The Columbus Film Critics Association (CoFCA) gathered at that weird upstairs room at Ace of Cups last night to formally announce the winners of their 16th annual awards for the best in film of 2017.
Greta Gerwig’s coming of age indie Lady Bird racked up the most awards with a total of four: Best Film, Ensemble, Director (Gerwig) and Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf).
Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the second biggest vote-getter for both best film and director, also nabbed two first place nods for Peele, who came away with awards for Breakthrough Artist and Best Original Screenplay.
The Columbus Film Critics Association is collection of print, online and broadcast film critics based in the Columbus area. You can find them at cofca.org.
Complete list of awards:
1. Lady Bird
2. Get Out
3. The Shape of Water
4. The Big Sick
5. Blade Runner 2049
6. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
7. The Post
8. The Florida Project
10. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Best Supporting Actress
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Best Ensemble Lady Bird
Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)
(Tie) Sally Hawkins (Maudie and The Shape of Water) and Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, The Lovers, and The Post)
Breakthrough Film Artist
Jordan Peele, Get Out – (for directing and screenwriting)
Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
Best Film Editing
Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, Baby Driver
Best Adapted Screenplay
Virgil Williams and Dee Rees, Mudbound
Best Original Screenplay
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
Best Documentary Faces Places (Visages, villages)
Best Foreign Language Film BPM (Beats Per Minute) (120 battements par minute)
Best Animated Film Coco
Best Overlooked Film The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
The end is nigh, so let’s celebrate: celebrate the bold visions, surprise hits, underseen gems, beautiful storytelling, social commentary, scares, thrills and love the films of 2017 held in store for us. It was an amazing year for movies, from big budget to micro, horror to rom-com, comic book blockbuster to indie absurdity. Let’s revel. Here are the best of the year, as well as thoughts on nooks and crannies around the movie world.
25. War for the Planet of the Apes The rebooted Apes trilogy concludes with a thrilling, deeply felt and visually stunning rumination on the boundaries of humanity and the levels of sacrifice, where the wages of brutality are driven home in equal measure by both sweeping set pieces and stark intimacy. Ultimately, we’re left with a bridge to the original 1968 film in sight, and a completely satisfying conclusion to a stellar group of prequels.
24. Mudbound Director/co-writer Dee Rees layers this tale expertly, as the fates of two families come together in 1940s Mississippi. We’re drawn in through finely- crafted characters and excellent performances, as the film gradually builds our investment toward an emotional payoff at times hopeful, devastating, and profound.
23. Baby Driver Baby Driver is as tasty a feast for the eyes as it is the ears. The game cast never drops a beat, playing characters with the right mix of goofiness and malice to be as fun or as terrifying as they need to be. For all its danceability, Edgar Wright’s film offers plenty of tension, too. Like much of the filmmaker’s work, Baby Driver boasts a contagious pop mentality, intelligent wit and a sweet heart.
22. Spider-Man: Homecoming As solid as the Marvel universe has been, it’s not hard to find moments (especially in Civil War) when the push for a hip chuckle undercuts the action. The humor in Homecoming hits early and often, but only to reinforce that the film’s worldview is sprung from the teenaged Peter Parker (Tom Holland). In this way, it feels more true to its comic origins than most in the entire film genre. Best of all, Holland re-sets the character to a place where its growth seems both unburdened and unpredictable. That’s exciting, and not just for Pete.
Best Fresh Perspective:
1. Get Out
2. The Big Sick
3. Wonder Woman
21. Raw In a very obvious way, Raw is a metaphor for what can and often does happen to a sheltered girl when she leaves home for college. But as writer/director Julia Ducournau looks at those excesses committed on the cusp of adulthood, she creates opportunities to explore and comment on so many upsetting realities, and does so with absolute fidelity to her core metaphor. She immediately joins the ranks of Jennifer Kent (Babadook) and Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) – all recent, first time horror filmmakers whose premier features predict boundless talent.
20. The Square Writer/director Ruben Ostlund continues to bring visionary scope to his writing and direction. Nearly every frame becomes a lavishly fascinating microscope, probing deep into the inner impulses and outward pressures that are constantly forming our actions and reactions. The humor is dark and droll, often awkward and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but The Square (winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes) is also alternatively weird and occasionally freakish.Regardless of whether you’re able to make sense of it all, it’s a visceral, thoroughly rewarding experience.
19. Whose Streets? Moving like a living, breathing monument to revolution, Whose Streets? captures a flashpoint in history with gripping vibrancy, as it bursts with an outrage both righteous and palpable. Activists Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis share directing duties on their film debut, bringing precise, insightful storytelling instincts to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Together, they provide a new and sharp focus to the events surrounding the 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.
18. Hounds of Love Driven by three fiercely invested performances, Hounds of Love makes a subtle shift from horrific torture tale to psychological character study. In 108 grueling minutes, writer/director Ben Young’s feature debut marks him as a filmmaker with confident vision and exciting potential.
Best Nobody Saw It:
2. The Survivalist
3. Brigsby Bear
17. Call Me By Your Name Awash in sensuality, Luca Guadagnino’s love story is unafraid to explore, circling Oliver (a terrific Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothee Chalamet-astonishing) as they irritate each other, then test each other, and finally submit to and fully embrace their feelings for one another. Theirs is a remarkable dance, intimately told and flawlessly performed.
16. The Post Spielberg. Streep. Hanks. It is official: The Post has it all, beginning with the almost-too-relevant true story of a newspaper casting off its personal associations to hold the government accountable by sharing actual news with citizens of the United States and the world. Spielberg’s passion and polish come together here as an expertly crafted rallying cry. He’s preaching to the choir, but he preaches so well.
15. Columbus In yet another of 2017’s stunning debuts, writer/director Kogonada unveils a dreamily detailed study of two people (John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson – both stellar) stuck in Columbus, Indiana for very different reasons. The film’s magic is gentle and steady, slowly enveloping you in a beautiful meditation on the mysteries of human connection.
14. The Big Sick The Big Sick is that rare breed seldom seen in the wilds of the multiplex. It’s a smart and incisive romantic comedy that has something new and vital to say while it’s being both romantic and comedic. It also feels incredibly authentic, probably because co-writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are telling much of their own story. At times hilarious, sweet, emotional and even heartbreaking, The Big Sick has a case of charming that will follow you home.
Best Let’s Fight About It:
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
3. It Comes at Night
13. The Florida Project Co-writer/director Sean Baker follows up his ambitious 2015 film Tangerine with another tale set gleefully along the fringes of society. Baker’s many talents include an ear for authentic dialog, a knack for letting a story breathe and an eye for visual details that enrich a tale. But maybe what’s most striking is his ability to tell fresh but universal stories. The Florida Project certainly is one, reveling in the freedom and bravado of a young girl, but always aware of the dangerous edges when blurring childhood and adulthood.
12. The Beguiled The Beguiled marks a return to critical favor for writer/director Sofia Coppola, who won best directing honor at this year’s Cannes Fest Festival for her adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s novel. Few frame delicate, ornate beauty quite like Coppola. She has found quite a palette with this film – the draping trees, columned porches, foggy woods, the tender grace of the inhabitants at Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies, The result is a bewitching film – beautifully acted, gloriously filmed and haunting.
11. Star Wars: The Last Jedi The Last Jedi makes any letdowns seem light years away. With a deft mix of character-driven emotion, high stakes action and mischievous fun, it waves a proud flag for the legacy of this cinematic universe while confidently taking big strides toward crafting a new one. Visionary talent Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) now has the con as both director and sole screenwriter. His affection for the franchise, coupled with an innovative sense of character arc and storyline, combine for a freshness that respects nostalgia even while priming you to move beyond it.
Best Foreign Language Feature:
1. The Square
10. A Ghost Story Writer/director David Lowery has crafted a poetic, moving testament to the certainty of time, the inevitability of death and the timeless search for connection. Our vehicle through this existential exercise is the white-sheeted ghost of childhood Halloween costumes. The irony of such a childlike image representing themes so vast and existential seems silly, but only for a few moments, until Lowery’s stationary camera and long, elegant takes wrap you in a strangely hypnotic trance.
9. Detroit Kathryn Bigelow’s return to the screen burns with a flame of ugliness, rage and shame that simmers well before it burrows deep into you. It is brutal, uncomfortable, even nauseating. And it is necessary. Together with writer and frequent collaborator Mark Boal she brings craft and commitment to the story of Detroit’s infamous Algiers Motel Incident. Brilliant supporting performances from Will Poulter, John Boyega and Jacob Latimore keep you riveted even as you cannot wait for the ordeal to end.
8. The Shape of Water Along with a likely Oscar contender in Sally Hawkins, writer/director/unabashed romantic Guillermo del Toro crafts a dreamy mash note to outsiders. An ensemble like none other includes Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Jenkins—not to mention Doug Jones, again in a wet suit. But del Toro’s imagination is the real star here, touching on social anxieties of the Cold War that more than transcend to modern times and putting all of it in a blue-green dream of romance.
7. It Comes at Night Deep in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton, solid as always), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) have established a cautious existence in the face of a worldwide plague. They have boarded their windows, secured their doors, and enacted a very strict set of rules for survival. But what are the dangers, and how much of the soul might one offer up to placate fear itself? In asking those unsettling questions, It Comes at Night becomes a truly chilling exploration of human frailty.
6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer What if God exists and he’s an awkward adolescent boy? That’s not exactly the point of Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but it’s maybe as close a description as we can muster. The filmmaker’s unique tone finds its perfect vehicle in Barry Keoghan (also wonderful this year in Dunkirk). Unsettlingly serene as Martin, the teenage son of a patient killed on surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) Murphy’s table, he controls the film and its events. With Martin, Lanthimos is able to mine ideas of God, of the God complex, of the potentially ludicrous notion of cosmic justice. All the while he sends up social norms, dissecting the concept of the nuclear family and wondering at the lengths we will go to avoid accountability.
Best Animated Feature:
2. Loving Vincent
3. The Lego Batman Movie
5. Blade Runner 2049 With Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve returns us to the hulking, rain-streaked metropolis of another generation’s LA. We ride with K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner charged, as always, with tracking down rogue replicants and retiring them. Few if any have delivered the kind of crumbling, dilapidating futurescape Ridley Scott gave us with his original. But between the stunning visual experience and meticulous sound design, BR 2049 offers an immersive experience perfectly suited to its fantasy. Picking at ideas of love among the soulless, of souls among the manmade, of unicorns versus sheep, Villeneuve channels Philip K. Dick by way of Scott as well as a bit of James Cameron and more than a little Spike Jonze. There’s even a splash of Dickens in there. Sounds like a hot mess, but damn if it doesn’t work.
4. Get Out You want to know the fears and anxieties at work in any modern population? Just look at their horror films. You probably knew that. The stumper then, is what took so long for a film to manifest the fears of racial inequality as smartly as does Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Opening with a brilliant prologue that wraps a nice vibe of homage around the cold realities of “walking while black,” Peele uses tension, humor and a few solid frights to call out blatant prejudice, casual racism and cultural appropriation. It’s an audacious first feature that never stops entertaining as it consistently pays off the bets it is unafraid to make.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Writer/director Martin McDonagh provides his stellar ensemble with smart, insightful dialog that crackles with bite, poignancy and scattershot hilarity. His tale is offbeat but urgent and welcome, speaking as it does to grief, compassion, and navigating the contrasts between the good and evil in our flawed selves. McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) compliments his usual knack for piercing wordplay with well-paced visual storytelling and some downright shocking tonal shifts. We are constantly engaged but never quite at ease, as McDonagh demands our attention through brutality and dark humor, holding the moments of humanity until they will be most deeply satisfying.
Best Documentary Feature:
1. Whose Streets?
2. An Inconvenient Sequel
3. Human Flow
2. Lady Bird Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird may be the most delightfully candid and refreshingly forgiving coming-of-age film we’ve seen. The plot and the comedy are less the point here than you might expect. They are really just a device Gerwig uses to explore adolescence and its characteristic stage of reinvention. Though Lady Bird’s landscape is littered with coming-of-age tropes, there is wisdom and sincerity in the delivery. Gerwig offers genuine insight rather than nostalgia or, worse yet, lessons to be learned. She’s aided by an awards-worthy ensemble. Literally everyone deserves an award, from the letter perfect lead Saoirse Ronan to sweetly tender Lucas Hedges, the downtrodden but loving Tracy Letts to certain Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf. Oscar or no, what a gift they’ve already gotten from Gerwig.
1. Dunkirk Christopher Nolan’s storytelling here is simultaneously grand and intimate. To do justice to the story of the truly amazing evacuation of 400,000 British troops from certain death on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, he approaches it from three different perspectives and creates, with a disjointed chronology, a lasting impression of the rescue that a more traditional structure might have missed. Solid performances abound without a single genuine flaw to point out, but the real star of Dunkirk is Nolan. He dials back the score – Hans Zimmer suggesting the constant tick of a time bomb or the incessant roar of a distant plane engine – to emphasize the urgency and peril, and generating almost unbearable tension. Visually, Nolan’s scope is breathtaking, oscillating between the gorgeous but terrifying open air of the RAF and the claustrophobic confines of a boat’s hull, with the threat of capsize and a watery grave constant. What the filmmaker has done with Dunkirk – and has not done with any of his previous efforts, however brilliant or flawed – is create a spare, quick and simple film that is equally epic.
Land a’ goshen, the year’s half over already! How the F did that happen? Well, we’ve watched 161 films so far this year. Whew! Which have been the best? The new episodes of both Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man would’ve made the cut, but our judges said July releases didn’t count, so….let’s have a look at what did.
1. Get Out
You want to know the fears and anxieties at work in any modern population? Just look at their horror films.
You probably knew that. The stumper then, is what took so long for a film to manifest the fears of racial inequality as smartly as does Jordan Peele’s Get Out – an audacious first feature that never stops entertaining as it consistently pays off the bets it is unafraid to make.
2. The Survivalist
Lean, mean futuristic science fiction that feels unsettlingly like reality, The Survivalist ranks among the best dystopian films in recent memory. And as writer/director Stephen Fingleton creates an utterly plausible and devastatingly grim future, the film marks a first time filmmaker with an awful lot to say.
3. It Comes at Night
Deep in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton, solid as always), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) have established a cautious existence in the face of a worldwide plague. They have boarded their windows, secured their doors, and enacted a very strict set of rules for survival.
At the top of that list: do not go out at night.
But what are the dangers, and how much of the soul might one offer up to placate fear itself?
In asking those unsettling questions, It Comes at Night becomes a truly chilling exploration of human frailty.
4. The Beguiled
Snugly hidden near the fighting in Confederate territory, a girls’ school takes in a wounded Union soldier. Delicately shifting allegiances, power struggles, competition, longing, fear, and danger waft between the columns of Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies.
Sofia Coppola develops a languid and ornate atmosphere, punctuated where necessary to create a sense of dread and urgency. Her cast is uniformly excellent, their commitment to character leading to a finale that’s as devastating as it is inevitable.
Bloody and bleak, tossing F-bombs and the franchise’s first flash of nudity, Logan is not like the other X-Men.
Logan relies on themes of redemption – a superhero’s favorite. Director James Mangold pulls ideas from Children of Men and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but his film reminds me more of The Girl with All the Gifts. (If you haven’t seen it, you should.)
The point? The children are our future and Logan’s real battle has always been with himself. Almost literally, in this case.
6. Baby Driver
Start to finish, the soundtrack-driven heist flick Baby Driver has a bright, infectious charm – and you can dance to it.
The beats offer more than a gimmick to ensure the flick dances along – the tunes getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) has buzzing through his ear buds give rhythm to his impressive high speed antics.
The game cast never drops a beat, playing characters with the right mix of goofiness and malice to be as fun or as terrifying as they need to be. For all its danceability, Wright’s film offers plenty of tension, too.
7. Hounds of Love
Driven by a fiercely invested and touchingly deranged performance from Emma Booth, Hounds of Love makes a subtle shift from horrific torture tale to psychological character study. In 108 grueling minutes, writer/director Ben Young’s feature debut marks him as a filmmaker with confident vision and exciting potential.
No doubt, events get brutal, but never without reminders that Young is a craftsman. Subtle additions, such as airplanes flying freely overhead to contrast with the theme of captivity, give Hounds of Love a steady dose of smarts, even as it’s shaking your core.
A vegetarian from a meat-free family, Justine (Garance Marillier, impressive) objects to her new university’s freshman hazing ritual of eating a piece of raw meat. But once she submits to peer pressure and tastes that taboo, her appetite is awakened and it will take more and more dangerous, self-destructive acts to indulge her blood lust.
Writer/director Julia Ducournau’s has her cagey way with the same themes that populate any coming-of-age story – pressure to conform, peer pressure generally, societal order and sexual hysteria. Here all take on a sly, macabre humor that’s both refreshing and unsettling.
Writer/director Joseph Cedar skillfully creates an utterly fascinating character in Norman (Richard Gere), who maneuvers through an equally intriguing web of politics, friendship and desperation. And Gere, as good as he’s ever been, makes it feel authentic.
It’s a performance that should not be forgotten come award season, and it anchors a smart, detailed film as compelling as any political thriller, yet as familiar as your last little white lie.
10. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Winter break approaches at a Catholic New England boarding school. Snow piles up outside, the buildings empty, yet Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) remain. One has tricked her parents for an extra day with her townie boyfriend. One remains under more mysterious circumstances.
Blackcoat’s Daughter behaves almost the way a picture book does. In a good picture book, the words tell only half the story. The illustrations don’t simply mirror the text, they tell their own story as well. If there is one particular and specific talent this film exposes in its director, it is his ability with a visual storyline.
Pay attention when you watch this one. There are loads of sinister little clues to find.
A transfixing James McAvoy is Kevin, a deeply troubled man harboring 23 distinct personalities and some increasingly chilling behavior. When he kidnaps the teenaged Casey (The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy) and her two friends (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Suva), the girls are faced with constantly changing identities as they desperately seek an escape from their disorienting confines.
The split personality trope has been used to eye-rolling effect in enough films to be the perfect device for writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s clever rope-a-dope. By often splitting the frame with intentional set designs and camera angles, or by letting full face close-ups linger one extra beat, he reinforces the psychological creepiness without any excess bloodshed that would have soiled a PG-13 rating.
12. Free Fire
Imagine if the entire 93 minutes of Reservoir Dogs took place in that last act shootout among the pack.
The noteworthy fact about Free Fire is not that it has a ballsy first act, but that the entire film is a third act. With scarcely a word of context, we’re rolled into an empty warehouse just in time for a shootout to begin, and there we will stay until the film concludes.
There is a barely controlled, very funny, incredibly bloody chaos afoot here, and it is a wild and entertaining sight to behold.
Colossal could also describe the height of writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s latest concept, but despite some shaky interludes, it’s one worth the investment. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis make a compelling pair, and as secrets of the film monster’s history are revealed, Vigalondo lands some solid satirical blows about self-absorption and personal demons.
Perhaps best of all is how Colossal works out of the conceptual corner it backs into. Much like the Koreans who keep coming downtown no matter how often the monster appears, Vigalondo is committed to the end, delivering a strange but satisfying in-the-moment fable.
14. The Lovers
Credit writer/director Azazel Jacobs for turning the romantic dramedy inside out, weaving sly writing and touching performances into a thoroughly charming take on the resilience of love and the frustrating struggle to pin it down.
The Lovers is sneaky in its casual nature. Through subtle storytelling and stellar performances, it finds meaning in places rarely explored this effectively, and a gentle confidence that frayed emotions can still bond.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Is that second mixtape ever quite as awesome as the first? Rarely, and that’s the Catch-22 of the original film’s surprising blast of space zaniness. While we never saw that one coming, this new one arrives with weighty expectations.
No, Volume 2 can’t match the ruffian charm of the first, and there are some stretches of not-much-happening-here. But James Gunn’s sequel shares a lot of heart, swashbuckling visuals and more than a few solid belly laughs.