These are the films that inspired me, made me cry (from joy), laugh and believe in movies.
1. THE SHAPE OF WATER - This is Del Toro’s best (and my favorite) film of the year. It’s a masterful and beautifully done love story that tackles interracial relationships in the form of Elsa, a mute, who falls in love with basically "The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s" cousin.
2. GET OUT - Who knew Jordan Peele not only had it in him to write a scary and funny (well we knew he was funny) film that would become the first $100M for a Black Director? "Get Out" is a scathing look at racism (overt and subtle) in America and requires several viewings to understand how deep Peele went with details.
3. WONDER WOMAN - Gal Gadot was born to play the role. She will be like Christopher Reeve as Superman or Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. She is the embodiment of the film. And Patty Jenkins also managed to tell a love story that didn’t bring the action story down as has been the case in most female-driven superhero stories before it.
4. LOGAN - "Logan" is the Wolverine film that we were all waiting all these years for that isn’t really a superhero film. Yes, it’s very much "X-Men," but James Mangold’s masterpiece takes the characters of Logan" and "Prof X so much further.
5. SPLIT - Wow, I have ragged on my Philly brother M Night Shamalamadingdong for years. Years! But M Night delivered an extremely tense thriller that starts four minutes into the film. James McAvoy should earn an acting nom for the 27 distinct personalities he plays and Anya Taylor Joy has expressions that were made for the camera. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to give away too much, but the ending sent it over the top for me.I hope M. Night manages to keep it up with the upcoming "Glass."
6. PHANTOM THREAD - If you see a movie, leave the theater and don’t talk about it, then it’s equivalent to a Disney ride. Soooo, this is a quirky, rom-com about a London dress designer in the 1950s who falls in love with a waitress. Their relationship is anything but normal, but would you expect that from Daniel Day-Lewis (in what he says is his last film) and Paul Thomas Anderson who did "There Will Be Blood" and "Boogie Nights"? The cinematography is lush. The costume design is exquisite and the script is tongue-in-cheek brilliant
7. WIND RIVER - Two Avengers reunite in this chilling mystery/thriller. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are outstanding as Olsen’s rookie FBI agent teams up with Renner's Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Service Tracker to investigate the murder of a young Native American woman. It unfortunately has not gotten the push it deserves because it is a victim of the Weinstein scandal. It deserves better.
8. I, TONYA - While most of the attention has been focused on Margot Robbie transforming into Harding (she should have put on more weight - have you seen Tonya Harding’s thighs?) it is Allison Janney who steals the show as her verbally and physically abusive mom, LaVonna Gordon. Another supporting stand- out is Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn, Jeff Gillooley’s friend, who planned the Kerrigan attack. The film is bitingly funny and sad simultaneously and I actually came away with sympathy for Harding.
9. HOSTILES - Here, Christian Bale plays a legendary Army captain who reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory. Along the way, he meets recently widowed Rosamund Pike who just lost her entire family to a Cheyenne tribe. The film lives up to its title as it takes a raw look at brutality and violence from all sides and what it takes for us to come together as a people. For me, this is the best western I have seen since “The Revenant,” and Bale is in top form here.
10. THE POST - This film, on the surface, is about a cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents who pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. But with Meryl Streep (who is excellent and should be nominated here) it is really about (also super timely) a woman’s voice finally being heard in a male-dominated world. I want to say how good Tom Hanks here is as well as Ben Bradlee, but the real stand-out is “Better Call Saul’s” Bob Odenkirk as journalist Ben Bagdikian. Another is “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse Plemons as an accountant. Also, look for Plemons in “Hostiles” as well.