Favourite Films of 2017

10. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson)

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Besson’s spaced-out adaptation of a cult French comic strip couldn’t find an audience in the US but it’s an imaginative and beautifully realised sci-fi movie. The film is hamstrung slightly by the casting of Valerian. Dane DeHaan is nobody’s idea of a swashbuckling hero. Cara Delevigne though has the kind of otherworldly presence that suits Besson’s love for beautiful outsiders. Cult status surely beckons.

9. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Angela Robinson)

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Jenkins film can’t quite break free from biopic conventions but this is a fascinating look at the kink BDSM origins of the Wonder Woman comic strip and the polyamorous relationship that helped inspire it. Better suited to a double-bill with Mary Harron’s The Notorious Bettie Page or Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method than Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman.

8. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler)

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People seemed genuinely surprised by Vince Vaughn’s turn here but he’s always been a charismatic performer and Zahler’s bruising prison movie makes great use of his imposing physicality. As with Bone Tomahawk the dialogue is artfully constructed and gives Vaughn, and his veteran co-stars Udo Kier and Don Johnson plenty to get their teeth into.

7. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)

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Nolan’s tribute to the greatest generation is the kind of old fashioned war movie that used to air on Sunday afternoons in the 70s’ and 80s’. Understated and moving with fine performances from a mixture of well known faces and newcomers Dunkirk is easily Nolan’s best film since The Prestige.

6. Beyond the Gates (Jackson Stewart)

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Inventive low-budget horror film with two estranged brothers inheriting their father’s video store only to find his disappearance might have something to do with a board game and accompanying VHS tape presented by 80s’ horror star Barbara Crampton. It’s witty and fun although it can’t quite deliver on making the other world seem like either an alluring place to visit or somewhere to fear. It did however make me miss the old independently run video stores you used to get back in the day and making some bizarre new cinematic discovery.

5. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)

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Did not love this as much as Guadagnino’s earlier movies but it seems to have helped bring about a reevaluation of James Ivory (who provided the screenplay here) after years of his work being mocked by 90s’ Tarantino-loving critics so I’m all for it.

4. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska)

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Smoczynska’s wonderful debut is a fairytale musical about two beautiful vampiric mermaids who are lured onto dry land by a handsome bass player who wisely ignores their song (“we won’t eat you”). Instead they become backing singers and strippers at a dodgy nightclub but while one sister longs to return to the sea the other is falling in love. Mixing 80s’ music with a cautionary tale common in fairytale mythology it really is one of a kind.

3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

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Understated and moving coming-of-age story worthy of comparison with the work of Wong Kar-Wai and Clare Denis. So pleased and surprised to see something this good win an Oscar especially as something terrible (Three Billboards) will probably win this year.

2. Alien Covenant (Ridley Scott)

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Ridley Scott continues with the grand philosophical themes of Prometheus and sidelines the Xenomorph in favour of Fassbender’s dual android roles as the innocent Walter and the worldly sophisticated David who fancies himself a creator. It’s a work of Romanticism,  open about it’s literary influences (David quotes Percy Bysshe Shelley while both androids are versions of Mary Shelley’s creature in Frankenstein) and I really want to see where Scott takes this franchise if he’s allowed to continue.

1. Jackie (Pablo Larrain)

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Focusing on the direct aftermath of JFK’s assassination and Jackie Kennedy’s attempts to deal with the public rituals required after the death of a President while also trying to cope with her own grief. Larrain’s biopic deconstructs the mythology of Camelot by showing how much spin was behind its creation but also gives a feeling that something was lost when JFK died. Most of all it’s about the shock of bereavement, of the isolation it brings, which here is accentuated by Kennedy’s fame, and the feeling the world is moving on without you.

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