Thanks to the powers of a Curzon membership I managed to see more films than I’ve ever seen before in cinemas in 2017. Between us, Lyd and I managed a total of 58, three higher than last year’s previous best. Looking back through the full list there are three immediately obvious things:
- There were loads of really good films this year
- There weren’t any films that will be troubling my top 3 (Harvey, Donnie Darko, Mad Max Fury Road)
- Despite seeing more films than ever before, there were still plenty that I wanted to see but didn’t get around to.
So as much for the benefit of jogging my memory as anything else, here’s a bit of a roundup of the greats, the surprises, the not-so-greats and the I-wonder-if-they’re-great-or-nots.
After watching a film I try to pretty swiftly update my list and give it a knee-jerk rating. That’s not always the best way to judge a film, but it gives me a nice reminder about my instant reaction to it. Of the 58 seen, I reckon something like 20 or so managed an 8 out of 10 this year – that’s what I mean about it being a good year. Whittling it down to just a handful is hard so I won’t present a simple top 5 (edit: turns out I will attempt a top 3 later on, oh well).
One of the things this year seemed very good at was tension. Dunkirk and Detroit were the big hitters that spring to mind, and in any other year one of them would be the most tense film by a country mile. But this year there were the two of them, and even then there was another film that managed to out-tense them by some margin. It Comes At Night was an absolute masterclass in two things – gut-wrenching tension for every second of its run time, and how marketing can fuck a film up. For some reason It Comes At Night was marketed as a jump-scare horror, but that’s not what it’s like at all. Perhaps it gets bums on seats to do it that way, as jump-scare horror is surprisingly popular, but most of their bums are going to be disappointed if they’re not getting the raucous scare-athon they were after. And you don’t want to disappoint a bum.
2017 was the year that I finally managed to visit Japan, so with unerring timing as well as some excellent Japanese animation in Silent Voice, there were a duo of films released in the weeks before my trip that really didn’t paint a good picture of Japanese history – Age of Shadows and The Handmaiden both used the Japanese annexation of Korea as a backdrop. Both also feature some pretty harrowing torture and are excellent, but the similarities end there.
In non-Japanese animation it was also a great year – Red Turtle and My Life As A Courgette are so utterly different to look at, but I found both deeply affecting and both being pretty short, are likely to make my rewatch list at some point. And I thought brevity was a lost cinematic art.
If, held at gunpoint, I had to pick a top three of the year though, it would probably be Death of Stalin, Lady Macbeth and Good Time.
I was expecting the humour of Death of Stalin, but how it managed to take its subject matter simultaneously so serious was a revelation. And Simon Russell Beale finally tearing up the big screen was a long awaited joy. Even if Jason Isaacs summarily upstaged everyone.
Lady Macbeth will, if there’s any justice, make a huge star of Florence Pugh. What I feared might be a film stuck full of long shots of countryside that were meant to be portentous or somesuch was actually a much tighter beast with a nasty streak a mile wide. There were still a few shots of countryside, but they were dripping with subtext. A timely re-examination of some costume drama staples.
Good Time was another top tense film, but it also rattled along, barely staying in one place long enough to let me catch my breath. There’s a fantastic twist about half way through and Robert Pattinson continues to exceed expectations by taking on interesting projects (The Rover, Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars spring to mind) and excelling. Also there was a nice (small) role for Barkhad Abdi who was so fantastic in Captain Phillips. He also rocked up very briefly in Bladerunner 2049 and for me was one of the most memorable aspects of the whole film (more on that later). Let’s have some meatier roles for Barkhad please!
Oh, and Paddington 2 was just beautiful. I was snooty about the first one, but eventually watched it on the small screen and was blown away. The second one is, if anything, even better. Swallow any snootiness and go and be bowled over by loveliness.
I liked Star Wars n’ all, but the internet has volumes written on that so I shan’t trouble you any further with my opinion. But I do love Poe Dameron.
As part of my job I have to watch film trailers again and again and again. I watched various different cuts of The Daddy’s Home 2 trailer over 160 times, for example. One that I saw a LOT of trailers for was Happy Death Day, and I really thought it was going to be utter bobbins. Groundhog Day meets teen slasher is an interesting enough idea, I suppose, but boy did it look duff. And yet, it was one of the most purely enjoyable films I saw all year (see also: Thor Ragnarok). The horror goes out the window after the first half hour or so and it becomes a straight up comedy. It even makes some serious points about believing women when they call out abuse.
The Not So Great
There were 2 (and a half) walk outs this year.
Atomic Blonde didn’t seem like it was going to be my kind of film. I gave it a go because it seemed like a good time to support female- led action films (I didn’t enjoy Wonder Woman much either to be honest, but that was a LOT better than this), Charlize Theron was great in action scenes in Mad Max, and I like James MacAvoy more than I should. It was definitely not my cup of tea.
La La Land. I gave it a go. The opening nearly killed me, then I thought it might settle down a bit. Then they were both just obnoxious and not as good at singing and dancing as people who’re the leads in musicals should be. Lyd has to spend a few minutes watching West Side Story to decompress if the memory of La La Land resurfaces.
Lyd walked out of Bladerunner 2049, but I stuck out the whole ting and honestly? I think she made the better call. It looked beautiful, of course – Roger Deakins is a magician. Lyd left because she couldn’t take the misogyny. And it is really misogynistic. It seemed like it was doing it to make a point, but I don’t think they pulled it off. When I explained the ending to Lyd she laughed and laughed and laughed. I’ve ever been in love with the original, so that probably didn’t help either.
Oh, and we should have walked out of Trespass Against Us, but kept thinking it was about to end. An utter waste of Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender.
I wanted , but completely failed, to see quite a few this year. Marjorie Prime, The Levelling, The Ritual (I think that’s what it was called – British horror of some sort), God’s Own Country, Call Me By Your Name, Raw and many many more beside. Some of those are ending up in top 10 lists so hopefully I’ll catch up with them at some point.
That’s my tuppence worth. What should I have seen that I missed?