2017 is absolutely knocking it out of the park in film so far, and we’re not even halfway through the year yet. So we want to mark some of our favourites before we become overwhelmed by summer blockbusters and forget some of the beautiful, thrilling and thought-provoking films that we have been gifted this year.
So let’s get the Oscar films out of the way first:
Moonlight now holds the record for being the Best Picture winner with the lowest budget. This was a huge achievement in itself for independent films, and it shines a light on how independents can use their lack of a big budget to add to the film’s dynamic rather than treat it as a hinderance. Its lack of polish expanded upon the film’s raw vulnerability which truly carried its affect home. Partnered with subtle but nuanced performances across the board with little sensationalism, they made the screen disappear. It is a film that won’t be soon forgotten.
Yes, Casey Affleck is an alleged sex offender, and yes, we should constantly remind ourselves of past crimes and accusations of famous people as we are exceptionally forgetful on such topics, but that should not take away from the work of everyone else in this film. Because it was a great film and under no means was Affleck’s performance the only great thing about it. The script is both tragic yet simultaneously hilarious, the breakout performance from Lucas Hedges, its highlight on how men struggle to address and deal with their emotions in times of tragedy, and the endlessly wonderful and heartbreaking Michelle Williams. I wouldn’t challenge anyone for having a personal boycott against this film, but should you not but haven’t watched it yet, do.
Though La La Land has faced some criticism for the lack of diversity in its narrative, I do have a soft spot for it for several reasons. When I first saw it, I fell in love with it purely for its framing as a love letter and homage to classic 1950s musicals, especially to the career of Gene Kelly. Yet the more I thought about it, the more heartbroken I felt. It forces anyone who pursues their dreams or their dream careers to consider how much they’re willing to sacrifice and really, will it be worth it in the end? Because the answer may very well be no.
And now for the others…
Get Out is the most original film on this list by a country mile, and it really paid off for Jordan Peele. The film enters into multiple conversations and interconnected issues on race, which Peele uses to both inform and toy with your expectations. It is thrilling, scary and though it shouldn’t surprise us coming from a comedian, very funny. Get Out is overflowing with conversations on race that invites critical analysis and initiates a new thought process on how we navigate the topic on screen. Watching it, you just know it will become one of those films people will be talking about for years to come.
Acclaimed South-Korean director Park Chan-Wook of Oldboy (2003) and Stoker (2013), returned to our screens to deliver another belter of a film. Based on the novel ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters, Chan-Wook shifts the narrative from 19th Century England to 19th Century Japanese occupied Korea. And he does it beautifully. The continuous transition between Japanese and Korean between all the characters adds another layer to the already twisting and misleading narrative. It is an incredible adaptation that replicates the feeling of vigorously reading a book because you cannot wait to get to the next page, fascinated by what might happen next. Which, when translating a book to screen, you could not ask for more.
This is the most difficult film I have ever watched. Every move, every fight, every decision, is painful. It’s brutal. Finally, they have given Wolverine a film that matches his tragic character, as well as one that has Professor Xavier in a true main character role. As the most frequent recurring characters in the Marvel Universe, they gave them the finale they deserved. Not just for the characters either, but for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart too. It showed us that the superhero well hasn’t dried up just yet, and there is so much more that can be done beyond witticisms and explosions.
This technically belongs with the Oscar films above, as it was nominated for Best Documentary feature, but not so many people pay attention beyond the Best Picture or multi-nominated features. Based on the writings of James Baldwin and narrated by Samuel L Jackson, these two iconic African American figures from different times combine to bring us one whole and sobering piece on the history of race in America. Jackson brings Baldwin’s words to life, as Raoul Peck juxtaposes it against archive footage both old and new. The result is a film that is pure poetry that breathes life back into a writer and artist who had fallen out of the mainstream consciousness.
John Wick, I feel, is America’s answer to Indonesia’s The Raid, and like it, will go down in history as a must-watch for action film fans. We seem to be experiencing a shift in the action film genre to simpler story lines, with constant and continuous action that is expertly choreographed, and has a realistic approach to gun reloads (one of my long-standing peeves with action films). After John Wick achieved sleeper success in 2014, Keanu Reeves returned to the role this year, and thankfully it was just as thrilling. We’re telling you it is almost impossible not to jump out of your seat and curse out of joy at the screen at some of the stunts and kills. What more could you want out of an action film?
That’s it from us so far, but we don’t doubt that this list will only get longer and longer as the year goes on, which is definitely not something to complain about from our perspective.