2017 should be considered the year of women. On my personal blog, I made a list of 40 films that I loved. Many of them were either about or made by women. For DelmarvaLife, I have whittled that long list down to ten titles. This focus on women is not accidental or coincidental. Considering all the news in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it’s absolutely purposeful. Hopefully with this list, it will signal more films by women and about women, as well as more films by and about people of color, letting diversity and femininity win. Each film comes with a link to a review posted on DelmarvaLife.com, so without further ado, here is my top ten movies of 2017.
10. GIRLS TRIP – It’s this year’s Bridesmaids (2011). It’s just as funny, and it features just as good, if not better performances. Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah gives a stellar performance in this raunchy, female comedy, but it’s Tiffany Haddish who is the breakout star of the year. Her acceptance speech at the NYFCC Awards is proof why.
9. THE LOST CITY OF Z – The true life story of the British explorer who became obsessed with the Amazonian jungle to the detriment of his family life is beautifully brought to the big screen, including one of the best final shots of the year that features a strong woman character. Every frame is lush or enchanting, and it’s anchored by actor Charlie Hunnam, giving the best he probably has ever given to cinema.
8. FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER – Angelina Jolie has gone from movie star to full-on, serious director. Her compassion and care for her subject matter is greatly realized in this film about a tough period in Cambodia. It’s harrowing to see children in peril, but there is a strength here and a sense of love that holds the narrative up through most of it.
7. BATTLE OF THE SEXES – Emma Stone won Best Actress last year for a role that I didn’t think was that great. She doesn’t have any musical numbers here, but her physical presence is so much greater. Stone stars as tennis icon, Billie Jean King. Her romance with another woman isn’t given the same due as in La La Land, but I felt the heat so much more. Steve Carell co-stars as Bobby Riggs, a chauvinistic showboat who challenges Billie Jean to a match. Carell is superb though.
6. MARJORIE PRIME / MOLLY’S GAME – Originally, I had The Disaster Artist in this slot until recent allegations against James Franco came to light in the wake of his Golden Globes win. Instead, I decided to put these two films in the sixth slot. Both have amazing women in the center. Marjorie Prime is the adaptation of Jordan Harrison’s play about an elderly woman and her daughter dealing with loss in their lives with a science-fiction twist. Molly’s Game is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut about real-life Olympic skier and poker organizer, Molly Bloom. Both are fantastic examples of great, intellectual dialogue or in Sorkin’s case monologue.
5. MOTHER! – Jennifer Lawrence starred in this unexpected horror film, which had misleading marketing to make people think it was scarier than it actually is. Most of it is metaphor and allegory, not literal, which can be disconcerting, but it’s more about the experience, the emotional rapture than the narrative story.
4. DETROIT – Kathryn Bigelow directs this film about the Detroit riots of 1967, focusing on the Algiers Motel incident where a group of cops abused their authority and power, particularly on the black residents. It’s timely and relevant, and it was made with the same immersive, almost documentary-like force as Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.
3. WONDER WOMAN – No question, this was the best super-hero film of the year. It was also the blockbuster we needed. There was no other expression of female empowerment, especially femininity fighting back against toxic masculinity, greater than this film starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins. This film was as inspiring as it was simply inspired.
2. I, TONYA – It’s this year’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Instead of Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s Margot Robbie who takes center stage. She plays infamous Tonya Harding. With the Winter Olympics forthcoming, the ice skating scenes are fantastically done. The fiery relationship between Tonya and her mother and her husband is the source of most of the comedy, despite the abusive angle, but it’s fourth-wall-breaking style helps us through.
1. SONG TO SONG – Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender star in this modern-day love triangle set in Austin, Texas, and within the music industry. Yet, the real name to know is Terrence Malick who is a master filmmaker without question. His recent, modern-set films have perhaps been too ephemeral, but this one connected with me in a way that his two previous didn’t. This was the cap to a trilogy and if so, by far the best.