OK, it’s that time of year for you lot out there to get really cross with me as I give you my run-down of what I consider to be the best films of 2017 (and your choice isn’t in there!)
I was going to start this review by commenting that the volume of quality films has been lower this year than in previous years, but in trying to come up with a list of just ten I have had to chop out a whole heap of films that I wanted to get into the list: “Get Out“; “Lion“; “Hacksaw Ridge“; “Hidden Figures“; “Hell or High Water“; “The Big Sick“; “mother!“; “Blade Runner 2049“; “Thor: Ragnarok“; “Their Finest“.
All are great films, in their own way, that I would gladly settle down to watch of an evening. But a line needs to be drawn and this is my line!
Number 10 – Baby Driver.
Hmm… well, the recent revelations about the alleged sexual shenanigans of Kevin Spacey have rather taken the edge off this film (the DVD distributors must be fuming) so I thought long and hard about including this in my list at all. But, despite the additional allegations of Spacey bullying his co-stars on set and generally not being a nice person, the movie remains as an excellent piece of escapist entertainment by Edgar Wright, set to a banging soundtrack of rock classics. Based on the proverb that we shouldn’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel, I’ve included it as my Number 10 film.
Having watched it again, as a crime-caper the plot is a bit lightweight and the characters a little two-dimensional, but the music-infused car chases, action and humour work to a ‘T’.
Number 9: Colossal.
At Number 9, a truly bonkers story of monsters in Seoul and their link to Hathaway’s character in a small US town thousands of miles away. This is just such a surprising film, veering as it does from whimsy to pitch-black comedy/drama. Hathaway is great and Sudeikis shows his acting chops compared to the usual light comedy we are used to seeing him in.
I suspect this might be a real “Marmite” movie… but it certainly surprised and delighted me.
Number 8: American Made.
Cruise is not always to everyone’s taste, but here he is exceptional playing the real-life CIA helper (and self-helper) Barry Seal. Directed with great energy by Bourne-director Doug Liman, it’s a roller-coaster of comedic scenes that are both unbelievable AND based on the truth.
The stunning Sarah Wright also takes a special award for the best plane-sex scene of the year!
Number 7: Manchester By The Sea.
Manchester by the Sea is slow, superbly acted, gloriously photographed, funny, and utterly devastating. It’s undoubtedly one of the great films of the year, justly earning Casey Affleck his Best Actor Oscar and Kenneth Lonergan his Best Screenplay Oscar. It would perhaps be higher up in my top 10, but it’s one of those films that I think “do I want to see this again?” and then I invariably think of something less heavyweight I’d rather watch. Which is a shame: I must force myself soon.
Number 6: Miss Sloane.
In a year championing ‘girl-power’ in the movies (topped off by “The Last Jedi“, which didn’t make my list), this memorable US political thriller grabs my number 6 slot with Jessica Chastain (“The Martian“, “Interstellar“) playing the most aggressively self-assured woman in the movies in 2017. Chastain has a great supporting cast with John ‘very busy in 2017’ Lithgow, Mark Strong and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Directed by Englishman John Madden and with a whip-smart debut script by Jonathan Perera it’s an exciting rollercoaster of a plot where you don’t see the twists and turns coming.
Number 5: Logan.
WHAT?? A Marvel movie makes a One Mann’s Movies Film of the Year? Is the world about to end? I’ve not been a great fan of Marvel films, but they have rather got their act together this year at the lighter more-comic end of the spectrum, with “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” maintaining the standard of the first film and “Thor: Ragnarok” – one of the best comedy films of the year – nearly making my Top 10.
Here though we head to the other end of the Marvel spectrum with a superbly gritty, dark and ultra-violent X-Men film that just blew me away. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart ably demonstrate what happens when super-heroes age and start to lose control of their super-faculties. Jackman; Stewart; Eriq La Salle; Stephen Merchant: all deliver great ensemble performances with Dafne Keen (to appear in 2018 in the lead role of “Ana” with Andy Garcia) being particularly feral as the young girl with special powers.
Number 4 – War for the Planet of the Apes.
A real summer blockbuster! I’ve been a big fan of the Apes reboot, and while number 2 of the series (“Dawn of…“) was a bit of a back-step from the original classic (“Rise of..”) here we came slap bang back into form for a fitting finale to Caesar’s story arc. Some of the scenes in this film… the desolate and abandoned “Holidays are Coming” Coke lorry in the woods for example – stick in the mind. Throw in awesome Andy Serkis mo-cap; an entertaining PoW escape sub-plot; a comic character called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who never quite crosses over into ‘Jar Jar’ annoyance-territory; Woody Harrelson as a bonkers bad guy; and with a surprise twist in the denouement, I found this to be 100% entertaining.
Number 3 – Victoria and Abdul.
What a national treasure Judi Dench is! Here she reprises her role as Queen Victoria telling a bizarre true story of her shockingly inappropriate relationship with Indian manservant Abdul Kareem (Ali Fazal). Tim Pigott Smith makes his last screen performance as the head of the royal household being prodded on towards dark deeds by the Queen’s concerned son, the Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard).
Director Stephen Frears and writer Lee Hall combine to deliver a film full of warmth, comedy, drama and pathos. A delight, especially for older viewers who are not into Marvel or DC action.
Number 2 – A Monster Calls.
One of the first films I saw in 2017 and a memorable one. J. A. Bayona (whose “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” arrives next summer) delivers a fairy tale with edge about a young boy – Lewis MacDougall in a powerful performance – living in very trying times but visited each night at the same time by a tree monster (Liam Neeson, “Non-Stop“). The film also has a heart-breaking performance by Felicity Jones (“Rogue One“) and a supporting turn by Sigourney Weaver (“Alien”, “Ghostbusters”).
But it’s in some of the technical categories that the film excels, with outstanding sound design and superbly impressive “impressionist” animations, reminiscent of the “three brothers” animations from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. The film has won a host of European film awards, but I’d love to see it nominated in the mainstream Oscar and BAFTA awards coming up.
Highly recommended for older kids and adults – but don’t be fooled by the wrapping… it’s definitely not happy material for younger children! If you don’t have a weep at the end of this one you’re certifiably non-human!
Number 1 – La La Land.
While “Collosal” and “American Made” might have passed you by, there’s little chance that you are not aware of this one! There’s a phrase that applies here… “Familiarity breeds contempt”. The fact that this film got such Oscar hype (including the most comical Oscar award announcements in history) combined with the fact that my grandson insists on the soundtrack being played EVERY SINGLE TIME we take a car journey means that it has rather over-saturated my consciousness this year.
But notwithstanding this, if I were to come back to any of the films in this list in 20 years time, this is the one that would still stand out for me. Damien Chazelle delivers a gloriously nostalgic throwback to the heyday of screen musicals with an Oscar-winning Emma Stone and a charismatic Ryan Gosling in fine form together again. In the engine room is the marvellous score – also Oscar winning – by Justin Hurwitz.
This is a good film. The last eight minutes turns it into a great film and for that reason it grabs my top slot of “Film of the Year 2017”.
So that’s my pick for 2017. Agree or disagree? What should have been here? Please comment!
Also check out the companion post for my three ‘turkeys’ of the year… one might surprise you!