To me, 2017 has been quite the bumper cinematic year. It helps that we’ve expanded our remit a bit here at Warped Perspective, so if you’ll forgive my indulgence, I’ve expanded my end of year list to fifteen films, plus special mentions. I’ve not been able to review or write about as many as I would have liked to this year, and there are still some major omissions simply because they’re films I’ve not seen (such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Destruction Babies, A Cure for Wellness, Antiporno, I Am Not Madame Bovary…or any number of other titles) – alternatively, some films might be on last year’s list (Raw, The Lure).
Hopefully it’ll soon become evident that this list really is a mixed bag of obscure things I’ve seen at festivals, so-called arthouse cinema and big budget nonsense you’re probably sick of. I am, at least, honest, but I’ve tried to keep the list to the broadly genre/arty/weird end of things, even if some of the entries are hugely mainstream.
On the strength of this year I’m hopeful 2018 will continue to bring high quality and interesting filmmaking, but I’m already particularly looking forward to Black Panther, Proud Mary, A Wrinkle in Time, Laplace’s Witch, Legend of the Demon Cat, Mary and the Witch’s Flower…and no doubt plenty of other titles that will grace a similar list to this next year.
These aren’t in a specific nor solid order of preference, but I have started with the ones that probably have no business being on a list on this website but that I just couldn’t not include…so maybe scroll the first few before getting to the genre meat!
Kedi (Ceyda Torun, Turkey 2016)
Look, I know this doesn’t really fit the WP remit at all, but there was no way I was not going to include this delightful documentary on my list. As much a film about the people of Istanbul as it is about cats, Kedi is an absolute treat. Stunningly shot and structured, Kedi is a gem of a film that really must be seen, even if you don’t count yourself as a crazy cat person.
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, USA 2016)
Moonlight may have benefitted from all the awards-season buzz and fluffed Oscar announcement but it is without a doubt one of the most refreshing and stunningly made films of the year. The film offers a complex story told with remarkable simplicity and beautiful imagery. The cinematography is gorgeous, the performances are revelatory, and the soundtrack manages to be both melancholic and a bit of a banger. Believe the hype. (Moonlight is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Altitude)
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd, UK 2017)
Lady Macbeth is a phenomenal debut for its director and a powerful calling-card for much of its young cast – an ice-cold period drama that’s anything but your usual bodice-ripper. Based on a Russian novel but adapted and transported to Victorian Northern England, the film is lean, sparse and a stunningly told tale of selfishness, complicity and self-preservation. In a year packed with nostalgic British heritage filmmaking, Lady Macbeth is anything but, and manages to be keenly modern while seeming to use the mode of traditional period drama. (Lady Macbeth is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Altitude)
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly Surya, Indonesia 2017)
Mouly Surya’s wonderful film is an under-stated celebration of female resilience and solidarity wrapped in a meditative Western casing. More Slow West than Bone Tomahawk, the two leads ground the film in a friendship forged through necessity, and Dea Panendra and Marsha Timothy give stunning performances. Not without its moments of brutality – both heart-breaking and satisfying – Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is hugely impressive filmmaking.
Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, USA 2017)
The Thor-arm of Disney’s massive Marvel Cinematic Universe finally gets unashamedly silly, as it should, by handing the reins of the latest Space-Viking saga to brilliant comic and filmmaker Taika Waititi. Funny, colourful, big and brash, Thor: Ragnarok has a strange structure and pacing but manages to work through sheer force of fun.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, USA 2017)
I’m not sure I was ready for just how polarising a film The Last Jedi has turned out to be. I enjoyed every meandering, joking second of it. There are flaws, certainly, but it truly felt like an epic – some films are meant to feel long, you know? And it did everything I wanted, from its characters, to its set pieces to its thematic concerns. I just hope handing the reins back to J. J. Abrams for Episode IX in 2019 somehow continues this upward ascent of the franchise…
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (S. S. Rajamouli, India 2017)
Scarcely has a film so genuinely blown my socks off the way Baahubali 2 did. Even with all the other big budget action films on this list…Baahubali 2 is still the one that most impressed purely on action terms. I’ve still yet to see the first instalment of the epic story, and even though there were elements of the story that no doubt made more sense or resonated with greater depth having seen the first, the second part is no less enjoyable going in cold.
Get Out (Jordan Peele, USA 2017)
Every bit as entertaining and smart as the hype suggested, Get Out managed to be one of the few ‘big’ horror films this year that did not end up a disappointment to me. Daniel Kaluuya’s hugely likeable central performance grounds a biting satire and wonderful horror film. (Get Out is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal)
Vampire Clay (Sôichi Umezawa, Japan 2017)
Sôichi Umezawa’s debut feature film is a gloriously weird film, with a lo-fi feel that’s already seen it garner a slew of 1-star reviews. However, Vampire Clay is without a doubt one of the most memorable and original films I’ve seen this year. There’s a real grotesqueness to the film, and its demonic clay is both silly and uncanny. There’s a look and feel of desaturated 90s grime to the film that’s gloriously retro and if you can forgive the film the immensely silly ending then it’s well worth a shot.
Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse (Lukas Feigelfeld, Germany 2017)
A film that’s easily going to slot into many a ‘if you liked The Witch you’ll love this!’ claims, Hagazussa is arguably an even more powerful depiction of witchcraft and the female psyche. Archly sparse and bleak, this German film is not going to be to everyone’s taste – it’s slow, it’s vague, and it’s miserable. But if that’s your bag then you will adore Hagazussa – and it’s all the more impressive considering this is a feature debut.
I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, Zambia 2017)
A film that makes me happy just by its mere existence, I Am Not a Witch is the French-German-Welsh-Zambian co-production that marks a most stunning feature debut from writer-director Rungano Nyoni. Offering a coming of age tale of persecution and self-identity and is both moving and bitingly funny. The film features a stunning central performance from Maggie Mulubwa as the accused child Shula, and showcases Nyoni’s incredible directorial eye. (I Am Not a Witch will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in January by Curzon)
Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, Japan 2017)
I’m glad to say that my most anticipated film of the year did not disappoint at all. Shin Godzilla is a break-neck, nerdy, political satire with a massive god-like creature stomping all over people. It’s glorious. Godzilla’s iterations are wonderful, the massive cast of human characters is performed so well that characterisation is economical and effective, and the action set-pieces are thrilling – as are the political machinations. Weird though it is to see a film like Shin Godzilla on the DVD shelves in places like Asda, it leaves you with no excuse not to give it a go…! (Shin Godzilla is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment)
Mon Mon Mon Monsters (Giddens Ko, Taiwan 2017)
Author-filmmaker Giddens Ko’s latest film, Mon Mon Mon Monsters, which has to go down as one of the most unashamedly nihilistic films I’ve seen in a long time, is an impressive fable about the cruelty of youth, the incompetence of authority and the ultimate, undeniable truth that, left to our own devices, we humans really are the monstrous ones. Cased in what might seem like a high-school horror, the performances are pitch-perfect, especially Deng Lu-kai as protagonist Su-wei and Bonnie Liang as Si-hua, and the humour is jet black, making this a perversely enjoyable tale of just how terrible we all might be.
Let the Corpses Tan (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, France/Belgium 2017)
I don’t even want to write too much about this one because it’s such a cinematic slap around the face that knowing very little about it is definitely best. It won’t convert anyone who hasn’t enjoyed Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s previous work, even though it’s arguably their most narratively coherent film. Even so, it’s still aggressively stylised, departing somewhat from their giallo-infused previous works to offer their take on a western – obviously, My Darling Clementine this ain’t. Phenomenally impressive on pretty much every level, with Let The Corpses Tan Cattet and Forzani have out-done themselves.
The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, South Korea 2017)
Out of all the films on this list this one might be the real contender for my favourite this year. Yes, it features some gratuitously graphic, male-gazey lesbian sex scenes, but it’s also a gleefully complex thriller, a triumphant love story, an incisive insight to a moment in history, a gorgeous soundtrack, a meditation on storytelling and it’s funny. From stunning sets and costumes to pitch-perfect performances, The Handmaiden is breathtakingly wonderful, and arguably even more satisfying in its longer, director’s cut.
Keri’s review. (The Handmaiden is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and on-demand from Curzon)
Jackie (Pablo Larraín, USA 2016) – an ice-cold drama that somehow gets under the skin
Logan (James Mangold, USA 2017) – brutal and grown-up comic-book filmmaking done right
Dhogs (Andrés Goteira, Spain 2017) – a challenge to the audience on the nature of violence
Detroit (Kathryn Bigelow, USA 2017) – genuinely tense real-life drama
Colonel Panics (Cho Jinseok, Japan 2017) – a weird, neon-saturated and grim look at the future of VR
Canaries (Peter Stray, Wales 2017) – hilarious and good-natured Welsh sci-fi-horror-comedy
The Sleep Curse (Herman Yau, Hong Kong 2017) – grim and entertaining Hong Kong Cat III throw-back
Genocidal Organ (Shûkô Murase, Japan 2017) – heavy-going hard sci-fi anime
Tokyo Ghoul (Kentarô Hagiwara, Japan 2017) – tons of fun anime adaptation with just the right level of angst
Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike, Japan 2017) – gory yet somehow cutesy samurai epic
Top Knot Detective (Aaron McCann & Dominic Pearce, Australia 2017) – hilarious and authentic cult TV mockumentary