Ten Under-the-Radar Gems from 2017
Carey Mulligan in "Mudbound"
Photo courtesy of Netflix
We are now well into 2018, and that means lots of new movies. It also means a second win for some of 2017’s Oscar nominees. However, there are plenty of strong releases from last year that may not earn Academy Award nominations, but are well worth your time. Here are ten to check out at home.
Detroit: The latest film from Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) is one of 2017’s most woefully underseen films. The sad, brutal account of the Algiers Motel incident during the 1967 Detroit riots is undeniably powerful. With fine performances (including strong work from Force Awakens and Last Jedi star John Boyega), Detroit deserves to reach a wider audience. This is one you’ll hear more and more about in the years to come. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD)
Dawson City: Frozen Time: You won’t find a more fascinating recent documentary than Bill Morrison’s account of the stunning 1978 discovery of 533 silent film prints in Canada. Frozen Time is like a tour of the twentieth century—the fever dream of the Gold Rush, strikes, war, destruction, progress, and, of course, cinema. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD)
The Hero: Star Sam Elliott is the reason to see The Hero, a modest, likable effort seemingly written for the iconic actor. He plays an aging Western icon who discovers he has cancer and hopes to reunite with his daughter and find one last, great role. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD, streaming on Hulu)
Columbus: This quiet drama about two young people waiting for the rest of their lives to begin is a must-watch for architecture buffs, those interested in the presentation of Asian Americans onscreen, and anyone who can appreciate an involving character study. Director Kogonada has crafted one of the most beautifully intimate films in recent memory. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD, streaming on Hulu)
The Beguiled: While Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s book loses some of the delightful weirdness of the Clint Eastwood-starring 1971 version, it makes up for it with humor and sensuality. Colin Farrell plays a wounded Union soldier who must recover at a girls school in Virginia. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD)
Mudbound: Director Dee Rees’s story of two families and two World War II veterans in Mississippi is emotionally devastating. This sobering American epic features standout performances from Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan. It is often difficult to watch due to its violent racism and depiction of PTSD, but you’ll be glad you did. It’s that strong. (Streaming on Netflix)
The Lovers: Uncomfortable, wise, and devilishly funny, The Lovers is a razor-sharp look at a faded marriage. Stars Debra Winger and Tracy Letts have never been better, and that’s saying something. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD, streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video)
Their Finest: This warm, World War II-set comedy-drama is one of three films releases in 2017 centered around the Dunkirk evacuation—the others were Dunkirk and Darkest Hour. A stellar cast of UK actors bring the story of a British Ministry of Information film team’s attempt to make a morale-boosting film during the height of Battle of Britain is a unique gem. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD, streaming on Hulu)
A Quiet Passion: The year’s most moving biopic starred Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon as poet Emily Dickinson. The struggles inherent to artistic creation have rarely been portrayed with such emotion and intelligence. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD, streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video)
The Lost City of Z: Whether you have read the bestselling book about British explorer Percy Fawcett or not, The Lost City of Z is a truly impressive film. Charlie Hunnam stars as Fawcett, who journeyed with his son to search for the mythical lost city in the Amazon. The ending is downright haunting. (Available on Blu-ray and DVD, streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video)
Christopher Schobert writes about film for Forever Young and Buffalo Spree.