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Brent Northup

Now that most of last year’s best films have finally sauntered into Helena, it’s time to assemble our Top 10 list to honor the best of 2017.

This year’s “empty popcorn bag” of films we never saw, includes “Call Me by Your Name”. “Call Me” might well belong on this list. My apologies to that much-admired film, but you can’t win if you don’t show up. “I, Tonya” is also MIA, but arrives Friday at the Myrna.

Some years I just fall in love with one film, and place it on top like a shining Christmas star adorning the family tree. That was the case with “Moonlight” for 2016, “Brooklyn” for 2015 and “Boyhood” for 2014.

The year 2017 was different. I loved a number of films, but none of them swept me out of my seat. Some of the Oscar favorites made the list, but I also celebrate films the Academy undervalues.

I’m drawn to films which illuminate the human condition and probe the values that guide us, but I can also be swept away by poetic craftsmanship. Some movies are so exquisitely molded that they should be streamed across museum walls.

I have little patience for mindless action films, low-minded comedies or money-grabbing sequels, prequels and remakes.

My top film this year is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” because of its raw honesty and its search for the light peeking out from behind dark faces. What begins as a cautionary tale of insensitive cops evolves into a story of redemption. The script highlights and condemns our tendency to judge too quickly. The film’s power comes from two memorable and layered performances: Frances McDormand as a vengeful mother and Sam Rockwell as the multi-layered cop. Both could and should win Oscars.

Behind “Billboards” on the list are a couple of brilliantly crafted films: “The Post” and “Dunkirk” featuring masterful directing by Steven Spielberg and by Christopher Nolan.

Coming next? Coming of age! “Lady Bird” focuses on a sassy redhead who surpasses her mom’s disconfirming expectations; “Molly’s Game” watches a bright young lady outsmart herself and make regrettable choices; and “Novitiate” watches a young girl break free from an atheist mother and head for a convent.

I also celebrate three wonderfully crafted movies that remind us, yet again, that film is capable of rising to high art: “Shape of Water,” “Phantom Thread” and “Darkest Hour.”

Closing out the list are two sweet feel-good tales, “The Big Sick,” about intercultural romance, and “Wonder,” about a boy with a facial deformity navigating the cruel jungle of junior high.

Will the Best Picture come from this list? Probably, with “Three Billboards,” “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk” and “Shape of Water” hoping to be the last film honored on Sunday, March 4.

And, of course, to conclude the annual retrospective I drill through to the other side of the film universe to see what cringe-inducing movies hide there.

The verdict? “The Mummy” wins “Worst Film of the Year.”

On a more colorful note, “Coco” is decidedly the best family film of 2017.


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