As 2017 ended, my thoughts turned to what were the stand out movies of the year, so I sat down and wrote out in my best hand writing, all of the premier films I had seen in 2017. The year proved to be another variation on the previous one. My viewing habits had again metamorphosed into more trips to the Cinema (Excellent), even more DVD/BluRay premiers and the wonders of Streaming films, which I had utilized in 2016 on a regular basis. Now this has become a staple of my film watching habits. As my time has been taken up by family commitments, I was pleased when I was able to travel to the various Cinemas in London and fully immerse myself in the darkness of the auditorium, which for this humble cinephile, is my favourite form of escapism. I hope you enjoy reading through the list, if even one of theses chosen films intrigues you enough to go and watch it either for the first time or again, then I would be a very happy cinema lover, so sit back enough, adjust your screen and read on my dear cinema watcher…
1. The Party Director Sally Potter
I really enjoyed this acerbic comedy of manors set in suburban middle class London. Fantastic performances, well written script and an ensemble cast that really seemed to enjoy playing their roles. Perfect in every way, even the running time!
Reviewed here: https://cultofthecinema.wordpress.com/2017/10/19/the-party-2017/
2. The Eagle Huntress Director Otto Bell
The Eagle Huntress is a 2016 Kazakh-Language British/Mongolian/American documentary film and executive-produced by Morgan Spurlock and Daisy Ridley as the narrator.This is a fascinating film which gives us an inside into Mongolian culture, traditions and how our protagonist, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the first female in her clan to partake in the Golden Eagle Festival. A lovely film to watch.
3. Lady Macbeth Director William Oldroyd
In rural England, 1865, a woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage begins an affair with one of her farmhands as she plots and weaves her way into running her husbands household and business. The performance of actress Florence Pugh is magnificent and the bleak settings are so raw and beautiful to behold. Fantastic.
4. Free Fire Director Ben Wheatley
A high end insanely choreographed firefight set in an abandoned warehouse with a flashy 70’s dress code, plenty of violence and some cool one liners. The ensemble cast are a great eclectic group, form Cillian Murphy to Brie Larson via Sharlto Copley, jokey action thrillers don not come much better than Mr Wheatley’s offering.
5. Wajib Director Annemarie Jacir
A film about the complex relationship between a Palestinian father and son and their divided by their completely different world experiences, as they driving through the town of Nazareth just before Christmas to deliver invitations to their daughter/sister’s wedding/A film that sums up my own relationship with my father on so many levels. I loved this film so much.
6. Toni Erdmann Director Maren Ade
If you thought the Germans could not do comedy films, along comes this film to dispel those notions. Very funny in that embarrassing way and a mircorospic look at an estranged father/daughter relationship makes this German/Austrian co-production well worth a viewing. Peter Simonischek is very funny in the dual role of the father and his alter ego Toni Erdmann. Don’t invite him to parties!
7. Clash Director Mohamed Diab
This Egyptian film has a simple premise, set during June 2013 protests against the established Egyptian government, various civilians caught up in the trouble and a newspaper crew are all incarcerated in a police van as the argue amongst themselves and the armed police outside as all parties try to establish some sense of understanding. A well produced drama and one which the politics are boiled down to singular explanations.
8. Dog Eat Dog Director Paul Schrader
Take Nicolas Cage in his best sleazy anti hero role, a drugged and an vicious Willem Dafoe and an angry half of a man Christopher Matthew Cook director with dark relish by Paul Schrader then you get the idea that this film is not going to be a straight narrative. Adapted by Schrader from an Edward Bunker novel, this has our three low lifers trying to get money by kidnapping and extortion, which obviously, goes really wrong!
9. The Villaness Director Jung Byung-gil
With a heady mix of Besson’s Nikita, Stephen Shin’s Black Cat (the Hong Kong Nikita) and Johnnie To’s Heroic Trio , you can get some idea where this film fits into the female action thriller cinematic world. This South Korean action fest is worthy of the old Hong Kong female-centric action films of the 1990’s exciting, well written and a very good performance for actress Kim Ok-bin.
10. Elle Director Paul Verhoven
This film stars Isabelle Huppert as a businesswoman who is raped in her home by a masked assailant and decides not to report it due to her past experience with police. She continues to live her life as if nothing has happened, all the while her reactions to situations around her become very erratic. Huppert is in top form and delivers a performance that not only holds the whole film together, but is one of her best roles in years.
11. American Made Director Doug Liman
When Tom Cruise actual acts he presents performances like this one, playing a true life pilot Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who flew missions for the CIA but increasing taking more and more risks as he runs drugs and gins for the Medellín Cartel. The films plot is so outlandish, but virally true that you wonder how the CIA got away with so much manipulation. Cruise is in very much non-lazy acting mode and he does an excellent turn.
12. The Handmaiden Director Park Chan-wook
Back to South Korean cinema with this adaptation of Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters. Wonderfully translated to Korea under Japanese colonial rule during the 1930’s. The performances are again superb, the art direction is colourful canvas of hues and the love making scenes are tenderly shot, a beautiful drama to watch.
13. Blade Runner 2049 Director Denis Villeneuve
This sequel to Blade Runner or an extension on the ideas left by the original film, plays very well as an updated neon noir sci fi thriller. The fact that one of my favourite actors, Ryan Gosling , is in the film is a great selling out for mr. More importantly the art direction and cinematography are fantastic, a visual feast for the eyes.
14. Prevenge Director Alice Lowe
British comedy slasher film written, directed and starring Alice Lowe in her directorial debut. Lowe was seen in Ben Wheatley’s excellent Sightseers. Her Lowe plays pregnant Ruth, who is convinced her unborn baby is urging her to kill, mainly men, who were responsible for her partners untimely death in a climbing accident. Tis film is full of black humour and acerbic one liners, just how I like my comedy to be.
15. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Director Rian Johnson
I loved this entry in the second of the final three Star Wars films, a preference to The Force Awakens, the story attempts to add to and dispel the mythology of the Jedi, bringing in a slightly haunting performance from Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi and an eye opening performance form Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. Yes I liked it and could argue the facts till the next instalment arrives!
Special Mention – Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience Director Mark Baker
You may be wondering why I have included this film in this post, well it has solely to do with my son, who for his first Cinema experience, he was taken to see the above film in and around April of 2017. At the ripe old age of 1 year and 4 months, my son managed to sit through the first 25 minutes of the film before getting out of his seat, pursed by me, for the last 50 minutes of walking around the darkened Cinema while he was dancing to the sing-a-long tunes. Magical times.
There you have it, another year of film viewing, another list of top picks of Cinematic gold and onto the next year of film watching for this never tired old cinema aficionado.
Thanks you for reading and a Happy New Year 2018…