Nights In

The Best Movies of Last Year

Every year, around this time, we are bombarded with best of the year lists on a variety of
different subjects. So with that very spirit in mind here is a roundup of the best films
released in Ireland in 2017.

10. The Big Sick

A surprisingly heartwarming film that manages to avoid succumbing to the overly
sentimental tone of the generic ailment romance sub-genre thanks to a great script, quick
wit and strong performances. Written by and starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), The
Big Sick is the semi-autobiographical story of how, after a brief romance with his girlfriend
Emily (Zoe Kazan), the couple decided to part ways. Things get complicated however
when Emily becomes ill and is placed into an induced coma. Nanjiani stays by her side in
the hospital and is forced to develop a relationship with her parents, the brilliant Holly
Hunter and Ray Romano. The film provides a humorous insight into family, relationships
and being Muslim in modern-day America.

9. It

I had never read Stephen King’s acclaimed novel, nor had I seen the 1990s mini-series of
the same name. Before I went to see the 2017 adaption I naively presumed the story
merely concerned the maniacal clown Pennywise terrorising a bunch of children. While
this turned out to be true, there is also so much more to the film. This is not a cliched
horror film, but one with the adventurous spirit of an early Spielberg flick. The children
each deliver terrific performances as they try to resolve a number of disappearances in a
quiet American town, where no one would ever believe that anything could go wrong.

8. Logan

Hugh Jackman’s reported final appearance as Wolverine is about as far removed from his
previous outings in the X-men universe as possible. Logan sees an ageing version of the
titular character attempt to aid a young mutant, the firstborn in over 25 years across the
border accompanied by a 90-year-old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a world bereft of
hope. Devoid of any generic superhero tropes, this is a dark and brutal tale. The
Wolverine’s most powerful outing to date.

7. Get Out

If ever there was a film that an audience should embrace, with as little prior knowledge as
possible, it would be Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Both thrilling and terrifying in equal measure
while constantly challenging its audience with deeper questions, Get Out proved to be one
of the year’s best surprises. Anchored by a compelling lead performance by Daniel
Kaluuya and imbued with an important social commentary, this is a must-see.

6. Moonlight

Barry Jenkins Oscar-winning film is tragic, simple yet also heart wrenching. The film
follows Chiron during three stages of his life as a child, a teenager and an adult as he
grows up in Miami with a drug addict mother (the brilliant Naomi Harris). Chiron also
known as ‘little’ befriends Juan a Cuban drug dealer (the equally great Mahershilla Ali) who
becomes a form of surrogate father to him during his troubled youth. Chiron endures
intense bullying while at school and is also forced to confront issues relating to his own
masculinity and sexuality as he ages.

5. La La land

Who would have thought that the dreams of a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress could
make such a charming film? Director Damien Chazzelle effortlessly revives the tone of
classic Hollywood musicals from the past while still instilling the film with a modern flare.
With a stellar performance from Emma Stone as a young woman who aspires to be an
actress. La La Land is the perfect form of escapism, with a brilliantly toe-tapping and
moving soundtrack courtesy of Justin Hurwitz, compelling performances and a bittersweet
plot that will tug at heartstrings.

4. Dunkirk

Director Christopher Nolan fully utilises every tool in his cinematic arsenal in order to bring
this stunning portrayal of the terror of war to life. The plot is cleverly spread out over three
separate stories centred around the evacuation of Dunkirk by the British during WW2.
Nolan plunges the audience into the middle of the action unconcerned with backstory or
sentiment, granting the film an element of reality and urgency. With Dunkirk, Nolan has
cemented his status as a cinematic auteur as he fully immerses you in this intense visceral
experience. Gorgeously shot with each frame eschewing an artistic beauty accompanied
by an eclectically compelling score by Hans Zimmer.

3. Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi

Epic in both its ambition and execution the new Star Wars saga comes of age in this
thrilling, emotional and funny entry to one of the most popular film franchises of all time.
Director Rian Johnson has succeeded in expanding on JJ Abram’s The Force Awakens by
carrying on the stories of Ray, Finn and Kylo Ren in a spectacular yet darker spectacle
that constantly subverts the expectations of the audience. The Last Jedi is indicative of
what makes cinema such an enduring medium with breathtaking actions scenes, real
character development, sensational highs and emotional lows.

2. Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner released in 1982 was a science fiction masterpiece, combining
a classic noir aesthetic with a futuristic LA landscape. It utilised the format of a detective
film to ask fundamental philosophical questions about what it means to be human. Denis
Villeneuve has managed to follow the original in spectacular fashion. Rodger Deakins
cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful and succeeds in building on the dystopian
future created in the first film. The story follows Ryan Gosling’s K, a Blade Runner (a
detective that tracks down artificial humans known as replicants) who uncovers a decadesold
mystery that causes him to question everything. Villeneuve expands on the mythology
of the original while also layering it with new mysteries. One of the most sophisticated
sequels ever made.

1. Call Me By Your Name

In a list that has included stories of war and dystopian futures, it appears appropriate that
the top spot is reserved for a film about love.
Timothée Chalamet gives one of the performances of the year in Luca Guadagnino’s Call
Me By Your Name. Chalamet plays Elio, a young American in 1983, who spends the
summer with his parents at their house in Northern Italy. Elio is highly intelligent, sensitive
and yet very unsure of himself. Elio’s world changes forever when he meets grad student
Oliver (an excellent Armie Hammer) who spends the summer working with his father and
living in his old room. Hammer pitches the performance perfectly, imbuing the character
with a confident exterior to conceal an innate shyness. There is also a great supporting
performance from Michael Stulberg as Elio’s father, Stulberg exudes a nuanced kindness
and delivers a speech at the end of the film that is sure to go down as one of the all-time
great film monologues. Guadagnino’s film is about embracing life, first love and
discovering who you are. Gorgeously shot with a captivating soundtrack that includes
some truly mesmerising tracks by Sufjan Stevens. Stevens work underpins the whimsical
haze of never-ending summer days as our main characters grow more aware of their true
affections for one and other.

Honorable mentions

This was another bumper year for Irish film. Tom Ryan’s poignant look at abortion Twice
Shy had a beautiful and tender relationship at its core. Andrew Scott wonderfully
exclaimed “reveal to me who you are” in John Butlers superb Handsome Devil in the hope
of getting his students to become more comfortable with themselves. Lion demonstrated
that a film about a man using Google Earth could be the inspirational, emotional true life
story that 2017 needed. Gal Gadot was terrific as the titular character in Wonder Woman
bringing real depth and resonance to her performance. 2017 really was a superior year for
the superhero film, with Marvel’s Spiderman Homecoming no exception to this. Tom
Holland proved an excellent Spiderman and the film was witty, fun and action-packed at
the same time. Finally one of the years most charming efforts came in the form of a
Peruvian bear named Paddington. The sequel Paddington 2 was delightful, with a career best
performance from Hugh Grant.

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