The Movies that You Didn’t Know Rocked in 2017 (And Some that You Did)

As 2017 comes to a close, we look back on the year when movies came back to life. Truthfully, this happened in 2016 but the effects of those releases were not felt until the past year; people began talking about movies again. Admittedly, we had a lot of catching up to do. We spent the last days of 2017 (and some of the first of 2018) catching up on some of the titles we missed. We now want to share with you some of our favorites from the year. Keep in mind, we certainly have not seen everything, and the focus here is to expose some of the films that may have gone under the radar.

As to avoid making this 1000 pages long, there isn’t a full review of anything, but if you’d like some elaboration on a film you’re more than welcome to drop me a line. You can email me, Maxwell di Paolo (Staff Writer) or find me on Twitter, or feel free to check out my Letterboxd account, which admittedly isn’t up to date. You can also comment on Spirit Animal’s Facebook or Twitter pages.


 

Phantom Thread

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

Where to watch: Currently in theaters (showtimes)

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favorite American Filmmakers working today. Unlike his movies in the past, which are known for their non-conforming wild writing structure, this is a perfectly tailored script. I believe it to be representative of a dress, the very garment that the film’s lead character Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day Lewis) is famous for crafting. The film features incredible performances by its leads,  breathtaking cinematography (credited to Anderson himself), beautiful costumes, and an objectively great ending.  

 

Good Time

Directors: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Talia Webster, Buddy Durress

Where to watch: Available for rent through several video platforms

Contrary to the title, this isn’t really a fun movie to watch. The first major event depicts Connie (Robert Pattinson) performing a bank heist with his mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie). Nick ends up in jail, and Connie spends the rest of the film attempting to break his brother out without landing himself in prison. Pattinson delivers as a charismatic, but manipulative criminal, hopping from one atrocity to the next. This is the third feature by the Safdie Brothers and, dare I say, their best to date. Cinematography by Sean Price Williams is not to be missed. It might not be a good time, but it’s a great movie.

 

On the Beach at Night Alone

Director: Hong Sang-soo
Starring: Min-hee Kim

Where to watch: Limited Release (check website for listings)

One of THREE features released by Hong Sang-soo in 2017 alone, and my favorite of the two I’ve seen (still dying to see Claire’s Camera). Hong makes films that tend to reflect on his life events (Affluent men, often directors, having affairs with young women and feeling guilty about it, sort of). This, instead, is told from the perspective of the woman involved in the affair, and how she suffers from public scrutiny as well as the loss of the relationship. Hong’s films are not just known for their dramatics, but also for their manipulation of time, which plays a prominent role in this film as well.


Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

Where to watch: Currently in theaters (showtimes)

What more can really be said about Lady Bird? This small independent drama covering a high school girl’s senior year, has apparently taken the U.S. by storm. Again, there’s a lot out there from criticism to interviews, so I am going to save my words here. See it, if you haven’t already.

 

 

The Future Perfect (El Futuro Perfecto)

Director: Nele Wohlatz
Starring: Xiaobin Zhang, Saroj Kumar Malik

Where to watch: Currently Unavailable ):

The Future Perfect is one of my absolute favorites of 2017. This 65 minute film (a format I wish more films would adapt), tells the story of a young woman moving from China to Argentina to live with her family. The actress is also the living subject of the film, and it adapts a pseudo documentary style presenting questions to its lead from the perspective of her Spanish teacher. It is deadpan, funny, heartwarming and a brilliant look into the process of adapting to new surroundings.

 


 

Twin Peaks: The Return

Director: David Lynch
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, David Lynch

Where to watch: Streaming through Showtime

A massive controversy has brewed over whether or not David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return should be considered a movie or TV. Though I understand points from both sides, I am including it on my list simply because it is revolutionary in either genre. The return to Twin Peaks after a 25 year hiatus unfolds slowly, at times painfully so, and if you’re looking for closure on what has been reanimated as a favorite TV thriller, well, don’t get your hopes up. This is more about immersing its audience in something larger, something bigger than what can be presented. Episode 8 deservedly gets the most credit for bringing avant-garde filming techniques and storytelling into the living room, but truthfully the entire season is worth every second of its 18 hours.

 

Princess Cyd

Director: Stephen Cone
Starring: Rebecca Spence, Jessie Pinnick

Where to watch: Available for rent through several video platforms

Stephen Cone’s newest feature Princess Cyd is for me on par with Lady Bird when it comes to young female coming of age stories. The movie bites off slightly more than it can chew when tackling its wide range of issues, but wow is it emotionally evocative. I found myself on the verge of tears several times throughout this piece. Rebecca Spence deserves an award for her performance.


 

The Little Hours

Director: Jeff Baena
Starring: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci

Where to watch: Available for rent through several video platforms

I think I was in the minority in being an enormous fan of Jeff Baena’s previous film Joshy, which I urge everyone to see (streaming on Hulu), but when I saw the explicit trailer for The Little Hours, I knew I was going to love it. The Little Hours is a period piece based on The Decameron following the lives of the occupants of a countryside convent. It’s comedic exploration of women forced into becoming nuns is perfect for today’s political climate. I should also mention that this has a powerhouse cast; Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, John C. Riley, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, to name a few. It absolutely delivers on the laughs while remaining poignant throughout.

 

Anti Porno

Director: Sion Sono
Starring: Ami Tomite, Mariko Tsutsui

Where to watch: Currently unavailable ):
 

If for no other reason than its absolute creative insanity it is worth giving Sion Sono’s newest film a watch. I am going to warn you, this is the most NSFW movie on the list. Several Japanese filmmakers have challenged themselves to making a modern take on the “pink film” a soft core pornography genre that emerged in 1960s. Some of the rules in making these new films, were that they had to remain 72 minutes in length, and had to include a sex scene every 10 minutes. From the films title alone you can gauge that this isn’t a typical pornographic picture, and rather challenges the aesthetics of femininity and the position of the woman in society. It is absolutely brilliant, with a color palette that dazzles the eye.

Spirit Animal