It’s been a wild year. And here we are in 2018 looking back over our shoulders again wondering how we made it through that crazy mess that was 2017. A lot has happened in the world, on this site and to me. I actually quit my job (not to write full time, obviously) and started going to school again. I saw a lot more films and happened to see some TIFF people not during TIFF times as I find myself in Canada. I also am on my way to studying game development, which makes me more and more curious to write about games on this site, but we’ll see what happens there. I’ve also gone back to the world of anime and I’m sure words about that in some way will find it’s way on this site. But most of all I’m just thankful for everything that has happened. It’s been crazy (as I’ve already said) and I can’t wait to see what’s waiting for me on the other side of that crazy in 2018.
Anyways below is my list of favourite films of 2017 that I managed to catch up with. Feel free to flame exclusions and such. Otherwise enjoy…
20. LOGAN (James Mangold)
I don’t think it’s possible for a Wolverine film to be this good. While I held a special place in my heart for the claw wielding mutant, this is going too far. With his aged body straining on his existence and only staying alive to pretty much prove to Xavier that the world is utter shit he’s thrown back into another adventure as he’s presented with a contradiction to this hypothesis in the form of Laura (X-23), the first new mutant in a while.
With super hero films becoming common-place in our cinematic diet it’s saddening and refreshing that we’ve now reached the point where genre splicing with a western is what we needed to make it feel special again. LISTEN TO PODCAST.
19. PERSONAL SHOPPER (Olivier Assayas)
I’ll be the first to admit that I disliked Cloud of Sils Maria with a fervor that was not well met in 2014. The film felt meandering in ways I prefer not to get into. Here however was something different. I was fully prepared for another dose of boredom – including Kristen Stewart’s static emotion state acting – only to be surprised. Not just surprised in the direction of the film but in the story, itself. This may be partially due to my own cynicism, but the world of the film felt in line with it, until it wasn’t.
The film transforms from a trite story of depression and grief into something more in it’s later half. We watch on as it becomes terrifying and consoling at the same time. It may be because Stewart’s character, Maureen, didn’t truly believe just as we didn’t. Regardless this film opened up into something beautiful by the time it all wrapped up and I would be remiss to not mention it at the end of the year.
18. A SILENT VOICE (Naoko Yamada)
This film reminds us that at times looking within can be the scariest thing of all. When one recognizes that you’ve become the monster that you never wanted to be. That act of fun that could be read as attention seeking or fun somehow isn’t that funny anymore and then you have to ask yourself what you really did and what it really means. This film draws a wonderful world of introspection and understanding. In a year of media making a bigger conversation of men’s actions that make the world impossible for others I can’t help but take solace in this film in looking to a future where we’re all getting better. READ FULL REVIEW.
17. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (Raoul Peck)
James Baldwin is a name that before seeing this film I was not familiar with. Looking back at his words we sit and wonder why this is even still relevant. How has the world not come to agree with them? However, it’s not hard to hear them and see where the world still isn’t there yet. This documentary stands out not due to any influential direction or ideas but rather it’s subject; that being Baldwin himself. He pops out of the film as a character that is engaging in ways that just rushing through history would be dull and repetitive. The film feels structured as a classical argument and the cinema is his courtroom. It’s a great expression of the medium and a enthralling watch. LISTEN TO PODCAST
16. OKJA (Bong Joon-Ho)
The film’s strength is in it’s pig adventure. A young girl just wants her pig back and cares not for the world of agendas and economies that need this pig for other purposes.
Honestly while I’ll eat all the bacon in the world, I can’t say no to that face…
15. THOR: RAGNAROK (Taika Waititi)
Thor, like Wolverine, is a comic book franchise I adore. I feel I love the character more than the franchise. This film is possibly the best straight up comedy of 2017. We have Thor and Hulk run amok in space saving galaxies and picking up some new friends along the way. But the plot takes a back seat to the shenanigans of Loki complaining to Thor’s queue for the “Get Help” routine, or Hulk’s debate over who’s a “raging fire”, or even The Grandmaster’s use of the “melting” stick. It’s possibly the best comic book movie because it just works as popcorn fun in the best sense. LISTEN TO PODCAST
14. FREE FIRE (Ben Wheatley)
It’s a romp of bullets, insults and just general wrench throwing into plots. I saw this last year at TIFF and since then I’ve been in love. Watching this film three more times since then I can’t help but extol the virtues of seeing Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson and Sharlto Copley have an extended gun fight. We watch on as jokes are thrown across the room trying to diffuse situations that are impossible to make okay again.
13. GET OUT (Jordan Peele)
What do you get when one of the funniest creators in TV/cinema makes a horror film about a black man feeling out of place when he visits his white girlfriend’s family? You get one of the most interesting looks at race dynamics in USA and also one of the most entertaining/bonkers horror films of the year. It makes you find fears in the unsaid that you can’t definitely say is bad but stands out as weird. It’s unsettling in ways that other more supernatural based horror films try to touch and fail to make as effecting. LISTEN TO PODCAST
12. LADY BIRD (Greta Gerwig)
So many films put us in the middle of all sorts of family dramas. Here we sit between mother and daughter. Christine “Lady Bird” wants to move away from home and have an experience away from her mother, Marion, who she sees as always wanting to limit her. Her mother just doesn’t want her daughter to be hurt by the world and by disappointment. They fight, but behind all of that we can see is love. The film allows us to watch on as Christine grows to learn even when we see her hurting others.
11. BABY DRIVER (Edgar Wright)
When music video filmmaking finally makes a full length feature debut. I can’t claim this to be a first, but this film uses the energy of the soundtrack to push us through a heist/crime film where at first we’re along just for the ride and later makes it substantially complicit in it’s own crimes. Baby is the bland protagonist who like our college crush we learn about from what they have playing on their iPod rather than them telling us. Whether it’s gun fights to “Tequilla” or car chases to “Bellbottoms”.
The film, like all of Edgar Wright’s work, is densely packed with tiny screen tricks and visual queues that are cultivated with care and rewards revisiting. It also feels as though it’s okay with you not even seeing them all. Just knowing they’re somewhere around the corner of another frame is enough.
10. THE LAST JEDI (Rian Johnson)
Star Wars is a franchise that if you’re sick of you will have to be prepared for a yearly cleansing as Disney milks us for all we’re worth. This time around though Rian Johnson gave us a chapter that wipes away any bad feelings that you may have had from the recent installments in the best way. That being by making it amazingly great.
He embraces the silly of the force and also dives deep into expanding on that which we already knew. Fan fiction is a sign of a community that still loves its world. This film is the best fan fiction on the world of Luke Skywalker that one could’ve ever hoped for and more. It comments on the franchise itself while still bringing new entertainment to the world with the addition of new characters, such as DJ and Vice Admiral Holdo. LISTEN TO PODCAST
9. RAW (Julia Ducournau)
Are cannibals made or are they born that way? Is it a choice? Should one neglect those urges? Or just dive right in?
This film is a weird horror film that creates a world where cannibalism is a right of passage and coming of age at the same time. Watching as Justine figures this all out about herself and we find out how deep this well takes us is a joy. LISTEN TO PODCAST.
8. YOUR NAME (Makoto Shinkai)
Did I mention anime!!!???
Here’s the film that broke the world as people woke up and asked if an anime film not make by Studio Ghibli was allowed to create waves in the cinephile community.
A city boy and a country girl swap bodies every other day by some sort of magic and it becomes a premise for an enthralling drama. It has it’s fun and heart in even tones that I can’t help but adore. We watch as these two find joys of each other’s lives and get super specific about how to survive this oddity that’s occurring to them. The film turns in the later half into a sort of rescue mission and it’s wildly dealt with, but by then you’re so sold on the characters that you go along with it and desire nothing more than to watch it over and over again. LISTEN TO PODCAST
7. GOOD TIME (Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie)
Criminals who are brothers and are tied together by more than blood. Connie needs $10,000 to get his brother out of jail and won’t stop until he completes his mission. He goes to his girlfriend, he looks for some acid, he extorts drug dealers. The film is part high intensity crime drama where every minute is heart attack inducing and part dumb criminal one-crazy-night comedy as the film keeps escalating in what Connie is willing and able to do as the night moves on.
The film reminds me of Dog Day Afternoon and how it make criminals with good intentions and some sense into amazingly lucky protagonists that you root for and get in bed with but by the end we’re knocked back when it’s all just a criminal that we know we shouldn’t love that much.
6. THE BIG SICK (Michael Showalter)
Romantic Comedies are those fun palate cleansers we watch not for the cinematic experience but to believe in love again. I can’t recall a film of this type where it actually worked. The Big Sick however, has a weird effect of making us want to believe in love again. It may be the story itself, it may be the story is true, it may be the story is true and is written by both the lead’s real life counterparts together.
I wonder the arguments that happened during the writing of this movie. We hear that in life there are three sides to every story; his, hers and the truth. I wonder how they dealt with the differing versions of reality from their perspectives in order to keep the story true. I wonder how many times Emily made fun of Kumail because she got Ray Romano and Holly Hunter to be her parents and they were fantastic in this film.
This film on a whole is a warm hug and I love it.
5. THELMA (Joachim Trier)
What happens when you are frightened of a love that conflicts with your family’s values and at the same time are suspecting yourself of some sort of witchcraft that you can’t explain? Do you bang your head against the wall asking for God’s forgiveness? Do you dive head first into this bag of weird and hope you find something awesome on the other end?
Thelma is a story of how these parts of ourselves can collide and create interesting character driven narratives. When we watch this film it becomes a map of Thelma’s character state rather than a series of defined actions that move the plot forward. We watch on unsure because she’s unsure of what’s really happening to her at times. It’s a coming of age film that cares about her state of mind and ours, more than anything else. Because of this we can dig into the ambiguity of the film and discover things about ourselves in ways that we love to do with movies and it enriches the experience even more.
4. THE SQUARE (Ruben Östlund)
A few years ago, we were asked to think of what we would really feel when we discover a friend, a spouse or even ourselves were discovered to be a coward. How the modern man and the idea of the brave heroic man of stories do not intersect at all anymore in society.
Here we watch on through the character of Christian manipulates others and is just generally unable to act due to his own fears of society. Society and the hive mind has made man unable to act unless he sees himself as in the group definition of “right” even when we see others in definite danger and in need of help. We are about survival of self before the survival of all.
The film uses art and the idea of safe spaces to explore this idea and it is weirdly fun to see how it plays along. From sexual encounters to uncomfortable public settings to dangerous dinners with men impersonating monkeys. The film is a crazy ride that can’t help but be loved. READ FULL REVIEW.
3. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (Luca Guadagnino)
A love story for the ages that asks us to contend with the idea that sometimes we only get that connection once in our lives and sometimes those connections still don’t work out. The film asks us regardless to admit to those connections and not rob ourselves of them by being bitter or hurt but feeling all we can from them. As Oliver and Elio enjoy their summer of love in Italy in the 80s we hurt and pine for them seeing every moment of unabashed love, teasing, lust, jealousy and other set of emotions that one feels as you go through that experience.
2. DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan has been somewhat redefining epics for the last decade in film. Here he takes a topic more suited to it, war, and makes a great visual piece that splits between three different stories all surrounding the evacuation of Dunkirk. The film creates a tension on the need for the lives of those men stuck on the beach. With a pilot doing his best to keep the aerial forces off the men on the beach, a summer vacationer’s attempt to use his boat to save who he can from the beach and the deserter who just wants to save himself from ruin. The film allows for visual storytelling to express the passage of time in a way not new but definitely enjoyable for you to discover how these three stories intertwine and overlap each other out of sync but create a rhythm that you don’t expect from films like this.
1. THE SHAPE OF WATER (Guillermo Del Toro)
Guillermo Del Toro continues his love affair with monsters. With a fish god having been caught by a crazed FBI agent for observation and to keep him out of the hands of the Russians we get a story where the misunderstood is beloved and the norms are vilified.
A mute woman is constantly thrown down for us to engage with her love of this fish man. Then the FBI agent is shown to be the true monster not just through his actions but the manners in which he completes his tasks. The film never shies away from horrendous acts that disgust and also wacky fun in seeing those types of people who have been oppressed showing them to be beautiful creatures rather than the monsters the world may have thought them to be. We see a homosexual neighbour who can’t find love or acceptance as a loving great person. But the eye of his affection is shown to be a monster in his actions of bigotry. The film draws that line clearly and beautifully as we see that monsters aren’t always the ones who pop out at us as others but as the ones who attack and want to oppress those others for not being them.
And that’s it. 2017 is officially over for movies. I mean there are still like a dozen or more films I’ve missed and want to catch up with. But those don’t count because they’re not in my ranking. Right???
Let me know what your favourites were in the comments.
Here’s to hoping for a 2018 of more good films and a better writing schedule for this website, or whatever.