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Dubious Achievements: the best, worst and weirdest in movies in 2017

By Moira Macdonald • Dec 31, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Another movie year has come to an end — so it’s time for an annual tradition begun long ago by my friend and predecessor John Hartl. With a little help from my able freelance colleague Soren Andersen (who saw way more superhero movies this year than I did), here are the Dubious Achievements in Movies for 2017:

Best performance in a lost cause: Christine Baranski in “A Bad Moms Christmas”; Michelle Pfeiffer in “mother!”; Idris Elba in “The Mountain Between Us”; Goldie Hawn in “Snatched”; James McAvoy in “Split”; Kate Winslet in “Wonder Wheel,” Liam Neeson in “Mark Felt.”

Best chemistry: Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin in “Their Finest”; David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in “A United Kingdom”; Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in “The Big Sick”; Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer in “Call Me By Your Name”; John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”; Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough in “Battle of the Sexes”; Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in “The Shape of Water”; Debra Winger and Tracy Letts in “The Lovers”; and, as odd and at-odds brothers, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver in “Logan Lucky.”

Worst chemistry: Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”; Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in “Fifty Shades Darker.”

Best food: Those sumptuous French lunches in “Paris Can Wait.”

Best hang: OK, so “Going in Style” wasn’t that great. But spending 96 minutes being buddies with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin is time well spent.

Most heart-wrenching ending: “The Florida Project.”

Best breakout: Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out”; Timothee Chalamet in “Call Me By Your Name” and “Lady Bird” (and “Hostiles,” coming Jan. 5); Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip”; Ansel Elgort in “Baby Driver”; Gal Godot in “Wonder Woman.”

Best reminder that he’s always been terrific: Sam Elliott, using that burnished voice to gloriously low-key effect in “The Hero.”

Best popcorn movies: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Baby Driver,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Girls Trip,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Wonder Woman,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Fate of the Furious.”Most swoonworthy costumes: “A Quiet Passion” (designed by Catherine Marchand), “Murder on the Orient Express” (Alexandra Byrne), “Lady Macbeth” (Holly Waddington), “The Greatest Showman” (Ellen Mirojnick), “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (Leonie Prendergast) and “Phantom Thread” (Mark Bridges; opening in Seattle Jan. 12).

Best performance by an animal: That dog trapped on a mountain with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet in “The Mountain Between Us”; the canine version of a third wheel.

Best potential double feature, history division: “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour” both memorably told of the same event — the historic evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, during World War II — from entirely different perspectives (and in entirely different styles). (Add “Their Finest,” which also touches upon the Dunkirk events, for a pretty swell triple.)

Best potential double feature, superhero division: I wonder if anyone saw “Wonder Woman” and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” (the too-little-seen origin story of the Wonder Woman comic) back-to-back? I wish I had.

Weirdest potential double feature: It was entirely possible, for a while early this fall, to go to a multiplex and watch back-to-back screenings of “mother!” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” After which, I imagine, one would need to go lie down, with a cold compress and maybe a drink.

Best superhero: Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” As Soren noted in his review, of the three men who recently donned the Spidey suit, “Tobey Maguire was pretty good, Andrew Garfield was so-so, but Holland … Well, when you’ve got it, you’ve got it.”

Best villain in a good movie: Woody Harrelson’s rogue colonel in “War for the Planet of the Apes”; Jeff Goldblum’s silky, smiling Grandmaster and Cate Blanchett’s malevolently hair-smoothing Hela in “Thor: Ragnarok”; Helen Mirren’s evil Cockney-voiced matriarch in “The Fate of the Furious.”

Best villain in a bad movie: Katherine Heigl in “Unforgettable” (I still remember the spin she gave to the hissed line “Don’t you have anything organic?”), and whoever it was who thought “The Snowman” was ready for paying audiences.

Most disappointing villain: Steppenwolf in “Justice League.” A bore. A snore.

Best yelling: Halle Berry in “Kidnap.” Now, would somebody please find her a decent movie?

Best drunk: Bryan Cranston’s boisterous character in “Last Flag Flying.”

Most words: Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game,” whose stars, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, made an art of rapid-fire dialogue.

Least words: The dialogue-free animated film “The Red Turtle” beautifully demonstrated the eloquence of silence.

Most ubiquitous word: “Wonder,” “Wonderstruck” and “Wonder Wheel,” for some reason, opened within weeks of each other this fall; no doubt causing some box-office confusion.

Best sconces: “Murder on the Orient Express,” a film which briefly inspired me to redecorate my entire home in the style of a 1930s first-class train car.

Best evidence that the romantic comedy isn’t dead: “Fifty Shades Darker,” a hilarious boy-meets-girl romp, which made me giggle so much I nearly spilled my Diet Coke … oh, wait, it wasn’t supposed to be funny? Never mind. (OK, “Their Finest.” “The Big Sick.” “Paris Can Wait.”)

Best cameo: Well, it was in “Thor: Ragnarok” and if you haven’t seen it already, I’m not about to spoil it for you. Oh, and there’s a pretty good one in “Baby Driver,” too.

Now you see him, now you don’t: Ridley Scott, not wanting his drama “All the Money in the World” to be tainted by sexual-abuse accusations against his star Kevin Spacey, replaced Spacey with Christopher Plummer and reshot every scene he was in — and still made his Christmas release date.

Slyest scene-stealing: Taika Waititi in “Thor: Ragnarok”; Josh Gad in “Beauty and the Beast”; Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip”; Bill Nighy in “Their Finest”; Hilary Swank in “Logan Lucky”; Baby Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Most welcome sight: Michelle Pfeiffer and her velvet Slinky of a voice hadn’t graced a movie for nearly five years, but she returned with a vengeance, with deliciously wicked turns in “mother!” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” Also in the always-a-pleasure-to-see-you-on-the-big-screen department: Cicely Tyson (“Last Flag Flying”), Keith Carradine (“A Quiet Passion”), Kristin Scott Thomas (“Darkest Hour”).

Best dancing: I don’t know about “best,” but Armie Hammer’s dance-floor moves in “Call Me By Your Name” launched a thousand GIFs.

Saddest goodbye: Carrie Fisher’s final performance, as Gen. Leia Organa in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” A dedication in the final credits reads “In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher.” May the Force be with her, always; now I need to go deal with, um, something in my eye.

Best reasons to look forward to 2018: Coming right up in January — Daniel Day-Lewis as a moody London couturier in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread”; Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks finding their journalist groove in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post”; Margot Robbie becomes Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.” (I know, she’s too tall. But still.) And, coming in March: Ava DuVernay’s star-studded “A Wrinkle in Time.” Happy New Year, everyone!


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