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2017's Best Films, and How the Oscars Blew It.

by Bob Devine (Published in the 03/04/18 issue of the Idaho State Journal)

2017 was a long and interminable year by most measures that I can think of. The political discourse was excruciating, (and continues to be), as both ends of the spectrum continue to talk over each other, and it seems that the sheer quantity of information streaming from the media, and social sites, is overloading our senses. It's hard to figure out what's happening from one week to the next, much less over an entire year.

I believe the Oscar nominations, and those who dole them out, also fell victim to information overload this year. The fixation on movies that came out in November and December, with the exception of "Get Out" and "Dunkirk," left a lot of great movies out in the cold. With this shortsightedness, I think the Academy does a disservice. This is not to say that the movies nominated are not good movies, but that 2017 was an interesting year in film from beginning to end. Some truly great performances were overlooked and should have been recognized.

Could it be that voters in the Academy were lazy in their decision making? Instead of going through the entire timeline of 2017 it can be easier to pick a movie like "The Post" which didn't even come out in wide release until 2018, because it has powerhouse stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Even though the movie is good, it was a bit sloppy, and didn't deserve the nomination compared to some other films.

And the best actress this year may not even win the Oscar because she was nominated for the wrong movie. That would be Sally Hawkins, who put in a great performance in "The Shape of Water," but whose stunning and exquisite performance in the movie "Maudie," was hands down the best performance of the year. Frances McDormand from "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri" could very well win when compared to Hawkins' "Shape of Water" performance, but voters would be hard pressed to vote against Hawkins' "Maudie."

I also want to give a shout out to Woody Harrelson, who should get an Oscar for his body of work in 2017, (if they offered such an award). He earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri." But he also played in three other stellar roles, including the villain in "War for the Planet of the Apes," an idealistic but dysfunctional dad in "The Glass Castle," and former President Lyndon Baines Johnson in "LBJ." Has anyone ever earned a lifetime achievement award for one year's work? Harrelson may just deserve one.

So with that, let me tell you what I think the Best Picture Nominees should have been from lowest to highest. Feel free to disagree, but if you didn't get a chance to see some of these, it might be worth the time to seek them out.

10. Tie - "The Greatest Showman" - Reminiscent of "Moulin Rouge," "The Greatest Showman" combines pop lyricism with an age old tale of those living on the margins of society banding together as a collective to become more than their individual parts. A guilty pleasure, but a delight nonetheless. I could easily have put "Wind River" here also, which is another stellar movie about a murder mystery on the Wind River Indian Reservation, so I guess I will call this a tie in afterthought, because I like both movies so well.

9. "Some Freaks" - If you have to pick a young adult film, this is the one. "Lady Bird" left me wanting more, and "Patti Cake$" was surprisingly good, but this small budget indie movie, touching on bullying and relationships, has such authenticity. More people should see it.

8. "Get Out" - Jordan Peele's film is a new classic social commentary film, both comedic and horrifying in turns, as a young black man follows his girlfriend to white suburbia only to find that his unease is not misplaced.

7. "Darkest Hour" - Gary Oldman transforms into Winston Churchill whose shaky rise to power in Britain comes just as Europe is descending into war. "Dunkirk" was a good war film also, but too scattered. The better film touching on the events at Dunkirk is “Darkest Hour.”

6. "The Shape of Water" - A parable of sorts about humanity and inhumanity, using an alien creature in captivity to show what humans are capable of, both good and bad.

5. "Logan" - Though it probably suffered because of lack of respect for the genre, both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart deserved Oscar consideration for their final turns as the X-Men characters Wolverine and Dr. Xavier who must rescue and protect a young girl who holds the keys to the future.

4. "The Big Sick" - Based on a true story, this insightful comedy/drama looks at relationships through the eyes of a Pakistani comic who must develop a relationship with his girlfriend's parents when she takes ill and falls into a coma.

3. "War for the Planet of the Apes" - Not since the "Lord of the Rings" has there been such a cohesive and well told trilogy, as Caesar leads the battle for the apes survival.

2. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri" - Frances McDormand is magnificent as a grieving mom who tries to find justice for her daughter. If not for an ending that begs a sequel, this may have been the best movie of the year.

1. Tie: "Maudie" and "Detroit" - Both overlooked by the Academy, these starkly different stories are the best of the year. I can't decide which is better. The story of Maud Lewis whose stunning art out of a small home in the middle of nowhere Nova Scotia while battling crippling arthritis is a completely satisfying, artistic and reflective tale. "Detroit," on the other hand is a haunting, chaotic, and uncomfortable true story of the social struggle in inner city Detroit during the riots of 1967. It highlights the racial distrust that exists to this day between the black community and law enforcement agencies throughout our country.

So that's it. Whether you agree or disagree, I encourage you to find your way to see these movies and decide for yourself.

Bob Devine is the longtime coordinator for the Pocatello Film Society, as well as being an events columnist for the Idaho State Journal, and a banker at a local financial institution. For a more complete listing of the 30 best movies of 2017, go to