My Mid-Year Top 10 Films (2017)

Listing is something that I have always enjoyed, and my Top 10 films of the year ones have been a constant over my 400 different film blogs.  What’s interesting about them is how they change and how much I’m disgusted by them when I look back.  Honestly I look back at my 2016 list and feel sick at myself for liking certain films as much as I did.  So, in attempt to sort of breakdown the whole year, I’m doing one now at the half way point. Then, at the end of the year I can see how many in this list didn’t make the final cut.  As always with these things, I haven’t seen all the films that have come out in the UK this year, so when I do eventually get round to seeing them they may make the final list at the end of the year.

What I’ve also done for the this is bring back an old scoring system I’ve used in the past. Ratings of films has fascinated recently so I thought it’d be interesting to see where these film ranks in my own particular system, seen as they’re my favourite films of the year. It’s pretty basic really, where I split the film into four categories: Presentation (effectively mise-en-scene & cinematography), Performances, Narrative, and effect.  The first three being marked out of three, and the last 1, though it never gets that full 1 point unless I have seen the film more than once.  It’s a methodical way of looking at films, but it gives a final score out of 10 which I think is a simple way of gauging how good the film is without revealing how much I enjoyed it personally.

On with the list…

 

10.  La La Land (January)

lalaland

The beauty of this film is obvious, yet I don’t think it is as special as perhaps it’s marked down to be.  In fact I think that opening scene everyone talks about is really dull. Of course director Damien Chazelles artful presence is clear but I found that he linked music and film tighter in his previous film Whiplash.  The plot is rocky at times and I found Gosling and Stone just okay in the leads.  Despite all of this it makes it into my top 10 because of the simple pleasures of it.  It is a really happy film to watch and I can universally recommend it.  There are some magical moments that will capture the imagination of anyone, and in the end it’s a positive for Hollywood cinema.

Presentation: 3/3

Performances: 2/3

Narrative: 1.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 7/10

 

9. Okja (June)

okja-01

This is an odd one because I’m not entirely sure how much I enjoyed the film.  Joon-ho Bong is a director that I admire, and so I was looking forward to it.  I didn’t get to see it in the cinema and had to make do with the Netflix version, though I still found it a very attractive.  It’s shot well, like all of his previous films, and has a lighter edge to some of the look of the framing.  Tonally it has some zanier moments as well, which I welcomed but overall ended on a pit of the stomach lull with some of the subject matter. This gave the film meaning, and it was never too much in your face.  The performances were each individually different and the actors brought a lot of life to the story.  Actaully looking back at the film I can say that I firmly did enjoy it.

Presentation: 2.5/3

Performances: 3/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once0

Final Score: 8.5/10

 

8.  John Wick: Chapter 2 (February)

JW2_D26_6250.cr2

The first John Wick was a real fun movie, that I thought dropped off towards the end. This sequel is very similar, but replace the fun with intense thrills and the dropped off to picked up.  Unlike the first film it escalates rather than falls away and so the action is outstanding from start to finish.  It is expertly choreographed and has a more vicious look this time.  There are scenes in this movie that shocked me completely and I was really blown away.  It’s a genre of film that always pulls me to the cinema and I’m looking forward to the next one, because surely they can’t top it?

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 2.5/3

Narrative: 2/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score 8/10

 

7.  Silence (January)

silence-movie-image-7

Silence is a tough film, a long, slow process of torture basically.  Yet I feel like it is so beautifully done.  Scorsese deals with each scene with such care and nuance, with the cinematography being really gorgeous and complex.  The narrative is dark and at times lead Andrew Garfield loses his footing, but overall its another Scorsese triumph.  I’m not sure I could recommend this film to anyone and I’m in no rush to watch it again simply due to the subject matter.  Scorsese just manages to win me over with experience, and I think a really compelling story.

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 2/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 8/10

 

6.  T2: Trainspotting (January)

t2-trainspotting-trailer-0

It was sort of inevitable how much I would like this film, because of how much I love the original novel and film.  What the sequel brought was actually much more than I was expecting.  It was funny, tragic and had some great film making quirks like the original. All the cast were on top form and Danny Boyle certainly hasn’t lost it.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/t2-trainspotting-film-review/

Presentation: 2.5/3

Performance: 2.5/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 8/10

 

5. Logan (March)

logan-and-laura

I had a real gun-wrenching reaction to this film.  Wolverine is a character that I’m fond of and he is portrayed perfectly in this film.  It’s a dark tale, full of tragedy and violence. The reaction I had to the film made me write this: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/logan-the-use-of-visceral-cinema/.  I would suggest reading that to see my full thoughts on the film, but to shorten it, I believe the film is a fantastic right to the bone visceral experience.

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9/10

 

4. Manchester by the Sea (January)

18MANBYSEA-facebookJumbo

You know what, I adore this film.  The more I think about it the more I want it to be number 1 on my list, showing the strength of the top 3.  It is stunning on a visual level and a dramatic one.  Every single moment is perfect executed by director Ken Lonergan and everyone present on screen does a wonderful job.  It is a masterstroke performance from Casey Affleck in a story that will tear you down, but remind you of the simplicity of life and loss.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/manchester-by-the-sea-film-review/

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 3/3

Effect: 1/1

Final Score: 10/10

 

3. Baby Driver (June)

baby driver

This is a film that I really cannot wait to see again.  It is bold and exciting but most importantly it is a brilliant cinema experience.  Right from the start of the film I was hooked in with the soundtrack effect and it never lets up.  It is showcase of what music can do when it blends with film, and a showcase of Edgar Wright at his best.  He crafts together this heist romp that has an edge thanks to his auteur sensibilities.  And it is another film that I can universally recommend.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/baby-driver-film-review/

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9/10

 

2. Free Fire (March)

free-fire-brie-larsen-sharlto-copley

I was almost certain after seeing this film it would be my number 1 for the year, because it was so much fun to watch in the cinema.  Ben Wheatley is an interesting filmmaker and he continues to be with this film.  It fits into my favourite film category: small premise with interesting characters.  A 90 minute shootout is what it says on the tin, but the chaos that actually occurs is much more than that.  It’s a stunning take on violence and conflict that I have never seen before.  Each character has their own traits and beliefs meaning that there interactions are not only full of peril but are also full of humour.  I think its a real achievement and will go down as a classic in my books.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/free-fire-film-review/

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 3/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9.5/10

 

1. Dunkirk (July)

dunkirk-christopher-nolan

There is a lot I could say about this film and I’ve been really battling with myself whether to review it or not.  I could talk about the subject matter being really meaningful to me as a British person and the care Christopher Nolan takes with it.  I could talk about the groundbreaking film making techniques he employs, or the breathtaking cinematography.  I could talk about the edge Nolan puts on it by playing with the time of the plots.  All in all, it has to be experienced, and in the best way possible.  I saw it in 70mm iMAX and it utterly shattered me.  My bones creaked and my blood swirled through each masterfully crafted scene.  It’s a must watch, and once you’ve scene it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be near the top of your list too.

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 3/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9.5/10

 

There are 7 other films that I’ve seen in this first half of the year, so I’ve ranked from 11-17 below…

11. Moonlight – P: 3/3, P: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 0/1, F.S: 8/10

12. The Lost City of Z – P: 2.5/3, P: 1.5/3, N: 3/3, E: 0.5/1, FS: 7.5/10

13. Hidden Figures – P: 2/3, P: 3/3, N: 2.5/3, E: 0.5/1, FS: 8/10

14. Guardians of the Galaxy – P: 3/3, P: 2.5/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 0/1, FS:  7/10

15. War for the Planet of the Apes – P: 3/3, P: 2.5/3, N: 1/3, E: 0/1, FS: 6.5/10

16. Get Out – P: 2.5/3, P: 3/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 0/1, FS: 7/10

17. Alien Covenant – P: 2/3, P: 2/3, N: 1/3, FS: 5/10

 

Baby Driver – Film Review

Dripping sweat, aching feet and a gasp for breath.  A camera pummelling through a shopping centre.  Sounds of the pop waves around.  Tension and excitement.  Joy and desperation.  With these words I’m trying to portray the brilliance of Baby Driver.  The ebb and flow, and the pace of the film are a spectacle.  To write a review to replicate is not going to be easy because it’s difficult to describe a film that is so skin-wrenchingly entertaining, without getting too superlative.

588232_098

Atlanta, present day.  Ansel Elgort plays Baby: a young, talented getaway driver with a troubled past.  From this troubled past he carries tinnitus, and plays music continually through earphones to drone it out.  This gives him a natural beat to his life, but soon he realises there is no escape from this criminal world as crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) draws him in.

To discuss this film there has to be an acknowledgement of what makes it original, and standout.  This is of course the constant soundtrack that backs every scene, and the motion it creates with the camera.  Every moment has a carefully picked song to go with it, and they move intertwined together.  This gives the film its natural fast pace, and almost musical like timing.  The actors move with the music, and so does the action.  Baby, in particular, is stuck with the tune throughout and has a real kinetic energy with it.  The action also mirrors the music, as director Edgar Wright choreographs each shot to blend with the note behind it.  To say it is a effectively a two hour music video, would underplay the strengths of the film, however it is a major element of the runtime.  It creates segments of real exhilaration, yet also deeper feelings of anger and pain.  Wright does a wonderful job of using songs that piece scenes together, and power home certain junctures, whilst also allowing the film to play out.

Narrative wise, the plot uses the music to move along quickly.  The slower parts feel pushed by the soundtrack, and this makes them engaging without lulling on them for too long.  It has this scene hopping style, which means the story arcs are quick and seamlessly never ending.  From this, the film evolves an end for itself, an end that is inevitable.  The film shocks at times, and the last 45 minutes or so played out in a way that I wasn’t expecting.  Wright’s dialogue writing is poignantly like his previous work, but there’s an added sense of impetus when the longer monologues come.  He keeps with his similar quick, straight to the point style, and this can sometimes make the romantic moments too punchy.  Despite this, it works with the tone of the film and there’s a nuance between that poppy writing style and interesting conversations about love, escapism and hidden demons.  The hardened criminals in the film deliver these lines the best, and Wright gives them plenty of space to express their characters intentions.

baby-driver-slice-600x200

These hardened criminals are beautifully played by a host of scene stealing actors.  There is, early on, a deeply enraged Jon Bernthal, who gives us the first indication of what kind of world our protagonist is a part of.  Eiza Gonzales’ Darling is vivacious and worryingly terrifying.  Her relationship with Jon Hamm’s Buddy is as disturbing as it is likeable, and Hamm does a good job of holding together a tricky role as a damaged baddie as the film progresses.  Jamie Foxx as Bats is probably the highlight, as the disgruntled and clearly mentally deranged antagonist for Baby.  Wright gifts him the best lines, and he walks down the road of brutally horrifying and gripping to watch on screen.  These characters are reined in by Kevin Spacey’s Doc who controls most scenes by being strong in his tone and aggressive with his beliefs.  Together they form an excellent support to Baby’s story, as both guiders and obstacles.  They steal scenes from the young actor by being outlandish, which creates serious humour and threatening situations.

At the heart of the film, there is Lily James as diner waitress Debora, who catches the eye of our hero Baby.  She does a convincing job in probably the toughest role in the film.  Tough because she is a character who is there as a driving force for Baby.  Their relationship at first is cute, and timid, before developing quickly into a strange back and forth romance.  This bounce of lightning quick chemistry moulds well into the film, and though it’s a rushed love story, it didn’t feel added on.  Elgort is great at holding the camera, smouldering and delivering killer lines.  He has movie star written all over him, and he does well to keep the character present even when he is silent.  His contact with the music really is something to marvel at, as he has this ability to focus in on the little subtleties of each song.  Another character in this film has a massive impact, and it really surprised me, so I’m not going to mention them in this review and let you be surprised (and gut wrenched) too.

baby-driver-image-1-noscale

Where this film shines as a great, is its connection with the audience through each scene.  Wright directs in a way that is fast and flashy, but has matured in this film as visionary kind of artist.  He is showcasing with every shot and with cinematographer Bill Pope, he manages to be creative with every movement.  The film has this super contemporary look to it, which is full of colour.  There are holding close-ups, and quick cuts, as well drawn out wide’s that allow you to soak in the action.  Wright stops at certain moments to allow revelling at the beauty of the scene and then suddenly throws you right back into it.  The editing is tightly done, and this brings the connection, as you feel a part of every scene.  Nothing feels too distant from you, with the relationship between the camera, the music and action being extremely close.  There is a foot chase in the film that is nothing short of breathtaking, and needs to be witnessed.

Overall, I can’t wait to see this film again.  I want to see the mix of the cinematography again, and enjoy the company of some truly memorable characters.  The film is a fiercely fun ride, but has real filmmaking clarity in what it is trying to achieve.  Edgar Wright has peaked here in a perfect execution of storytelling.  It feels like he has complete control of what he was trying to build here, and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone.  Wright, with this film, is a member of this new wave of exciting cinema, in the same vein as Jeremy Saulnier with Green Room and Ben Wheatley with Free Free.  Cool cinema that can be universally enjoyed but still break new ground.  They don’t have to be ultimately thoughtful; however they can be courageous and forge that wonderful emotion of being one with the film.  Baby Driver is a film that actualises visceral sensitivities in me, and that is a sign of a film that I will continue to love.

fid17444_trid15324