Last Men in Aleppo – Wonder Woman – The Beguiled – Dunkirk – The Big Sick – A Ghost Story – Baby Driver

2017: World Premieres
2017: U.S. Releases
2017: Cannes Festival
2017: Chicago Festival
2017: Toronto Festival
2017: The Fifties

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The Fifties of 2017: U.S. Releases
 My annual tribute to the best work in the first 50 U.S. releases I saw in a given year.
 Here is a screenshot of the movies that were eligible for this feature. Your thoughts?

Best Picture

Atomic Blonde - Summer's most fun entertainment is also its greatest craft showcase
Beatriz at Dinner - Set up for easy political point-scoring but goes deeper, and weirder
Get Out - Humor, then dread, then rage, premised less on suspense than inevitable build
Last Men in Aleppo - Moving, horrifying, essential record of war and of sacrifice
The Lost City of Z - Old-fashioned imperial adventure given needful, artful update
The Ornithologist - Hypnotically shifts from "What's happening?" to "What is this?"
Raising Bertie - Round, rich, communal portrait of just the kind our country needs
The Salesman - Another knotty potboiler from Farhadi, deepening on each viewing
Starless Dreams - Depicts girls with zero power without reducing them to victims

Best Director

Margaret Byrne, Raising Bertie - Assembles her footage with insight, sensitivity
James Gray, The Lost City of Z - Classical techniques, nuanced points of view
David Leitch, Atomic Blonde - Master of fight scenes; nails graphic-novel idiom
Mehrdad Oskovei, Starless Dreams - Uses his startling access for rich revelations
Jordan Peele, Get Out - Builds terror and satire without hiding where he's going

Runners Up: Rodrigues (Ornithologist), Farhadi (Salesman), Arteta (Beatriz)

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins, Maudie - Extraordinary shadings while avoiding typical clichés
Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner - Keeps us on her side without putting us at ease
Melanie Lynskey, I Don't Feel at Home... - Funny and heartsore and totally game
Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion - Spry, smart, and ever more brilliant as she goes
Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper - Deepens her work without losing its simplicity

Runners Up: Alidoosti (Salesman), Blanchett (Manifesto), Pugh (Lady), Theron (Atomic)

Best Actor

Ethan Hawke, Maudie - Against type, convincingly grows from cruel to doting
Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman - Captures someone who acts out but also clams up
Charlie Hunnam, The Lost City of Z - Reveals Percy's core while remaining aloof
Makis Papadimitriou, Suntan - Shows new angles on unpretty mid-life melancholy
Adrian Titieni, Graduation - Keeps multiple motives and moral impulses in play

Runners Up: Nanjiani (Big Sick), Hamy (Ornithologist)

Best Supporting Actress

Joanna Bacon, A Quiet Passion - Makes tiny role of Emily's mother eerily indelible
Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip - Uproarious, but delivers a character, not just a jester
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick - Deftly negotiates liking for and distrust of Kumail
Sienna Miller, The Lost City of Z - Inhabits tension of adoring and envying Percy
Allison Williams, Get Out - Earns Chris's affection, and doesn't overplay the reveal

Runners Up: Gabriel (Get Out), Bugnar (Graduation), Ackie (Lady), Manovici (Graduation)

Best Supporting Actor

Jamie Foxx, Baby Driver - Nails Wright's tone while giving it much-needed edges
Farid Sajjadi Hosseini, The Salesman - Sketches a man both pathetic and pitiable
Lil Rel Howery, Get Out - A moral center who refuses to project "respectability"
Angus Macfadyen, The Lost City of Z - A total asshole with a haunting epiphany
Ray Romano, The Big Sick - His impulses to assuage are also avoidance tactics

Runners Up: Hardy (Dunkirk), Carradine (Quiet), Jarvis (Lady), Abbott (It Comes)

Best Ensemble Cast

Beatriz at Dinner - Everybody plays the claws-out satire but makes it feel serious
The Big Sick - Nobody is a hero or a laughingstock; you recognize these people
Get Out - Everyone's in on the joke and the outrage, and nobody shrinks from them
Graduation - Did you know that flawless ensembles are Romania's leading export?
The Salesman - Even the actors in tiny parts help deepen the script's tensions

Runners Up: I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Dunkirk

Best Original Screenplay

Beatriz at Dinner (Mike White) - Yasmina Reza setup, but odder and timelier
The Big Sick (K. Nanjiani, E. Gordon) - Life, streamlined but still weird
I Don't Feel at Home... (Macon Blair) - Unique entrées into modern malaise
The Ornithologist (J. P. Rodrigues) - Arbitrary events given intricate shape
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi) - So smart about people, and about Miller

Runners Up: Get Out (Peele), Graduation (Mungiu)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Atomic Blonde (Kurt Johnstad) - Fun and punchy, albeit hardly the main event
The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola) - Tailors the material to her unique concerns
Frantz (François Ozon, Philippe Piazzo) - Cleverly evades our expectations
Lady Macbeth (Alice Birch) - Retains operatic austerity, in swift, bold strokes
The Lost City of Z (James Gray) - Adroit compression of an even wilder life

Runners Up: Ghost in the Shell (Moss/Wheeler/Kruger)

Best Cinematography

Atomic Blonde (Jonathan Sela) - Wizard with neons; balances motion and stillness
Dunkirk (Hoyte Van Hoytema) - Resourceful with huge vistas and in tight spaces
A Ghost Story (Andrew Droz Palermo) - Works poetic magic in a cramped ratio
The Lost City of Z (Darius Khondji) - Heroic, inventive devotion to natural sources
War for the Planet of the Apes (Michael Seresin) - Elegant frames, iconic images

Runners Up: Beguiled (Le Sourd)

Best Film Editing

Atomic Blonde (Elísabet Ronaldsdottír) - Amazing action; gets comic-book pacing
The Beguiled (David Lowery) - Sinuous, varying, deceptive manipulations of time
The Lost City of Z (John Axelrad, Lee Haugen) - Some cuts classical, others bold
The Ornithologist (Raphaël LeFèvre) - Careful hold on complex pace and events
The Salesman (Hayedeh Safiyari) - Directs our attention in unexpected ways

Runners Up: Personal Shopper (Monnier), Dunkirk (Smith)

Best Sound Mixing

Atomic Blonde (Jonas Jansson, et al) - Enjoyably unsubtle, with delightful accents
Baby Driver (Julian Slater, et al) - See: Atomic Blonde; big but entertaining
Detroit (Paul N.J. Ottosson, et al) - Gives the city a potent, troubling soundscape
Get Out (Trevor Gates, et al) - A pushy score; a scraping teaspoon; those silences
The Lost City of Z (Robert Hein, et al) - Ambient realities, sublime internal states

Runners Up: Dunkirk (King, et al), Kékszakállú (Candler, et al)

Best Production Design

Atomic Blonde (David Scheunemann) - Period realism heightened into pop art
Ghost in the Shell (Jan Roelfs) - Almost too dense with electric, suggestive details
Lady Macbeth (Jacqueline Abrahams) - A world both opulent and monastic
The Lost City of Z (Jean-Vincent Puzos) - Extravagant recreation on a budget
Maudie (John Hand) - Dotingly exact, with a tangible sense of time and place

Runners Up: War for the Planet of the Apes (Chinlund), Slack Bay (Dupire-Clément)

Best Original Score

Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer) - A commanding experience even without the images
Get Out (Michael Abels) - Aggressive to the point of winking pastiche; still scary
The Lost City of Z (Christopher Spelman) - Holds eclectic citations together

Runners Up: War for the Planet of the Apes (Giacchino)

Best Documentary Feature

Last Men in Aleppo - You owe it to yourself to see Syria from these men's vantage
Raising Bertie - You owe it to yourself to see the U.S. from these kids' vantage
Starless Dreams - You owe it to yourself to imagine these girls' unimaginable lives

Runners Up: Step, Karl Marx City, American Anarchist

Some Honorable Mentions

Alien: Covenant - First half-hour excites and surprises, in the ship and on land
American Anarchist - I have my qualms, but Powell's troubled arc stays with you
Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo - Rarely has explicit sex been so creatively depicted
Prevenge - Lowe has trouble carrying to term, but germ of the idea is amazing
Step - The students, mentors, and families are all inspiring; so happy I "met" them