DOC’S TOP 30 FILMS OF 2017





 

 

 

 

 

So here I humbly present my top 30 films of the year. Some you’ll probably agree with, and some you won’t.

 

30/ HOUNDS OF LOVE
Perhaps the glossy look was at odds with the subject matter, but the tired old serial killer movie and kidnap story certainly got some new life breathed into them by this hugely uncomfortable [though not graphic, writer/director Ben Young bravely choosing the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style ‘you think you’ve seen a lot more than you actually have’ approach] but extremely suspenseful Australian thriller which managed the hard task of adopting the point of view of one of its villains without making her too likable. 8/10

 

29/ THE RITUALthe ritual poster
I base a great deal of my appreciation [or not] of a horror movie as to whether it scared me or not. It failed to frighten me much despite trying very hard. On the other hand, this particular effort, which probably had no right to work anywhere nearly as well as it did, evoked a creepy feel of being lost in the woods better than any film in recent memory, and the meticulous, unsettling build up wasn’t really ruined by the rushed but quite nerve-wracking climax. 8/10

 

28/ GIFTED
This was hardly the kind of thing I expected to get much out of, and I almost didn’t go to see it at all [I try to see as many films as I can, but personal taste must still play some part in it], but the well-considered, consistently engaging and genuinely moving story about how we deal with gifted children had me hooked right from the beginning, and the chemistry between Chris Evans and McKenna Grace was a joy to behold. An honestly heartfelt movie. 8/10

 

27/ WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Complaints about the title being misleading are probably justified considering that there wasn’t really any war in this film, but nonetheless, despite being reliant on the best CGI money can buy, this was that increasingly rare Hollywood blockbuster, a film which engaged and excited, while also making you think and feel, and a fine conclusion to a fine trilogy. It concluded with a wonderful final moment that was as uplifting as it was sorrowful. 8/10

 

26/ SHIN GODZILLA
Instead of offering even more spectacle, Toho decided to make the King of the Monsters relevant for its native country in a way he hadn’t really been since 1954, and created a uniquely intelligent and satirical kaiju movie. Complaints about the low amount of Godzilla action can be partly justified, but surely this was atoned for by Godzilla’s decimation of seemingly the entirety of Tokyo with one ray blast, quite possibly one the most awesome Godzilla moment ever. They should have kept him as a man in a suit though, damn CGI! 8/10

 

25/ JOHN WICK 2
While it was still a breath of fresh air for old school actions fans like me sick of watered down violence, CGI and the kind of cinematography and editing where you can’t see what the hell’s going on, John Wick didn’t quite ‘get there’ for me, but this much improved sequel certainly did, delivering more, bigger and better mayhem without sacrificing the slight ‘independent’ movie feel the first one had, further exploring its world, and its bizarrely set climax proving that screen action can still be visually interesting. 8/10

 

24/ THE GHOUL
I’m still not sure about the ending which seemed to both over-explain and under-explain matters, but this was still a fine example of a tiny budget not hampering quality, an impressive directorial debut from Gareth Tunley which definitely had the touch of executive producer Ben Wheatley, yet was a satisfyingly mind bendy head scratcher in its own right as well as having quite a lot to say about depression, and with a simply outstanding performance from Tom Meeton. 8/10

 

23/ DETROIT
Criticisms that this film invents stuff because we don’t know what really happened on the night depicted in the film totally miss the point – the kind of events shown have happened and frequently. In any case, this movie was fully intended to upset, provoke and unsettle, and must therefore be judged a success even on those terms. Kathryn Bigelow, who has now perfected her handheld style for maximum claustrophobia, made a film of almost unbearable intensity. 8/10

 

22/ BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL
The fact that Takashi Miike’s 100th [yes, 100th, and he’s only been making them since 1991] film was any good at all is quite remarkable, and even he couldn’t match his earlier 13 Assassins, but fortunately there was still a great deal to enjoy in this action filled samurai adventure which was full of archetypal quirky Miike touches like the master/student relationship where the student learns absolutely nothing, as well as providing easily enough heart so you really ended up caring about these characters. 8/10

 

21/ MOTHER!
I don’t think I actually enjoyed Mother! that much while I watched it, but it stayed with me – and stayed with me – and stayed with me, a sure sign of a notable work, and now I can’t wait to see it again. Whether you see it being about man’s existence, the art of creation, or the male ego and the female instinct, or something else, this film confirms Darren Aronofsky is one of our most fearless auteurs, completely unafraid to be divisive or confusing, and we should cherish his existence. 8/10

 

20/ LOVING VINCENT
You could quibble about the way that, by the end, we don’t know much more of what we knew at the beginning, and expressing the dichotomy of your archetypal artist [the gentle, perceptive, altruistic man, and also the fiery, troubled, confrontational, argumentative soul] when he’s not actually onscreeen may have been a handicap, but what stunning beautiful water colour animation, really taking us into Van Goghs’s head and showing the world through his eyes. 8/10

 

19/ THE HANDMAIDEN
Park Chan-Wook did it again with this terrific exercise in form, structure and tone which was almost a summation of his work so far, a film in which which even the odd three part structure proved to be essential, leaving you unable to who to take sides with, or indeed if there even are any sides. The Victorian tale was relocated so well to 1930’s Japan-occupied Korea that you’d think it originated there, and wasn’t Uncle Kouzuki simply the best villain in ages? 8/10

 

18/ FRANTZ
This mostly black and white essay about guilt, lies and loss post-World War 1 France is one of those films in which it probably sounds like nothing happens if you tell someone the story, but if you were able to get into the psychology of the characters [reduced to its most basic level, a haunted young man’s search for redemption and a young girl’s attempts to contemplate it], than this film was extremely fascinating, and I need to check out more stuff from director Francois Ozun. 8/10

 

17/ LOGAN
As I’m getting bored to death with all these adolescent superhero antics I find myself surprised that I’m including a Marvel movie so high, but then Logan, a film which shows that intelligence and depth can still exist in this subgenre without diminishing the entertainment value, was hardly adolescent. Instead, the unhurried road movie proved to be a really pointed parable about aging, a tender family drama and an intimate character study while also finally giving us a Wolverine that was believable and unrestrained. 8.5/10

 

16/ A GHOST STORY
It’s hard to put a fresh spin on the idea of ghosts, and you could almost call this film an art house version of Ghost, though that would probably be doing it an injustice. For a start I hadn’t seen a film that attempted to convey the psychological weight of certain death and the fact that life will continue once we’re gone so honestly, and yet also so inventively, in many years. And how could Rooney Mara just eating a pie be such an emotional powerhouse? 8/10

 

15/ A DOG’S PURPOSE
Partly boycotted because of a news story that was actually made up, and the kind of sweet family movie that’s thin on the ground these days because it’s seemingly and depressingly nearly all about people in silly outfits and CGI-drenched action. Yes, this canine reincarnation tale unashamedly tugged at the heartstrings, but it was such a beautiful tale that at least attempted some existentialism and was thankfully devoid of contemporary irony or cynicism. 8.5/10

 

14/ THEIR FINEST
A movie-going friend of mine commented on how this film was aimed primarily at British seniors like him, and he was probably right, but when so many other films are aimed primarily at teenagers I fail to see that as a problem. Telling a story I shamefully didn’t know of before, the making of a war film within a war film resulted in a witty,  almost perfectly balanced mixture of history, irony, humour, romance and tragedy. A lovely ode to an art form that can provide so much solace. 8.5/10

 

13/ GET OUT
Certain magazines and websites voting Get Out as the best film of the year proved to me that social/political aspects still reign far too high in the eyes of many critics, though you can’t not be impressed by an anti-racist film that sets its sights on white liberals who like to proclaim how right on they are yet still want to remain dominant over black people. And, at least until its final act, it did mine a unique mixture of uneasy horror, nervous humour, and social commentary that hadn’t been seen in the genre for some time. 8.5/10

 

12/ HACKSAW RIDGE
Critics were never going to be praise this too highly because a/ it was directed by Mel Gibson, b/ it was about a person with strong religious convictions, and c/ it was very old-fashioned in its style and approach – well, except for the astoundingly graphic war scenes [how the hell did this get a ’15’ certificate?]. But the fact that Desmond T. Doss’s achievements were actually lessened on screen because they thought viewers wouldn’t believe them, truly sums up what an incredible story and person this was. 8.5/10

 

11/ GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Far from being the quaint, pleasant but slightly dull effort that I expected, this was a very poignant and even deep tale veering expertly from the joy of creation to the loss of innocence to whether A. A. Milne really did his son a favour by placing him in a children’s book after all. Sensitivity, nuance and irony combined to make a truly emotionally fulfilling piece that only slipped when dealing with Milne’s wife, far too much of a one-sided villain for my tastes. 8.5/10

 

10/ THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM
This Victorian murder tale ticked all the boxes for me in the way a really good Sherlock Holmes story should: great period feel, intriguing detective hero, good mystery, clever storytelling, a bit of social commentary, some great directorial touches like the suspects seen as doing the killings, some twists on hackneyed devices like the race against time to save the heroine from hanging which did definitely not pan out as expected, plus plenty of gore in what was in part a slasher. And yet it’s been a bit neglected, but then times are hard. 8.5/10

 

9/A CURE FOR WELLNESS
Me placing this criminally neglected film considerably higher than Get Out will probably cause gasps from readers wondering if I’ve totally lost my marbles, though surely you’ve learnt to expect the unexpected from me. But up until the final act, Gore Verbinski’s beautiful Euro-Gothic nightmare of a film, crammed with artistic and meaningful shots, and never wasting its excessive running time, unsettled me like few other films had done so for a while, as well as evoking all sorts of questions about society and what it means to live well. 8.5/10

 

8/ WOLYN
Out of all the films on this list, this is probably the one that few will have heard of, perhaps unsurprisingly as it was a Polish film only shown theatrically in towns in the UK which have a large proportion of Polish immigrants, but I like to go into films blind sometimes, and this grueling World War 2 epic, based on long forgotten true events in which Polish/Ukranian relations ended up in genocide even before the Nazis turned up, was a terrifying yet powerful reminder of how nationalism can inspire the worst in human nature. 8.5/10

 

7/ THE LOST CITY OF Z
Being not familiar with any of James Gray’s previous work, this was one movie that kind of took me by surprise, a throwback to an almost lost style of movie making yet telling a story with themes, such as the “other” being whole and independent in a world that simplifies and condescends, that resonate today. Darius Khondji’s incredible cinematography managed to actually depict the jungle in a fresh way, and those final 20 minutes were so haunting. Charlie Hunnam did brilliantly playing such a complex, potentially dislikeable character. 9/10

 

6/ MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Maybe it’s that I’m getting old, or that I’m getting tired of the increasing samey-ness of the blockbusters, that’s drawing me more to films like this, but this slow yet mesmerising drama never relaxed its gentle grip for me, its unpredictable story brilliantly keeping its depressing elements in check with humour and a subtle feel good factor, though perhaps its very clumsiness, in which the dramatic punches were often ruined by everyday life just like the way things often do actually happen, was its greatest achievement. 9/10

 

5/ DUNKIRK
Though I’m not sure that Christopher Nolan would appreciate the compliment, I believe that in many ways you could say that Dunkirk was the horror film of the year, seeing as it was such an unrelenting exercise in pure terror and spent so much time exploiting fears we all have, evoking the turmoil and the anxiety that the soldiers on Dunkirk must have felt while showing barely a drop of blood. The intersecting of the three stories and playing with time truly showed Nolan’s mastery of storytelling. 9/10

 

4/ BLADE RUNNER 2049
Saying this was better than the original was maybe stretching it a little – few memorable lines for a start – but there’s no doubt that Denis Villeneueve created a worthy follow-up here, both visually and intellectually impressive, that totally justified its existence and took the story to new places while still intelligently developing its themes of life, aging, legacy and death. It’s remarkable that a would-be blockbuster asks things like; is surface all there is, or do life’s currents run deeper than what we can see, hear and touch? 9/10

 

3/ LA LA LAND
Okay, the singing and dancing was hardly ‘A’ standard, but I still remain startled that such an unabashedly romantic, un-ironic movie with such a huge heart was even made in today’s Hollywood, let alone became a hit. It managed to seem both traditional and temporary, and Ryan Gosling’s and Emma Stone’s incredible chemistry confirmed them as today’s greatest onscreen couple. The icing on the cake was the clever finale which reminds us that, yes, dreams are possible when you are willing to strive for them, but not everything will end perfectly. 9/10

 

2/ THE RED TURTLE
2017 hasn’t really been a bumper year for animated movies, but this was a thoroughly delightful exercise in existentialism, the no-dialogue effort almost coming across as the missing link between Hayao Miyazaki and Sylvian Chomet. While probably destined never to break out of art house circles despite its themes of the circle of life, of companionship, of making the most of your circumstances being ones that kids could easily assimilate in their own way, this was a real gem. 9/10

 

1/ ENDLESS POETRY
Alejandro Jodorowsky reckons that Endless Poetry, his sequel to The Dance Of Reality which was his first film in 3 years, is the second part of a five part surreal autobiography. Considering that he’s 88 years old and the first two installments had to be partly funded via Crowdfunder, I would say that it’s doubtful he’ll get to make all five, which is a crying shame to us fans of this unique artist, because the first two parts revealed that the mad genius had lost none of his inventivenese and his audacity, while revealing, perhaps unsurprisingly, a more reflective, gentle Jodorowsky. Endless Poetry was a film of strong emotional resonance, yet still had that magic Jodorowsky melding of surrealism and performance art, full of meaningful metaphors, striking visuals and wry humour, while also being unafraid to bring to life the inconsistencies of existence, love and artistic expression with stark truths. The key to Endless Poetry was really in its title. In it, we saw the director, as a youth, break free from the person he was not to a person excited by a life filled with drive, desire, wonder and most importantly, freedom. It was both inspiring and poignant. And it asked us to see the world through the eyes and mind of the person who’s willing to imagine and dream and try to create. Thank god for Jodorowsky.

 

 

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2061 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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