Jack Garner's 13 best movies of the year

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Actors at the recent Palm Springs Film Festival rang in 2018 with dancing, “Black Mirror” episodes — and Jordan Peele. (Jan. 10)
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As we sit in the midst of the annual film awards season, it’s time for this passionate filmgoer to pick my favorite films of 2017. It is also appropriate now because several of the lauded films had limited big-city openings, and are just now showing up in local theaters. 

Golden Globes, Critics Choice and other award shows are behind us. The Academy Awards nominations are coming on Jan. 23, and the award show is on March 4. (It’s a few weeks later than normal because the Academy wants to avoid ratings competition from the Winter Olympics.) 

Thus, here are the films that have earned my strongest admiration in 2017, in order, starting with the film that topped my recent Critics Choice ballot. These were the best movies of 2017:

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Dunkirk — a taut and tight, and brilliantly cinematic retelling of a nearly horrendous British defeat in the early days of WWII that was turned into a morale-boosting miracle retreat.

The Post — a well-told and well-acted recounting of the fight of The Washington Post to counter investors and, potentially, the courts to publish the Pentagon Papers, a key to turning America against the Vietnam War. It’s the latest in the series of Stephen Spielberg’s powerful sub-genre of historical dramas.

The Shape Of Water — a wondrous darkly romantic fable that somehow combines Amélie with The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The film is buoyed by Sally Hawkens’ remarkable, sweet performance.

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Review: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ examines WWII heroism up close

More: Steven Spielberg on timely new film ‘The Post’: ‘History is certainly repeating itself’

Review: Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Post’ dazzles with terrific cast, journalistic bent

Review: Guillermo del Toro romanticizes interspecies love in superb ‘Shape of Water’

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — another great performance, by Frances McDormand, gives the soul to this quirky, funny, potently dramatic and highly original tale of grief, revenge, and redemption.

Darkest Hour — interestingly, the year’s second first-rate film about Dunkirk, but this time from the point of view of the British government, and particularly newly installed prime minister Winston Churchill. This is a perfectly matching companion film to Dunkirk, and spotlights what is easily the best performance of 2017, Gary Oldman as Churchill.

Wonder — the season’s highest quality feel-good movie, about a boy and his family overcoming his facial deformity. The film’s only flaw is that it feels a bit too similar to 1985’s Mask.

Review: Frances McDormand gives a brutally great performance in topical ‘Three Billboards’

More: The growing racial backlash against ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,’ explained

Review: Gary Oldman lends rousing glory as Churchill to a decent ‘Darkest Hour’

More: ‘Wonder’ film brings hope for children living with facial deformities

Lucky — a warm and slightly weird portrait of an odd but immensely likable old man, not unlike the real-life 90-year-old legend, Harry Dean Stanton, who plays him. Stanton died shortly after the filming, making this a perfect swan song, and must viewing for fans of the great character actor.

Mudbound — a potent and painful drama about racial divides among poor white and black farm workers in the Mississippi of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Much of the film’s distinctiveness may be traced to the film having women as director, cinematographer, and editor.

Lady Bird — a lovely film that breathes new life into the timeworn coming-of-age drama, focusing on the volatile relationship between daughter and mother (brilliantly played by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.)

Hostiles — a new revisionist take on the Western, exploring the relationship between a cavalry officer (Christian Bale) and an aging Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi), who have to get along after years of bloody conflict.

Video: ‘Mudbond’ trailer illustrates racial hate in powerful story

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Review: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf power the hilariously charming ‘Lady Bird’

Video: Bale on ‘different’ Western ‘Hostiles’: ‘As dark as you can get’

Call Me By Your Name — an evocative coming-of-age drama, about a teenage boy who is awakening to desire, in the person of a young man who is working with his father, in the sun-drenched Lombardy, Italy, of the 1980s. The script is by the great James Ivory, and has the feel of his Merchant-Ivory classics. 

Get Out — an effective horror flick, considerably elevated by the grafting of racial themes on the genre. Envision The Stepford Wives, reimagined by James Baldwin.

Molly’s Game — The true story of a brilliant woman whose aspirations of being an Olympic skier were waylaid by injury, but who then stumbles into success, running high-stakes celebrity poker games in Los Angeles and New York. The script is by the highly regarded Aaron Sorkin (of The West Wing, A Few Good Men and The Social Network.) This time he also directs. 

Review: ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is a first-love story to savor

More: ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Get Out’ make the cut for Producers Guild Awards nominations

Review: Aaron Sorkin, Jessica Chastain are a winning pair in poker tale ‘Molly’s Game’

I wish to also offer specific praise to what would be among the best films of the year, except it was a television mini-series and not theatrical: The Vietnam War,by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

And here are a few honorable mention selections: Blade Runner 2047,Loving Vincent, Chasing Trane, Coco, I Call Him Morgan, Battle of the Sexes,Beauty and the Beast and Victoria and Abdul.

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