I figure it’s time for my annual round up of the new films I saw this year as it’s getting towards the end of the year and, having taken a look at what’s on offer for the next couple of weeks at my local cinema, I don’t think I’ll be adding to the list. You never know though, so maybe I’ll reserve the right to revise this review closer to the end of the year.
I’m going to start with the “and stuff” of the title – my favourite band, AFI, released a new album this year (and once again did not tour in the UK) and, of course, it is awesome. Davey Havok released an album with his sideproject, Dreamcar, and that was pretty good too. The stand-out albums for me aren’t either of these albums (as much as I love them). No, the two albums that have been on repeat in my car all year (pretty much) are Dave Hause’s “Bury Me in Philly” and Maxïmo Park’s “Risk to Exist” – and Maxïmo Park’s album sat in its shrink-wrap for like two weeks before I even opened it (I opened it AS SOON AS I GOT HOME from seeing them live and hearing all the really great new songs).
As usual, the films are listed with the “worst” one first. I was thinking about this the other day and I saw a lot of really, really enjoyable films this year so “worst” doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Just the other films were better. And there were some really great films.
- Silence – Saying that, Silence was kind of dire. I unexpectedly saw a lot of films with Adam Driver in and this was the worst. I would not have chosen to see this film and technically, I didn’t I guess – it was my Mum’s choice for our New Year’s Day film. Catholics in Asia seems like it would have been exactly my kind of niche topic but no. I guess I’ve just read too much about Catholic martyrs for this to have any kind of impact? Also, like it was really long. Whatever Scorsese.
- Manifesto – This was an interesting film to experience and Cate Blanchett is totes amazeface in this. I just don’t really know enough about art from the last two hundred years to really appreciate this. Most of the funny bits are still funny with a total lack of context though? So that’s something.
- Assassin’s Creed – Maybe this should be rated lower than Manifesto? It’s an action film based on a computer game. It’s what you’d expect really. There was killing and fighting. My Mum enjoyed it.
- 6 Days – Mark Strong totally nails his role. I don’t know how similar he was to the actualfax real life guy he was playing, but he conveyed the conflict of being a negotiator so so well. Otherwise, it was fine.
- La La Land – The music is lovely. The dancing is fine. The story and characters are fine, though I didn’t really care what happened to them. As it is with most musicals I suppose?
- Loveless – I ended up lining up a lot of films at LFF about missing children (although I had to skip one, Little Crusader, because I didn’t think I’d manage to race to the film after quickly enough on my dodgy ankle). This was probably the bleakest, saddest and most hopeless of them, with main characters that exhibited such a striking lack of compassion that it’s a wonder that they had any relationships with other people at all (though maybe they’re just repeating the same relationship with different partners). Tough to watch, but worthwhile.
- The Death of Stalin – Jason Isaacs MAKES this film. My Mum laughed at the corpsey bits. So did I.
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – I feel like Laureline was was more of an interesting character than Valerian so I don’t understand why her name isn’t in the title. Really delightful to look at.
- Justice League – Justice League was a lot better than I was expecting although I don’t get why Batman had a go at Wonder Woman. Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher’s exuberant enthusiasm during the press tour was the highlight, pretty much. Those two REALLY love their characters.
- Walk With Me – Sort of a meditative journey alongside the monks in the documentary that really reminded me that people who commit to this kind of a religious life are regular humans too.
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle – So like, I don’t understand why Charlie’s girlfriend had the Golden Circle tramp stamp and like… how do you even do that without potentially causing paralysis? Mark Strong, as always, was great. Needed more Halle Berry.
- Grain – I do like dystopic films. Kind of scifi with some religious themes.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – SO. I am a bit meh about Spider-Man. I liked that Peter Parker has friends. It was fine that Tony Stark was in this because it made a bit of sense. Glad that they skipped most of the usual the origin story stuff because it’s not like the five billion Spider-Man films already in existence haven’t explained that part.
- Promise Land – I feel like maybe I should see more documentaries. This is a road trip in Elvis Presley’s car across the USA during the 2016 election that tells the story of Elvis and somehow also how we got to the US being how it is.
- Loving Vincent – This was the only film of LFF that my Mum saw with me – mostly because my auntie was here from Portugal and partly because she’s not that keen on trudging all the way into central London to see a film when there is a perfectly decent cinema 5 minutes from our house. Loving Vincent was shown at my local cinema as part of LFF so my Mum (and auntie!) came with me to see it. It’s a really beautifully painted and animated film that fills in some of the details of the people around Van Gogh at the time of his death, who I’d never really considered.
- Gemini – Unexpected but not unwelcome John Cho. I don’t know what else to say about this film.
- Life Guidance – The trouble I have with films in a second language I only really understand enough of to be a tourist is that it’s a bit like attempting to talk on the phone to someone where there is an echo and you can hear your own voice repeated back to you a second later. That said, this has a really good dystopian future where everyone has to be high-achieving and making progress in all areas of their lives which is kind of nightmarish to me.
- Small Town Crime – By the time LFF rolls round, I have usually forgotten what the films I have tickets for are about. Usually the name on ticket might prompt me to have a vague idea of the subject of the film but not this one – I went in, sat down and had no clue of what to expect. John Hawkes plays a disaster of an ex-cop who ends up attempting to investigate the death of a woman he finds dying at the side of the road. Clifton Collins Jr is fantastic in this.
- How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Based on the Neil Gaiman story and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, this film was a lot less odd than that combination of sources could have made it and yet everyone around me as I left the cinema seemed to be baffled by the weirdness of it all.
- Wrath of Silence – Another of the missing child films, this time about a mute miner looking for his son. Kind of a crime thriller, but ultimately very sad with it.
- Atomic Blonde – I did not expect Atomic Blonde to be outside my top ten films of 2017 and yet here we are – there were just so many films I enjoyed this year that there were enough really great ones to push the merely really good ones down a few pegs. This is like someone saw John Wick and thought “what if we did that, but with Charlize Theron and more cold-hearted and 80s?”
- Becoming Who I Was – A documentary that follows a young boy who is also the reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist Lama and his godfather/teacher. Very touching.
- Blade of the Immortal – It’s kind of a toss-up between whether Blade of the Immortal or Becoming Who I Was is more touching and maybe Blade of the Immortal only loses because it’s fiction. This is the heart-warming story of how an immortal warrior helps a young girl avenge her parents murder by killing a LOT of people.
- Downsizing – Now all I knew is that this was a film about Matt Damon being made tiny small and that it was a comedy. And yeah, that’s true for the most part. However, it also addresses environmental issues and how we treat the vulnerable members of our communities (if we even “allow” them to really be in our communities). Might have been better as a mini-series though. LOL.
I think I need a break before going into the top ten. I saw a lot of films. I think I saw more live music this year than last, but maybe not as much as I would have liked. Ok, so. That top ten.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi – I saw Last Jedi 3 days ago and I love it and yet here it is at number 10 on my list (I realise that this list has no numbers but the one I am following on Letterboxd does, so whatever). It’s probably too soon to really get into what happens in this film but I left the cinema with my heart full from watching it.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – I only vaguely knew what this was about going into the film and I’m kind of glad that this was the case. Three Billboards… has both horrifying and humorous moments, with more tragedy than I had been expecting. Definitely see this if you can.
- Thor: Ragnarok – I love that this has an entirely different tone to literally every other MCU film. I love that it’s funny and has great action and makes the logical point about Asgard being built on the ruin of other worlds – and then goes for the most worthwhile solution to that. Also Korg.
- Wonderstruck – This is a really beautiful film, shot in styles that really emphasise the two time periods in which it is set. Really delightful and satisfying.
- Columbus – Basically I added this to my LFF line-up because yay John Cho. That was it. This is so so so great. The whole film is lovely to watch. It really concerns, I think, the characters’ places in the world – how they relate to physical place, to each other, to the people in their lives and the cultures that they belong to. Also John Cho should be the leading man in more films.
- Logan Lucky – Ok yes. The whole Ocean’s 7-11 thing is true. This is fun and heartwarming and sweet and hilarious.
- Wonder Woman – Diana is a literal wonder and a delight which, of course, makes sense because she is Wonder Woman. I had so many feelings watching this and most of them were love.
- The Shape of Water – This year had a lot of really beautiful films and The Shape of Water is one of them. It’s a love story about a woman and a fish-creature. I need to see this again and again.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 – It feels like this came out a million years ago and I suppose it did in a way – the beginning of 2017 seems like a whole other planet. Again, another beautiful film but in a different way to the others. I would watch a million John Wick films so long as Keanu Reeves did them and there were dogs in them. The action and stunts are astounding.
- Logan – So, Logan is my favourite film of 2017 – a year that had a Star Wars and a Thor and The Shape of Water and Keanu Reeves being a badass and like, so many really great films. This was the perfect final chapter for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. This film made my heart burst.
And that’s it. Logan was the best though, like I said, there was so many great films this year. Watch them all. Though go ahead and skip out on Silence.