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Steven Jon Whritner's Best Films of 2017

THE BEST FILMS I’VE SEEN THIS YEAR
by Steven Jon Whritner

Well, I certainly can’t claim to have seen every one of the nearly 750 films theatrically released in the U.S. in 2017 (and I remain eager to see The Florida Project and Phantom Thread, among others), but I’ve certainly seen my share and I propose that the following are worthy of any cinephile’s time. Therefore, respectfully submitted for my fellow Labbers’ consideration, my personal “Top 10” pics of last year, in alphabetical order:

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1. BLADE RUNNER: 2049
Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982) breaks new ground with the scope and grandeur of its vision while paying homage to its predecessor. It also boasts some of the most sumptuous art direction and cinematography of any film in recent memory and its deliberately slow pace adds immeasurably to the film's hypnotic appeal.

2. DUNKIRK
Though arguably flawed, Christopher Nolan's latest achievement is a sparsely written yet awe-inspiring spectacle. For what it lacks in dialogue it more than makes up for with an immersive and often riveting and masterful work of filmmaking designed to be experienced in its native IMAX 70MM format.

3. GET OUT
For chills, thrills, levity, not to mention smart and timely social satire, look no further than Jordan Peele's Get Out, the most disturbing, edge-of- your-seat fun I've had at the movies in a very long time. The film's 100% perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes was verywell deserved.

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4. LADY BIRD
Greta Gerwig's semi-autobiographical story about the turbulent relationship between a teenage daughter and her passive-aggressive mother does something that lesser films often fail to do: ring true-to- life. Her sweet, smart, warmly funny directorial debut is arguably the best female-led coming-of- age movie since Juno.

5. PERSONAL SHOPPER
Olivier Assayas has re-teamed with his current muse, Kristen Stewart, to craft a sophisticated ghost story that's a riveting and exceptionally eerie study of personal loss and coping with grief. The film is tonally mystifying at times, but the scares are never cheap and it boasts a stark mise-en-scène that chills to the bone.

6. THE DISASTER ARTIST
James Franco's turn as real-life Tommy Wiseau, writer/director of what’s widely considered the worst film ever made (apologies to Plan 9 from Outer Space fans), is nothing less than a tour de force. His film is a cringe-worthily funny and endearing love letter to the art and craft of independent filmmaking and the importance of pursuing one's dreams – no matter the cost.

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7. THE SHAPE OF WATER
Believe the hype. This fresh, whimsical take on the classic "Beauty and the Beast" tale is a visual, sensual and emotional feast, which is buoyed by an enchanting performance by Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine). A creature-feature with a helluva lot of heart, it’s unquestionably del Toro's finest work since Pans Labyrinth and my favorite film of the year.

8. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Although the subject matter is quite dark, a veteran cast led by the incomparable Frances McDormand (in her finest role since Fargo) and co-starring Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, combined with moments of levity and honest, deeply human emotion, elevates this gripping drama about the unfairness and cruelty of life to profound and artistic new heights.

9. WIND RIVER
What’s quickly becoming his signature, writer/director Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) opts for an emotional, character-driven slow-burn blended with pointed social commentary about life on the fringes of society, dolling out ever-increasing suspense in careful measure while building to a searing third act.

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10. WONDER WOMAN
Fueled by Gal Gadot’s captivating performance, Wonder Woman succeeds on every level, single-handedly raising the bar for superhero movies. It will have your inner feminist kicking ass and taking no prisoners.

RUNNER UP:
11. BABY DRIVER
The most stylish heist-and- car-chase picture since Steve McQueen tore up the streets of San Francisco in his Fastback GT. It also boasts one of the tightest pop/rock soundtracks since Pulp Fiction.

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Steven is a Stowe Story Labs alum, Board Member, and an Emmy Award-winning writer & producer.