My Top 10 Films of 2017

In July I posted a mid-year list, and you can read it here to compare how much it has changed in the last 6 months or so: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/26/my-mid-year-top-10-films-2017/.  This is a list for UK 2017 releases, so there may be one or two that were up for awards last year, but us Brits didn’t get to see them till a couple of months later.  It has been a good year for film, and I have managed to see 46 movies, whether in the cinema or on a smaller screen.  This list is my own personal choices – the films that I connected with the most.  It’s not necessarily a ‘best movies’ list, but an opinion piece, that should give you a sense of my own particular film tastes.  There are also films that I have sadly missed this year, which could have made the list (such as Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool).

 

  1. Good Time (November)

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This is like a contemporary New York set Shakespearian tragedy, with neon.  Nothing goes right for Robert Pattinson’s Connie Nikas as he races through a series of criminal mishaps.  This film is brilliantly paced and strikingly shot.  It moves fast, and a slight twist in the middle kicks it up a gear.  The frantic nature of the plot makes supremely watchable and Pattinson at the centre is really engaging.  His colourful performance matches the colourful film, though there’s no shortage of harsh or violent scenes.  Would recommend for anyone looking for a good, though ultimately wrenched, time.

 

  1. The Disaster Artist (December)

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The ‘so bad they’re good’ kinds of films have never been my thing, and so The Room has never pulled me in.  Perhaps this is why the film worked for me, because I saw it as wacky insight into a strange man and his strange film.  James Franco’s direction has been criticised by some, though I think he does an okay job at pulling this film together.  His performance is very comprehensive, and his brother Dave plays against him quite well.  More than anything, I found it warm, and comforting.  Overall it’s a pleasant film that can be universally enjoyed.

 

  1. Wind River (September)

Wind River - 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 19 May 2017

When I saw this film in the cinema it utterly blew me away.  I found it so suspenseful and well directed.  It’s quite a tough movie with tough themes and director Taylor Sheridan handles them well.  There’s nothing remarkable about the film other than the way it’s told.  It’s a master-class in the pacing of a simple narrative and a strong American tale.  And has a twist that works to perfection.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/09/20/wind-river-film-review/

 

  1. 20th Century Women (February)

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This film is gorgeous in every way.  It is purely acted, with some of the best chemistry between characters this year.  The cinematography is as simple as it is artistic, with every shot carefully put together.  All of the emotional beats land, resulting in a really honest picture.  It’s almost like a catalogue of a few different lives, something I’m interested by.  Like the Disaster Artist I can universally recommend it, and safely say the world is better because of its existence.

 

  1. Baby Driver (June)

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Edgar Wright is a curious director.  The Cornetto trilogy is fun, but really just remakes of lots of different films.  With this film he delves almost completely into originality with a gimmick that is joyous.  A soundtrack backing the entire film gives it’s a natural beat and flow.  The scenes inter-connect like a dance, and create an escapist feeling.  It’s exciting, and loveable – with believable performances at the centre.  In the cinema it was a visual and audio journey that yanked you along with it.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/baby-driver-film-review/

 

  1. Call Me By Your Name (October)

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When this film came out it passed me by, and I’ve only seen it just recently.  Within the first few minutes I had instant connection to the films style, and setting.  It’s a nuanced tale – more interesting than a simple gay romance with deep touches on friendship and desire.  Armie Hammer does well in what can be seen as a brave performance (31 playing a 24 year old having sexual relations with a 17 year old who’s played by a 21 year old), and his chemistry with the young actor Timothee Chalmet is acutely present.  The film is gushingly watchable because of what surrounds them – intellect, history, a picturesque small Italian town, sun, open conversations and pretty people.  Its surroundings I’d like to visit.

 

  1. Manchester by the Sea (January)

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Almost perfect, this has become one of my most beloved films of the last few years.  I adore the subtleties of it, and the patience Kenneth Lonergan takes with the story.  Casey Affleck (despite possible personal issues) deserved the Oscar, as he’s desperately compelling in the film.  His character is real, and troubled with a past weighing him down.  Next to him is the young Lucas Hedges who is also a standout of the year.  The film deals with its themes with caution and is never crass about them.  It’s a movie that will age well, and be stuck in my mind for a good while longer.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/manchester-by-the-sea-film-review/

 

  1. Free Fire (March)

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Definitely the most underrated film of the year, this is a messy film, but my kind of film.  It’s sharp and dirty, with a series of events that is heavy metal film-making.  The cast is brilliant, ranging from a democratic Brie Larson, a romantic Cillian Murphy, and an impossibly cool Armie Hammer.  These and the rest of the billing (including a hilarious Sharlto Copley) gel together in this small environment to give visceral action.  It’s transparent with its audience right up until the end, and has some of the most memorable moments of the year.  Often jarring, though always appealing this is a must watch for film fans.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/free-fire-film-review/

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049 (October)

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Another pretty much perfect movie that is a breathtaking experience, with my favourite scene of the year in it (the sex scene).  Denis Villeneuve is probably the best director on the planet right now, and so I had high hopes going into this.  The original is a film that I equally love and hate – this sequel I just love.  On a visual level it’s a masterpiece, shot by the lighting genius Roger Deakins.  In terms of story it’s beautifully slow, and misdirecting.  There are some moments in this film that absolutely floored me, and I was left incredibly moved by the experience.  Piece on Blade Runner 2049 and death: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/10/08/blade-runner-2049-i-dont-want-to-die/

 

  1. Dunkirk (July)

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This film is a spectacle, and when I saw it in iMAX it was a cinema practice like no other.  Christopher Nolan is one of the greats of our time, and this is by far his best film.  He narrows his focus in to tell a story that needed telling.  It has emotional draw because of its subject matter, and he balances that well in the runtime.  The structure he uses really is an accomplishment in film-making and gives the film an arresting pace.  Coupled with a Hans Zimmer ticking soundtrack and you have a thriller of the highest form.  It’s a film that must be seen by everyone due to its importance to history, but mostly because it’s astonishing cinema.

 

Here’s 11-20 with points reviews based upon Presentation (P – look of the film), Performance (PA – the acting), Narrative (N – the story) and Effect (E – Did the film have an impact on me?)…

  1. T2: Trainspotting – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  2. Logan – P: 2.5/3, PA: 3/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  3. The Death of Stalin – P: 2/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2.5/3, E: 0/1 – Final Score: 7.5/10
  4. John Wick: Chapter 2 – P: 3/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 7.5/10
  6. The Florida Project – P: 2/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  7. Silence – P: 3/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  8. Okja – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2/3, N: 3/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10
  9. La La Land – P: 3/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10
  10. Nobody Speak: The Trials of the Free Press (Documentary) – Final Score: 8/10

 

I’m always open to hearing what other peoples top 10’s are!

Blade Runner 2049: I don’t want to die

“What’s your biggest fear?” – Should have a qualifier to it.  It should be: “What’s your biggest fear, apart from dying?”.  Everyone’s biggest fear is death, and it has been since the start of time.  Religion was founded upon that fear and then moulded by psychedelic drug use.  Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner is all about that inevitable clock waiting to grasp us all.  Sure it’s a fantastic Sci-Fi thriller but most of all it’s a story about a desperate attempt to stay alive.  Our villainous replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) says: “All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain” to round off a classic story and film.  Yet Blade Runner lives on, some 35 years later to fall in to the depths of mortality once again.

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Denis Villeneuve is the greatest director on the planet.  He has a run of form that would compete with a 70’s Coppola or a whole career of Scorsese.  His directorial style can be drab yes, but also pristine.  Each one of his scenes are crafted to perfection – there are no holes of error.  Like the modern greats (Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson) he moulds the narrative in his own way and builds his films with multiple layers.  Luckily for our eyes he is a frequent collaborator with the greatest cinematographer on the planet – Roger Deakins.  The Deak has shot some of the best looking films of the last 20 years and in recent history he has been at the top of his game.  We’re talking Hail Cesar, Sicario, Prisoners, Skyfall, True Grit, A Serious Man and No Country for Old Men – all stunning mainstream movies.  With Villeneuve he has made the most gorgeous 163 minutes I have ever witnessed.  Blade Runner 2049 is a marvel of visual cinema.  The lighting is balanced so well between the dreariness of the sunken future world and the brightness of a hollow landscape.  It is equally colourful as it is solemn and more than anything the actors are placed accordingly.  There are moments during this film where I could not believe what I was seeing.  How did they shoot that? I was gasping and I was enthralled.  If cinema is a visual art-form then this could be one of the great works of art.  The 1982 film has this quality also, though I do not think it is quite as awe-inspiring.  Just a simple shot of Mackenzie Davis walking through a crowded street blew my mind.  For this the film gets a glowing recommendation to anyone, however this of course does not mean it’s a perfect film.

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The film is slow, gracefully slow, but still slow.  It’s paced much like a character or a mood piece rather than a Sci-Fi romp.  There is very little ‘blade-running’ going on and only a couple of real action scenes to speak about.  As a fan of a slow burn I was fine with this, and the more time spent with scenes the better.  Villeneuve and the writers were in no rush to portray a plot or elements of a narrative; rather were happy to let moments unfold in an immersive world they had built.  The engine for the film comes from the mystery of it all, and a constant questioning of our own interpretations of the Blade Runner tale.  It’s fuelled by some lovely performances by side characters; particularly Ana De Armas as Ryan Gosling’s virtual girlfriend Joi.  She is both sexy and innocent – being the intrigue of the first half of the film.  Her chemistry with Gosling is naturally disjointed and their relationship is built upon a synthetic desire.  There scenes together really are highlights of the film, and dealt with excellently within the context of the whole narrative.  Gosling does well as blade runner Kay – being likeable in a tricky role that is almost sidelined by the enormity of situations as the film progresses.  Through his character Villeneuve and Deakins present a left-field version of Blade Runner with a runtime of sublime and gripping pieces of film-making.  They throw plot out the window and tackle themes instead; themes of humanity and sacrifice.  Death is at the heart of the film again, but there is more beauty than sorrows this time around.

[Spoilers ahead – watch both films]

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There were three times in this film where the film emotionally got me.  Now on several occasions I felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head because of how unbelievably beautiful it looked, but it was on three occasions where a little tear may have trickled out.  Firstly when Joi died I was heartbroken as the bond she had with Kay felt genuine.  Ana De Armas was fantastic in the role and the character was completely loveable.  It shows that being human is about connections with others and her death was tearing a connection apart.  What the film does well is sub verse your expectations and when Kay comes across an advert for a model of Joi this happens.  Suddenly he is empty of grief and this spurs him on to realise his destiny and save Deckard (Harrison Ford).  So maybe all this robot love is phoney?  I believe that being human is about that unpredictability and phoney love feels real at the time.  The second time I was emotionally jarred was when Kay died.  His elegant collapse on the snow steps is dazzling and represents a sacrifice.  Kay, to feel human, is doing something that is the most human of all – dying.  This is where the beauty of death comes in, because he is dying for a cause; dying for a hope.  Death was empty and hopeless in the 1982 film and in 2049 it is heroic and peaceful.  Kay gives his life so that the real Blade Runner centrepiece Deckard can meet his daughter.  This meeting was the third time I was emotion struck.  It was a denouement I wasn’t expecting; an ending to a weird and complex story.  There are still questions to be answered but the notions of death and humanity were identified well by Villeneuve.  I don’t want to die because I’m enjoying myself too much.  I’m enjoying these great films too much.  In time Blade Runner 2049 may be tore apart by critics or seen as a masterpiece like the original.  All I want to do is write about it and right now I am engorging on its existence.