Well here we are again. The end of another 365-day journey around the sun. And it doesn’t feel like it was a particularly great year, was it?
Even putting aside the numerous natural disasters, terrorist attacks, political upheaval and the dying throes of American democracy; we still lost a lot of good people from film and TV: John Hurt, Roger Moore, George A. Romero, Mary Tyler Moore, Bill Paxton, Adam West, and (sniff) Bruce Forsyth!
But I suppose that’s why we look to the movies. Even after 100 years it’s still the greatest way we have of giving us a break from the difficulty of our real lives.
So, as is tradition for those of us in the film loving community, what follows (in date released order) is a list of films that I have found especially notable during the past 12 months.
And like last year, my only rule was that the film had to have been released in the UK between 1st January 2017 and 31st December 2017. So apologies to The Post, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water and all the other films that’ll end up getting nominated at the Oscars this year, but perhaps you’ll make my list next year.
Special mentions: A Monster Calls, Silence, La La Land, Denial, Tower, Elle, Age of Shadows, The Lost City of Z, Their Finest, Mindhorn, The Red Turtle, My Life as a Courgette, Spider-man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Land of Mine, Your Name, Brawl in Cell Block 99, 78/52, Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman, Ingrid Goes West, Goodbye Christopher Robin
“With a strong directorial hand, Shyamalan crafts a strong sense of suspense whilst effectively using the geography of the location to add to the claustrophobic atmosphere. With that same hand, Shyamalan manages to coax out some incredible performances from his two leads. In the case of McAvoy, it’s obvious he’ll end up receiving most of the praise (and deservedly so). With every glance and mutter, McAvoy switches effectively between childish innocence and terrifying beast. “
2) The Founder
“With such a complex and varied life, telling the story of Ray Kroc and the birth of McDonalds in two hours was always going to be a challenge. But with Michael Keaton in the lead, it almost seems like a breeze as the accomplished actor takes us on an incredible journey.
The strong supporting turns from John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman also add to the high quality drama. But what I must applaud most about this film is that it makes it possible to recognise Kroc’s shrewdness in the world of business; while at the same time admitting that such acumen can sometimes be down to the brutal nature of humanity.”
Honestly, the Wolverine trilogy might be the only trio of films whose release order went from worst to best! Logan ended up being one of the finest swansongs anyone could imagine for both Hugh Jackman and his co-star, Patrick Stewart.
Having inhabited these roles for nearly 20 years, both actors are given a chance to stretch their acting chops further than any film previously. And with the restriction of a 12A rating being removed, Logan shows us an approach to the superhero genre not seen since Nolan’s The Dark Knight. A true crowing achievement for director James Mangold.
4) Get Out
I have witnessed some amazing directorial debuts, but nothing else this year holds a candle to what Jordan Peele brought to the screen in Get Out.
A psychological thriller that dives to the heart of race relations in modern day America; Get Out blends horror, mystery and comedy into a piece of art that offers social commentary on issues such as the taboo of interracial relationships, police brutality and liberal racism. A true modern day classic.
5) The Salesman
“A fascinating commentary on gender and cultural roles in contemporary Iranian society, Farhadi brings the most out of his two leads as they go on a journey that will not only test the bonds of their marriage, but also challenges the norms and expectations of human emotion.”
“Undoubtedly the most refreshing aspect is the complete unpredictability of tonal direction, while still managing to combine such tones into a cohesive whole. Indeed, while the film starts off as an indie-style look at a failing relationship, it soon traverses into more sci-fi/thriller aspects before taking a 1000ft dive into the murky darkness of the human psyche. To blend such disparate moods together with nary a defect makes Colossal almost herculean in its success.”
7) A Man Called Ove
“But I would be amiss to avoid talking about the comedy which, while black in nature, nonetheless leads to hilarious situations. Mostly centred around his utter stubbornness in the face of constant infractions of neighbourhood rules; Ove’s bite and wit are more than enough to win over even the most bull-headed of audience members.”
8) It Comes At Night
“With echoes of John Hillcoat’s The Road, Shult’s direction, accompanied by the cinematography of Drew Daniels, doubles down on the realistic gritty aspect of this world. In the same way that The Road is an exploration of humanity at its lowest ebb, (It Comes at Night) takes a similar path, but in a more claustrophobic manner.”
9) Captain Underpants
“In Hart and Middleditch, we have two voices perfectly cast in order to bring to life the youthful relationship of the two mischievous leads. With a pun-per-minute rate that would put Airplane to shame, children are guaranteed to be giggling in their seats, while adults guffaw at the abundance of chucklesome lines aimed at older audiences.”
10) The Big Sick
The Big Sick arguably is a film that does absolutely nothing new. It hits every major beat from a traditional rom-com: Boy meets girl → they fall in love → their families don’t approve → love overcomes hate → happy ending.
But what elevates it above all else is the central relationship between Nanjiani and Kazan’s characters. If even you were unaware that this film was based on a true story, the relationship between the two is a masterclass in emotion and heart-felt comedy.
“To say that Skarsgård dominates the screen would be the understatement of 2017. While Heath Ledger’s Joker spread fear through the medium of chaos, Skarsgård’s Pennywise dives straight into the deep end, using the fears of each child to frighten and horrify. With his squeaky high-pitched voice and drool-infused smile; Skarsgård destroys any previous interpretation of Pennywise and, like Ledger’s Joker, will probably be parodied and echoed for years to come.”
12) Wind River
“Through his lens the wintry cold of Wyoming seems utterly endless, bringing not only a sweeping sense of scale; but also a perception of loneliness whenever each character is forced to trundle through the elements. In fact, in spite of the dark brutality of the story, there’s overwhelming beauty in every scene.”
13) Paddington 2
“But the best children’s films aren’t just entertainment, but parables helping to guide our younger ones (and sometimes adults!) into understanding alternative viewpoints. Touchy-feely as that may sound, Paddington 2 has a beautiful thread of humanity at its core, by showing tolerance and acceptance are the very basis of what it is to be British.”
14) The Disaster Artist
“And what a lead (James Franco) plays! It might be strange to say, but in performing the worst film role in recent history, Franco may have also given the best performance of his career. Utterly bizarre in every way, he brings to life, not only Wiseau’s poor sense of human behaviour and dress sense, but also his drive to create something worthwhile.”
15) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
“It’s those small moments that really make a movie, and in The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson has truly outdone any Star Wars film that has come before. Not just through the small touches, but also on the massive canvas he was allowed to paint his masterpiece upon. With numerous twists and unexpected developments, this is Star Wars at its most confident.”
And that’s all from me in 2017 guys!
This time last year I’d just come off a really difficult film shoot thinking I had blown thousands of pounds on an empty dream. Also my blog felt like an absolute nonstarter, with only a hand-full of followers and most of my posts having just a couple of views.
But now, hundreds of people all around the world read my work and I am on the verge of having my screenwriting debut make its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival!
What a year.
Have a safe and prosperous 2018 everyone!
Featured Image: stoatphoto/Shutterstock.com