So, by now you’ve hopefully read Dan’s list of his favourite films of the year (and if you haven’t you can find it right here), and by now I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what I’ve chosen. Again, these are not presented in any particular order because, to quote Dan, ‘it’s just a bit arbitrary’. Needless to say, this list isn’t definitive, given that I haven’t managed to see all of the films I’ve wanted to yet, since Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri don’t come out in the UK for a few more weeks.
So, are these my five absolute favourite films of the year? Well, maybe, yes. They are right now, but that isn’t to say that I might not change my mind in a few days (or even a few hours). Without further ado, I present my honourable mentions, the films from this year that I loved, but didn’t quite make it onto my top 5. For today anyway.
- La La Land, Baby Driver and Get Out (three films that I absolutely loved, and maybe would be on this list had Dan not already taken them, because you don’t want to waste your time reading the same thing twice).
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer (one of the best-made films of the year, as I wrote in this review *cue shameless self-promotion*).
- Thor: Ragnarok (more great, ridiculously fun work from Taika Waititi, one of my favourite directors working at the moment).
- Okja (it’s uneven, slightly messy, and one of the most enjoyable films of 2017. Plus, nothing this year has quite matched the bizarre, over-the-top heights of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance).
Call Me by Your Name:
It would be easy to write about why Call Me by Your Name works on a technical level; Luca Guadagnimo’s direction is near-perfect, and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s beautiful cinematography compliments the story perfectly. To only write about this, however, would be to neglect what makes this one of my favourite films of the year, which is the sheer, absolute joy I felt upon leaving the cinema after watching it. This isn’t a film where the enjoyment comes from a cold critical analysis of its flaws and merits, but rather from the simple pleasure of watching a beautiful story play itself out on the screen, which kept me engaged throughout its runtime. The film offers great performances from all of the cast, with Michael Stuhlbarg in particular giving a stand-out performance, cementing him as one of my favourite actors working right now. In fact, his beautiful, heart-breaking monologue stands out as my favourite scene of the year.
The Florida Project:
Simultaneously one of the most upsetting and the most life-affirming films to come out this year, one of the most notable aspects of Sean Baker’s follow up to Tangerine is the quality of the performances on display. Whilst it’s tempting to say that the performances are great despite the fact that there are barely any professional actors in the film, the truth is that they are great because of this. Willem Dafoe stands out too, giving maybe the best performance of his career as Bobby, the cranky but caring man in charge of the motel where Moonee and her mother Halley live, with his reactions to the events of the film making them even more upsetting. This is also – to my mind – the best looking film of the year (yes, better than Blade Runner 2049), with the colourful cinematography reflecting the child’s-eye view of the world of its protagonist, all before the story culminates in my favourite ending to a film of the whole year.
It’s difficult here to find anything more to say about Paddington 2 that I didn’t already write in my review of the film. By far the warmest, most wholesome film of the year, Paddington 2 stands out from the crowd of other family films through an outright rejection of cynicism of any kind. This is a film that understands that a family film shouldn’t simply be a collection of childish scenes with a few jokes for the adults thrown in, but rather a simple, joy-filled story which manages to please everyone at the same time throughout. Paddington 2 essentially works as an antidote to the depressing, never-ending newsreel that was 2017, offering sunny optimism and politeness as a perfectly viable response to the everyday unpleasantness of the world, as well as promoting the concept of simply treating everyone with kindness and acceptance.
Do you even need me to tell you that Moonlight is brilliant? Surely by now everyone knows that Moonlight is brilliant? Still, it’s always worth celebrating again, with Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age romance providing us with the most deserving Best Picture winner in years. The film boasts excellent performances from all three actors portraying Chiron at various points in his life, as well as from Mahershala Ali, fully earning his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This is all helped by an outstanding soundtrack by Nicholas Britell, and direction from Jenkins which manages to be just as beautiful as his screenplay. It’s easy to forget now that Moonlight was something of a dark horse in the Oscars race, coming from indie studio A24 and boasting few big names, a fact which just seems bizarre now considering how beloved the film has since become.
The Big Sick:
Equal parts funny and heart-warming, The Big Sick succeeds largely because it knows exactly what it is; it is completely and unashamedly a romantic comedy. But rather than fighting against itself by subverting the common tropes as in most romantic comedies do nowadays, The Big Sick fully embraces the genre and all the clichés that come with it, presenting the audience with a sincerity it is difficult to manufacture. Part of this sincerity, of course, comes from the fact that the screenplay was written by star Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the subjects of the true story being told, but the screenplay still manages to feel both naturalistic and extremely tight, alternating excellently between genuinely funny comedy and genuinely engaging drama. The film may not break the mold of the romantic comedy, but in refusing to do so it creates the best example of one in years.
Words by Adam Wells