1. ‘The Shape of Water’
An emotionally complicated fairy tale that plays like a mix between the 2001 French classic, “Amelie,” and the 1954 black and white monster flick, “Creature From The Black Lagoon.” An adult mind bender that pays homage to the past and honors the cinematic technique of the present and future. Director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) has always had vision but in this Oscar contender he comes full circle telling a story of love, romance, racism, politics, faith-based bullying and science.
2. ‘The Post’
Journalism at it’s finest has always been a big part of movie history. Meryl Streep is perfect as the first female publisher of a major newspaper standing on equal ground with Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee. Director Stephen Spielberg honors the process by making an ensemble film that speaks truth to power no matter the consequences.
3. ‘Call Me By Your Name’
Near the end of this poetic, enlightened film a father (Michael Stuhlbarg) speaks reassuring wisdom to his emotionally distraught son and it’s one of the most beautiful scenes in movie history. Armie Hammer gives his finest performance on film playing the American research assistant living with a family in Northern Italy in 1983. The slow-burning romance between the son and visitor is handled with such delicate honesty it takes your breath away.
The sights, sounds, and ambiance of war take center stage in Chris Nolan’s masterpiece of World War II as the Brits accept personal responsibility for rescuing more than 300,000 of their own from certain death. Using little dialogue, a nerve wracking music score, and a sense of combat accuracy the audience gets a glimpse of what it might have been like to be in the air, on the land, or on a civilian vessel in May 1940.
5. ‘Lady Bird’
A tumultuous mother-daughter relationship in Sacramento, California, jumps off the screen thanks to first-time writer-director, Greta Gerwig, and its two Oscar-level stars, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe. Movies like “Lady Bird,” are difficult to get made in the current Hollywood climate, but deserve just as much attention as the latest super hero. Every word, every frame rings true in a movie filled with opinions and observations ultimately resulting in love and forgiveness. This is a real gem.
6. ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’
Oscar-winning actress Francis McDormand lays it all on the line in a tough talking, hard nosed, R-rated movie about a mother who takes the law into her own hands when the small town police fail to solve the case. McDormand is a force on film and deserves a nomination for playing more than a local vigilante, she is also a mother and a friend. Look for Woody Harrelson (great in every film lately) and Sam Rockwell as officers forced to face their own fears while the mother faces hers.
7. ‘Darkest Hour’
The perfect companion film to “Dunkirk” filling in the blanks of Nolan’s minimalist masterpiece and fleshing out the rise of the legendary Winston Churchill as the leader of the Brits. Gary Oldman leads all Best Actor contenders playing the cigar smoking, whisky drinking, prime minister determined to never negotiate with the Germans while giving some of the most memorable speeches in war time history.
8. ‘Baby Driver’
Driving a getaway car for bank robbers has never been as lyrical, or as deadly, as with Ansel Elgort behind the wheel who is fully plugged in to the soundtrack of his life. His mad skills and choice of songs eventually leads him to fall in love with a waitress played by Lily James and it’s not long before things begin to unravel.
9. ‘The Big Sick’
A Pakistani stand-up comic meets an American girl and a romance blossoms into a meaningful cross cultural relationship film co written by it’s star, Kumail Nanjiani. Based on real life, this is another independent jewel that is more than just boy meets girl. It’s boy meets girl, girl gets sick, parents get involved, and not everyone is clear about how they feel.
10. (Tie) ‘Beauty And The Beast’/’Wonder Woman’
“Beauty And The Beast,” is more than a girl power money grab, it’s a work of art on the highest level, taking the characters we loved in the 1991 animated musical and giving them new life in 2017.
I can’t take my eyes off “Wonder Woman” and its star, Gal Gadot. I am also proud of director, Patty Jenkins, who elevates the standard super hero fare giving it meaning, depth, and a conscience. Things happen for a reason in “Wonder Woman,” because this film is not interested in collateral damage for the sake of moving the plot along. The main character is also a butt-kicking force to be reckoned with and nothing makes me smile more than seeing little girls walking into a movie theater dressed as, “Wonder Woman,” and leaving the theater empowered.
Gary Cogill is an Emmy award-winning film critic, speaker and film producer. His wife, Hayley Hamilton Cogill, is a Sommelier, wine writer, and educator. Together they host “Cogill Wine And Film, A Perfect Pairing” podcast on reVolverPodcasts.com while living in Waimea. Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryCogill. For more pairing suggestions follow Hayley on Instagram and Twitter @DallasUncorked.