Sunday 17 December 2017

Top 10 Films of 2017

In no particular order, here are my 10 favourite films of 2017:

1. Voodoo (Dir Tommy Costabile)  - one of the first films I saw in 2017, and it knocked me for six. Costabile's shot on DV story of a southern party girl who, through no fault of her own ends up stuck in Hades, channeled the DIY spirits of Ray Dennis Steckler and Jose Mojica Marins. Audacious, outrageous and a whole lot of fun, it showed what can be done with just a few dollars in the bank, a rich imagination and some friends who run a haunted house setup. Oh and Ron Jeremy's in it.

2. Jackie (Dir Pablo Larrain) - an extended study of grief, this was/is Natalie Portman's finest hour. Larrain's film, about the period following the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963, excels at saying a lot with just a few filmic brushstrokes, and has (another) stunning soundtrack by Mica Levi. Jackie conveys loss and shock in a way rarely seen in the cinema, and the sense of the world needing to move on while she remains stuck in the moment is heartbreaking.

3. Lilith's Awakening (Dir Monica Demes) - technically a 2016 film, but as I was partly responsible for the movie getting its first UK screening this year, I claim the right to include it as a 2017 best. A beautiful, sinister movie, made under the auspices of the David Lynch Transcendental Meditation MFA in film, this story of vampirism in the mid west of the USA was all about Hoppereque shadows, brooding night shots, and a frightening soundtrack of the natural world. A film that reminds us of the power of black and white cinema. Brooding, dreamlike and very dangerous.

4. War of Words: Battle Rap in the UK (Dir Craig Tuohy, Tom Worth) - this short but very punchy documentary delves into UK's battle rap scene. Filmed over a number of years, it's a very personal account of a truly underground scene that captured the danger and exclusivity of my punk rock days. Funny, very rude and hugely exciting, it deserves a wider distribution.

5. Dunkirk (Dir Christopher Nolan) - after the saccharine excesses of Interstellar, Nolan's stripped down, very personal take on one of the defining moments of the second World War is a bleak delight. From its visceral opening to the soaring, elegiac finale, it's a film that rivals Jackie for conveying shock and desperation. Hans Zimmer's soundtrack becomes another emotional layer in the movie. Sure Nolan gets a bit carried away with himself at times, but there are scenes on Dunkirk which linger in the memory like vivid melancholic dreams.

6. The Big Sick (Dir Michael Showalter) - despite the (fair) comment that the Pakistani women in the film get a pretty raw deal in the character department, this is still a great film, with Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan turning in winning performances. The story of a culture clash couple facing girlfriend-in-an-induced-coma problems, this is consistently funny, life affirming filmmaking. A joy to watch and rewatch.

7. mother! (Dir Darren Aronofsky) - ok Marmite time. Plenty of people dislike this film (it prompted more than a few walkouts at the screening I attended) but for me this was Aronofsky's return to form, a back of a fag packet designed tour de force, a begging letter to the planet to stop fucking over Mother Nature's bounty, and Aronofsky's this-is-how-we-do-things-round-here love letter to new beau Jennifer Lawrence. Insane and intense; dream logic enigmatically captured on film.

8. Bushwick (Dir Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott) - sadly I saw this on a rather poor quality on line screener, and kick myself for not catching it on its brief big screen run, but this is a terrific faux single shot action movie which recalls the heady days of 80s straight to VHS exploitationers, but without the tracking problems. Perhaps the first Trumpocalypse (and you can have that one for free) movie, it's the story of southern state secessionists waging war on the streets of New York. Breathtaking on a very limited budget, Bushwick starts as it means to go on. Loud, exciting, and very inventive.

9. Battle of the Sexes (Dir Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris) - The most 'straightforward' of my choices, this is superb film making. Brilliantly paced with nuanced performances from Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs, Battle of the Sexes balances its intersecting storylines expertly (with a great and typically is-that-her? Andrea Riseborough as King's hard won partner) and some great comic set pieces. Mining a similar stylistic seam to Ron Howard's 2008 movie Frost/Nixon, a very satisfying film.

10. Get Out (Dir Jordan Peele) - writer and actor Peele's directorial debut may slightly unravel towards the end, but this is a smart film, tipping its hat to several genre apple carts while also upsetting them, and having enough elan to succeed in its own right. The story of Chris, an African American guy (Daniel Kaluuya) being introduced to the decidedly odd family (and hired help) of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) starts casually but tightens the knot extremely effectively. It's both funny and unsettling. I screened it to a very racially diverse audience at a recent film festival, and it was the highlight of the weekend.

Honorable mentions: God's Own Country (Dir Francis Lee), Loving (Dir Jeff Nichols), Capture Kill Release (Dir Nick McAnulty), The Belko Experiment (Dir Greg McLean) and Hounds of Love (Dir Ben Young).

No comments:

Post a Comment