Unconventional romances, dark thrillers and grand epics are the names of these games (or movies, in this case).
Hello there one and all and welcome to my belated 2017 list. I had been meaning to put it up for quite some time but due to some delays, I’ve decided to take some aspects of its presentation into my hands and slapped something together on a whim. Now, for all we know, the header might be updated to something more polished in the future but in the meantime, I’ll make due with what I have. Before I begin, however, I wish to lay down two ground rules:
- Some films I loved from this year – such as Logan, A Cure For Wellness, Good Time and more – could not make into the final list for one reason or another. If you wish to see all of the films I saw in 2017, just click here for my full log.
- No, Blade Runner 2049 is not on here and I do not wish to deal with the endless horde screaming at its omission. This is my list, not yours.
And now on to the show!
10. Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets.
“Laureline, will you please put your hand back on the joystick?”
The most creative and imaginative Sci-Fi spectacle of the year and no one went to see it due to divisive reviews, an obscure source material, oddball leads and stiff competition (this opened up against films like Dunkirk and the unsuspecting sleeper hit Girls Trip). A shame too, because Luc Besson’s adaptation of the Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières comic series is a wonder to behold and one of the most energetic films I’ll see all year. While its script won’t win any awards and perhaps the combination of Dane DeHaan + Cara Delevingne as a pair of space operatives are not suited to this material, the sheer visual imagination and quirky vibe of Besson’s Fifth Element is here in full force to pick up the slack and then some. This film has more ideas in a single frame than most movies do as a whole, while the film’s kinetic pace keeps things from ever getting stale. I adore this film for its sheer wackiness, warts and all, and I hope to GOD this gets its day in the sun as a future cult classic.
“Time to float!”
What’s the deal with Clowns anyway? After going through several radical screenplays and a major director departure, this adaptation of the seminal Stephen King classic finally made it into theaters in 2017. And it was good! Hell, great even. One of the better adaptations of his works out there, bar none. In splitting King’s gargantuan novel into two films and making the first one all about the kids vs the clown, it gives the story a great focus it would have never had if the whole book was brought on screen while also channeling the best of New Line horror and Spielbergian childhood wonder in the process. The film might be short on scares, but Andrés Muschietti’s take on IT certainly has no shortage on entertainment, humor and heart.
8. All The Money In The World.
“If you can count your money, you’re not a billionaire.”
Between the controversial reshoots and messy pay disputes by one of its stars, Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World looks to be buried and remembered for the negative press than its merits as an actual film. Which is a massive shame, as this is easily Scott’s best film to come out in this decade so far. It’s cold, cynical and borderline operatic stuff, with Christopher Plummer being his magnificent self as J. Paul Getty, his stare and presence at once personable but malevolent and cheap. But other players such as Michelle Williams and Romain Duris (especially the latter) provide fantastic work on their own as the mother of the kidnapped kid and the leader of the kidnappers respectfully. Coupled with tight editing, gorgeous cinematography, a well written if melodramatic script and a bang up score, this is Scott doing strong work here. Don’t be afraid to seek it out.
“REJOICE! THE BROKEN ARE THE MORE EVOLVED!”
It’s good to say M Night Shyamalan is finally back after being a laughing stock for a good decade. Featuring a fearlessly committed performance by James McAvoy and confident direction, this is Shyamalan roaring back into top form. He hasn’t been this good since Signs and it’s just great seeing him pull off something this unnerving and interesting with McAvoy’s delightfully demented yet sympathetic monster. It’s both of these performers in bonkers mode and it makes for genuinely scary stuff. Then there’s that signature twist ending that Shymalan pulls out of his bag of tricks, one that not only changes the film on its head in just a minute but also sets itself for a sequel that makes any MCU teaser look downright meager by comparison.
6. War For The Planet of The Apes.
“I have a message for your Colonel: Leave us the woods and the killing can stop.”
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this film’s existence: A 150 million dollar big budget, slow paced epic that says humanity deserves to die and throws around constant references to brutal war films and Holocaust pictures – that mostly involves CG apes that communicate in sign language. Like, how?! How did this get made? Above all, how did it wind up this good? Director Matt Reeves finishes Caesar’s saga with a flawed but satisfying finale. Though not without some noticeable bumps in the road, the film works excellently as an amazing technical and emotional accomplishment. Intelligent, genuinely epic, blockbuster filmmaking like this doesn’t come around this often, especially in the franchise realm. Treasure it.
5. Phantom Thread.
“It’s comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don’t find that spooky at all.“
Daniel Day Lewis ends his career with a subtle bang in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, one of the oddest romance stories to come out this year. It’s an exquisitely designed and beautifully subtle affair in every regard: The writing is layered, the performances are multifaceted, Johnny Greenwood’s score is honey to the ears in hearing it bounce between different tones, the costuming and set design is rich as hell – I could go on and on with the feast of a film. However, that in of itself would be spoiling the twisty, toxic fun to be had. Just go in blind as hell and be amazed. You won’t regret it.
4. Wind River.
“Luck don’t live out here.“
Unpopular opinion time but out all writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s works in Hollywood as of late, this chilly thriller bests Sicario and Hell or High Water by about several notches. Haunting is the operative word on this one – in story, visuals and performances. Murder mysteries can make for tragic works and this one, set on an Indian reservation with a local hunter played by Jeremy Renner leading the investigation, is one that feels more real than they probably should. It’s understated but effective work, cold and desolate, in how it’s story plays out and stiff drink might be required afterwards. The final coda at the end in particular feels like a swift kick to the nuts, especially when you take into account of the recent swarm of sexual harassment claims going on in the world.
3. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.“
Yes I liked it. Shut up. In a way, Rian Johnson unintentionally granted a perverse wish of mine I had around the time The Force Awakens got the backlash: Make a film that goes out of its way to make people regret bitching about the previous film by getting weird and changing shit. Well, it happened and you know what? It works. Maybe not for everyone (as evidenced by the super divisive responses), but it certainly did for me. A hulking, complicated and grand spectacle that willingly subverts and breaks expectations of what we have for Star Wars but puts it back together for a new generation. JJ Abrams has his work cut out for him after what Johnson has done here. Plus Porgs and Reylo nearly being canon! What’s not to like?
2. The Lost City of Z.
“Mr. Fawcett, that jungle is hell, but one kind of likes it.“
Imagine a Great Hollywood epic from the 70’s that was shot and completed but locked and preserved for ages in the vaults from the system until one day someone let the film out of its cage. That’s the experience of watching James Gray’s masterful adventure. Patient, intelligent and featuring an awards worthy turn by Charlie Hunnam, The Lost City of Z is a long journey but stick with it and you will be richly rewarded by the almost surreal adventures of Percy Fawcett and his obsession with finding an unknown civilization in Amazonia that span a lifetime. Everything element of production, design and writing in this film is impeccable despite its limited resources while the rest of the cast gives career best work here (of which includes such faces like Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland and Ian McDiarmid, among others). And to say nothing of the final shot, which deserves to be mounted in every art museum around the world.
1. Your Name.
“I hate this town! I hate this life! Please make me a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life!”
Not many films left me in awe quite like Your Name did. Going in, I was pretty much in the dark save for the base synopsis – two teens find themselves continually swapping bodies for reasons beyond their understanding – and the universal praise it was getting but coming out of it, I was utterly blindsided by the massive achievement that director Makoto Shinkai pulled off. Gorgeous to gawk at, inventively plotted and featuring one of the most exhilarating third acts I’ve seen in a while, Your Name commands the screen in ambition and tone up until till its heartbreakingly beautiful final frame. Don’t let the fact this is an anime alienate you; This film is a testament to the power of cinema in any form and one of the few films I’ve seen this year that legitimately deserves to be called “art”. Believe the hype on this one, ladies and gents.
So what were your picks? Let us know in the comments below!