10 Jan The Jam Report’s top 10 films of 2017
Well, another year is done, and it’s safe to say most of us are happy to see the end of 2017. For many reasons, it was a difficult and trying year. In a post-Trump world, it’s been hard to see the light through so much frustrating dark. And, for Hollywood, it was a year unlike any other. The damning revelations of systemic and habitual sexual misconduct of some of the industry’s biggest names was a breaking story that broke our hearts with every passing day.
We all somehow had an inkling this was going on. We liked to believe the casting couch mentality was a relic of Hollywood’s past. Deep down, we all knew that likely wasn’t the case. But the extent of the problem, the consequences for its victims, and the failures of those complicit in keeping it all a secret were truly shocking. The fallout still continues. The story feels like it has many tales yet to tell. And with that comes hope.
Hope that this may never happen again. Hope that there are now avenues and channels for victims to find support, solace, and, most importantly, justice. Hope that we never forget these events and these voices. Hope that we now see women in the industry as powerful and brilliant artists, and not mindless mannequins to be objectified and mistreated. Hope that true change for women in the industry is on the horizon. It’s the only ray of joy to come from these never-ending scandals. Women’s voices are being heard like never before. We can only hope 2018 continues to give them the opportunities they’ve always deserved.
Putting the serious issues aside, it was a dazzling year for cinema. Rather confusingly, I’ve seen many a critic call this a dull and disappointing year. I respectfully have to disagree. In my opinion, 2017 was one of the best years in film we’ve had in a long time. It may have been a little back-ended (only two films from my half-year top 10 article remain in the final list), but we’ve had some sensational cinema throughout the entire 12 months. And, once again, all bases were covered.
We had some wonderful and entertaining studio blockbusters, and, conversely, brilliant and poignant independent cinema. There was greatness to be found in drama, comedy, horror, sci-fi, and action. We’ve seen the rise of daring new voices, both in-front of and behind the camera. We welcomed back the return of familiar faces. And, above all, cinema consistently provided the escapism we so desperately needed.
Was it all wonderful? It never is. You have to take the good with the bad. Hollywood is still far too obsessed with creating tentpoles and franchises. One studio even announced the birth of a franchise before the first film had even been released. It’s now been scrapped. See what happens when you look ahead instead of focusing on the now? Audiences are still hungry for original cinema, and feeding us the same banal sequels and remakes is starting to wear very thin. That being said, you won’t ever find me making a “10 worst films of the year” list. It’s unnecessarily negative and catty. There have been plenty of films I’ve dealt a negative review this year. They’re here on the site. That’s where they can remain.
Now we get to the list, and just some clarification before we get cracking. In the past, I have referred to this as the “10 best films,” and that needs to end. It implies that one is better than the other, and that’s never sat quite right with me. Indeed, these are ten of the “best” films of the year, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify their existence in the final list. Many may view my final 10 and surmise numerous other films that may be technically “better” in their eyes. And, in some cases, I may even agree with you. That’s not how this list comes together.
After all is said and done, these 10 films are ultimately those which left the deepest impact on this particular film critic and movie lover. Each impacted for wildly different reasons. Some obviously impacted more than others. Some may not have impacted you at all. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the power of cinema. It’s a subjective art-form which will always affect people differently. It’s what I love about movies. But, as I said last year, above all else, these are the 10 films I consider to be the shining examples and reminders of why I love and cherish film in the first place.
It’s a cliché I use every year, and I know you’re sick of hearing it, but crafting this list has been extremely difficult. Just the fact I’m only posting it now, in the 2nd week of January, proves how rough it’s been. The shortlist started at 35 films, and some of those you’ll see in the honourable mentions probably should be in the final 10. But, alas, a top 10 had to be determined, and it’s finally here for your enjoyment.
So without further ado, I present The Jam Report’s top ten films of 2017.
10. Wonder Woman
“I am Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. In the name of all that is good, your wrath upon this world is over.”
As a die-hard fanboy, there is always bound to be a blockbuster superhero flick on my end-of-year list, and none made quite the impact this year as the glorious Wonder Woman. Handing the reigns of directing a comicbook adaptation over to a female director proved to be a masterstroke of genius. In Patty Jenkins’ marvellous hands, Wonder Woman is reclaimed as an icon of female empowerment, leaving behind decades of exploitation and glorification. Jenkins finds the heart and pathos in Diana, and the result was astonishing. Throw in Gal Gadot’s revelatory performance, a gripping and thrilling narrative, and some sensational set-pieces (I’m still not over that No Man’s Land sequence), and you have the greatest piece of superhero cinema of the year, and one of the best ever.
9. The Big Sick
“What’s my stance on 9/11? Oh um, anti. It was a tragedy. I mean, we lost 19 of our best guys.”
One of the most unique love stories of 2017 becomes one of the year’s greatest romances, and, in the process, the year’s best comedy. With one foot firmly planted in black romantic comedy, and the other in socially-relevant drama, writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon deliver a fresh and sparkling narrative which wisely avoids the clichés and tropes so frustratingly synonymous with these genres. With terrific supporting performances from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano (are you listening, Academy?), and a sublime ensemble cast (thank you, SAG), The Big Sick mixes self-deprecation with deep sincerity, along with a heavy dose of social commentary, to craft something truly remarkable and beautifully touching.
8. Baby Driver
“One more job and I’m done.”
In a summer season of bloated sequels and franchises, one film dared to be different. And it was delivered by one of the most underrated master directors. With Baby Driver, writer/director Edgar Wright has crafted something bold, unique, and downright enthralling. With its genius soundtrack perfectly edited into its narrative, the film is a remarkable achievement in blending visual and audio. Just the fact the music cues were actually written into the screenplay during pre-production show how precise Wright’s vision for the film was. He knew exactly what he wanted to create, and his execution is flawless. Bolstered by smashing performances by Ansel Elgort and a wonderful supporting cast (try to forget Kevin Spacey is there, please), and a sublime script filled with the most delicious dialogue, Baby Driver is an absolute bloody riot.
7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
“This doesn’t put an end to shit, you fucken retard; this is just the fucken start. Why don’t you put that on your Good Morning, Missouri fucken wake up broadcast, bitch?”
That one quote tells you a lot about what you need to know of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s a film that goes for the throat, and barely ever lets go. It’s the style of black comedy only an auteur of the genre like writer/director Martin McDonagh can successfully craft. McDonagh understands how to tread the boundaries of both comedy and drama, and deliver something that expertly strides confidently through both. It doesn’t hurt he’s got the sublime Frances McDormand at the helm of his film, plus a stunning supporting cast. Once again, McDormand reminds us why she’s one of the greatest actresses of our time, with a performance so fierce and blazing, you’ll be ducking for cover. With a deeply powerful narrative touching on grief, anger, and vengeance, the film has the brilliant ability to move, offend, and entertain its audience, all in the space of 115 minutes. If that isn’t genius, I don’t know what is.
6. Blade Runner 2049
“Her eyes were green.”
Marking the third year in-a-row a film by master director Denis Villeneuve has landed on my top 10 list, Blade Runner 2049 blew my mind like nothing else in 2017. A visual triumph, which will undoubtedly finally award an Oscar to long-overdue cinematographer Roger Deakins, the film is a breathtaking masterpiece. A piece of cinema you can truly call a work of art, and overflowing with instantly-iconic shots, the visual delights of this film are hard to even describe. One needs to experience them first-hand. Likewise with Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score, which is my choice for the finest of the year. With Villeneuve’s typical flair for slow-burn storytelling, the film slowly unravels itself, and draw its audience in with such intoxicating suspense. Throw in a sensational lead performance from Ryan Gosling, and a fantastic supporting cast, and you have one of the most dazzling films of 2017.
“He’s shell-shocked, George. He’s not himself. He might never be himself again.”
Think back to a time before the bizarre backlash started. Think back to when we declared this to finally be Christopher Nolan’s year at the Oscars. Think back to how it was seeing his masterpiece for the first time in the cinema. And think back to the sheer brilliance that was Dunkirk. The tide may have turn on its Oscar hopes (there’s serious talk of Nolan being snubbed for Director…yep), but nothing can take away the visceral experience that was this astonishing achievement in cinema. The film stimulates your visual and audio senses like nothing else this year. With the most glorious cinematography, suspenseful editing, and evocative sound design and score, it’s the kind of cinema that genuinely has you holding your breath. It leaves you physically and emotionally exhausted, but in the way only a true cinematic masterpiece can. Dunkirk was a triumph of the war genre, and a new benchmark all will be compared to. Lord knows what Nolan has to do to win that Oscar, if he can’t take it home for this.
4. Get Out
“You were one of my favourites.”
The year’s biggest surprise package came to us all the way back in March. At a time in the year more akin to a dumping ground of disappointments which film studios don’t know what to do with, Get Out stood tall as one of the most groundbreaking and original films of the year. And the most unlikely of Oscar contenders. On the surface, it’s just another schlocky horror film. But, thanks to writer/director Jordan Peele’s ingenious screenplay and sharp direction, it becomes something else entirely. Expertly mixing social and racial commentary with a genuinely unnerving and unsettling premise, the film is bitingly satirical, socially aware, and utterly enthralling. With a star-making performance by Daniel Kaluuya at its helm, Get Out manages to both scare and enlighten, thanks, in large part, to Peele’s impeccable directing. He’s wise to this genre, and gives his audience plenty of tense moments, which will have you cowering in your seat. But the scares are just one of its many tricks. The film expertly mixes the horror with daring comedy and pitch-perfect commentary on race relations in America. The film could not be more timely and relevant. It’s hitting at just the right moment. And what a punch it packs. So much more than just a horror film, Get Out is sensational cinema, full stop.
3. Call Me By Your Name
“Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot.”
Evocative. Passionate. Sensuous. Intoxicating. Captivating. Gorgeous. Devastating. Just a few of the words I used to describe the beautiful Call Me By Your Name. As a piece of gay cinema (ugh, god I hate that term), it’s one of the greatest there has ever been. As a piece of cinema, in general, it’s one of the year’s finest. The kind of cinema that lingers long after the closing credits (especially after its devastating final scene), Call Me By Your Name is an overwhelming experience. Both a coming-of-age tale, and a coming-out story, the film is an intense portrayal of love, confusion, and loss. With an Oscar-worthy performance from the revelation that is Timothée Chalamet, and stellar supporting turns from Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg (give them BOTH nominations, please), it is a true thing of beauty to behold. With a brilliantly written screenplay by James Ivory, and sumptuous direction from Luca Guadagnino, it’s easily the most touching and beautiful film of the year. Call Me By Your Name is an unforgettable film that’s still swimming in my mind, and will for many years to come.
2. Lady Bird
“I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”
“What if this is the best version?”
It’s no exaggeration that I adore Saoirse Ronan. Brooklyn still stands as one of my favourite films of recent times. As much as I loved Brie Laron’s performance in Room, it still stings to remember Ronan failed to win Best Actress at the Oscars. She is far and away the most exciting and breathtaking young actress in cinema, right now. And she nails it, yet again, with Lady Bird. From the genius that is writer/director Greta Gerwig (please give her a directing nomination, Academy), the film seems simple and familiar. In Gerwig’s hands, the film is anything but. With another supreme performance from Ronan, and an equally Oscar-worthy supporting turn from Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird is a true delight. Deeply honest, powerfully moving, and wonderfully entertaining, the film stands as a truly genuine depiction of the adolescent experience. With personal sincerity from its writer/director, it never feels exaggerated or overdone, and it stands as one of the greatest mother-daughter narratives there has ever been. It’s astonishing to realise this is only Gerwig’s debut directorial achievement. She has made her mark as one to watch. When it’s all over, you’ll want to rush right back and watch it again. That is the true hallmark of a wonderful piece of cinema.
1. The Florida Project
“I can always tell when adults are about to cry.”
And then there was one. With such a sublime year in cinema, it was extremely difficult to pick just one film to stand at the top of this list. Several of them deserve it. But there was one film that hit me like no other this year. One film that left an indelible mark on my soul. One film that left me unable to move from my cinema chair. One film that has invaded my mind like nothing else. That film was The Florida Project – my #1 film for 2017.
As I say every year, when I really love a film, I find it hard to summon words. And I really loved this film. To put it simply, The Florida Project took my breath away and touched me like nothing else in 2017. With its socially relevant and eye-opening narrative, and phenomenal performances from its incredible ensemble cast, you cannot look away from this film. It grabs you from its opening scene and keeps you in its grip for the entire 109 minutes. Writer/director Sean Baker has crafted something so daringly beautiful, yet so heartbreakingly devastating. As our young protagonist, newcomer Brooklynn Prince is a true revelation. Likewise with Bria Vinaite, as her desperate mother. The pair have the most glorious bond, and it’s genuinely captivating to watch the two perform together.
But the real star is here is Willem Dafoe, in a performance that needs to capture him his first Academy Award. As a man torn between his head and his heart, Dafoe’s work is a triumph. The film soars even higher with its production design filled with a bubblegum-hued palette of colours, creating something so visually unique and bold. Baker’s work here is masterful, and I still hold out faint hope he will sneak into the Best Director category. He damn well deserves it.
Dark yet fun, joyous yet devastating, The Florida Project is an absolute masterpiece. It captured my attention unlike any other film this year. It stole my heart and enveloped my mind. It opened my eyes to a world I’ve never seen. And it reminded me the best cinema is often the most unexpected cinema. It’s the kind of film I hope to find each year, but often never do. I am indebted to Sean Baker for gifting us with such a brilliant film. And so, I am honoured to bestow The Florida Project with the recognition as my top film of 2017.
This year’s unfortunate honourable mentions that just missed out:
Battle of the Sexes – deserves more awards buzz, especially for Emma Stone.
The Beguiled – another triumph from Sofia Coppola.
Coco – one of the few truly great animated films of the year.
The Disaster Artist – an absurd and hilarious triumph from James Franco.
I, Tonya – sensational performances by Margot Robbie and Allison Janney.
Logan – boldly different and wonderfully unique superhero film.
mother! – the most divisive film of the year, and I loved every second.
Mudbound – the underrated Netflix masterpiece that you need to see immediately.
Okja – another home-run from Netflix.
The Shape of Water – my #11 which just missed out.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – a glorious return to form for Peter Parker.
Sweet Country – the best Australian film of the year.
Thor: Ragnarok – injecting some much-needed humour into a flat franchise.
War for the Planet of the Apes – if only Andy Serkis could score some Academy love.
Wind River – another underrated film which deserved awards contention.