man work.  Tom Holland is a great long-term investment, and the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios is a win-win for EVERYONE.  I’m looking forward to seeing how creative both companies will get with this latest and hopefully final iteration of the web-slinger.

#3  Jeremy – Spider-Man: Homecoming

I didn’t think it would be possible for me to enjoy a comic book film more than I enjoyed Wonder Woman, but Spider-Man proved me wrong.  It’s a perfect combination of cast and story; comedy and drama; thrills and fun.

#3  Aaron – Get Out

This place on my list is extremely competitive.  Personal Shopper, The Beguiled, and The Lego Batman Movie all deserve recognition here.  But the most impactful film of this group was my experience seeing Get Out among a packed, diverse crowd.  Jordan Peele has taken his trademark humor, social commentary, horror, and thriller aspects and reassembled them into one of the most creative, intense, crazy genre-benders I’ve ever seen.  It’s one of those rare films that feels “important” while also being incredibly entertaining, and it’s one film I suggest everyone see.


#2  Patrick – Wonder Woman

In the muck and mire that is the DC criticism, and the reality that is superhero fatigue, I walked out of this movie feeling incredibly encouraged and refreshed about the future of the genre.  Having never been a huge fan of Diana Prince, being able to keep me engaged and wanting more installments of the Amazon goddess says something about director Patty Jenkins, star Gal Gadot, and company.  I’m looking forward to Justice League even more after seeing this one.

#2  Don – The Big Sick

The Big Sick nimbly moves with a constant levity, even when the potential for heavy drama invades.  That jocular wit makes you appreciate any of the lows that sneak up on you because they arrive bearing tissues for your smiling eyes.  It is one of the best romantic comedies of this short century and one of the best films of 2017, period.

#2  Jeremy – Baby Driver

While it’s probably my least favorite Edgar Wright film, Baby Driver is still thrilling enough to be my second favorite film of the year so far.  Heck, if all I got was a blank screen with the soundtrack blasting, it would probably still land as my number three.

#2  Steve – Baby Driver

Edgar Wright continues to expand his unique visual style in this revved up, supercharged action thriller.  The story of a misguided kid getting in too deep with big time criminals might not seem unfamiliar, but with fantastic performances and the soundtrack of the year keeping tempo with the on screen mayhem, Baby Driver is a white knuckle ride of pure adrenaline.

#2  Aaron – A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story is a simple, unique, and poetic film about the fragility of life and passing of time.  Its pacing requires complete dedication and patience from an audience, something that will certainly not appeal to all, and may cause frustration.  However, for those who commit, this is a masterpiece filmmaking effort by the superbly talented David Lowery that will haunt their emotions and thoughts.


#1 Don – War for the Planet of the Apes

So far this year, I’ve only given four five-star reviews, and no film has impressed me more completely from top to bottom that this trilogy capper.  From Michael Giacchino’s score and all of the weighty nuances brimming inside this epic, to the masterful and special performance by Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes carries the highest and best emotionality that actually felt like it mattered.

#1  Aaron – Your Name

This is a story about dreams (and desperately trying not to forget them), time travel, body swaps, natural disaster, coming of age, romance, and deep longing that is emotionally riveting from beginning to end.  Comedic at all the right times, soul-crushingly painful, and yet tender and hopeful.  Your name is an animated masterpiece that goes far beyond its dazzling visuals, and is the film that has most deeply affected me in 2017 so far.  (Note:  This film initially released in Japan in 2016 but did not receive an American release until 2017)

#1  Steve – Wonder Woman

Consider me the chief skeptic when it comes to the DC cinematic universe, but Wonder Woman far surpassed my middling expectations.  It took studios long enough to throw bank at a female fronted superhero film, but man, the wait was worth it.  Director Patty Jenkins handled every nuance with such great care, Gal Gadot owned the role of the princess , Diana, and the importance of what this film manages to accomplish for women everywhere cannot be understated.  Is this not the best cinematic moment of any superhero film ever?

#1  Jeremy – Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is both the most important and most thought provoking film I’ve seen this year.  It’s gotten funnier and more intense every time I’ve watched it, even though I’m fully aware of what’s coming.  I’d be shocked if it’s much lower on my list come January.

#1  Patrick – The Lego Batman Movie

I don’t know that I’ve laughed this loud and so many times in a theater in a long time.  Everything about this film made my theater experience incredible.  The story felt original, the callbacks to the past franchises were on point, and the jokes felt perfectly placed.  Walking out, I knew I wanted to own it immediately.

There you have it.  Disagree?  Let us have it.  Share your top films with us.  Hopefully, we’ve added something to your cinematic radar and you’ll all soon be feelin’ these films as well.

Coming-of-Age: Our Favorite Films About Growing Up

coming-of-age:  the attainment of prominence, respectability, recognition, or maturity

As we prepared for our recent conversation about Almost Famous, we began to realize how deeply our affection for this genre of storytelling goes. The more we thought about it, many films that deal with the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood resonate strongly with us. Perhaps it is because of the focus on dialogue over action, or the fact that many are set in past eras that we either enjoy remembering or like to visit. And perhaps it also has something to do with the positive nature of these tales. They rarely have a “villain” and almost always end in some kind of hope. Here at Feelin’ Film, that’s a recipe for goodness.

So, we decided as a staff to bring you a few words on some of our favorite coming-of-age movies. Please comment in our Facebook group or here on the blog and let us know what your favorites are… and most importantly, why.

Aaron (Reality Bites): I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t heard over heels in love with one of my absolute favorite coming-of-age stories, Reality Bites. This film is not usually mentioned among “the greats,” but upon its release in 1994 (which happened to be my Freshman year of high school) it captured my attention completely. While some may see this as just a tale of slackers and the precursor to what we now call hippies, there was something incredibly relatable about the characters and their struggle to find a place in a post-college world. One of the primary reasons I fell in love with Reality Bites was the dialogue. This introduced me to sharp, witty, and smart writing. It had characters that looked like just lazy bums but that clearly had high intelligence and deep emotions. It also launched a lifelong favoritism of Ethan Hawke as an actor. Throw in one heck of an awesome soundtrack for good measure, too. I’ve probably watched this film more than any other single coming-of-age tale and the character of Troy informed the intelligent sarcasm I sometimes spit today. If you missed this one or skipped over it, check it out. You might just be surprised.

Patrick (The Outsiders): This film was my first exposure into the coming-of-age movie genre, even though I didn’t know what that was at the time. It was a movie introduced via English class seeing as how it originated from a book. What drew me into the story though was this kid named “Ponyboy” Curtis, a guy whose struggle with identity, with wanting to be more than a greaser from the other side of the tracks, is a story that resonates with so many people, me included.  Identity, especially during adolescence is a huge question mark for a person. Ponyboy’s life is no different, but what I think makes him unique is his intentional fight to be defined by more than where he comes from, by more than the label he is attached to. He’s different from his brothers and his greaser friends. He writes, he likes poetry. In some ways, he and his relationship with Cherry Valance serve as the bridge between the Greasers and the Socs. At the same time, he says “I lie to myself all the time, but I never believe me.” He can’t get away from the life he has, but he can’t deny who he really is. It’s this duality that lives in a lot of coming-of-age stories, the struggle that comes from just growing up and losing the innocence of youth, being exposed to a world that is harsh and dishonest. But one of my favorite lines from the book and the movie comes from Ponyboy’s best friend Johnny, who reminds him to “stay gold,” to hold onto that youthful ideology and not let it change who you are. Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold!

Don (The Way, Way Back): Every so often, a little movie you didn’t see coming hits you square in the chest, surprises you for its quality, and completely satisfies the emotional investment and trust you put into it.  This effect is especially evident with the memorable coming-of-age films we grow to cherish.  That punch happened to me in 2013 with The Way Way Back.  It harked back to my own teenage shell and the motivators that helped me find the release of youthful exuberance that led to little life milestones.  When we watch a film like The Way Way Back, there’s a good chance we can all pinpoint one great summer, one great trip, or even one great week, where we broke through our own personal glass ceilings.  Mine was the summer of 1996 between my junior and senior years of high school where movie-going became my new place of solace to experience two-hour mini-vacations that took me away from real life.  That summer started my journey as a movie lover and I’ve looked back on it fondly since.

Steve (Can’t Buy Me Love): Not all quirky teen comedies from the 80’s are mired in the tradition of using boobs and butts as plot points to ultimately reach, well, nowhere really. Some actually dare to teach us something, as Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) does by stepping outside that formula. The story of Ronald Miller’s (Patrick Dempsey) rise from geekdom to chicdom, only to be outcast again when he’s called out as fake news, serves to remind us of the perils in navigating the choppy waters of high school cliques from upon a throne of deceit. So obsessed is Ronald in being able to play in the same sandbox as the cool kids, he’s willing to bankroll a faux friendship with the least attainable girl on campus, Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson); head cheerleader, suburban elitist, and poor negotiator of clothing store return policies. With his real friends barely an afterthought while he revels in his new found social status, Ronald essentially ensures he has nowhere to fall back upon as things begin to unravel. It takes a second stint as a social pariah to make Ronald understand that the line in the sand between “our side” and “their side” is a societal construct of immaturity and insecurity. That the kids we played in our treehouse with in elementary school would turn against us a few years later, using metrics such as the ‘ability to throw a football’ or ‘be seen in the trendiest fashions’ as measurements for assigning roles in the teenage caste system, speaks loudly even today in a society self absorbed in keeping up with the Jones’. The fact Can’t Buy Me Love understood this and tackled it thirty years ago, not as a cliche but as a cautionary tale, is significant. Ronald Miller’s journey to self awareness is not easy for him or those around him, but the lessons he gleans resonate, and the themes of the film remain culturally relevant to this day.

Jeremy (The Sandlot): Much of my childhood was defined by baseball. I remember the joy I felt watching the 1985 World Series, taking batting practice with my grandpa, being picked up from school early to watch the Kansas City Royals on opening day and my dad bare-handing a line drive foul ball at the College World Series to snag a souvenir. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that my favorite coming of age film is 1993’s The Sandlot. In The Sandlot, writer and director David Evans manages to find the perfect combination of 60’s nostalgia, the angst of being the new kidthe joy of belonging, childhood mythology, James Earl Jones and Wendy Peffercorn. As a shy kid who had found a place to belong on the diamond, The Sandlot spoke to me when I was young and has continued to remind me of simpler times as I’ve grown into an adult. And of course, who can’t remember a time where they got themselves in a pickle and needed a few buddies to help them out. 

Thanks for reading! We’re excited to hear your picks and stories.  – Feelin’ Film

Aaron’s Top 100 Movies

I’ve always wanted to expand my favorite films list to 100 and my birthday seemed like the perfect time for doing so. With that, I present my list. It is ever changing. This list is a current reflection of my personal cinematic taste – what speaks to me emotionally, and those films that are just too so entertaining that all evaluation of their technical quality doesn’t even matter. I’ve labored over this for quite some time and it was not an easy task, but I feel confident that the results are accurate. For today.

(For the purposes of this list, LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring and Before Sunrise represent their respective trilogy.)

This is my list. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  2. La La Land
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life
  4. Jaws
  5. 12 Angry Men
  6. The Princess Bride
  7. The Prestige
  8. Alien
  9. Interstellar
  10. Before Sunrise
  11. Blade Runner
  12. The Exorcist
  13. Jurassic Park
  14. Top Gun
  15. Singin’ in the Rain
  16. Inside Llewyn Davis
  17. The Last of the Mohicans
  18. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  19. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  20. The Dark Knight
  21. Children of Men
  22. Young Frankenstein
  23. The Shawshank Redemption
  24. Aliens
  25. The Cabin in the Woods
  26. Die Hard
  27. Inception
  28. Drive
  29. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  30. Vertigo
  31. Gone with the Wind
  32. Almost Famous
  33. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  34. Casablanca
  35. Short Term 12
  36. My Neighbor Totoro
  37. Tombstone
  38. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  39. The Social Network
  40. The Wizard of Oz
  41. The Lion King
  42. Back to the Future
  43. Seven Samurai
  44. Citizen Kane
  45. The Iron Giant
  46. The Blair Witch Project
  47. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  49. Armageddon
  50. Whiplash
  51. The Incredibles
  52. The Departed
  53. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  54. Reservoir Dogs
  55. Pacific Rim
  56. Unforgiven
  57. The Empire Strikes Back
  58. Memento
  59. Forrest Gump
  60. Into the Wild
  61. The Sound of Music
  62. Scream
  63. Gravity
  64. Pan’s Labyrinth
  65. Gladiator
  66. Batman Begins
  67. Hell or High Water
  68. Pulp Fiction
  69. Rashomon
  70. Fight Club
  71. The Right Stuff
  72. Star Wars
  73. Finding Nemo
  74. Serenity
  75. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  76. Groundhog Day
  77. 3:10 to Yuma
  78. Mary Poppins
  79. The Wailing
  80. The Shining
  81. True Grit (2010)
  82. Apocalypse Now
  83. Fargo
  84. Moon
  85. The Godfather
  86. The Silence of the Lambs
  87. Beauty and the Beast
  88. Ex Machina
  89. No Country for Old Men
  90. The Breakfast Club
  91. The Place Beyond the Pines
  92. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  93. Platoon
  94. Equilibrium
  95. The NeverEnding Story
  96. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  97. Psycho (1960)
  98. Silence
  99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  100. Your Name.

Like it? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Link to list on Letterboxd

 

 

2017 Feeler’s Choice Award Winners

Thank you so much to all of our incredible listeners who participated in making the inaugural Feeler’s Choice Awards a success. Members of our free-to-join Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group submitted their favorites in each category and that helped us create a list of nominees to be voted on. Then our listeners voted and here are the results!

Best Original Screenplay La La Land
Best Adapted Screenplay Arrival
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis (Fences)
Best Costume Design Jackie
Best Cinematography La La Land
Best Sound Editing Hacksaw Ridge
Best Visual Effects Rogue One
Best Animated Feature Kubo & the Two Strings
Best Supporting Actor John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Best Documentary Feature O.J.: Made in America
Best Original Song “Drive It Like You Stole It” (Sing Street)
Best Original Score La La Land
Best Director Damien Chazelle
Best Actress Amy Adams (Arrival)
Best Actor Denzel Washington (Fences)
Best Picture La La Land

2017 Oscar Predictions

Ready for the Oscars this Sunday? The Feelin’ Film team — Aaron White, Patrick Hicks, Steve Clifton, and Don Shanahan— are here to tell you just who will be taking home those glorious golden statues. Below you will find four definitive lists of who will win at the 2017 Oscars followed by a brief explanation by one team member on who they think should win each award. We believe that these are all objectively correct predictions. Do with that as you will, and if you’re in an Oscar pool this year – GOOD LUCK!

Aaron White Patrick Hicks Steve Clifton Don Shanahan
Best Picture La La Land La La Land  La La Land  La La Land
Best Actor Casey Affleck Denzel Washington  Denzel Washington  Denzel Washington
Best Actress Emma Stone Meryl Streep  Emma Stone Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali Michael Shannon  Mahershala Ali  Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Viola Davis  Viola Davis  Viola Davis
Best Director Damien Chazelle (La La Land) Damien Chazelle (La La Land)  Damien Chazelle (La La Land)  Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Best Adapted Screenplay Moonlight Moonlight  Moonlight  Moonlight
Best Original Screenplay Manchester by the Sea Manchester by the Sea Manchester by the Sea Manchester by the Sea
Best Cinematography La La Land La La Land  La La Land  La La Land
Best Costume Design La La Land Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them  Jackie La La Land
Best Film Editing La La Land La La Land  La La Land  La La Land
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Star Trek Beyond Star Trek Beyond  Star Trek Beyond  Star Trek Beyond
Best Original Score La La Land La La Land  La  La Land La La Land
Best Original Song “City of Stars”

(La La Land)

“City of Stars”

(La La Land)

 “City of Stars”

(La La Land)

“City of Stars”

(La La Land)

Best Production Design La La Land La La Land  La La Land  La La Land
Best Sound Editing Hacksaw Ridge Hacksaw Ridge  Hacksaw Ridge  Hacksaw Ridge
Best Sound Mixing La La Land Arrival  La La Land  La La Land
Best Visual Effects The Jungle Book The Jungle Book  The Jungle Book  The Jungle Book
Best Animated Film Kubo & the Two Strings Zootopia  Zootopia  Zootopia
Best Foreign Language Film Toni Erdmann The Salesman  The Salesman  Toni Erdmann
Best Documentary Feature O.J.: Made in America O.J.: Made in America  O.J.: Made in America O.J.: Made in America
Best Documentary Short The White Helmets 4.1 Miles  The White Helmets The White Helmets
Best Animated Short Film Piper Pearl  Piper  Piper
Best Live-Action Short Film Timecode Silent Nights  Timecode  Ennemis Intérieurs

BEST PICTURE: An instant classic, this magical new Hollywood musical managed to capture our hearts and make us sing. With Astaire/Rogers like chemistry, Gosling & Stone transform the vision of Damien Chazelle & Justin Hurwitz into a heart-wrenching, romantic, sad, and poignant new masterpiece. This isn’t just a Hollywood love letter to itself, it’s a portrait of two people wrestling with how to pursue their dreams and love simultaneously – something far more than just aspiring actors can relate to. Not just the best film of 2016, but the best film in years. Or, if you’re asking me, the best film ever. – Aaron
Should Win:   La La Land

BEST ACTOR: Up till the last hours before I had to write this, I had seen three of the five actors in contention. The two that were left happened to be the ones that are the heavy favorites. Though I have now seen Casey Affleck make me sad in “Manchester by the Sea,” and though he has one about a thousand more of the “other” awards for best actor this season, The SAG, which hasn’t missed predicting this category in the last decade, has Denzel Washington taking home the golden trophy. So I am leaning in the Denzel camp for this one. – Patrick
Should Win:   Casey Affleck

BEST ACTRESSWithout question, this is has been the most competitive major category during the entire Oscar race.  When the National Board of Review opened the awards season honoring Amy Adams for “Arrival,” we thought we knew where this category was going.  For the Oscars, she didn’t even get nominated.  The winds have danced that much.  “Elle” star Isabelle Huppert represents this year’s Charlotte Rampling as the revered foreign actress with clout.  She and Natalie Portman for “Jackie” have been trading the majority of minor wins since November.  It’s Emma Stone who has been surging late and looking unstoppable.  She has nowhere near the total number of precursor wins as either Huppert or Portman, but she won the ones that carried favor, the Golden Globe, the SAG, and the BAFTA, in the homestretch.  Expect her star to be fully born this Sunday as the eventual winner.  That said, her performance pales in comparison to the powerful and transcendent work of Portman as the former First Lady and societal icon.  She is likely knocked a little as a contender because she won so recently for “Black Swan.”  I don’t care if you’ve won already.  If you were the best, you get to win again and everyone else has to raise their game. – Don
Should Win:   Natalie Portman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: “And the Oscar goes to….Mark Rylance!”  That was a year ago, and my ballot had it’s first ding early into the show.  I hate that.  So this year I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out if we were going to have that Rylance moment play out again.  It’s not unheard of in the supporting categories.  While not as shocking as the Rylance incident, Christoph Waltz surprisingly won in 2013 for “Django Unchained” over the frontrunner, Tommy Lee Jones.  I’ve been looking for every reason to pick Dev Patel here, just to be edgy and so I could gloat if another upset comes to fruition.  But at the end of the day, I have to go with Mahershala Ali, for his surreal performance in “Moonlight.”  Expect this ceremony to be more political than ever, and nothing gives a middle finger to the current administration more than an African American Muslim portraying a gay man in a movie, giving a speech to the world on prime time television.  And if that’s not enough, Ali’s turn was realistically the best of the bunch. – Steve
Should Win: Mahershala Ali

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Honestly, this category is a little unfair.  As a “supporting” actress, Viola has tremendously more screen time in “Fences” than her fellow nominees in their films.  Everyone else, from Michelle Williams to Naomie Harris, have “that-one-really-good-scene” and not much more.  Viola Davis is a force the entire 139 minutes of Denzel Washington’s film.  She should be competing in the lead actress category.  She wins here with ease and, the best part is, she deserves to.  This was a cornerstone performance in a career that should have been crowned five years ago with “The Help” when she was robbed by Meryl Streep. – Don
Should Win:   Viola Davis

BEST DIRECTOR: It would be a surprise if anyone other than Damien Chazelle were to win this award.  He has the Globe and the DGA; the clearest indicators of Oscar success in this category.  There is a lot of love for Barry Jenkins, and “Moonlight” is poised as the spoiler in the event the “La La Land” juggernaut falters, but if the Academy chooses to split Director from Best Picture again as they’ve been wont to do recently, I see “Moonlight” taking picture and Chazelle holding on here.  Based on much of the logistical nuances of filming “La La Land,” it feels to me like Chazelle earned every accolade he’s received. – Steve
Should Win:    Damien Chazelle

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAYThis category of the Big Eight experienced an eligibility shift when Tarell McCraney and Barry Jenkins’s screenplay for “Moonlight” was deemed an adapted screenplay from its earlier incarnation as a proposed play and not an original work, where it just won the year-end award from the Writers Guild of America.  Its presence squelches the chances of the other four nominees.  If “Moonlight” wasn’t here, this would be a category for “Arrival” to win, likely becoming its only win of the night.  Now, Denis Villeneuve’s film will go home empty-handed.  “Moonlight” will win and, with the likely “La La Land” tidal wave going all the way to Best Picture, this is the exact right place to honor 2016’s most important narrative feature.  The “will win” and the “should win” rightly match in this category. – Don
Should Win:   Moonlight

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: The writing categories are always two of my favorites. The best writing can elevate an otherwise mediocre film and it’s something that excites me when done at a high level. “La La Land’s” writing is better than some give it credit for, but not Oscar worthy. “Hell or High Water” and “Manchester by the Sea” were both superbly, tight, realistically written stories that I adored. In fact (with “La La Land”) those three make up top 3 films of the year. It’s incredibly hard to choose here, and my head wants to say that Sheridan’s work for “Hell or High Water” deserves this, but my heart knows what Lonergan’s script for “Manchester by the Sea” did to me.  – Aaron
Should win:   Manchester by the Sea

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: I was really torn on this one. One of the things that stood out to me about “Arrival” was the way in which the visual storytelling was equally as powerful as the verbal (ironically, the theme of language was visualized rather than textualized in this one). However, I’m always equally as impressed with the creative use of camera work (particularly single tracked shots for long periods of time) and when you have an opening scene like the one from “La La Land” to set the stage for a beautiful looking film, I have to give the Oscar to “La La Land.” – Patrick
Should Win:   La La Land

BEST COSTUME DESIGNThe vibrancy of this category is far-reaching, but only two films of the five are real contenders.  “La La Land” costume designer Mary Zophres is the odds-on frontrunner for her primary colors and the film’s juggernaut popularity.  In terms of resume, Zophres also did the Hollywood backlot fashion for “Hail, Caesar!”  Chasing behind her is my preferred pick, Madeline Fontaine’s work on “Jackie.”  Her sharp period recreations were inspired and flawless.  Not a thread was dull or out of place.  Expect “La La Land,” but love on “Jackie.” – Don
Should Win:   Jackie

BEST FILM EDITING: Pacing would be the operative word to describe the quality of a well-edited film. Did it flow? Did each scene lead well into the next? Were there abrupt changes to the tone of the film as a result of the way it was pieced together? These are questions I asked myself, reflecting on the five nominees, of which “Moonlight” is the lone film I haven’t seen. From the four that are left, it feels like a tough call. Each story felt complete. Nothing stood out as jarring or visually disconnected. I’d personally like to give the Oscar to “Hacksaw Ridge” (a personal favorite from 2016) but my head says, all things being equal, give it to the movie that is dominating the nominations. – Patrick
Should Win:   Hacksaw Ridge

BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING: “Suicide Squad” was a mess, and no one in Hollywood is likely to garner any praise on it here.  “A Man Called Ove” is a foreign film that no one had ever heard of before all of the fallout from the Trump Muslim ban threw that category into turmoil.  So by default, “Star Trek: Beyond” seems the de facto winner in the Makeup & Hairstyling arena for this year.  And let’s face it, you’re going to be up taking a bathroom break or making another tray of canapés for your guests as soon as this category gets mentioned. – Steve
Should Win:    Star Trek: Beyond

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: GRRR. This one frustrates me for a number of reasons. Of the five nominations, I have only seen two of the films (“La La Land” and “Passengers”), so clearly I am going to be biased towards those. But of those two, the clear favorite, “La La Land”, doesn’t scream Best Original Score to me. Soundtrack? Heck yeah. But if I’m thinking about instrumental music that helps elevate a film, “Passengers” did that, from the opening scene to the closing credits. Oh well, here’s to those who dream. – Patrick
Should Win:   Passengers

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: I would love nothing more than to see Audition (The Fools Who Dream) take this award.  Watching Emma Stone belt that out in “La La Land” was simply surreal, and you can expect that performance to be copied in many a high school musical audition for the foreseeable future.  However, City of Stars is going to win this one.  It’s a justifiable win, as the song is not only well done, it serves as the backdrop for the entire experience that is “La La Land.”  More than just a song, City of Stars is the harmonious glue that binds the film. – Steve
Should Win:    Audition (The Fools Who Dream) (La La Land)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: I could draw this out, but I won’t. Formerly known as Best Art Direction this award belongs to “La La Land.” It’s incredible sets and mesmerizing dream-like sequences are all wonderfully designed and frankly nothing else comes close.  – Aaron
Should win:   La La Land

BEST SOUND EDITING: AKA. One of two categories I never can differentiate between. I did research to help clarify what makes this different from Sound Mixing, and based on the ever reliable internet’s definition. Editing refers to the sounds that make up the movie, while mixing refers to the culmination of those elements that make the film great. And while I think “La La Land” could conceivably take home the mixing category, my vote goes to “Hacksaw Ridge.” The battle alone in the movie makes it worthy of the Oscar. – Patrick
Should Win:   Hacksaw Ridge

BEST SOUND MIXING: Let’s keep it real.  Sound Mixing is another of those bathroom break categories, but also one of those categories where you can either sink or soar in your Oscar pool.  Conventional wisdom says when in doubt, pick “La La Land” this year.  But the Academy does love it’s war films, and likes to reward good war films (defined here as films also nominated for Best Picture) with wins in the technical categories.  So there are justifiable reasons to be looking hard at “Hacksaw Ridge” to steal this one.  But I’m predicting a split in the sound categories this year, with “Hacksaw Ridge” grabbing one in the Sound Editing category; so feel confident in riding the “La La Land” train to victory here.  Need some historical facts to back it up?  Musicals lend themselves more to the mixing category.  Look back to 2003, when “Chicago”, which went on to win Best Picture, grabbed the Sound Mixing Oscar, but relented the Sound Editing award to “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” – Steve
Should Win:    La La Land

BEST VISUAL EFFECTSThe blockbusters reign here in Best Visual Effects.  The fanboy vote would go to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” but there is more dazzle in galaxies closer than those far, far away.  Vegas will tell you that “The Jungle Book” will win and I can see why with the Disney clout and the volume of its entirely green-screen work.  My personal pick would be “Doctor Strange.”  They were the only effects this year that made my eyes pop and my jaw drop.  The film was the best use of 3D I’ve seen in years.  To me, this one’s not even close.  Sorry, Bill “Baloo” Murray. – Don
Should Win:   Doctor Strange

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Here we most likely have  showdown between the Disney film packed full of references and championing a very timely message all about inclusion and the stop-motion gem from Laika. While “Zootopia” may likely win an Oscar because it’s (buzzword) “relevant”, “Kubo & the Two Strings” is the film that features truly cutting edge animation and offers a complex, moving story. It’s the only animated film in my Top 10 of 2016 and the only one I want to own and watch over and over again. If you must blink, do it now. Hopefully when you open your eyes Laika will be celebrating a much deserved Oscar win. – Aaron
Should win:   Kubo & the Two Strings

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Leading well into the month of January, this category was “Toni Erdmann’s” (Germany) to lose.  But then President Trump enacted a Muslim ban, effectively alienating, well, just about everyone.  Enter the plight of director Asghar Farhadi, who all of a sudden might not be allowed into the country to enjoy the spoils of becoming an Oscar nominee for his film “The Salesman” (Iran).  Since “Toni Erdmann” is an almost three hour slog that most voters aren’t likely to want to invest in to see if it’s even worthy, expect the political middle finger to once again extend in the direction of Washington, with “The Salesman” the beneficiary of Hollywood’s version of humanitarian justice being served. – Steve
Should Win:    Who cares

BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): This is a category stacked with incredible films (and many others worthy that weren’t nominated). Several of them deal with race, but the one that stands out most is “O.J.: Made in America.” It is an extraordinary portrait of one icon’s rise and fall, told through a much broader and more important lens of race relations in America going back 50 years. I was mesmerized for all 7+ hours of this documentary’s running time. My mind was constantly blown as this film dug deeper and deeper. This should be required viewing for all Americans.  – Aaron
Should Win:   O.J.: Made in America

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: Let’s be honest, this is one of, what I like to call, “dartboard categories,” where you guess is about as good as anyone else’s.  As a credentialed film critic in Chicago, I have all five of these nominees available to me to view as screener links, but I haven’t made the time to catch them yet.  My dartboard is busy holding up pictures of people I despise.  So, I’m going to lean on some precursor data.  “The White Helmets” won this very category from the International Documentary Association. That’s good enough for me. It gets my dartboard dart as a personal pick.  – Don
Should Win:   The White Helmets

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: The ability to tell a complete story is a huge undertaking, but to do it in 5-7 minutes is even more daunting. Couple that with animating the thing and you’ve got, well, a worthy Oscar category. Admittedly I’d only seen one of these films until recently (“Piper”). I have now seen four of the five and I have to tell you, only one stands above all others. In a time when optimism feels necessary in film, one of these shorts stood out as encompassing that in the most sincere way. – Patrick
Should Win:   Pearl

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT: So, yeah. Um… “Timecode” definitely has the coolest name. – Aaron
Should Win:   Timecode

Agree with our picks? Disagree? Want to share your own? Leave us some feedback. We’d love to discuss them with you. Thanks for reading!