It’s April 3, which can only mean one thing…
In 2011’s roundup I swam through cold weather to Bill Callahan’s favourite island. In 2012’s roundup Joaquin set the Instagram filter to “Kenicky”. In 2013’s roundup Carruth paddled with red herrings. In 2014’s roundup I missed more films than a Penrose triangle has corners. In 2015’s roundup I secretly won the lottery. In 2016’s roundup, I copied and pasted the same intro from 2015.
This year? Well, like I always say, life’s not worth living, but let’s relive it anyway. For more, follow @halfacanyon.
1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade) – 9/10
“I’m actually here to negotiate with her. She’s hardly home anymore, so I hired a substitute daughter.”
2. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) – 9/10
The end credits leave you in such a wreck, you’ll be calling your mother to drive you home.
3. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) – 9/10
“I think I’m in love with my janitor. Am I sick?”
4. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach) – 8.5/10
“It’s hard to have a relationship and a child.”
5. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello) – 8.5/10
Here’s a teen movie with an explosive twist: they’re all terrorists. Originally titled Paris is Burning, Bonello’s perversely sexy thriller engages in the adrenaline rush of youngsters blowing up various buildings around the city. The action unfolds in stylish split-screen, and mobile phones are disposed in ultra-cool slo-mo. In the end, we realise advertising will always be louder than bombs.
6. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills) – 8.5/10
Each character could have a full-length feature of her own, and I’d gladly watch it.
7. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assays) – 8.5/10
Probably the spookiest text messaging ever committed to film.
8. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler) – 8/10
I can’t wait to see the 98 films that preceded this.
9. Okja (Bong Joon Ho) – 8/10
The chase scene > everything in Baby Driver.
10. Good Time (Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie) – 8/10
Run, Robert, Run
11. Elle (Paul Verhoeven) – 8/10
Shocking, thrilling, thought-provoking… and also funny in a way that’s hard to explain.
12. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt) – 7.5/10
Raw emotions simmer through the night and heartbreak is in the air; when Jamie has the change to say something, it remains a quiet film.
13. Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude) – 7.5/10
“Some people have to do great things to get a statue,” a doctor jokingly tells 20-year-old Emanuel (Rus). “With you, you just have to be a little ill.”
14. mother! (Darren Aronofsky) – 7.5/10
What do you think is in the potion?
15. Mudbound (Dee Rees) – 7.5/10
Should really be seen in a cinema, not on a laptop.
16. A Cure for Wellness (Gore Verbinski) – 7.5/10
If an original, director-driven movie like this flops at the box office, then the modern world is truly sick.
17. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) – 7.5/10
“Who is you.”
18. The Florida Project (Sean Baker) – 7.5/10
The kids are all right (when it comes to acting).
19. Free Fire (Ben Wheatley) – 7.5/10
Sick and twisted in the best way possible.
20. After the Storm (Hirokazu Koreeda) – 7.5/10
The storm itself offers a cleansing quality that ultimately doesn’t wash anything away. Everything looks different but is still the same. What’s left is Ryoko’s insistence that a lottery ticket isn’t gambling, but purchasing a dream; with that kind of optimism, even losers can weather their own downfall.
21. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho) – 7/10
The takeaway message: don’t mess with arts journalists.
22. Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman) – 7/10
Features no actual rats.
23. A Ghost Story (David Lowery) – 7/10
Rooney Mara’s first time eating pie, apparently.
24. Frantz (François Ozon) – 7/10
Ozon remains as unpredictable as ever.
25. Thelma (Joachim Trier) – 7/10
A De Palma-ish supernatural thriller, a sensitive lesbian coming-of-ager, and a visually arresting sci-fi mystery – all linked, incredibly, to the emotional turmoil of being a teenage girl.
26. Get Out (Jordan Peele) – 7/10
I would have voted for it a third time if I could.
27. Heal the Living (Katell Quillévéré) – 7/10
When an early car journey softly transformed into a wave of water, I was instantly won over by Quillévéré’s meditation on life, death and hospitals. Though it sounds like Holby City with subtitles, there’s a glorious poetry in the literal transplant of a heart to another body.
28. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) – 7/10
“Who in their fucking mind would want everlasting life? This fucking conversation.”
29. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) – 7/10
It’s really about the trauma of doing junkets for The Lobster. The surgeon who creates lives is the filmmaker. The kid is the blogger. They have scheduled meetings and pretend everything is natural. One false word, it’s game over. At least, that’s what I thought until Yorgos rubbished my theory. (Though he would say that, wouldn’t he?)
30. It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults) – 7/10
A virus has wiped out more than just your hard drive. Civilisation is depleted except for a handful of people, each trying to survive on scraps while avoiding this mysterious disease.
32. Detroit (Kathryn Bigelow) – 7/10
33. Raw (Julia Ducournau) – 7/10
Don’t watch it on an empty stomach.
34. Graduation (Cristian Mungiu) – 7/10
There’s a shout-out for Kensington gardens and its squirrels.
35. Neruda (Pablo Larraín) – 7/10
The camera is always moving, diving through shadows, and, through playful editing, locations will regularly shift within conversations.
36. My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras) – 7/10
A sweet sixty-six minutes, this stop-motion coming-of-ager is a tender trip.
37. Christine (Antonio Campos) – 7/10
For Rebecca Hall, it’s a career-defining performance that’s effectively a ticking time bomb about to dramatically explode.
38. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook) – 7/10
Mesmerising on first viewing, a bit of a slog when revisited.
39. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) – 7/10
Apparently anything you say about it is a spoiler.
40. Women Who Kill (Ingrid Jungermann) – 6.5/10
A slyly funny dip into Brooklyn’s dating scene, frequently subverting cinema and societal stereotypes, while confirming that every American performer has a podcast
41. Girls Trip (Malcolm D. Lee) – 6.5/10
First half is hilarious. Then loses its way a bit.
42. Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer) – 6.5/10
Single “Like” Female.
43. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts) – 6.5/10
Spider-Man is a vlogger now?
44. Mindhorn (Sean Foley) – 6.5/10
“You look like you need some help.” “Too bad – I work alone.”
45. Souvenir (Bavo Defurne) – 6.5/10
Isabelle Huppert’s Eurovision Song Contest romcom.
46. Una (Benedict Andrews) – 6/10
A lot better than reviews suggested. Still mulling it over…
47. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan) – 6/10
The trio of arcs – land, air, sea – interweave like my headphone cable, and these storylines end up leading to one cacophonous mess. Just like my headphone cable.
48. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Macon Blair) – 6/10
A Sundance winner should receive more of a roll-out than a straight-to-Netflix premiere, especially when it’s a genre movie designed for midnight screenings.
49. Suburbicon (George Clooney) – 6/10
No way near as bad as the reviews would have you believe. Also no way as good as you’d expect from a Coen brothers script.
50. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Juho Kuosmanen) – 6/10
As with all boxing films, it’s best when it’s not about boxing. And Kuosmanen’s bittersweet biopic of Olli Maki really does treat the sport as something that gets in the way of life. If I were being reductive, I’d say it’s as if Aki Kaurismäki made a boxing film. But he made Rocky VI, and Olli Maki’s tone, while dry in humour, is less absurd than, say, Calamari Union. Ironically, it lacks the extra punch to make it more than a diverting story.
51. Stronger (David Gordon Green) – 5.5/10
AKA Stronger Than What You Were Expecting.
52. Rough Night (Lucia Aniello) – 5.5/10
It’s Very Bad Things, which is a very bad thing, but repurposed with a female gaze, which is a very good thing.
53. Berlin Syndrome (Cate Shortland) – 5.5/10
Anyone who works at home alone will question the speed at which Clare starts to forgive Andi when he departs for a few days.
54. Home Again (Halllie Meyers-Shyer)
I think it’s about Damien Chazelle?
55. Song to Song (Terrence Malick) – 5.5/10
Why, exactly, did Terry break decades of press silence for Song to Song? As far as I know, Gosling and Mara skipped promo, and Portman too. So what makes this one so special? Well, look at my first two sentences and how I’ve extended little bits with unnecessary commas, or how I broke the rule of three to tack on “and Portman too”. Malick is playing about with filmic grammar, and so I too am toying with film review grammar. It’s hard to describe it properly. You just hope someone notices.
56. Happy End (Michael Haneke) – 5/10
A compilation of his better films. Sia later.
57. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (André Øvredal) – 5/10
Not enough slicing and dicing through predictable twists to amount to anything substantial.
58. The Lost City of Z (James Gray) – 5/10
On a pristine 35mm print, it’s a beaut, evoking the greatest hits of Aguirre, Apocalypse Now and some of my friends’ Instagram accounts. But if you push apart the branches, there’s a similar problem to The Immigrant, namely the emotional distance from the characters.
59. Life (Daniel Espinosa) – 5/10
The Thing without the tension. Alien without the psychological sheen. The Martian without a sense of fun. Getting locked out of your house without the reward of getting back in at some point. Much has been made recently about why Alien: Covenant and Life failed, whereas Gravity and The Martian succeeded. Seems pretty obvious: make sure the plot can be explained in one sentence that doesn’t end with “and some other space stuff, I guess.”
60. Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh) – 5/10
Fwiw, I don’t think Rebecca Blunt is a pseudonym for Soderbergh. Why? Because the guy publishes a list of everything he watches, and he’s not a Game of Thrones fan.
61. Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi) – 5/10
Don’t believe the hype – 70% is still a typical boring Marvel movie.
62. Brigsby Bear (Dave McCary) – 5/10
Serves the same purpose as the show-within-the-film: a calculating piece of art designed to make the audience feel happy and safer in a horrible, horrible world.
63. Baby Driver (Edgar Wright) – 5/10
I hope Edgar Wright doesn’t Google himself.
64. Wilson (Craig Johnson) – 5/10
It ain’t Ghost World, but what is?
65. Sandy Wexler (Steven Brill) – 5/10
Brill’s bruising comedy (aka Broadway Danny Sandler) marks Sandler return to the subject matter of Funny People, and this too is an overlong, inside-y take on showbiz.
66. Ava (Léa Mysius) – 5/10
The film, like its lead character, seems to lose sight of what it’s aiming for as time passes.
67. The Lego Batman Movie (Chris McKay) – 5/10
I’m wasting my life.
68. La La Land (Damien Chazelle) – 5/10
What if people didn’t just talk about their dreams, but they sang and danced about them too?
69. Happy Death Day (Christopher Landon) – 5/10
I get this confused with Better Watch Out.
70. Better Watch Out (Chris Peckover) – 5/10
I get this confused with Happy Death Day.
71. Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo) – 4.5/10
Anyone who works at home alone will question the speed at which Clare starts to forgive Andi when he departs for a few days.
72. Daphne (Peter Mackie Burns) – 4.5/10
Emily Beecham’s amazing performance deserved a better script.
73. Battle of the Sexes (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris) – 4.5/10
A tennis biopic as by-the-numbers as the sports pun used within this very sentence.
74. The Discovery (Charlie McDowell) – 4/10
The characters are more storytelling mouthpieces than human beings, and the dreary direction exemplifies why death in this film might seem preferable.
75. Rules Don’t Apply (Warren Beatty) – 4/10
As potential guilty pleasures go, it’s no Me and Orson Welles…
76. The House (Andrew Jay Cohen) – 4/10
Mantzoukas deserves better.
77. Alien: Covenant (Ridley Scott) – 4/10
Hinges upon RoboFassbender misquoting Ozymandias to unveil a mechanical error.
78. Jackie (Pablo Larraín) – 4/10
“I never wanted faith; I just became a Kennedy.”
79. Hounds of Love (Ben Young) – 4/10
Why would anyone want to watch this?
80. The Founder (John Lee Hancock) – 4/10
Not even Carter Burwell’s score could save it.
81. Lion (Garth Davis) – 4/10
Nearly everyone seeing Lion will know the ending, and there’s even less tension in watching someone click through a computer screen.
82. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) – 4/10
83. Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders) – 4/10
What happens when a beloved, thought-provoking, cyberpunk anime landmark is remade by the director of Snow White & the Huntsman?
84. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Jake Kasdan) – 4/10
I felt sad for everyone involved – until I remembered I was some loser seeing it alone in a cinema.
85. A Monster Calls (J.A. Bayona) – 4/10
Bayona takes more care in humanising a tree than he did with any of the non-white characters in The Impossible.
86. Murder on the Orient Express (Kenneth Branagh) – 4/10
I am wasting my life.
87. Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson) – 3.5/10
An hour of tone-deaf drama, followed by exploding limbs of a deafening volume.
88. Snatched (Jonathan Levine) – 3.5/10
Though it’s advertised as a daughter/bonding exercise, it often feels like an exploitation horror movie in the vein of Saw except with added fat jokes and racist humour.
89. Gifted (Marc Webb) – 3.14159265 3589793/10
A sappy family-drama that calculates its emotional beats to a fault. It tries – and fails – to endear us not only to maths, but to people who care about maths, and also people who care that people care about maths.
90. Brimstone (Martin Koolhoven) – 3/10
Imagine a Lars von Trier film (one of the longer ones) drained of any irony and humour. Add in some Bible quotes and you’ve got Brimstone, a gritty western doubling as a non-chronological series of bad events happening to women.
91. Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda) – 3.5/10
I was kinda surprised to learn that it’s based on play as I assumed it was just a rejected episode of Black Mirror. (There’s even Jon Hamm looking at a snowglobe.)
92. Death Note (Adam Wingard) – 3/10
It not only feels rushed, it feels… wrong. Write it in your diary.
93. Breathe (Andy Serkis) – 3/10
Could be mistaken for a fake-film-within-a-film
94. Baywatch (Seth Gordon) – 3/10
I’d be interested to read (OK, skim) Lennon and Ben Garant’s initial script from 2013 because the final incarnation is barely a comedy.
95. The Mummy (Alex Kurzman) – 3/10
By the end, Cruise realises he’s doomed, and controlled by an all-powerful source that’s either a metaphor for Xenu or his own addiction to Hollywood. He looks into the camera. Help me to help… me?
This list was strictly 2017 UK releases. So you will have to wait until December 2018 (or April 2019) to find out how much I loved Phantom Thread, Lady Bird etc. Take care.