by / December 22nd, 2017 /

Lists: State’s Films of 2017

10. Spider-Man Homecoming

From its tongue-in-cheek title, partly denoting the full-time return of Spider-Man to the MCU, to its metatextual denouement in which Peter asserts his independent identity, this was better than it had any right to be. Two poignant, well-realised human narratives are delightfully accented by superpowers and twist together toward chaos, resulting in a truly compelling story and two fine performances from leads Tom Holland and Michael Keaton. Vulture is one of the most engaging supervillains in years, due in no small part to a crowd-pleasing second-act twist. Meanwhile Holland’s delightful Spidey is firmly, embarrassingly and relatably teenage, getting bummed out by the downsides and limits to his ability at least as often as he gets endearingly enthusiastic about his full potential. It feels fresh, and yet eternal – no mean feat fifteen years and three reboots into the big-screen history of this character. (Stacy Grouden)

9. Handsome Devil

Director John Butler follows his debut feature film The Stag with a funny, heart-warming tale of friendship and identity in Handsome Devil. Set in a rugby-obsessed all-boys’ boarding school, it explores the at first unlikely friendship between bullied misfit Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and new rugby star roommate Conor (Nicholas Galitzine).  O’Shea puts in a powerful performance that instantly marks him as one to watch, while Andrew Scott plays Dan, their English teacher, in a typically charismatic and engaging performance. Galitzine is similarly impressive as Conor (with a faultless Irish accent from the native Englishman). Handsome Devil tackles issues such as homophobia, sexuality and friendship in a sensitive, poignant way. It is a film that deserves to be shouted about, both for the excellent script and the young actors it showcases. It is an enjoyable, moving, feel-good film and a deserving member of our top 20. (Amy Clarkin)

8. Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s fierce and fearless ​Elle feels deeply vital in 2017, a year which saw sexual assault and abuse dominate the international media, along with attempts to police and control how we responded to that. Isabelle Huppert is singularly extraordinary as Michéle, a successful businesswoman with a dark past who is viciously raped in her own home as the movie begins. Provocatively banal and even darkly comic, Elle lingers in the aftermath of this attack between unexpected bursts of melodrama and violence in a refreshing and tonally bonkers character portrait. Subverting all expectations of such a narrative, Elle leaves ideas about victimhood, survival and femininity burning in a trashcan fire, unblinkingly holding your gaze as you attempt to look through it. (Stacy Grouden)

7. Call Me By Your Name

Bathing in Call Me By Your Name’s tale of a lost summer and first love in the northern Italian countryside was a lush sensory experience. Timothée Chalamet is outstanding as Elio, a multilingual piano savant falling under the seductive charm of one of his father’s students. Bold casting choices see Armie Hammer show a before unseen tender side that compliment his matinee idol good looks. The pair are entrancing together as bundles of nervous energy that develop into exciting passion. Luca Guadagnino’s loving direction is a masterclass in understatement that allow itself one flourish, a closing speech from Elio’s father that veers close to nailing its manifesto to the church door, yet with careful framing and the pure decency that emanates from Michael Stuhlbarg it’s an illuminating and well-earned moment. An achingly beautiful heartbreaker of a movie.
(Dave Higgins)

6. Jackie

‘Back and to the left…’ To date the Kennedy assassination and its cultural spectre, which hangs over the modern American psyche, have been dominated by one film, Oliver Stone’s JFK. That film bought into and propagated the conspiracy theories that have eclipsed (for now anyway) any true assessment of the Kennedy Presidency. Enter stage left then, this gem from Chilean film director Pablo Larráin. His film focuses, as the title suggests, on Mrs. Kennedy herself in the days between the shooting and the President’s funeral. The power of Larráin’s film lies in the sea of juxtapositions that weave through the film. Once seen, one will never forget the long tracking shots of Jackie (ably played by Natalie Portman) as she wonders half-dazed and near-helpless through the long corridors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, her dress still stained with the blood of her husband. This is true tragedy, true loss and yet we cannot escape the fact that she has been left to mourn alone, for her house is not a home, it’s a monument, a tourist attraction. Similarly, we see her side-lined and sojourned into the stereotypically female role of homemaker and trophy wife, whilst having to find the strength to manage her family and stare down forceful opposition as she attempts to cement JFK’s legacy. The whole affair is topped off with a fantastic score from Mica Levi, who is fast becoming a superstar composer, one whose name on the credits should be enough to get your bum in the seat. (David Cadwallader)

5. John Wick 2

If it ain’t broke, do more of it. That’s the attitude that ensures John Wick: Chapter 2 works as both crowd-pleasing popcorn sequel and successful universe expansion ala The Raid 2. A film that celebrates casual murder really shouldn’t be among the feelgood hits of the summer, and yet Keanu Reeves’ unlikely career resurgence project is glorious, knowing high-concept trash. As with the increasingly ludicrous – and lucrative – Fast and the Furious series, John Wick knows exactly what it is and thus leans into it with all the ferocity and fearlessness of an especially flamboyant professional wrestler. Throw in wildly inventive set pieces, nods to old school paranoia thillers and cameos from Keanu’s famous mates and it’s pretty hard not to beg for a concluding third chapter. (Dave Hanratty)

4. Dunkirk

As soldiers walk through a deserted French town, flyers fall from the sky. Taking one in his hand, a soldier observes it just long enough for us to get the picture. They are fighting in the Battle of Dunkirk, they have retreated and are now flanked on all sides by Nazi forces. Just as we have time to process their predicament, some shots are fired and like the soldiers, we are off and running, into an unrelenting narrative sprint that won’t relent for the guts of two hours. The film follows three separate stories; one from the land, one from sea and one from the air, each of which takes place over a separate timeline. As our stories progress and events begin to coalesce, the tension ratchets up and yet (crucially) events remain clear. The sound design is staggering, sending chills down your spine every time Hans Zimmer’s score threatens to dilute into the threatening drone of Stuka Dive Bombers, or the creaking of steel from ships as they sink or burn as troops try helplessly to evacuate. This assault on the senses only serves to reinforce those moments when the film is at its most quiet and most poignant. As tracking shots across the beach show thousands of men with nowhere to go, thousands of men whose only defence from aerial bombardment was to cover their head and pray. Strangely, I was reminded of Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, a reminder that despite the seeming futility of it all, life always manages to survive. (David Cadwallader)

3. Moonlight

After the farce that was the announcement of the winner of the Best Picture at this years Academy Awards, one concern that I had was that the eventual winner, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, would be relegated to a pub quiz answer in years to come. This would be a great disservice. Not only was Moonlight a much more worthy winner than La La Land, but it was also one of the most rarest of things; the Oscars actually getting it right. Jenkins’ film, a coming of age story set during three moments in the young life of Chiron, depicts black masculinity, sexuality, and identity in a manner that breaks down stereotypes in a manner that feels experimental while remaining accessible, no mean feat for a film that proudly wears its arthouse roots. Jenkins’ kaleidoscopic imagery is a wonder to behold, underlining the influence of works of Claire Denis and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Yet the film’s true power is Jenkins, and his young actors bring this portrayal of self-discovery and sexual awakening to life in a vivid and emotional manner. (Patrick Townsend)

2. The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook decorates an ornate masterpiece of mystery with the all-too-human plight of desperate people who just want to be loved. The Handmaiden is a game of deadly deception, with real heart at the centre of everything, even in the face of darkness and depravity. The director cares deeply for his characters, delving into their various levels of complexity and utilising tiny details as flourishes in an elegantly intertwined script. A shift in power dynamics between men and women tells its own welcome story in 2017, lending extra weight to a wickedly clever and compassionate undertaking. (Dave Hanratty)

1. Get Out 

As its well-earned awards season push continues, Jordan Peele’s ability to skirt effortlessly between genres, sometimes within the confines of one scene, has pushed the discourse about his fine debut into whether it is or isn’t a comedy, when it should really be heralded for what it is, that rare amalgam of critical darling and box office juggernaut. Get Out is too funny to be a horror, too terrifying to be a comedy and far too nuanced to be tagged as just a genre pic. Anchored by a breakout performance from Daniel Kaluuya and a weaponised supporting cast of woke liberal TV staples, Peele’s masterful handling of prescient issues about race while still crafting a wildly entertaining movie make him an important voice to follow in film’s future. (Dave Higgins)

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