In 2016 I watched 32 movies, a number which jumped to 54 in 2017. I wasn't really planning on putting together a personal top ten because God knows the world needs another top ten movies of 2017 list like the U.S. needs another three years of Trump, but Irene posted on my Facebook asking me to share one and a full twenty-three people liked that post, so now I am faced with the choice of adding to the noise or mildly disappointing twenty-three of my friends. This is obviously a very easy choice for someone who has been a people-pleaser since elementary school, when I meekly allowed my mother to give away my favourite pair of pants to my friend because she happened to try them on and decided she liked them, so below is Yurie's Top Ten Movies of 2017 list, followed by the full list of movies I watched throughout the year.
(Note: there are still a good number of movies on my "to watch list" that I did not get to before the year-end, some of which I am sure would have made it on here otherwise, including: Good Time, Mudbound, The Disaster Artist, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water, The Post, Phantom Thread.)
We're doing this backwards, because suspense.
Yurie's Top 10 Movies of 2017
10. 120 battements par minute / BPM (Beats Per Minute)
I saw this by myself on one of the nights of the New York Film Festival. It was a toss-up between BPM and a Hong Sang-Soo film but the Hong film was on standby, which is how I found myself at the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center mid-week to see a movie about members of the Paris branch of AIDS activist group ACT UP and their advocacy work -- and their love lives -- in the 90s. I sat in the middle of the very back row and was electrified for two and a half hours. Visually striking (the strobes/beats in the club scenes! the exuberance of the earlier rallies!), beautifully acted (standout: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart!!), and underscored with a real, deep urgency that catches in your throat and stays there for the full 140 minutes until you are released into the world again, reeling.
9. Wonder Woman
Look, you can nitpick all you want about whatever small flaws this movie had (for the record, I firmly believe there are NONE, except maybe not enough Lucy Davis) but you can't tell me that seeing Wonder Woman climbing up the ladder and stepping out onto No Man's Land did not stir something in you and make you want to stand up on your seat and cheer and cry at the same time. I have a selfie with Edwin from right before we went into the theater where I look about as happy and excited as is standard going into a movie and then I have a selfie from right after we emerged, where I look completely disheveled by the sheer weight of my emotions, bordering on hysterical. It is a pretty accurate representation of the effect this movie had on me, of seeing Gal Gadot's Diana Prince kick ass and take names and also, maybe most stunningly, be driven by a genuine, pure desire to help others simply because she has the power to (and not because angst!). Bonus points to this movie for being yet another confirmation that Chris Pine is the best Chris.
I count Patty Jenkins among my great personal blessings of 2017.
8. Baby Driver
Baby Driver was probably the most pure fun I had by myself in a theater last year. I laughed out loud, I squeaked, I gasped in awe, I involuntarily exclaimed "ummayah" more than once, and I was hard-pressed to resist dancing along with Ansel Elgort's slick moves onscreen. The opening robbery/car chase sequence set beat for beat to "Bellbottoms" is still the coolest thing I saw in 2017 and some of the best editing, and if you did not see this movie on the big screen, I do not know what to tell you other than, ya did it wrong, boo.
7. Call Me By Your Name
It's safe to say Call Me By Your Name was the movie I -- along with all gay men, according to my coworker -- was anticipating the most for 2017. Last winter on my flight to Korea I stumbled upon a little indie movie called Miss Stevens (now on Netflix! and made by Julia Hart, who is married to La La Land producer Justin Horowitz! one of my goals for 2018 is to get adopted by this couple), which (1) I fell in love with instantly, and (2) introduced to me the gift that is Timothée Chalamet. So when Sundance reviews of CMBYN hit in January you best believe I was All. Over. It.
And then I had to wait a long, long eleven months before I could finally see it. But it was worth it. As beautiful and lush and idyllic as I was promised -- just what you would picture a summer "somewhere in Italy" to be -- and the gentlest and truest-feeling picture of summer romance burgeoning, flourishing, and then, heart-wrenchingly but inevitably, ending. Michael Stuhlbarg's monologue at the end as Elio's father was one of those things where you almost can't allow yourself to believe the beauty of the words you're hearing. And Timothée Chalamet's face as the end credits roll will continue to haunt my dreams.
I am Korean so it's in my blood to love and adore Christophor Nolan (for the box office numbers to back this up, see here). Dunkirk didn't disappoint. I don't have a whole lot I can say about this movie as a whole -- it was just too impressive, too audacious, too well-crafted for me to really string together any coherent words about it.
Instead I will pick out one small moment from the film, which hit me in the gut more than anything else: right after Peter (the boy on the civilian boat) holds back his anger to tell a compassionate lie to a shell-shocked Cillian Murphy, he looks over to his father, Mr. Dawson, seeking affirmation that he did the right thing. Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), weariness written into the lines of his face, gives Peter a tiny nod, and then turns back to the evacuation efforts at hand.
The whole interaction is maybe three seconds long, but it's powerful. It's the perfect example of why I love Nolan's movies, because he's able to tell sweeping, epic-scale stories that are grounded in a strong emotional core, never sacrificing stakes for style.
Haley Lu Richardson is a star. I repeat, Haley Lu Richardson is a star. We must, as a nation, treasure her.
And finally, finally, John Cho gets his opportunity to shine as the lead (or rather co-lead, since HLR holds her own with him) and carry (co-carry?) a dramatic film. And not just any film but one that feels like poetry on a screen. Because Columbus, Indiana is (fun fact) a place of architectural wonder, and because there really isn't a whole lot of plot to be distracted with here, just two people, both stuck in some way in their lives, getting to know each other, wandering beautiful buildings together and finding comfort in each other's presence. It's a very quiet movie, but somehow it made me hold my breath through the whole thing. Every single shot and every line of dialogue felt so intentional and so essential, and the questions it poses about what we owe to our families and to ourselves, and how we choose to open ourselves up to the people around us -- all of it moved me.
I don't think I need to go too deep into what it meant for me, and likely for many others, to see a Korean-American/Asian-American in the lead role in a movie like this. It meant a lot. A long, long time coming.
4. Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 was a reminder that sequels can be great movies in their own right. Trying to sum up how I felt watching this movie is mostly beyond me, but I won't be forgetting the image of Ryan Gosling's K walking through the dusty orange Las Vegas desert in a hurry.
It's hard to talk about the moments in this film that really hit me without getting spoilery, so I will just say that the themes of humanity and what it means to be human that made the original Blade Runner so poignant -- and bleak -- carried the same weight for me in BR2049, cast in a fresh light, with new stakes. Above all else, I cared about K and his journey. His pain and his hope, and all the implications that hung on that hope, felt very real throughout, and I think that speaks to the intelligence and empathy with which the movie was made. My only major complaint: no movie needs to be 2 hours and 44 minutes long. I mean, honestly, no wonder Albert fell asleep during it (okay, he was severely jet lagged but still).
3. Lady Bird
I'm beginning to think that we don't deserve Saoirse Ronan. We have literally had years to learn how to spell and pronounce her name correctly and still we fail, and still she graces us with the gift of her perfect, transcendent acting. We are so lucky.
I caught Lady Bird at the NYFF this year, after waiting about an hour in the standby line outside Alice Tully Hall. It was so worth the wait. I loved everything about this movie. The perfect cast (did anyone have a better 2017 than Timothée Chalamet, probably not); the portrayal of all the love, anger, misplaced bitterness, and forgiveness that springs up between a mother and daughter; the longing to leave and experience life somewhere else, as captured in Lady Bird aka Christine; the very true-to-life dialogue; the Catholic school uniforms and snacking on the communion wafers; the music; all of it. And meanwhile, Sister Sarah Joan asking Lady Bird if she thinks maybe love and attention are the same thing remains one of the best things I received from the movies in 2017.
My own mum and I had a fight the day after Christmas, about a week ago. It sprang from something small, as is often the case, and we made up the next day, but I had the fleeting thought in the aftermath, I wish I could take Mum to see Lady Bird. In my mind it would be an additional way to say, I'm sorry, and also, I understand -- maybe not all of it, but a lot of it.
Unfortunately, Lady Bird is not yet out in Korea. We watched The Greatest Showman together instead. She loved it.
2. The Big Sick
If someone had told me before 2017 that the year would give us a romantic comedy starring a Pakistani-American comic as the male lead, and that it would not be the mindless fluff we've come to expect rom-coms to be but smart, life-affirming, side-splittingly funny, and also based on the real-life story of said Pakistani-American and his wife, I would have said, that's an oddly specific prediction to make for 2017. And then I would have said, I need to see this movie as soon as is earthly possible, if not sooner.
There was a stretch of a few weeks in summer 2017 when I had a number of people constantly messaging me either to tell me (A) that I needed to calm the f down about The Big Sick or (B) that they had just watched The Big Sick because I wouldn't shut up about it online. I've now seen it three times and I've loved it more with each viewing. Kumail Nanjiani's meltdown while trying to order a cheeseburger with four slices of cheese (NOT four cheeseburgers) at a drive-thru gets me every time, and everything that comes out of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter's mouths is perfection. All the awards for Holly Hunter.
But one of the best things about The Big Sick is how lovingly it casts Kumail's relationship with his immigrant parents, even amid their generational clashes in beliefs and values. His confession to them that he hasn't prayed in years and doesn't know if he believes in Allah, or any other god, is a moment of heartbreaking vulnerability that I think all second-gen-ers can relate to -- as is the moment toward the end when his mother, still too angry to speak to him, sends him off to New York with a Tupperware of homecooked food delivered by his father (who is expressly forbidden from hugging him).
The Big Sick is available to stream on Amazon Prime now, by the way.
1. The Florida Project
We needed The Florida Project in 2017. I needed The Florida Project in 2017. I needed its empathy, its optimism, its joy, even its heartbreak.
Empathy is the one word I've seen come up constantly around this movie since it came out. The movie just emanates it, in dealing with its subjects -- those "living in the margins" in a rundown motel on the outskirts of Orlando Disney World -- and never for a minute steps out of that empathy into judgment or condemnation of the people it portrays and the choices they make. And seeing this experience of just getting by in the margins directly through the hopeful, imaginative, carefree eyes of a child only makes this feat of empathy and humanity and its impact the more powerfully felt -- especially when that child is six-year-old Brooklynn Prince, who is a massive force compressed into a tiny being.
And then you have Willem Dafoe, whose turn as the motel manager Bobby was one of the most quietly moving performances I saw last year. I have not thought too hard about what my top five specific scenes of the year are, but I know that one of them is the long, tense scene in The Florida Project in which Bobby maneuvers a child predator who has wandered onto the motel grounds away from Moonee and her friends and over to a vending machine, and forces him to buy and drink a soda he does not actually want. I can't put into words exactly why I love this scene so much -- some things you just love, and do not try to scrutinize.
That's how I feel about this whole movie, actually. I just love it. And knowing I won't succeed, I will here surrender attempts to come to any sort of eloquent conclusion about it, my favourite movie of 2017. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and filled with hope, and maybe that is enough to say about it.
And now -- here is the full list of movies I watched in 2017 (in order of viewing):
* = actively / highly recommend
- 사랑하기때문에 (2017)
- 밀정 (Age of Shadows) (2016)
- Moonlight (2016)*
- Lion (2016)*
- 뷰티 인사이드 (The Beauty Inside) (2015)*
- 20th Century Women (2016)*
- Snowden (2016)
- Hidden Figures (2016)*
- Ma vie de courgette (My Life as a Zucchini) (2016)*
- The Tiger Hunter (2017)
- Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
- Gook (2017)*
- Get Out (2017)*
- The Tenor (2014)
- Cardinal X (2017)
- Beauty and the Beast (2017)
- 당신자신과 당신의것 (Yourself and Yours) (2017)
- Patti Cake$ (2017)*
- Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)
- In loco parentis (2017)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017)
- Waitress (2007)
- Wonder Woman (2017)*
- De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone) (2012)*
- The Big Sick (2017)*
- Singin' in the Rain (1952)
- Baby Driver (2017)*
- Okja (2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Dunkirk (2017)*
- The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
- The Breakfast Club (1985)
- Columbus (2017)*
- Before Sunrise (1995)*
- The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
- A Ghost Story (2017)*
- Logan Lucky (2017)
- Life Is Beautiful (1997)
- Battle of the Sexes (2017)
- The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)*
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017)*
- Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2017)
- 120 battements par minute (BPM: Beats Per Minute) (2017)*
- Lady Bird (2017)*
- The Florida Project (2017)*
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)*
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)*
- Coco (2017)*
- Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope) (2017)*
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) (except for the last 15 minutes or so... it was a long day)
- Before Sunset (2004)*
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
- Girls Trip (2017)* (solely for the pure fun of watching Tiffany Haddish)
- Call Me By Your Name (2017)*