This year the vagaries of release dates has rather stolen the thunder from my list, especially its upper reaches - the top two of which had already been well garlanded (or at least forecast to being so) by the time I saw them. In fact my favourite three choices of the year seemed practically pre-ordained. But can't help that. Honesty is of the essence.
What? you exclaim! No 'Dunkirk' (likely to scoop up several of the upcoming Oscars), no 'Call Me By Your Name' (nominated as 'Film of the Year' by at least one of our national newspapers), no 'Manchester-by-the-Sea' nor 'Mother!', 'Maudie', 'Ghost Story' - and no 'God's Own Country'? (This last I didn't see on purpose) And what the blazes is 'Paddington 2' doing on the list, inferring that this kiddie-pleaser was superior to many more worthy and weightier films. Well, if that's what you're asking, tough titty!
This year's final tally of films seen (in cinema only) was 88, one more than 2016 (I've gone and mistakenly posted this before tomorrow's intended visit, assuming that one won't make the list) and my highest score since 2011, though still well below a quarter of all the films released in the U.K. over the period.
If selecting a short list of 18 was painful, extracting just 10 of them made me almost pour with sweat. However, having achieved it (and, unusually, all of them this year are English-language films) I employed my usual method of juggling around an order until I came up with something that felt about right - and here's the list, ascending:-
10) The Party
A mere 70 mins in length, and director Sally Potter creates a miniature incendiary bomb - helped in large part by featuring the ever-so watchable Kristen Scott Thomas.
9) Baby Driver
Should the inclusion of one K.Spacey in a major role now disqualify this from being appreciated? - or, in fact, any film in which he's made an appearance? Well, that's too bad!
This one is that true cinema rarity, an original! Synchronising sound and vision as never seen before, A crime film with real energy and pezzaz!
A tonic of a film, in my opinion outdoing the original of last year by far. It's a very long time since I left a cinema with such a beaming smile. Glorious, completely undemanding, sheer fun - with Hugh Grant tickling the funny bone as never before.
The very first film I saw this year, a most accomplished sci-fi (not my favourite of genres) and, despite one being able to see the ending coming well beforehand, ("Please, don't let it be that!), its replay in my mind is still chilling as hell.
6) Lady Macbeth
A quite unexpected, sometimes grisly, gem leaving me with unanswered questions to ponder on. Very satisfying.
5) The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Farrell and Kidman delivering the goods, just as they never fail to do, in this bleak, disturbing story with considerable 'edge' which lingers on and on in the mind.
4) The Battle of the Sexes
I never saw this one coming. and when it did it was a joy. Emma Stone and Steve Carrell playing out the 1973 challenge one Bobby Riggs doles out to any woman on Earth- that he can beat her at tennis because "Men are stronger!" - and which Billie Jean King takes up with a steely determination to prove him wrong. Very strong screenplay with exceptional performances, from the two leads especially.
3) Get Out
A film that dares to make you ask "What the hell is going on?" - and though I did suss out the general direction it might be going in, my underlying unease at what I suspected got me fidgetting nervously as the alarming scenario revealed itself. This is what good cinema should be about - challenging, rivetting, intelligent, and not in the least bit lazy. A remarkable film.
2) La La Land
A toy-box of delights. Does anything else need be said? A film particularly for those who say "They don't make them like they used to any more." Well, here's one which shows that they can and, just occasionally, do!
I can't add to what so many have already said about this extraordinary film. If my ultimate choice is predictable, I make no apology for it, suffice to say that I cannot imagine any other film beating it. A landmark and a triumph - ALL HAIL!
And, as per convention, my nomination for 'waste of time, money and everything else' of 2017 goes to.............The Shack
- despite its morally neutral and slightly intriguing start, it becomes so heavily steeped in a message of 'Have Faith and Jesus Will Save You' it'll be mother's milk to the Xtian right. I saw it in error, thinking it would be something other than this proselytising claptrap. I'll readily concede that my verdict is based less on whether or not it's a 'good' film as on the pushing of its content. If it had been more generally spiritual rather than definably mainstream Christian, then I might have felt kinder. As it was, afterwards I felt soiled all over, necessitating my returning home and jumping straight under the shower, crying "AAAAAAAAARGH!!!"
So what will 2018 hold, as I approach ever closer to my 5,000th film, after which I still intend to think seriously about ceasing these film posts - though at current rate that won't happen until 2019 at the earliest.
Looks like some goodies are coming up early in the new year - but one never knows for sure until one experiences them.
Anyway, for now, thank you each and every one for even bothering to read my posts this year, and I do most sincerely wish all of you the very best for the New Year - especially, if like me, you turned out wishing that some major elements of the last twelve months had never happened.
See you in MMXVIII.