My top 10 (…12) of 2017

As it’s New Year and everyone is all about making the resolutions I figured I should set myself a few realistic ones for 2018. First of all I really need to work harder at this blog, I really love writing about films and talking about films, I’m always that person at events that seems to somehow turn the conversation on to “what did you think of Star Wars?” so I really should embrace my blog more. Not to mention I use it to get press passes and then fail to actually publish any of the stuff I write about the events. So that ends NOW. I am going to set myself the challenge of at least 2 posts a month, talking about either films I see in the cinema, film events I attend or just old favourites I watch at home. Please bare in mind, Santa did very well this year by bringing me the new blu-ray box sets of the MCU phases 1 and 2. So there will be a lot of Marvel heavy content in the posts.
My other resolutions (besides attempting to get a tattoo) are going to be to find a job I love and stick at it, find a new house and most of all GRADUATE! I am so close to the end of 5 years of film studies (with a lengthy gap after the first two) that I cannot wait to say goodbye to education and get on with working on a proper career.

So, the finish of 2017 on my blog I am going to do a brief breakdown of my top 10 films of the year, now this is likely to either change or be extended when I look back over my film journal. But this is just a spontaneous blog post as my parents are having a New Years Eve party that I’ve managed to escape by saying I have “uni work” to do….

So my top 5 films of the first half of the year (Jan 1st – June 2nd) year:

1 – La La Land – It doesn’t feel possible that La La Land was released this year, it feels like a lifetime ago. How could I possible have a post about the best films of 2017 without a mention to this film. Musicals are a huge part of my life so for a film like this to be brought to the big screen and get the recognition is deserved meant that the world still has time for musicals. I don’t necessarily agree with everyone that says its as good as the musicals of the golden age, but it sure is a modern homage to them. It’s a shame it didn’t win the Oscar, I don’t know if it deserved to win it but I definitely would have given it to La La Land over Moonlight.

2 – Manchester by the Sea – Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore Casey Affleck and this is not the only film starring him that is going to make it on to my top 10 (see “second half of the year”). I have a real issue with connection to my emotions, not just when watching films but also in every day life, I have a slight reputation of being the girl that can’t cry. There is one scene in Manchester by the Sea where Lee Chandler has to deal with the realisation of a heartbreaking situation whilst taking full responsibility for it and Afflecks performance is utterly compelling. He made me feel like I’ve never felt before whilst watching a film – a well deserved Oscar. Kenny Lonergans script and directing effort is both beautiful and effortless. If I could have chosen the winner for best film at this years Academy Awards it would have been this film. I just love it.

 

3 – Hidden Figures – Another worthy Oscar contender, it’s unsuprising that my top 5 films of the first half of the year consist mostly of Oscar nominees because the competition was unbelievably strong. A shout out aswell to Haksaw Ridge which so nearly made the cut, another stunning film.
Hidden Figures for me was everything I wanted to see from an Oscar nominated film, it has an exciting story which centres around some incredible characters and touches on some very important topics. It carries the entire film with controversial issues without making it heavy-going and depressing to watch. It’s an uplifting possitive effort to educate people about real events that took place. The leading performances from Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae are a match made in heaven – three performances that deserve to be celebrated.

4  – Logan – I wasn’t going to compile this list without at least one Marvel film featured and this year it just had to be Logan. I firmly believe Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance and finally the super-hero genre would get the recognition it deserves. Jackman had to say goodbye to his beloved Logan/Wolverine in this epic finale to his 9 film run within the X-Men series. Although being a part of that huge franchise Logan really does stand on it’s own two feet as a powerful film with its brilliant story line and powerhouse performances. A long with its amazing lead performances from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, the supporting cast also deserve some praise; Stephen Merchant, an unlikely choice for a superhero film, was absolutely fantastic and Dafne Keens debut was perfect as the role of Laura, Logans unknown daughter. A fantastic cast overall.
I was also lucky enough to see it as Logan Noir – an entire black and white edit of the film at the famous Prince Charles Cinema in London over the summer, it was the perfect film to see stripped back to black and white.

5 – Their Finest – Although to some people this might have been a forgettable film, it was one of the few films I gave 5 stars to this year. The film tells the story of a female film maker who has been appointed to make propaganda films during World War II. Filled with laughter and heartbreak this film really meant something to me, the story of Catrin Cole (played wonderfully by Gemma Arterton) is one of bravery and creativity and is incredibly moving. I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already seen it, I really did love it. Who wouldn’t love a film starring Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton?

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Ok, this isn’t going to make it on to the top 5 of the start of the year, because it’s not by any means the best of the series BUT it does deserve a mention. After the fall of ‘On Stranger Tides’ Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg pulled the franchise back perfectly with ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ (or ‘Salazars Revenge’ here in the UK) with the use of classic Pirates humour and a fantastic new cast, with the return of a few favourites. The Pirates series of films will always hold a special place in my life and I firmly believe “the more Pirates films, the better”.

And my top 5 (which has turned into my top 7) films of the last 6 months (June 3rd – Dec 31st) of the year:

6 – A Ghost Story – The second of Casey Afflecks films to make my list. The story of C, an introvert composer who has a sentimental attachment to the house that him and his wife live in. Killed tragically in a car accident at the start of the film, C returns to the house as a ghost to watch over his wife. One his wife has moved on and decides to leave the house behind C is left behind with the house and stays there whilst other families come and go.
It’s an absolutely stunning film that leaves you racking your brains to understand the movement of time. Two incredible leading performances from Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.

7 – My Life as a Courgette – It’s surprising that there’s an animated film on my list that isn’t a Disney or Disney/Pixar film but really I couldn’t not feature this one. My Life as a Courgette is a story set in rural France about a young boy called Courgette whos parents both pass away and he moves to an orphanage. Its a beautiful story told through the use of stop motion animation which I am a huge fan of. The colours and production design is stunning. I watched it with the British dub but I hope to see it in the original language soon.
I look forward to seeing it, hopefully, get a best animated feature nomination at the Oscars which is definitely deserves.

8 – War for the Planet of the Apes – I wasn’t sure if this would make the cut but the more I think about it the more I remember parts of it which I absolutely loved. One of my favourite things to see on screen is Woody Harrelson playing a villain and one of my favourite performances from him is in Out of the Furnace (2013) where he played one of the best on screen villains I’ve ever seen. His performance in the final installment of the Apes trilogy is brutal, he comes across as a true villain with self righteous intentions.
The new Planet of the Apes trilogy has showcased some of the greatest special effects ever seen on screen and that is mostly down to the outstanding performance from Andy Serkis in the lead role of Ceaser the ape. Throughout the trilogy we’re told the heartbreaking story of Ceaser and his tribe and this film just adds to that heartbreak but told in a beautiful way that, although the story is far-fetched, it somehow seems relevant.

9 – Dunkirk – Obviously Christopher Nolans’ World War II epic was going to make the list, in fact this is my number 1 film of the year. I find it hard to describe things like this that I love so much without just saying “it’s amazing, it’s brilliant, it’s perfect” but really this film is all of those things. From the intensely thrilling sound design with the use of a ticking clock to build the tension throughout the film to the painfully silent dialogue. One of my favourite things about it is the use of time, almost as it’s very own character, you’re thrown around all different time sequences as the film goes on, each character has it’s own timeline which crosses over with the other characters. It’s fascinating and genius, Christopher Nolan is a visionary and I for one am so excited to see what he comes up with next.
One of the things, that I always comment on, is the casting. I (along with a lot of people) was very unsure of the use of Harry Styles, former boyband member, in a film such as Dunkirk, but actually he surprised me and his character was so interesting. I think he actually did a great job. Mark Rylance was the screen stealer for me though, his calm exterior and typically British character made him relatable and interesting to watch. The rest of the cast were also fantastic, newcomer Fionn Whitehead and Tom Glynn-Carney were both brilliant as were the greats Kenneth Brannagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy.
I can’t say enough good things about this masterpiece.

10 – Three Billboards (outside Ebbing, Missouri) – The summer of 2017 brought some really exciting new films into my life, mostly because I was lucky enough to get a press pass for the BFI London Film Festival which meant endless new films from all sorts of fascinating filmmakers, Malcolm McDonagh is one of them. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri was one I wasn’t sure about before going to see it, it was the closing film of the festival for press pass holders and for that reason I didn’t want to miss it. I was utterly blown away.
A heartbreaking story about a mother (Francis McDormand) who’s daughter was raped and killed, but the local police department lead by the respected Chief of Police (Woody Harrelson) did nothing to find the culprit. She takes extreme measures by leaving controversial messages for the police department to draw attention to there mistakes.
The script is compelling, a darkly comedic film full of whit and charm a long with an incredibly powerful monologue from McDormands character, Mildred.
I can’t recommend this film enough to everyone I talk to about it, it’s stunning and is likely to receive multiple well deserved Oscar nominations.

11 – Call Me By Your Name – Another film I wasn’t sure about before going to see it however, I absolutely loved it. A stunning love story between two unexpected companions who fall in love over a summer spent in the beautiful backdrop of the Italian Riviera. Two stand out performances from the leads Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet both tell their own personal stories with truth and honesty. I don’t want to say too much as it’s a fairy new film and I know a lot of people may not have seen it yet, but it really is stunning and worthy of a watch. Fingers crossed for some best actor nominations.

12 – The Greatest Showman – Start the year with a musical and end the year with a musical. That’s how I roll. The Greatest Showman tells the illustrious story of the founder of the great travelling circus, P. T. Barnum. Hugh Jackman appears to have made my list twice, a long with Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson.
The Greatest Showman is a musical theatre spectacular, if you don’t enjoy films where the characters are half way through a conversation and dramatically burst into song then this isn’t for you. But if you enjoy spectacular dance routines, unbelievable costumes, love stories, music, animals and just all round great entertainment then this is your film. It’s fabulous, really, truly, fabulous and what a great way to go out of the year. With a bang.

So that’s it! My top 10 (…12) of 2017. I have loved going to the cinema as much as I have (82 times to be precise) and attending multiple premieres, festivals, conventions and special screenings. Lets see if we can make the round 100 in 2018. Bring it on.

 

Films I am looking forward to on 2018:
– The Posts
– Ready Player One
– Maze Runner: The Death Cure
– Black Panther
– Avengers: Infinity War
– Early Man
– Sherlock Gnomes
– The Incredibles 2
– Coco
– The Crimes of Grindlewald
– Solo: A Star Wars Story
– Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
– A Wrinkle in Time
– Mary Poppins Returns
– Wreck it Ralph 2
– Isle of Dogs
– Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

And I’m sure there will be many, many more!

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My top 10 (…12) of 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The final film of the London Film Festival and I have had such a great time. Today has been one of the longest days of my life! The film started at 8:45 this morning and I stayed in Leicester Square for the premiere this evening so, 14 hours since I left the house this morning, I am home.
Although the film was that long ago, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark comedy that tells the story of Mildred Hayes (Francis McDormand) as she puts up some controversial signs on three billboards on a road out from Ebbing. 7 months prior to the story being told, Mildred’s daughter Abbie, was raped and killed and the police department had done nothing to find out who the killer was. Mildred puts up the billboards to draw attention to chief of police, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) to persuade him to work harder on the case but it ends up leading to a surprising friendship between the two of them. Putting up these signs leads to all sorts of problems and Mildred ends up with having to deal with the police in more ways that she intends. Dragging each and every character into her problems she ends up making a final decision that leaves the audience on a bit of a cliff hanger.
The film unravels in many twists and turns and endless surprises in the beautifully written screenplay from directer Martin McDonagh, his ability to captivate the audience in the dialogue is stunning. Mildred Hayes has an incredible monologue towards the start of the film that made everyone in the screening applaud.

The casting was perfect, I always say how great I think Woody Harrelson is as an actor and hugely underrated. Francis McDormand, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and many more really shone in this film but for me the star of the show was Sam Rockwell, he plays the useless cop, Jason Dixon, who becomes a redeeming factor in the end and I think he gave an impeccable performance.

I’d give this film a very strong 4 stars, the only reason I found it 1 star away from perfect is because there were times whilst I was watching it I felt conflicted between how I was supposed to be feeling. The audience around me were laughing and I felt like the scene wanted us to cry, I understand that is the definition of a ‘dark comedy’ but maybe that’s the issue I had. It touches on some incredibly sensitive subjects; rape, murder, racism, homophobia, cancer, suicide, depression and yet people around me were howling with laughter, maybe that’s what the director wanted and if it is, he did it perfectly.

I highly recommend it to everyone, it’s something so different to anything I’ve ever seen before and it really was an exciting film to watch, and a great way to close my first film festival.

Thank you BFI, same time next year?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

You Were Never Really Here 

I was lucky enough to see this film and on the following day I got to meet the cast and crew at the premiere. 

As this film was labelled as a “thriller/crime/drama” I was a little bit anxious about seeing it. Usually if it is described as a thriller I wouldn’t watch it in the cinema but I really didn’t want to miss the chance to see it and I’m so glad I did. It is currently my favourite film of the festival. 

It tells the story of Jo, a retired marine living in his mums house, he works for a private agent as a bounty hunter and gets hired by a congressman to find his missing daughter. Jo has a reputation of not getting attached to anything and just does the job at hand, there is a sudden shift in his character when you realise he cares for the safety of the young girl. 

The narrative is driven by Jo’s fascinating character and constant flashbacks to him as a child. You continuously see shots of his body covered in scars and eventually find out why that is. 

He is a severely depressed man who is constantly fighting demons and his want and need for suicide. 

Full of stunning location shots constant surprises this film is an absolute must see. 

Of course I haven’t mentioned the cast, which is usually something I don’t shut up about, but really what can I say? Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest living actors. There’s something incredibly watchable about him, almost addictive. He plays a horrible, violent, evil man in this film and yet I can’t take my eyes off him. He’s charming and funny and yet a cold blooded murderer. I said to my friend who I saw the film with, he could literally be sat still doing nothing and I wouldn’t be able to stop watching him. I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

Lynne Ramsey’s direction is stunning. This is a very visually driven film, the dialogue is almost not important. It could even get away with being silent, it doesn’t need constant conversation. Ramsey is completely gifted and I am fascinated by her work. At the premiere she said to me “please get more girls to see this film” so girls, you heard her, go and see it!
A solid five stars. Cinematic genius. 

You Were Never Really Here 

Downsizing

Downsizing 
Another film filled day at the London Film Festival today. 

The first film of the day was Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig and Christoph Waltz. Easy enough to say what a fabulous cast it is, and it really is that, Christoph Waltz was hilarious and Matt Damon was perfectly charming. 
The film follows the story of Paul and his choice to be ‘downsized’. This is a medical/scientific procedure taking place all over the world that allows people to shrink down to 5 inches tall. The idea behind it is that we will protect the environment by being a lot smaller and thus producing a lot less waste. Complications get in the way of Paul living the fantasy dream life he had hoped. Largely from the betrayal of his wife who, half way through the procedure, decides to back out completely and Paul is left alone. 

I really enjoyed the concept of the film but did feel a bit conflicted in how I was supposed to feel afterwards. I thought it was full of whit and charm but also full of political statements and a fair amount of racism. There was quite a bold statement about Mexicans living on the other side of the big wall/dome to the North Americans. Interesting how that is famously one of Donald Trumps biggest aims as POTUS. 
There were parts of the narrative that I don’t think were needed, one being a random scene in which Paul ends up high at a Hollywood style party, there was something kind of off about this scene, I never quite understood his motivation to take the drugs and what he thought would come from it. 

There’s another scene towards the end where Paul and his three companions travel to Norway in the wake of the end of the world to the first downsized colonie to join them and relocate inside a mountain to stay safe and eventually save the human race. I didn’t get this bit at all. I understand that the whole point of this scene was that Paul was forced to make the ultimate decision, but really it could have been much quicker had he never travelled all the way to Norway to make the decision. 

I really loved the first and second acts, I like the concept and the general story of people becoming small, it’s funny and original. As I always say, theres not enough originality coming out of Hollywood at the moment. 

Ignoring all the political statements and themes it is a charmingly funny film with a few unexpected twists and turns. I recommend seeing it if only for the lovely Matt Damon. He looks great without eyebrows……

Downsizing

The Lovers

This was the second film I went to see at the LFF today, The Lovers, another romantic comedy but this time instead of following the stories of young, conventionally attractive, creative people living trendy lifestyles in New York City, this film tells the story of a middle aged, married couple who are both having affairs.

The film starts off by setting the scene of Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts), a married couple of 30-ish years, living in a quiet suburban town both working boring office jobs. Both Mary and Michael have relationships going on outside of their marriage, we can see that their home life is boring and unsatisfying and the only happiness the two of them have comes from their affairs with other people. We learn that their son is coming to visit in a matter of weeks and with their respective partners they decide that that is going to be the time they come clean about their relationships and go their own separate ways. Of course these conversations are happening without the other one being aware of it. Just like in most comedy films, events get in the way that cause tensions between both couples, one of the main issues being that Mary and Michael realize they are still largely sexually attracted to each other which leads to more problems between them and their other partners. There’s a lot of crossed wires and betrayal between each other but what the film does so cleverly is makes those relationships seem utterly hilarious.

The film is charming and heart warming, its a wonderful story that tells the audience that an unhappy marriage is not always the answer and to simply, do what makes you happy. The whole film is absolutely hilarious, the two lead characters and portrayed with complete realism and warmth. I really can’t be more complimentary about the lead actors, they were just fabulous.

One thing I found utterly brilliant about this film is the lack of dialogue, it is such a quiet film, with majority of the narrative told purely through action, a true art and brilliant ability from the writer/director Azazel Jacobs.

I would give this film a strong 4 stars, easily one of my highlights of the Festival so far.

The Lovers

The Boy Downstairs

Today I went to see three films at the London Film Festival, The Boy Downstairs was the first one.
This charming romantic comedy follows a young couple, Dianna and Ben, as they deal with their relationship ending and they both move on with their own lives. After Dianna has lived in Europe for a substantial time she moves back to New York City and moves into a beautiful apartment, what she doesn’t know is that Ben has also recently moved in to the apartment downstairs.

Written and directed by Sophie Brookes, this film is full of great performances from the entire cast. I particularly loved Deirdre O’Connell’s character, Amy, she is the most wonderfully warming character who despite having her own demons to deal with, including the loss of her husband and her tired acting career, she still finds time to look after the tenants of her building. I found her so heartwarming and caring and she always put Diana first regardless of what she was dealing with. A truly motherly character.
Diana is also a really wonderful character, played perfectly by Zosia Marnet, her witty, sarcastic nature makes her addictive to watch.

I found this film so easy to watch and fall into, whilst watching it I developed a lot of care for the characters and their relationships with each other. I often say that there isn’t enough feel-good films around these days, it’s all doom and gloom or heavy stories, this is the perfect curl up on the sofa on a Sunday evening film.

I was lucky enough to see this film at the BFI London Film Festival, but I recommend catching it when it’s released in the Spring.

 

The Boy Downstairs

Manifesto

I really don’t have a lot I can write about this film because after the first 10 minutes I really hated it. And I knew I had another hour and 20 minutes to get through. Tedious, contrived, patronising, arrogant film. 

I’ve never been much of a fan of Cate Blanchett, I’m not saying she’s a bad actor because that’s not true, but at the red carpet events I’ve been to that she’s attended she swans down the carpet without even looking at her fans or the press and I think that says a lot about a person. Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be a bashing Cate Blanchett post. 

I just really did not like this film, maybe I’m ignorant but they do say that’s bliss, and I’d take bliss over than pretentious crap any day. 

Manifesto