Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Best of the 2017 Philadelphia Film Festival

The 26th Philadelphia Film Festival came and went like a flash in the night. Eleven days of cinema bulldozed across the City of Brotherly Love filled with Oscar contenders, festival winners and gripping 2018 titles. All in all I was able to catch 18 films, less than I would have liked but still enough to offer an in-depth look at the best this annual event has to offer. Just to be clear, two notable titles I failed to catch include Cannes Palm d'Or winning comedy, The Square, and another highly touted Cannes selection, In the Fade. Otherwise, here they are, the best from this year's Philadelphia Film Festival.

Best Screenplay

Honorable Mention: BreatheGolden Exits, Lady Bird, Princess Cyd and Thoroughbreds

#3. Last Flag Flying

#2. I, Tonya

And the winner is ...

#1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh is no stranger to phenomenal stories thanks to strong previous efforts like In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. He continues the trend with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a relentlessly hysterical crime-comedy that specializes in fantastic dialonge and offers an entertaining small-town story.

Best Supporting Actress

Honorable Mention: Olivia Cook (Thoroughbreds), Claire Foy (Breathe), Mary-Louise Parker (Golden Exits), Chloe Sevigny (Golden Exits) and Quinn Shephard (Blame)

#3. Rebecca Spence - Princess Cyd

#2. Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird

And the winner is ...

#1. Allison Janney - I, Tonya

The Best Supporting Actress field from this year's Philadelphia Film Festival was flooded with exceptional work. Any of the honorable mention selections would easily land in the "Top 3" most other years. That being said, I went with Allison Janney in a narrow victory over Lady Bird's Laurie Metcalf. Janney delivers in a beautifully-vulgar supporting turn as Tonya Harding's repugnantly motivational mother.

Best Supporting Actor

Honorable Mention: Bryan Brown (Sweet Country)Ed Helms (Chappaquiddick), Adam Horovitz (Golden Exits), Shia LaBeouf (Borg vs McEnroe) and Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya)

#3. Bryan Cranston - Last Flag Flying

#2. Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project

And the winner is ...

It seems like Sam Rockwell produces iconic supporting performances every other year. Rockwell's work in Three Bilboards stacks up against anything else he's ever done, which says a lot about the role. Rockwell shines as an unethical small-town officer who somehow steals the show despite a constant barrage of deplorable actions.

Best Actress

Honorable Mention: Anya Taylor-Joy (Thoroughbreds), Michelle Pfeiffer (Where is Kyra?), Jessie Pinnick (Princess Cyd) and Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project)

#3. Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird

And the winner is ...

#1. Margot Robbie - I, Tonya

I was stunned by the Opening Night selection's brilliant cast. Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya possesses no shortage of impressive acting, but the film's leading star, Margot Robbie, stands out above the rest. In a career best performance as infamous Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding, Robbie offers such a surprising and complex character in one of the year's best films.

Best Actor

Honorable Mention: Steve Carell (Last Flag Flying)Jason Clarke (Chappaquiddick) and Chris Messina (Blame)

#3. Sverrir Gudnason - Borg vs McEnroe

#2. Andrew Garfield - Breathe

And the winner is ...

#1. Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

The stars appear to be aligning for Oscar-starved veteran, Gary Oldman. But despite his widely acknowledged frontrunner status for this year's big award, Oldman's unrecognizable portrayal of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is an absolute marvel. Darkest Hour's dialogue-heavy screenplay demands excellence from its leading star and Oldman certainly delivers an amazing performance..

Best Director

Honorable Mention: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Richard Linklater (Last Flag Flying), Janus Metz (Borg vs McEnroe) and Andy Serkis (Breathe)

#3. Craig Gillespie - I, Tonya

#2. Sean Baker - The Florida Project

And the winner is ...

#1. Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

None of the direction I encountered at this year's festival proved to be groundbreaking. Yet, there were plenty of strong showings from many accomplished filmmakers. One such auteur is Martin McDonagh, who not only deserves the outspoken praise he's received for Three Billboards, but who also displays sharp direction in a packed field.

Best Picture

Honorable Mention: Borg vs McEnroe, Breathe and Princess Cyd

#5. Thoroughbreds

And the winner is ...

While 2017 has been anything but a standout year for film, Three Billboards cements itself as a truly worthwhile endeavor. The film obviously comes with its flaws, but Three Billboards also provides enough riotous humor and superb acting to solidify itself as the year's strongest effort so far.

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