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Jensen Karp's 10 Favorite Movies of 2017

Jensen Karp's 10 Favorite Movies of 2017

It’s been a weird year. And not just because the headline “President Fires Omarosa” involved the White House and not just a reality show that where Gene Simmons makes brownies to sell in Times Square. It’s been a weird year across the board. And I think we have 3 more years of this. We’re witnessing an artistic community that is both completely fed up and dying to be politically active, but also hoping to create an unrelated brief getaway for the public—a fleeting freedom—from the awful reality we live in. And that makes sense.

For the past few years I’ve written up this Top 10 Movies list for The Hundreds (here’s last year’s for example, and 2015), and since I’ve usually seen every movie already, it’s no problem. This year, I found myself catching up and cramming flicks at the last minute. Maybe it’s because I’m busy watching MSNBC and sulking like the snowflake I am. Or maybe it’s because there’s more places than ever to watch premium movies and I can’t follow along like I used to (I’m waiting for Coinbase to announce a web series produced by Christopher Nolan). Or maybe it’s just that I’m having the same dilemma that artists are. Am I supposed to find the work that criticizes our current state of affairs or gravitate towards media that makes me mindlessly giggle? Hell, I followed an Instagram account this month that JUST features people falling down. It’s a conundrum that isn’t easy to answer, but I do think creating this year’s list was like the line at Round Two on Melrose: it took a long time to get into, but once inside, I’m probably buying a Supreme shirt with a hole in it. I hope you enjoy my favorites and remember, as always: I didn’t ask for your opinion.

10. The Florida Project

Writer / Director Sean Baker might just be the most exciting filmmaker working today. I’ve been waiting for his follow-up to 2015’s Tangerine anxiously, and with The Florida Project, I witnessed the evolution in his work I was hoping for. Again casting from the untapped, finding his female lead on Instagram and many actors just walking down the street (the only “professional” is the genius Willem Dafoe), Baker paints a mostly slow-drying picture of the homeless community in Orlando, Florida, neighboring the storybook atmosphere of Disneyworld, but sharing none of its joy. Reminiscent of Larry Clarke’s molasses pacing and reality-blurring plot, the movie’s final 15 minutes (and performance of 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince) are so intense, it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. So stick out the “What is this movie even about?” and reap the long lasting benefits.

9. IT

Like most of you, Tim Curry’s portrayal of a murderous and supernatural party clown named Pennywise, from the 1990 IT TV mini-series, has plagued my nightmares since childhood. But guess what? That shit does NOT HOLD UP. You may think it does, but it doesn’t. It’s cheesy and is paced like a soap opera’s Halloween episode. When it was announced that they’d be remaking IT in two parts for theaters, a task originally bequeathed to True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga before that show went to hell in a hand basket, I was skeptical. With the original TV movie holding up worse than eBay prices on Jordans after Yeezys came out, I wasn’t sure it was something we even needed to revisit. But I was wrong. Andy Muschietti, whose Mama debut didn’t impress me much, really does a steady job making this a watchable thriller. Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise might just be the iconic portrayal the update needed, and Finn Wolfhard continues to standout as the millennial Corey Feldman. It’s a scary Stand By Me, so bring on Part 2!

8. Logan

Once in middle school, my best friend’s family decided to surprise me with expensive rollerblades for Christmas. It was slightly shocking since the $350 price tag was WAY more than anyone would expect from a friend. When my mom called his parents to explain that I just couldn’t accept the pricey present, they explained they were going bankrupt, and these purchases were one last hurrah before they defaulted on all their debts. Considering their somewhat criminal explanation, and despite many thanks, we did decide to give them back the gift. Well, Logan is sort of Fox’s rollerblades. Right before selling the farm to Disney, they put out what might be the most meaningful and emotional Marvel movie yet. Hugh Jackman returns one last time to play Wolverine, now aging and caring for an ailing Professor X, while James Mangold’s delicate, yet horrifically violent direction is superb. Like an orchestra conductor, he cues gunshots, superhuman kicks, and a layered performance from 11-year-old Daphne Keen as X-23, to prove there’s still original life left in comic book adaptations. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino made a noir film about Wolverine’s retirement, and then get ready for an upcoming Wolverine Disney reboot, because it ain’t gonna be anything like this.

7. Wind River

If a movie has the name Taylor Sheridan anywhere attached to it, I’m lining up. He wrote two of my favorite movies of this decade with Sicario (his FIRST produced script!) and Hell or High Water, and when it was announced he’d be directing his first studio flick, Wind River, I welcomed his creative jump. This neo-Western murder mystery stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as two detectives trying to solve a murder on a Wyoming Indian Reservation. Fun fact: this movie was produced by Harvey Weinstein, just like many of your favorite Oscar-worthy films since the ’90s, but for all future digital or Blu-ray releases, his shit-stained name will deservingly be scrubbed from the credits. Now that’s a happy ending (something you won’t really find in this movie). Sheridan’s next script is a sequel to Sicario, and he’ll soon work with Logan director James Mangold, so expect to see his name on my top movies list for years to come, as a long as The Hundreds keeps paying me to do them!

6. Get Out

Jordan Peele’s creative directorial debut might just be the only acceptable reason for why he walked away from the brilliant Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele. A suspenseful metaphor, and literal tale, of racial divide, Jordan does the unthinkable with Get Out by making a thought-provoking movie with scares. In a world where we’ve seen endless “scary” movies about a doll, Peele’s influence of Night of the Living Dead, and even Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, went a long way. In addition to being a great introduction to actor Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, and Bradley Whitford also turn in great performances as a white family looking to make America great again. In the least, please let this movie forever be referenced when idiot Stacey Dash is getting dragged on Twitter.

5. Baby Driver

Don’t let the fact that Kevin Spacey is a lecherous garbage can of a human ruin the last movie you’ll hopefully see him in. This Edgar Wright heist flick acts as almost a music video for cars, utilizing its soundtrack almost better than any movie I’ve ever seen (and it makes a Young M.C. album cut sound good, which is NOT an easy task). Baby Driver is a nice departure from Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, which included Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and End of the World, proving how versatile the director can be when away from his friends. Outside of the sexual predator Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Jon Hamm round out an impressive ensemble for what is the best bank robbery movie since Heat (sorry, 30 Minutes or Less). Here’s to hoping they can digitally replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer someday.

4. Brigsby Bear

To explain this movie is to spoil it, so just trust me and peep this lighthearted drama starring SNL’s Kyle Mooney (who co-wrote the script) and directed by his Good Neighbor cohort Dave McCary. It’s at least the best movie this year to star Mark Hamill. It lives in an optimistic universe rarely seen in modern day cinema that can’t help but infect you with its earnestness. The Lonely Island guys produce (Samberg appears briefly) this ode to pop culture obsession that is somehow being forgotten during awards season in the Best Screenplay category. What the hell? I can’t praise this one enough, so pop the tape in your VCR and let the folklore of Brigsby take you away.

3. Lady Bird

I’m sure that at this point you’ve read enough gloating about this gem, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, but I can’t help but pile on the praise. It’s a perfect representation of being 18 and knowing as little about your identity as you do anything 10 miles outside of your hometown. It’s the instance in life where you have no clue what’s going on, yet pretend to know everything. Your mom or dad is the enemy, but also the only thing keeping you alive. Saoirse Ronan is outstanding as Lady Bird, Beanie Feldstein shines as her best friend and Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf is your even money bet for Best Supporting Actress—if you’re a degenerate gambler who bets on those sorts of things. It’s Gerwig’s first movie at the helm, which will be pointed out ad nauseam come Oscar time when it’s nominated for everything, but make sure they also mention the gaggle of projects she should be offered by major studios now, because we need more working female directors. It’s all the rage for a reason—go see Lady Bird.

2. Downsizing

How this movie has a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 25% Audience Score is BEYOND ME. Maybe it’s because Alexander Payne’s newest offering isn’t exactly what you think it’s going to be—a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids it is not. Matt Damon stars as a man who’s volunteered to shrink himself down to five inches as part of a government program to lessen our environmental footprint, but after an unforeseen hiccup, finds himself alone and in a downward life spiral. There’s no way to predict where this movie ends up taking you; it teeters on dystopian Sci-Fi at times, but it made me laugh harder than any other movie in 2017. Though her role has been deemed racially problematic in recent reviews, Hong Chau steals every scene she’s in and portrays my favorite, most layered character of the year. I’m not sure why I’m the only person who vocally loves this movie, but I’m fine sitting at a table of one. Also keep in mind, Barbershop: The Next Cut has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90%.

1. Coco

2017 has been privy to way too much heavy-handed bullshit for one country to handle, so it’s no surprise that an animated movie is my favorite of the year. Pixar’s newest release was the escape I needed to survive the final few months of what appears to be the most extreme gaslighting in the history of the United States. The movie follows 12-year-old Miguel Rivera who finds himself transported to the land of the dead, while attempting to follow his forbidden passion of playing the guitar. In Hollywood, where Hispanic representation, or Mexican-influenced stories come few and far between (unless it’s Narcos or any another criminal drama), Coco is culturally groundbreaking, and now the highest grossing film of all-time in Mexico. It plays on so many levels, making it just as enjoyable for kids as adults. In my opinion, the music and massive art scale make it Pixar’s most impressive feature yet—and most comprehensive—as they hired playwright Octavio Solis, former CEO of Mexican Heritage Corp, Marcela Davison Aviles and an early critic of the movie, Mexican cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, to form a cultural group of consultation. Smooth move, Pixar. Now make like 2017, or Jon Lasseter, and get the hell out of here and STOP BEING CREEPY.


Honorable Mentions: Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Post, The Big Sick, The Disaster Artist, Jim & Andy, Gerald’s Game, Logan Lucky, The LEGO Batman Movie, War for the Planet of the Apes, Ingrid Goes West, The Shape of Water, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Molly’s Game.

Movies I Haven’t Seen Yet: Blade Runner 2049, Killing of a Sacred Deer, A Ghost Story, Mudbound, Okja, mother!, Good Time, Faces Places, T2 Trainspotting, Wonderstruck, BPM, Lost City of Z, Personal Shopper.

The Movie You Loved That I HATED: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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