It’s February, and here’s the good news: this is when you can binge the Oscar-nominated movies. Here’s the bad news: this is when movie distributors hold their noses and slip the really bad new movies into theaters. So binge away on the best of the year. ( I’ve also written If I Picked the Oscars – before the nominations were announced.) The first two are, deservedly, the Oscar favorites:
- The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s imaginative, operatic inter-species romance may become the most-remembered film of 2017.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a powerful combination of raw emotion and dark hilarity with an acting tour de force from Frances McDormand and a slew of great actors.
- Steven Spielberg’s docudrama on the Pentagon Papers, The Post, is both a riveting thriller and an astonishingly insightful portrait of Katharine Graham by Meryl Streep. It’s one of the best movies of the year – and one of the most important. Also see my notes on historical figures in The Post.
- Pixar’s Coco is a moving and authentic dive into Mexican culture, and it’s visually spectacular.
- Lady Bird , an entirely fresh coming of age comedy that explores the mother-daughter relationship – an impressive debut for Greta Gerwig as a writer and director.
- I, Tonya is a marvelously entertaining movie, filled with wicked wit and sympathetic social comment.
- Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s rapturously beautiful story of a strong-willed man and two equally strong-willed women; unexpectedly witty.
- The Florida Project is Sean Baker’s remarkably authentic and evocative glimpse into the lives of children in poverty, full of the exuberance of childhood.
- Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman brings alive Winston Churchill in an overlooked historical moment – when it looked like Hitler was going to win WW II.
Here’s the rest of my Best Movies of 2017 – So Far. Most of the ones from earlier this year are available on video. Other current choices:
- The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s hilarious docucomedy about the making of one of the most unintentionally funny movies of all time.
- The Final Year, a wistful inside documentary about the Obama Admistration’s foreign policy during his last year.
- The ambitious satire The Square.
- Call Me By Your Name is an extraordinarily beautiful story of sexual awakening set in a luscious Italian summer, but I didn’t buy the impossibly cool parents or the two pop ballad musical interludes.
My Stream of the Week is the riveting psychodrama Phoenix, with its superb performance by Nina Hoss and its WOWZER ending. Phoenix was one of my Best Movies of 2015. It is available to stream from Netflix Instant, Amazon Video, YouTube and Google Play.
On February 13, Turner Classic Movies presents Babette’s Feast (1987), one of my Best Foodie Movies. Two aged 19th century Danish spinster sisters have taken in a French refugee as their housekeeper. The sisters carry on their father’s severe religious sect, which rejects earthly pleasures. After fourteen years, the housekeeper wins the lottery and, in gratitude, spends all her winnings on the ingredients for a banquet that she prepares for the sisters and their friends. As the dinner builds, the colors of the film become warmer and brighter, reflecting the sheer carnality of the repast. The smugly ascetic and humorless guests become less and less able to resist pleasure of the epicurean delights.The feast’s visual highlights are Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce) and Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacée (rum sponge cake with figs and glacéed fruits). This was the first Danish film to win Best Foreign Language Oscar.