If you found me after a Tuesday evening screening of Baywatch back in May, you’d have found a dejected, hopeless person incapable of imagining a turkey sandwich, let alone a great movie moment. Smash-cut to seven months later, and I’m still trimming titles off my long list. Such is the state of a once-dominant industry that routinely rolls off its axis, only to steady itself with a resounding reset. The business of movies crumbles around itself with stunning regularity, but the magic of movies still burns hot. This has been one of the best movie years I can remember, delivering rousing new work from masters like Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh and announcing a few new masters—Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, the Brothers Safdie—in their own right. I found myself squirming in theaters, chortling in bed with a laptop on my thighs, rewatching movies with more intensity, and paying for more opportunities to sit in the dark than at any time in my life. That’s how good 2017 was. A simple list wouldn’t quite do for a year this varied, and I have yet to see more than 40 films on my list. Until then, this is the best I could do.
SPOILER WARNING: This list covers moments from 50 films this year, some throwaway, some totally crucial. There are spoilers throughout, so feel free to skim if you don’t want Kong: Skull Island ruined for you.
The “Bellbottoms” Heist in Baby Driver
Every filmmaker has a playlist. Whether it lives in their head or on Spotify, there are songs or compositions that writers and directors play when crafting the images that become their movies. Few are as dedicated to soundtracking their stories as Edgar Wright, who had the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s operatic, wailing “Bellbottoms” in mind for the highly choreographed opening bank heist in his movie Baby Driver for more than two decades. “Bellbottoms” has been a personal favorite song of mine for many years, and the single most electrifying moment I had in movie theaters in 2017 came when Ansel Elgort pressed play on his battered iPod and those clanging chords and swelling strings come up loud while Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Jon Bernthal exited that cherry-red Subaru, pulled their scarves over their mouths, and entered the bank, shotguns in hand. For a JSBX nerd, it’s as unlikely as anything I could have imagined back in 1995. The level of note-to-note synchronicity the film aims for with its set pieces eventually becomes tiresome or inconsistent, but that opening strike is a syringe to the neck: Welcome to a movie.
Sienna Miller at the End of The Lost City of Z
James Gray’s stately adaptation of David Grann’s phenomenal tale of explorer Percy Fawcett is largely driven by Charlie Hunnam’s journeys into the heart of the Amazon in search of an ancient city that may or may not exist. Stories like this tend to have secondary roles for women as wives in waiting and little else. Sienna Miller plays one of these wives, but she is imbued, by Gray’s writing and a flinty performance from Miller, with a furious spirit. She longs to join her husband (and eventually her child) on an expedition, to see the world, to know what drives them and what’s really out there. That she is ultimately fated to a life of lace and langour is as tragic as Fawcett’s Quixotesque quest.
Shea Whigham’s Death in Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island is a silly movie with no stakes and no illusions about its seriousness. That’s why Whigham’s death is so grand—it knows it’s a joke. Around the movie’s release, there was a lot of hubbub about the influence of Apocalypse Now and Platoon on this CGI extravaganza. You can see the homage as Whigham’s Cole attempts to sacrifice himself to ensure the escape of his friends off the island—look at his arms, raised high, obstinate and exultant all at once. The sacrifice doesn’t go quite as planned, and this silly movie makes sure we know just how clearly it understands that about itself when Whigham is splattered on the side of a mountain.
Saoirse Ronan Auditions With “Everybody Says Don’t” From Lady Bird
There are dozens of small choices that animate writer-director Greta Gerwig’s wondrous and precise solo debut feature. But I laugh hardest when I see Ronan belt out the opening moments of Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” from the 1964 flop Anyone Can Whistle. The original, sung by the leather-lunged Brooklynite Harry Guardino, is a macho exercise in I’ll do what I want. To hear Ronan put her particular brand of brass on the song is oddly appropriate for her character, a defiant show of personal purpose. “Tilt at the windmill, and if you fail, you fail!” the song goes—“Everybody Says Don’t” is an independent thinker’s anthem. The only thing that’s wrong with the scene in the movie is that Lady Bird should have won lead with that audition.
“Laura, No!” From Logan
There is a single shot in this rage-filled fight where young Laura, a.k.a. X-23, and Wolverine face off against a small battalion that does all the work. It’s not the blade that emerges from Laura’s foot slashing through a soldier’s neck, and it’s not Logan thrusting those adamantium claws into the helmet of another. It arrives immediately after Laura begins unleashing her fury, and the camera cuts to an aging and senile Professor X. A small smile flashes across his face—I was right, he’s thinking, she is a mutant. He’s right, of course.
Bill Camp Goes on Tilt in Molly’s Game
Losing at poker is pain. Not painful. Pure, unmitigated pain. Like stubbing your toe or slicing off your foot, like getting dumped or nearly drowning. As poker movies go, Molly’s Game isn’t one. Aaron Sorkin is interested in Molly Bloom’s story, not kings full of sevens. Except for one scene when he really is. It’s to illustrate the concept of “full tilt,” when a gambler loses control of their bearings after a bad beat and makes foolish choices in an effort to get the money back, find equilibrium, or express some power in a game that rarely presents the chance. When Bill Camp’s character in the film, a crafty player we’re told, takes a bad loss from an amateur schnook, he loses it—his game, his grace, and his green. It’s a spiral I’ve seen before, that I’ve felt before, and it is the desolation to end all desolations. Sucked out, dried up, and full of regret—it’s no way to live and no way to play. Capturing that hurts so good.
John Denver’s Music in Logan Lucky (and Okja) (and Alien: Covenant) (and Free Fire) (and Kingsman: The Golden Circle)
The Game of Thrones prison scene is the most purely entertaining moment in a movie that’s bubbling over with wit and ease. But the recurring beauty of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in Steven Soderbergh’s footloose heist flick provides a glimmer of sincerity at the conclusion of a madcap, delightful movie. The same could be said, strangely, for four other films that featured Denver’s music. In all five, Denver—the heartland icon with the gift for earnest expression—is used as a counterweight. In Ben Wheatley’s bullet bonanza Free Fire, “Annie’s Song” screams out from a rolling van that’s being fired upon. In Ridley Scott’s beleaguered Alien: Covenant, the crew of dunderheaded astronauts visiting the planet inhabited by Xenomorphs-in-waiting use “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as a cheery signifier of coming horror. Forget home, the song simmers, you’re not going anywhere.
The Stairwell Showdown in Atomic Blonde
There is something masculine in the reputation of the single-shot scene, the legacy of too many Goodfellas fans explaining to their girlfriends how Marty zoomed through the kitchen into the heart of the Copacabana. Atomic Blonde, the corkscrewing spy thriller starring a truly game Charlize Theron, has what appears to be a “oner.” It’s a fight scene no less, and it injects a little feminine muscle into the mix. But upon inspection, it isn’t really a single take—a combination of motion blurring, body-crossing, and whip pans string together this sequence.
Still, director David Leitch spent years working as a stunt coordinator and fight choreographer, and this fight, staged across two floors of an apartment complex, has all the grunting, heavy breathing, and exhaustion that comes from actual fighting. It’s not real so much as hyper-real, with the camera slingshotting around a stairwell as Theron bashes, kicks, and stabs two Russian agents to pulp. It’s one of the most visceral, exhilarating three minutes of the year, and a genuine How’d they do that? Who cares if it’s not a oner?
Buddy Duress’s Drug Trip Story in Good Time
Of all the fresh faces that cropped up in 2017, few were as broken as Buddy Duress. A friend of filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie and a real-life former junkie steals a sliver of Good Time when he appears to tell the story of how he came upon his severely scarred, bandaged face. It’s a drug trip that feels a little like 2017 in full: messy, stupid, hilarious, incomprehensible, and terrifying, and it ends with a splat across the pavement.
Aubrey Plaza’s Double-Tapping Craze in Ingrid Goes West / the Texting Scenes in Personal Shopper
Smartphones have ruined movies. They solve too many problems—think of all the busy signals endangered babysitters encountered in ’80s horror flicks. They’re too impersonal and uncinematic. But the cellphone is an intrinsic part of daily communication, a vessel for a disappeared personality. Two movies expertly integrated that feeling of a closed-off life lived on a device. In the devilishly acute Ingrid Goes West, Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid becomes obsessed with an Instagram influencer played by Elizabeth Olsen and moves to Los Angeles to befriend her in hopes of realizing her destiny. Early in the movie, we see Plaza performing a grotesquely common activity—furiously scrolling through Instagram and double-tapping every photo in sight. It’s the kind of pathological activity that we take for granted. It is the definition of insanity to repeat this kind of meaningless action every day—a disconnected acknowledgment of another person’s managed projection of their life. But still, it rings true.
By contrast, Kristen Stewart’s haunted character in Olivier Assayas’s elusive Personal Shopper shares a series of circuitous exchanges with a ghostly presence that may or may not be her deceased boyfriend. These text back-and-forths recall that sinking moment when you get a message from an unknown number—cryptic, insinuating communiqués from a hidden source. Taken together, these two storytelling tricks—created simply by showing a young woman clutching an iPhone with great intent—show a clever and character-driven purpose: a future for phones on-screen.
The Throne Room Throwdown in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
For the sake of time, let’s table every fanboy quibble with the storytelling, interpretation of mythology, and artistic intent of Rian Johnson’s entry in the Star Wars canon and instead laud a singularly undeniable moment: Goddamn, that fight in Snoke’s throne room rules. Draping the scene in blood red and choreographing it like a Cyd Charisse vamp, Johnson creates a battle worthy of the stage. Can we agree on that?
Philip Glass’s Score From Jane
In Brett Morgen’s rapturous, swirling tribute to Jane Goodall, the British primatologist who lived among the apes in Gombe, Tanzania, for decades, you experience a sensory explosion. Blending famed wildlife photographer (and Goodall’s then-future husband) Hugo van Lawick’s archival footage with a vibrant mosaic editing style, Morgen sets images of a world rarely seen against Glass’s thrumming score. It’s a transportive, powerful counterpoint to the quiet, gentle sounds that accompany many nature documentaries. Glass’s music makes Goodall’s life an adventure, curious and thrusting forward, an independent life lived vigorously on the outer edge of society, marching to the beat of her own orchestra. What could have been a gorgeous but studied piece of filmmaking is instead a tidal wave of feeling, crescendo crashing upon crescendo.
The David Bowie Impressions in The Trip to Spain
The Trip series now exists almost exclusively as a platform for Steve Coogan’s and Rob Brydon’s otherworldly impressions. The late Thin White Duke is the recipient of this year’s honorary Michael “She Was Only 16 Years Old!” Caine Award.
The Sewer Opening in It
Part of what makes Stephen King’s It such an indelible part of the lives of so many who read it is the design. Pennywise the Clown, the spectral demon haunting the children of Derry, is a literal embodiment of their—and, by association, our—worst fears. Actualizing him on screen removes so much of the magic of what King creates when he infiltrates our imagination. But in Andy Muschietti’s film version of the story, Pennywise (played with delicious intensity by Bill Skarsgard) is a serial prankster and real monster. In the opening moments of Muschietti’s movie, young Georgie follows the paper boat he’s designed with his brother Bill all the way through the rain-strewn streets of Derry and down into a sewer, where we meet Pennywise. A severed appendage and kidnapped boy later, the It becomes real. It’s a downright sadistic way to open a movie. All the better for a horror movie in 2017.
Tiffany Haddish, er, Seduces a Grapefruit in Girls Trip / Timothée Chalamet, er, Seduces a Peach in Call Me by Your Name
The less said about this pair of fruitful (sorry) pas de deux, the better. I will note simply that this is a veritable farmer’s market of carnality.
Rooney Mara Devours a Pie—Her First Pie—in A Ghost Story / the Big Breakfast in The Florida Project
Great year for fruit, great for pastry at the movies. In A Ghost Story, an utterly bereft Mara copes with the death of her husband, played by Casey Affleck, by consuming a pity pie delivered to her home by a friend. In a long, long, (long), looooong, [LONG] take, Mara devours the entire chocolate cream pie, underscoring the vacant, dead-eyed feeling that can come after a profound loss—gorging is a way to feel again, the pleasure of taste, the pain of an upset stomach, the sheer fullness of a belly full of pie. According to Mara, this was the first pie she’d ever eaten in her actual life, which is a contender for most improbable, lightly upsetting, and frivolous celebrity story of the year.
The indomitable Brooklynn Prince, the then-6-year-old star of Sean Baker’s The Florida Project has a bakery moment of her own when she and her mother sneak into an all-you-can-eat hotel breakfast buffet and scarf down as much food as they can just minutes before the film’s dramatic, gutting finale. Baker told me that Prince improvised the moment when she smashes two danishes together to make a strawberry-raspberry combo confection. It’s a tiny little detail that keeps us locked in on a character even as she performs a mundane act. We wait for Moonee and her mom to get busted for their stolen meal, but the comeuppance never comes.
The Opening Credits of The Boss Baby
Most movies look better than they actually are. Trailers are a science, marketing is a certifiable skill, and movie stardom is an elixir. But every once in a while we get a Better Than It Looked. The Boss Baby, a deceptively creative story about the way the world is divided, has a particularly ingenious opening credits sequence that doubles as a world-building setup for the movie to come. Most kids’ movies take their audiences (and parents) for granted. But there’s something industrious at work in this one.
Robin Wright Dismounts a Horse, Thrusts Five Arrows Into the Ground, and Kills Some Soldiers in Wonder Woman
I wasn’t as bowled over by Wonder Woman as most moviegoers were—try as Patty Jenkins might, there is still an essential DC DNA that feels passé, and it suffers from the same horrendous-third-act problem as all of its predecessors. Its finale lumbers and then languishes. But the power of what we see in Wonder Woman—the third-most successful film of the year at the box office—is undeniable. The first full-fledged superhero film led by a woman is overdue, and Gal Gadot has a stern but blissful charm. But it’s the table-setting on Themyscira, the Amazons’ home island, where the majesty takes hold, particularly in Wright, who downs enemy soldiers with an archer’s aim and a god’s might. Wonder Woman soars when it sticks at home.
Terry Notary’s Ape-Man Interrupts a Black-Tie Gala in The Square
Try this next time you’re invited to a gala.
“Were You Sent Here to Ruin My Evening and Possibly My Entire Life?” From Phantom Thread
Most people have not yet seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s astounding eighth film, and so I will not ruin the scene that serves as a centerpiece and has spawned many an office-shouting contest for a select group at The Ringer. Just know that when Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis peel back the rind and start tearing into each other over dinner, Anderson’s movie transforms from stately romance to delirious psychodrama. “All your rules, and your clothes, and all this money, and everything is a game …”
Drunken Emma Thompson Crashing Her Car on the Lawn in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
In a movie that delicately and specifically chooses every word, phrase, and look with great care, the funniest moment in Noah Baumbach’s latest is pure slapstick. Emma Thompson’s boozy Maureen rolls into the frame, lolling her vowels and careening into her front yard in broad daylight, a drunken excursion smack-dab in the middle of a heartbreaking family story.
Florence Pugh’s Majestic Blue Dress in Lady Macbeth
I mean, look at that thing.
The Return of the Tom Cruise Twinkle in American Made
American Made is a perfectly adequate, often incomprehensible ramshackle of a movie about a pilot who was instrumental in the South America–to–United States drug trade through the ’70s and ’80s. It feels half-true and highly self-conscious. But sitting right in center of it all is Tom Cruise with the leash off. Channeling the Fuck it, I’m Cruise swagger from (the underrated!) Knight and Day with the romantic idealist verve of the first half of Jerry Maguire, Cruise makes Barry Seal into a con man who believes the lie. It’s a reminder that Cruise hasn’t had real fun—not meta, Get a load of this fun, like Rock of Ages or Tropic Thunder—in a long time. It’s Movie Star Cruise. Center of attention, selling-ice-to-Eskimos Cruise. It’s nice to have him back, even if it’s only temporary before the next Mission: Impossible.
Spider-Man Is Driven to the Prom by His Girlfriend’s Dad (a.k.a. the Vulture) in Spider-Man: Homecoming
I have a fond memory of a long car ride with my future father-in-law 20-plus years ago. We talked about hope and dreams, means and opportunity, and what I had in mind for his daughter’s future. I learned a lot, about how to communicate and when. That trip was nothing like the one Peter Parker takes with the man who wears a winged biosuit built from alien technology, that’s on a mission to destroy him, and who also happens to be the father of his date to the homecoming dance. Still relatable, though.
Leaflets Flutter Across the Sky in Dunkirk
“WE SURROUND YOU”
With those three simple words, in the first minute, the tone and theme of Christopher Nolan’s World War II saga is cast. Leaflets etched with that phrase fall from the sky as if unhooking from tree branches, grabbed by soldiers boxed in by German forces on all sides. Imagine the terror. The next 100 minutes are a dash across beaches, between clouds, down alleyways, along the edge of a dock—but the danger is never clearer than in the beginning.
Jim Carrey’s Final Monologue in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
I wrote about Jim Carrey in June after watching an unsettling appearance he made on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Cloaked in a tangled, graying beard, he seemed resigned to a cosmic fate, living in the aftermath of his own fame, observing the magnitude of the universe from the cozy but lightly tortured vantage of a rich ex-movie star. It was a damned strange sight, uncommon for a person on a late-night talk show, or anyone, really. A few months later, that fit of existential despair emerged in a 90-minute film that operated as a look-back on Carrey’s immersive, Method-maddened performance as Andy Kaufman in Milos Forman’s biopic Man on the Moon.
At the end of a long, searching monologue about the abstractions of identity, religion, and family near the conclusion of the film, Carrey finds that he’s “tapped out.” Then, a final thought occurs to him: “I wonder if I could do that with other people,” he says. “I wonder what would happen if I decided to just be Jesus.” It’s a pretentious notion from a comedy actor who also might be exactly right. Maybe all we need to change everything in the world is the kind of crazed self-belief that allows a guy to give a cool performance in a movie. It’s chilling and absurd. “Wow, we got into some crazy shit there, man,” Carrey says as the slate snaps in front of his face before the credits roll. True story.
The Spaghetti Incident in The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Barry Keoghan is a genius and this movie is hilariously upsetting.
The Architecture Tour of Columbus
Kogonada’s directorial debut, set in the surprising architectural oasis of Columbus, Indiana, is the kind of patient, precise work that makes independent film a fundamentally necessary part of the movie world. I found it late and have watched it three times in nine days. Columbus is one of my favorite films of the year because of its casual beauty and desire to show us that there’s something urgent in what we see all the time. Kogonada, who was largely known as a film essayist before this debut, uses all of the canvas, capturing a world that is both bigger and smaller than it looks. Just take a gander, and don’t take it for granted.
Jason Statham and a Baby Kick Ass in The Fate of the Furious
Meet the real boss baby.
The Bridge to the Land of the Dead in Coco
There are dozens of glowing, exacting images from Pixar’s latest, the story of aspiring musician Miguel on a quest to find out the truth about his family. But there is none more naturally and effortlessly gorgeous than the bridge made of cempasuchil flowers that creates the pathway for Miguel from the world of the living to the Land of the Dead. Coco is a powerful return to form for Pixar, arguably its best since 2010’s Toy Story 3. How the studio combines extravagant visual imagery with intimate stories is one of the narrative miracles of this century.
The “Immigrant Song” Music Cue in Thor: Ragnarok
I’m just a human man, watching all of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe like a faithful lapdog of content. And sometimes, the machine becomes sentient. Take, for example, Taika Waititi’s zany Friends B-plot, a.k.a. Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a getting-away-with-it installment of the MCU if ever there was one. The one obvious thing in the entire movie happens to be the most overdue and welcome: the inclusion, twice, of Led Zeppelin’s thunderous, perfectly cued “Immigrant Song.” It, um, hammers things home.
The “Runaway” Music Cue in Song to Song
So you’re Ryan Gosling and you’re a talented singer-songwriter. You’re in love with Rooney Mara and she loves you, too. What a world. But then she’s starting to flake because Michael Fassbender is on the scene. Sad. But hold on, here comes Lykke Li, and she wants to hang out. Normal stuff. And maybe you find yourself on top of a rain-soaked plaza dancing to Del Shannon. Where is the music coming from? Stop asking questions. The camera is following Lykke Li, who is wearing a perfect leather jacket, as she shimmies and sashays. Wow, she’s a really good dancer. You’re in love again. Del Shannon sounds so cool; you have to dance. Why not? You’re in a Terrence Malick movie, just go with it.
The Seymour Hersh Sit-down in Wormwood
Through its first five chapters, Errol Morris’s sprawling, fascinating episodic film Wordwood burrows toward the buried truth about Frank Olson, a deceased spy thought to have been killed after being subjected to the CIA’s infamous MKUltra experiment. The truth, it appears, sits with an octogenarian reporter with all the information and none of the interest in spilling it. Sy Hersh, the famed New Yorker investigative reporter, has some information about Olson that he simply can’t reveal. He won’t. He shan’t. His standoff with Morris, one of the world’s greatest interrogators, makes for a riveting, frustrating final chapter. Answers aren’t the point, not exactly. It’s the questions that define Morris’s movie.
Rihanna’s Striptease in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson’s catastrophic failure Valerian is destined for a decade’s worth of misunderstood in its time takes. I’m not sure it’s worth all that, but it does feature an elegant, deftly edited sequence that captures Rihanna as Bubble, a shapeshifting alien seductress. Is the scene important to the story? No. Does it explain why her minder, played by Ethan Hawke, has a nose piercing? No. Does it distract us from the drudgery of an uncaring world? Sure.
Nicole Kidman Bathes Colin Farrell in The Beguiled
There are several instances of metaphorical insistence in Sofia Coppola’s tense, lavish story of five women cooped up in a manse during the Civil War. None is more insinuating than Kidman soaping and stroking the injured Union soldier, played by Farrell, who finds his way into their home. Power and seduction meet in this last moment of harmless tease in the film, before all hormones break loose. Things are a little less than civil after that.
John Wick Battles Cassian in John Wick: Chapter 2
A perfect fight scene, unbearably tense until it becomes unnervingly brutal.
The Twisted Ending of A Cure for Wellness
Gore Verbinski’s mocked, then forgotten bomb about a businessman who travels to a mysterious Swiss health spa to fetch a washed-out colleague was met with confusion by critics and uninterest by audiences. No matter, it’s one of the most unhinged modern movies I can remember, as noble in its miniature failures as it is understandable in its overall lack of success. The end of the movie, an opera of grandiose absurdity, is a sight to behold, like if Alfred Hitchcock spent a week Hoovering Adderall. As it unfolded, I felt myself laughing uncontrollably in the theater. Verbinski is an underrated concocter of bizarre scenarios. And what are movies if not the playgrounds of confident maniacs?
Hong Chau Arrives in Downsizing
This movie should have been centered on Chau’s character, Ngoc Lan Tran, not on the idea of her. When she appears, the film perks up. When she vanishes, it softens. When it makes her accent the butt of a joke, it goes flaccid. When it positions her at the center of emotional experience, it feels full. Alexander Payne’s latest is high-concept, low-octane, and medium-paced. But it has a rocket booster in Chau.
The Train Ride in Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater likes to joke that he’s a master of movies about people talking in rooms. His latest, the little-seen adaptation of Darryl Ponicsan’s sequel of sorts to The Last Detail, features a series of people talking in rooms, this time about friendship, duty, and honor among servicemen. It’s one of his gentlest, breeziest movies, and that’s never more clear than when all of the film’s main characters find themselves huddled together on a northbound train to deliver the dead son of one of the men to a proper burial in his hometown. Linklater leavens every conversation with humanity and grace, humor and power.
Michelle Pfeiffer, Everything She Does, in Mother!
In a year of great horror films, this is the scariest thing I saw on screen.
Christopher Plummer Saves All the Money in the World
The story is already soft legend: Kevin Spacey, disgraced amid sexual assault allegations, had to be excised from Ridley Scott’s docudrama about the kidnapping of billionaire J. Paul Getty’s grandson. To beat an FX drama documenting the same tale and hit theaters to qualify for awards season, Scott needed a replacement, and fast. He turned to the then-87-year-old Plummer, who stitched up several reshot scenes in less than two weeks. Scott made his deadline, the movie opened on time, and Spacey was vanquished to the cutting-room floor, permanently. Funny thing: It’s not just seamless, it’s pitch-perfect, with the snake-skinned, smirking Plummer in the role, slurping down dialogue and spitting it back with all the joy of Scrooge McDuck surfing a wave of gold coins. He’s the best thing in it. Scott claims that Plummer was his original pick all along, and that may well be. If he wasn’t, we’ll never know. And it won’t matter anyhow.
Brigsby Bear’s Movie in a Movie
“I think we’re all trying to capture a feeling or emotion that was maybe prevalent in our lives when we were younger,” Kyle Mooney told Alan Siegel about Brigsby Bear, the gentle, feeling story about trying to recapture what we lost in childhood. How Mooney’s character attempts to rebuild the memory is like tapping the pain from an old wound.
Ray Romano’s Internet Take in The Big Sick
The Deadhead Chapter of Long Strange Trip
Every cult deserves its cultists, and in Amir Bar-Lev’s graceful, questing documentary about the jam-band originators, a healthy portion—the entire fifth segment—is dedicated to those who live the cliché, the superfans who tie the dye and build the fire on the mountain. It’s a touching segment in a movie that isn’t so much hagiography as cultural acid trip, across time and good sense, into a past that, if it didn’t exist, someone would have to tailgate it.
Every Talking Head in Get Me Roger Stone
Netflix’s documentary about the agent provocateur of American politics is simultaneously grotesque and vital, an examination of everything that can and does go wrong when a villainous trickster games the system. It’s a cheat, too, because the titular Stone really laps up the criticism flung his way throughout the movie. But that doesn’t stop the punditocracy from uncorking every slick line about him that they’ve been polishing up since Nixon stalked the carpet of the Oval Office. It’s a sick, entertaining, awful movie. See it!
The After-Credits Sequence of The Disaster Artist
Wiseau meets Wiseau. That’s all I’ll say.
The Sunken Place in Get Out
There are 100 unforgettable sequences in Jordan Peele’s stunning directorial debut, from “Rose, gimme those keys!” to Betty Gabriel’s astounding “No, no, no, no, no, no!” But the vision of Daniel Kaluuya floating in a nether-space, trapped in his own psyche, reaching out into the nothingness, will live inside my head for a long time.