Cutting down my list this year has proven to be extremely difficult. From a selection pool of over 20 amazing films these ten films represent the cream of this year’s peak crop. The spoils of this year have proven diverse from intimate dramas to all-out sci-fi bonanzas, yet all seem to be strung together by a larger presence of human understanding and empathy. With the headlines being topped by impending doom and the horrors of Hollywood’s hidden secrets finally coming to light that empathy is something these filmmakers more than succeeded to translate.
Films that were potentially unfairly left out of the top ten include but are not limited to: The heartbreaking The Florida Project, the unjustly amazing Happy Death Day, feminist anthem Lady Macbeth and the seemingly forgotten War for the Planet of the Apes that once again proves that Andy Serkis should just abandon his human form and ascend to his higher digital-plane. Also people, stop arguing over The Last Jedi. Doing something so daring with a franchise that beloved deserves respect. Now onto the list.
The Disaster Artist
Dir. James Franco
Taking one of the most revered “bad films” of the naughts and recreating is may be the most inspired thing James Franco has ever done. It follows The Room’s eccentric Tommy Wiseau and his manipulated co-star Greg Sestero as they attempt to shake up Hollywood with their 6 million dollar independent film. We are shown the unrelenting perseverance of Tommy who fights to make up for his incapability that is both hilarious in its impeccable recreations and also insanely inspiring in showing just how far one can go if they reach for those lofty goals.
Dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
The Heist gone wrong. What the Safdie’s bring to this trope seems ethereal in its simplicity. Taking their grounded docudrama style and pumping it with the energy of a late-night Brooklyn acid trip we watch as Robert Pattinson attempts to break out his brother after he has been caught following a bank robbery. The performances from Pattinson and co-director Benny Safdie seem deeply saddened by their situations and drag us down with them. In their failures, we see sparks of hope that are sunken by rash decisions and the incapability to do the right thing. Sean Price Williams’ cinematography and the pumping electronic score by Oneohtrix Point Never amplify each scene only allowing breathing room for the slight respite provided by the end credits.
Dir. Jordan Peele
A necessary and exemplary film for our times, Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy may not be a documentary as he says but is real enough to speak to the true horrors faced by people of colour in today’s political geography. A bloodied and paranoid version of Meet the Parents, Chris’ struggle to avoid modern slavery by the hands of his white girlfriend’s Liberal parents evokes classic seventies tropes while paving its unique vision through the sharp writing of Peele’s raised and angry voice. Daniel Kaluuya is so vulnerable in his performance that he should be rightfully viewed as the frontrunner in this year’s Best Actor Race.
Blade Runner 2049
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Since 2012 Villeneuve has been on a bit on a hot streak. This continues with his sequel of the hugely influential Ridley Scott original which follows detective K as he searches for the missing Deckard and embroils himself in a conspiracy that has the potential to unravel what little is left of society. From the tight script to an eerie synth score the film is elevated to the height of the original by the stunning visuals from Roger Deakins. An empty monolithic wasteland that shares more in common with Egypt’s desert’s than Los Angeles, the fidelity in which the visuals have been crafted rank among the best of the decade and deserve any and all recognition that may come.
An elegant and humble picture, film essayist Kogonada’s debut feature follows the wistful Casey, an outstanding Haley Lu Richardson and Jin, played by John Cho in his most expressive role to date, as they walk around Columbus, Indiana and talk about architecture and the crossroads at which they find themselves. Simple and fine-tuned, the ebbing rhythm of the film revels in its fixed camera and long takes. The fixed camera offers a focused view of these conflicted characters that is beautiful in what little it attempts to say.
The Lost City of Z
Dir. James Gray
Reminiscent of the MGM classics of the Golden Age, Z succeeds in its attempt to revive the grandeur and mystery of the motion picture. Built around men’s obsessions and shortcomings, Gray’s film see’s the adventurous Percy Fawcett as he and his troupe attempt to find the titular lost Amazonian city. Spanning decades in the life of Fawcett, the swashbuckling adventure is juxtaposed against the quiet life his wife and family lead back in England. The moral update on this style of film feels invigorating in its application and impassioned execution proving Gray to be one of America’s most exciting voices.
A Ghost Story
Dir. David Lowery
Any film that has the guts to have a five-minute unbroken pie eating scene featured in it automatically sets itself apart from the rest of the year’s films. A rumination on the effects of grief, loneliness and time, this film holds nothing back in its attempt to thoroughly depress you. The beauty of the film stems from its frank depictions of the humanities spectrum. The simplicity of Casey Affleck’s bed sheet toting ghost allows the grandiose ideas to flourish as the expansion of time devours all and remakes it within each uniquely crafted frame.
Dir. Greta Gerwig
It can be hard to describe a film so rooted in a person’s real life. Nearly autobiographical to Gerwig’s experiences growing up in Sacramento, California, she has assembled a family for her debut feature that manages lives with its main characters struggle. Saoirse Ronan is impeccable as Lady Bird, her given name, as she applies for college, acts in the fall play, meets some boys and attempts to pass her senior year. The strength of the film relies on its adherence to its characters, the overpowering connection you feel with Lady Bird and her mother as they attempt to connect without being able to communicate. Quotable, heartfelt and intricate, Lady Bird is a film that will makes you want to call your parents to talk as soon as the credits begin to roll.
The Shape of Water
Dir. Guillermo Del Toro
A love letter to cinema and to love itself, this genre-defying monster mash-up creates a world fully enveloped within itself. Overflowing with confidence and charisma is Sally Hawkins, playing the mute Eliza she astounds with her physical performance and raw sensuality that expels off the screen while fully convincing you of her undying love for the so-called ‘fish man’. A film that could only of been made by Del Toro himself, its unique idiosyncratic nature and romantic approach to the craft expels creativity and passion for the art form itself. Unlike anything else this year the film stands as a resolute standing on the power of empathy and the resourcefulness of those who do not have a voice. Let it not be missed that the mood and atmosphere are thick throughout every single frame and provide some of the most effective costume and set design of the entire year.
Dir. Edgar Wright
This is a film that moves. Its energy is constantly surprising in how it allows the music to dictate every moment in a way that fuses the wild high’s of an action film with the swift choreography of a musical. From Queen to Run the Jewels to The Bellbottoms the films curation of music careens each scene together with an almost reckless abandon as Edgar Wright weaves his signature, unmistakable style into each second of this action-filled banger of a movie. Ansel Elgort is fantastic as the doe-eyed Baby as he attempts to leave the life of a getaway driver. The believability he brings to the table amplifies the increasingly frenetic antics of the film that is jam-packed with oh-shit moments that provide the most fun to be had in the theatre all year-round. Funny, badass and electric, this is the best cinema you could find in all of 2017.