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)

Ansel Elgort;Jon Hamm;Jamie Foxx;Eiza Gonzalez

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.

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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