The Ford On Film Awards 2017: Best Film
Has it really been a year since Ford On Film crowned Paterson the best film of 2016? Yes, it’s that time of year again when I look back over the last twelve months of film and television, ranking the best films, actors, directors, and everything else of the year. After a slow start to the year, during which many of my most anticipated titles left me disappointed, the second half of 2017 delivered some outstanding titles from new and old directors alike.
Like previous years, I’ve decided to omit any film previously nominated for an Oscar. As much as I loved Oscar favourites like Manchester by the Sea and Toni Erdmann, they’ve already been written about extensively, and I wanted to free up some space for the less talked-about films I loved this year. Sorry The Handmaiden, My Life As A Courgette and Moonlight; you’re brilliant, but you won’t be making my list.
As per usual, we’re kicking off the Ford On Film awards with the big one: Best Film. It’s been a close race to the top this year, with one film holding out the top spot for months until two very different contenders took over the first and second spot. As diverse as ever, the top ten includes British and Italian romances, pure horror, family adventure, a few laughs and plenty of drama. It’s been a great year, and I’m excited to unveil my list of the ten best films of 2017.
Before we kick off the countdown, there are a few honourable mentions to include. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer and S. Craig Zahler’s grisly Brawl in Cell Block 99 were two totally different films that inflicted disturbing imagery and unique performances on their audience, while two female directors made powerful directorial debuts in Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not A Witch and Julia Ducournau’s Raw. Now, let’s get onto the top ten!
Call Me By Your Name (Dir. Luca Guadagnino)
2017’s best romance? Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino’s languid, passionate tale of a teenager (Timothee Chalamet in a terrific breakout performance) exploring his sexuality with an older student (Armie Hammer, giving his best performance since The Social Network) is subtle compared to most love stories, more interested in the tiny details (a light touch here, a longing glance there) than any grand gestures. Guadagino knows how to create a memorable image (Hammer’s dance moves, the unbroken final shot), but it’s a quiet monologue from the brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg that stands out the most.
mother! (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Love or hate it, there’s no denying Darren Aronofsky’s demented horror film mother! was one of the most memorable films of the year. Though its biblical allusions are a little heavy-handed and it features some truly horrific moments, mother! is also a pure thrill ride, starting on a note of menacing intensity and escalating into full-on operatic insanity. Carried by the impressively credible reactions of Jennifer Lawrence in one of her greatest performances to date, mother! was a true original, and any film that inspires such extreme reactions must be doing something right.
The Death of Stalin (Dir. Armando Iannucci)
One of the greatest satirists of his generation, Armando Iannucci returned to cinemas for the first time since 2009 with his biting black comedy The Death of Stalin. Boasting a stunning ensemble of comedy and dramatic greats (Michael Palin and the award-winning Simon Russell Beale are stand outs), The Death of Stalin is a darkly funny and twisted look at the Russian dictator, earning big laughs even as it depicts the most horrific events imaginable.
God’s Own Country (Dir. Francis Lee)
It’s been called the ‘Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain’, but Francis Lee’s directorial debut God’s Own Country is very much its own film. Bruising and tender, bitterly cold and warm-hearted, this story of a Yorkshire farmer (Josh O’Connor, making his stunning film debut) falling in love with a Romanian farm hand touches on everything from the plight of farming in Britain to homophobia and racism in small towns to caring for a disabled parent, and rarely sets a foot wrong. Sensitive and romantic, God’s Own Country is among the most moving films of the year.
Get Out (Dir. Jordan Peele)
Perhaps the defining film of 2017, Jordan Peele’s fiery, confrontational satirical horror Get Out is both a creepy, Stepford Wives-esque horror and a sharp depiction of everyday racism in America. Starring the brilliant Daniel Kaluuya as a young man visiting his white girlfriend (a fantastic performance from Alison Williams)’s middle class family (including friendly-but-patronising Bradley Whitford and Mum Catherine Keener) only to discover something’s not quite right, Get Out is scarily funny when it isn’t plain scary, and its incredible worldwide success is a testament to how vital Jordan Peele’s message is.
Good Time (Dir. Benny and Josh Safdie)
Led by the best performance of Robert Pattinson’s career so far, Good Time is an astonishing thriller from New York directors the Safdie Brothers. Non-stop action and a series of bleak twists propel the story of a career criminal attempting to break his mentally-handicapped brother out of prison, while Pattinson’s unemotional performance ground even the most bizarre plot turns in a scuzzy reality. Boasting the most stylish synth score of the year and 70’s-esque cinematography, Good Time suggests the Safdie Brothers are ready to enter the mainstream.
Dunkirk (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Never bet against Christopher Nolan. Time and time again, he’s proven himself as one of the greatest blockbuster directors of all time, and Dunkirk is no exception. A tense, emotionally-draining addition to the World War II canon, Dunkirk offers tremendous spectacle (soaring dogfights shot in glorious Imax), solid performances (including pop star Harry Styles in his film debut), and a stirring climax that could move even the least patriotic of audiences. If it isn’t Nolan’s best film, that’s only because of the high standard he’s set so far.
A Ghost Story (Dir. David Lowery)
The prospect of finding a unique story in 2017 is difficult, but David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a true original. A slow, hypnotic arthouse dream about an unnamed musician (Casey Affleck, hidden under a sheet) who dies and comes back as the titular spirit, A Ghost Story is a strange, haunting depiction of death and grief, with Affleck’s girlfriend Rooney Mara left alone as months, years, and possibly centuries pass by. Some found it too weird and glacially-paced (the infamous ‘pie’ scene is a 6 minute unbroken take of Mara eating pastry), but those who got on board with Lowery’s vision were treated to something truly special.
Paddington 2 (Dir. Paul King)
Not the hero post-Brexit Britain deserves but the one it needs. Paddington was brilliant but the sequel tops it in every way; a vibrant, funny, charming family adventure in which director Paul King makes everything bigger and better. Ben Wishaw is still perfect as the titular bear, but the show is stolen by villainous Hugh Grant as a hammy thespian and Brendan Gleeson as gruff inmate Knuckles. King is a better action director than most, and Paddington 2 balances exciting set pieces with endless jokes and visual invention. If King directs a third Paddington film, it might end up being the best family film trilogy since Toy Story.
The Florida Project (Dir. Sean Baker)
If the point of cinema is to shine a light on people and worlds we never get to see, no film this year was as meaningful as Sean Baker’s sublime The Florida Project. Following a group of children as they spend the summer exploring the titular motel, The Florida Project was an empathetic, often-joyous look at lower class families in the United States.
Though seven-year-old newcomer Brooklynn Prince is outstanding as the young girl growing up with an aggressive teenage mother (Instagram model Brie Vinnaite), Willem Dafoe is the true heart and soul of the film as manager Bobby, world-weary yet always looking out for the misfits who populate his motel. Showing the reality of living day-to-day with no money, yet refusing to patronise or demonise his characters, Baker has created a realistic drama that allow you to laugh, cry, and spend time with some of the most interesting characters of the year. Small in scale but huge in drama, The Florida Project is a minor key masterpiece and the best feature film of 2017.
Congratulations to Sean Baker and The Florida Project! Join me next time where I’ll be handing out awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
By Harry J. Ford
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