Artwork by Chloe Leeson
10. Logan (dir. James Mangold)
When originally making this list, I didn’t really expect to include two ‘superhero’ films. ‘Logan’, however, transcends the traditional formula for superhero movies and feels more like a sombre look at the final days of a broken man than a tale of a superpowered human. Actually, if it weren’t for the fact that Logan Howlett is the name of a man better known as The Wolverine, then I doubt it would be considered a ‘superhero’ film at all. ‘Logan’ is a haunting, and at times downright depressing, character study of a man so weathered down by the world around him, and of life as a mutant, that he is detached from almost everything. Where many comic-book adaptations often feel far-fetched, where they feel like a bit of escapist fun, ‘Logan’ feels raw. ‘Logan’ feels real. It is a fitting ending for a character that was forced into the life that he didn’t necessarily want and a well-deserved final release for a hero that suffered immensely in his time on earth. Violent, visceral, and coarse, ‘Logan’ is far from your average superhero yarn and should be treated as the stunning exploration of a lonely that it is.
9. The Death of Stalin (dir. Armando Iannucci)
Who knew a black comedy charting the events following the death of a Russian dictator could be so entertaining? Set immediately after the titular despot’s demise, ‘The Death of Stalin’ is a hilarious, though often more than a little disturbing, journey through the political chaos that engulfed the Soviet Union once their leader was gone. When in the hands of Armando Iannucci, the man that created instant satirical classics such as ‘Veep’ and ‘The Thick of It’, you know you’re in for an enjoyable ride. Even in the least comedic of settings, Iannucci manages to evoke real belly laughs as he has a bunch of self-serving, narcissistic politicians scramble over one another in order to gain power in a frenzied environment. ‘The Death of Stalin’ boasts a fantastic cast, from Steve Buscemi as an increasingly manipulative Nikita Khrushchev and Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria: head of Stalin’s secret police and a ruthless political figure. Filmed in a similar style to ‘The Thick of It’, somewhat like a mockumentary, ‘The Death of Stalin’ is a rather accurate depiction of the eternal struggle for power within politics. As we watch British politicians stumble over themselves in order to secure their positions in a period of uncertainty following both Brexit and an unexpected snap election, ‘The Death of Stalin’ feels oddly relevant. Hilarious and occasionally unsettling, it is definitely this year’s darkest, and best, comedy.
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson)
Would I really be me if I didn’t include a ‘Star Wars’ film in my yearly round-up? Bias aside, ‘The Last Jedi’ is one of the best of the year in terms of blockbusters and has entered itself into the top half of my ultimate ‘Star Wars’ ranking. It did what few ‘Star Wars’ fans expected: it took risks. It decided to take everything we thought we knew about ‘Star Wars’ and subvert our ideas entirely; a move loved by some and despised by others. If something stays the same for too long, it can become stale, it can become wrapped up in tradition and fail to offer anything new. With ‘The Last Jedi’, Rian Johnson has made sure that ‘Star Wars’ can continue to feel the way it first did in the seventies and eighties: fresh, unpredictable, and exciting. As torches are passed on from one generation to another, ‘The Last Jedi’ does a fantastic job of developing its established characters and setting the stage for the final performance in Episode IX, in which our new heroes must face both themselves and the expectations of a galaxy. An intriguing and thrilling new instalment in the ever-expanding ‘Star Wars’ universe, ‘The Last Jedi’ is certainly deserving of a spot in my top ten.
7. Okja (dir. Bong Joon Ho)
This produced by Netflix wonder courted controversy earlier in the year when it showed at Cannes. It was met with boos following the reveal of the Netflix logo and some leaped to judge it based on this fact alone. Its initial reception stirred up a debate on the subject of Netflix’s place in the film industry, with some suggesting that it lowers the artistry of cinema while others argued that it provides a useful platform for filmmakers and can bring films to a wide range of audiences. Regardless of your stance on the matter, ‘Okja’ should be recognised for what it is; a thoughtful piece on our treatment of animals and the obsession of big businesses with exploitation for financial gain. Powered by the talents of Tilda Swinton, arguably one of the greatest living actresses we have, and a young Ahn Seo-hyun as a tiny, hopeful hero, ‘Okja’ is a deeply affecting, intelligent criticism of capitalist cruelty and human arrogance. I watched it alone one Saturday night and found myself wracked with sobs, devastated by humanity’s capacity for malice when an opportunity for wealth presents itself. Moving, funny and featuring a divisive performance by a flamboyant Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Okja’ is a gem of a Netflix original and can stand shoulder to shoulder with any other film featured at a prestigious festival.
6. Battle of The Sexes (dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)
Another criminally underrated feature, much like ‘Ingrid Goes West’, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s ‘Battle of The Sexes’ is one of the finest pieces of the year, but has not received the same kind of praise that others have. It consists of a fantastic performance by Emma Stone as former tennis champion and women’s rights advocate Billie Jean King, which I personally believe is far better than her Oscar-winning turn in ‘La La Land’, a tenderly crafted and beautifully made lesbian love story and a story of heroism in the face of misogyny. It is a charming film, made lovable by the performances from the glorious Sarah Silverman, a magnetic Andrea Riseborough as Billie Jean’s lover (I couldn’t resist the pun), and the eternally wonderful Alan Cummings as a stylist to the stars of tennis. ‘Battle of The Sexes’ is filled with heart, with hope and with perseverance. It shows us that we can win a fight, with enough belief, but reminds us, on a somewhat melancholy note, that the next battle is never too far away. Lovingly directed and acted with total honesty, ‘Battle of The Sexes’ is a timely stand against what should now be ancient sexist ideals, but unfortunately still echo throughout the world today, and a thoroughly enjoyable film that truly deserves to be seen.
5. Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)
Arguably one of the biggest film events of the year, DC’s long awaited ‘Wonder Woman’ did not disappoint when it arrived amidst a string of box-office failures this summer. From Patty Jenkins’ brilliant direction came a hero to rescue both DC’s reputation and an underwhelming season for blockbusters, and what a splash it made in the process. ‘Wonder Woman’ features not only one of the world’s most iconic superheroes proving that she is more than capable of besting the mediocre men around her but also one of my favourite cinematic scenes of the year. Faced with the bleak reality of war, many of Diana Prince’s allies have given up and resigned themselves to defeat. In one of 2017’s most triumphant moments, Diana decides that surrender is simply not an option and marches across the aptly named ‘No Man’s Land’, unbothered by the fact that her battle is a solitary one. Her courage, however, soon inspires others to join her in her resistance and the scene ends as an incredibly powerful one, as it echoes the need for rebellion in an era of fear and oppression. ‘Wonder Woman’ is the best film to have emerged from DC’s cinematic universe and surely represents a turning point in the portrayal of female superheroes in years to come; it is well worth the watch.
4. Ingrid Goes West (dir. Matt Spicer)
Undoubtedly one of the year’s hidden gems, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a convincing cautionary tale of the dangers that social media can pose. Centred around the grip of Instagram and the ‘perfect’ lives it would have us believe that people lead, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ is led by Aubrey Plaza in a stellar performance as an increasingly unhinged young woman, trying desperately to become anyone but herself in a world of impossibly ‘cool’ vloggers. Behind a façade of aesthetically pleasing images of food, the film reminds us, is a loneliness that threatens to consume us if we do not surround ourselves with validation from strangers and false friendships. Darkly humorous and unflinchingly brutal at times, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a powerful piece that strives to warn us of our reliance on finding happiness in social media and shows just how inauthentic our world of filters and acai bowls really is.
3. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele’s social commentary on the relevance of racism in a modern United States was, without a doubt, the breakout of the year. Low-budget, made in the vein of a horror B-movie by a man best known for making comedy, surely no one could have anticipated the runaway success that ‘Get Out’ has proven to be. Already, Peele’s genius satire has embedded itself into popular culture, as the ‘sunken place’ has become a regular part of our vocabulary and a great many conversations surrounding the attitudes of white liberals often reference the supposed ‘progressive’ family at the centre of the film. The praise it has garnered is well deserved; this is a timely film that exposes the harmful nature of arrogant liberalism and serves up some of the most unsettling moments in recent cinema history. It is a scathing critique of the kind of white progressives that claim they would have ‘voted Obama for a third term’ and a deeply disturbing horror movie; a vital watch in the age of Trump.
2. The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker)
Having already showcased a knack for bringing to life the stories of some of the most marginalised members of society with ‘Tangerine’, Sean Baker once again conveys an ability to bring warmth and humanity to the direst of situations. With ‘The Florida Project’, Baker expertly shows us the stark contrast between life on either side of Disneyworld’s fences. By plunging us into the world of six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mischievous pals in a rundown motel on the fringes of the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’, Baker paints a painfully unsettling picture of a life in poverty, yet expertly manages to capture the joys of childhood, even in the bleakest of surroundings. Beautifully shot and bursting to the brim with sublime performances from a cast of mostly unknown actors, bar Willem Dafoe as a kind-hearted motel manager, ‘The Florida Project’ is a striking piece of social realism that takes aim at the falsity of the American dream and the cruelty of a society that allows its people to suffer while it refuses to share its wealth.
1. Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
Anyone that knows me knows how I feel about ‘Call Me By Your Name’. Ever since I watched it in October, not a day has gone by where I haven’t listened to Sufjan Stevens’ ethereal soundtrack or where I haven’t thought about the film in some capacity. Sumptuous, sensual, and unimaginably heart-wrenching, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is an essential coming-of-age tale that depicts youthful desire in both beautiful and gut-wrenching ways. It is a film filled with love, be it romantic, familial, or platonic, and is totally unapologetic in its commitment to conveying affection at almost every moment. It is a stunning contemplation on the impact of a young man’s taste of first love and one of the finest portrayals of discovery and yearning that I have ever seen onscreen; a must-see if ever there was one.
by Hannah Ryan
Hannah is 19, lives in Cardiff and is into female protagonists, visually pleasing movies and Star Wars. Her favourite films include Pan’s Labyrinth, Casino Royale and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. She generally prefers dogs to people and you can find her talking endlessly about films at @_hannahryan on Twitter.
Categories: Anything and Everything