Great Movies from 2017 You Might've Missed
2017 was a tremendous year for cinema. Whether it was big budget spectacles like Dunkirk and Logan, or small indie hits like Get Out and Lady Bird, Hollywood managed to deliver an impressive arrangement of great films throughout the entire year. While movies like the Shape of Water, Call Me by Your Name, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri received a ton of attention from the Oscars, other films were unfortunately ignored in the process, going under-appreciated by both audiences and award shows alike. Therefore, I wanted to share a few great films I saw in the past year that might’ve slipped your radar.
Wind River is the first feature film directed by Taylor Sheridan (who previously wrote Sicario and last year’s Oscar nominated Hell or High Water). It stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen (both fresh off runs in Marvel films) as a U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Tracker and an FBI agent. They have to solve the mysterious murder of a young teenage girl on the “Wind River” Native American Reservation in Wyoming. It features a standout performance by Jeremy Renner, and provides an extremely compelling and fascinating thriller that goes into detail about the mistreatment of women on Native American Reservations. It’s a tense, gorgeous, and extremely moving story that succeeds in putting a spin on the Western genre. Unfortunately, this movie was among one of the last movies produced by the Weinstein Company and because of this, it received no attention from the Academy Awards. However, had this film been released any other year it would’ve certainly received a boatload of nominations. Be sure to check out the trailer below if you're at all interested in murder mysteries and/or Westerns.
The Florida Project
The Florida Project is a drama directed by Sean Baker that stars Brooklyn Prince as an adorable seven-year-old girl who lives with her mother in a budget motel in the suburbs of Orlando. The film analyzes extreme poverty and its effects on people through the lens of an innocent child. While the story is somewhat sad and difficult to watch, it is nonetheless a touching and vibrant film that makes gloomy poverty-stricken locations look absolutely gorgeous and full of life. Mr. Baker and his cinematographer, Alexis Zabe, do incredible work using colors, skies, and trees to enhance certain features and create a bright and cheerful mood that matches Brooklyn’s perspective.
Additionally, Willem Dafoe is also in the movie as the manager of the low budget motel. He provides a fantastic performance, acting as the sort of father-figure to all the motel residents and trying to do the best he can to help them. However, the real star of the show is the sweet Brooklyn Prince who gives hands down the performance of the year — and one of the best child-acting performances ever, switching on the spot from being a little angel to a sassy and potty-mouthed brat. The Florida Project was shockingly shut out from the Oscars this year, except for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Willem Dafoe. This is a movie that is full of irresistible charm and magic, but yet is still able to accurately and bluntly address issues in society.
Icarus is a heart-racing documentary produced by Netflix and directed by Bryan Fogel (it can be currently watched on Netflix). The film takes a Super-Size Me approach to documentary and places Mr. Fogel himself as the main character. It follows his journey to try and win the world’s hardest amateur cycling race by taking steroids and PED’s in an attempt to cheat the dope detecting system. Along the way, Fogel gets accidentally caught up in a major international doping scandal as he befriends Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory (that secretly developed protocols that would let Russian athletes cheat and avoid being detected at the Olympics).
Fogel helps Grigory escape to Los Angeles and lives with him for five months, where he helps Grigory whistle-blow the entire Russian operation to the New York Times — the very reason why Russia was banned from competing in last month’s Winter Olympics. The film takes a fascinating look at the politics and scandals plaguing international sports and in the end, creates a high-intensity atmosphere akin to a spy movie. It’s a documentary filled with so many twists and turns, and watching it is a tremendously exciting experience that is an absolute roller-coaster of emotions. For all these reasons, Icarus remains one of the most unique and best movies of the past year and deserved to win Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars last week.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
Norman is an American-Israeli film about a Jewish “fixer” in New York City, named Norman Oppenheimer, played by Richard Gere. Norman is an articulate and educated elderly man who mingles frequently with the Jewish elite of Manhattan in order to convince them to pursue his investment schemes. He is a lonely man who “knows” everybody but has no real friends — and doesn’t exactly have a job that is describable. However, one day he accidentally bumps into an aspiring Israeli politician who goes on to become Prime Minister. He develops a close relationship with this man and uses his new friendship to gain financial support by the Jewish elite. He uses clever business strategies to gain good standing with people and promises to provide them with money that, unfortunately, he doesn’t have. Soon, Norman gets in way over his head and all his various schemes start to fall apart. It becomes clear that everyone he knows will go back to ignoring him.
In the end, Norman has to make a last-ditch attempt to figure out a way to get his life back together. Norman is a character study of loneliness, success, narcissism, and relationships that also succeeds at addressing ethnic conflicts, political corruption, and the Jewish community in America. It is fantastically weaved together by strong direction and a lights out script by Joseph Cedar. However, Richard Gere is the real star of the show, channeling the spirit of Robert DeNiro to give the greatest performance of his career. Throughout the film, Gere’s slight facial tics, spot-on accent, and physical stature truly succeed at emotionally connecting his character with the audience. He absolutely commands every second of camera time. It is truly a fantastic and surprisingly change-of-pace performance from someone who made his career as mostly a pretty face. Additionally, the cast is rounded out by seasoned character actors like Steve Buscemi, Hank Azaria, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Stevens, and Michael Sheen.
Loving Vincent is a British-Polish animated movie that tells a fictionalized version of the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. The film was entirely hand-painted by a team of 125 artists who carefully worked on each one of the 65,000 frames so that they would match the artistic style of Van Gogh’s great works. The result becomes almost impossible for the audience to distinguish and figure out whether the image they’re looking at is from an actual Van Gogh piece, or if it is just the production artists’ unique work. Additionally, the screenplay does an extremely good job of connecting Van Gogh’s various paintings and creating a credible storyline. However, this movie’s crown achievement is without a doubt the fantastic technical and artistic accomplishments that provides one of the most unique and gorgeous films ever created, properly honoring the legacy of Van Gogh.
Logan Lucky is a comedy-heist movie directed by the legendary Steven Soderbergh that tells the story about two simple-minded brothers from South Carolina (played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) who recruit the eccentric and criminal mastermind Joe Bang (played by the hilarious and insane Daniel Craig) to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 race. The film is an entertaining ride from start to finish thanks to a witty and extremely funny script with many twists and turns, effective performances from the entire cast, and, as usual, tight directorial work from Mr. Soderbergh. If you’re a fan of movies like Ocean’s 11, Baby Driver, and The Italian Job then this is the perfect movie for you.
A Fantastic Woman
A Fantastic Woman is a Chilean drama film directed by Sebastian Leilo that tells the story of a transsexual woman named Marina Vidal (played by the amazing Daniela Vega) who is dating a man named Orlando; a man who is 30 years older than her. However, when he falls seriously ill and suddenly dies, she is immediately treated with suspicion and contempt by both the doctors, Orlando’s family, and the police. From then on, Marina must battle everyone around her for the right to be herself and live freely. Fantastic Woman is a touching and sweet film that addresses a sensitive and delicate subject with profound and moving results. It’s trailer Fantastic Woman was met with unanimous critical praise and went on the win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film last weekend.