Sunday 31 December 2017

My favourite films of 2017: #40-31

Will Poulter played a racist cop in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit

Living in the UK and coming up with a favourite movies of the year list is always tricky because our theatrical release schedule is slightly out of sync with that of a great many other countries, especially the USA. This means the likes of Moonlight, La La Land, and Manchester By The Sea were all last year's films in other territories, but were not released in the UK until 2017. I realise including them here may seem odd to some, not to mention a little behind the curve, but sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt. The vagaries of UK release schedules also mean I won't be including the likes of The Shape Of Water, Downsizing, or BPM (Beats Per Minute) here because, even though I've seen them, they aren't opening in this country until 2018.

Although none of them made the final 40, in a slight change to previous years, new films released on Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as those that went straight to Blu-ray or DVD, were also eligible for inclusion here.

I've seen a bum-numbing 238 new films over the last 12 months - everything from Blade Runner 2049 on a massive IMAX screen on Leicester Square to a little-known French oddity like Ava, hidden away on streaming service MUBI. Of all those films, these are the ones that emerged as my favourites, movies I suspect will stay with me for many years to come. The top 10 is ridiculously strong this year with any one of the top five or six titles good enough to have been my #1...

40. Colossal

Director: Nacho Vigalondo  UK release date: 19 May
Alcoholic Gloria (Anne Hathaway) realises she is psychically linked to a monster rampaging through South Korea in this odd and highly original indie flick. Cut through the Kaiju hijinks, though, and Vigalondo's film is really about the affect self-destructive behaviour can have on those around you. Jason Sudeikis provides the toxic masculinity to give things an extra kick.

39. My Life As A Courgette
Director: Claude Barras  UK release date: 2 June
Beautifully-realised animation from France about a young boy - the titular Courgette - sent to a children's home after the death of his alcoholic mother. Barras's film (with a screenplay by Girlhood's Céline Schiamma) handles some incredibly heavy issues with sensitivity, warmth and winning humour. Lovely.

38. Frantz
Director: François Ozon  UK release date: 12 May
Haunting post-WWI drama from prolific French director Ozon (The New Girlfriend). A young German woman (Paula Beer), still in mourning for her dead fiancé, meets a mysterious Frenchman (Adrien Rivoire) at his grave. He has a devastating secret and the way Ozon handles that revelation and its consequences is never less than utterly compelling.

37. David Lynch: The Art Life
Directors: Jon Nguyen, Rick Barfnes, & Olivia Neergaard-Holm  UK release date: 14 July
The extraordinary return of Twin Peaks may have grabbed most of the Lynch-related headlines in 2017, but this intimate documentary goes right back to the start, providing as it does a unique window into the director's family history and the evolution of his relationship with the visual arts (painting and installation as well as film). Fascinating and illuminating.

36. The Death Of Stalin
Director: Armando Iannucci  UK release date: 20 October
Foul-mouthed humour and the horror of Stalinist Russia make oddly agreeable bedfellows in Iannucci's follow-up to In The Loop. When the Russian dictator pops his clogs, his fractious band of lieutenants, including Steve Buscemi's Nikita Khrushchev and Jeffrey Tambor's Georgy Malenkov, scheme to replace him as supreme leader. Bleak but bloody funny.

35. Beach Rats
Director: Eliza Hittman  UK release date: 24 November
In what will surely be a star-making role, Brit Harris Dickinson plays Frankie, a troubled Brooklyn teen experimenting with drugs and hooking up with older men on the Net, as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality. Hittman's film has similarities with Moonlight in its frank exploration of masculinity, but is absorbing enough to succeed on its own terms.

34. Suntan
Director: Argyris Papadimitropoulos  UK release date: 28 April
Unsettling drama about an emotionally disturbed doctor (the excellent Makis Papadimitriou) on a small Greek island falling in love with a beautiful young tourist initially happy to play along with his obsession. An odd but satisfying mix of pitch-black humour with deluded middle-aged men in its sights, and sheer, unadulterated creepiness. 

33. Happy End
Director: Michael Haneke  UK release date: 1 December
If the humour here were any blacker, they'd send miners underground to dig it up to burn as fuel. This time the German filmmaker focuses on the innumerable travails of the Calais-based Laurent family, a fractious, bourgeois bunch whose self-inflicted woes he picks apart with forensic glee. Veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant is superb as the suicidal patriarch. 

32. Detroit
Director: Kathryn Bigelow  UK release date: 25 August
Set amidst the chaos of 1967's Detroit riots, Bigelow's problematic but pulsating drama concentrates on a notorious incident in which racist police officers terrorised guests at a motel, after reports of gunfire on the premises. John Boyega and Will Poulter are both superb but the film belongs to Algee Smith's affecting turn as R&B singer Larry Reed.

31. Prevenge
Director: Alice Lowe  UK release date: 10 February
Director/writer/star Lowe makes the tricky art of comedy-horror look easy in her filmmaking debut, famously shot when she was seven months' pregnant. She plays Ruth, newly widowed and bearing a child that exhorts her to take bloody revenge on those responsible for her partner's death. As funny as it is joyously grisly. 

**Up next: #30-21**

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