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FEATURE: Best of 2017

December 31, 2017

Honourable Mentions:20th Century Women \ Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie \ Christine \ Elle \ Good Time \ I Am Not Your Negro \ It \ It Comes at Night \ Jackie \ John Wick: Chapter 2 \ Kong: Skull Island \ Lady Macbeth \ The Levelling \ Logan \ Logan Lucky \ The Lost City of Z \ The Love Witch \ Professor Marston & the Wonder Women \ The Red Turtle \ War for the Planet of the Apes \ Wonder Woman

20. Baby Driver

 

Baby Driver sounds like a tricky sell, but its execution is so faultless, its screenplay so tight, its passion so plain and its heart so just and upbeat that it deserves a place in people’s hearts for taking its heavy influences, and making something so loud and unique in its own right to constitute its status as one of Wright’s best pieces of work.

 

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19. Paddington 2

 

The cast and crew that made the original work so well have pulled off the impossible again. Paddington 2 is an absolute delight; an utterly charming storybook adventure that’s as sweet and gooey as marmalade, a confident and assured family classic and every bit as good – if not better – than the first.

 

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18. Colossal

 

Colossal is a remarkably odd picture, but the execution of its premise is staggeringly well handled and the balancing act of its tonal fluctuations are admirable with forceful intent. Its levels of intimacy inform the onscreen carnage, but never lose track of the emotions and motivations of its trapped and lonely characters at the centre of it all. That something this original, audacious and responsive can still emerge from the Hollywood system is a miracle onto itself, and Colossal hits harder because of it.

 

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17. The Death of Stalin

 

It flaunts historical licence as much as it throws its foul mouth around, but it’s a highly intelligent and brilliantly presented piece of comedy-drama that occasionally borders on horror in its more sinister moments. It’s a laugh out loud work of absolute genius, one of the funniest films of 2017 and the culmination of Armando Iannucci’s considerable talents as a writer and director.

 

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16. A Ghost Story

 

There are moments within A Ghost Story where it feels like this could be David Lowery’s own The Tree of Life. Given a larger budget or scope, the final movement of the film could have transformed into something far more abstract, but to do so would probably undercut the modest and intimate scale of Lowery’s vision. As with Daniel Hart's wheezing ambient score of deep strings, the film never crescendos but settles into its own frame of mind early on and seeks its own form of self-effacing elaboration. It requires patience, but its muted reward feels worth the melancholic journey.

 

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15. My Life as a Courgette

 

Somewhere between the dark power of Adam Elliot's Mary and Max and the light humanism of Jacqueline Wilson, My Life as a Courgette has found a place to allow it to stand and breath freely as a unique and charming picture that wants to see the good in people, especially those in authority such as the social workers and police officers who form bonds with the children in their care. Quietly shattering at points but always with a positive and humorous outlook.

 

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14. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the promise of the new trilogy finally fulfilled; an exciting, emotional, richly layered and unpredictable blockbuster of deep-seated passion and startling reverence. It will deeply upset some fans, but it takes the path required to transform the series beyond its mythologic status into something more personal and character driven. As strong and capable as the mightiest of its kind with a cunning self-reliance, this stands as one of the long-running space opera's best ever pictures.

 

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13. The Florida Project

 

Akin to an American Ken Loach, but as seen through the lens of a late Harmony Korine, The Florida Project feels like the feature that Sean Baker has been building to. But even then, this might not even be the peak of his work should he continue to escalate his abilities in this way. It’s a spectacular, hilarious and compassionate piece of cinema that feels and touches more than any more plot-driven exercise could hope for.

 

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12. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer might be the film that Lanthimos has been building to his entire career, and feels like his most fully formed and impressive work to date as a result. The humour is about as dark as it can get before crossing over into something worse, but when it does it tips so gradually into it that you don’t even notice the transition. This is a fierce piece of awe-inspiring, stimulating and haunting filmmaking that at times beggars belief and craves immediate discussion.

 

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11. Dunkirk 

 

Dunkirk is a relentless, heart pounding and bold new addition to the canon of Hollywood war epics. As you stare it down you can feel the sheer power of cinema bellowing back at you with unbridled force. This is the first picture since Inception in which Nolan appears to have felt right at home with the material, on grounding he can quantify and exercise his prowess with latitude and meticulousness – and might be the filmmaker’s best and most practical work to date.

 

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10. Toni Erdmann

 

Toni Erdmann is a difficult experience to categorise because it doesn’t entirely fit into any set category. It’s surrealist, farcical, hilarious, shattering, truthful, bizarre yet incredibly authentic. There will be few films this year that might affect you in quite the same way, with movements and sentiments that will never be shaken or forgotten.

 

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9. La La Land

 

It's a bold claim to make, but La La Land might be the finest musical of the 21st century to date. Chazelle’s work here solidifies him as one of the most arresting filmmakers currently working in American cinema; it’s a tight and elegant piece of light storytelling with a great deal of heart and soul. So earnest in approach, so conscious in understanding and so hilariously and pleasingly genuine – this is one of the year’s most joyful experiences.

 

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8. Get Out

 

Get Out is going to be recognised as one of the most important horror pictures of the decade – and rightfully so. This is as subversively sharp as satire can get; tight, thrilling, unnerving and stimulating to discuss while never offering an easy conclusion to its issues, and from an audience perspective it’s a fantastic display to witness as it piles on the surprises well into the final reel.

 

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7. Raw

 

Raw is yet further evidence that some of the best horror pictures coming out this decade rest in the hands of women; a scorching, touching and captivating piece of hard to tackle filmmaking with a relevance and stature for the ages.

 

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6. Manchester by the Sea

 

Manchester by the Sea is Kenneth Lonergan’s greatest work to date, an understated masterpiece; a depiction of grief that doesn’t offer any easy solutions, that shows life and relationships in all its untidy forms, but somehow feels at peace with the hands that its characters are eventually dealt. The past isn’t something we can forget, but we carry around with us every second of our lives. We live with the consequences of our own actions, and they shape the people that we will become - for better or for worse.

 

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5. Blade Runner 2049

 

Blade Runner 2049 looks and sounds like the classic it follows, but unlike so many nostalgic retreads it seeks to do more; to search deeper, to wander longer, to look further into its world and challenge its standing while turning over the established order of its universe in a new and thrilling manner. The story is personal, profound and tragic, taking its time with a languor and confidence to run as long as it does and allow the audience to feel like a part of the journey, filling every corner of its scenery with uninhabited grace. It’s a slow, beautiful, meditative work of large-scale cinematic brilliance that both equals and betters the original in more ways than it needed too.

 

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4. Moonlight 

 

Moonlight is a picture of wholly original creation and distinction within the cinematic medium. The dialogue is so strong, but it might be the least important aspect of a film about corporeal communication. The editing of these brief vignettes and glimpses of a life are breathtaking, never before has the process of a meal being created ever felt so absorbing with silent anticipation and baited breath. Powerful and moving in a way that works its way over the flesh and sinks in like an enchantment – a waking dream of a picture, and an essential piece of contemporary cinema.

 

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3. mother!

 

mother! is the kind of pure cinematic experience that can only be provided by the few still willing to risk as much on their work regardless of their reputation. Where the response from an audience feels like it could only be strong as a means of dealing with the experience that they are put through, and certainly not everyone is going to find something in its concoction to savour. It’s an oppressive, darkly comic, broadly painted work that at times feels absolutely insane in mindset. It’s too rewarding and layered to disregard and will be pored over for years to come as the stark and divisive experience that it ultimately becomes.

 

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2. The Handmaiden

 

The Handmaiden is an impossibly enjoyable accomplishment that carries class, depravity, heart-breaking drama and sexual charge through its sumptuous beauty, unashamed intelligence and earnest stimulation.

 

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1. Call Me by Your Name

 

Call Me by Your Name is in every sense of the word a masterpiece and the best film of the entire year; a delicate, joyous piece of delectable cinema that feels emotional and alive in every frame. Its time spent in the company of good people, with a carefree sense of discovery as the sounds of Sufjan Stevens’ melancholy and airy music carry you through its images and potent intimacy. Let it make you laugh, make you cry, and let it absolutely break your heart, because filmmaking and storytelling as fundamental as this doesn’t come around as often as it should.

 

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