Overall 176 films watched this year, 133 (76%) of them were films that were new to me, which I’m pretty pleased with, including 31 cinema visits. I joined Picturehouse and regularly go to the Central which is generally a really lovely experience (we even refer to it as the Happy Place). 89 of the films from the now sadly departed Lovefilm, that was about £1.12 per film. I’m really missing the service, my film watching plummeted after it ended. It was such an easy way to watch films, no faffing about trying to decide what to watch (something fun, versus something worthy) from the limited selection available between Netflix and Amazon. Without Lovefilm I would never have come to love film so much. Between Netflix and Amazon I watched 23 films. The rest are a combination of normal TV, my own DVD collection or other sources and are often watched in bulk with days where I just decide to watch films, barely moving from my sofa and binging through 6 or 7 films. Bliss.
I’ve slightly modified how I track dates so it’s now going by UK release dates, not the year that IMDB gives by default, this will stop films falling between the gaps at the beginning of the year. I watched 52 films from 2017 and my film of the year was Hidden Figures. I’ve watched this film 3 times and it has never failed to make me laugh, cheer and sniffle a little. It’s a very rare thing unfortunately – a film with an important dramatic core that’s also hugely entertaining.
- Ma vie de Courgette (My Life as a Courgette) – a Swiss, 65 minute stop motion animation about abandoned/rejected/alone children and it’s absolutely beautiful.
- Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi – I’m a little surprised to see this on the list, but I can’t deny that it did everything a Star Wars film sets out to do (which comes with its own constraints), and it did it well.
- Paddington 2 – this is one that maybe says more about me (and possibly the world of 2017), but the easy humour and HUGE heart of this film really spoke to me.
- Bar Bahar (In Between) – an Israeli film about three women living their lives in Palestine. This film was immensely satisfying to watch and has really stayed with me since I saw it.
- Dunkirk – literally took my breath away. Even though I didn’t understand the construction it was still a stunning enough film to get 8 out of 10, and I suspect if I watched it again and understood the interweaving timelines, it could go higher.
- Kedi – a Turkish documentary about stray cats. Beautiful cinematography by and about people who love the city and love cats.
- Wind River – a very well put together thriller that easily avoids a lot of the annoying cliches that lesser writer/directors would have fallen into and therefore deserves considerable praise
Worst of 2017
14 films go only 4 or 5 out of 10 which counts as ‘bad’ in my book. Some ‘standouts’:
- Bad ‘good’ films – I seem to be in the minority, but I really didn’t like Jackie, La La Land or The Big Sick; respectively too narrow a focus, unsympathetic unrealistic characters, and a film about a relationship where one half is unconscious most of the time.
- Not funny enough – The Party, and The Lego Ninjago Movie
- What a colossal waste of talent and idea – Suburbicon (two different stories, one of which was interesting but completely smothered by the other, which in turn is trite compared to the other), and The Greatest Showman (so many good elements and so completely botched in delivery).
- Just plain rubbish – Power Rangers, Life, Bright
Foreign Language (16, 9%)
When I looked at the long list of films a set that really stood out to me were some of the ‘foreign language’ films that I saw. Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) and Mustang, alongside the above mentioned Bar Bahar (In Between) are all incredibly powerful and enjoyable watches, each about groups of girls/women living in very different locations, cultures and contexts and how they live. Each film had me completely engrossed and sad when they ended that I wouldn’t get to spend more time with the characters. Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) meanwhile was one of the best zombie films I’ve seen in a long time, a masterpiece of the genre. Mind you, there were still some turkeys in there and while many people raved about them I found Toni Erdmann absolutely unwatchable due to the cringe factor and The Red Turtle (La tortue rouge) boring beyond belief.
Documentaries (12, 7%)
Film documentaries are as varied in tone, subject and quality as the rest of the film landscape. While Kedi was my favourite of the year, I have to acknowledge that it was literally and figuratively fluffy. Similarly The Beatles: 8 Days a Week gives a wonderful insight for those of us too young to experience Beatlemania was like, but is hardly challenging. Unfortunately the films that were more hard hitting slightly stumbled for being obviously one-sided in their investigations, but 13th and Where to Invade Next are both still worth a watch. Somewhere in the middle areLife, Animated; Weiner and Williams all of which get unprecedented and fascinating access to talk to respectively an severely autistic who engages with the world via Disney films; a disgraced-redeemed-disgraced politician; and the incredible man and family who runs the Formula 1 team. I wouldn’t bother with either Notes on Blindness or My Scientology Movie though, the first was INCREDIBLY boring and the second which was too broad and one-sided.
Animation (18, 10%)
Animation is another genre that is a microcosm for film as a whole able to deliver any genre, just through the medium of hand or computer drawn, or stop motion animation. On the pure fun side of things I really enjoyed Sing and Trolls, neither doing anything particularly original, but they were enjoying to watch. For something with a bit more depth I’d recommend Kimi no na wa (Your Name) or Kubo and the Two Strings, the latter in particular had an utterly gorgeous animation style. Weird to have a whole year with no new Disney or Pixar films.
Comedies (26, 15%)
Given that I don’t like cringe comedies, or gross-out ones, there’s often not much in the comedy section that I’d recommend, but this year’s viewing felt a little better. From this year the standout was The Death of Stalin which had a very weird tone whereby the comedy was absolutely hilarious, but it was combined with some horrible historical tragedy that was rather bizarre. A trio of films about men also gained 8’s out of 10 – Eddie the Eagle, Swiss Army Man and The Nice Guys. For a bit of gender balance Bad Moms was a lot better than it sounds.
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror (30 in total, 17%)
I couldn’t be bothered to tie myself in knots about whether something is SF or Fantasy, so I’ve lumped a load of stuff into this broad bucket, and still haven’t ended up with much of note. Except for Star Wars, and very well put together horror film Get Out there were no 2017 films scoring above a mediocre 6. In fact overall there were only two 8/10 films – Age of Adaline which surprised me as a surprisingly rich storyline and subtle performance from Blake Lively; and WarGames which holds up really well despite being over 30 years old. Sadly there were far more disappointments – Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 just seemed to lack the magic, I think thanks to a trudging plot. Wonder Woman did absolutely nothing for me, boring me like the other DC universe films that fail to balance humour, plot, character and action. SF was responsible for some of the big turkeys I saw this year – Life, Power Rangers, Bright and The Circle; and some older awfulness from Ghosts of Mars, Gods of Egypt, Assassin’s Creed and The Love Witch.
Action (20, 11%)
A broad genre of ‘films where stuff happens’, often at volume and with explosions. To be successful in this category I should not want to take my eyes off the screen and ideally be on the edge of my seat; a bonus would be actually caring about the outcomes. That’s more of a challenge than it should be, many of the superhero films for example failed to have me engaged in the battle scenes due to the lack of jeopardy with seemingly invulnerable characters (Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad). Dunkirk is the outstanding offering in this category though, I was completely engrossed in every moment and fully engaged with the characters as well. Free Fire meanwhile took the other extreme basically committing almost every moment to a protracted gunfight to entertaining effect. I gave bothThe Accountant and The Legend of Tarzan 8/10 as well, but now have almost no recollection of them; but that’s not necessarily the nail in the coffin that it would be in other genres.
Other (53, 30%)
For stuff that doesn’t fall into the other categories I’ve just grouped them together, everything from hard hitting message movies, to films almost without plot that are just letting you share in the characters’ lives for a while. The standout here was I, Daniel Blake will have you feeling all the emotions with an intensity that will leave you exhausted – I raged, cheered and laughed out loud and sobbed my way through half a box of tissues. Amazing characters – Sully: Miracle on the Hudson gives Tom Hanks full potential to show his mastership of this, and the structure of the film had me gripped; Captain Fantastic took me on a complete rollercoaster of emotions about how a single father raised his children – confusion, support, respect and horror. Hell or High Water is a film that almost defies description but I would highly recommend it. There are a lot of films in this category that could easily be unremarkable but shine because of the performances – 20th Century Women, Lady Macbeth, Manchester by the Sea, Trumbo, Battle of the Sexes and Weekend.
These are films that I can watch over and over again and they never disappoint me, they’re all good at what they do, which may not always be about being outstandingly challenging films, but they always leave me happier after I’ve watched them. Musicals (Kinky Boots, Singin’ In the Rain, Moulin Rouge!), Disney films (Zootropolis, Lilo and Stitch, Moana, The Incredibles) and other animations (How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me) tend to fall into this category. And just to prove I don’t dislike all comedies, there are a fair few of those too – Hot Fuzz, Deadpool, The Full Monty, The Birdcage, A Knight’s Tale. And the ever reliable Ocean’s Eleven and Gosford Park
The full list