“What year is this?” – It’s 2017, and sorry David, Twin Peaks: The Return didn’t make my Top 10 Movies of the year

The big question that had to be discussed before I decided on my Top 10 films of 2016 was “what is the difference between a film and a movie?” Was there a distinction between the two? Does an art house film hold more weight than a popcorn flick? What if you enjoyed watching Captain America throw his shield more than you did watching Casey Affleck mope around for 2 hours in Manchester by the Sea? Is the latter instantly the better film because it won several awards? I don’t believe it is. It all comes down to personal choice and perspective. Viewers shouldn’t be chastised if they enjoy popcorn movies more than they do serious films, which led to the (some might say controversial) decision to declare I, Daniel Blake and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as my top 2 films of 2016.

 

This year, the big question I had to ponder before I could make my final decision was “what makes a film a film?” A pretty straightforward question, you would think. But it has become slightly more complicated after well respected French film magazine Cahier Du Cinema declared TV series Twin Peaks: The Return as their number 1 film of 2017. Even Sight and Sound magazine placed it in second. David Lynch described The Return as an 18-hour movie, which, could be one way of looking at it – if it was shown on Netflix. But alas, it was broadcast on Showtime over a period of 16 weeks.

 

Some people cited O.J.: Made in America, which was first broadcast on ESPN but won best documentary at the Oscars, as an example of the blurred lines between the small and big screen. But unlike Twin Peaks, it had a limited theatrical run which allowed it to be considered for the Oscars. ‘The Return’ is being shown at the Museum of Modern Art as they believe Twin Peaks is “simply unclassifiable; something totally and spectacularly unique.” Robert Horton of Heraldnet.com argues, “I say a screen is a screen, and I didn’t see anything else this year that matched Lynch’s wild experimental saga.” I agree with them both to some extents; Twin Peak: The Return was without a doubt my visual highlight of the year. It was simply stunning and episode 8 was one of the best hours of any film or TV show I have ever seen. But the fact is TV shows and movies are digested in different ways. Experiencing Twin Peaks over 16 weeks as opposed to 18 hours is a very different experience indeed. And MOMA is showing the series over a period of three days, thus negating most of their arguments. If this enables The Return to be eligible for the Oscars, I won’t be upset.

 

But as much as I would love to argue that Twin Peaks is long form filmmaking at it’s finest, it’s not, and I can’t put it in my top 10 of 2017. So that leaves my final line-up looking like this:

 

10Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri / Get Out

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It’s ironic that I think Three Billboards is Martin McDonagh’s third best film behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, but that doesn’t change the fact that the script is fantastic and Frances McDormand gives her best performance since Fargo. McDonagh presents us with stylised world that is filled with rich, full, stubborn characters who are all complex and relatable. It’s violent, funny and morally ambiguous.

 

The reason for the joint Number 10 spot, is because Get Out was not originally on my list. But considering how it made the top 10 of almost every major publication and is being discussed as a potential Best Picture nominee, which is no easy feat for a horror movie, I decided to revisit the film. On repeat viewing, there’s no denying that along with Three Billboards, it’s one of the best scripts of the year and is even better on second viewing. So for that reason alone, it had to be included in my top 10.

I have no doubt that if Get Out was released 12 months earlier the discourse around the film would be quite different and wouldn’t include quite as many superlatives. But because the timing and the perfect storm that is Trump’s America, it has transcended entertainment to become even more than social commentary. Without that timing, the film doesn’t have as much of an impact, but does that really change the quality of the film? I’ll leave that discussion for another day. But for now, Get Out deserves it’s place in the top 10.

 

9. Logan

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I’m a big fan of Hugh Jackman, but i’ve not been a fan of the Wolverine solo films. I wasn’t expecting much from his final outing as the character, but this was a beautiful yet touching end to the Wolverine saga. The film was violent, funny, action packed and had a very good story – everything Wolverine fans had been hoping for. Excellent supporting turns from Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen helped make this the superhero highlight of the year.

 

8. IT

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The phenomenon of 2017, IT earned all the money to become the biggest Horror film of all time and it was easy to see why. IT is one of King’s best known works and Tim Curry’s Pennywise the clown was the highlight in what was a pretty average made for TV movie. The timing of the remake was key, as it rode the wave of the 80s nostalgia that is currently dominating pop culture. But unlike Stranger Things, IT never relied on nostalgia to engage it’s viewer. It’s not an exercise in working out how many movies from your childhood the film references, it’s scary, funny and you believe in every one of the Loser’s Club. It’s a very good film in it’s own right and I enjoyed it immensely.

 

7. The Disaster Artist 

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I wasn’t expecting much from The Disaster Artist, but it’s excellent. Funny, poignant, and surprisingly inspirational. James Franco plays Tommy Wiseu, and the biggest compliment I can give his performance was that unlike many of his other films, after 30 minutes I forgot I was watching James Franco and only saw Wiseu. The Room is so bad it has to be seen to be believed, but the making of the movie on display here is just as crazy and needs to be seen to be believed.

 

6. Wind River

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Whether this film didn’t gain much Oscar momentum due to the Harvey Weinstein saga is up for debate. But what isn’t up for debate is that Tyler Sheridan’s sophomore effort is an excellent film with a great script. The latter shouldn’t come as much of a surprise seeing as Sheridan also wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario. The film has great performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen who play a wildlife officer on an American Indian Reservation and the naive FBI agent who has to investigate the rape and murder of one of it’s members. Slow burning, intense, and at times brutal, Wind River was probably my biggest surprise of the year.

 

5. Lady BirdScreen Shot 2018-01-02 at 20.50.10.png

A coming of age film about a confused teenager is nothing new. But the strong performances from every one of the cast members and the way the film was handled by Greta Gerwig made Lady Bird one of the best films of the year. The film has the distinction of being the best reviewed film of all time by Rotten Tomatoes, which has to do with the fact that I believe it’s hard to dislike the film in any way. The film is heartfelt, but at the same time incredibly funny that most people will be able to relate to. Simply put, it’s a very, very good film.

 

4. The Florida Project

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Sean Baker showed with his directorial debut, Tangerine, that he is able to portray characters that are often ignored by the middle classes with a degree of understanding and humility. And he does so again with the fabulous The Florida Project. The film follows Moonee, played by the amazing first timer Brooklynn Prince, and her friends who live at the Magic Castle motel a stones throw from Disney World. What’s beautiful about the film, is the way it’s told through the eyes of the Moonee who doesn’t necessarily realise the situation she is in. Which is to say, she doesn’t know she is poor or think it’s strange when men come and go from her room at all hours of the night. Think of a British kitchen sink drama but with clear blue skies. The film has a somewhat of a divisive ending, but I loved it. Sean Baker is definitely one to watch.

 

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deerthe-killing-of-a-sacred-deer-1200x520.jpg

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has an uncanny knack of making you feel extremely uncomfortably one second then laugh uncontrollably the next.  Dogtooth and The Lobster all blur that line between comedy and horror, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer is no different. Other members of the audience laughed uncontrollably during the first 30 minutes of the film as we meet Colin Farrell’s cardiovascular surgeon interacting with Barry Keoghan’s eerie Martin. But unlike Lanthimos’ other films, including Alpeis, I was transfixed and felt extremely uncomfortable. Their relationship unfolds throughout the film but it’s pretty much impossible to describe exactly what happens. But that is besides the point, as it was the most creepy and unsettling film I’ve seen all year. And the most confusing. It’s not Lantimos’ best film, that is Dogtooth, but even his weakest film is still good enough to be classed as one of the best of 2017 which says a lot about it’s talented director.

 

=1. A Ghost Story

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To say that this film is about a ghost and his journey into the afterlife is much to simple. A Ghost Story is an existential journey through time, but at it’s core it’s about love, loss and our ability to deal with grief whether we are alive or dead. Seeing Casey Affleck walk around draped in a white sheet had the potential to come across as comical. But with some in camera trickery and a gorgeous soundtrack, A Ghost Story is a hauntingly sad yet beautiful film about grief and along with mother!, a movie film that stayed with me for weeks.

 

=1. mother!Mother-Movie-Trailer-2017-Jennifer-Lawrence-2.jpg

As William F. O’Brien said, “it’s better to try and fail than fail to try.” The official Cinema Score of a big fat ‘F’ would suggest that Darren Aronofsky failed, but I disagree. If a film doesn’t want to entertain me, I want it to challenge me. mother! was violent, it was challenging and it was confusing. I feel it’s low Cinema Score was down to the audience being uncomfortable as well as it’s misleading trailer. But I was engrossed and allowed myself to being taken along for the crazy ride. My wife and I were talking about mother! for days, and unfortunately the air of mystery was somewhat lost when Aronofsky spelt out every beat of the film in subsequent interviews, but that still didn’t take away from the fact it what was my favourite cinema experience of 2017. 

 

 

What about the films that were close but didn’t quite make my top 10? The biggest shock was Blade Runner 2046. I wanted to love it. I even saw it a second time to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time around. But no. There’s no doubting that the film looked absolutely beautiful – in places – but much like the replicants themselves, the film just didn’t have a soul. There’s only so far you can go with fantastic effects and impressive visuals. I loved the start. I loved the end, especially when those first few notes of Batty’s theme started playing, but the middle was far too bloated and should have been at least 30 minutes shorter. Dunkirk was another film where I seemed to be one of the few contrarians. It was a well constructed film and displays Christopher Nolan at the height of his filmmaking powers. But it never stood a chance of making my top 10.

 

A few films that did come close were Good Time, the Safdie brother’s crime heist starring Robert Patterson that plays out like a criminal version of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. Taika Waititi’s humour was stamped all over Thor: Ragnarok, but the film was still far too generic in it’s beats to really break out of the mould as one of the best Superhero films of all time.

 

2017 was a fairly impressive year for the horror genre, with Happy Death Day being possibly my favourite of the year, closely followed by  Lovecraftian throwback The Void. Both excellent instalments in the horror genre. However, Raw and Thelma were two well received horror movies that I was very much looking forward to, but I just didn’t buy into Raw and while at times visually impressive, Thelma had a lot of unfulfilled potential.

 

My biggest disappointment of the year, not including Blade Runner 2049, is without a doubt Justice League. What a monstrosity of a movie. Unlike most of the world, I was a huge fan of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and was incredibly excited to see how the Zack Snyder would end his trilogy. But family tragedies, bad reviews, a change of director and Henry Cavill’s top lip meant that Justice League was one of the most bland superhero films in recent years.

 

In my opinion, the most misunderstood film of the year? King Arthur. If anyone can keep a straight face and say King Arthur was the worst film of the year, even after seeing Fifty Shades Darker, I’d be very surprised. It wasn’t the greatest movie, but I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s version of Lock Stock meeting the knights of the round table.

 

My biggest surprise of the year? Only the Brave.

 

And finally, the films i’m most excited about in 2018?

 

5. A Quiet Place – It’s got one of the best trailers i’ve seen in ages that proves more is less and seems to be a genuinely creepy film.

 

4. Ready Player One – Which is surprising, seeing as i’m not the biggest Steven Spielberg fan, but I was huge fan of the book and am excited to see how it translates to the big screen.

 

3. (Insert Superhero movie title here) – Nothing is really standing out to me in 2018. Despite the amount of superheroes, I’m not sure Avengers: Infinity War will be able to live up to the hype, and i’m sure that while Black Panther will be impressive in parts, the fact that it has to set up Infinity War means it can’t really branch out and be it’s own thing. Aquaman could be great, but who knows what’s going on over at DC. Deadpool 2 has a lot to live up to and while I’m excited for Venom, the fact that it hasn’t finished filming yet it’s due out this year worries me a little. And who knows what to expect from the two new X-Men films New Mutants and Dark Phoenix. I’m going to see them all, so what does it really matter?

 

2. Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson. That’s all I need to know.

 

1. Annihilation – Alex Garland seriously impressed with his feature debut Ex Machina and announced himself as a serious talent in the sci-fi genre. I have purposely stayed away from most of the details of his follow up, but I know i’ll be there opening night.

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2 Comments on ““What year is this?” – It’s 2017, and sorry David, Twin Peaks: The Return didn’t make my Top 10 Movies of the year”

  1. January 4, 2018 at 2:25 am #

    Nice to see someone else liked mother! and was disappointed with Blade Runner 2049. I really wanted to enjoy it but was so bored in the middle. I’m definitely keen to watch Killing of a Secret Deer and I can’t wait for Ready Player One!

    • January 5, 2018 at 12:25 am #

      I’m glad there’s a few of us! It’s hard to have a discussion about Blade Runner’s flaws as it’s held in such high regard, but I totally agree with you. The middle was should have had A LOT taking out.

      If you liked any other of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films, you’ll definitely like Sacred Deer. And I hope Ready Player One is everything I hope it’s going to be!

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