2017 [in films]

Sneaking this in both under the wire (IĀ will get this post up on January 1!) and on a blog I bet you’ve forgotten about by now. Resolution in 2018: write, write, write.

This year marked a whole bunch of change for me, chief among them my leap into self-employment. It’s been a scary and exhilarating six months of working for myself, and I’m looking forward to what 2018 will bring professionally. Between working my own hours from home and stepping in as Film editor at Third Coast Review, I broke a personal record this year for films watched: 181. (My previous highest year was 160 in 2015.)

In case you’re curious, I track every new-to-me film that I watch. I don’t count series (though I may start in 2018) and I don’t count it if I’ve already seen it. Here’s a breakdown of those 181 films:

  • I saw 56 movies in theaters, or roughly one per week.
  • Forty-two of the 181 (or 23%) films I watched in 2017 were documentaries; 23 were foreign films (this numberĀ always seems low to me each year. Must improve that.)
  • I watched 23 movies in both May and September; in August, I somehow only watched two. I have no idea why.
  • The oldest movie I watched was Rebecca from 1940 (go watch it!), followed by The African Queen (1951), Bonnie & Clyde (1967) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, on a freaking gorgeous, new 70mm print at Music Box Theatre).

Now, onto the good stuff: what I liked best.

With the caveat that as of writing this I haven’t yet seen Call Me By Your Name or Phantom Thread, I’m more than comfortable declaring Mudbound the best film of 2017…according to me.


A stunningly beautiful, remarkably devastating and surprisingly inspiring drama by Dee Rees (Pariah) based on the novel by Hillary Jordan, Mudbound is set in the deep south following World War II. Two veterans – one black and one white – return to their farming families, one share-croppers on the other’s land, and both men find themselves navigating very different homecoming experiences. With a gentle but very serious vision, Rees creates a world weighed down by racism, poverty and ignorance, where the wrong look or a misspoken word can literally get you killed.

Boasting a stellar cast (Carrie Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige and one Jason Mitchell who should be at the top of every Best Supporting Actor list), the film weaves together two parallel but intensely different post-war stories, forcing us to come to terms with the disparate American dreams available to each of us, given our skin tone, education or income. The film is not always easy to watch (in fact, it may have one of the most difficult scenes of the year), but it is essential viewing, and Rees deftly guide us into a very, very dark place only to show us the way out of it, too.

Mudbound didn’t get the attention it deserved, as Netflix opted to give it a small theatrical release before dropping it on the streaming service. But that just means you can see this masterful film now, right this minute. I urge you to turn off your phone and set aside chores for a couple of hours and check out Mudbound, the best film of the year, from the comfort of your own living room.

Of course, I liked a whole bunch of the movies I saw this year, so here’s a quick rundown (and yes, these are in order from most liked on down):

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