Sunday 24 December 2017

The ten best films of 2017,
according to this idiot

They say that in 2017, web-based film commentary has been reduced to little more than highly subjective listicles that mean nothing to anyone but the writer, whose over-inflated sense of ego drives them to continually vomit their opinions onto the internet regardless of a total lack of insight and a steadily dwindling readership. I don't know if this is true because I've been far too busy ranking the films of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese to take any notice of what anyone else is doing, but it seems unlikely. Anyway never mind that, here are my ten favourite films of the year!

Thank Christ there are filmmakers out there who actually like Batman enough to celebrate him and all his iterations no matter how ridiculous. The LEGO Batman Movie had love for the caped crusader coming out of its tiny, pointy ears, but that's not all - it dared to prod the Dark Knight's obvious psychological issues in a way that's somehow sensitive and fun at the same time. And not only did it feature a superhero team-up to beat Justice League, but also a supervillain team-up to beat Suicide Squad. All that said, I am deeply disappointed that Batman doesn't pay his taxes. That's not cool, kids!

The MCU's wackiest year yet peaked with this welcome return to a Spidey who looked and acted like a teenage nerd so excited about his superpowers that he could barely contain his own web fluid. After three forgettable Spider-outings, Kevin Feige's guiding hand steered ol' webhead back on track, not just restoring audience faith in Spidey but enhancing the MCU to boot: Peter Parker's father / son relationship with Tony Stark looks set to pay off in spades when the latter finally fires his last repulsor. Now if only Marvel could free themselves of the need to crowbar twenty minutes of tedious superhero-versus-supervillain punch-ups into the final acts of their terrific character-based comedies, they'd be streets ahead of DC by now. What's that? Oh.

Like a 21st century Euro-Kubrick, Yorgos Lanthimos turned out this gleefully horrifying companion piece to 2015's The Lobster with clinical black humour and an eye for unforgettably, hilariously grim imagery. Like real life but with the absurdity curtains pulled right back, Sacred Deer forced you to view humanity through a different lens; you might not have liked what you found there but at least you had an excruciatingly awkward and uncomfortable time while you looked.

Maybe it's the case that the more you love a movie franchise the more glaring its issues are. Overlong and bloated with unnecessary scenes, jokes and beats lifted from the original trilogy, The Last Jedi pushed its luck pretty hard. But for every terrible, overly-CG, Episode I-esque chase on alien horseback, there was a galaxy of new and wondrous moments searing themselves into Star Wars lore: an unexpected and shiver-inducing team-up; an iconic hero revealed to be less the infallible legend and more the wry old hermit; a dozen unforgettable images as instantly quintessential as anything in the series since 1977. Hope remains.

Deeply biting, genuinely thought-provoking and thankfully not-too-gory horror aimed precisely at liberal white folk who are a) possibly a little too comfortable in the belief they're not racist, and b) sick of jump scares and torture porn (hello). The writing here was sublime (there were so many clues in the first half that a rewatch was essential), and even if the last reel was a bit silly and rushed it didn't matter. In a world of socio-political message-movies that yell into an echo chamber, Get Out actually had something vital to say to the majority of its audience.

Martin Scorsese's most personal passion project since The Last Temptation Of Christ was uncommercial enough to keep audiences away in droves (in fairness, punters' choice in January was a 160-minute meditation on faith, or Ryan Gosling tap-dancing with Emma Stone), making back less than half its scraped-together budget. But Marty is long past crowd-pleasing, and Silence was the kind of film whose stature will only grow over time until it's rightly hailed as the late-period auteurist masterpiece it is. Essential Scorsese and soul-enriching cinema, but Jesus Christ on a cracker I am totally ready for The Irishman.

The story of a cursed soldier who manages to sink four of the five boats on which he tries to escape from a perfectly pleasant seaside town, Dunkirk was an assault on the eyes and ears (especially in IMAX) as well as the marbles, deliberately disorientating you with its director's trademark timefuckery. Visually breathtaking (not least when it took to the skies in horizon-spanning megavision) and aurally stressful, this tale of heroism, survival and sacrifice boasted 2017's most effective combination of action and music, to the point where it could just as well be described as Hans Zimmer's best album of 2017 featuring an ace video by Christopher Nolan.

Episode 2 of what is now looking like a fifteen-star trilogy (and there's no reason why they need to stop at three) repeated its predecessor's perfect alchemy of silent comedy and sharply-observed British humour, adding an entire hacking enquiry's worth of HRH Hugh Grant to push it into the stratosphere. Inexplicably hilarious while simultaneously heartbreaking, Paddington 2 provided the year's most thorough emotional workout: this and La La Land probably delivered my happiest moments of 2017, proving that cinema's capacity to make you feel absolutely fucking great isn't dead just yet, despite all the efforts of the DC Cinematic Universe.

Buried away in blockbuster season was this tiny, tender, thought-provoking beauty about life, death, love and the infinite. Its epic themes boxed up in a vignetted 4:3 frame, A Ghost Story provided big ideas on a small scale, as well as welcome relief from the empty noise that characterised most of this summer in the cinema. Also where else were you going to watch Rooney Mara eat a pie for five minutes? In The Lost City Of Z? I don't think so.

It is still unfathomable to me that there was a backlash to La La Land, but what are you gonna do? People are idiots. Regardless of how you feel it turned out, there was so much love poured into this film that it spilled out of the edges: love for movies, love for musicals, love for golden age Hollywood, love for dreams and dreamers, love for art and artists, love for love itself. I haven't been as happy to see a fictional couple fall in love or so sad to see them break apart since Han and Leia. I fell in love with La La Land at first sight and we're still going strong over a year later; check back in five years to see if we had to break up because it held me back from becoming a professional miseryguts.


The usual disclaimer: if you're reading this more than 24 hours since I wrote it, I've probably changed my mind. Up-to-date version, including everything else I saw from 2017, here.