“Get Out” directed by Jordan Peele
“Get Out” directed by Jordan Peele

1. “Get Out” directed by Jordan Peele: For white viewers, this debut feature from “Key & Peele” star Jordan Peele offers a glimpse at how the other half lives; for everyone else, it’s more of a documentary in body horror movie drag. When photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) travels upstate with girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family for the first time, traditional courting anxieties overwhelm warnings specific to this monied milieu. Contrasting interracial awkwardness and Peele’s directorial embrace of the natural world evokes a certain dissonance: a cinematic feedback where protagonist and audience alike can chalk disquiet up to rattled nerves, until the fix is indisputably in. If nothing else, “Get Out” is home to the tensest “missing car keys” scene in recent memory. (Raymond Cummings)

2. “Rat Film” directed by Theo Anthony: The best thing about Baltimore filmmaker and photographer Theo Anthony’s debut feature is that it isn’t really about rats. A hodgepodge of archival imagery, portraits of modern Baltimoreans, and a video game based on the city as captured by Google Maps, “Rat Film” merely uses Baltimore’s history of rat extermination to frame its palpable housing segregation, both pioneered here in our city. An ambling visual essay aided by an original score from Dan Deacon, the film doesn’t shy from tangents, illustrating how just about everything here, even our rats, is touched by and linked to systemic racism. (Maura Callahan)

3. “The Keepers” directed by Ryan White: Abusers rarely act alone; they’re often aided and abetted by both a culture that supports their abuse and people who help cover up their actions. That tendency within the Catholic Church is extensive, and the seven-episode documentary “The Keepers,” released on Netflix this spring, digs up a local example, uncovering Father Joseph Maskell’s horrific, repeated sexual abuse of students at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore. As former Keough students/DIY investigators Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub brought to light in the series, Keough educator Sister Cathy Cesnik knew about Maskell’s abuse—and was murdered before she could do anything to stop it. Blessed be the whistleblowers. (Rebekah Kirkman)

4. “John Wick: Chapter 2” directed by Chad Stahelski: Who knew a sequel to a cult hit Keanu Reeves hitman thriller would so beautifully encapsulate the depressing cycle of capitalism and suggest, through the bloody journal of its protagonist, pulling the rug out from society, with bullets if need be. The labyrinthian world building and bisexual neon mood lighting of the original film are back, continuing to influence the action landscape, as are the tightly coiled choreography and cool guy ephemera. But it’s the pathos in Reeve’s central performance that makes the film stick with you long after the last baddie gets head shot. It’s the tale of a life lived in debt to the impulsive sacrifices of one’s youth and what we must do in a corrupt society to sustain ourselves, no matter the cost. (Dominic Griffin)

5. “Ladybird” directed by Greta Gerwig: This is the only movie that has ever captured what it is to be young perfectly I think, and when Christine (call her Ladybird) awkwardly offers the line “My mom says French isn’t practical” to her crush and he replies, “It is, if you wanna go to Paris,” says everything to me about how I felt in high school and kinda still feel now—that unspecified urge to be something more than you are, to transcend something. I both grimace and grin when she proclaims, “I want to go where culture is” to her bootstrap-pulling mother because I silently wish I ever possessed the confidence to shout out something like that so totally naïve without a dash of irony to hide behind. (Brandon Block)

6. “The Human Surge” directed by Eduardo Williams: So, earlier this year the Maryland Film Fest asked me (and many others) to recommend a movie screening at the fest, and I went with “The Human Surge,” and well, I’m not sure I can improve on the effusive praise I fired off then, so here it goes again: “‘The Human Surge’ is a movie about the internet but it’s not a movie about how great the internet is or how horrible the internet is like most art about the internet, it’s a movie that’s just very cognizant of how the internet has made some things easier and other things harder and most everything weirder, especially when it comes to labor, access, time, energy, and sex. The New York Times wasn’t really feeling ‘The Human Surge’ when they reviewed it, which is a ringing endorsement as far as I’m concerned, but hey if the Times not feeling it isn’t enough for you to check it out, how about it this: For fans of ‘Gummo,’ the quotidian details of camming videos, early Fassbinder, the parts in ‘Gomorrah’ about the Tony Montana wannabes, and the video for Bronksi Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy.’” (Brandon Soderberg)

7. “Logan Lucky” directed by Steven Soderbergh: One of the true miracles of this terrible year is that Steven Soderbergh emerged from self-imposed exile to direct the spiritual successor to “Smokey and the Bandit.” There’s something crucially cathartic in a movie where Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play simple brothers fucked over by The Man who decide to rip off a NASCAR race, where Daniel Craig slums it as a charmingly ghoulish explosives expert and Dwight Yoakam’s corrupt warden can’t articulate the intricacies of the “Game of Thrones” publishing schedule to rioting inmates. A slick heist flick with plenty of screw-up heart, “Logan Lucky” is a generous shot of cinematic moonshine. (Max Robinson)

8. “Ingrid Goes West” directed by Matt Spicer: Director Matt Spicer’s feature debut, in which the titular Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) trades a mental hospital stay for the Hollywood Hills in a scheme to force a friendship with a popular Insta-influencer (Elizabeth Olsen) she’s obsessed with, is elevated by understated performances. Plaza, ditching her practiced snark, imbues Ingrid with the shaky, desperate-to-be-cool uncool of a woman drowning in a sea of Joshua Tree selfies and hashtagged brunches. Special props to O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ingrid’s dorky Batman-obsessed paramour/unwitting accomplice and Billy Magnussen as the film’s true villain, Olsen’s terrifyingly pass-agg brother-turned-blackmailer who catches a crowbar to the dome. (Max Robinson)

9. “Mudbound” directed by Dee Rees: Director Rees’ adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel turns voice-over narration into a knockout punch. Two young men, the white Jamie (Garret Hedlund) and the black Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), go off to World War II and return to the same hard-scrabble patch of Mississippi farmland forever changed. “Mudbound” begins in the pictorial elegance of Terrence Malick’s transcendental American wonder and progresses through, like the bulk of our nation’s history, the grim realities of hate, ignorance, and violence. Also: a nearly unrecognizable Mary J. Blige plays Ronzel’s mom, and her performance is another reminder that her emotional range knows no bounds. (Bret McCabe)

10. “Girls Trip” directed by Malcolm D. Lee: The best war movie of 2017 wasn’t a gimmick-laden, Nigel Farage-approved tribute to British heroism, it was the Mannie Fresh DJ’d dance battle and bar brawl starring half of “Set It Off.” A two-plus hour studio comedy starring four black women—Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith—legends in their own right who mainstream studio films otherwise ignore, “Girls Trip” both out-raunches and outsmarts every lame attempt by Apatow to repackage his hit-or-miss bro-comedies to a female audience. Going beyond just trying to prove that girls can be bad too, a wild weekend at Essence Fest builds female solidarity amongst a shared cultural history. God Bless Tiffany Haddish. (Adam Katzman)

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