Congratulations, if you’re reading this then you have made it through the absolute maelstrom that has been 2017. Several events this year, both political and social, have really taken the world aback, some for the better and some for much, much worse, and more than ever I have turned to the dark comfort of the cinema for a spot of escapism. At last count, my releases seen list cracked the 70 mark, and whilst I would argue that it has been a particularly good year for film, there can only be a chosen few that make my end of year countdown. Here are Oh! That Film Blog’s top ten of the year, as always, determined by release dates here in the UK.
La La Land was one of the first movies I saw in 2017, and it has remained unrivalled at the top of my list. Once every ten years or so, you get to see a film that feels utterly classic and breathtakingly new at the same time, and the hypnotic, euphoric, heart swelling and heart breaking musical is everything you could ever want in a romance. I cried just as much during the last ten minutes of La La Land as I did in the first ten minutes of Up, and that’s really saying something!
I can’t quite believe how divided the opinion has been on The Last Jedi, because in my opinion it is up there with the very best episodes in the franchise. Some of the most thrilling and unique set pieces in Star Wars history along with some great plot development and a bittersweet final appearance for the legendary Carrie Fisher had my geeky simultaneously bursting and breaking. Man, these Disney helmed instalments just keep getting better and better.
Moonlight was a beautifully painful experience, one so unique that its hard to find any kind of comparison point of reference. Three exquisite central performances detailing the coming of age of a young black man dealing with his sexuality and cultural/societal pressures are all perfect. A film as important as it is impressive, a truly worthy winner of the Best Picture Oscar, even if La La Land was called out first!
I have never had a cinematic experience as visceral, as claustrophobic or as moving as what Dunkirk evoked. A film of very few words, the human desire for survival and the power of human bravery has never been stronger than in this depiction of the infamous Second World War evacuation mission. From traumatic scenes of sinking ships to triumphant scenes of small sail boats appearing on the horizon, Christopher Nolan has shown us what a true masterpiece looks like.
From one intense film to another, Jackie was one of the most engrossing and pleasantly surprising pictures of the year for me. What I thought might be another plodding biopic actually turned out to be an oppressive, tense, intricate character study of a woman who the world thinks they know so well. There are a couple of losing nominated performances that I think were better than Emma Stone’s this year, and Natalie Portman’s was absolutely one of them.
If you’re looking for bat shit crazy, then The Handmaiden is certainly the one for you! A South Korean retelling of the Fingersmith story by Sarah Waters, the story of a young handmaiden who agrees to defraud a wealthy heiress has more twists and turns than a roller coaster, and some of the imagery created by director Park Chan-wook is literally unforgettable! A truly great erotic psychological thriller, and that isn’t something that can be said often!
I’ve already cited Natalie Portman as a performer more deserving of the Best Actress Oscar than Emma Stone, and Isabelle Huppert is most definitely another. Her performance as a rape victim who forms an unhealthy bond with her attacker is one of the best of her storied career, and the film overall is a challenging, controversial, unafraid drama that explores some of the lesser highlighted consequences and reactions to a traumatic physical assault. Unbelievably, the film also manages to be darkly humorous on many occasions too.
It’s fair to say that Emma Stone has had one hell of a year. Not resting on her laurels after her Best Actress win for La La Land, she also brought the thunder towards the end of the year with a transformative performance as Billie Jean King in Battle Of The Sexes. The film ticked all of my personal thematic boxes from sports to feminism to a coming of age in terms of sexuality, and it’s an inspiring tale of triumph over adversity both on the tennis court and off it.
Hidden Figures was a film that felt very much like the perfect release for the time, a small righting of the wrongs that had plagued the awards season in terms of race representation and the absence of prominent female lead pictures. Importantly, alongside all of these ticked boxes, the film was an inspiring tale of courage, genius and boundary breaking that pleased audiences and critics alike. I love a movie that can highlight a well deserved story that not enough people know about.
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool was another completely out of the blue surprise in 2017. A film that arrived with very little hype, but thanks to stellar performances from its central cast and a great true story, it climbed its way to the base of my top ten. The story of a former cinema starlet Gloria Grahame is a poignant and at many times heartwrenching wrenching one, and there is something about the honest yet subtle touch of the film that really brings the best out of Annette Bening. A mixture of romance and tragedy make this effective drama really one to cherish.