2017 was generally a year where basic human decency and faith in the human race seemed to be missing in action – the absurd and the extreme seemed to be normalised with the Overton window shifting so dramatically to what we now perceive as rational. Cinema, however, has been a refuge and escape from the absolute madness, and I've revelled in it. Here are my top 10 favourite movies of the past year that have made the past year just that little bit more bearable.
The Lego Batman Movie
On paper the Lego Batman Movie could seem like a shameless cash grab, once assembled however, it’s wildly inventive and a huge amount of nonsensical fun. Will Arnett excels as Batman, with sly self-aware jabs to the wider DC universe and background gags abound. While its comedic value will shine through, it also delivers the most substantial take on Batman’s self-portrayal and character concerning his loneliness and reluctance to work with others. Whether it’s better than Nolan's Dark Knight Rises is debatable, but it sure as hell is having way more fun along the way.
Cars 3 won’t be considered by many as a jewel in Pixar’s incredible back catalogue roster, however, it erases the bizarre spy adventure miss-step that was Cars 2, and triumphs with the story of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) confronting his now ageing status and long-term legacy with his bright-eyed, spritely trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), flipping the protegé/mentor on its head. Its jaw-dropping visuals are a sight to behold as McQueen trains for the race of his life in the backcountry of America, harking back to the glory days of where McQueen's original mentor cut his teeth. This touching instalment in the franchise most notably gives the late Paul Newman’s character Doc Hudson, the send-off he deserved.
Separating Baby Driver from the revelations of now disgraced actor Kevin Spacey, this heist-action tale is a complete thrill ride from the very first tyre squeal. With spot-on comedic quips, references and visual delights. There's undeniable chemistry between Baby (Ansel Elgort) and Debora (Lily James), captivating cinematography and key set pieces choreographed so slickly with a stellar soundtrack to boot, Baby Driver is an unforgettable and surprisingly heartfelt romp.
While Wonder is a sweet, all American feel-good film, it successfully stays clear of the mawkish Hallmark Channel movie tropes. Instead, it delivers a heartfelt and grounding story of Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a 10-year-old boy with a facial disfigurement, who simply wants to be accepted for who he is. Despite being daringly parallel to current social affairs talking place today about tolerance, Wonder never comes across as preachy, but rather as personal tale and triumphs of Auggie himself, thanks to its close-knit narrative of and the empathetic portrayal that the cast delivers. It’s impossible not to be charmed by this humanising and tender story.
My Life as a Courgette
Totally captivating from beginning to end, My Life as a Courgette outclasses pretty much every animated film released this year. This tale of a young boy placed into foster care carries exceptional emotional undertows and narratives. Its story takes risks and explores themes with triumphant success many other animated studios dare not to tread. A runtime that clocks in at under an hour too, it's simply criminal to pass up.
La La Land
The freeways, foothills and flatlands of LA have never looked more unapologetically utopian. A technicolour wonder starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in arguably their most standout roles yet, chasing their respective young characters’ dreams and ambitions in an explosion of indulgent dance numbers. A bittersweet affair, steeped in romanticism that is a swan song to the City of Angels and Hollywood itself.
Moonlight has a narrative that is unequivocally relatable - love, intimacy and acceptance. Focusing on Chiron, a young black man trying to find his place in this world, woven together in three acts expertly crafted with colour, symbolism and sound design. This ballad of cinema continues to captivate with every watch.
Call Me By Your Name
A timeless summer romance between two male lovers, yet universal in its appeal, Call Me By Your Name is a piece of exquisite cinema that is to be savoured, and then must be blazoned to all those around us. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer deliver with electrifying performances set against a beautifully captured sun-soaked Italian backdrop. Every nuance, fleeting moment, and minute emotional sentiment is expertly crafted with a galvanising accompanying score. Only a scattershot of films transcend this level of first-hand poignancy. A masterful film that is one truly for the ages.
Director Paul King’s previous credits include directing the surreal TV comedy The Mighty Boosh, so it's not surprising how Paddington 2 is brimming with ridiculous whimsical hilarity. The softly spoken, ever so endearing Paddington (Ben Whishaw) once again delights audiences young and old time and time again. Moreover, Paddington 2 is a film that doesn’t rest on its previous success but instead builds upon its predecessor, with more emotion, comedic wit and inventiveness than ever before with a rousing climax to grip even the most ambivalent parent.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
To everyone who complained that The Force Awakens revelled too much it’s past. The Last Jedi takes that criticism and blasts it from here to Jakku. Striving into new territory with metaphors abound, The Last Jedi successfully stands on its own feet. It relinquishes untouchable heroes into characters who must seek absolution for their ill-actions, all the while still delivering exhilarating signature space battles we yearn for from this iconic franchise with setpieces that will stun and silence even the most ravenous of audiences.