My Top Films of 2017
31st December 2017
Pardon the radio silence of late but there's no way I was going to skip an end-of-year list.
2017 was a decent year for movies and I struggled to whittle my list down to a happy ten but it was also a year where life caught up with me and got in the way of reviewing. The little reviews have dried up in tandem with any inspiration I had for them. You can still expect the odd listicle and Embarr quiz but my film opinions may just be kept to the less effort-requiring platforms like Twitter.
As with every year, there are a few films that only just miss out on a top ten spot and so at least deserve a mention. The Lost City of Z was just about getting swept away with a man in his all-consuming pursuit in the Amazon. We got treated to a good rom-com this year too in The Big Sick which was nice, refreshing and made you care, cry and laugh. Ghost in the Shell may have been diet-Blade Runner but that aesthetic and tone had me hooked. In the local film world, Bad Day for the Cut was the one that stood out for me by setting a Tyrone farmer off on a revenge quest, it's rare for a Northern Irish film to have so much of our vernacular organically occur rather than being crowbarred in. A cult-favoured bad movie coupled with James Franco produced one of the year's funniest movies in The Disaster Artist which recounted the making of the The Room.
Right, that's me done with the preamble, onto the skim-read-friendly top ten list.
10. Baby Driver
If Edgar Wright had directed a car chase flick and it hadn't made my list, I'd be questioning myself. Baby Driver was made with the same attention to detail as his previous films but only transplanted to Atlanta and without Frost or Pegg. Super cool and slick when it came to syncing action beats with the music but the car chase editing in general was fantastic. It has fun with the heist archetypes too and adds a little romance with a wink at the past. It's a grower and rewards rewatches with little details you might've missed.
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Force Awakens got everyone excited about the galaxy far, far away all over again but was admonished for being too safe and retreading familiar ground. The Last Jedi follows up as the darker one but takes chances and unexpected turns in a variety of plot threads whilst being an absolute joy to watch. Rian Johnson deserves immense credit for bringing enough of his own voice and flourishes to the universe and giving us a film to cherish. It gives Mark Hamill the platform to shine as a disillusioned Luke Skywalker and he thrives on it. The undercutting humour has irked many but after the first instance, it never bothered me and I was all for the eagerness to include optimism and morality in a dark time. This episode felt less an instalment and more of its own thing.
8. Miss Sloane
A talky political drama with a powerhouse performance by Jessica Chastain. The fact that this felt like an Aaron Sorkin film but was a feature debut for writer Jonathan Perera is highly commendable how he was able to totally engross you in the character of Miss Sloane and the movie's events in the capable hands of John Madden. The cast also includes Mark Strong and the he's-so-hot-right-now Michael Stuhlbarg. The film finds an extra gear in the third act and it made all the difference in my estimations and has remained high on my list all year.
7. Paddington 2
While the first film introduced us to the lovably naive little Peruvian bear, the second film returns and makes you love him even more. Although this features Paddington in prison, it remains fabulously fun throughout with an eclectic array of characters and escalatingly hilarious set-pieces emanating from the marmalade lover's earnest clumsiness. This film is a joy and fills me with a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I think back to it.
6. T2: Trainspotting
Had a risky task to measure up to the pop-culture classic that the first Trainspotting was. A talented returning cast and director helped make the difference and it turns out that those intervening years worked well into the real time reason for a return. It hits nostalgic beats, spins off on new tangents and handles the insecurities and regretful angst that middle-age brings. This is another tour-de-force worthy of following up the original and to now be considered a fascinating couple.
As fierce, gruff & protective as Wolverine was always meant to be. He just needed to be set loose & allowed to breathe. The Western trappings and lone warrior tone ground this in a dusty violent world and when the claws do come out this is the film that fully loosened the chain and let the carnage commence. The action feels so guttural and real. There is so much to savour in this final 'Hugh Jackman as Wolverine' outing with the violence, the pain and the relationships. Those between Logan, Charles and Laura all have little bits of authenticity that feel so different to what we've had before. This movie is special and I'm so glad we finally got a worthy Wolverine film.
Escalating, claustrophobic nightmare of unease, uninvited guests and ego. Stuffed with symbolism that I had to Google the meaning of. Full of itself but that sheer audacity is fresh and welcome just like my huge sigh of relief when this ordeal ended. One of the most intense cinematic experiences I've ever had.
3. Blade Runner: 2049
Thirty years between Blade Runners, so another long awaited sequel and another one which resulted in a bloody good film. Epic sci-fi filmmaking. Not only fits the universe but improves it with more stunning imagery and a new rewarding narrative. A cinematic feast.
2. Get Out
The surprise screening at this year's Dublin Film Festival, Get Out started with that little Scream-like prologue had us in the palm of its hand straight from the off. Confidently made by Jordan Peele, the film balanced the scares with clever humour that forced a predominantly white audience to self-analyse in many more ways than one. The strength of this film cannot be denied as it has maintained itself in conversations the whole year long as it spoke to so many people worldwide. The movie reaffirmed the relevancy of cinema and how it can hit that cultural sweet spot without being preachy but can be mega-entertaining.
1. La La Land
Damien Chazelle created his musical masterpiece with La La Land to follow up the percussional warfare of Whiplash. This was endearingly romantic & full of life & love. Gosling and Stone fizzed together and continued their chemistry from where they left off in Crazy, Stupid Love. Songs like Another Day of Sun and A Lovely Night have been on my playlist all year and the fantastical aura of the idealistic LA is just perfect. It left me with a flutter in my heart & a spring in my step.______________________
From the bottom of my cold heart, thanks for reading and I wish you have a happy and movie-filled 2018.
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Ethan M Barr
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