Since I’m an incredibly boring individual, at the beginning of the new year I looked back on the 12 months before, thought about what I had watched during that time and came up with a list. It’s my ten favourite films I watched in that year that I had never seen before. I prefer to do this rather than a “best of 2017” list because I won’t pretend to have seen even half of the worthwhile films that came out in 2017 by the time New Year rolls around, especially since lots of films haven’t even been released in UK cinemas by then. In any case, here’s the ten I came up with (in no particular order):
Boyz N The Hood (John Singleton, 1991)
I really liked Ice Cube and Lawrence Fishburne in this, and the other actors did a pretty good job for the most part too. A grim look at growing up as an African American in South Central LA, with the associated gang violence and racial issues you would imagine in that kind of setting. It made me curious to watch some of Singleton’s other films, then I saw he directed Shaft and that curiosity somewhat dissipated…
I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016)
There’s a few films on this list from 2016, which means if I made a best of 2016 list in January last year it would be incomplete. So I feel vindicated in not getting involved in that kind of shenanigans. Anyway, off to the UK now for more grim and heartbreaking storytelling involving the poor and deprived. This is just an excellently portrayed scathing indictment of the UK benefits system and its labyrinthine bureaucracy, and we see the characters struggle with the consequences of not being able to get the help they need. The food bank scene in particular is harrowing to watch, I struggled not to just burst into tears. Not something you’d look to put on if you need a laugh, but an incredible and incisive film.
Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
Having enjoyed his 1991 film Naked immensely, I was interested to see more of Mike Leigh’s work. Secrets & Lies is another great film of his which explores familial relationships. The dynamics between the characters is wonderfully realised, and you can really believe and feel the resentments and issues each character has for their own position both in life and in the family.
Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)
Another UK film set in a deprived area and dealing with working class people. For some reason I seem to find that these types of films are much better done in the UK than elsewhere, but that may be because I’m from the UK myself and so get a better sense of realism compared to some US films portrayals of deprivation and poor areas which often seem cartoonish and over the top. In all honesty, Blade Runner 2049 is probably a better film than this and should replace it on the list, but I enjoyed Harry Brown a lot. It’s a simple Death Wish-esque vigilante story but Michael Caine is pretty good as the lead and the setting and some of the supporting characters are excellent (particularly Sean Harris’s drug dealer).
Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1985)
This one sounds pretty silly when you read about it, a “ramen western” featuring a guy dressed like a cowboy helping a woman set up her noodle bar and perfect her ramen recipe and skills, but the direction, colours and general likeability of pretty much every character kept me hooked the whole way through.
Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
I had been waiting to see this one for quite a while, after loving both 5 Centimetres per Second and The Garden of Words, and even after the anticipation and long wait I was not disappointed. It’s absolutely beautiful, as all of Makoto Shinkai’s films have been so far, and there’s an unexpected twist about halfway through that turns a light and comedic teenage/high school love story into something a little bit more than that. I’d implore anyone to watch it, whether you like anime or not.
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
Once again, back to the UK for more working class shenanigans. Not much more to say on this one other than the TV follow-ups are all worth watching too, which I was compelled to do after finishing the film.
A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada, 2016)
Another anime film here. This was one that I read the synopsis of and thought “That sounds pretty interesting”, then watched and thought “No, that was fucking incredible.”. It’s about a young boy who bullies and mistreats a deaf girl in his class and becomes ostracised by the rest of his class because of it. Years later, he seeks her out and attempts to right the previous wrongs. It’s incredibly emotionally impactful, and looks gorgeous too. If that sounds at all interesting to you, get it watched right now.
My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras, 2016)
A French stop-motion animated film about children in an orphanage. Once again quite sad subject matter, but there is hope found nonetheless in the interactions between the children (after a rocky start) and in the main character’s journey. Handsomely animated and fairly short at 67 minutes, well worth the watch.
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
The best film I saw in 2017 that was also released in 2017. I think everyone knows about this one already, it appeared on pretty much every Best of 2017 list (might as well appear on mine too eh?). Will be looking forward to Jordan Peele’s next picture as well, whenever that might be. If you haven’t seen this yet, get out and watch it (snicker), the critics aren’t wrong on this one.
And that’s it, there’ll be another list next year as well I imagine, I don’t see myself getting any less boring in the next 12 months!