kiwizoidberg puts on his tux and reads out the results of our annual poll, because we can’t trust Warren Beatty to do it without making a complete Eli Wallachs of the job again.
Here at Mostly Film virtual towers, we love lists. Every year we vote on our favourite films of the year. This is a tradition stretching back through the years, both on our current discussion forum at http://fubar.nfshost.com/ and in our former home on the Guardian’s Film Unlimited chat rooms (it put the fu in fubar). This year was no exception, and thanks to the efforts of our regular poster nac1 the results are now in.
The criteria: all films that went on general release in the UK from 26 December 2016 until 25 December 2017 were eligible. Without further ado, here’s what the fubar posters have selected as the best of what we agree was a good year in cinema, with selected posts from our regular contributors (warning: there may be spoilers).
And as we have to point out at this time every year: it’s not that JohnCooperClarke.
19 Star Wars: The Last Jedi
17 Kong: Skull Island
15 Blade Runner 2049
14 The Death of Stalin
13 20th Century Women
12 A Ghost Story
10 John Wick: Chapter 2
MaxFischer – I liked the first one, but this is something else. Stahelski and Kolstad high on their own supply, believing their own publicity, swinging for the fences and nailing every second. Obviously, if you’re looking for insight into the human condition, or realism, this isn’t for you – you’re here for the escalating audacity of spectacle, this time around, and nothing else. My screening slightly marred by how funny some people find Keanu’s line delivery, I think those people think this was a so-bad-it’s-good film rather than what it is, a fucking great one – video games colliding with tanztheater at the speed of light. Bet they loved Nocturnal Animals.
Sladey – It struck me that being a stunningly beautiful lady is not the best look for an assassin since she’d be plagued by creepy mansplaining men who’d get in the way of her target and then probably tell her that she was doing it all wrong, even as she executed them in a hail of bullets. And she’d probably be so busy executing the mansplainers, she’d run out of bullets for her proper target. Anyway, I thought it was ridiculous and I liked it.
kiwizoidberg – So much better than the first. Ludicrous fun, technically amazing in parts. It’s what Assassin’s Creed should have been. Robs heavily from Brotherhood, I think.
9 Manchester By the Sea
JohnCooperClarke – As fascinating to watch as it would be to see a great boxer get in the ring with a 900 lb gorilla. Lonergan takes on a completely intractable subject – immovable, life-destroying grief – and gives himself one test: is it possible to tell this story without falling prey to the dramatic lie of redemption? That the film is as watchable as it is, is a testament to some utterly superb writing and casting. But something tells me that a story centred on a protagonist as far gone from normal human interaction as Lee is here can never really become ‘entertainment’. Lonergan has really tried to split the atom here, and failed, I think, but it’s a heroic, deeply moving failure.
FilmFan – I’ve seen it twice now. It really stands up to a second viewing. Hit me much harder second time round and it hit me pretty damn hard the first-time round.
8 La La Land
Sloanepeterson – It’s stunningly beautiful and brilliant fun and the music is lovely. There is lots of music, but not very many songs, which is probably for the best because the leads, though brimming over with charm and charisma and gorgeousness, can only really sing a little bit. The former FUer I saw it with described it as “an Instagram musical” and that’s spot-on. It’s a little too concerned with being very tasteful and elegant and well-dressed, and that comes at the expense of anything that feels like genuine feeling. There’s one segment which goes full Baz Luhrmann, and I kind of wanted the whole thing to be like that. But it definitely made me happy! Everyone should see it.
veal – The people in cars looks like a cliché, is a cliché, and then when they start to sing they all have really soft voices. This is really irritating in a opening number, particularly *this* opening number, which is supposed to be joyful. But worse than that EVERYONE in the film keeps singing in this stupid low way, as if it ‘fixes’ the ‘problem’ of the cheesiness of bursting into song, but it doesn’t fix it, it’s just wrong. The song she does in her audition was good. Not amazing but it certainly passed and was believably emotional. Do you know why? Because she belted it out. Not like Liza Minnelli or Tiana in The Princess And The Frog, but compared to everyone else in this movie, like Ethel Merman.
opheliac – It’s not really a musical and I do think its fans are scrabbling around desperately in some pretty thin sauce to make the case that it is. It seemed to me more like an homage to the bonkers end of 50s filmmaking (of which some musicals are a part, I guess). Ray is obviously explicitly referenced, but also Sirk maybe, certainly some Hitchcock, especially Vertigo – all that green light and she has both Judy and Madeleine hair at different points. So I liked all the 50s pastiche and the reality v fantasy stuff. It would be nice if Chazelle could write a film with more than two characters in (even the most schematic Fred and Gingers have B plots).
7 Certain Women
MaxFischer – I am delighted that Certain Women, a full third of which is about a woman feeling obscurely guilty about buying some rocks, and just suppressing that guilt, is in the top 10. Kelly Reichardt doing a triptych of barely linked vignettes based on Maile Melloy short stories, reproducing the close attention to imagery and behaviour of the prose form that shades into poetry, work that’s meant to be contemplated and revisited. It’s very good, but you already know if you like Kelly Reichardt. Jared Harris, playing an emotionally broken Montana carpenter, does surprising best-ever work, although you have to echo everyone else’s praise of Lily Gladstone as a casual ranch hand with a crush on her adult ed teacher (K-Stew).
Clio – If I told you how much I identified with the Michelle Williams character in Certain Women, I don’t know if you’d believe me (and not because of some rocks).
6 Personal Shopper
Poacher – I keep thinking about Personal Shopper. Spoilers, sort of. I think the hairball is the awful title and how it forces a certain reading. Like, it’s a commentary on the affectlessness of capitalism, and how the Stewart character, despite her claims for being a medium, is actually unable to connect: the ghost, such as it is, is kind of forced into becoming a poltergeist (that which causes a disturbance) and Stewart has to leave the city – to the old house or, eventually abandon it all together, for Muscat, places arguably free of the trappings of late capitalism – to find a place pure enough to confront whatever it is she has to confront. I suppose one reason for the preponderance of modern ghost stories is that the ghost is a fertile metaphor for our current state of ghostliness within the system of late capitalism (or whatever comes next). We aren’t the undead any longer. We’re the dead dead, looking for a home.
jim5et – I absolutely loved it – partly because it feels like a William Gibson film circa Pattern Recognition.
5 Paddington 2
jim5et – Just lovely. Yes, Wes Anderson to the eyeballs but there are worse people to nick from. The most I’ve laughed in a cinema this year.
veal – It was a hit with my kids, so that’s good. I found it a tad repetitive round the middle but overall very pleasant. But I think, although the writers/creators have great taste and there’s a lot of talent behind the look of the film – the pop-up scene was really special – the steals from Wes Anderson are pretty not okay really. The first film had a warm Tenenbaumsy look that was more palette than total lift, although the intricacies of the set dressing got a bit cheekily that way. This? From the patisserie to the miniature becoming big to the grand vistas of interiors to the pink & stripes & prison breaks, that was more than cheeky, that was The Grand Budapest Hotel.
JohnCooperClarke – It beautifully re-captures the elements that made the first one so wonderful (there’s one specific call-back to the first film that’s perfectly judged & very silly), and made me quite sad, with its evocation of a sort of English tolerance & common-sense & belief in good manners & kindness, all of which seems out of place in 2017. Hugh Grant is perfectly cast & knocks it out of the park as a pretentious, awful thesp (I don’t know if many others could carry off the bit where he says “Thank Larry!” rather than “Thank God!”) but I particularly loved Brendan Gleeson, whose accent travels from Dublin to Brooklyn & makes various other unscheduled stops along the way, as a tough prison cook with a heart of gold.
4 The Florida Project
JohnCooperClarke – I liked it a lot. Seemingly inconsequential scenes gradually build & only reveal their significance later. One kid gets hold of a lighter, and this ends up collapsing the whole fragile edifice of another kid’s life. Dafoe is the big heart at the centre of it, seeing everything, intervening when he can, but finally powerless. A counterpart to American Honey, but a sadder film.
MaxFischer – Lovely stuff indeed. What I love about Sean Baker’s films is that he doesn’t idealise or explain his characters (which, to my mind, often amounts to explaining them away). There’s no rubber ducky, and not everything that goes wrong in the lives of the marginal people whose stories he tells is down to, like, the eeeeevil straight / official world. But he shows his people love, first by looking at them, and then by seeing them. Moonee’s face when her mother takes a picture of her in front of the burning house is one of my favourite moments of the year. As is Willem Dafoe shooing some cranes. The ending? I’ll allow it.
RonSwanson – I think everyone’s amazing in it, pretty much. I was bewitched by Andre Holland’s face in the final section that I almost didn’t quite get how good Trevante Rhodes was. The second viewing is a really fantastic experience.
BunnyLake – For me Rhodes did this amazing thing where you could think ‘ok I get it, he’s a totally different person that’s why they’ve cast him’ and then man that phone call scene happened and it was like I could SEE him carrying around those older, more vulnerable versions of himself. I can’t remember a film in aaaaaages where the tears shed felt so real and earned.
DasBoot – I guess Ali and Naomi Harris are getting the awards attention because they have single characters, whereas the other actors are all playing a third of a person. Still, I found that sense of the younger Chirons being visible through Trevante Rhodes in that final sequence astonishingly moving. I’ve seen it twice as well and I still find myself thinking about certain moments in it from time to time. It’s a beautiful piece of work.
2 Get Out
jim5et – This was bloody great. I think the last remotely scary film I saw in the cinema was Scream 3 so watching with a really packed audience added to the fun, but I thought it got everything right; I especially liked the way Posh Kenneth’s performance went from amusement to bemusement to terror to rage, though Bradley Whitford has never been better either.
BunnyLake – Betty Gabriel’s performance is amazing. Like I knew what she did with her eyes and face in the bedroom scene was amazing but later, once you get the explanation for it it’s even more of a wow. I also like how it seems like them being white liberals who voted Obama, or admire Chris’s work, is just a joke or satire, like it’s funnier if that’s what they think they are. And then the revelation of what’s going on means that makes a horrible sense.
phil149 – Meet the Racist Fockers.
1 The Handmaiden
jim5et – Absolutely fantastic, really funny, exciting and sweet, in the end. I have read the book but so long ago that I barely remember it. I did spend the first hour thinking “I don’t see the Male Gaze issue, you’re all over thinking…oh.” There was some amusing shifting in seats among the very small audience as the second act upped the ante.
MaxFischer – The Handmaiden is about as much fun as it’s possible to have at the pictures, and I say that as a long-time Park Chan-Wook sceptic. I’m fine with the porniness – it may not be fully integrated into the aesthetic argument, but that argument is so multipolar, feinting at the limits of and concordances among (deep breath) pornography, erotica, con-artistry, intimacy, betrayal, role-play, translation, cultural appropriation, drag, male control of women, adult control of children, LOVE etc etc, that I can’t see how it could ever have been. The final joke about the love bells is so sweet, tender, joyful and silly that I happily forgive the film its few flaws, including the mechanical one that films like this inevitably lose a bit of juice once they’ve stopped pulling reveals.
BunnyLake – The focus in the sex scene seemed to be on their joy and their bond, rather than hubba hubba for-the-boys nudity. Of course, two women are naked but the female body not being exclusively an object of male desire is kind of what the film is about. It was chosen as a film for GLITCH and that’s a festival that’s run by LGBT women.
KasperHauser – The audio description track is read by a woman with a posh English accent: Their legs remain open and bent to the knees as their groins smack together. Their dangling, long black hair shakes as their bodies rock orgasmically. They keep their hands together, as Hideko faces away and bounces her body off the bed, pushing harder and harder as Sook-hee pushes back intensely. Day. In the drawing room, Sook-hee sits writing in a notepad by the window… Given that the movie itself has scenes where a posh woman reads erotic literature to a group of pervy old men, I’m guessing that the producers knew that the audio description wasn’t just going to be appreciated by the visually impaired…
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