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Saturday August 24th 2019

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Top To Bottom: A Year In Movies

By Daniel Barnes

Only one of the ten highest-grossing films of 2017 was not a remake, a sequel or part of an extended comic book universe. That film is the 1980s nostalgia-obsessed “It.” Based on the 1980s bestseller by Stephen King, “It” is a movie that waits until the final credits to inform the audience they just watched “Chapter One” (“Chapter Two” comes out in 2019). Mainstream cinema might be more pre-sold than ever, but film critic Daniel Barnes wasn’t buying, and instead dug deeper to find the brightest cinematic gems of 2017.

Daniel’s Top 10 Films:
1. The Florida Project
While 2017 saw blockbuster cinema nudge ever further up the endless asshole of nostalgia, a path that can only lead to suffocation and death, Sean Baker’s absorbing story of impoverished children running wild in the shadow of Disneyworld felt more alive than anything in years.

2. Phantom Thread
Sumptuous yet surprisingly intimate, a mix of meticulous design and messy emotions, with powerful lead performances from Daniel Day-Lewis as a hyper-controlling fashion designer and Vicky Krieps as the woman who refuses to join his assembly line of ex-girlfriends.

3. Your Name
In a year filled with films that successfully cohabited honest humanity with elements of the supernatural, animator Makoto Shinkai’s metaphysical teenage mind-scrambler rises above the crowd.

4. Good Time
Robert Pattinson’s coolly ferocious con man leaves a trail of damaged lives in his wake in Josh and Benny Safdie’s outrageous urban nightmare, a film that manages to match the relentlessness of its protagonist.

5. Get Out
Jordan Peele’s scathing and satisfying horror movie only grows richer with a second viewing, capturing the terror of being the other in a world run by morally perverse white people. Behold the Coagula!

6. Personal Shopper
The overhyped likes of Margot Robbie and Emma Stone might win the awards, but Kristen Stewart is still the best young actress working today. Her “Clouds of Sils Maria” collaborator Olivier Assayas directs this entrancing story of a medium struggling to connect with her deceased twin.

7. A Ghost Story
It’s easy to dismiss something as sincere as “A Ghost Story,” and slinging feces at David Lowery’s immaculate story of a white-sheeted spirit waiting out eternity has predictably become a sport for film Twitter baboons. But I remain firmly in the corner of this graceful film about the timelessness of grief.

8. mother!
The visceral moviegoing experience of the year, a stupendously tense and disturbing piece of cinema from Darren Aronofsky. If mother! made more money, Michelle Pfeiffer would be collecting wheelbarrows of awards for her devilish supporting performance.

9. Brawl in Cell Block 99
Bone-crunching genre flick nirvana, with a legitimately intimidating Vince Vaughn maiming his way through an underground prison network to save his pregnant wife.

10. Lady Bird
A great Sacramento movie, capturing both our low-key beauty and our high-key inferiority complex, but also a great movie about growing up, with honest performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.

Daniel’s Bottom 5 Films:
1. Baywatch
Other films were more offensive and/or more pretentious, but perhaps no other film in cinema history failed to clear a lower bar of expectations.

2. The Last Face
Dental hygiene foreplay! A sex scene set to the Red Hot Chili Peppers! Wait, what was Sean Penn’s sermonizing stinker about again? African genocide or something. Thank God cinema wasn’t alive to see this.

3. The Book of Henry
The magical treehouse was bad enough, but when a midpoint twist flips “The Book of Henry” into a Manic Pixie Rape Revenge movie, it exposes an ugly core utterly at odds with the film’s apple-cheeked exterior.

4. Hostiles
All the hollow ponderousness of “The Revenant” without the technical exuberance. Christian Bale gruffly mutters like sleepy Batman, but it’s Rosamund Pike who delivers the most embarrassing performance of the year.

5. I Do…Until I Don’t
Writer/director/producer/star Lake Bell leads a shrill ensemble through this shockingly unfunny death march of clichés about love and marriage.

Daniel’s Top 5 Documentaries:
1. LA 92
A harrowing, sweeping, elegantly constructed montage about the Los Angeles riots of 1992, filled with jaw-dropping footage largely captured by camcorder-wielding amateurs.

2. The Work
This woefully underseen emotional powerhouse about physically and emotionally intensive group therapy sessions inside the walls of Folsom Prison left me a blubbering wreck.

3. Dina
Shot and structured more like an indie rom-com than a documentary, this funny, fully drawn love story concerns an autistic couple navigating emotional and sexual minefields on the eve of their wedding.

4. Dawson City: Frozen Time
A stunning work of curation, this story of fortune, folly and film preserved in permafrost contains enough turn-of-the-century celebrity cameos to impress E.L. Doctorow.

5. Kedi
Part God-mode Cats of Instagram story stream, and part travelogue of modern-day Istanbul, “Kedi” provides the fluffy antidote that this year so desperately needed.