Posted by: themoviecheese | January 28, 2018

Tom’s Top 20 Films of 2017, part 2 (10-1)

Tom’s Top 20 Films of 2017, part 2 (10-1)

10. Blade Runner 2049

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When Ridley Scott announced a sequel to his sci-fi noir masterpiece Blade Runner, almost the entire film world groaned. After all, look at what he’s done to the Alien franchise. The evidence of quality was certainly against him. However, when Denis Villeneuve was announced as the film’s director, suddenly everyone started listening. Myself, I wasn’t instantly taken by Villeneuve’s other sci-fi film Arrival. I found it an empty film that was largely about nothing. I did however absolutely love both Sicario and Prisoners. Blade Runner 2049 is at the very least just as great as the original, but there are parts of my mind that think it might even be (dare I say it?) better. Once again, Gosling goes against my criticisms to deliver a truly great protagonist and one that more that stands up to Harrison Ford’s Deckard. 2049 attempts to be hugely ambiguous, and that could go against it if you’re not a fan of ambiguity. Indeed, if you’re not a fan of the original because of its slow careful pace, then this film is not going to suddenly win you over. The work of DoP Roger Deakins is a marvel (as usual), and the film continues the retro slogan aesthetic of the original, coupled a fantastic score.

9. Oh Lucy!

oh lucy

Quite why Oh Lucy has been completely snubbed at this year’s Oscars is anyone’s guess. I thought it had Oscars written all over it, but what do I know? Atsuko Hirayanagi’s fantastic “lost in translation” comedy stars Shinobu Terajima as Setsuko, a middle-aged woman stuck in a seemingly meaningless life in Tokyo. When Setsuko is coerced into enrolling in an English class tutored by the unorthodox and bizarre “John” (Josh Hartnett). Pretty soon, she is given a blonde wig and told to adopt the name “Lucy”. Setsuko (or Lucy) very quickly develops romantic feelings towards John, and this sparks an adventure to Los Angeles with her estranged sister Ayako. Oh Lucy is brilliantly funny, but there are sudden tonal shifts. Despite that, the film is never jarring and I think this is ultimately down to the great central performances and well paced screenplay. Hirayanagi’s direction is warm and affectionate, but the absolute best thing about the film is the fantastic and hilarious chemistry between estranged sisters Setsuko and Ayako.

8. Your Name

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From the director of 5 Centimeters Per Second, Your name tells the story of two teenagers linked through both their waking lives and their dreams. Both characters come from fairly different backgrounds, and this is what serves the bulk of what makes the animation so mesmerizing. Sweeping between epic mountain shrines and the dense busy streets of Shinjuku. This is easily Makoto Shinkai’s most ambitious tale to date, and whilst he usually opts for fantasy realism, but here he goes all out. Body swap films like Freaky Friday usually make for interesting comedies, but here the concept is taken in a different direction to deliver a film that is delicate and genuinely heartfelt in its execution.

7. Get Out

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Known primarily for comedy skits, Jordan Peele has now proven himself as a more than competent director. Get Out is one of the freshest horror films in years. Incredibly well written and acted, the narrative (and the specific way that each character acts) is verging on genius. Whilst not exactly scary as such, the film is definitely – erm, I guess worrying is the right word? It pulls you in with its brutal honesty – these are characters that act like these characters would absolutely act. Do you honestly think a huge party of middle-America white people would ogle the muscles of the one black person there? The whole film is simply about wanting to be someone else. Majority of us aren’t happy in the bodies we have, a sad but honest truth. Get Out addresses that and applies it to a subject that’s all too real in Trump-era America. “I would have voted for Obama a third term” Mr Armitage says to Chris, as we all cringe at how “try hard” he’s seeming. The subtleties and symbolism in the screenplay are brilliantly realised – Mr Armitage rants about how large the deer population is and how he’d like to see them wiped out (“Black Buck” was a racial slur for black men who refused to bow to white authority) – the same character is of course later killed by deer antlers. The fact that Chris was literally saved by “picking cotton” out of a leather seat. Rose wearing colonial hunting gear in the final scene. The psychiatrist tapping the side of a cup with a silver spoon the exact same way plantation owners would use to summon slaves. I honestly could go on and on, but simply put there was a staggering amount of work that went into the writing and directing of this film.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – one of my favourite quotes from philosopher Edmond Burke, and it really rings true in Martin McDonagh’s (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) latest. Frances McDormand is perfectly cast as a mother pissed off at her local police force as she feels they haven’t done enough to catch those who have raped and murdered her daughter. As you can imagine from a McDonagh film, the whole thing is actually perfectly cast, with Woody Harrelson playing the police chief and Sam Rockwell as his deputy. Also, being a McDonagh film, the script is really fucking funny. Much funnier than Seven Psychopaths and – dare I say it – at least *as funny* as In Bruges. The film also contains that key McDonagh ingredient that was missing from Seven Psychopaths – emotional heft. I don’t want to spoil too much by saying that, but believe me when I say the film is very unpredictable and there are indeed a few moments of “It feels wrong to laugh right now”. The last 20 minutes may split people down the middle I feel. Personally I loved it (the ending I mean), but I’d understand others hating it. All in all, is it as good as In Bruges? Probably not, but it’s a lot less self-indulgent than Seven Psychopaths and is so much damn fun to watch McDormand continuously kick people in the knackers and call people a “cunt”.

5. Good Time

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Robert Pattinson is slowly getting rid of the stigma from the Twishite movies. Here he stars in the Safdie Brothers’ (Heaven Knows What) latest – a pulsating thriller centering on a lowlife criminal (Pattinson) who has to attempt to rescue his mentally handicapped brother from being transferred to Riker’s Island prison. The film takes place over the course of one night, and definitely keeps your pulse racing as fast as Pattinson runs. I’ve ragged on Pattinson a lot in the past, but there’s no denying he is fan-fucking-tastic here. A scummy douchbag that you can’t help but route for despite his downright sleaziness. The script is extremely unpredictable and leads to some brilliant “Oh shit!” moments throughout. There’s also a thumping soundtrack from Oneohtrix Point Never – basically a blazing (and slightly ear bleeding) synth score that wouldn’t sound out of place in the likes of Stranger Things or Adam Wingard’s entire filmography. The middle section of the film is the best, with a magnificently tenses moment that takes place in a closed theme park. It does admittedly slow down somewhat after this point, but the last 20 minutes is still satisfying if just not as electrifying as the rest of the film.

4. The Disaster Artist

diaster artist

I first watched The Room in 2004 in a cinema full of people who had no clue what they were about to watch. Nowadays, if you are lucky to catch The Room in a cinema, there is a huge amount of audience participation akin to a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. There was nothing like that back in 2004 though. Back then, the screenings were largely silent. Audiences of people sat in complete disbelief at the sheer mess that was unfolding on screen. I’m not ashamed to say that The Disaster Artist was an emotional ride for me. By the final moments, I was literally fighting back the tears. Some would say that’s due to the connection I have with The Room, having endured one of the UK’s first ever screenings all those years ago. But I would say that anyone with a shred of cinema integrity will feel the same emotion. The Disaster Artist isn’t a film about a weird, eccentric film maker who didn’t have a clue what he was doing. Well, I guess it is. But it’s also about a man who desired a level of respect, a man who fought to achieve his goal of making a film that audiences could enjoy. Regardless of whether Tommy always intended for The Room to be an ironical comedy as he claims, if his goal was to merely entertain his audience then he certainly succeeded. Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and triumphant “film about a film” that pays homage to its controversial subject without ever actually mocking it, bolstered by a pin-sharp perfect performance from James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. “Oh hi, Mark!”

3. You Were Never Really Here

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Director Lynne Ramsay returns after her thoroughly disturbing 2011 drama We Need To Talk About Kevin with another film where the title is a full sentence. Vastly different film to Kevin though – here, Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a brutal and efficient mob enforcer hired to retrieve a missing young girl. God damn this film is stunning. Ramsay crafts a dream-like feast for the eyes as Phoenix batters people over the head with a hammer. Phoenix’s performance is restrained and precise but with a worrying twitch in his eyes. Although people will no doubt make similarities to Drive, the films are vastly different. They have similar soundtracks. That’s where the similarities pretty much end. Phoenix for instance, is completely different to Gosling. Where as Gosling’s Driver is a cool as hell calculating badass, Phoenix’s Joe is more like a sheer immovable force. There’s nothing really cool about him. He’s an unshaven, dirty lug of muscle and meat, and there is nothing stylish about when he fucks someone up. They just go down, it’s as simple as that. The film has a sort of ethereal quality to it as well, there are a few point where you’re not quite sure if the film is legit or if it’s fucking with you. The film is absolutely not for everyone and I get that, but it was definitely for me. And the soundtrack for one is going straight into my collection.

2. Florida Project

florida project

Sean Baker returns after 2015’s Tangerine with, I’m gonna be honest, his Magnus opus. I loved Tangerine, but The Florida Project is something else entirely. A thoroughly absorbing and brutally honest portrayal of an almost impossible living situation. Centering mostly on 6 year old Moonee and her mother Halley living in a summer apartment building, the film never ever allows melodrama to overtake the comedy or its feeling of wonder. Willem Dafoe turns in an astounding performance as the manager of the building – I can’t even begin to describe how honest and real his performance feels. The children are fantastic little actors as well, and carry the majority of the film on their little shoulders. Brooklyn Prince us absolutely hilarious and definitely has an extremely bright future ahead of her. Stunningly paced and expertly written by Baker. Film of the year for me.

1. Journeyman

journeyman

Christ alive, how fucking good is Paddy Considine? At this point, the man is a film making God. I was NOT expecting to be so emotionally affected by this film. No doubt many will compare it to his directorial debut Tyrannosaur, but they are fundamentally different films. Both fantastically absorbing, and equally as disturbing, but in completely different ways. Considine directs himself as superstar boxer Matty Burton as he faces the fight of his life to defend his world championship title. Saying ANY more would completely spoil what is one of the most unpredictable films of the year. Make no mistake, Journeyman has fucking floored me as a film fan. I haven’t seen writing, directing or acting like this in years. Considine’s performance is astonishing. I’ve always regarded him fairly highly anyway, but I never ever imagined he was capable of this level of acting chops. We’re talking early-Pacino levels of talent. It’s a hard film to sell because I don’t want to say anything about it purely because of how surprising the whole thing is as an experience. Seriously guys, I’m not gonna mince my words here. Best film of the year? Fuck that – best film of the past five years.

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