Sunday, March 4, 2018

2017 film times

Intro caveat...I started writing this the first week in January which explains why it sounds like it was written much earlier than mid March and also explains why one film was included (you'll understand when you get to it). I'm normally so much earlier than the Oscars and now I'm finishing this on Oscars' day.


Happy New Year! And once again it is time for my annual list of the top 15 films and bottom one of the past year.

Once again, this is based on having seen 70 or so films (at least I don't have a clean list) including not one but two film festivals (Sydney and Inverness). As always the guiding principle is that the film was released in the city I was in at the time between 1 January and 31 December of the year in question or screened at a film festival I attended in that window. As always there are a few big "films of the year" style films that I missed- Dunkirk (not a huge epic war film person) and The Florida Project (which I just haven't got to yet) are the big ones so that is why they might be missing. There is also one film that was impacted by the rolling Hollywood sex assault revelations- it might have come in mid count down but instead it isn't appearing at all (thanks Kevin Spacey you have now ruined a film I had thoroughly enjoyed in Baby Driver (if you can listen to the soundtrack without thinking of the film, I would recommend that)....not to mention many other films and TV shows).

15 (tied). Logan and Wonder Woman 

From a comic book movie point of view, there have been some big stand outs in 2017 and these two I couldn't separate for spot 15 (and they aren't alone on the countdown). 

So to start with Logan. This will be the last X-Men film made by Fox as the ownership is now with the Marvel Studios arm of Disney (which makes me pretty excited for possible future films) and it will also be the last film with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (which is a little sad). Based loosely on the plot from the comic series, Old Man Logan, the film depicts a Wolverine who cannot heal himself and whose aging process has kicked into gear again. It is 2029 and no mutants have been born for 25 years and the powers of the small number of remaining mutants are playing up. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is working as a limo driver in Texas by day and at night, he drives across the Mexican border where he and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are caring for Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Professor X has developed a brain disorder that means he cannot control his psychic connections and he has seizures that have killed people including some of the other remaining mutants. Wolverine is recruited for a limo driving job that turns out to be a former nurse for the scientific corporation that has been working with the government to clone mutants as soldiers. The nurse has smuggled a young mutant clone out of the facility where they were being bred and it turns out that young mutant clone, Laura (Dafne Keen), has abilities much like Wolverine. The nurse is killed and cyber enhanced soldiers from the scientific corporation chase Wolverine and Laura to where Professor X is hidden, and that starts a cat and mouse game to get away from them. 

The film doesn't clearly state why there are no mutants being born and mutants are losing power as the X-Men films have never featured M-Day (I assume because Scarlet Witch is Marvel Studios property) but it seems something like that has occurred (for those not in the know, in the comics after some trauma that hopefully comes to the screen at some stage so no spoilers on that trauma, Scarlet Witch declares "No More Mutants" and her abilities make that a reality with no more mutants been born after that day which is termed "M-Day"). However that doesn't make the plot hard to follow so you just have to accept as fact that something odd has occurred since the last X-Men film. This is also the most violent X-Men film with the most adult language- Hugh Jackman supposedly took a pay cut to ensure that the film retained an R rating in the States. The violence works as it has always been odd that Wolverine was slashing at people with metal claws and yet there was limited blood in the previous films.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart continue to excel in the roles they have played for 17 years, and it will be very hard for Marvel Studios to redo the X-Men without them, especially without Jackman. Dafne Keen is a fine young actress and she plays the surly and often silent Laura amazingly. This is one of those comic book movies that stands on its own outside of the comic book genre as a mediation on aging and also on the persecution of outsiders in society (the latter always a theme in X-Men films). Also Logan is now the first comic film to be nominated in one of writing categories at the Oscars- previously comic films have only taken out one acting award (Heath Ledger as the Joker in Dark Knight which was arguably a posthumous award for his larger body of work...not to lessen the weight of that particular performance as it is amazing) and the technical categories.

On to Wonder Woman... after the events of Batman Vs Superman, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives a photo from Bruce Wayne of herself during World War I with a group of men on the battlefield. She reflects on the past. Diana was raised on a hidden Greek island as an Amazon. The island populated only by women and Diana is the daughter of the queen of the Amazons. Diana is told the history of the Amazons including that Ares, the Greek God of War, is one of their great enemies and that Zeus has given the Amazons a "godkiller" to stop him should he raise again. A pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes off the coast of the island, and is followed through the invisibility barrier that protects the island by German boats. The Germans fight the Amazons (Germans with bayonets and other guns, Amazons on horseback with swords, and bows and arrows) and Diana's aunt sacrifices herself to save Diana. When Diana interrogates Steve Trevor with the Amazons' lasso of truth, she finds out about the first world war and becomes convinced that Ares has risen up again to destroy the world. Steve Trevor is an Allied spy who has behind enemy lines and has stolen the lab book of a German scientist who is developing awful chemicals to cripple the Allies. Diana leaves the island with Steve Trevor taking the godkiller weapons with her in hopes of defeating Ares. When they arrive in London, Diana the warrior woman dressed in short armour comes face to face with 1910s society before she and Steve can head to the front.

I have heaped criticisms on the DC films of the last few years and trust me I'm not done, but this was a shock. The first comic book film with a female lead and a female director (it has already happened in the comic book TV space with Jessica Jones) is actually really good. When I was complaining about Batman Vs Superman, one of only good points of that film that I could see was the treatment of Wonder Woman and thankfully Zack Synder and others who have been behind the awful recent DC films appear to have had very limited creative input into this film (that said, Zack Synder is listed with a "Story by" credit which doesn't necessarily say much but he at least had ideas that went into the film). Gal Gadot continues to play Wonder Woman well and is strongly supported by Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, and the amazing Lucy Davis (an actress who should be in so many more things). I like that they have a female secondary villain in the German scientist and just that generally it is gives much a strong place to women in the comic book film space which is so male dominated. The racial diversity of Amazon Island (yes I know its name but you know the actors struggle with it enough) is also great and the Amazon fighting scenes at the beginning of the film amazing (Robin Wright is particularly great in those scenes). I do have a small issues with the ending- no spoilers as to what, ask me in person- and also with the film's tendency to overuse "mankind" when it means people as a whole (i.e. not just dudes) but I look forward to the sequel to Wonder Woman, even though the next DC film did go straight back to the awful space for me. I also LOVE that this is giving little girls a super hero to dress as. 

14. Wind River

From comic book movies to a film starring two actor who are best known nowadays for comic book movies... though this is much more serious fare. On the remote Wyoming Native American reservation Wild River, a Fish and Wildlife Services agent is pursuing a mountain lion. The agent, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), does not find the lion but finds out in the bleak snow in the middle of nowhere the body of a young woman. The body is poorly attired for the snowy and freezing winter, and appears to have been sexually assaulted. The FBI is called and they send the nearest agent. The FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), is herself very young and has next to no field experience. Banner quickly recruits Lambert to assist with the investigation as the area (which is huge) has next to no police force and Lambert knows both the land and the people of the reservation as his ex-wife's parents live there and he is friends with the father of the girl who was killed as she was the best friend of his daughter who was herself found dead in the snow a few years earlier. 

This is the third film in what some are terming a trilogy from writer Taylor Sheridan- following Sicario and Hell or High Water. I hadn't seen Hell or High Water when I wrote my 2016 best films list but after I saw it I felt it should have had a place, and I have not seen Sicario (though I know I should), but if the trilogy is in feel, then I can see the similarity between this and Hell or High Water as both operate in a vaguely Western space if a modern take on it. Hell or High Water and Wind River also share a musical sensibility as the music for both is the work of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and it works so well for this Western-isque space. Wind River is also Sheridan directorial debut and when you look at the film as a completed product that is quite the achievement on debut as there is little to fault here- he won an award for his direction when the film debuted at Cannes. The film is beautifully shot and is not overwritten allowing for appropriate silences and also for solid character development. I'm a big fan of Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen and not just because they are both Avengers but because they just have a great craft- Renner was in last year's countdown for Arrival and I'm not done with Olsen this year. I also thought Gil Birmingham was amazing as the father of the murdered girl- he was also great in Hell or High Water (another link between the two). 

One more reason this film is amazing is that it is seeking to draw attention to a massive issue in America, the fact that cases of missing persons involving Native American women (as the murdered girl is in the film is and Renner's character's daughter was also half Native American) are not well investigated, reported on, and even statistics on cases are limited. Hopefully this film helps turns the tide on that. The film should also be applauded because as a film partly about sexual assault, it actually took notice when the allegations started flying in Hollywood this year- it was originally distributed by the Weinstein Company and after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the filmmakers changed this and after that and for future distribution, it will now be distributed by Lionsgate. 

13. Call Me By Your Name

In 1983, 17 year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is lonely and disillusioned as he spends his biannual holiday in rural Italy with his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar). Elio's father is an archaeology professor and each summer, he invites a graduate student to come to Italy and stay with the family and do research. As the film opens, Elio and a girl from the local village, Marzia, watch out the window as the grad student, Oliver (Armie Harmer), arrives. Elio spends the next weeks flirting with Marzia whilst also developing a friendship that clearly moves into crush territory and beyond with very American, very attractive Oliver (Elio is also American though he speaks Italian frequently so it becomes less obvious). Gradually Elio starts to develop more courage and actually shows his feelings for Oliver but Oliver is initially very cautious about reciprocating them.

This is based on a novel that I have not read though I may read it now as the film is languidly beautiful and I hear that is well translated from the novel. If this film had not had solid competition from another beautiful film with at times very similar themes, it would have maybe been higher up the list but the other film is my number three and I felt was of a higher quality- this may explain to some why it isn't as high up as others have ranked it, it is a question of release timing as the other film came out (pun not intended) in 2016 in many countries that weren't Australia. As I said, visually this film is stunning and I also loved the soundtrack which mixes classical (Elio is a music student) and 1980s tunes and Sufjan Stevens. I have not seen Timothée Chalamet in anything else so far as I can recall and there is something perfect about him as Elio. I was actually not sure that Elio was American as Chalamet's Italian is really solid- I was unsure where Elio was supposed to be from as everyone in the film seemed to speak Italian without strong accent except Oliver and Elio is not a common American first name though when Elio speaks English, he does have an American accent ( I had to check on wikipedia). The perfection of the casting is not just that Chalamet supposedly learnt that convincing Italian in a small window or his actually playing the piano or that he plays Elio's introversion and shyness and his emergent confidence so well, but the fact that as you can see in the film, whilst not conventionally attractive from a modern American standpoint (Harmer is that), Chalamet looks a little like a Roman bust of a young man so you can see in just his looks why an archaeology grad student like Oliver would be drawn to Elio. Harmer is an actor who I've been waiting to get a decent role since he guested on Veronica Mars many moons ago (the emergence of former Veronica Mars folks as powerhouses is going to come up again later) and a few years ago he starred in my guilty pleasure film of the year, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - though I think to many people he is best known for playing both of the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. He perfectly pairs Oliver's general confidence with his caution about starting a relationship with Elio- the film is a bit vague on why the caution, it isn't either characters Jewish heritage but it could be Elio's youth, Oliver's position in their house, or Oliver's discomfort with how he perceives his having a relationship with another man would be viewed by society (maybe the book is clear on that front but from the film I'd say a combo). The film doesn't define the sexuality of either of the main characters as the film seems to be more about their desire for each other as individuals than their gender (much like say Brokeback Mountain). It is also interesting for a film about desire in that there is very little nudity- supposedly both lead actors had no full frontal nudity clauses in their contracts which resulted in the script needing to be reworked as it did have more nudity- which is just interesting in showing that you can show desire without lots of flesh. 

12. Brigsby Bear

James (Kyle Mooney) lives in an underground bunker with his parents, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams). Though he is in twenties, James spends his days watching a children's educational program called "Brigsby Bear" about a space travelling bear and analysing it, and his room covered in Brigsby related products. His parents have told him that they are the last humans on earth and only Ted leaves the bunker during the day, and everyone has to wear a gas mask when they do leave. One night, James grabs a gas mask and sits just outside the bunker to think but his thinking is interrupted by the arrival of the police. It turns out that James was stolen as a baby by Ted and April, and that the whole bunker existence is false. James is taken to meet his real parents (played by Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) and his younger sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins). As he is talked though the situation by the police (the main investigator is played by Greg Kinnear) and meets the police psychiatrist (played by Claire Danes), he has one question...what happened to Brigsby Bear? When he finds out there is no more Brigsby, he joins forces with the teenage friends of his sister to make a movie to finish the series.

This might be a surprise inclusion as I don't think it got a wide release (I saw it on a plane but it had screened at the Inverness Film Festival even though I opted not to see it there). The initial plot sounds a bit cliched as no bunker is ever legit but once James is in the world there is something delightful about his naivety (much like Kimmy in TV's The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and the idea of focusing on Brigsby is something new. Looking at "Brigsby Bear" I was reminded of many of the educational late 1980s TV shows I grew up watching so there was something weirdly nostalgic in the show as part of the concept. The thing about this film that brings it home towards the end is its joyously hopeful nature. The big names in this film- Hamill, Kinnear, and Danes- are outstanding, in particular Hamill who get to show his chops beyond being Luke Skywalker or the voice of the Joker. The film's writers (including its star Kyle Mooney) and director all spent time working on SNL so this definitely isn't a drama but then again isn't fully comedy and the balance is really interesting. Ultimately the film could be summed up as delightfully earnest more than anything else.

11. The Beguiled

The American Civil War rages but for the small number of remaining students and teachers at a small all girls school in Virginia, life or some semblance of it continues. Whilst picking mushrooms, one of the students comes across a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell). The head teacher (Nicole Kidman) agrees that they will allow the man to heal before they hand him over to the Confederate forces. In this close knit group with little interaction with the outside world or with men, the soldier becomes a fascination for all of the women of the house. The other remaining teacher (Kirsten Dunst) sneaks into the room where they have hidden the soldier and talks to him about travelling away from Virginia and he seems to suggest that he would assist her with this if he could. One of the elder students (Elle Fanning) openly lusts after the soldier and seeks to proportion him. All the women are drawn to him in some way and he dismisses none of them though initially seems to be more open to the teachers. As he heals the soldier seeks to convince the women to let him stay as a gardener and not to hand him to the Confederates. The women seem open to this idea to a degree until one fateful night changes their relationship to him.

This film is based on a novel which was been previously adapted into a film featuring Clint Eastwood as the soldier in the 1970s (the novel is from the 60s). I have not read the book nor seen the Eastwood film which is supposedly quite good, but I understand that both are more masculine and situate themselves more from the point of view of the solider whereas this is firmly from the point of view of the women with few (if any- I saw it back in July so I can't recall) scenes in which is the soldier is alone. I love Sofia Coppola's directorial work (her acting less so, less said about Godfather 3 the better) though I know others disagree but I challenge anyone not to love The Virgin Suicides or Lost in Translation. The Beguiled has a very similar colour palate to Coppola's other films and the use of white in particular on the women works beautifully here. This film actually makes a lovely companion piece to The Virgin Suicides- the two Coppola films based on works of fiction by others (The Bling Ring and Marie Antoinette being based on non fiction by others, and the reminder being original works by Coppola)- as both are about desire and a group of cloistered women. This flips the dynamic you see in The Virgin Suicides of a nameless mass of young boys desiring the cloistered women and instead now the cloistered women who desire the lone man in their midst. Both films also use that air of desire and claustrophobia to create this sense of humidity and near swamp like atmosphere despite the fact that neither are set somewhere that is particularly bayou like. The performances are amazing- Nicole Kidman is having an amazing year between this and Big Little Lies especially as she gets to deliver some of the funny moments of the film, Kirsten Dunst I know others don't warm to but I've always been a fan of and here she just embodies the naïveté needed for her character, and Elle Fanning's lust filled teen is spot on. Colin Farrell should also be thankful for just how amazingly attractive this film makes him look (not that he isn't normally attractive)- granted that is because the desiring female gaze is constantly on him. Coppola justifiable won the Palme Dor for direction at Cannes for this film (the directing award taken by Wind River at Cannes was for debut I believe). I have to acknowledge the elephant in the room with this film in that it had accusations of white washing levelled at it and I would agree in part with these accusations- it is very strange to see a Civil War film with no slaves or large scale mention of slavery (Coppola's excuse for this only half passes muster- she suggests that she envisioned that the slaves had fled the failing school in part because the story of slavery was not the one she was looking at telling in this film) and there is a character who is mixed race in the original but white in this version (Dunst's character who honestly I find it weird to have not been white originally because it would be have been exceedingly odd/rare for a mixed race woman to be a teacher in that era in the American south at a school for rich white girls but oddness of that choice by the original author aside, it appears to be a case of a white washing if you don't account for the probable lack of historical accuracy of the original source material). Is this problematic? It is and it probably is the reason this isn't in the top 10, however I cannot look past the fact that this might be the single best film ever made about female desire and the female gaze, and it is interesting it was released in a year in Hollywood that has been some much about the abuse of male desire.

Now this is the point where things might differ slightly from what I had originally planned to say (though they are the same films in the same order as that I had made note of) as my draft blog decided to disappear my comments on the top 10- I was half way through my comments on number one when I was last working on this and suddenly was back in number 11 land when I opened the computer today- which is quite the frustration (should have just finished and posted this back in early January as had been my original plan). Granted I think I can remember most of my original thoughts.

10. The Big Sick

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a stand up comic on the quest for his big break who also supports himself as an Uber driver. Most of his comedy is based on his experiences as the son of Pakistani immigrants and each week he goes to dinner with his parents where they try and set him with attractive women who are also of Pakistani descent and who have successful careers. His parents also ask him about his Muslim faith (which he has long since abandoned) and pressure him to go to law school (a plan he has also long since abandoned). One night at a gig, he is heckled by Emily (Zoe Kazan) and the two have what is supposed to be a one night stand but turns into a relationship. After dating for several months, Emily discovers in Kumail's flat the photographs of the women his parents have set him up with, and she confronts him about the photos and about whether her being white means that their relationship has no long term future. He acknowledges that it is unlikely they will be together long term because she is white and Emily dumps him. Not long after this, Kumail receives a phone call that tells him Emily has collapsed and is in hospital- he is still listed as an emergency contact. Kumail goes to the hospital and signs off on the papers to put Emily in an induced coma whilst the doctors figure out what is wrong with her. Only after this does he call Emily's parents who he meets for the first time when they rush to the hospital to see their daughter. Emily's parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), don't understand why Kumail is around or involved at all as they know from Emily that prior to her getting sick, they had broken up. As the weeks pass with Emily in the coma, Kumail continues to try and make himself useful, and begrudging friendships develop between Kumail and Emily's parents.

Every year, I tend to have one indie rom com on my countdown and this is the 2017 entry of that ilk. Based on Kumail Nanjiani's relationship with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, this film was co-written by the couple. The script is smart and funny whilst also not steering clear of the fact that the film does have some darker themes, primarily illness and death. It has recently been nominated for best original screen play at the Oscars and that comes as little surprise to me. The film shines a light on the complexities facing interracial couples as they navigate not just any cultural differences but also societal stupidity. People may generally not feel that interracial couples face many difficulties in society today but just think on how rare it still is for a Hollywood rom com to have an interracial lead couple (this may not be the only film with an interracial lead couple I saw in 2017 but I'm fairly certain it was the only rom com in that camp- for example, both other comedies I recall having interracial couples featured in 2017 were MUCH darker and definitely not rom coms). It also has occasions of great dark humour and some of genuine pathos as Emily's illness continues undiagnosed for much of the film and there is the real prospect of her dying. The performances are really great with Nanjiani playing himself but not shying away from writing and playing a version of himself who is at times profoundly self centred, Kazan showing the skills she has mastered as the go to actress for indie rom coms in recent years, and Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff carrying off what could have become quite cliched roles as Kumail's parents with great skill. The big props acting wise though go to Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Beth and Terry. They shine as these parents in a complex situation- made more complex by things I didn't mention in my summary- and I particularly thought Romano was outstanding (I have done a U Turn on him as an actor in recent years from hating Everybody Loves Raymond to thinking he near stole the show in scenes in the cancelled too soon Vinyl). In summary, really funny in a really smart way and now that I've given up on indie rom coms being so amazing that mainstream ones take note and get better, at least I'm happy that this got a broader release and more box office revenue than many of its indie rom com forebears.

9. Okja

In an alternative version of 2007, Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) becomes CEO of the multinational Mirando corporation following the death of her father. A self styled environmentalist Lucy Mirando declares that her company has found an environmentally friendly way to solve food hunger. Her plan involves a new species, the super-pig (something between a hippo and a pig), which the Mirando corporation has discovered. The company has twenty six super pigs and these are to sent to twenty six farmers around the world to raise for 10 years before one of them is declared the best at raising the super pig and given a prize. Skip forward to 2017, on a remote farm in South Korea, Mija (Ahn Seo-Hyun) is being raised by her grandfather (Byun Hee-bong) and her best and only friend is Okja, the super pig which her grandfather was sent to rear ten years earlier. One day, Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), a TV personality and the Mirando Corporation's in-house zoologist, arrives at their farm and declares that Okja has been declared the best super pig and will be relocated to New York. Mija is devastated and begs his grandfather to buy Okja so the super pig can stay with them but when he is unable/willing to do so, she runs away to Seoul in hopes of freeing Okja before the super pig is sent to the States. In Seoul, Mija's attempts to free Okja lead to attention from both the media and also a group of animal rights activists (lead by Jay played by Paul Dano) who are seeking to take Mirando down. Mija plans to take Okja and return to the farm but the animal rights activists try to enlist her to help them take down Mirando by bugging Okja. After the only activist who speaks Korean (K played by Steven Yeun) mistranslates Mija's wishes, the group believes that Mija agrees to their plan (she doesn't) and they arrange for Okja to be returned to Mirando and Mija to take advantage of the ticket that Mirando has given her to come to New York, now that her attempts to free Okja garnered so much attention.

This film was a bit of an oddity as it was a Netflix production and therefore got very limited cinema release beyond a few film festivals and its inclusion in those was even controversial (it is the first film by Netflix to debut at Cannes and there had to be release adjustments to allow that). I missed it at the Sydney Film Festival where it did show and therefore like most people only caught it on the small screen. It is the second Hollywood film for Korean director Bong Joon-ho, after Snow Piercer which you may remember from my countdown a few years ago.  There is pretty much not a universe in which I would not have loved this film as it is the work of a director I love, stars the actor who I suspect is the second most frequently appearing actor in my count downs (I know Mark Ruffalo is first but I strongly suspect Tilda Swinton is second especially after she appeared in three films on it two years ago- the year Snow Piercer came out), and is about food ethics and animal liberation. The film defies genre classification as many films by non Hollywood directors do- you can find it in about five different genre categories on Netflix and none of them is correct. It is at times quite funny but especially towards the end, it is gut wrenching and I don't think there is a film I cried more in during 2017. The performances are amazing led by Swinton and Gyllenhaal as the more known members of the cast- and Gyllenhaal's work at making the initially slimy and later much worse
John Wilcox come to life are without any vanity (he is never unrecognisable at points)- strongly supported by Dano (an indie star who needs to break through), Lily Collins, and Yuen (yay Glen from The Walking Dead- the only decent non zombie character on that show). The film ultimately belongs to the CSI artists and to Ahn Seo-Hyun. It is between the CSI work and Ahn's performance that you get to make Okja believable and without being able to feel that the super pig was a real animal with real capacity to feel pain (and more the super pigs like the regular pig are supposedly quite smart), the film would be nothing. Ahn would have had many scenes acting opposite a green scene/random object, and for a 12/13 year old (she recently turned 14), she delivered a performance that is the envy of many adults who have failed in the acting with CSI space. I would believe for its discussion of food ethics and availability that this was a must see film in 2017 even if it was of a lesser quality but being as amazing as it is I cannot recommend it highly enough. Oddly though it isn't the only film in my countdown that hits on animal ethics by virtual of non exist creatures but more on that to come...

8. The Disaster Artist

This is the story of what is currently considered both "the worst film ever made" and a cult classical, The Room. In San Francisco in 1998, a young aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is blown away in his acting class by the very odd performance given by older class mate, Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Their acting teacher destroys Wiseau's performance but Sestero has the opposite view and seeks out Wiseau and the two begin to become friends despite the fact Sestero is 19 and Wiseau is at least in his thirties. Wiseau speaks with an odd accent (vaguely Eastern European) but claims to have been born in the States, and that is just the start of the mysterious flags this guy raises. One day, Wiseau declares to Sestero that the two of them should relocate to LA to better their acting careers and that they can easily live in the apartment he owns there (another flag- Wiseau owns decent sized apartments in San Francisco and LA but doesn't appear to have a job). Over his mother's objections, Sestero goes with Wiseau to LA, and things don't appear to be going too badly for him when they get there- he doesn't get regular acting work but he does secure an agent, gets a few auditions, and a girlfriend (Alison Brie). Wiseau on the other hand fails completely and starts to get quite jealous of Sestero. Wiseau decides instead of just giving up on acting that he will write, direct, star in, and produce his own film, and despite being increasingly frustrated with Wiseau, Sestero agrees to co-star and co-produce the film if it becomes a reality. In the next three years, the two men fall out of regular contact but then Wiseau finishes the script and true to his word, Sestero still agrees to be in it. As production begins and cast and crew are hired, it becomes obvious that Wiseau has no knowledge of how to make a film but what he does have is continued access to the mysterious pot of money that has already funded apartments in two of the world's most expensive cities. As filming continues, Wiseau's strange habits lead to hatred from the cast and crew, and Sestero ends up stuck in the middle.

Now there are three comedies above this on my countdown but this might be funnier than they are (they also have other things I love going for them). I have not seen The Room- I really want to and definitely had planned to see it before I saw The Disaster Artist but it has proven hard to find a legal screening of it close enough to me- so if you find it on anywhere I can get to easily, please let me know. This film is hilarious but beautifully it is hilarious without actively going out of its way to mock its subjects- the film could so easily have mocked Tommy Wiseau as many have before but (and I'm not sure if being based on Greg Sestero's book as the two are still friends helped this) it doesn't to the point where Wiseau even appears in a post credits scene (sorry spoilers). Many have commented and I agree that this film is very reminiscent of Tim Burton's brilliant Ed Wood which is a also funny without being cruel story of a director who made "the worst film ever made"- not sure what Ed Wood would make of Plan 9 From Outer Space having lost that title (it is one of the reasons I want to see The Room as I've seen Plan 9 and I want to know if it is legitimately worse- from the small bits I have seen, I do suspect it is). James Franco directed and produced as well as starred in this and it is by far and away the best performance he has ever given as he is quite convincing as Wiseau despite normally looking nothing like him (basically having himself MUCH less attractive for the role as Wiseau isn't an attractive man) and also having to pull off Wiseau's incomprehensibly strange accent. They also manage at times to make you almost forget that Dave and James Franco are brothers- that said Sestero and Wiseau look nothing alike, and even under James Franco's make up you can at times see the similarities between the brothers. Dave Franco is very solid as the film's straight man and it would be nice to start seeing him more in a few more things as he has been too long overshadowed by his big brother. I also recommend staying for the credits as they show side by side scenes that they re-filmed for The Disaster Artist and the original scenes from The Room.

Now before you call me on this, I know I excluded Baby Driver from this list due to the allegations against Kevin Spacey but this is still here despite the allegations against James Franco. I will say that I think the Spacey allegations are worse due to the age (at time of assault) of those who have accused him (they were teens and those who accused Franco were adults at them of the unwanted attention from him) BUT that doesn't really excuse me including one film and excluding another with the same issue facing them. In honesty it is laziness on my part as I started writing this in early January before the allegations against Franco came out on January 8 and I just didn't bother to remove this after the allegations. If you want to exclude it mental, it doesn't change the list as number 15 is tied.

7. It

Getting to the films I saw more than once in 2017 (of the films above this I saw two three times and one of them four times (yes it is my number 1)), I saw It twice. I also decided to blog my thoughts on it in the context of what novels we choose to adapt into film back when I first saw it and that post included my ranting about the film in more length than I would in my end of year ranking so you should read that instead of my editing it. It is here- Summary, it is super solid coming of age film with great performances and yep a creepy clown.

6. Thor: Ragnarok

After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been travelling the nine realms in search of the infinity stones. He is imprisoned by Satur, a fire demon, who it is predicted will destroy Asgard when Ragnarok occurs. Thor defeats Satur and heads home to Asgard for the first time since the events of Thor: The Dark World. As soon as he meets with Odin (Anthony Hopkins), he realises something is wrong with his father and reveals to all present that Odin is not Odin but Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise. Thor forces Loki to tell him where their father is, and Loki takes him to Earth to where he left Odin. Finding Odin not where he was left in New York, after a brief interaction with Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the brothers find their father in remote Norway. Before opting to die, Odin reveals to his sons that they have an older sister, Hela the goddess of death (Cate Blanchett), who must be kept out of Asgard at all costs. As soon as Odin dies, a portal opens and Hela appears. Loki opens the Bifröst and Hela follows the brothers trying to fight them off. Loki and Thor are thrown out of the Bifröst, and Hela continues to Asgard. Thor crashes down onto the trash planet of Sakaar with Loki nowhere in sight. Thor is captured by Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), a bounty hunter, and taken to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), the ruler of Sakaar who holds a gladiatorial contest. Thor finds that Loki crashed on the same planet slightly before he did and he has managed to charm his way into the Grandmaster's entourage whilst Thor is enslaved as a gladiator. In the fighters' quarter (read gaol), Thor meets Korg (Taika Waititi), a fellow enslaved fighter who once led a failed rebellion, who reveals that there is a grand champion is undefeated and also that Scrapper 142 is an Asgardian- it transpire that she is a Valkyrie who was involved in the last battle with Hela. Thor enters the battle arena to fight the champion of the contests and finds himself face to face with fellow Avenger, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). After the battle ends, Thor tries to recruit The Hulk and/or Bruce Banner to help him free Asgard from Hela. Meanwhile on Asgard, Hela has killed the Warriors Three, enslaved the people, redecorated, and raised some zombie soldiers, and Heimdall (Idris Elba) is trying to hide some people from Hela and has stolen the sword that opens the Bifröst to stop Hela using it to conquer all of the nine realms. 

Where would my list be with a Mark Ruffalo film? Since I started doing longer yearly posts about my favourite films of the previous year, he has been on every one of them at least once and he is the only actor with that honour. Love of Mark Ruffalo (and other frequently featured actor, Tom Hiddleston, who has only missed one year I think) aside, this film just flat out stole the title I had previously given to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film of being the funniest/funnest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is another film that I saw multiple times (three in total). As anyone who saw the film that came in number four in my countdown last year (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Taiki Waititi makes hilarious films and I'm so happy that they gave him fairly free reign with this and that it means the world outside the Antipodes now might know who he is (they better- not just because of his awesome direction but also because Korg steals every scene he is in). The script is hilarious, littered with special Easter eggs for Australians and Kiwis, and also call backs to that constantly remind you that you are in the Marvel universe (if at times destroying that such as the speedy deaths of the Warriors Three who have never been used well). The performances are delightfully fun and over the top. Hemsworth is finally given the opportunity to do more than speak clunky dialogue and be the most serious main character in most all of the Marvel property, and you get to some of that Hemsworth charm that shone so brightly in the recent Ghostbusters remake among other things. Hiddleston is clearly still having fun with Loki but Loki has always been the most fun (and actual probably just the best) thing in the Thor world and there is a reason he is the most enduring and beloved Marvel villain on the big screen, so this was more Loki with an extra bit of humour which just made him all the more charismatically brilliant. It was interesting to see them do more with the Hulk side of the Hulk which will be interesting for future Marvel films, and Ruffalo played both sides of the character well as he always has but his performance as the Hulk side of the Hulk instead of just Bruce Banner is really just getting better with each film he is in and he even got the opportunity to be part of some of the films funniest moment when he was the green guy. From a supporting point of view, well Jeff Goldblum is just the most Jeff Goldblum he can be and that is all you really want when he is on screen, and Anthony Hopkins expertly balances the truly hilarious in the scene where he is playing Loki pretending to be Odin with the extreme pathetic (in the literal sense of the word) in Odin's death scene, Karl Urban is great if underused as the deeply stupid Asgardian soldier Skurge who becomes Hela's lackey, Idris Elba continues to somehow be believable as the stalwart Heimdall, and Taiki Waititi I've already mentioned is just brilliant as Korg (who knew I could love a blue rock monster with a Maori accent as much as I loved the character of Korg). You may notice I forgot something but in fact I didn't as I'm getting to it...and that is the women! Along with another film I've getting to and the newest Marvel property which I saw a couple of weeks back (Black Panther- early call but it will definitely be on 2018 list), this is another example of how well films in the nerd space are doing in their representation of women (also with casting people of colour- this less than the other two but it is still doing well considering how white the earlier Thor films were except for support cast presence of Idris Elba and Tabdanobu Asano). The women in this film just flat out owned it! Rachel House who had a killer year in 2016 with Moana and Hunt for the Wilderpeople is brilliant in her couple of scenes as the Grandmaster's second in command. Then you have two actresses whose work I love in the two main female roles and where could you go wrong. I have been waiting since Veronica Mars (remember I said it would come up again in this countdown) for Tessa Thompson to get more attention and bigger roles (in terms of box office as she was the lead in Dear White People- the film version- and that was a big role in a film everyone should see but sadly not enough people saw it) and finally between this and Westworld in 2017 her time has definitely come. Just that gender stereotype defying introduction scene sold the whole character to me in one hit especially when I found out she was told to think Han Solo which she totally delivered with a side of physical comedy and fake drunkenness. I cannot wait for more Valkyrie in the upcoming Avengers film as she is just flat out boss and unlike some female superheroes, she ain't never going to need a man (superpower having or not) to help her out. Also good work in recasting the blonde figure from the comics as a person of colour and also here's hopes that they either maintain that she is gay as in the comics or make her bi as the film makers and Thompson have suggested they might do because sexuality diversity is the one thing still largely absent in the comic book movie space. Now Cate Blanchett what to say of Cate Blanchett... Pretty much it was like they went to one of the best actors working in the world today and said to her "Want to be in a comic book movie? Do you also want to have the chance to ham it up and go completely over the top as a bad arse villain?" and shockingly she said yes. She just chews the scenery, hams it up, and has over the top fun, and you cannot love her more for it because she so rarely plays roles like this and it is so great to see her just loving the hell out of and I mean who does love an over-the-top bordering on camp villain because I know I do.

Minor additional praise points... The little play Loki as Odin stages with Sam Neill as Odin, Matt Damon as Loki, and Luke Hemsworth as Thor...priceless, I laughed out loud at that scene every time I saw it. The cost of paying for one of the most expensive songs of all time for the soundtrack and then using it repeatedly...worth it (I just love anytime anyone forks out for Immigrant Song and lyrics wise it was just crying out to be used in a Thor film). 

I don't have an Aussie film on my list this year but since this was filmed in Sydney and Brisbane, and has Aussies as the lead hero and villain, and a Kiwi director and a couple of Kiwi support actors I claiming this as my Aussie film of 2017 even if it was American backed.

5. Blade of the Immortal

Manji (Takuya Kimura) is a samurai fighter. After he kills the corrupt warlord for whom he works and the warlord's other bodyguards- including his younger sister's husband- he and his younger sister are on the run and they meet a strange old lady. Manji ignores the old lady and quickly he and his sister are ambushed by a large band of ronin. The ronin leader kills Manji's sister and against impossible odds, Manji takes out the ronin but not without taking fatal wounds. As he lies dying, the old lady reappears and she introduces blood worms into Manji's body which heals his wounds and make him un-killable. Jump forward 52 years. Young Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki) escapes the massacre of her parents and all of her father's samurai trainees at her father's dojo at the hands of the Ittō-ryū led by Kagehisa Anotsu (Sota Fukushi). Rin, who is an untrained young teen (she looks possibly even younger but Hana Sugisaki is 20 so I'm going with teens), declares that she is going to avenge the death of her parents and so seeks out the mysterious immortal samurai who lives on the edge of town as her bodyguard. Manji refuses to help her initially but after Rin is attacked by one of the more sadistic members of Ittō-ryū who not just reveals that he raped her mother but also has sewn her mother's head to his shoulder, he saves her and join her in her quest to take down Kagehisa Anotsu and the rest of the Ittō-ryū.

Foreign language film of the year! This one is very silly so I have to do some honorary mentions which were just outside my top 15- the Israeli film The Women's Balcony (it is hilarious and a great examination of the role of women in Jewish religious communities) and the Hungarian film Strangled (based on a serial killer case in Hungary in the 1960s) are definitely worth checking outI saw these three at the Inverness Film Festival and actually saw a few other foreign films elsewhere so it was a good year for me actually seeing films in not English.  Back to Blade of the Immortal, it is the new film by a Japanese director who I love, Takashi Miike - I feel like my foreign language films of the year are often Japanese and Korean. If you are thinking samurai, ronin, blood worms, impossible odds sword fights...what's the deal? Well Miike is mates with Quentin Tarantino if that helps explain it to you- Tarantino even appears in my favourite Miike film (Sukiyaki Western Django if you are curious). As you know if you often read my end of the year film wrap ups, I love me this kind of over the top crazy so bring on the bloodworms! Takuya Kimura and Hana Sugisaki are great in the main roles and Sota Fukushi's Kagehisa reminds me of Kylo Ren in the best ways. I know you were sold once I said impossible odds sword fights so just go and just it out!
4. Ingrid Goes West

Sadly I cannot embed the trailer so follow this link-

Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is a deeply lonely women with not great mental health who is deeply wedded to her Instagram. As the film opens, she crashes the wedding of a "friend" from Instagram. Said friend is someone she barely knows (if I recall they went to school together) and after the friend casually expressed sympathy to Ingrid's mother dies, Ingrid becomes obsessed with her and her social media feed. After the incident at the wedding, Ingrid is hospitalised for mental health concerns. Upon her release, she overhears an actual friend of the woman whose wedding she crashed mention that Ingrid had been unhealthily obsessed with her friend. Ingrid starts searching for distraction on Instagram and she stumbles on the feed of Taylor Sloane  (Elizabeth Olsen) and develops a new obsession. After Taylor responds to Ingrid's comment on one of her photos, Ingrid becomes determined to actually be friends with Taylor and she packs up her life and cashes out the money her mother left her and moves across the country from Pennsylvania to California to track Taylor down. Ingrid moves in the apartment in the backyard of Dan (O'Shea Jackson Jnr) near to where Taylor lives and starts to engineer ways to meet Taylor and to make herself more like Taylor. After she returns Taylor's dogs (having first dognapped it), Ingrid finally meets Taylor and her husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). Taylor and Ingrid actually start to form a friendship but a lot of it is based on Ingrid just trying to make herself more like Taylor. Ingrid also starts a romantic relationship with Dan. It looks like for all the creepy social media stalking life is going to work out as Ingrid wants it to but then Taylor's brother and his girlfriend show up. Taylor's brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen), is instantly suspicious of Taylor and Ingrid's friendship and where Ingrid has appeared from. Nicky's casual girlfriend, Harley Chung (Pom Klementieff), is a fashion blogger with a bigger social media following then Taylor, and Taylor starts to hang out with Harley and Nicky in place of Ingrid, making Ingrid deeply jealous.

There are a few actors who I have declared are having the year to break through- Tessa Thompson for example and if you bridge 2017/8 Timothee Chalamet is also in that basket with Call Me by Your Name and Ladybird- and this is a film with two actors who aren't breaking through but are having amazing years. Firstly Elizabeth Olsen who is twice in my countdown this year between this and Wind River. There is something about Taylor that to me is quite different to the normal Elizabeth Olsen role and she is so convincingly good that I had to keep reminding myself that it was her. Taylor shows that the social media obsession of Ingrid is just a few steps from what is the norm and also displays the falsity of social media- Taylor on social media is to my mind deeply superficial but Taylor off social media has uncertainty and depth. Secondly obviously the amazing Aubrey Plaza who I was worried would be stuck in not great movie hell (did anyone else see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates because it wasn't great though she was OK in it) as Hollywood struggled with what to do with her in a post Parks and Rec world. Between this and the amazing Legion (my close second for the best TV series based on a comic after Jessica Jones and in part it is Plaza's performance that sells it), Plaza had an amazing 2017 with roles that start to move her further away from April Ludgate. Ingrid is a painfully honest portrait of the negative impacts of social media obsession coinciding with poor health mental and yet there is an uncomfortable reality of the fact that even though Ingrid's obsession is extreme, you can see in it the edges of the problems social media creates for everyone. There is something sweet about Plaza's performance that makes you almost root for Ingrid in her obsession. As a film, it is a very timely biting reflection of the modern age of social media and also of the treatment or ignoring of loneliness and mental health in social, and the ways this can painfully intersect with social media usage- Aubrey Plaza deleted her Instagram whilst or just after making this film. Also as dark as this all sounds, it is very funny- it is a comedy in fact.

The film also just took out best First Feature at the Independent Spirit awards which is normally the awards ceremony that synchs most with my opinions- particularly this year in fact.

3. Moonlight

Once again this trailer cannot be embedded as go to

Set across three time periods, Moonlight opens in Miami with "Little" (Alex Hibbert) hiding from bullies in a crackhouse and being discovered by drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Little will not tell Juan who he is and Juan takes him to his place where Little meets Juan's young girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae). Ultimately Little tells Juan where he lives and Juan takes him home to his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris). Little continues to try and spend time with Juan and Teresa, and Juan becomes a default father figure to the young boy. It is quickly revealed that Paula is an addict and it is hinted that Juan might be one of her dealers. Paula yells at her son that she knows why he is bullied and Little flees to Juan and Teresa who he asks about the insult that the other children call him (not replicating it but I'll say it's a gay slur and you can likely guess). Juan and Teresa comfort Little and say that if he is gay that is not a problem, but then Little hits them with a big question which is whether Juan is Paula's dealer. Cut to a few years later and Little is now a teenager and goes by his actual name, Chiron (he is now played by Ashton Sanders). Chiron is still bullied and has only one real friend, Kevin (Kevin appears in the first time period too- he is initially played by Jaden Piner and is now played by Jharrel Jerome). Juan has died but Chiron is still friends with Teresa and Paula is still a drug addict who now supports herself with prostitution and also by pressuring Chiron to borrow money from Teresa. Chiron has dreams that indicate that he is jealous of girls who might approach Kevin, and then one night on the beach, Chiron and Kevin share a kiss and a little more which is Chiron's first sexual experience. The next day at school, the class bully pressures Kevin into participating in a hazing ritual that targets Chiron. After this event, Chiron attacks the class bully with a degree of violence that ends with his being arrested. Jump forward again and Chiron now goes by Black, a name given to him by Kevin many years earlier (he is now played by Trevante Rhodes). Black is a drug dealer living in Atlanta and Paula who is now clean and living in a drug treatment centre frequently calls her son. Black then one night receives a call from Kevin (now played by Andre Holland) who asks him to look him up if he is ever in Miami. Black then embarks for Miami to see his old friend.

And we have reached the film that knocked Call Me by Your Name so much further down as the themes are to a degree similar though in my option there are many more to be discussed with Moonlight then just desire, and also both are marked by beautiful cinematography. This was a 2016 film in most countries but came up in early January 2017 in Australia so as I said it was just bad luck for Call Me by Your Name which without this as a comparison point would have solidly cracked the top 10. Also sorry about the amount of plot description that verges on spoiling but you cannot really talk about Moonlight without touching on all three time periods. Where to start on this film, well I'm going to start with a thing I love when done well and that is cinematography. This is without doubt the most beautiful film I've seen in years and it had solid competition this year from Call Me by Your Name and the next film on this list (though some might disagree on that). The use of light and dark, in particular night as much of the film is set at night, and the reflection on water, and the skin tone as part of a palate (just look at the gorgeous poster from an example) are just perfectly artistically captured. It is visually stunning to a degree that is difficult to capture in words. There is an ongoing visual metaphor of darkness and especially dark water with the main character's sexuality, and especially an idea that in or near water unlike on land, he can be who he really is. The script is also sparse with Chiron's sexuality just being one of many things that the film treats with a silence as if almost forced into that silence. Also as I said it is not just about sexuality as the movie is also a window in race relations in America (it was great to see this movie with no major white characters win best picture at the last Oscars), sexuality in the black community, poverty as it intersects with race, and also rolling issues of drug use in poor communities. The stoic silence of Chiron is played brilliantly by all three actors in the role, and I particularly thought the teen Chiron and Kevin were amazing. Ali, Monae, and Harris are great in their supporting roles, and the underlying possible guilt of Juan is just perfectly tempered in Ali's performance. It is beautiful, it is restrained, and it is just a must see drama.

Interestingly Moonlight is based on a play I have not seen but in the play supposedly all three time lines play out at the same time, and I'd be really interested to see that.

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

As the opening crawl let's the viewer know, though Starkiller Base was destroyed (back in The Force Awakens) the First Order is still the power in the galaxy and they are hunting down the Resistance. The Last Jedi opens just after TFA ended and the Resistance are now packing out their base that was saw in the previous film as the First Order has located them. Poe Dameron  (Oscar Isaac) is trying to distract their largest ship from the transport ships fleeing the Resistance base but having succeeded in that, he decides that he cannot resist (no pun intended) attempting a risky plan to take out the dreadnought (the First Order's most powerful ship) despite the orders of General Organa (Carrie Fisher) and the advice of BB8. The attack succeeds but not without massive losses on the Resistance side and as a punishment Leia demotes Poe as the Resistance forces flee through hyperspace. When the Resistance cruiser emerges from hyperspace they find that the First Order has somehow followed them. TIE fighters fly out to attack the Resistance ships led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in his own small ship. The Resistance cruisers cannot risk another jump to light speed as they are both low on fuel and also they know the First Order will attack them again so they try to outpace the large First Order ships but before they can manage this the TIE fighter attack the bridge and though Kylo Ren hesitates (likely due to the fact the lingering guilt of having killed his father stopping him from killing his mother), the other fighter shoot at the bridge, killing all of those on the bridge (including Star Wars stalwart Admiral Ackbar) except Leia who saves herself using the Force but her fight for survival leaves her comatose. The Resistance appoints Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) to lead their forces whilst Leia incapacitated and Poe is not happy with Holdo's leadership style and starts to plot his own plan for escaping the First Order. Also onboard the Resistance cruiser is Finn (John Boyega) who wakes from his own coma at the end of TFA a few scenes earlier and when faced with the likelihood of Resistance defeat, he attempts to flee in an escape pod. Finn is stopped by Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a young mechanic whose pilot sister died in Poe's stupid plan in the opening scene. Rose with some input from Finn figures out how the First Order is tracking them and they convene with Poe to develop a plan to stop the tracking which is contrary to Vice Admiral Holdo's plan with the assistance of Lieutenant Connix (Billie Lourd) and Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) and begrudgingly C3PO (Anthony Daniels). Meanwhile whilst all this is going on, there are also regularly check-ins with Rey (Daisy Ridley). Rey's plot line picks up where it ended in TFA with her on Ahch-To holding out a light sabre to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Luke takes the light sabre and tossing it aside tells Rey he will not train her as a Jedi, even after Rey tells him that his sister is the one who sent her. Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo taking over from Peter Mayhem who being in his 70s and suffering chronic pain is no longer up to the role) crushes in and between Chewie and Rey, Luke is told of the death of Han Solo to the hands of Kylo Ren in TFA. Even this is not sufficient to convince Luke to train Rey and instead she follows him on daily tasks around the island in hopes of convincing him. One night, Luke boards the Millennium Falcon where he encounters R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee taking over from Kenny Baker who died no long after TFA wrapped) who uses Leia's original voice message to Obi Wan from back in New Hope to convince Luke to give Rey a chance. Luke begrudgingly offers Rey three lessons. As Luke trains her, he is worried about the fact she is intrigued by the dark and the light, and the fact that he sees himself as having failed with Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, Rey starts having force visions (some termed it "force timing" and I love that) of Kylo Ren and talking to him (well first trying to shoot him and then talking) though neither knows how or why, and as the two build a connection, Rey also starts to wonder what really happened between Luke and Kylo as both recount it differently.  Kylo is also increasingly conflicted due to his murder of his father, his gradually disillusionment with his old desire to be like his grandfather, and his treatment by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

That seems like a good place to stop and avoid spoilers. I'm guessing everyone knew this film was coming and after TFA I figure you might have thought it would be number one. Well though it got better with every viewing, I would rank my number one as above both TFA and The Last Jedi and even New Hope to the point that it was competing with Empire to be one of my favourite films of all time- oh my revised Star Wars order now goes Empire, New Hope, TFA and Last Jedi tied, Jedi, Rogue One, Revenge of the Sith, various standalone Ewok films, Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones. It is easy to start with what I didn't love about Last Jedi as it wasn't much and did see the film three times (less than I saw TFA at the cinema but chalk it up to my busy couple of months). Things I didn't love... the space walrus milking scene (why was that needed!) and the underuse of Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) were the two big things I didn't love, and yes I wasn't a huge fan of the way Leia's Force ability was revealed but I was so happy it was established as film canon that she has that ability- in more than an off handed remark or two in the original trilogy kind of way- that I forgave them for the fact that it wasn't handled well. What did I love about this film....EVERYTHING else. It was the funniest Star Wars film from the initial prank call by Poe to General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) onwards. It was the prettiest Star Wars film ever- the visuals were STUNNING and especially the big light sabre fight and final fight scene just beautiful. It had quality world building- Ahch-To in particular  especially with its personality filled critters (yes I'm a fan of the Porg) was stunning and as was Crait and Canto Bight I found really interesting. It finally completely kills midichlorians as a stupid pre-equals idea that is best forgotten and gave the most beautiful explanation of the Force as an idea of balance. The performances were great and in a film series that lost one major player between its last film and this one in Kenny Baker, and another just after it was shot in Carrie Fisher, I feel that actually added to the performances of the older cast. Whereas TFA was the best Star Wars acting by Harrison Ford, Last Jedi hands that mantle to Mark Hamill who gives probably the best performance of anyone in any Star Wars film ever and also to Carrie Fisher who I have to say had a great performance to go out on- where were the Oscar noms?!?! The plan had been that of the older characters TFA would focus on Han, Last Jedi on Luke, and Episode IX on Leia so I'm not sure what the plan is now. What I can say is that I shred not a few tears in scenes where I realised that this was the last time I'd be seeing not just the amazing Carrie Fisher but also the character of Leia, a big childhood hero of mine, on the screen.  The surprise old character cameo also just gave me delight every time I saw the film.The younger actor performances were also great- Daisy Ridley added an extra layer to Rey I felt, Oscar Isaac continued to try to steal every scene and managed to be charming even when Poe was being an arse, Adam Driver took the emo Kylo of TFA and added more substance in his grief, Billy Lourd's role got expanded and yay for her taking up the Star Wars from her mother, Domhnall Gleeson continued to nail evil straight man to the overly emotionally Kylo- though poor John Boyega was a little underused if still great as Finn. Of the new characters, I love Laura Dern in all things and this is no exception, Kelly Marie Tran is delightful as Rose, and though I normally don't love him (though I don't know why) I even think Benicio del Toro was good as DJ. I also love that as some corners of the internet (those who really hated this as a Star Wars film) whinged out the racial and gender diversity of TFA, the film makers responded by replacing the one white guy who died (Harrison Ford) with another woman (Laura Dern), another person of colour (Benicio del Toro), and the double whammy a woman of colour (Kelly Marie Tran). Do I love the continual bringing of race and gender diversity to the table? Hells yeah I do and also the hinting at a mixed race couple (or two though the latter very briefly and mainly driven by the pure charisma of one actor) in Finn and Rose... LOVE it (though it did knife my favourite "ship" of TFA even if that ship still gave us the best line of Last Jedi, "Finn...naked...leaking"...Finn and Poe forever! Even though Star Wars might not be ready for a mixed race gay love story yet). Last Jedi maintain the 50/50 men to women ratio on screen at all times vibe of TFA and yes it is the second nerd space film that with great gender representation that I alluded to when I was speaking about Thor: Ragnarok. It has been said that this is the most political Star Wars film and I agree and love it all the more for it. In the year of #metoo, you had whole plot line about men telling with women in power (very poorly in Poe's case -as Leia and Holdo agree, you love him but he is an arse...not that they say's hoping he gets past it) and just heaps of women being boss in actual careers, be they Jedi trainees, senior military commanders, mechanics, or pilots- sure Leia went on diplomatic missions in the original trilogy and her mother was a Senator but there was nothing on this scale in any of the films before TFA. The most amazing military move of the film (which is also the height of its cinematography and sound editing beauty) is the act of a woman. You had two sequences that could be read as being about animal rights- the Chewie and the porgs scene (I'm not ashamed to say one of my favourites in the whole film) and the scenes with the creatures on Canto Bight- people are suggesting the Chewie and the porgs scene is the Chewie goes vego scene and I think that isn't the case but love that people think it is. Also tonnes of dialogue about the costs of war especially in terms of lives, the funding of the arms industry, and the guilt of both sides in a war. Even in the fashion design (though I learnt this from YouTube), thoughts on grief in a very subtle way and the way society demands people compartmentalise it.  There are also ideas of what a moral imperative is and what drives a person to act.

I knew Rian Johnson would do well as I love his previous work and he sure delivered!

Oh and to the online whiners... One, the complaint I saw about Last Jedi not having enough action and having too much character development...a) what's wrong with character development? b) go back and watch Empire again because you could almost level that at Empire, it was just that the characters being developed were mainly white dudes, and c) there was plenty of action proportionally to length as this is the longest Star Wars film. Two, the Rey is a Mary Sue argument...I cannot disagree with that one especially considering the parental reveal (though I still think there is more to it and my theory would prove true still on this front) but I have to say as a trope I actually don't hate the Mary Sue- sure we aren't going to fix centuries of rubbish representation of women in popular culture with one insanely, impossibly capable woman but how many men like that (Gary Sues as they are now termed) have we sat though...seriously that is pretty much the basis for every Superman film and so I'm going give Rey a pass on this as I still love her and that she is a little awkward and that she is to young girls what Leia was to me and more because she will never have to don a bikini for the male gaze.

There is my yearly Star Wars gush and I could say more but I will stop.

1. Get Out 

Another trailer that cannot be embedded-

The film opens on a young black guy walking through a wealthy white suburb before a car starts following him and he is ultimately kidnapped. Cut to Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) a photographer who is going away for the weekend to meet his girlfriend's parents for the first time. Chris quizzes Rose (Allison Williams) on whether she has told her parents that he is black and she dismisses this with a laugh and says that her parents will not have any problems with that. So Chris leaves his dog in the care of his best mate, Rod (Lil Rel Howery), and the two heads out for the weekend. On the way to Rose's parents they hit a deer which leads to uncomfortable encounter with a local cop. When they arrive, Chris meets Rose's father Dean (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and her mother Missy (Catherine Kenner), a psychotherapist who specialises in hypnotherapy. Whilst Dean and Missy try to be overly nice to Chris, Chris is a little surprised to discover the couple has two servants, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson), who are both black and who both act very strangely. Then Dean and Missy remind Rose that this is the weekend that a big family gathering is planned and suddenly Chris finds himself preparing to meet the boarder circle of Rose's family and their friends, and also Rose's brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) shows up and starts to sprout comments that are straight down the line racist. Late that night, Chris sneaks out for a cigarette and encounters even more strange behaviour from Georgina and Walter, and as he sneaks back into the house, he encounters Missy who offers to hypnotise him to help him quit smoking. After a session with Missy, he wakes up with no clear memory of the session but also no desire to smoke and the feeling something is off. Chris also discovers someone has been unplugging his phone and as Rose's family gathering begins he feels more and more out of place.

So yes this is the film I saw four times in 2017 and yes I am aware how uncomfortably similar that sounds to Dean's declaration that he "would have voted for Obama a third if I could". It is a perfectly made comedy horror film- don't let the trailer put you off on the horror front though as friends who hate horror saw this and loved it, even my mother who isn't a horror fan liked it. That said, it is a perfectly made comedy horror designed to make white liberal folk reflect on their own place in the race debate. It is not just about the type of racism you would normally think of but is also about the ways in which those who seek to go out of their way to make sure those of other races feel more comfortable, ultimately often just worsen the situation. The ways in which declaring yourself an ally in the fight for racial equality doesn't actually make you one (I would argue to be an ally to any community, you don't declare your status, the community gives it to you) and that often this type of action just end up pushes meaningful discussion to the background and tries to assimilate people of colour by making them more palatable to the white community. As leftie, this film seemed very pointed to me and really made me think more than any other film I saw this year about my own place in discussions like this considering my own white privilege. It made me think on race relations in Australia which have their own set of scars that are different to the scars that slavery brings in the States. I also felt in the first year of Trump where so many Americans went out to show solidarity to other communities sidelined by this president that this film was there to make them think about how best that worked.

Also this could be paired with Wind River as one of the themes is the lack of reporting and lack of cases being solved when black men go missing. Pretty much if you aren't a white dude and you go missing in the States, your chances of being found are very low- the gap between white dudes and white women is bad enough but then you have the black community even lower on that scale, and lowest of all the Native American community.

These important points aside, which will likely make it a must see film for years to come, it is also amazingly acted by all involved. Especially to single out, Betty Gabriel who is outstanding as Georgina and of course Daniel Kaluuya who is great as Chris and I hope to see in many more things in the years to come (he was subsequently great in Black Panther). Also nice association evoked to The West Wing in casting Bradley Whitford and Being John Malkovich in Catherine Kenner- not sure that was intended but both work in the film's favour. Also outstanding directorial debut by Jordan Peele as well as brilliant script from him too.

So yes this was my number one film of 2017 and as I said now pushing to be one of my favourites of all time, and I'm super happy that it got Oscar noms and just took out Best Film at the Independent Spirit Awards (as I said they often agree with me).

Honourable mentions this year go to two documentaries as I didn't get any into my top 15 and those are I'm Not Your Negro and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Trailers for both of these are here:

So onto my worst film of 2017 and it is a three way tie...though I did fall asleep in one of them and flat out opt not to finish it.

Firstly The Snowman which I already blogged about here- so just read that so I don't have to think on it again.

Secondly Ghost In The Shell- go to for the  trailer. I love the 1995 anime but this was just awful by comparison and not just because of the whitewashing. It make Ghost in The Shell boring and I don't know how you do that. I was in two minds about including it as a worst film as I fell asleep during it on a plane and opted not to finish it but to rewatch Get Out instead. That said, I love films so much that not finishing something is a BIG statement.

And thirdly, no prizes for guessing this one, Justice League...

How to make a Zack Synder film worse,? How to make me hate a Joss Whedon film (good thing consider the revelation about him this year)? I know... combine them. Snyder had to step down from Justice League due to a family emergency and Whedon took over so tone wise the result is a complete disaster. It has all heavy handed direction and sloppy fight choreography of Snyder and his attempts at darkness with oddly Whedon-isque jokes thrown in for good measure. Once again, Wonder Woman is the only decent thing here- sure there is potential in Ezra Miller's version of The Flash but I have no hope long term as I said that about Ben Affleck's Batman after Batman Vs Superman and please forget I ever said that. Cyborg, boring; Batman, boring; Aquaman, pretty but boring and not even making use of his talking to fish powers; Superman (yeah I don't care that this is a spoiler because it barely qualifies), insanely handsome but boring. Villain (Steppenwolf) boring, pointless, forgettable, and attempting the same form of destruction as every other DC film villain except the ones in Wonder Woman, Also the film could have been called "Everyone in DC sucks without Superman" as that is pretty much the theme of the film even though Wonder Woman could easier hold her own (in the one scene where she is leading and Aquaman gets his honesty on all he can say about her is "she's hot" which seriously dude, your superpower is talking to fish!!!) and Batman is not this useless normally (seriously DC film folk, I love Batman and you aren't making him work for me at all).

I could keep ranting but I'll save you more of my thoughts on DC films as you've heard them and this is the second year in a row that one of them has been one of my worst films- granted Suicide Squad stood on its own for the title and Justice League shares it, and what do I know as it is now Academy Award winning Suicide Squad (I'm not sure what the Oscar committee was on when it handed out that one).

To finish the perfect meme that a friend tagged me in the other day as a self aware palate cleanser...