Like all years at the cinema, 2017 offered up a mix of towering creative triumph and stultifying bottom-feeding. FilmInk was happily – and often unhappily – across all of it, rating (nearly) all of the year’s movies, from titles in the top-scoring $20 category right down to the dismal $1 tier, which was occupied by just one film this year. In this wrap-up, however, we’re going to take the high road by looking at the most positively reviewed films of the year, so we won’t mutter the name of that $1 dud here, except to say that it features a spot of spanking and a little ingeniously applied body oil. And while the only variety on offer in that film was of the between-the-sheets brand, FilmInk proved that its taste runs right across the board when it comes to the preferred flicks of 2017.
Only three films scored the coveted $20 rating in 2017, and it’s an impressive triumvirate indeed. In lock-step with critical appraisal around the word, Toni Erdmann was awarded a perfect score by FilmInk. Running at a not-one-minute-too-long three hours, this unlikely personal epic from Germany mixes black comedy with the keenest tragedy to tell an extraordinary tale of a father and daughter being slowly asphyxiated by the world around them. “It is not every day that you get to say this and mean it as a reviewer, but this is a work of art,” ran FilmInk’s glowing review.
Also sitting atop the cinematic heap in 2017 was In This Corner Of The World, a stunningly realised, critically acclaimed animated drama from Japan, in which this deeply complicated nation revisits the horrors of WW2, and examines their lasting legacy. It’s “more than a film,” said FilmInk, “it’s the embodiment of a national memory full of guilt, shame, and loss.”
Far more divisive is the third film of this top-slot triptych. Barely released, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story was never meant to be an easy proposition, with the film asking many of life’s big questions, and then providing answers in a stylish and admirably opaque fashion. “Few directors could have even attempted this film,” ran FilmInk’s review. “Only a handful of names come to mind: Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, and Terrence Malick.” It’s high praise, but A Ghost Story is a brave, bold, ambitious film never afraid to step right out onto the edge and tempt failure at every turn.
The films sitting just below these three are equally diverse, though the high score achieved by many are hardly surprising, with major awards season fixtures like Dunkirk, Jackie, Lion, Manchester By The Sea, and “last minute” Best Picture Oscar winner, Moonlight, sitting just below FilmInk’s cinematic pinnacle in 2017. The belated but brilliant sequel, Blade Runner 2049, also rated highly, as it did with most critics (if not audiences) around the world. And despite the enormous amount of superhero movies to fly into cinemas in 2017, the only one to thunder its way to the upper echelons of FilmInk’s top-flicks-list was Logan, Hugh Jackman’s appropriately heralded swansong as long-serving mutant badass, Wolverine. “Logan is not just a great superhero film, it’s a great film, period,” said FilmInk, perfectly distilling the appeal of this critical darling. The other films to tickle our reviewers’ fancies, however, weren’t quite so cut-and-dried.
Four documentaries were near the top, with Whitney: Why Can’t I Be Me? (Nick Broomfield’s heartbreaking retrospective on the tragic Whitney Houston), I Am Not Your Negro (a timely and all-too-relevant portrait of African-American writer, James Baldwin), Cameraperson (a deeply personal work from cinematographer, Kirsten Johnson), and Radio Birdman: Descent Into The Maelstrom (a fevered trawl through the past of one of Australia’s most essential rock bands) standing tall for the non-fiction genre.
Two high quality foreign language films were represented in the shape of the highly emotional, multi-narrative French drama, Heal The Living, and the truly original Norwegian war film, The King’s Choice, while Lion wasn’t the only Australian film to score highly, with Greg Mclean’s uncompromising survival nightmare, Jungle, and the gritty indigenous themed doco, Zach’s Ceremony, also in the upper level mix.
Finally, proving that it’s never afraid to make a stand, FilmInk put itself in the corner of two of the more divisive films of the year, rating Sofia Coppola’s eerie, artful feminist psychological thriller, The Beguiled, and Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, which gleefully split audiences in half with its wild collision of dynamic imagery, theological mash-up, and frenzied thrills. “A dense, delirious, playful and serious work of capital A art, and easily the most ambitious film to come out of a major studio since Kubrick,” exalted FilmInk, proving that it’s never afraid to take a position when it comes to quality cinema…of any shape or form.