Top 10 Films of 2017

2017 has been an interesting year for film. It has been a strong year for original films such as Get Out and Baby Driver yet a disappointment when it comes to hyped up blockbusters (with Wonder Woman being the exception). So compiling a list of my favourite films released in 2017 was a tricky one but it made me see that it’s been a great year for independent films and films that have an original story.

Now just to clarify, this list features films released in the UK during the year of 2017. Another disclaimer is that I of course haven’t watched every film released in the UK during the year of 2017 meaning if you think there is an omission from the list it may be because I haven’t watched it.

I’ll start from number 10 and count down to reveal which film I would label as the best film of 2017.

 

10. Get Out

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I was a bit skeptical about this film as I tend not to draw towards horror films so I didn’t see it when it was released in cinemas. However by the critical acclaim and positive responses from audiences that deemed it more than just a “horror film” but a film with a clear message and that had something to say. So when I watched it I was pleasantly surprised how it broke through the label of a “horror film” and managed to make people think and engage in dialogue after the film had finished. Get Out could have been fleshed out a little bit more but I commend the film on its originality and its boldness.

9. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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The Lobster (2015) was awful. However when I heard Oscar winner Nicole Kidman was in Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film I kept an open mind to this film; not to mention the trailer and concept of the film seemed mysterious and fascinating. It may not be for everyone, but I love and appreciate Yorgos’ assertiveness as a filmmaker and the fact he has a clear vision and does not compromise. The film can be hard to watch at times and is “out there” but it works in this film and all the cast pull it off brilliantly. Speaking of star performances; Barry Keoghan was so good in this film and played the enigmatic character of Martin so well. If you want to switch up your film taste and watch something unconventional; The Killing of a Sacred Deer is perfect for you.

8. mother!

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Again, a very unique and unconventional film. mother! has had a lot of controversy and attention for a whole load of reasons and I knew going into it that the film would be nothing like I’ve seen…but I think if people stood back and took a breath there is something here and something to be admired and appreciated. Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong; she plays against character at the start and then she comes into her own as the film progresses and when it escalates very quickly. Oscar nominated director Darren Aronofsky is unapologetic about his vision and what he wants to say and that’s what I admire about him and appreciate about this film. This is not a film that you love or hate, it’s a film that provokes an audience. It’s refreshing to see a film go against the mould of the current state of the film industry be proud about it.

7. Thor: Ragnarok

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One of the few blockbusters that I actually enjoyed this year. I have a love/hate relationship with Marvel nowadays because they have become so convoluted; yet Thor: Ragnarok felt fresh and more concise than previous MCU entries. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) director Taika Waititi brings his fresh and colourful sense of humour to this film to make it stand out. Yes this film does feature that forced Marvel sense of humour but the scenes in particular with Thor and The Hulk are ripe with Waititi’s witty dialogue. We have to talk about Oscar winner Cate Blanchett who easily stole the show (I’m praying for a spin-off film of her character Hela) and is hands down one of the best Marvel villains to date. So if you’ve grown tired and weary from the MCU (and I don’t blame you) give this film a chance.

6. Lion

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Inspiring. That’s all I need to say about Lion. The first half containing a phenomenal performance from first time actor and one of the cutest child actors ever: Sunny Pawar playing young Saroo. Then comes along Oscar nominee Dev Patel who plays adult Saroo and gives a career best, not to mention he holds up his own in scenes against Oscar winner Nicole Kidman and Oscar nominee Rooney Mara. This film is full of heartbreak and joy, featuring themes of belonging and identity. Lion is an inspiring story that you can’t believe is true.

5. The Beguiled

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Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. Golden Globe nominee Kirsten Dunst. Elle Fanning. Oscar winner Sophia Coppola directing. These are reasons enough to watch this film. Sophia knows how to make a lean and clean cut film that gives enough tension and mystery without it becoming self indulgent. That’s all I need to say about this film. Basically it’s really good.

4. Wonder Woman

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One of the few blockbusters that actually was quality and had substance. Gal Gadot is perfect as Diana; so authentic and natural in her performance and with her character standing up for what’s right and not accepting anything else but justice. One of the most refreshing superhero films in a long time; because for once it was a superhero film solely about the eponymous character and not featuring a million other superheroes. Patty Jenkins directed an incredible film that focused purely on Diana coming from an island of perfection and having the character evolve as the film progressed to have a rounded and more balanced view of humanity and what her purpose in life is. Three words: No Man’s Land.

3. Baby Driver

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Edgar Wright delivers one of the most vibrant and exciting original films of the year. Golden Globe nominee Ansel Elgort charismatically carries the weight of the film on his shoulders with notable supporting forces from Oscar winner Jamie Fox and Lily James. Baby Driver has you thinking it’s one thing but then it swerves in a different direction. The whole vibe of the film is so cool and smooth and will definitely stay with you after you watch it.

2. La La Land

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La La Land is reminiscent of Hollywood musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and yet is relevant to todays audience, enabling it to have its own identity. The film features one of the best soundtracks from Justin Hurwitz, Benji Pasek and Justin Paul but the genius of the film is how it is very character driven and how the tone of the films is effortlessly handled as the film progresses. This Oscar winning, instant classic, musical masterpiece has depth and fully rounded characters and is a film that you have to watch right now.

1. Blade Runner 2049

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As soon as I watched this film I knew it would be my favourite film of the year. Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling is of course a great actor but I have to say, he gives one of his best performances in Blade Runner 2049. He’s a very internal actor and everything is said through his facial expressions and that’s a powerful tool to master. In a year where I’ve been let down by blockbusters, Blade Runner 2049 came along and showed everyone how it should be done: thought provoking, sophisticated, creating the right tone and pace and having a great story. Yes the film is nearly 3 hours long but it was very engrossing and captivating that it didn’t feel that long at all. Denis Villeneuve always has great quality and class to his films, which is why he was the right director for the job to carry on the legacy of Blade Runner (1982). I was always excited for this film but it exceeded my expectations and I’m happy to say that Blade Runner 2049 was my favourite film of 2017.

Now I’m being picky but the reason why La La Land didn’t make number 1 was because whilst it was released in the UK in 2017 its original release was in 2016. It made the list but Blade Runner 2049 was released in October 2017 and therefore is a worthy number 1. 

 

So there you have it. I have given an overview of my favourite films of 2017 and I’m already looking forward to what 2018 has to offer.

Please feel free to comment on what your favourite films have been this year!

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The Confessions of a Film Blogger: Foreign Language Films Edition

It’s no secret that I have watched my fair share of films; I have the film collection at home to prove it and this blog hopefully highlights my diverse taste in film. However there are still plenty of titles that I have yet to watch and I’m forever on a quest to watch films I haven’t seen before. So I thought I’d be honest with what I have seen and the many films that I need to watch. For this blog post I will be focusing on foreign language films and how I have only scratched the surface.

Foreign language films are an interesting topic because it can be quite divisive; you either love them or can’t stand reading the subtitles so you give up on them entirely. The reason why I love foreign language films is because you are given access to stories told from different cultures and your horizons are broadened in your taste in film. Just to clarify I can only speak English so films in any other language are foreign to me.

I’ll give you a rundown of the films that I have watched and loved. Now by writing this post I am not declaring myself a foreign language film expert yet an aspiring one; I hold my hands up and say I don’t watch as many as I should and hopefully that will be corrected in due course.

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(Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless – 1960)

Out of the foreign language films I have seen the most popular language I have listened to is French. There’s no specific reason why this is but I have to say I love the French language but I also enjoy watching American or British films set in France (which defeats the whole “aiming to watch more foreign language films than English spoken films but it still counts, kind of). I remember in Sixth Form we learned about the French New Wave which really fascinated me and was very enlightening learning about prominent directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The movement was a rejection of period pieces or literary adaptations and instead focused on more current issues, this was very unconventional at the time and the films were inspired by the works of Hollywood greats such as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin etc. after their works had been banned in France during WW2.

The films I studied were The 400 Blows (1959), Breathless (1960) and Shoot the Piano Player (1960). I loved studying and watching these films as it’s an interesting part of cinematic history. I remember watching The 400 Blows and not connecting with it straight away but after learning it was inspired by François Truffaut’s upbringing it had more meaning and made the film more personal; he broke away from traditional filmmaking and focused on youth and growing up whilst finding your identity.

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(Marion Cotillard in her Oscar winning role for La Vie en Rose – 2007)

Two of my favourite French films are Love Me If You Dare (2003) and La Vie en Rose (2007) both starring Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard (becoming the only actor to win the Academy Award for a performance in the French language for La Vie en Rose). Love Me If You Dare boasts terrific performances from Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard, having a dynamic chemistry and brilliantly exploring their characters over the course of many years. It’s a fun yet dangerous game they play which makes it an exciting watch for the audience. La Vie en Rose is a very different type of film, depicting the tragic life of Édith Piaf. Marion Cotillard gives everything and more to portray Édith Piaf honestly and with conviction; you buy into her performance.

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I’ve also watched Amélie (2001) years ago (in all honesty I should watch it again to refresh my memory) but it’s a film I had heard about for a long time and needed to see. It also has the iconic poster of the eponymous character looking rather ambiguously to the audience. I even managed to visit Café des 2 Moulins in Paris where Amélie works which was a cool experience. I’ve always had an interest in foreign language films and I’m so glad that I’ve never limited myself in what I watch otherwise I wouldn’t have experienced this classic…which didn’t win me over completely but at least I gave it a chance.

The Artist (2011) can be included in the discussion of films produced in other countries because whilst no words are uttered it is a French production with prominent French actors featured within the film. I love how successful it was at the box office and during the awards season, Jean Dujrdin became the first French actor to win an Oscar and the film was the first French film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Whilst this focused on the age of silent films in Hollywood I love how it was another country that produced this film.

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(Marion Cotillard in her Oscar nominated performance for Two Days, One Night – 2014)

Referring back to Marion Cotillard, she also gives a raw and vulnerable performance in Two Days, One Night (2014) a Belgium film that isn’t flashy but is an honest depiction of a woman’s pursuit to save her job whilst at risk of being voted out so that her colleagues can earn more money for their bonuses. Marion’s performance keeps you watching as you root for her character and even though yes the majority of the film is herself knocking on doors begging to keep her job, you don’t feel that it’s repetitive or mundane as it shows the true strength of her character. I love how Marion Cotillard can effortlessly go from huge blockbusters to low budget foreign language films.

Recently I watched Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) by Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro. It won three out of six Oscar nominations (including a nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: Mexico”) and opened to critical acclaim. I love how original this film is and how Guillermo Del Toro was inspired by fairy tales but creating his own stories set in the backdrop of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Ivana Baquero (Ofelia) would have been 12 when the film was released and she holds the weight of the film on her shoulders with ease. Fairy tales at their essence can be dark and twisted and I love how Guillermo has fully embraced that; I would have never experienced this is I limited myself to only English spoken films.

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(Pan’s Labyrinth – 2006)

I’ve never had an issue with having to read English subtitles;  yes I am aware of them at first but in time that awareness almost fades away and I’m completely immersed in the story being told. Subtitles do not prevent me from enjoying or being invested in a foreign language film. Also the benefit of watching a film produced from another country is gaining an insight into other stories being told and yet what may surprise people is how universal and relevant the themes are to all audiences.

Despite the fact I have watched quite a few films not in the English language I still have plenty of foreign language films to watch; I have a long road ahead of me but I’m excited for the challenge. Some titles that I have had my eye on but never watched are Son of Saul (2015), Rust and Bone (2012), The Hunt (2012), A Royal Affair (2012) and the list goes on. If you’ve never really given foreign language films a chance I would encourage you to try a few titles and see how you find them; I know I need to grow my knowledge of what stories are out there being produced by other countries. It will help us get out of our “American/British film minds” and be more aware of what is going on in our world.

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(2016 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year – Hungary) 

Why you should be excited for Macbeth (2015)

Two reasons: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Both tremendously committed and transformative actors that will capture the mental distortion of the two leading characters: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively. We have seen both actors play emotionally and mentally unstable characters, as well as playing a diverse range of characters.

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Most recently Michael Fassbender portrayed slave owner Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave (2013) with such conviction. For those who are aware of the character of Macbeth, realise that he declines into madness and delusion, the role requires someone who is able to completely immerse himself into the role. Macbeth and Edwin are both completely different characters, but his role in 12 Years a Slave is a good indication of the fact that Michael Fassbender can go where he needs to go in order to pull off the role of Macbeth.

Marion Cotillard is one of the most exciting actresses of our generation. What role can she not do? The role which comes to mind when questioning her ability to portray Lady Macbeth is in her Oscar winning role of La Vie En Rose (2007). It is such a transformative role where you can see the results of her investment into the role, in order to create an authentic and raw character.

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Getting in is part of the process, but so is getting out,” she says. “I want to go as deep as I can, but in a way that allows me to come back.

Cotillard talks about her struggles with getting out of character, with specific reference to La Vie En Rose, which shows how deep she goes into her roles. This should give audiences good faith that she will completely own the character of Lady Macbeth. The role will require that edge that we saw with her character in Inception (2010), just multiply it by 100 and you have Lady Macbeth.

Kurzel’s jaw-dropping vision makes Macbeth the most significant new Shakespeare film since Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

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The director of Macbeth is Justin Kurzel, an Australian filmmaker of the critically acclaimed Snowtown (2011). It’s not my type of film, but I do believe that he has an understanding of the terrifying nature of Macbeth, and so do the critics at Cannes Film Festival where the film premiered. 

The reason why I’m excited about the film is because I studied the play in 6th form, thus studying it in detail and gradually understanding the deeper layers of the play. Truth be told it was quite a while ago so my memory of the play is a bit rusty, but I remember loving learning about the play and found the characters fascinating to explore. What really resonated with me is how it deals with the fact that sometimes people can go too far into their actions and the question arises: Can we really turn back to our former selves? That is one of the many themes explored. The character of Lady Macbeth is so complex and richly detailed, she highlights the fact that there is a line in the pursuit of power. It’s their individuality and their partnership that is exciting to explore.

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As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are a dream-team pairing, actors who radiate charisma, perhaps more charisma than can be entirely absorbed into the fabric of the film.

I’m writing this prematurely as I don’t know for certain whether I will enjoy this film or not, but there is hope. The reason why I’m excited for this film is because it looks like a stripped back and bold version of the well known play. This looks like a fresh interpretation for a modern day audience, hopefully this film can make Shakespeare relevant and exciting for todays audience.

Why should you be excited for Macbeth? Because it looks awesome!

Macbeth will be released in the UK on 2nd October 2015.