Like our very own answers to David and Margaret, film buffs David O’Connell (aka The Big DOC) and Natalie Giles (aka The Notorious NG) take a look at the best 17 films of 2017 thus far. If the first half of the year is anything to go by, the rest is looking mighty fine for cinema, and with the Revelation Film Fest just around the corner it’s a good time to get excited…
HONOURABLE MENTION: Dave Made A Maze
DOC: A little cheat here (as it is screening as part of the upcoming Rev) but it’s too good a film not to include. Dave Made A Maze is an imaginative use of a tiny budget to bring us something special, as a bunch of thirty-somethings are pulled into a maze of cardboard. Imagine a melding of Labyrinth and Clerks, and you are not too far from the truth.
NG: The good folks of Revelation Film Festival chose this little indie gem to lead with at the launch, and for good reason. It’s a whole lot of fun, inspired multiple LOL’s throughout the audience at different moments, and leaves you with a silly grin. Revisiting childhood wonder via Dave’s cardboard labyrinth is hearty soul food.
17. John Wick 2
NG: The second turn around doesn’t pack quite the same punch to the guts as the first, but only because we aren’t as invested emotionally in our hero’s revenge. And yet we get exactly what we paid for – more of the same magnificently choreographed stunts, glorious gun play, fight skills that would make a grown assassin cry, treachery that would give any conspiracy theorist a giant hard-on, and one heck of a new pupper. These guys know what they’re about, and we lap it up.
16. T2 Trainspotting
DOC: What we were dreading was a cheap nostalgic grab for cash. What we got was a deeply reflective piece examining the power of nostalgia as we age disgracefully. Proof that you can go home again, but only if you have something genuinely interesting to say.
NG: – The original is such a vital piece of 90’s cinematic history, it had the potential to lose impetus the second time around. Instead, we were granted a reimagined journey into adulthood and personal growth, with the same assholes we loved back then. The nod to the original in the score was a glorious touch. Award goes to the greatest remixed monologue in a sequel.
15. 20th Century Women
DOC: A razor sharp script brought to vivid life. A stunning performance by Annette Bening stands out in an ensemble cast, but every actor brings their A-game. 20th Century Women is not merely a curious reflection on a point of time or a stage of life, but rather the people and forces that shape us.
14. Kong: Skull Island
DOC: Complete and utter fun. This is monkey business writ large, as the great ape gets an Apocalypse Now makeover. The 70s setting, strong performances (from Johm Goodman, John C Reily, and Samuel L Jackson), and the fact that this film is aware of exactly what it is all make for great entertainment.
13. The Music of Strangers
DOC: A Yo-Yo Ma doco, with a twist. Not only does this give you a taste of some brilliant music, but also examines the power of music on the world stage, as a healing and collaborative force. A universal constant that all cultures in the world share, even if the notes are different.
12. Lady Macbeth
DOC: This film is a far cry from the historical romance genre, with its austere style and crisp cinematic eye. Lady Macbeth is a rather morally twisted thriller, not prone to Gothic romanticism but rather genuine sexual chemistry. Demonstrates that both actress Florence Pugh and director William Oldroyd are ones to watch for in the future.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2
DOC: once again a group of C-list comic book heroes prove why they are an A-list movie property. Brilliant special effects, and some actors that don’t give a fuck whether they are blue, or a CG raccoon, but are just willing to give their all to the role. A sheer unadulterated joy of a Marvel film.
DOC: A film that continues to haunt you, with its graphic imagery, cool sense of style, and ambiguous plot. This is one that my mind keeps coming back to in order to contemplate its meaning.
9. Fate of the Furious
DOC: The Furious franchise just keeps motoring along with full octane grunt. The series is ridiculous and completely over the top, but it knows that and embraces it in a way few franchises have. F8 has a maniacal glee in trying to top what has gone before, and proudly invites us along to enjoy the ride.
8. Batman: The Lego Movie
DOC: An irreverent take on Batman that hits the mark. With so much of DC taking itself so grimly serious, this provides a much needed counterbalance. Despite the comedic take on the subject, there is a good understanding of Batman (both in terms of the character and the comic/ film career) that shows clearly through the mayhem.
7. Edge of Seventeen
DOC: Being a sucker for John Hughes films, it’s hard to go past this modern recreation. Seeing Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson attempt to out quip each other, all while maintaining a cynical air of detachment, is a thing of beauty.
NG: This stands alone as the most emotionally exhausting, but ultimately rewarding films of the year thus far. To paraphrase Twain badly, truth can be greater than fiction. Lion is a visually stunning rollercoaster of feeling, and is hereby rated 10/10 for tear stained tissues.
DOC: The Australian film that single-handedly upped Kleenex sales. This is an emotional roller-coaster, supported by a stellar cast giving their all. Yet the most emotional part of the film is in the end credits where we see actual footage of the people involved… and the waterworks start up again.
5. Wonder Woman
NG: This is the superhero movie the world needed. It’s certainly the movie that was necessary to the DC universe’s rescue, and hot damn but did they deliver! DC mercifully, absolutely did justice to the enduring, badass woman we know and love, demonstrated the box office power of strong women, and showed the world what we’re made of – clay, resilience, smarts and kindness. Not all heroes wear unnecessary capes, but they do come adorned in some damn fine MRA-proof armour and a helluva lot of sass.
DOC: It’s Hugh Jackman’s last time suiting up for the X-Men, and he doesn’t even get into the costume. But that’s OK as Old Man Logan manages to kick arse, despite his age and failing mutant powers. As much a western as a superhero film, this is a weary gun-slinger coming out of retirement despite having hung up his six-shooters decades ago, and the film certainly has the body count to prove it.
NG: I’d like to see a crossed universe where Logan and WW fight to the death for a place on 2017’s list. My money is on Diana Prince, but given that Logan is so much more than just a superhero movie, it won the higher spot. It’s a marvellous finale to a beloved storyline, a great standalone Western, a glorious final character arc, and the perfect conclusion to a great series. RIP, Wolvie.
3. Hounds of Love
NG: A painful, harrowing piece of cinema, which tells a tale of terror in 80s Perth. I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating – writer/director Ben Young doesn’t pander to the trope of the helpless woman, the hopeless victim at the whim of men. Rather, he pays tribute to them as human beings, not dictated by their gender, and capable of great strength. It’s a wonder, and a feather in Perth’s cap, but a difficult watch that’s (hopefully) well rewarded.
DOC: Set during the 80s in Perth, this is a harrowing and visually stunning film. The three main actors all give top notch performances, as the characters manipulate each other, in a twisted cat and mouse game. A confronting film, not to be entered into lightly. It’s not necessarily a film that you would want to re-watch, but one you must see at least once (if you are able to).
DOC: A breathtakingly beautiful look at the politics of identity applied to one man. Through three stages of his life (and three separate actors) we see his growth. There is a visual poetry here that brings one close to tears, combined with stunning acting and dialogue. It’s little wonder it took home the Academy Award for Best Picture (despite the mix up…lalalalala).
1. Get Out
DOC: An unexpected gem from comedian Jordan Peele in his directorial debut. This walks a fine line between comedy and horror, playfully switching between the two. It also provides a much needed satirical examination of the question of race in America.
NG: Rewriting horror tropes in favour of an exploration of race relations for people of colour, this was a supremely brave choice for a virgin directorial feature, but one that pays off in every way. Original, funny, and without doubt the smartest film of 2017 thus far. Get Out absolutely raises the bar for the horror genre.
Catch David O’Connell, Natalie Giles and the rest of our movie team’s reviews every week on our FILM + TV pages. See you at Rev!