Like a big nerd I went and counted all the films I saw at the cinema in 2017 and the final tally was 86. Which doesn’t include all the ones I saw on television and the various streaming services. Which just shows what you can accomplish when you don’t have a career or lovelife to speak of.
And I regret nothing. Because 2017 was an absolutely epic year for movies. What I do regret is that there are so many great movies that I adored that I can’t fit into my top 10 favourite movies for the year. It says something that Logan, a movie I absolutely loved and thought would definitely place in my top five come the end of the year doesn’t even make it into my honourable mentions. And even right at the end of the year the last film I saw Wonder threatened to gatecrash the top ten I’d pencilled in my head.
So here is my final list of my top ten movies of 2017, which I should point out is based on the UK release schedule. I’m almost relieved that many of the Oscar tipped films won’t be appearing this side of the Atlantic until January and February.
By the way, I’ve deliberately excluded Last Jedi from this list as I have a hard time objectively judging a Star Wars film against other movies.
So number 11 on my top ten is the delightful underdog story Patticakes. Yes, I’m cheating but Mark Kermode sneaks an eleventh on to his top ten lists all the time and I just had to sneak in this wonderful movie that warmed my heart.
Patticakes is the story of a diamond in the rough, a young girl coping with life in an impoverished neighbourhood while looking after a sick Grandmother and a complete mess of a mother. All the while she has dreams of escaping town and achieving stardom through her rap music. With a colourful cast of characters helping Patti along the way there are feelgood moments and times when you feel real hearthache at her setbacks, all the while you’re really rooting for the lass.
Wonderful and charming.
10. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Another film to bring out that pesky cinema dust that gets in the eyes. I fell in love with story of a romance gone sour between a young, working class aspiring actor and am older faded Hollywood movie star. With so much genuine warmth between Annette Benning and Jamie Bell and some creative ways of moving the story between the present and to the days of their relationship this was a wonderful viewing experience.
The performances are across the board are amazing, Benning’s portrayal of the flighty star Gloria Grahame is Oscar worthy and also charming as ever is Julie Walters as Bell’s mother who takes the ailing Grahame into her home.
9. The Villainess
My favourite straight action movie of 2017. Featuring incredible action scenes at the beginning and end of the film, while in between is the story of a girl trained to be an assassin and after a bloody rampage of revenge is captured by the government and forced into becoming their sleeper agent.
It’s a mixture of Nikita and Kill Bill (one scene combines both influences in memorable fashion with Kim Ok-Bin given a surprise sniper mission while wearing a wedding dress.) Spectacular in it’s violent action sequences it doesn’t forget to tell a well paced story of survival and revenge. Also Kim Ok-Bin brings a subtle, seething screen presence that is mesmerising.
An uninspiring trailer and poster portrayed Colossal as a lightweight, quirky comedy. It led me to treat the film as a “watch if I have time,” and I’m so glad I saw it because the marketing campaign in no way did this film justice and it was one of the surprises of the year for me.
Anne Hathaway brings a depth to the role of a woman who’s life is on a downward spiral and after losing her job and lover ends up descending on the town of her childhood. Life gets more complicated when a giant monster begins appearing randomly in Japan and she starts to suspect she is inadvertently controlling it’s actions.
Colossal is a very dark comedy, with themes such as addiction, mental health, bullying and abusive relationships. The path the story takes is unexpected and brings a real edge to a seemingly frivolous concept.
Jason Sudeikis gives a unexpectedly compelling performance as her childhood friend she is reunited with.
(Mike: it was sooooooooo good.)
7. Big Sick
Based on the real life relationship between lead actor Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V Gordon (played Zoe Kazan) The Big Sick was my favourite comedy of 2017 and the most successful Independent film of the year.
An hilarious story of Pakistani immigrant Nanjiani striving to overcome cultural differences in his romance with Gordon, while at the same time trying to humour his traditional family who are intent on setting him up with a woman from his own culture.
With his dry humour Nanjiani is instantly sympathetic to the audience and this only increases as his life is sent into turmoil when Gordon becomes ill and falls into a coma. Nanjiani is obviously comfortable with the comedy being an accomplished stand up artist, but it’s the emotional performance how he deals with the tragedy which really stands out.
Another small film that really excelled and delivered.
6. Thor: Ragnarok
It amused me how quickly this film tied up or simply disregarded Thor’s cliffhangers set up in Dark World and Age of Ultron. And why not? Because Taika Waititi had a far more fun adventure for Thor, than searching for Infinity Stones and overthrowing Loki.
And that’s the key word, because while this was not the film I was expecting when I heard the title “Ragnarok” it was still the most fun I had at the cinema this year. The gags and one liners were fired off one after another and hit far more times than they missed, even when they seemed inappropriate to the drama. The action scenes were massively over the top in their use of slow motion and accompanying music, but they were all the better for it. The shot of Valkerie (who became one of my favourite Marvel characters in one film) strutting towards battle in slow motion to the strains of Immigrant Song alone made me want to stay in the theatre for the next showing to start.
Goldblum, Blantchett and everyone seemed to be having a blast in this film and the big cherry on the top was the nod to my favourite page in the history of comics, with Skurge the Executioner’s last stand on the bridge.
The only film I’ve ever seen in IMAX and the vast, scrumptious scenes of the horizon where just beyond lay “home” alone made the experience worth it.
As beautiful as the scenes were, it was the tension from that “tick tock” score that really got the heart racing as the retreating European forces attempted to escape across the Channel as the menacingly unseen German forces closed in. From the plight of everyday soldiers, scheming to get a place on the evacuation ships, to the airforce trying to cover the escape and to the civilians who had access to a boat of any kind and joined in the effort, it as a tense and haunting portrayal of war and the darkest days in Britain’s history.
Sparse in terms of dialogue and any unnecessary back story, this still gripped me and had me invested in the survival of the brave and cowardly alike.
I make no apologies for getting emotional when watching films, but it’s not always the sentimental or moving moments that get that pesky cinema dust in my eyes. With Moonlight I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat just how beautiful this film was, both for it’s lush and vibrant cinematography (showing you can still use colours to depict run down neighbourhoods) and it’s amazing array of techniques.
Anyway here’s what I said about it early in the year to explain why it was my best film Oscar pick.
As heavy and heartbreaking experience that it can be at times it is still a joyous film to watch and interpret. There are moments which are wonderfully uplifting as Chiron glimpses moments of happiness and acceptance. While the film is constantly challenging with the way it subverts stereotypes and identity in it’s characters but also in the way it shoots the inner city environment not with bleakness but with a beautiful tone of clear, warm colour.
And who am I to argue with me?
It wasn’t my favourite film of the year, but for mixing the compelling story of one man’s life with one incredible imaginative scene after another made this or me it was easily the best.
3. Blade Runner 2049
Arguments over why Blade Runner 2049 was a box office failure can be shoved up one’s arse for all I care. Folly or not in terms of profit I’m just glad this sequel got made, because a near three hour movie has never moved so quickly for me.
The film satisfactorily followed up on the story of Decker, while introducing a brand new element in Ryan Gosling’s “K” who’s arc was just as intriguing. Having a Replicant as the main character helped to expand on the original film’s metaphysical themes of identity, freewill and what it is to be actually considered alive. Case in point the love affair of K with his hologram girlfriend Joi, which had some touching moments (like when she merged with a call girl so the two could make love) and a bittersweet revelation that raises questions over the authenticity of the relationship.
With plot twists and nods to the original the film was a delight and overall the futuristic architecture was simply stunning and a breathtaking experience.
2. Wonder Woman
It was so refreshing to get an actual hero in a superhero origin movie. So often we have a self indulgent egotistic becoming a “hero” because of some trauma or having to rebuild themselves because of some self induced mishaps (Stark and Strange). In Wonder Woman we had a hero who simply wanted to do good, who heard about injustice somewhere and wanted to do the right thing and involve herself and save lives.
There was a lot riding on Wonder Woman and DC delivered an enchanting, exciting story, full of emotion who Gal Gadot proving the naysayers wrong by delivering a enthralling performance. Gadot really brought through Wonder Woman’s goodness, innocence and a naivety that actually empowered her to ignore the practical Steve Trevor (Chris Pine in fine form) and save lives in the stirring No Man’s Land scene.
I had a few problems with the ending. The moment the soldiers from both sides immediately become friends with the defeat of Aries spoiled the earlier heartbreaking lesson Gadot had to learn that the War was not solely down to the interference of the God of War.
Regardless of this, Wonder Woman was a triumph that made me wish Patti Jenkins could make all the DC movies.
1. La La Land
I didn’t walk out of La La Land, I skipped and wanted to pirouette all the way home with the wondrous echoes of the magical score drifting over my soul.
This was my feeling back when I wrote about the score for La La Land early in the year. After countless repeat viewings my reaction to this film has not changed. I get goosebumps everytime I watch that epic, one take opening number and a Rainbow of feel good positive vibes takes over me for the full movie.
Musicals are the Marmite of the movie world. I personally love them, which means La La Land had a lot of stiff competition to become one of my favourites of all time. Yet it did so with an amazing array of songs that were choreographed with unrestrained flamboyance, all the while that score that ranged from triumphant mood rousing of an orchestra to the simple, melancholy keystrokes of the piano.
Some scoffed that La La Land pandered with a pat on the back to the illusion of Hollywood dream making, but I chose to submerge myself in it more as a tribute to the classic Golden age musicals.
La La Land may have been the first film I saw in 2017 and while I was glad that Moonlight beat it (eventually) to the best picture award it still is the film that I have watched more times this year, working it’s endearing magic every time.
And just to give a few honourable mentions in what was a dynamic year for films, especially low budget independent films.
Gifted was a hilarious with Chris Evans trying to bring up his smart and sarcastic niece.
Rebbecca Hall deserves an Oscar nomination for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
Mother was uncomfortable and pissed people off but I enjoyed the discussions on what it meant.
Battle of the Sexes was entertaining, had great performances across the board and is very timely.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is the most emotional of the Marvel movies to date.
The Florida Project was a bittersweet funny comedy that looked amazing.
Tom Hiddlestone and Brie Larsson were pointless in Kong: Skull Island but otherwise I had a blast with it and thought the action scenes were massively underrated.
Catfight was a batshit crazy dark comedy.
I’ve never seen Room, but that didn’t stop me loving and finding The Disaster Artist hilarious.
Wonder was the last film I saw at the cinema this year and it almost snuck into my top ten as it was a lovely movie that saw that darn dust breaking out all over my eyes.
And finally I’m going to cheat again and say I loved the anime Your Face even though it was released in 2016.
That’s all folks