Best Films of 2017: 10-1
10. The Handmaiden
With stunning set locations and gorgeous costume design, Park Chan-wook’s deliciously twisty and beautifully made romantic thriller is a real cinematic sight to behold. Based upon Sarah Waters’ novel “Fingersmith”, the Korean’s latest is a multi-layered mystery with a wavering narrative which keeps you gripped and guessing right until the end. Featuring recognisable elements from his previous work on the excellent Vengeance trilogy, The Handmaiden may not be Chan-wook’s boldest movie to date, but boy is it his most richest and bewilderingly erotic.
9. Get Out
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut in the form of Get Out is a crowd pleasing black comedy horror which dwells into social commentary regarding notions of racism within the heart of the white picket fenced home of the Armitage family. With a standout leading performance by Daniel Kaluuya, rib-tickling gags and an underlying narrative regarding a very particular medical operation, Peele’s movie balances the mix between comedy and horror flawlessly, and with enough B-movie elements and exploitation gore to make the whole experience more than rewarding, Get Out solidifies Peele as yet another interesting young director to keep tabs on.
Hated by most, loved by a minority, Darren Aronofsky’s jaw-dropping psychological horror is part Funny Games, part Rosemary’s Baby, and with a career best performance from leading star Jennifer Lawrence, mother! is a brutal and nihilistic allegorical work of excellence which is as tough to watch at times as it is completely and utterly bonkers in a fashion which makes the final act of Black Swan look like a Mike Leigh movie. For those who can stomach the movie’s polarising subject matter and the evasive camera work of long term Aronofsky collaborator, Matthew Libatique, mother! is Aronofsky at his most creative best.
Directed by big screen debutante Julia Ducournau, Raw is an intelligently written and brilliantly acted coming of age drama with a central narrative which focuses on leading star Garance Marillier’s hereditary and new found lust for human flesh which materialises after a particularly strange university ritual. With a number of scenes which feature genuinely shocking ultra violent imagery and an underlying black comedic tone which gives the movie a somewhat kooky, subversive feel to it, Raw is yet another superb debut for a filmmaker with, excuse the pun, exquisite raw talent.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest and most loyal Stephen King adaptations to hit the big screen, Andy Muschietti’s live action take on the novelist’s best story to date is an outstanding mix of spine-tingling horror, creature feature adventure and coming of age drama which matches the tone and feel of King’s writing to an uncanny tee. With Bill Skarsgård giving the most iconic performance of his entire career as the malevolent and undeniably haunting image of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, It manages to not only measure its’ horror elements to a genre pleasing effective degree but features too the greatest ensemble cast of young actors in years. With Muschietti on course to direct Chapter Two, the concluding half of King’s tale is indeed in the safest of filmmaking hands.
5. Manchester By The Sea
With a leading performance from Casey Affleck which can only be regarded as one of the most deserved Oscar winning roles in recent history as the grieving and emotionally unstable Lee Chandler, Kenneth Lonergan’s low-key masterpiece is a character study of brilliant proportions. Charged by a narrative which is as gut-wrenchingly powerful as it is flawlessly written, Manchester By The Sea might not seem the flashiest film on the surface, but with each and every player at the top of their respective game, Lonergan’s movie works on a level of relatability and subtlety which is rare to find in the current cinematic climate.
Recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, Barry Jenkins’ lucid and dreamlike tale of one man’s journey from youth to manhood is a dramatic work of unprecedented proportions featuring superbly understated supporting performances from both Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. With a jukebox soundtrack and stunning cinematography, Jenkin’s independant delight is hard to shake off even after repeat viewings, and for a director so young in years and filmic back catalogue, Moonlight is an impressive work of cinematic art.
After tackling space, spies and Batman, Christopher Nolan takes his enviable talents to Dunkirk, a spectacular, IMAX-fuelled masterpiece which favours the use of practical design over digital effects, sound and image over dialogue and an impressively handled three act structure reminiscent of the time-bending narrative of Nolan’s previous work on Memento. With scenes which evoke a wide spectrum of emotions throughout its’ note perfect runtime, Nolan’s movie is a tense and taut war epic unlike anything seen before on the big screen and whilst it is indeed best course of action to devour the spectacle on the largest backdrop you can find thanks to Nolan’s personal fondness of the mighty IMAX, Dunkirk is not the first masterpiece to come from Nolan and I’m sure it won’t be his last.
2. Blade Runner 2049
A sequel to the greatest science fiction movie of all time needed to be something special, and in the hands of Arrival director Denis Villeneuve there was little doubting it wouldn’t be, but what we have with Blade Runner 2049 however is a movie which surpasses even the highest of anticipation, a beautifully bold and emotionally riveting masterpiece of sound, spectacle and art house wonder which rewrites the rule book for what it means to be a big budget production. With Villeneuve not only paying homage to Ridley Scott’s original in a more than respectable fashion but adding his own distinguishable DNA to the mix, the flawless work of Roger Deakins, Hans Zimmer and leading stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford result in Blade Runner 2049 being a deserved science fiction masterpiece in its’ own right and one which will stand the test of time in a fashion similar to its’ equally masterful predecessor.
1. La La Land
Following up on Black Ribbon’s best movie of 2015 in the form of Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s beautifully romantic and stunningly swooning musical drama is a cinematic wonder of enigmatic proportions. With a cross of paths between the doe eyed dreamer figure of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s eccentric and passionate jazz extraordinaire, the narrative moves from the charming first acquaintance to a sombre, heartbreaking concluding act which is just a masterclass in flawless and natural filmmaking ability. The songs are sumptuous, the editing silky smooth and the location design a dreamlike ode to the history of Hollywood, La La Land isn’t just a masterpiece, it’s Black Ribbon’s film of the year and deservedly so.
“Your Mum Was Tough At First. And Then We Had Our First Kiss, And I Understood…”
Whilst not the most delightful of subject matters, the notion of cannibalism has been rife within horror cinema ever since the exploitation days of the mid-to-late 20th century when films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust highlighted the cinematic pleasure of watching controversial subject matter erupt on the big screen and blow raspberries at many who believed such stories simply could not be classed as any form of legitimate entertainment. Whilst the days of video nasties have thankfully been and gone, the idea of cannibalism still remains to this day, and with the release of Raw, a French-Belgian production directed by Julia Ducournau, cannibalism has never been presented so ripe or ridiculously enjoyable, with the movie blending seamlessly elements of comedy, romance and shock-tastic body horror, culminating in an experience which is not only effective in its’ sheer willingness to exploit the squeamish nature of its’ audience but one which lives long in the memory or quite possibly, your nightmares.
Dropped off by her parents in order to start her education at veterinary school, dedicated vegetarian, Justine (Garance Marillier) is swiftly integrated into the dedicated rituals of the school’s “elders”, of which her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is already an integral part of. After being forced to surrender her will and consume a raw rabbit kidney as part of the school’s initiation, Justine begins to experience a dramatic change in both body and mind, resulting in a realisation regarding not only herself but others around her. Whilst the shock-tactic set pieces within the movie are the elements which are bound to either disgust or delight the movie’s audience, the underlying black comedy within the both the narrative and direction place Raw in completely its’ own category, and whilst the film obviously owes a debt to the jet-black seriousness of We Are What We Are and its’ subsequent American remake, traits of the likes of The Neon Demon, Let the Right One In and even Black Swan are all visible in the movie’s genetic makeup even when it is undoubtedly an original release in its’ own right.
In the leading role, Garance Marillier is absolutely superb in attempting to portray a conflicted youth struggling to contain her inevitable and violent change, and with the aid of some juicy and flawless practical effects and brilliant sound design, particular set pieces including a nightmarish desire for scratching and a shaving incident gone terribly wrong, are as wonderful in their sheer execution as they are joyously terrible to observe. Not for a long time has a film been so outlandish in its’ sense of exploitation greatness that I have resorted to covering my eyes in fear of scaring my mind and although some may even regard such sequences as overtly stupid and seemingly searching for the cheapest of thrills, my response to such was one of utmost bliss even when admiring it through partially closed fingers. If exploitation horror is simply what you want from a particular movie, Raw is a much bigger and better beast than simply just that, and when contemplating the likes of The Handmaiden and Elle, Ducournau’s big-screen debut continues to prove that foreign language exploits are sometimes leagues above the likes of their English-speaking counterparts, particularly when it comes to horror.