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!

Wind River – Film Review

Geographically winter mornings are more pleasant than summer ones.  The skies are empty and a lovely shade of blue.  It’s quiet, it’s crisp and it’s calm.  There is a stiff breeze in your face though – a stiff breeze that is beginning to hurt your nose.  Your fingers are slowly losing their feeling and shoving them in your pockets is only a small rest bite.  The chance to wear a combination of your favourite jumpers has arisen, but the coat on top is uncomfortable.  Getting inside is a dream, and removing all the layers a chore.  Yet the beauty of the morning has not changed, and will never change.  Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is a winter morning; a gorgeous, solemn and extremely cold morning.  It’s a morning to revisit and cherish – with only the slight sense of a looming sadness beneath.

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Jeremy Renner is Cory Lambert – an experienced tracker whose job is to mostly hunt down and kill predators that are terrorizing livestock on a snowy Indian reservation in Wyoming.  Whilst hunting down a group of mountain lions he comes across the body of a teenage girl who has been raped and killed.  Then FBI agent Jane Banner, played by Elizabeth Olsen arrives.  She is clearly canny, but ill-equipped so asks Lambert to help her find the killer.

This film opens with our protagonist Lambert shooting and killing a wolf that is surrounding a herd of sheep.  A sign of things to come this symbolises the films relentless and unforgiving nature.  Renner is playing a grizzled peak of masculinity here.  He’s patient, but tough and has more baggage than a central cities airport.  At first he appears as the distant divorced dad, sharing custody of a young child.  It soon becomes clear that he is woven into this strange community, and relied on – the community and setting itself being the real main character of the story.  It’s a place of sheer survival – the harsh weather and snow storms testing everyone that resides there.  The reservation is described as ‘the only thing we have left’.  It offers little excitement or prosperity for the young people of the area, a theme that is a driving force of the movie.  For some it’s all about getting out of there, for others – like Lambert – it’s about becoming one with the environment.  It’s this connection he has with the setting that makes him such an interesting character and the master in every scene he’s in.  Renner plays him well in a simple performance where emotion only breaks through when it has too.  He has to be strong when others are weak, making his rare weaker moments all the more heart wrenching.

Alongside him is Olsen; in a real coming of age performance.  Thankfully Sheridan didn’t write her as a hapless FBI detective out of her depth.  She is from the very start in control of the investigation and not unwilling to receive help from the experts of the area.  Her bravery shines through and Olsen does well in portraying someone terrified but pushing herself to do the right thing.  The situation is draining on her and you can see it in her eyes, though not once does she let anyone take advantage of that.  At one point she makes reference to the police chief that she’s all that they’ve got.  This is when one of the joys of the film comes along: her interplay with Lambert – the sharing of the knowledge of the wilderness, and the sadness in his past.  A sadness that is dripped through the film, never becoming cliché or tired.  It is a marvel of the film – the ability to convey emotions that we have seen a hundred times before, but still make it moving and interesting.

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Sheridan has obviously learned a great deal from the last two directors he has worked with.  He’s off the back of writing two of the best American thrillers of the last few years – Sicario and Hell or High Water.  From Sicario director Denis Villeneuve (possibly the most on form director on the planet right now) he has learnt about tension and framing.  Wind River is full of suspense and atmosphere, a sense of constant dread that is building and building.  It means that each scene is exciting to watch, and there is a never a moment of boredom or anxiety.  From Hell or High Water director David Mackenzie he has learnt about the quieter moments, about keeping them simple and sharp.  The moments of pause are a chance to examine the characters carefully, not to force it or drag it out.  We come out of Wind River with enough revelations about the characters that we can be satisfied.  Thanks to working with these two great directors Sheridan appears like a seasoned pro, despite this being his first real feature debut.  Everything is executed perfectly, and framed with clarity.  The scenes are open and inclusive, with the wide’s giving Sheridan a lot to play with.  All the foreboding comes from this stunning camerawork but also a haunting soundtrack.  It chimes slowly, and is ever present throughout most of the film.  There are possible times when it could have been distracting, but the grace of the film-making made it bond well with the content of the film.  It gives the film a chilling edge, which kept me completely riveted.

I can safely say that Taylor Sheridan is now the king of the simple, but always brooding drama.  He is telling this tale with confidence and conviction.  The subject matter is based on true events, and it’s tough.  Some of the scenes are not easy to watch, but Sheridan handles them well – with little remorse.  The film is equally beautiful as it is plain and a lot of the films greatness comes from that simplicity.  There is enough of a film-making edge to keep it fresh (a bit of chorological hopping) and I’m eager to see what I make of it a second time around.  The best way to go into this film (like many films) is too know as little as possible.  There is a scene towards the end of the film that surprised and charmed me, that I think works perfectly to tie all the film together.  Overall it is a perfectly crafted work of art after one viewing.  The cast are solid, the pace is always up, and the story is told creatively.  I am hoping this is the start of a run of brilliance for Taylor Sheridan as a director.

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