Year In Review: Saam Das' Top Ten Films Of 2017

on Monday, February 26, 2018
Words: Saam Das

The Oscars will be arriving shortly, celebrating the best in film over the last year or so, and with that in mind, it seems there's still time to reflect on my top films of 2017. Check out the list below, alongside some honourable mentions:

My list of top films from 2017 comprises of ten films released in UK cinemas over the last year, but with the likes of Netflix releases becoming more prominent, it’s entirely possible that some of these might have made my list. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to watch favourably reviewed movies such as ’Okja’ and ’Mudbound’.

The 60+ films released in UK cinemas in 2017 that I did see however have been whittled down to a selection of ten of my favourites. The likes of Kumail Nanjiani’s tragicomedy ’The Big Sick’ and Pablo Larrain’s bizarro ’Neruda’ can certainly count themselves unfortunate to make the list, while excellent documentaries such as ’All This Panic’ and ‘We Are X’ have been previously highlighted on FG.

10) ‘The Killing Of A Sacred Deer’ (UK Release Date: Nov 3 ‘17)

Writer-director Yorgis Lanthimos has developed a leftfield voice over films such as ’Dogtooth’ and ’The Lobster’ but his adaptation of Greek play ’Iphigenia At Aulis’ is arguably his finest work to date. And still plenty bonkers.

Starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, it is Barry Keoghan’s off-kilter performance as a malevolent teenage boy. ’The Killing Of A Sacred Deer’ veers from absurdist comedy to psychological horror with ease, while maintaining a disturbingly deliberate slow pace. Masterful work from Lanthimos.

9) ‘Blade Runner 2049’ (Oct 5)

For a film with a 163 minute running time, the finale of ’Blade Runner 2049’ felt remarkably rushed. Yet this was one of the few complaints in Denis Vileneuve’s sequel to the seminal Ridley Scott original. Indeed, it almost feels miraculous that this film was any good at all.

Audiences may not have flocked to see the film but it resonated with those that did, with its visually spectacular future settings and quietly emotional core plotlines making this a more than worthwhile venture. And there was much more. For example, Ryan Gosling’s pair of baseline tests together comprise two of the most striking scenes of the year.

8) ‘Your Name’/‘Kimi No Na Wa’ (Aug 23)

“But ‘Your Name’ was a 2016 release”, I hear you cry. Well, yes, I’ll concede it did first appear in limited UK cinemas in 2016 (even making the ever-brilliant Mark Kermode’s top films of 2016) but having seen it with my very own eyes in an Odeon (other cinemas are available) on August 23rd 2017 as a part of a special one-off release, I’m going to plough on.

And it’s no surprise that this Makato Shinkai’s anime was brought back, following its runaway success in its native country and positive reception worldwide. ‘Your Name’ balances the sublime with the ridiculous, whether it be in its body-swap plotline or the breathtaking soundtrack from Japanese rock outfit RADWIMPS. Vibrant, sumptuous, and quite unlike any other film on this list. In a good way.

7) ‘La La Land’ (Jan 13)

Or did I mean ’Moonlight’?! No, the Great Mix-Up of the 2017 Oscars is now more of a footnote in awards show history, so I’ll instead focus on ’La La Land’. And I’m sure the cast and crew don’t mind too much about missing out on a Best Picture award - they came away with six other Academy Awards, after all.

Damien Chazelle had shown immense promise in the intense ’Whiplash’ and his Best Director award was no surprise in this musical romantic drama. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone worked perfectly as the two central leads, and the manner in which the ending was delivered by all was simply magnificent.

6) ‘Paddington 2’ (Nov 10)

Director Paul King succeeded in the mission of Making Aunt Lucy Proud Again with the improved sequel to 2014’s ’Paddington’ reboot. The latest adventure for Ben Whishaw’s Paddington saw the all-too-loveable bear meet a delightfully grumpy Brendan Gleeson and a pantomime-inspired Hugh Grant among others.

In January 2018, ’Paddington 2’ became the most-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes to retain a 100% fresh (meaning all positive reviews), taking the mantle of the brilliant ’Toy Story 2’. Just reward for this undeniably charming and soon-to-be classic family offering.

5) ‘Get Out’ (March 17)

Few could have predicted the success of ’Get Out’ and just who would be behind the wheel as the satirical horror drove its way to huge box office success, as well as near-universal critical acclaim. Jordan Peele had been best known as a comedic TV actor until his debut feature as writer-director captured the zeitgeist in 2017.

Mixing social commentary, sci-fi, and psychology horror, ’Get Out’ offered so much more than its initial premise suggested - black boyfriend reluctantly meets white girlfriend’s family. With a string of excellent performances, including an Oscar nomination for Daniel Kaluuya, Peele delivered one of the most unsettling and brilliant films of the year.

4) ‘Tower’ (Feb 3)

Seemingly not a week goes by without word of another horrendous gun-driven tragedy in an educational establishment in the US. ’Tower’ takes us back to the first American on-campus shooting, on August 1st 1966, recreating the day’s happenings with a fascinating mix of rotoscopic animation and archive footage.

Keith Maitland’s absorbing documentary was deservedly recognised by the Academy in their Best Documentary Feature longlist at last year’s Oscars, albeit sadly missing out on a nomination. Nonetheless, the human element of Maitland’s work will remain long in memory.

3) ‘Loving Vincent’ (Oct 13)

One of my favourite films of the 2017 BFI London Film Festival, ’Loving Vincent’ was one of the most unique films of the past year. Each of its 65,000 frames was oil painted on canvas, making it the world’s first fully painted animated feature.

A moving, introspective investigation into the life and death of Vincent van Gogh, ’Loving Vincent’ was far from overshadowed by its gimmick. Indeed, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s ode to van Gogh could be seen as alluring as any of the masterpieces created by its subject.

2) ’Dunkirk’ (July 21)

Few films in contemporary times can be described as being ‘cinematic spectacles’ but Christopher Nolan’s ’Dunkirk’ was one such film in 2017. A war biopic of few words that both said so little and said so much, and unsurprisingly resulted in a Best Director Oscar nomination for Nolan. What may be more surprising, is that this was his first directing nod.

Hans Zimmer’s arresting score and Hoyte Van Hoytema’s sterling cinematography were just two incredible elements of this edge-of-your-seat experience. However, Nolan’s decision to almost entirely exclude non-white faces from ‘Dunkirk’ is a great disappointment, considering soldiers of many different races played significant roles in the actual events.

1) ’Lion’ (Jan 20)

The feature debut from Australian director Garth Davis, and based on the heartbreaking true story of Saroo Brierley, ’Lion’ is a stunningly bittersweet journey. Dev Patel is on career-best form as the adult Saroo, transported in his youth to a new life in Australia from his Indian homeland but desperately seeking answers about his childhood and family.

Joined by commendable performances from the likes of Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, ’Lion’’s heart is in its performances, with both Kidman and Patel picking up Supporting Actor/Actress nods at the Oscars. While the film may not have ultimately won any of its six Academy Award nominations, it won the plaudits of many viewers. Most of whom likely spent a significant part of this beautiful film sobbing uncontrollably.

Find more in our Best Of 2017 series here.

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