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Two bad mothers
Almost three decades on, ‘Aliens’ still looks like some kind of miracle. How did James Cameron, the veteran of precisely two films (one of which was unwatchable) manage to match, some would say improve upon, one of the most inventive sci-fi movies ever made? Where did that script spring from, so streamlined and propulsive yet at the same time so sharp and quotable? And how, on a budget that would barely have covered the on-set sandwich trolley for ‘’, did he manage to create such an all-encompassing world, such dangerously droolsome hardware, such repulsively believable xenomorphic monsters?

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For perhaps the only time in the entire six-film sequence, George Lucas’s stated ambition to marry ’40s-style derring-do with modern-day SFX really reaches fruition: ‘Big Sleep’ writer Leigh Brackett’s script may have been all but junked by Lucas and rewriter Lawrence Kasdan, but her old-world sensibilities are all over the finished movie. Nowhere is this more true than in the feisty Bogart-Bacall interactions between rakish rogue Harrison Ford and ice princess Carrie Fisher: their on-set dust-ups may be legendary, but their on-screen chemistry is unmistakable.

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The setup – Arctic scientists find something vast and otherworldly buried in the ice – is magical, and the script (doctored by an uncredited Howard Hawks, king of the masculine-archetypes-in-peril movie) fizzes with invention. Best of all, director Christian Nyby creates a genuinely irksome sense of impending dread, keeping the creature in shadow for much of the film.


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Cinema in 2017 offered a respite from a year that started out for many as a dumpster fire and didn’t hesitate to keep pouring on the gasoline. Looking at the films below, it’s hard not to notice that so many of them focus on the past, whether it is the war-torn 1940s, an idyllic 1980s Italy, or the world of serious figure skating (or the European AIDS crisis) in the 1990s. I mean, the year’s best animated movie involved a kid investigating a mystery involving his great-grandparents.

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Here were our favorite movies of the year. Note: All these films screened in Austin or were available to the public in some form in 2017 unless otherwise indicated; some films screened for critics for awards consideration but have not yet hit local theaters or are available on streaming services.

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6. “Get Out.” Who would have thought that a horror movie from writer/director Jordan Peele would be one of the standout films of 2017? But this movie is far more than horror. It’s a scathing critique of American society and its racism, told in ways that are far from didactic. Daniel Kaluuya stars as the African-American man who gets invited to meet the parents of the white woman he’s dating. But these parents are something else. So is the girlfriend.

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It’s easy to forget, in the wake of so many inferior sequels, prequels and one awful Christmas special, how fresh Lucas’s vision was. He’s since become synonymous with trilogy glut, but the soft-spoken director will always have this first foray, a glorious reinvention of the magic of movies. Joshua Rothkopf

African-American Film Critics Association

3. “Lady Bird.” Saoirse Ronan stars as the title 17-year-old from Sacramento, Calif., with artistic aspirations and a mom (the brilliant Laurie Metcalf) who loves her more than she can show. There’s something about this movie that feels honest on the most basic levels. It deals with growing up, becoming a person, staying true to yourself and accepting family. Ronan nails it. , who deserves all sorts of recognition for her feature film debut.