2017 Leaman Awards - The Part-Time Critic

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2017 Leaman Awards

*Last Updated: 8/21/2022

2017 Films Seen: 110
Number of Films with 'A' or 'A+': 2
Key Films Still to See: n/a

Brief Summary: The year of the hidden gems, solid mainstream content, disappointing Oscar bait, and the rise of a decent Christian film.

Not a "best of" list or a "favorite" list - but a list of the films and sequences (action, drama, comedy, & musical) that I think represent the best the year had to offer. So think of it as a strange mixture of favorite, best, and defining. Once you get to the top ten films, it definitely becomes more defined as a Top Ten list of the year. The number one film is my favorite of the year. 

Honorable Mentions: All Saints, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Phantom Thread, Quiet Passion, Split

25. The Case for Christ (B)
24. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (B)
23. Darkest Hour (B)
22. The Foreigner (B)
21. American Made (B)
20. Dunkirk (B)
19. The Lost City of Z (B)
18. A United Kingdom (B)
17. Hostiles (B)
16. Logan Lucky (B)
15. The Hitman's Bodyguard (B)
14. Mudbound (B+)
13. The 12th Man (B+)
12. War for the Planet of the Apes (B+)
11. The Promise (B+)

THE TOP TEN
10. Logan (B+)

9. The Post (B+): This film continues Spielberg's recent trend of telling big historical stories through a limited lens. It's great stuff, but similar to War Horse the decision to tell a limited slice of a major historical event leaves the film feeling like a fun experience, but somewhat disposable to me.

8. John Wick: Chapter 2 (B+): A strong first half of the film throws Wick right back into the world of assassins, expands the universe with the concepts of a marker, and the high table. We even get a stylish, patient, and engaging view into the Continental of Rome and its services punctuated by two strong action sequences. Unlike the first film, the second half of this sequel moves at a great pace, offers several more diverse and high quality action sequences without keeping its eye of the story goal. The story isn't much and there's not much depth here, but this sequel has a much stronger overall collection of action sequences, keeps a simple story simple, while widening the John Wick universe with enough intriguing new concepts and characters that it leaves you wanting more. This is the best of the franchise and a fantastic genre entry. For a ranking and rating of every John Wick action scene click HERE.

7. The Big Sick (B+): This semi-autobiographical film from Kumail Nanjiani naturally and effortlessly tells a very touching love story about the value of honesty. Hunter and Romano are impressive and memorable here as a couple going through difficulties, but knowing they will remain with each other.

6. Get Out (B+): One of the best 5 horror films of the decade. Jordan Peele’s film might be considered ‘topical’ due to its intelligent commentary on racism, but I think this one will continue to be well received in the future because it allows its characters to be intelligent as well.

5. Coco (B+): Coco muddles through its first half with pretty standard animated storytelling. However, once it hits a particular story reveal, the film clicks on all cylinders until it hits one of the most powerful and movie third acts in recent memory.

4. Wonder (A-): Looking for an uplifting film to watch with the family? I recommend this underrated gem. Perhaps you never heard of it or perhaps you thought it was going to be too schmaltzy; I recommend you give it a try, I think you're going to like it.

3. Only the Brave (A-)

2. Molly's Game (A-): Chastain was great (obviously), Elba & Costner were great in supporting (obviously), & Sorkin's dialogue was great (again, obviously). This rounds out a strong, driven, intelligent, but still complex female lead trilogy for Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Miss Sloane, Molly's Game). It's got more heart than last year's Miss Sloane, but it's not nearly as fun.

1. Wind River (A): Wind River is even more evidence that no one in film is currently exploring the realities of how we deal with suffering and violence better than Taylor Sheridan right now. The plot of a small-scale murder mystery on a snow-blown Indian reservation allows Sheridan to explore how humans handle violence and isolation. The engaging murder procedural story is interrupted with bursts of shocking violence and mournful reflection. Remember that melancholic scene in No Country for Old Men where the isolated old-timer Ellis tells Tommy Lee Jones the violent story of Uncle Mac’s murder by Indians? It’s as if Sheridan made an entire film around the tone of that sequence and it turned out to be the best film of the year.


FAVORITE ACTION SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Opening: Red Subaru Getaway Thru Atlanta" -Baby Driver
  • "Prison Break: Hobbs & Shaw" -The Fate of the Furious (Commentary)
  • "Knife Fight: Iko vs. Rika on the Beach" -Headshot (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Iko vs. 'Father' Lee" -Headshot (Commentary)
  • "Shootout and Chase in Amsterdam Streets/Canal" -The Hitman's Bodygaurd
  • "Finale: A Trio of 1 vs 1's" -Jailbreak
  • "John Wick vs. Common Ends at the Continental" -John Wick: Chapter Two (Commentary)
  • "Assassin Open Season on Wick in NYC Ends on the Subway" -John Wick: Chapter Two (Commentary)
  • "Taking Out Poppy's Compound" -Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  • "Opening: Cab Fight and Chase" -Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  • "Kong Takes Out All the Incoming Helicopters to Skull Island" -Kong: Skull Island
  • "Mexican Escape: Wolverine & Laura Fight Off Attackers" -Logan (Commentary)
  • "Jaa vs Collins: From Apartment to Rooftop with Falling Finale" -Paradox
  • "Finale: Revenge and Raid at the Butcher's Building" -Paradox
  • "Sakaar Arena: Thor vs. Hulk" -Thor: Ragnarok (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Wu Jing vs Frank Grillo" -Wolf Warrior 2
  • "Trench Breakthrough & Rescuing a Town" -Wonder Woman 
The Great:
  • "Car Chase, Foot Race, & a Power Tool Fight to the Hague" -The Hitman's Bodyguard
  • "Whiskey vs Two Galahads" -Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  • "Bathroom to Open Brawling: Prisoners Descend Upon the Police" -Jailbreak
  • "Roman Assassination, Catacombs Shootout, & Escape" -John Wick: Chapter Two (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Museum Shootout" -John Wick: Chapter Two (Commentary)
The Best: "Lorraine vs. Russians: Fight & Shootout for Spyglass" -Atomic Blonde 
Commentary: This near ten minute action sequence, shot to look like a single take, was an instant classic. It's the cold war and Charlize Theron is in Berlin as secret agent. Trying to protect a key source, Charlize Theron fights off multiple henchmen with gunplay and gritty, hard-hitting hand to hand combat. The decision here to make this feel like a realistic fight really pays off and helps it stand out from similar sequences that might throw in several high spots to help Lorraine (Theron) look like a superhero. Instead, Lorraine fights tough but she gets beat down and thrown around in the process as well. She strikes, runs, takes corners, grabs for whatever props she can, and it all feels like a desperate scrum she might not survive. It's a riveting sequence that deserves to be placed alongside some of the best grounded fight sequences on film.


FAVORITE DRAMATIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "I Cheated on Her" -The Big Sick
  • "Saying goodbye to little Koala" -Brawl in Cell Block 99
  • "Finale: Coasting Dunkirk & Greeted at Home" -Dunkirk
  • "Escaping the House and Being Met by a Police Car" -Get Out
  • "Hayek Destroys Bar Goons as Jackson Watches Amazed" -The Hitman’s Bodyguard
  • "Final Standoff" -It Comes at Night
  • "Gearing Up for Action in Rome" -John Wick: Chapter Two
  • "Stressed German Envoy Received a Call From Hitler" -The King’s Choice
  • "A Grateful Call to Mom" -Lady Bird
  • "Charles' Seizure Stops a Casino & the Bad Guys" -Logan
  • "Standing Before the Geographical Society and Arguing over Z" -The Lost City of Z
  • "The Klan Attacks" -Mudbound
  • "The Killer is Revealed as Everyone Waits in the Tunnel" -Murder on the Orient Express
  • "Sizing Up his Waitress on Their First Date" –Phantom Thread
  • "Making the Decision to Publish" -The Post
  • "Discovering the Massacre Near the Stream" -The Promise
  • "Touching improvisations in the final performance as Jesus" -The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  • "Finding Missy and Laying her Body to Rest” -The Shack
  • "A Silent Light Speed Kamikaze Attack” -Star Wars: The Last Jedi 
  • "Colonel Infiltrates and Kills Caesar’s family" -War for the Planet of the Apes
The Great:
  • "Final Speech to Parliament" -Darkest Hour
  • "3 Years of Therapy on a Bench" -Molly’s Game
  • "A Final Deployment as the Fire Bears Down" -Only the Brave
  • "Apes Strong Together: Nova Brings Caesar Water and Food" -War for the Planet of the Apes
  • "Taking a Moment to Miss Her" -Wind River
The Best: "Miguel Plays ‘Remember Me’ for Grandma Coco" -Coco
Commentary: Similar to the finale sequence of It’s a Wonderful Life, this scene in Coco has a way of building and building until it just overwhelms the viewer with emotion.


FAVORITE COMEDIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Didn't keep great track of this category initially
The Very Good:
  • "Comedy Show Fight: Holly Hunter Heckles the Heckler" -The Big Sick
  • "Restaurant Flipout: Four Slices of Cheese" -The Big Sick 
  • "John Wick Visits the Sommelier in Rome" -John Wick: Chapter Two

The Great:
  •  

The Best: 
Commentary: 


FAVORITE MUSICAL SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Only two films I saw this year featured musical sequences!


The Very Good:
  • "Un Poco Loco" -Coco 
The Great:
  • "Never Enough" -The Greatest Showman 

The Best: n/a
Commentary: n/a

BEST DIRECTOR


Nominees:
  • Chad Stahelski John Wick: Chapter Two
  • Joseph Kosinski Only the Brave
  • Jordan Peele Get Out
  • Taylor Sheridan Wind River
  • Aaron Sorkin Molly’s Game
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE FILM ENSEMBLE
Nominees:
  • The Big Sick
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
  • Molly’s Game
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Idris Elba Molly’s Game
  • Daniel Day-Lewis Phantom Thread
  • Colin Farrell Roman J. Israel, Esq
  • Oscar Isaac The Promise
  • Hugh Jackman Logan
  • Angus Macfayden The Lost City of Z
  • Gary Oldman Darkest Hour
  • David Oyelowo A United Kingdom
  • Jeremy Renner Wind River
  • Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Ray Romano The Big Sick
  • Patrick Stewart Logan
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE FEMALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Mary J. Blige Mudbound
  • Jessica Chastain Molly’s Game
  • Holly Hunter The Big Sick
  • Allison Janney I, Tonya
  • Leslie Manville Phantom Thread 
  • Frances McDormand Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Laurie Metcalf Lady Bird
  • Margot Robbie I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep The Post
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE SCREENPLAYS
(original or adapted)
Nominees:
  • The Big Sick
  • Coco
  • Get Out
  • Logan
  • The Post
  • Molly’s Game
  • Mudbound
  • Only the Brave
  • A Trip to Spain
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Wind River
Commentary: n/a


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees:
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Is Genesis History?
  • Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
  • Loving Vincent
  • Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Commentary: This engaging documentary sadly obscures Baldwin's insightful & measured insights on race with some lazy & generalized contemporary comparisons. The best parts of the documentary are when Baldwin interviews are just shown without any commentary through video. Attempts to pitch Baldwin's words as prophetic for today could work, but the film only plays them over modern video and never intellectually (in a style that would make Baldwin proud) pursues the nuanced point. Still, it's a documentary worth a view and easily the best of the year.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees:
  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  • Coco
  • The LEGO BATMAN Movie
Commentary: n/a
BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees:
  • Baby Driver
  • The Big Sick
  • Get Out
  • I, Tonya
  • Wind River
Commentary: n/a


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Nominees:
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Phantom Thread
Commentary: n/a


BEST ART DIRECTION
Nominees:
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Phantom Thread
  • Thor: Ragnarok
Commentary: n/a


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees:
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
Commentary: n/a


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees:
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Shape of Water
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
Commentary: n/a


BEST SOUND DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Baby Driver
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • It Comes at Night
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Wind River
Commentary: n/a


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Promise
Commentary: n/a


BEST MAKE-UP & HAIR DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Darkest Hour
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • I, Tonya
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Phantom Thread
Commentary: n/a

BIGGEST GUILTY PLEASURE
Nominees:
  • Atomic Blonde
  • Happy Death Day
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  • The Hitman's Bodyguard
Commentary: It has fundamental faults, but several good action sequences, fun creative choices, & great chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds make it a welcome and vibrant entry to the action/comedy genre. Selma Hayek in slow motion violently beating up a group of jerks in a Honduran dive bar set to Stevie Wonder's "Hello" while Samuel Jackson watches in love might is one of the best “scenes” of the entire year.


MOST SURPRISING FILM
Nominees:
  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  • Faith Films: All Saints, The Case for Christ, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, The Shack
  • Wonder Woman
Commentary: Nominated in this category is a surprise action hit and another film that represents a maturing “faith” film genre, but it’s an animated film about a grown man in underpants that takes the award. I had zero experience with the work this film came from and my first impression from the trailer was not good. However, the film turned out to be incredibly clever and intelligently written. Reminded me a lot of Jimmy Neutron style humor at its best.


MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM
Nominees:
  • The Beguiled
  • Detroit
  • A Ghost Story
  • The Snowman
  • Wolf Warrior 2
Commentary: Wolf Warrior 2 was a huge international success, but it's no action classic. Despite a final fight between Wu Jing and Grillo that has some great energy to it, the rest of the action here is pretty standard – even by Asian cinema standards. Sadly, the film isn’t even better than the first entry.


MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • The 12th Man
  • Only the Brave
  • Wonder
Commentary: n/a


MOST OVERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Detroit
  • The Florida Project
  • The Greatest Showman
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Commentary: The Shape of Water is bound to get a lot of admirers due to its topical messages on love, sexuality, masculinity, & red-blooded Americana. Even though I disagree with how many of these messages come across in the film, I found the central metaphor in Hawkins’ relationship with the water monster too literal, cheesy, amp; at the risk of sounding prudish, gross.


WORST FILM
Nominees:
  • Alien Covenant 
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • mother!
  • The Mummy
  • The Shape of Water
  • The Snowman
Commentary: I fundamentally disagreed with the relationship at the core of The Shape of Water. I felt offended by the sheer stupidity with which the intelligent screenwriters of Alien: Covenant forced me to buy. Yet, with all that, The Mummy still takes this award. This film fails at everything. It even fails at being the kind of disastrous film you watch just to laugh at. Dumb storylines, giant plotholes, horrible acting, and unengaging action are not what you expect from a Tom Cruise blockbuster.


BEST COMPILATION OF WORK
Performances/Accomplishments (that I saw anyways):
  •  Jessica Chastain: Molly's Game, The Zookeeper's Wife
Commentary: n/a 


ERIC BANA AWARD
*Given for the best performance in a bad film (See 2004's Troy)
Nominees:
  • Willem Dafoe The Florida Project
  • John C. Reilly Kong: Skull Island
  • The Cast of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Commentary: n/a 


THE END!

“Chip: Man, I get so mad I want to fight the whole world. You got any idea what that feels like?
Cory Lambert: I do. I decided to fight the feeling instead. Cause I figured the world would win.”
- Wind River

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