Best Movies of 2017

The requisite best movie of the year goes to these four films at Novella because we like them and we think everyone else should too. It’s the raw confidence in our ability to discern shit from shinola that carry this illustrious list across the wavelengths straight onto your screen. Nothing else.

Disclaimer: these movies may very well change your life, but not sure if for better or worse.

The Beguiled

Set at a small girl’s schools in Virginia, The Beguiled offers up a dark and intensely female perspective of the American Civil War. When a student discovers a wounded Yankee soldier on school grounds, Mrs. Farnsworth, head mistress, agrees to take him in.  At first, the women are wary of his enemy status, but soon become beguiled by his charm and good looks; his very masculinity is enough to allure.  Once they accept the soldier into their lives, the household dynamic grows increasingly tense; jealously, suspicion and, ultimately, fear rule the space.  The Beguiled is a variation on a theme, building upon Coppola’s films, like Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, that explore the psychological and emotional experiences of women in isolation. Winner of Best Director at Cannes, Coppola’s latest is not to be missed. — RachelIntern

Florence Pugh plays the murderous and mischievous Katherine Lester in this loose adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. In William Oldroyd’s imagination, instead of a Russian estate, rural England in the 19th-century; a colder and lonelier lady of a faraway estate than even Shakespeare’s haunting and haunted Lady Macbeth. The plot is simple: Katherine is married/given to Boris, who is by all accounts a brute, by Boris’s father, Alexander, whose banal and viscid shittiness makes his son look like a charmer. Katherine is not happy. As unhappy marriages on films go, this one’s ills and death are not sickening in their own ways: there’s the requisite affair, fits of violence, and shorter periods of remorse. What truly distinguishes Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is Pugh’s brilliant and eerie performance. It’s difficult to either dislike or like Katherine, whose brutality matches that of her captors; she holds us captive, witnesses and accomplices to her violence. — Hoon, Managing Editor

For some, Girls Trip might seem like an unusual pick for a Best Movie pick but comedian and breakout star Tiffany Haddish performance alone is reason enough to understand why this movie made the list. There have been plenty of movies based on what happens when friends go on vacation. The only difference is this ensemble comedy actually delivers the laughs. The chemistry between the four women allows for cathartic dose of female-drive silliness and provide us with many hilarious moments. We all could use a good laugh after surviving this crazy year.

After the release of the unforgettable Tangerine in 2015, I knew that writer/director Sean Baker was one to watch for. His storytelling style came across as honest and poignant, something he maintains in this year’s release, The Florida Project. The story follows six-year-old Moonee and her mother Halley living day-to-day in a budget motel just outside of Disney World. Baker returns here with a wonderfully raw and real script, lived out flawlessly by breakout stars Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinai as the daughter and mother, respectively. I had put this article on my Fall Movie Preview list, and I’m so glad I did. Unlike many other films exploring the state of poverty in America, this one does so without a lick of condescension or hand-wringing. It brings genuine emotion, hope and compelling characters to the table, while drawing attention to serious ongoing economic issues. See this one. I mean it. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Novella’s Fall Movie Preview

As we fully immerse ourselves in summertime, we also find ourselves bombarded with summer blockbusters — big-budget, questionably written, made-for-popcorn flicks that have folks heading to theatres in droves to watch some action and enjoy the intense air conditioning. Right now, however, we’re going to look past those blockbusters and into the future — the future meaning the fall. Fall, in the movie world, is a mix of winter blockbusters dropping, independent movies finally getting distribution, and documentaries seeing the light of day. We’ve pulled from all three of these categories to bring you our fall movie preview.

Note that movies times are always subject to change, but these are the current release dates for the films below.

Dolores — September 1

© 2016 Sundance Institute | photo by George Ballis.

Dolores Huerta, the American activist and co-founder of the country’s first farmworkers union, lived an extraordinary life. She fought against gender bias and for unions while raising eleven children. Her incredible and inspirational story is told in this documentary directed by Peter Bratt, which premiered at Sundance and is now set for North American release on September 1st.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle — September 22

Whether you hated or loved the sheer ridiculousness and camp of the first Kingsman movie, you have to admit that it was memorable. The exploding heads scene stands out in my mind as a particularly visceral experience. This September, the long-awaited sequel, directed by Matthew Vaughan, will hit theatres, bringing together the original British cast with some American newcomers, namely Channing Tatum and Julianne Moore.

Blade Runner 2049 — October 6

Many have high hopes for this hotly anticipated sequel to the science fiction classic Blade Runner, which originally came out in 1982. A cult classic, Blade Runner is based on the story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and is a milestone for the genre. In Blade Runner 2049, Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard and is joined by Ryan Gosling as a younger, but somehow just as world-weary, cop. Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, this is one that may be polarizing for die-hard fans, but will definitely be entertaining.

The Florida Project — October 6

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Sean Baker, the director behind the runaway hit Tangerine, turns his lens on a different subject: kids. The Florida Project centres around a group of children who are homeless but have days filled with child-like wonder and excitement. It looks like the rawness and unusual beauty of Tangerine will be present in The Florida Project. Having premiered at Cannes, an early review called it a “near-perfect film.”

Happy Death Day — October 13

Happy Death Day may or may not be a good movie. It may fall into the elusive category of “cultish horror hit” but in all likeliness may become another unmemorable slasher flick. However, the structure of this is unusual: a college student relives the same day and has to solve her own murder. I’m hoping for some kick-ass final-girl moments and the same type of black humour and cultural commentary found it the Purge movies, which come from the same production team. Director Christopher B. Landon did, however, direct the last three Paranormal Activity movies, so what we may get is a lot of jump scares and pitched screaming.

Marshall — October 13

Chadwick Boseman takes on the role of lawyer Thurgood Marshall in this biographical drama directed by Reginald Hudlin. Marshall famously became the first African-American supreme court judge, but this movie centres around an early case: his defence of a black chauffeur against his wealthy white employer on accusations of sexual assault and attempted murder. Josh Gad also stars as Samuel Friedman, the young Jewish lawyer paired with Marshall on the case. Oscar fodder? Potentially. But it’s also the kind of content production companies need to be paying attention to.

Thor: Ragnorak — November 3

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is expanding. Constantly. These guys put out sequels faster than the Wrong Turn flicks did in their prime. The latest Marvel drop has us back with Thor who we last saw in The Dark World, a not-so-great follow-up to a not-bad first movie. This time around, though, Marvel’s taking a different approach. They’ve got New Zealand director Taika Waititi at the helm and a promising ’80s vibe. I’m hoping for tons of references to classic ’80s sci-fi and fantasy, but even if you’re not keen on that, might I point you in the direction of Chris Hemsworth on a big screen for two hours?

The Killing of a Sacred Deer — November 3

Yorgos Lathimos’s film The Lobster was a critical hit. Dark, weird, and funny, it was described as “brutal and rapturously romantic” by Rolling Stone and received over 70 award nominations. This November, Lathimos returns with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as a couple that takes in a teenage son. The summary is purposefully vague, but early reviews are rapturous and regular moviegoers like myself are definitely curious to see more of Lathimos’ work.

The Shape of Water — December 8

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Guillermo del Toro, the man behind both hits and flops, is undeniably creative and ridiculously good at creating atmosphere. His latest has yet to have a trailer or a full summary, but it’s been described as more romantic than del Toro’s other films. It features Sally Hawkins as a cleaner that comes across a scientific experiment in a 1960s research lab. We can assume, given the director, there’s got to be some kind of monster action involved.

Star Wars: Episode VIII — December 15

Le’s face it, Star Wars is here to stay. It’s one of the biggest, most iconic movie franchises of all time, and while the new Disney additions to the canon were met with mixed excitement from Star Wars fans, the franchise shows no sign of slowing down. Last year’s Rogue One was a stand-alone in the franchise, but now we’re back to where Episode VII left off, with the reappearance of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. This episode is directed by Rian Johnson but of course still has George Lucas credited on the screenplay. You can bet I’ll be in the theatre on opening night for this one.

Phantom Thread — December 25

Photo by Glenn Kilpatrick, The Whitby Photographer

Daniel Day Lewis’ final film before retirement reportedly has him playing couture designer Charles James in 1950s London. Little else is known about the movie; plot summaries are vague at best, but the combination of Lewis with director Paul Thomas Anderson has everyone in a tizzy. The last time the two worked together was on the critical hit There Will Be Blood, which earned Lewis an Oscar for his performance.

The Breadwinner — October

Cartoon Salon’s newest animated film is a Canadian-Irish-Luxembourgian collaboration, with Angelina Jolie as a producer. The film is set in Afghanistan and tells the story of Parwana, a 12-year-old girl who poses as a boy to earn money to help her family. Forget the idea that animated movies are made solely for children, The Breadwinner is one that could be appreciated by everyone.

Act & Punishment — November

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Back in 2015, Russian director Yivgeni Mitta documented the punk band Pussy Riot after their release from prison and subsequent rise as activists. Now, the movie has finally been picked up for North American distribution to be released this November, coinciding with a soundtrack release and international tour. After all, Pussy Riot started as a band, and they still are, but they’ve also become so much more.

Bright — December

So we’ve got Netflix. We’ve got Netflix and Will Smith and Joel Edgerton and a modern fantasy directed by David Ayer. Little else is known about this movie, except that Smith plays a cop and Egerton plays an orc. Also, there’s this world where magical creatures live alongside humans. Netflix has hit a comfortable place where it is producing both good and bad content, but not enough is known about Bright to know where it may stand. That being said, Max Landis, writer of the sci-fi cult hit Chronicle, penned the script, so things are looking promising.

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