Yet again I missed the New Zealand International Film Festival due to travel but still managed to see ~60 films this year. In no particular order here are my picks from 2017.
Blade Runner 2049
One of the most overwhelming cinema experiences of the year (Dunkirk was comparable if quite different, though I saw both at the IMAX), Blade Runner 2049 lived up to the expectations set by Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner, and then some. The pace was measured but the themes profound, and the visuals were literally awe inspiring.
The most nerve shredding cinema experience since Gravity, though with considerably more gravitas and emotional history, Dunkirk is what big screens (particularly IMAX) are made for. Christopher Nolan’s preference for avoiding CGI resulted in a rather anaemically sized British Expeditionary Force and RAF, and the film logic doesn’t stand up to much thought, but the experience was sublime and stirring. Suspend rationale thought and feel your heart swell (particularly if you’re British) as Tom Hardy ends the film in impeccable style.
An unsurprising but still quite shocking documentary insight into certain parts of Australian society, as a pair of young female Finnish backpackers deal with the locals in Coolgardie, an isolated mining town in Western Australia. Throughout the film is unsettling but it takes an unexpected turn toward the end which just about finished me off.
I Am Not Your Negro
An incredibly powerful documentary on race relations in America, and effectively a biography of James Baldwin, whose incredibly articulate words narrate the film. Not an easy watch but an essential one to better understand this complex issue from a different perspective than is normally portrayed.
Manchester By The Sea
A film in which nothing and everything happens, featuring a tremendous performance from Casey Affleck. Michele Williams may get equal billing but hers is really a supporting role, Casey Affleck carries the weight of the film and is quite devastating in the key scene that explains everything.
Oasis : Supersonic
Certainly not the greatest film on the list, but as a teenager during the Britpop era it brought back with a rush memories of my first musical loves, tastes that tend to stick with you for life. Ending with Knebworth rather than their lingering decline (though I still rate Be Here Now), it provided a solid dose of nostalgia for simpler times.
The Big Sick
Both very funny and engaging, The Big Smart is the smartest romantic comedy for some time, with Kumail Nanjiani making a likeable lead in a thinly fictionalised version of his own life. Zoe Kazan was equally winning, recalling her brilliant performance in Ruby Sparks, which blew me away five years ago.
A wonderfully crafted and exhilarating film, offering action, drama, comedy and romance in equal measures. The driving scenes are impressive enough in their own right, but combined with the best soundtrack of the year, are unbeatable. Importantly the film has heart and an emotional connection that means you actually care what is going to happen, rather than the shallow sugary rush of most action films.
The most divisive film of the year by some margin, I’m on the side of masterpiece though can appreciate why people would have a hard time with it. It doesn’t fall into any obvious genres, and is an increasingly hard to watch, but will stick in the mind long after seeing it.
My Year With Helen
An insight documentary on both Helen Clark and the United Nations, as the two combine during the process to select the next Secretary General. Frustrating how far the organisation still has to go, if clear on the brutal influence of geopolitics with a clear vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
A stunning mediation on the lure of nature, with poetic words from Robert Macfarlane (narrated by Willem Defoe), jaw dropping visuals and a wonderful soundtrack performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. I may be pretty much the target audience for this film, but still came away impressed.