As 2017 has come to an end, It's time to look back at the year in film and pick my top ten of the calendar year. Apologies to fans of The Emoji Movie in advance.
10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson “let the past die” (in the words of Kylo Ren) by throwing the script out the window for this latest instalment in the all-conquering franchise. With plot twists a-plenty, this second part of the new trilogy took fans to places they'd never been before and offered a fresh, bold new take on a story close to many hearts. Although having received some fan criticism (much down to the fact zero fan theories came true), this blockbuster epic succeeded not only on a visual level, but was extremely evocative in its dialogue and performances.
Kathryn Bigleow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) brought an important story to the big screen with this hard-hitting gut punch of a film about the 1967 Detroit riots. In no doubt the most brutal film of the year, Bigleow directed magnetic performances from a fantastic ensemble cast, led by John Boyega and Will Poulter, the latter of whom will be criminally overlooked come the Oscars. The film possibly ran twenty minutes too long for some, but that was a necessary evil to portray the harrowing events of time in history not enough people know about.
8. Call Me By Your Name
Of course a film that will be a top many Oscar ballets come March, and further down on this list than many others. Boasting beautifully shot scenes and a tantalising love story, the film is carried by a monster performance from newcomer and ‘Best Actor’ favourite Timothy Chalamet, who is a shining light in a slightly pretentious first forty five minutes. The third act however is some of the finest work of the year, with Michael Stuhlbarg's monologue in the film’s closing no doubt a highlight of the year for many.
This year’s ‘Best Picture’ winner boasts arguably the rawest screenplay of the year. Barry Jenkin’s depiction of a three-part story of a gay man growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami, captured the hearts of almost everyone who saw it. With stand-out performances from ‘Supporting Actor’ winner Mahershala Ali, and Naomi Harris. Although the first two acts were near perfection, the stumbling third act didn't give it the end it deserved, and almost felt like a separate film entirely.
6. La la Land
Now the youngest ever man to win the ‘Best Director’ Oscar, Damien Chazelle's electrifying love letter to Hollywood, featured juggernaut performances from Ryan Gosling and the always impeccable Emma Stone. The songs landed, the story flowed, the chemistry between the leads jumped off the screen, and the movie created a new type of 'modern musical' fad that others will no doubt try to emulate.
5. 20th Century Women
A film little to none has heard about from Mike Mills. Having only opened in limited release, it's one I cannot recommend highly enough. The story of how three women, of vastly different ages, help to raise a teenage boy in 1970's California is funny, sad, crass, shocking, and simply fantastic. Led with sharp wit and charm by Annete Benning, the cast of Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and Lucas Jade Zumman hit every note in this unknown work of genius.
4. The Big Sick
It's not hard to see why this unconventional rom-com is up there as one of the finest the genre has to offer. The true story of how co-writer and star Kumail Nanjiani met his wife is a vibrant, smart and genuinely funny comedy (which most fail to do) and has two of the top supporting performances of the year in the unknowingly hilarious Ray Romano, and the straight-talking Holly Hunter. This thoughtful screenplay takes audiences through every emotion in this surprise hit of 2017.
The formulaic comic-book movie was spun on its head in arguably the finest superhero movie ever made. James Mangold’s decision to make the film a rural, old-fashioned, almost urban-type western paid off hugely, as Hugh Jackman clawed back the layers of the conventional Marvel movie and took audiences somewhere deeper. A fine opening, an extremely bold performance by Jackman, beautifully choreographed action scenes, a backbone supplied by Sir Patrick Stewart, nothing short of a phenomenal performance by 7-year-old Dafne Keen, and a crushingly emotional final act give fans everything they could've wanted, and more from Hugh Jackman's final outing.
2. The Florida Project
Sean Baker's Oscar contender combined the sweetness and sincerity of childhood, with the harsh realities of adult life in this heart-breaking film about life on the other side of Disney world. Seen through the eyes of six-year-old Moonie, played with effortless and masterful ease by Brooklyn Prince, this film balances light and dark as it subtly intertwines stories of childish adventure with those of parenthood. Backed up with stunning performances by Bria Vinaite and Willem Dafoe, this really is a must-see if it rolls round again closer to the Academy Awards.
Manchester By The Sea
You have to go back to January to find what I believe is the finest film of the year. Oscar winner Casey Affleck delivered one of the finest performances of recent times as Lee Chandler, a man tasked with taking care of his nephew following the death of his brother. He gives such a strong, powerful but subtle performance from Kenny Lonergan's Oscar winning script. The story is funny, depressing, heart-breaking, brutal, and also offers a jaw-dropping twist audiences didn't see coming. Although central to the film’s success, it's not just Affleck who wows; Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges put in star turns of their own. No doubt in my mind the most complete film of the year.