As the 2018 Oscar nominations are revealed, CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson gets in the movie mood with a look at what topped the charts for him in 2017
SEQUELS delivered (Blade Runner 2049, T2: Trainspotting), superhero films stepped up a gear (Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok), and cinematic masters continued doing what they do best (Dunkirk, Silence). The films on this list are, in this writer’s opinion, films that stood above the rest, films we are lucky to have, and films that will live long into the future in their own way. Do you agree, and what did you love in 2017?
10.) La La Land
For the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. As much about exposing yourself artistically as it is a love story between Mia (Emma Stone) and Seb (Ryan Gosling), La La Land is a technicolor ode to the spectacle of cinema. The songs are infectious, the on-screen palette is vibrant, and the city feels alive with people trying to make it. The film dreams as much as its stars (how can they afford rent in LA?), but balances it out with some bittersweet moments, straddling escapism with heartbreaking reality.
9.) Little Sister
Coming of age films are evermore welcome in a world where, increasingly, we never know when we have come of age. Little Sister acts like a sequel to so many of those other films, Addison Timlin’s Colleen returning home after having left to become a nun. Instead of following a character making the leap into adulthood, we see what happens to the rest of the family once someone has made that transition; when any change happens, something – someone – gets left behind. It’s not about putting the first foot out the door, it’s about surveying the life that kept happening once you left.
An acting masterclass by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, Maudie tells the tale of painter Maud Lewis and the life she led. Lewis is a misfit, and in Hawke’s Everett she finds another, abrasive misfit, acting as his housekeeper before striking up a relationship. She’s arthritic, doubted by her family, and yet eternally hopeful. Her paintings are bold and bright like her personality. It’s a quiet little film like the life she and her husband had, and it’s a story to get lost in.
The deserving and the revolutionary – eventual – best picture winner of 2017. It’s an intimate portrait of a young boy becoming a young man, and manages to capture all of the sociological factors that take innocence and turn it into experience. Barry Jenkins has a masterpiece on his hands so early in his career, touching on race, sexuality, masculinity, and class. It’s an empathetic story about and by people Hollywood typically shies away from, and in this increasingly aware world, Moonlight was one of the most important stories told last year.
Like scratching an itch. Justine is a virginal vegetarian and she’s off to university. After some intense initiations, she starts having cravings, the kind of which gives sins of the flesh a whole new meaning. Her sister is comparatively liberated, losing herself in disco lights and joining in with the fun, but she knows herself in a way Justine is only beginning to discover. Raw is visceral, primal, and heavy metal. It’s positively tasty.
Clara is a 60-something year old woman, and she’s the last person left in her apartment block. Property developers want to demolish it to further gentrification of the city, but they have no idea how steadfast the figure they’re up against is. Effectively a siege movie, Sônia Braga gives a year-best performance as a woman who has lived a life, can smell a rat, and will not bend over for anyone. Aquarius caused a stir in its native Brazil as its allegory was not lost on a country in the midst of political turmoil. Clara stares corruption in the eyes and doesn’t blink, and neither does Aquarius.
4.) Toni Erdmann
Germany isn’t a country known for its humour, so a three-hour German comedy is perhaps a tough sell. After the death of his dog, Winfried wants to reconnect with his daughter Ines. She’s constantly busy, stressed, and has no time for him, but he knows she’s still her father’s daughter and wants more time with her as he contemplates aging. It doesn’t work, until he creates the fictional Toni Erdmann and inserts himself into her conversations with colleagues and connections, and she finds herself playing along. It’s a celebration – albeit a bizarre one – of familial ties, of their importance, and of not letting things get in the way.
3.) A Ghost Story
A married couple argue over moving home, but before it’s truly resolved, the husband dies. Covered by a white sheet at the hospital, he sits upright, and returns home to watch over his grieving wife and wander the halls of the place they lived in together. At once intimate and universal, it stretches from a family bereavement to a philosophical and existential questioning of our place in space and time. Things move on – relationships end, houses crumble, we die – but existence can’t be undone. A Ghost Story is about all of it.
2.) The Florida Project
Just outside the parameters of Disney World, motels house transient people from the underclass. Single mothers with their kids hope day to day to still have a roof over their heads that night. The kids treat the motel like a playground, unbound by their situation, getting in nooks and crannies to the chagrin of Willem Dafoe’s Bobby, the motel manager. Shot from a low angle, like through the eyes of a child, The Florida Project has its eyes locked on the stars as youth makes the most of terrible situations. Our worlds are personal, and life at the motel is as vibrant, diverse, and important for those forgotten by the world as it is for everyone else.
1.) 20th Century Women
It’s 1970s California, and Jamie is 15. He has a crush on the girl next door, his mum doesn’t know how to talk to him, and tenant Abbie is going to introduce him to punk. It’s a momentary peek into a dynamic that began before the film and will continue after it ends. The brilliance of a family comes with it the horrible knowledge that it will grow. A mother and son dynamic is too strong for the mother to ever see her son how his friends do. Parents don’t get the music their kids are into. Boys don’t get why the girls they hang out with don’t want to sleep with them. The plans you have for life don’t always go how you hope. 20th Century Women is cyclical and timeless, packed full of intimate relationships dealing with what people have always dealt with. It is the best film of 2017.
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