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Programmer Top 10 Films of 2017: Guy Lavallee

They select the movies for the Calgary International Film Festival, and now our team of programmers share their Top 10 films of 2017. Still not sure what films you need to catch up on from the past year? Take it from our curators – these are films that you'll want to seek out as we say goodbye to the year that was 2017.  

New American Cinema & Music on Screen Programmer Guy Lavallee shares his Top 10 Films of 2017

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It’s a funny thing, being a film festival programmer. In some ways, it feels like I’m constantly watching movies; in others, it feels like I never have time to get out to the multiplex to actually see any general release films. I tried to rectify that this year, and it made for a very enjoyable year of moviegoing – a nice mix of the eclectic and the electric. Keeping in mind there are a number of big awards-bait films I’ve yet to see, the following is my Best of 2017 (*so far!) list.

1. THE SHAPE OF WATER directed by Guillermo del Toro
The most visually sumptuous, emotionally moving, nail-bitingly exciting creation of the year, this may be del Toro’s finest achievement yet – and that’s really saying something. It’s AMELIE by way of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and it’s 100% pure magic.
THE SHAPE OF WATER is playing in Calgary at Cineplex Chinook

2. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI directed by Martin McDonagh
The director of IN BRUGES and SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS returns with his best film yet – a funny, violent, incredibly tense tale of murder and heartbreak and loss, featuring a tour de force performance by the great Frances McDormand.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is playing in Calgary at Cineplex Eau Claire

3. THE DISASTER ARTIST directed by James Franco
The great trick here is that James Franco didn’t just put on a long black wig and give us a lazy, mocking impersonation of Tommy Wiseau. He didn’t take the easy way out by simply making fun of a potentially easy target. Instead, he’s given us one of the best movies about the movies in two decades, and a poignant ode to true friendship, to boot.
THE DISASTER ARTIST is playing in Calgary at The Plaza and Cineplex Chinook

4. SMALL TOWN CRIME directed by Eshom Nelms & Ian Nelms
It’s not spoiling anything to say that SMALL TOWN CRIME ends on a ‘is this going to be a franchise?’ note, and I for one will be first in line for what comes next. John Hawkes is simply magnificent in a '70s-inspired private eye yarn that feels like the greatest Elmore Leonard story never actually written by Elmore Leonard.
SMALL TOWN CRIME was a 2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection

5. THE BIG SICK directed by Michael Showalter
Hands down the best romantic comedy of the year, and proof beyond any doubt that there’s still plenty of life left in this genre – just so long as you do something a little different with it. Mining their personal lives for comedic and emotional gold, this is a film that had me doubled over with laughter, and wiping away tears. It’s great.

6. BABY DRIVER directed by Edgar Wright
The most exciting movie of the year also happens to have the best soundtrack, some winning performances, spectacular action sequences, and it’s likely one of the last films not to digitally erase Kevin Spacey from its cast!

7. MAY IT LAST: A PORTRAIT OF THE AVETT BROTHERS directed by Judd Apatow & Michael Bonfiglio
This gorgeous and moving doc is an ode to music, family, and love. It’s easily my favourite music doc of the year, and besides the fantastic music performances by the Avett Brothers, this one sneaks up and packs an emotional wallop.

8. NOBODY SPEAK: TRIALS OF THE FREE PRESS directed by Brian Knappenberger
Easily the timeliest film on this list; a film that was, in fact, so timely they were re-cutting it right until release day. Originally planned as a look at the Hulk Hogan / Gawker story, the rise of Trump and his constant cries of fake news forced the filmmakers to re-focus their attention on the all-out war on the media that began raging in late 2016.
NOBODY SPEAK is streaming on Netflix

9. GET OUT directed by Jordan Peele
Also very timely, though in a more allegorical way, Jordan Peele’s nerve-shredding thriller hit all the right notes – a scary, funny, provocative, and smart satire that goes to prove racism and classism are alive and well, even in 2017.   

10. LIGHT OF THE MOON directed by Jessica M. Thompson
A jaw-droppingly raw and unsentimental performance from Stephanie Beatriz (BROOKLYN NINE-NINE) powers this emotionally devastating drama about a young woman trying to ‘move on’ after being sexually assaulted on her way home from a night out with friends. 
LIGHT OF THE MOON was a 2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
MARVEL: GUARDIANS 2, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, and THOR: RAGNORAK
I’d grown increasingly weary of the endless stream of Marvel blockbusters taking up (seemingly) every screen at every theatre in the world, but these three thrilling – and very funny – superhero sagas were non-stop fun from beginning to end, dishing out pure entertainment. And in the nightmarish, alt-right hell-scape that was 2017, that’s good enough for me!

STEPHEN KING Adaptations: IT and GERALD’S GAME
While THE DARK TOWER may not have fired on all cylinders, 2017 produced two of the better King adaptations in decades: the brilliantly creepy IT, and the unrelentingly tense GERALD’S GAME (driven by a tremendous Carla Gugino performance). Watching IT was about the closest I have ever felt to reading a Stephen King novel on screen – it felt that authentic to the source material.

ANIMALS: TROPHY and THE LAST ANIMALS
Two wildly different filmmaking approaches, two completely different types of films, but the same result: utter despair and devastation over what mankind has done, and continues to do, on our seemingly endless quest to eradicate all the animals from the face of the planet. Sobering, essential viewing, both.
THE LAST ANIMALS was a 
2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection