We’ve narrowed down our 2017 favourites from a landmark year of cinema
I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)
We’ve come a long way since the 1960’s, right? Well, after watching this startlingly-timely documentary, you realize the problems that sparked the American civil rights movement are as real today as they were six decades ago.
I Am Not Your Negro is based on the late James Baldwin’s unfinished project Remember This House, his attempt to capture the historic, toxic blend of vicious American racism and the lives and deaths of the black civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evens and Malcom X. Beautifully narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the power of Baldwin’ s taut prose is devastating.
Slavery, Jim Crow, cartoonishly-racist portrayals of black people in movies and advertising—it all forms a shameful thread that connects with the fear and ignorance that divides black and white America to this day. It’s a must-see.
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
This movie could’ve been so bad. A sweet, romantic comedy about a guy falling in love with a woman in a life-threatening coma—it’s been done, right? Thankfully, we get a heartfelt and funny film exploring family, love and commitment. Starring comedian and Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick is the improbable but true story of how a relationship can develop in the unlikeliest of circumstance—say, when one half is unconscious.
Co-written by Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (his real-life wife and the real-life inspiration for the woman in the coma), the film challenges romantic comedy tropes and manages to feel real.
The Red Turtle (Michaël Dudok de Wit)
This film tells a simple story in such a quiet, unhurried way that watching it almost feels like meditation. Co-produced by Studio Ghibli, The Red Turtle is a bittersweet experience that will linger for days. Entirely wordless, this beautifully and cleanly drawn work of art follows a man washing up on the shore of an uninhabited island—well, except for the crabs. The deep rhythms of life flow here, as a woman, then a son, come into his life. As life does what life does and the son grows into a man, you sense the profound sadness and sweetness, the fleetingness, of a lifetime. The only thing you can do is try to find love and to pass that on to the next generation. The Red Turtle is a moving addition to the already legendary Studio Ghibli canon.
Get Out (Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out gave the art of the thriller a desperately needed boost of adrenaline. Apart from the expertly crafted cinematography and stellar performances by the entire cast Get Out hits a certain mark that is seldom explored in filmmaking—social horrors. This is simply a film that has to be experienced. Peele even has an entire saga planned around socially allegorical tense films, ensuring that this style of filmmaking isn’t going anywhere, and that’s some of the best news we’ve heard all year.
Logan (James Mangold)
How do you make an entire theatre of twenty-somethings and comic book nerds cry in unison? Put one of the most beloved X-Men through a physical and emotional gauntlet and dangle certain doom in every scene. Director James Mangold single handedly pulled off something that the superhero genre desperately needed—focus. This isn’t a film full of explosions, aliens or post-credit plot stingers.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart deliver some of the best performances of their careers in their final turns as Wolverine and Charles Xavier, and newcomer Dafne Keen steals the show as Laura (a clone of Wolverine).
Logan may be the end of a hero’s story, but hopefully it’s the beginning of a new form of superhero film.
Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)
Director Edgar Wright has been supplying audiences with films that almost defy description. Each movie that he has made always evokes a sense of glee, even if bleak. Baby Driver continues the director’s winning streak by providing what can only be described as a thinker’s popcorn movie. It’s fast, fun and action packed but underneath the initial layer of bravado lies what is clearly a director’s passion project.
Adopting a soundtrack driven pace, much like Guardians of the Galaxy the film chronicles getaway driver ‘Baby’ and his exploits working for a crime syndicate in Atlanta. Staying true to Wright’s style Baby Driver is overflowing with beautifully shot cinematography and the best editing seen in action films to date.
Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins)
Warner Bros and DC Comics best move to date was letting Patty Jenkins take the directing helm for Wonder Woman. Jenkins has an eye for plot and her asthetic choice and tone for the lasso of truth wielding heroine was in good taste. The portrayal of the Amazonians was firece and stylistically sound and instead of having a stereotypic female hero, we have a stoic character who just happens to be saving the world.
Gal Gadot has found her home as Wonder Woman and it’s ashame that DC’s track record is in the toliet as of late, meaning we may not see a Wonder Woman two Even though Jenkins is game for a second film and it was announced for 2019, Justice League has put the company in the critic’s red so all other works remain to be be seen.
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
Guillermo del Toro has made every kind of movie from art-house trips to gothic freak horror, but his latest film The Shape of Water throws him into a newer realm—underwater monster love. Set in the early ‘60s, a mute janitor named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) meets a South American aqautic fiend called The Asset (Doug Jones) while working in an undergorund government sanctioned facility.
Elisa quickly falls for the fishman, but soon learns his imminent fate. The film is a love story, but it screams del Toro with vivid water imagery, a dim lit horror esque backdrop, and obscure humour on social settings. The film is an overview of del Toro’s take on love as well as a commentary on how humanity treats the outcasts of society.