2017 has been an exciting year for film goers. Films are increasingly becoming more inclusive- ready to embrace unusual stories and identities. My list of favourite films partially reflects a series of movies intent on representing the lives of those who have been historically marginalised. The other part of the list simply celebrates enjoyable films, which capture the creative ways that modern cinematography keep this industry fresh.
This list only reflects the thoughts of an unprofessional, but nevertheless passionate, cinephile.
- Baby Driver– dir. By Edgar Wright
I was not expecting to enjoy Baby Driver. As a rule I almost always prioritise characters over plot, and generally I prefer witty dialogue over tightly choreographed action sequences. Yet Edgar Wright’s instant classic is vibrant and hip- from the first scene I was gripped by the almost rhythmic staging of the stylized car chase, perfectly timed to the song ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
The youthful and varied colour palette is juxtaposed nicely with the gritty moments of violence. The film uses dialogue sparingly, especially when exploring Elgort’s character Baby. Instead Wright prefers to let the dynamic soundtrack speak for the characters. The soundtrack acts as a de facto character in the film, allowing the admittedly predictable story of criminals in Atlanta, to transcend its genre. This film earned its place in my list for the way in which it delighted me despite my cynicism when approaching this gung-ho action flick.
- Wonder Woman- dir. by Patty Jenkins
Wonder Woman had a lot resting on it. The film was, perhaps unfairly, tasked with fulfilling the wishes of every comic book fan while also paving the way for future, female led action films. This highly anticipated film’s ability to meet these expectations, turned it into an instant critical and box office success and earned it a place on this list.
The charismatic Gal Gadot played Diana Prince with charm and grace, effortlessly defeating any man who dares to stand in her path. Yet it is Patty Jenkin’s role as the director which resonated with audiences. Everything from the purposely balletic training sequences on Themyscira, to the costume decisions was filtered through the female gaze. It is only with Justice League’s release later in the year, and the film’s momentary leering over Gadot’s physique, that audiences were reminded of how refreshing Wonder Woman really was.
Get Out is not a controversial choice for this list, before I had even considered sitting down to watch it I had read countless rave reviews in favour of this film. Yet, my dislike of horror and unnecessary violence scared me away from watching Get Out. After finally sitting down to watch Peele’s first foray into horror I appreciated the importance of Peele’s Get Out as a racial commentary and virtually perfect horror film.
Prior to Get Out, Peele has only created comedies, Peele uses his mastery over pacing to construct a tightly wound, cleverly structured horror. The film is filled with careful details which lend itself to the movies various gruesome twists and turns. Peele establishes details which explore everything from uncomfortable, vaguely racist conversations, to chillingly violent acts of psychological torture. The seemingly infinite amount of detail to uncover makes this film endlessly re-watchable.
- Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi– dir. by Rian Johnson
The content of Star Wars films has occasionally been eclipsed by the event of seeing a Star Wars film. This is the price you pay for creating a series of films powerful enough to act as pop culture currency. Yet the eighth episode of these films felt fresh and daring in a way we haven’t experienced since 1980 with the Empire Strikes Back. Johnson drew a fine line between drawing on the Star Wars mythos while also launching the franchise into new places. Johnson drew powerful performances from Fisher and Hamill, which would have moved any fan of the original trilogy, (myself included,) to tears. Yet this didn’t distract from the likes of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac who offer thoughtful performances and inject new life into this well-worn franchise.
This film would not have made it so high on the list were it not for my pre-existing attachment to the series, but similar to Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi should be respected for re-imagining a tired franchise.
- The Big Sick– dir. by Michael Showalter
The romantic comedy is a genre which is traditionally dismissed by critics as easy and predictable, yet The Big Sick demonstrates the ways a romantic comedy can still be daring, heart-warming and undeniably funny. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon wrote the screenplay, which is almost entirely based on their own love story. Their script allows the film to be read as both a love letter to one another and a love letter to their respective families.
The film toys with the traditional structure of the romantic comedy, allowing the romantic leads to fall in love early on in the film before splitting the couple up through an unexpected twist. This split is seized as an opportunity to explore the couple’s relationships with their parents. In doing this, Nanjiani and Gordon reframe the focus of the archetypal rom-com, choosing to explore the complicated, touching and often fraught relationship between Kumail and his parents alongside Kumail and Emily’s parents.
I have recommended this film to so many people, heralding it as a triumph for rom-com fans worldwide.