2017 has been a tumultuous year for the film industry, courtesy of the man once branded “God” by Meryl Streep – the formerly untouchable mogul Harvey Weinstein. The scandal completely overshadowed what had previously been the big controversy of the year – white-washing – or the casting of white actors as often fictitious characters originally perceived as a particular non-white ethnicity; as white British actor Ed Skrein concluded, it’s apparently more appropriate for a Korean actor with no Japanese or white heritage to play a mixed-race white-Japanese character.
But now, with Christopher Plummer receiving a Golden Globe nomination for taking the role of John Paul Getty in All the Money in the World from the tainted Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey, white-washing has perhaps been replaced by laundering, leaving directors such as Edgar Wright, who cast Spacey in possibly his final film role – for now at least – Baby Driver, wondering what future his film might have, through no fault of his own.
But while the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag of 2016 was replaced by the #MeToo hashtag this year, let’s not forget about what was actually going on up on the silver screen. From another IMAX epic from Christopher Nolan to a heart-thumping no-budget crime thriller from a previously unknown pair of brothers, there are many highlights to leave us feeling positive about cinema this year.
Of course, 2017 also had its share of turkeys too – whether they’re unfortunate failures, well-meaning mishaps or wilful assaults on the art-form.
Perhaps the most delightful thing about cinema is that while What’s Worth Seeing’s film critics, Jason Korsner and Maria Duarte, constantly argue about many films they see – some of which you’ll notice below, there is a surprising degree of convergence. So here we go – what was worth seeing in 2017 – and what wasn’t?
What was Worth Seeing in 2017...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
GIFTED - An emotionally enriching and intellectually satisfying family courtroom tear-jerker that's honest to the core. With a screenplay as smart as the characters it portrays, without patronising the audience, its delightfully genuine performances ooze charm and warmth.
DUNKIRK - An extraordinary and visually stunning, immersive war drama, which puts you at the centre of the evacuation of the hundreds of thousands of allied troops from the beaches at Dunkirk. It needs to be seen in IMAX to appreciate fully director Christopher Nolan's cinematic vision.
|LA LA LAND - A musical masterpiece harking back to Hollywood's Golden Years. Whiplash's Damien Chazelle brings together Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in an intricately staged old-time but original musical, part homage, part parody, part pastiche, that will appeal to anyone with loves, hopes and dreams.||THE FLORIDA PROJECT With its heart stealing performances from its very young cast, this magical yet bitter-sweet drama about childhood innocence highlights the plight of an unrepresented part of the US population who are housed in budget hotels just a stone's throw from Disneyland.|
|GOOD TIME - An unrecognisable Robert Pattinson delivers an impressive turn as a small-time bank robber whose learning disabled brother gets caught in a heart-pumping low-budget crime-thriller from the unknown Safdie brothers.||A MONSTER CALLS - Going back to the first day of the year, this remarkably moving and visually spectacular coming of age tale, about a young boy whose mother is terminally ill, has a monster twist.|
|A GHOST STORY - This is a haunting and visually bold examination of existence that falls somewhere between brave, insightful and pretentious. Employing an entire armoury of cinematic tricks, it's one of the most poetic, thought provoking and refreshingly different pieces of cinema in years; interminably slow but constantly compelling and oddly satisfying.||MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE - With its exquisite stop motion animation and haunting soulful characters, this Golden Globe and Oscar nominated animated feature about a young boy, who is sent to an orphanage following the death of his drunken and abusive mother, packs a heartfelt punch.|
|THE BIG SICK - This fresh take on the romantic comedy tackles cultural and generational clashes with warmth and maturity. Two almost separate tales seamlessly combine; in one, a Pakistani American forms a relationship with a white woman - in the other, he forms a relationship with her parents.||PADDINGTON 2 - The lovable bear from Peru with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches, who looks for the good in everyone, returns in a sequel which is just as enchanting and magical as the original film and also stars an impressive Hugh Grant as a wonderfully theatrical villain.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: My best list also included Christopher Nolan's exhilarating presentation of a military defeat as a great victory in Dunkirk but I'll give that one to Maria Duarte. We also agreed on A Monster Calls and The Florida Project. But my other special mentions go to Armando Iannucci's darkly satirical look at a brutal Russian dictator in The Death of Stalin, James Franco's biopic of the most mocked film-maker of the 21st century, The Disaster Artist and one of the more entertaining and less preachy civil rights films, with the Hidden Figures of women at NASA.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: Hugh Jackman's stirring, raw and violent standalone tale of the ageing and ailing Wolverine in Logan. Already being recognised by British awards bodies, Lady Macbeth could be described as Jane Austen with a macabre and Machiavellian twist, driven by a mesmerising and powerhouse performance by Florence Pugh. The Party, starring a stellar cast is a lean yet sharp-witted and biting modern satire with a shining performance from Patricia Clarkson, which at just 71 minutes, doesn't outstay its welcome.|
What was not Worth Seeing in 2017...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
BRAKES - No amount of small-screen comic talent can save this random set of vignettes of doomed love affairs from being anything other than a nihilistic vanity project that will make you never want to fall in love. Julia Davis, Kerry Fox, Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt do their best, but the anarchic structure and scatter-gun narrative is as unconvincing as it is bland.
HAMPSTEAD - This shamefully bourgeois twee rom-com starring Diane Keaton, in full Keaton mode, is loosely based on the much more interesting and complex story of a homeless man who fought - and beat - developers, who were trying to evict him from a quiet corner of Hampstead Heath, where he had been living for more than a decade.
|THE SNOWMAN - A hugely disappointing adaptation of Headhunters author Jo Nesbø's novel of the same name, The Snowman is a so-called Scandi-noir for those who prefer scenery and gore to believable characters and coherent plotting. The corny and clunky police procedural reaches its nadir when the audience starts laughing at, rather than with it.||ELLE - The great Isabelle Huppert is repeatedly raped and beaten in a disturbing comedy drama which peddles the male fantasy that women enjoy being raped. There's no justification for this appalling premise and just because it's by Paul Verhoeven, it doesn't make it right. (NB: We disagreed, so don't expect our review to match!)|
|MOON DOGS - A sad waste of Shetland, this is an unconvincing road (and boat) movie, built around unsympathetic characters who do little that's credible or interesting. Handled with misjudged naivety, this wouldn't look out of place at a film-school graduation festival. You wouldn't want to go to that film school, though.||mother! - Yes, that is lower case and yes, that is an exclamation mark in the title, both of which add to this being the leading contender for the most pretentious film of the year. A cross between a home invasion movie and Rosemary's Baby this confusing supernatural horror completely loses the plot and ends up an ideological mess.|
|THE RITUAL - After an effective set-up, this illogical and corny attempt to follow the low-budget horror formula trips over the first twig and gets horribly lost in the forest. The most frightening thing about this monstrous mess was its Friday 13th release date.||STRATTON - Sadly even the wonderfully talented Dominic Cooper can't save the shambles of this poorly scripted and poorly plotted spy thriller full of cheap looking action stunts and which features one of the most bizarre cameo appearances of the year.|
|THEIR FINEST - This twee, chocolate-box depiction of wartime Britain doesn't hang together as a convincing or well-rounded narrative, which is unforgivable for a film about the writing of films. It's harmless enough, but constantly misfires, shooting far below its weight.||FIST FIGHT - This supposed comedy starring Ice T as a school teacher who challenges another teacher to an after-school fist-fight is painfully offensive, crude and not in the least bit funny.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: In truth, there was little worse this year than the caricatured grotesques of the nonsensical rom-com Hampstead, but I've let Maria take that one. My near-misses include the plot-less monster fest Kong: Skull Island, and Guy Ritchie's irony-free, cliché-laden King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Only a late surge from Star Wars: The Last Jedi saved the colon.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: The crude and vulgar film adaptation of the sweet and cheesy 1970s TV cop show CHiPs will have you crying with embarrassment, rather than laughter. And Michael Fassbender's painfully slow Scandi-noir thriller The Snowman nearly made it onto Maria's "worst list" too, with the snow-covered landscape being its most riveting feature.|