Despite the headrush of sexual misconduct allegations that flooded your news feeds last semester, 2017 was a watershed year for the film industry. “Wonder Woman” made almost $1 billion at the box office, “Dunkirk” was hailed as the best war film of all time, independent films like “Get Out” and “Lady Bird” dominated the awards circuit and two decades later, Tonya Harding finally got her movie deal with “I, Tonya.”
The Academy Awards are pretty solid in recognizing these achievements every year, but what about the films that didn’t make the list? What about the films that received little to no attention at all?
From Sean Baker’s indie darling “The Florida Project” to Margaret Betts’ widely unseen “Novitiate,” here are WSN’s picks for movies you might have missed in 2017.
Ryan Mikel, Arts Editor
Unless you were on the jury of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, you probably didn’t hear much buzz about Sofia Coppola’s Best Director-winning remake of the “The Beguiled.” The eerie historical drama is set during the final months of the Civil War, when a boarding school’s peaceful existence is interrupted by an unexpected visitor –– an injured soldier. Led by criminally underrated performances from Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, the all-girls’ institution is overtaken with sexual tension, rivalries and an unsettling twist at the 11th hour that makes for a wild viewing experience.
While “The Beguiled” was met with mild critical and commercial success, it did receive notable backlash for Coppola’s erasure of the sole African American character, Mattie. Coppola responded in an essayon IndieWire, citing historical accuracy and appropriation as elements in her decision making.
Jordan Reynolds, Editor-at-Large
In a million years, I never thought an Emma Stone and Steve Carell sports biopic would be largely ignored by critics and audiences alike, but 2017 proved that to be a reality. In “Battle of the Sexes,” the Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs showdown of 1973 was brought to life. For someone who didn’t know anything about the legendary tennis match, I was blown away by its relevance and magnitude. After watching and crying through the film’s 121 minutes, I immediately returned home and researched King’s life, and I was amazed me — from being publicly outed to becoming a heroic activist, she’s exactly the type of person I want to know about, especially in the President Donald Trump era.
Tom Miritello, Audio Engineer
“Good Time” was hands down the best A24 film of 2017. It felt like a deconstruction of the action thriller, relying on a realistic, plot-driven story with a strong focus on character development rather than budget or glamor. Robert Pattinson’s character exercises the sport of what can only be referred to as extreme social engineering –– tension is created more from interactions instead of action. Pattinson and co-star Ben Sadfie are both incredible actors who do their parts justice. Taliah Webster debut role as Crystal was also a major standout. I’m excited to see her evolve. Oneohtrix Point Never’s beautiful score evokes the best aspects of his career and is a standalone piece of art. Go watch it.
Ryan Mikel, Arts Editor
In 2015, Sean Baker (Tisch ‘98) shot, wrote, produced, edited and directed the feature length film “Tangerine,” all with three iPhone 5s. In 2017, Baker did it again with “The Florida Project,” but this time on 35mm film. The movie follows 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and their unbridled, hand-to-mouth existence at a less-than-magical resort outside of Disney World. A surprising look at classism and poverty in America through the eyes of a child, “The Florida Project” makes you laugh, laugh some more and, out of nowhere, rips your heart out. The project, filmed for less than $2 million, features an Oscar-nominated performance from Willem Dafoe and perhaps the year’s best breakout performances from newcomers Prince and Vinaite. “The Florida Project” is a whimsical trip of childlike nostalgia, and for those still not sold, it is currently playing at Village East Cinema.
Anubhuti Kumar, Highlighter Editor
Following the lives of four women residing in a small neighborhood in the city of Bhopal, India, “Lipstick Under My Burkha” departs from the typical song and dance of Bollywood movies and reveals commonalities that plague the lives of these women despite being drastically different in age, religion, relationships and careers. From Shireen, trying to find agency in her marriage and success in work, to Rehana, a college student trying to earn some freedom by protesting her university’s oppressive dress code, these women fight to be relieved from the constraints Indian society places on women. Sometimes triumphant and sometimes humiliated, they find comfort in their friendship.
Matthew Holman, Entertainment Editor
It’s downright sacrilegious that this scintillating period drama remained relatively unspoken of during the fall movie season. Portraying the lives of a covenant of nuns facing the changes the Catholic Church underwent enforced by Vatican II in the 1960s, Margaret Betts’ directorial debut whisks together dry-sounding ingredients into a stingingly relevant and wondrously palpable dish, served with thoughts on coming-of-age, questioning of faith and sexuality and a beautifully understated lead performance from Margaret Qualley. But Melissa Leo’s Mother Superior reigns supreme, conjuring up a performance so frightening that when the film culminates with its climax, she’ll have you clutching your coif for dear life.
Natalie Whalen, Film Editor
“Raw” was released back in March and is easily one of my top three movies of 2017. It’s a French Belgian horror movie that premiered at Cannes in 2016. The film contains some pretty graphic gore, but its psychological themes relating to female sexuality and identity are what makes this film truly frightening. Without spoiling much — it’s best to go in blind — the film follows 16-year-old Justine after arriving at the same veterinary school as her older sister, Alexia. A coming-of-age gone wrong, Justine, an inexperienced vegetarian, has to grapple with newfound desires for what she can’t have: men, meat and more. “Raw” is currently available for streaming on Netflix, so be sure to check it out.
A version of this article was published at nyunews.com on Feb. 2.