This week at Reel World Theology we are featuring the top ten lists of contributors to the site. You can find all our contributor lists here, as well as links to reviews and podcasts for each movie below.
10 – I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
This tight, little thriller from Macon Blair is straight out of the school of Jeremy Saulnier, whom Blair has worked with on previous Saulnier films Green Room and Blue Ruin. While not quite as violent as Blue Ruin, Melanie Lynskey plays the part of Ruth with as much tentative strength as Blair did as Dwight in the aforementioned Saulnier movie. Also, an added element of veteran actor Elijah Wood as Ruth’s neighbor and partner in her revenge scheme against the people who robbed her house is wonderful. Wood is so good at playing goofy, oddball characters, he adds an unpredictable and funny element to the movie that makes it all the more interesting to watch.
The most surprising element of this movie is the spirituality of the movie and its philosophizing about death and how people treat one another. Wood’s character is a very religious man and contrasts Ruth’s nihilistic approach to mortality that strings along a fascinating and thoughtful thread as the movie progresses. The movie feels like a 21st-century Book of Job if Job had had enough and was filtered through the neo-Noir genre (think Rudolph Mate mixed with Johnson’s Brick and with 2000’s era Coen brothers) and Trump’s America. If you haven’t seen this movie, you are missing out, and you need to see this Netflix movie immediately.
9 – Wonder Woman
Containing one of the best scenes of 2017, Wonder Woman surprisingly makes my list by the sheer power of Gal Gadot. I could take or leave Patty Jenkins direction, which had too much Zack Snyder in the action sequences for my tastes. However, the “No Man’s Land” stand when Diana first reveals herself in the full Wonder Woman outfit is incredibly powerful and surprisingly emotional. I choked up during this scene as it reminded me of what we truly love and want in our superheroes: bravery, fortitude, and a commitment to justice. Wonder Woman majors on these things. And while the movie is really a DC Comics version of Captain America: The First Avenger, it significantly introduces our first real kick-butt female superhero and also gives us a full dose of the marvelous Gal Gadot. It might be a rehash of sorts, but it is done better.
8 – Thor: Ragnarok
From my review of the movie:
Thor: Ragnarok, remarkably, did not feel stagnated by previous baggage attached to the franchise. Waititi completely made-over the whole feel of Thor’s color palette, mood, and dialogue to make something more like a comic book movie. It was fun, crazy, clever, and self-deprecating in a non-fatalistic sense. Waititi walked into the morose, MCU teenager’s room, turned on the lights, livened up its mood, and sent it out all the more excited to make an unending stream of new movies. Let’s hope the joy this movie has found on the other side of it’s more somber forerunners can lead to a new direction not only for the God of Thunder and the people of Asgard but it’s other pals and cohorts among the Avengers.
7 – The Killing of A Sacred Deer
This is a very weird movie, but director Yorgos Lanthimos is my jam. The Greek auteur and I certainly do not share the same view of the world, but something about his style and stories are not off-putting to me but highly meaningful and profoundly convicting. His story of a family broken by the hubris of the father through the lens of Greek tragedy convicts me, makes me uncomfortable, and unnerves me as I laugh at this highly conceptual, yet awful, situation. Solid, disturbing performances from Colin Farrell as the father figure and Barry Keoghan as Martin, the catalyst for his pride, anchor the movie and add only deeper, disturbing flourishes to Lanthimos’ off-putting style of dark comedy. This movie is not for everyone but it stuck with me and continues to make me squirm.
6 – Blade Runner 2049
I have no real emotional, nostalgic, or fan connection to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Sci-Fi movie. While everyone was getting excited about Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, I was lukewarm, at best. However, when the movie finally premiered, I was there to see it. While my review of the movie when I saw it was a tad cool, I warmed to the movie. Blade Runner 2049, as my review says:
“…majors on mood and thought that I found genuinely satisfying to the usual unyielding firehose of garbage dialogue and scene-chewing found in most big name studio films that would attract 18-35-year-old males like me and my ilk.”
5 – Mudbound
I have no idea how I missed this movie as long as I did. Boasting a great cast of high-quality actors like Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Jonathan Banks, and Jason Clarke, the Netflix original is by far the best they have made and their first real dive into the rarified air of awards season for cinema. A rather slow-burn plot unfolds into a powerful final third punctuated by a scene that made me cry tears of sadness, rage, and injustice all at the same time. It is not until that point you realize how powerfully the movie has reeled you in to care for the characters as well as paint a vivid picture of racism and social injustice in a post-World War II South. It’s nightmarish and all too real. However, It avoids using the climax to foster the well-deserved rage and instead sounds an emotional, hopeful note of love. Truly a powerful, gripping film deserving of any awards season love it gets.
4 – get out
The movie has been getting a ton of accolades and deservedly so. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is the crown jewel of 2017 horror films. I am normally not one to view horror so I didn’t get to this film to rather late in 2017, but the hype was well justified and worth my time. I loved the performances in the movie and the horror in this movie is minimal in comparison to the usual, terrifying images I hate in horror movies.
Through a chilling premise and filtered through a sense of humor playing against the eerie tone of the film, Peele crafts a biting, subversive social and political message both incredibly relevant to right now and timeless in its critique of white privilege and black oppression. While the enthusiasm for this movie could potentially cool off as years turn into a decade or more, but the historical significance of this movie will hopefully grow.
3 – The Big Sick
No movie surprised me more than Michael Showalter’s dramedy, The Big Sick. I hesitate to call this a romantic comedy or even romantic since it feels so real, unexpected, and multi-dimensional it doesn’t fit into any box we would put a romantic comedy or romance movie. The feel and pacing of the film remind me a lot of Gillian’s Robespierre’s 2014 comedy, Obvious Child, starring Jenny Slate. Nothing in the movie seems overdramatic or amplified to manipulate the audience’s emotions, but it is grounded story-telling. It makes sense once you know star Kumail Nanjiani stars as a slightly fictionalized version of himself and Zoe Kazan stands in as his future wife, Emily. Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote the movie telling the real story of their relationship and it shows on-screen. It’s funny, heartbreaking, unstrained, real-life emotion with real relationships outside of the main couple, including Emily’s parents played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Romano quickly became my favorite character as this sad sack husband and father who doesn’t have a philosophical bone in his body but somehow manages to embody commitment and love even when a relationship is strained and cracked.
Another beautiful part of this movie is the even, loving portrayal of Nanjiani’s family. Their Muslim and Pakistani background makes Kumail’s relationship to Emily taboo, but the writing and direction refuse to villify his parents. They are lovingly portrayed despite the conflict and, again, it is true to real family dynamics. There can be real conflict in a family but there is still love, and Kumail’s loving break with them is sad, but also hopeful at the end of the film. I love this movie so much and hope more people will see it in the future.
2 – The Last Jedi
Yeah, yeah, the Star Wars guy has The Last Jedi near the top. I recognize this is slightly biased because of my love of Star Wars and hosting a weekly podcast dedicated to this franchise. However, in previous years The Force Awakens was not in my Top 5 and Rogue One did not make my Top 10.
Okay, got that out of the way. How about this movie!? While I wouldn’t say it is my favorite Star Wars movie of all-time–time will tell–I love this movie, it’s choices, it’s direction, and the story. As I put it in my review shortly after seeing it:
“The Last Jedi takes the things we love about Star Wars and incinerates (literally and figuratively) our expectations to set a bold, new direction for future movies. I loved it and I think you will, too.”
I plan on seeing this five hundred more times and have a gut feeling this could eventually overtake The Empire Strikes Back as my second favorite Star Wars movie of all-time. ROTJ will always be #1.
1 – Dunkirk
Like Martin Scorsese’s Silence did to me last year, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has left me absolutely speechless. A familiar story of great heroism in the midst of defeat, the Battle of Dunkirk is portrayed from a personal level as three different stories are interwoven to peer deeply into what happened at this famous battle. Some people might complain there wasn’t enough to explain what was actually happening, but it is this lack of dialogue and commitment to mis-en-scene that transcends a normal war movie and puts Nolan’s film in rare company with movies like Saving Private Ryan, The Battle of Algiers, Paths of Glory, and The Thin Red Line. It’s a visual story but done in a way to communicate recurrent themes of heroism, sacrifice, survival, and the misery of war.
As a quick note, I did not get to see this movie in its full glory, but it still looked and sounded incredible on my home TV screen. Can’t wait to possibly catch this on the big screen during Oscar re-runs.