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Thursday, 4 January 2018

My favourite films of 2017 #10-1

Body snatchers: Daniel Kaluuya's Chris is in big trouble in Get Out

We've reached the final leg of our journey through my favourite films of 2017 and some of you are probably going to want to biff me on the nose for omitting certain movies from my top 40 list. Call Me By Your Name? Admired it more than I liked it – couldn't warm to either of the main characters. Good Time? Robert Pattinson's superb, but it isn't a patch on the Safdie brothers' previous movie, Heaven Knows What. Blade Runner 2049? Beautiful visuals but an unnecessary sequel that bored me to tears. Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Probably my favourite SW film since The Empire Strikes Back, but it only really clicked in the final hour. And that's the beauty of film – there are no right or wrong answers. Like what you like, watch what you want. As long as you enjoy it, it's really none of mine nor anyone else's business. That said, feel free to remonstrate with my choices in the comments. I have a thick skin, I can take it...

10. Personal Shopper
Director: Olivier Assayas  UK release date: 17 March
Kristin Stewart reunites with Clouds Of Sils Maria director Assayas for this strange and horror-inflected meditation on grief, loneliness and, quite possibly, madness. Stewart is Maureen, an American living in Paris and working as a general dog's body for Kyra, a ghastly celebrity model. She is also a medium, desperate to make contact with the spirit of her dead twin brother, who has passed away following a heart attack (she shares his condition). Maureen's life is sad and absurd; discussing ectoplasm-spewing spirits one minute, writing huge cheques for her employer's obscenely expensive outfits and accessories the next. A lengthy scene in which Stewart goes to London and back again on Eurostar, all the while exchanging texts with a mysterious person or entity, is Assayas at his most audacious.

9. mother!
Director: Darren Aronofsky  UK release date: 15 September
The year's most divisive film fully deserves its reputation as Noah director Aronofsky serves up a feast of religious allegory, radical green politics and Grand Guignol. Javier Bardem is Him, a poet who lives with his young bride, the titular Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), in a big, beautiful, isolated house she has renovated from scratch. Their seemingly idyllic existence comes under threat with the arrival of Ed Harris and his wife Michelle Pfeiffer, spinning out of control altogether when Lawrence becomes pregnant and Bardem attracts a cult following, who not only turn up at the house but move in and start smashing it up. And just when you think matters have got just about as unhinged as they can, we career into an hysterical final act that'll make you question your sanity (or Aronofsky's). Love it or hate it, mother! takes more risks than any film I've seen this year and nearly all of them pay off spectacularly.

8. I Am Not A Witch
Director: Rungano Nyoni  UK release date: 20 October
In I Am Not A Witch, Zambian-Welsh filmmaker Nyoni gave us one of the year's most startling feature debuts, which she wrote as well as directed. It's a surreal social satire set in the country of Nyoni's birth and focuses on Shula (Maggie Mulubwa), a nine-year-old girl accused of witchcraft, who is shipped off to a "witch camp" in the Zambian desert. The camp is populated with women of all ages and, like Shula, they have all been interned on spurious charges. Attached to a long white ribbon and bulky spindle, like the other prisoners, Shula is told if she ever tries to escape she will be cursed and transformed into a goat. She is soon noticed by a government official who exploits her supposed abilities to his own ends. Nyoni's target is the misogyny that exists in Zambian society, with an added wrinkle... witch camps are in fact real and she visited several in Ghana and Zambia during research for the film. Mulubwa gives a restrained performance well beyond her tender years, while Nyoni's writing is full of acerbic wit.

7. Moonlight
Director: Barry Jenkins  UK release date: 17 February
Jenkins' Best Picture Oscar winner is probably too subtle for its own good at times and it took me a couple of watches before his movie's considerable charms inveigled their way into my heart. But, once you get past those early doubts, Moonlight is a beautifully judged and entirely powerful piece of work boasting great performances (especially Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, and Alex R Hibbert), superb storytelling and seductive visuals. It follows the same African-American character, Chiron, at three different but crucial stages of his life – child, teenager and man – as he strives to come to terms with both a difficult upbringing (Harris plays his crack-addict mother, he has no father) and his sexuality. We've all seen moving love stories before but Moonlight is a rarity – an on-screen exploration of masculinity and homosexuality that is warm, intimate, and sensitive.

6. The Handmaiden
Director: Park Chan-wook  UK release date: 14 April
Sumptuous adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel, The Fingersmith, which relocates the action from Victorian England to 1930s Korea. As part of a criminal scheme, a young pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri), is sent to work for a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) betrothed to her repulsive uncle (Cho Jin-woong). Instead of fleecing her employer, however, she falls in love with her and the two commence an affair. The Handmaiden is all about deception – during the film's three separate chapters, it time and again picks the pocket of your expectations. Park deliberately withholds information and skews perspectives, making for a discombobulating ride that keeps you on your toes every step of the way.

5. The Florida Project
Director: Sean Baker  UK release date: 10 November
Baker's follow-up to 2015's Tangerine (aka the movie filmed on an iPhone) is set in the Magic Castle, a Floridian motel just a hop, skip and a jump from the nearby Walt Disney World resort. Intended for tourists, it is also home to a great many low-income, short-stay families including, in this case, single mum Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her six-year-old daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). Precocious Moonee spends her summer days getting into scrapes with her friends, Scooty and Jancey, while her mum desperately tries to make ends meet. The irony here, of course, is that the motel and its surrounding area is a wonderland of fun and frolics for the kids but a penniless nightmare for Halley. Likewise, the garishly-painted façade of the motels may make them look like part of the Disney empire but the grim reality is light years away. Baker's visually sumptuous film – which doesn't overly concern itself with matters of plot – makes you laugh, makes you think, and isn't afraid to break your heart too. Willem Defoe, as the motel manager, hasn't been this good in years.

4. Raw
Director: Julia Ducournau  UK release date: 7 April
"Visceral" is a word thrown around by film critics to describe any bit of old tat with some violence in it these days. It's a word that has lost its power through repetition but one that nevertheless fits this extraordinary French cannibal film like a bloodied glove. A teenage vegetarian (Garance Marillier) is made to eat a rabbit heart as part of her initiation at a veterinary college and soon develops a taste for meat, including the human variety. Ducournau's unsparing film can be viewed as a straight-no-chaser horror flick or a coming of age yarn about a young woman transitioning into dog-eat-dog adulthood, but it adroitly juggles many other themes too, including sexual awakening, teenage rebellion, and sibling rivalry. Those reports of walk-outs and fainting at its festival showings only tell half the story because, underneath its blood and guts, Ducournau's film has smarts to spare.

3. Get Out
Director: Jordan Peele  UK release date: 17 March
Anyone who only knows US comedian Peele from his part in 2016's limp cat comedy, Keanu, is likely to be knocked out of their seat by this whip-smart combination of horror and satire that tackles the notion that America, even under Obama, was ever a post-racial society. British actor Daniel Kaluuya is in a mixed race relationship with his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) and one weekend she takes him to meet her moneyed, progressive parents at their remote country estate. They're initially friendly but clearly uncomfortable in his presence and that soon gives way to something far more sinister. Peele (previously best known in the US for the Key & Peele sketch show) combines Guess Who's Coming To Dinner and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers to give us a startling piece of work that puts liberal white America under the microscope and really doesn't like what he sees there.

2. Manchester By The Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan  UK release date: 13 January
Excoriating, heart-rending drama starring Best Actor Oscar winner Casey Affleck as a grief-stricken janitor returning home to the titular Massachusetts seaside town following the death of his older brother. There he has to confront a terrible secret from his past whilst struggling to forge a path into a more hopeful future. Director Lonergan's sharp script balances the bleakness with occasional stabs of wry humour, Michelle Williams is dependably superb as Affleck's estranged wife, while the actor himself turns in one of 21st Century Hollywood's great performances. The scene in which the pair bump into each other in the street, and the full weight of their shared history and suffering bears down upon them, is not only extraordinarily moving but also genuinely upsetting.

1. Elle
Director: Paul Verhoeven  UK release date: 10 March
A provocative revenge fantasy of sorts which sees Isabelle Huppert's icy CEO,
Michèle Leblanc, raped in her Paris apartment before commencing a strange and erotically-charged game of cat and mouse with her attacker. It's a divisive film that no one seems to entirely agree upon. Is it suggesting that women secretly enjoy the experience of sexual violence? Or is it an anti-rape statement skewering the male need to subjugate difficult, powerful women? For me, Elle entertains both notions, but seeks to discuss them as part of something else – the way in which his characters exploit, degrade and hurt each other on a regular basis, and how such behaviour ultimately coarsens and cheapens their relationships and society in general.

On the surface, Elle is only a short walk from the likes of Basic Instinct (director Verhoeven's 1992 potboiler, starring Sharon Stone), but it's a far more complex and rewarding work than that, helped enormously by Huppert's total immersion in one of modern cinema's most unreadable characters. Based on the novel Oh... by Philippe Djian, Verhoeven's film toys with viewers' expectations – at what point does Huppert's character Michelle really know the identity of her rapist? Is she telling the truth about a terrible incident from her childhood? Is she a sociopath and as much a villain as the man who attacked her? Ultimately, though, this is a film about violation, sexual assault being the most extreme form of that.

With one notable exception (Michele's son, Vincent, played by Jonas Bloquet), the characters here are all pretty ghastly – from the cheating husband of Michele's best friend to the gold-digging gigolo who moves in with her mum, from the sleazy meme guy in her office to Michele herself, a rape victim who, in her day job, is happy to develop, produce and sell a video game containing repulsive images of sexual assault.

The veteran Dutch director's point seems to be that his characters (and, by extension, we, the viewing public) step all over each other's needs and feelings so much, all the time, that it has become normalised – almost a default setting. Moreover, eventually, we come to not just accept it and expect it, but perhaps even to like it. A chilling thought upon which to end...

2016 - The Witch (director: Robert Eggers)
2015 - The New Girlfriend (François Ozon)
2014 - Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My favourite films of 2017 #20-11

Take the leather with you: The Villainess is full of twists and crazy action
20. Certain Women
Director: Kelly Reichardt  UK release date: 3 March
The Meek's Cutoff director presents three loosely-linked stories about the lives of four very different women, the best of which sees a naïve young Native American (Lily Gladstone) desperately trying to forge a romantic connection with Kristin Stewart's oblivious teacher. Gorgeous-looking, low-key, and poignant, just as you'd expect from director Reichardt.

19. God's Own Country
Director: Francis Lee  UK release date: 1 September
Yorkshire-set love story in which Josh O'Connor's disillusioned young farmer falls for Alec Secareanu's Romanian migrant worker. There's more mud, sex and beautifully-photographed scenery than you can shake a stick at, but it's the growing tenderness of the two men's relationship that is the real star here. Beautifully written, beautifully acted.

18. Lady Macbeth
Director: William Oldroyd  UK release date: 28 April
The title's a warning about what to expect in this merciless Victorian-set drama about a young woman (Florence Pugh) sold to a wealthy landowner as his wife. While he's away, she commences an affair with a stable-hand and, soon emboldened, her thoughts turn to darker matters. A blisteringly bleak meditation on class, race and sex, based on Nikolai Leskov's 1865 novella.

17. City Of Ghosts
Director: Matthew Heineman  UK release date: 21 July
Cartel Land director Heineman returns with another visceral, eye-opening documentary, this time focusing on citizen journalists in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which was seized by ISIS in 2013. It's horrifying and inspiring by turn, our band of journos risking life and limb (quite literally) to bring the world news from inside the city, as ISIS strengthen their grip on its populace and infrastructure.

16. The Villainess
Director: Byung-gil Jung  UK release date: 15 September
Cracking revenge thriller from South Korea that doubles as the year's maddest action film. A twisty plot sees assassin Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) on the trail of the man who murdered her father, but it's the film's numerous action scenes that remain in the memory, particularly the climactic chase and confrontation on a fast-moving bus.

15. I Am Not Your Negro
Director: Raoul Peck  UK release date: 7 April
Narrated by Samuel L Jackson, Peck's documentary about black novelist, playwright, poet and activist James Baldwin focusses mainly on an unfinished book featuring his memories of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. "The story of the negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story," writes Baldwin. Peck shows us how and why that story hasn't got any prettier.

14. The Levelling
Director: Hope Dickson Leach  UK release date: 12 May
Compellingly dark British drama about a young woman (Ellie Kendrick) returning to her family's farm following the suicide of her younger brother. Director Leach conjures an atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia in which grief is a palpable ingredient. These are helpless people caught in life's vicious crosshairs. David Troughton – as shattered patriarch Aubrey – is immense.

13. A Ghost Story
Director: David Lowery  UK release: 11 August
There's rather more to Pete's Dragon director Lowery's film than Rooney Mara's famous pie-eating scene and Casey Affleck dressed in a white sheet. It's actually a powerful, poetic exploration of love, grief and the impermanence of life. We die but the world keeps turning, our loved ones move on, our legacy is small and soon fades. Rarely has so harsh a notion been so elegantly expressed.

12. Mudbound
Director: Dee Rees  UK release date: 17 November
A boldly ambitious and all-too-resonant tale of two American families – one white, one black – in the years before, during and after WWII. Despite its large cast and multiple narrators, Rees' film is perfectly paced, with the climactic melodrama and its fallout providing scenes both memorable and horrifying. Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks, as racist patriarch Pappy, is the personification of toxic hatred.

11. On Body And Soul
Director: IIdiko Enyedi  UK release date: 22 September
Unconventional love story in which two abattoir workers – Géza Morcsányi and Alexandra Borbély – share dreams of being together in an Eden-like forest as deer, and slowly grow closer in the real world too. You quickly come to care about Enyedi's characters, especially lonely, vulnerable Maria (Borbély), whilst marvelling at the sheer chutzpah of the film's setting and storytelling.

**Next up: The countdown concludes with #10-1**

Monday, 1 January 2018

My favourite films of 2017: #30-21

Top gun: Brie Larson fights for survival in Ben Wheatley's Free Fire

30. Neruda

Director: Pablo Larrain  UK release date: 7 April
Off-kilter but visually sumptuous biopic of the famous Chilean poet, Nobel Prize winner and communist. Luis Gnecco's titular lead becomes a fugitive in his own country during the 1940s as he is pursued by Gael García Bernal's disturbed policeman. Larrain (Jackie) takes all sorts of liberties with real events, while his portrayal of Neruda is enjoyably unflattering.

29. Dunkirk
Director: Christopher Nolan  UK release date: 21 July
Nolan expertly utilises three different timelines (a week, a day and an hour) to tell the story of the famous WWII evacuation in an artistically bold and emotionally potent way. Aided and abetted by Hans Zimmer's frantic score, this is immersive, inventive filmmaking to take the breath away. Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance supply the actorly gravitas.

28. It Comes At Night
Director: Trey Edward Shults  UK release date: 7 July
Krisha director Shults turns up the paranoia to 11 in this post-apocalyptic thriller-cum-horror, grabbing you hard by the lapels in its first few minutes and refusing to let go until its haunting closing shot around an hour and an half later. A great cast - including Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, and Riley Keough - are the icing on the cake.

27. Free Fire
Director: Ben Wheatley  UK release date: 31 March
It turns out a 90-minute shoot-out in a filthy warehouse between two gangs of inept criminals is a hell of a lot better on the big screen than it sounds on paper. Michael Smiley, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, and Armie Hammer are all on top form in a violent and riotously funny piece of work that doesn't owe quite as much to Reservoir Dogs as you'd imagine.

26. Land Of Mine
Director: Martin Zandvliet  UK release date: 4 August
Fact-based drama about young German POWS forced to clear thousands of land mines from Danish beaches after WWII. Roland Møller is the sadistic sergeant charged with completing the task - whatever the cost to his prisoners. An under-appreciated gem that powerfully explores notions of human decency and forgiveness.

25. The Age Of Shadows
Director: Kim Jee-woon  UK release date: 24 March
I Saw The Devil director Kim's blistering period piece set in Japanese-occupied Korea centres on members of the resistance and a cop (played by Song Kang-ho) with divided loyalties. It's breathless, it's brutal, it's sumptuous to look at - it also happens to be one of the year's richest and most rewarding action films.

24. Thelma
Director: Joachim Trier  UK release date: 3 November
A supernatural "coming out" story with shades of Carrie about a young university student, played by Eili Harboe, with terrifying psychic powers. This is far from a super-powered CG fest, though, as Trier (Louder Than Bombs) focuses as much on Thelma's burgeoning sexuality, and repudiation of her strict religious upbringing, as he does on her abilities.

23. In Between
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud  UK release date: 22 September
Hungarian-born Hamoud's directorial debut is a compelling story of three Palestinian women living together in Tel Aviv, and torn between embracing modernity and the more conservative diktats of their families' culture. Mouna Hawa as Leila is a revelation, while the friendships are beautifully explored and believable. The final shot is perfect.

22. Silence
Director: Martin Scorsese  UK release date: 1 January
Based on Shûsaku Endô's novel, Silence sees two Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) searching for their lost mentor (Liam Neeson) in 17th Century Japan, at a time of great religious persecution. Bloated, self-important and old-fashioned? Maybe, but nobody does heavyweight epic with quite as much pizzazz as the Goodfellas director.

21. La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle  UK release date: 13 January
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone can't sing or dance like Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, but this musical love letter to old Hollywood, romance and jazz is utterly charming. The song and dance numbers are mostly terrific (especially the opener, Another Day Of Sun), and Chazelle serves up a bravura ending a million miles from the schmaltz-fest I was expecting.

**Up next: #20-11**

Sunday, 31 December 2017

My favourite films of 2017: #40-31

Will Poulter played a racist cop in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit

Living in the UK and coming up with a favourite movies of the year list is always tricky because our theatrical release schedule is slightly out of sync with that of a great many other countries, especially the USA. This means the likes of Moonlight, La La Land, and Manchester By The Sea were all last year's films in other territories, but were not released in the UK until 2017. I realise including them here may seem odd to some, not to mention a little behind the curve, but sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt. The vagaries of UK release schedules also mean I won't be including the likes of The Shape Of Water, Downsizing, or BPM (Beats Per Minute) here because, even though I've seen them, they aren't opening in this country until 2018.

Although none of them made the final 40, in a slight change to previous years, new films released on Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as those that went straight to Blu-ray or DVD, were also eligible for inclusion here.

I've seen a bum-numbing 238 new films over the last 12 months - everything from Blade Runner 2049 on a massive IMAX screen on Leicester Square to a little-known French oddity like Ava, hidden away on streaming service MUBI. Of all those films, these are the ones that emerged as my favourites, movies I suspect will stay with me for many years to come. The top 10 is ridiculously strong this year with any one of the top five or six titles good enough to have been my #1...

40. Colossal

Director: Nacho Vigalondo  UK release date: 19 May
Alcoholic Gloria (Anne Hathaway) realises she is psychically linked to a monster rampaging through South Korea in this odd and highly original indie flick. Cut through the Kaiju hijinks, though, and Vigalondo's film is really about the affect self-destructive behaviour can have on those around you. Jason Sudeikis provides the toxic masculinity to give things an extra kick.

39. My Life As A Courgette
Director: Claude Barras  UK release date: 2 June
Beautifully-realised animation from France about a young boy - the titular Courgette - sent to a children's home after the death of his alcoholic mother. Barras's film (with a screenplay by Girlhood's Céline Schiamma) handles some incredibly heavy issues with sensitivity, warmth and winning humour. Lovely.

38. Frantz
Director: François Ozon  UK release date: 12 May
Haunting post-WWI drama from prolific French director Ozon (The New Girlfriend). A young German woman (Paula Beer), still in mourning for her dead fiancé, meets a mysterious Frenchman (Adrien Rivoire) at his grave. He has a devastating secret and the way Ozon handles that revelation and its consequences is never less than utterly compelling.

37. David Lynch: The Art Life
Directors: Jon Nguyen, Rick Barfnes, & Olivia Neergaard-Holm  UK release date: 14 July
The extraordinary return of Twin Peaks may have grabbed most of the Lynch-related headlines in 2017, but this intimate documentary goes right back to the start, providing as it does a unique window into the director's family history and the evolution of his relationship with the visual arts (painting and installation as well as film). Fascinating and illuminating.

36. The Death Of Stalin
Director: Armando Iannucci  UK release date: 20 October
Foul-mouthed humour and the horror of Stalinist Russia make oddly agreeable bedfellows in Iannucci's follow-up to In The Loop. When the Russian dictator pops his clogs, his fractious band of lieutenants, including Steve Buscemi's Nikita Khrushchev and Jeffrey Tambor's Georgy Malenkov, scheme to replace him as supreme leader. Bleak but bloody funny.

35. Beach Rats
Director: Eliza Hittman  UK release date: 24 November
In what will surely be a star-making role, Brit Harris Dickinson plays Frankie, a troubled Brooklyn teen experimenting with drugs and hooking up with older men on the Net, as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality. Hittman's film has similarities with Moonlight in its frank exploration of masculinity, but is absorbing enough to succeed on its own terms.

34. Suntan
Director: Argyris Papadimitropoulos  UK release date: 28 April
Unsettling drama about an emotionally disturbed doctor (the excellent Makis Papadimitriou) on a small Greek island falling in love with a beautiful young tourist initially happy to play along with his obsession. An odd but satisfying mix of pitch-black humour with deluded middle-aged men in its sights, and sheer, unadulterated creepiness. 

33. Happy End
Director: Michael Haneke  UK release date: 1 December
If the humour here were any blacker, they'd send miners underground to dig it up to burn as fuel. This time the German filmmaker focuses on the innumerable travails of the Calais-based Laurent family, a fractious, bourgeois bunch whose self-inflicted woes he picks apart with forensic glee. Veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant is superb as the suicidal patriarch. 

32. Detroit
Director: Kathryn Bigelow  UK release date: 25 August
Set amidst the chaos of 1967's Detroit riots, Bigelow's problematic but pulsating drama concentrates on a notorious incident in which racist police officers terrorised guests at a motel, after reports of gunfire on the premises. John Boyega and Will Poulter are both superb but the film belongs to Algee Smith's affecting turn as R&B singer Larry Reed.

31. Prevenge
Director: Alice Lowe  UK release date: 10 February
Director/writer/star Lowe makes the tricky art of comedy-horror look easy in her filmmaking debut, famously shot when she was seven months' pregnant. She plays Ruth, newly widowed and bearing a child that exhorts her to take bloody revenge on those responsible for her partner's death. As funny as it is joyously grisly. 

**Up next: #30-21**

Friday, 29 December 2017

Review of 2017: The third annual 'Resties'

The Death Of Stalin is my favourite comedy of the year

The As Human As The Rest Of Us film blog is three years old this week, and it's therefore time to dish out some awards in 2017's annual 'Resties', which reflect my favourite and least favourite movie moments from the past 12 months. Please note: Only films released in the UK - on any format - between January 1 and December 31 were eligible for inclusion. In other words, there's no point looking for The Shape Of Water, Three Billboards or The Post because they haven't opened here yet...


BEST ACTING PERFORMANCE (FEMALE): Isabelle Huppert (Elle) Honourable mentions: Kristin Stewart (Personal Shopper and Certain Women), Alexandra Borbély (On Body And Soul), Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), Lily Gladstone (Certain Women), Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), Bria Vinaite (The Florida Project)

BEST ACTING PERFORMANCE (MALE): Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) Honourable mentions: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Jason Mitchell (Mudbound), Jonathan Banks (Mudbound), Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats), Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)), Robert Pattinson (Good Time)



BEST CHILD ACTOR: Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project) Honourable mentions: Maggie Mulubwa (I Am Not A Witch), McKenna Grace (Gifted), Alex Hibbert (Moonlight)

BEST DIRECTOR: Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden) Honourable mentions: Martin Scorsese (Silence), Paul Verhoeven (Elle), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women), Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper), Dee Rees (Mudbound), Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden is a sensual delight, packed full of twists

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Blade Runner 2049 might have been a total snorefest but Roger Deakins' camerawork is, as ever, second to none Honourable mentions: Dunkirk (Hoyte Van Hoytema), The Florida Project (Alexis Zabe), Call Me By Your Name (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom), The Handmaiden (Chung Chung-hoon), mother! (Matthew Libatique)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Get Out Honourable mentions: The Death Of Stalin, Manchester By The Sea, Elle, mother!, The Big Sick

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Honourable mentions: Blade Runner 2049, War For The Planet Of The Apes, Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

BEST SCORE: Félicité Honourable mentions: Blade Runner 2049, Prevenge, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, Good Time, The Bad Batch, War For The Planet Of The Apes

BEST TRAILER: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Honourable mentions: Dunkirk, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, The Death Of Stalin

BEST SCREEN VILLAIN: Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in Star Wars: The Last Jedi Honourable mentions: Jennifer (Jennifer Fraser) in Capture Kill Release, The Armitage Family (Bradley Whitford et al) in Get Out, Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha) in The Handmaiden, Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) in The Death Of Stalin

WORST SCREEN VILLAIN: It's a tie between Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) in Justice League and Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) in Blade Runner 2049

BEST BRITISH FILM: I Am Not A Witch Honourable mentions: God's Own Country, The Levelling, Lady Macbeth, Prevenge

Elle Honourable mentions: Raw, The Villainess, On Body And Soul, In Between

BEST BLOCKBUSTER: War For The Planet Of The Apes Honourable mentions: Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok

BEST ANIMATION: My Life As A Courgette Honourable mentions: The Red Turtle, The Lego Batman Movie, Your Name

My Life As A Courgette shone brightest in a strong year for animation

BEST DOCUMENTARY: I Am Not Your Negro Honourable mentions: City Of Ghosts, Strong Island, I Called Him Morgan, The Work, David Lynch: The Art Life

BEST HORROR: Get Out Honourable mentions: You Better Watch Out, The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, It Comes At Night, Hounds Of Love, Capture Kill Release

BEST COMEDY: The Death Of Stalin Honourable mentions: Prevenge, The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected), The Disaster Artist, Mindhorn, Paddington 2, The Big Sick

BEST DVD/BLU-RAY: Cult Films' swanky new 40th anniversary, 4k restoration of Dario Argento's horror classic Suspiria Honourable mentions: The Lure (Criterion), The Thing (Arrow), The Louis Malle Collection (Curzon Artificial Eye)

HIDDEN GEM OF THE YEAR: Maysaloun Hamoud's In Between Honourable mentions: Land Of Mine, Tramps, The Age Of Shadows, On Body And Soul

TIP FOR THE TOP (FEMALE): Julia Ducournau (writer/director, Raw) Honourable mentions: Samara Weaving (actress, The Babysitter), Florence Pugh (actress, Lady Macbeth), Rungano Nyoni (writer/director, I Am Not A Witch), Grace Van Patten (actor, Tramps, The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)), Anna Asensio (actor/writer/director, Most Beautiful Island)

TIP FOR THE TOP (MALE): Harris Dickinson (actor, Beach Rats) Honourable mentions: Josh O'Connor (actor, God's Own Country), Francis Lee (writer/director, God's Own Country), Algee Smith (actor, Detroit), Trevante Rhodes (actor, Moonlight), Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer)

Dario Argento's Suspiria: Still crazy after all these years


BEST FILM MAGAZINE: Sight & Sound Honourable mentions: Film Comment, Little White Lies

BEST FILM WEBSITE: Indiewire Honourable mentions: The Skinny, The Playlist

BEST FILM CRITIC: Whether writing in The Daily Telegraph or sitting in for Mark Kermode on the radio, Robbie Collin has been an essential read/listen this year Honourable mentions: Wendy Ide, Nick Pinkerton, Ashley Clark

WORST FILM CRITIC: Camilla Long's liberal-baiting review of Moonlight in the Sunday Times was lazy and ill-informed. Dissenting voices are essential in film criticism but cynical controversialists should be given short shrift

BEST FILM PODCAST: A lot of movie podcasts are little more than low-grade radio shows or feature obnoxious nerds yelling at each other about Zack Snyder. The Film Comment pod, on the other hand, always comes across like a group of friends continuing a lively conversation from the pub or restaurant. Its contributors are not only knowledgeable - my personal dream team consists of host Violet Lucca, Ashley Clarke, Nick Pinkerton, and Eliza Ma - but frequently witty and laugh-out-loud funny too. Their discussion of Terrence Mallick back in April was the best pod episode I heard all year. Honourable mention: Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies Podcast

BEST STREAMING SERVICE: I've discovered so many films, actors and directors new to me through MUBI this year I've lost count

BEST ONLINE CONTENT: Kermode Uncut Honourable mention: Honest Trailers

BEST TV: Twin Peaks: The Return was, simply put, the most extraordinary television event of my lifetime Honourable mentions: The Handmaid's Tale, Big Little Lies, Mindhunter

MOST AMUSING COCK-UP: It's impossible to look any further than that extraordinary La La Land-Moonlight Oscars faux pas. 

And the winner is... total chaos and embarrassment for the Academy

MOST VERY ANNOYING THING #1: Trailers giving away plot twists are the bane of the modern film industry. Kingsman: The Golden Circle was rubbish but I might have enjoyed it more had its trailer not contained a massive spoiler.

MOST VERY ANNOYING THING #2: Trailers that bear little resemblance to the film. George Clooney's Suburbicon sold itself as a crazy black comedy very much in the vein of the Coen Brothers script it started life as. Funny how its trailer neglected to mention that half the film was taken up with a bleak drama focused on racism.

MOST VERY ANNOYING THING #3: Fan "theories". Andy from Toy Story grows up to be The Joker... Travis Bickle's cat is Scrappy Doo in disguise... I live in my mum's basement and my life is an empty, sucking void...

MOST HORRIFYING FANDOM #1: Thor: Ragnarok was enormous fun. Rather less jolly, though, were the Marvel fanboys abusing journalists who'd given Taika Waititi's film negative reviews, thus dragging its Rotten Tomatoes score down to - gasp! - a humbling 92 per cent. It seems it's no longer enough for some people that nerd-centric films clean up at the box office and are garlanded in mostly positive reviews. You have to like them now... or else.

MOST HORRIFYING FANDOM #2: Those Star Wars fans who created a petition to have Rian Johnson's thoroughly enjoyable The Last Jedi expunged from the long-running space opera's canon. Twits.

Thor: Ragnarok: Nice film... shame about some of its fans


FILM I LIKED BUT EVERYONE ELSE HATED #1: Ben Affleck's overlong but absorbing crime epic Live By Night

FILM I LIKED BUT EVERYONE ELSE HATED #2: Ghost In The Shell was flawed on so many levels I lost count... BUT when it was good it was, well, not bad actually

FILM I LIKED BUT EVERYONE ELSE HATED #3: Denise Di Novi brought back the much-maligned '80s "bunny-boiler" sub-genre with a vengeance in Unforgettable

MOST OVERRATED FILM: I liked Luca Guadagnino's long, slow and luscious Call Me By Your Name, but remain baffled why so many have hailed it a masterpiece. It was even #1 in The Guardian's Best of 2017 top 50 list

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE: Gifted Honourable mentions: The Great Wall, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

MOST FRUSTRATING FILM: Maren Ade's German black comedy Toni Erdmann boasts great performances and some terrific scenes, but could comfortably lose half-an-hour from its flabby middle section

I'M NOT CRYING, YOU'RE CRYING... OF THE YEAR: In Manchester By The Sea, Randi (Michelle Williams) and Lee (Casey Affleck) bump into each other in the street and engage in what is perhaps the most genuinely upsetting on-screen conversation I've ever seen. Makes me sob like a baby every single time. I only have to see a bit of it in the trailer and I tear up. Honourable mention: The finale of Lion

The crying game: Manchester By The Sea's most heartbreaking moment

QUOTE OF THE YEAR #1: "If I could, I would have voted for Obama for a third term." - Get Out's Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford)

QUOTE OF THE YEAR #2: "I’m the peacemaker and I’ll fuck over anyone who gets in my way." - The Death Of Stalin's Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi)

QUOTE OF THE YEAR #3: "I went to fight for my country to come back and find it hadn’t changed a bit." - Mudbound's Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell)

QUOTE OF THE YEAR #4: "I'm not a feminist or I wouldn't tolerate guys like you." - Toni Erdmann's Ines (Sandra Hüller)

QUOTE OF THE YEAR #5: "I don't hang with the Avengers any more. It all got too corporate." - Thor: Ragnarok's Thor (Chris Hemsworth) 

QUOTE OF THE YEAR #6: "I should fuckin' burn in hell for what I said to you." - Manchester By The Sea's Randi (Michelle Williams)

BEST SCENE OF THE YEAR: The 'finger eating' bit in Raw Honourable mentions: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) visits The Sunken Place in Get Out; The extended action/fight sequence in Atomic Blonde; The brutal car/bus battle in The Villainess; That baby scene from Darren Aronofsky's mother!; Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) makes a startling revelation over dinner in Elle; Ines (Sandra Hüller) belts out The Greatest Love Of All in Toni Erdmann; Randi (Michelle Williams) and Lee's (Casey Affleck) heart-shattering conversation in Manchester By The Sea

Finger-lickin' good: Garance Marillier develops a taste for human flesh in Raw

WORST SCENE OF THE YEAR: Niander Wallace (Jared Wallace) murders a naked female replicant in Blade Runner 2049 Dishonourable mention: Volmer (Jason Isaacs) sexually assaults Hannah (Mia Goth) in A Cure For Wellness... then sniffs his fingers. Horrible.

MOST INSUFFERABLY OVER-THE-TOP PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR #1: Matthew McConaughey has more ham than a pig farm in Gold

MOST INSUFFERABLY OVER-THE-TOP PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR #2: Juliette Binoche gurns her way through the wretchedly unfunny Slack Bay

MOST ENJOYABLY OVER-THE-TOP PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR #1: Hugh Grant steals the show in Paddington 2 as a villainous thesp

MOST ENJOYABLY OVER-THE-TOP PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR #2: Katherine Heigl turns it up to 11 in the ridiculously entertaining Unforgettable

BEST PLOT TWIST: The Villainess Honourable mentions: Atomic Blonde, The Limehouse Golem, The Handmaiden, Get Out, The Babysitter

WORST PLOT TWIST: From The Land Of The Moon 

BEST ON-SCREEN COUPLE: Johnny (Josh O'Connor) and Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) in God's Own Country Honourable mentions: Danny (Callum Turner) and Ellie (Grace Van Patten) in Tramps, Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) and Katie (Malic White) in Princess Cyd

MOST PUNCHABLE CHARACTER: Alex Sharp's insufferable Luke in To The Bone Dishonourable mention: Jake Gyllenhaal's celebrity wildlife wrangler in Okja


BEST PUNCH-UP: Sook-hee's (Ok-bin Kim) final showdown in The Villainess (I won't mention with who as it involves a huge spoiler) Honourable mentions: Sandra Oh and Anne Heche pound the snot out of each other in Catfight; Bradley (Vince Vaughn) finally gets his hands on the men threatening his wife and unborn child in Brawl In Cell Block 99; Thor and Hulk get gladiatorial in Thor: Ragnarok ("He's a friend from work!")

BEST SEQUEL OR PREQUEL: T2 Trainspotting Honourable mentions: War For The Planet Of The Apes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

WORST SEQUEL OR PREQUEL: Kingsman: The Golden Circle Dishonourable mentions: Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049

Kingsman: The Golden Circle proved to be a disappointing sequel

ACTORS MOST IN NEED OF BETTER ROLES: Adam Scott (Little Evil), Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Golden Circle)

CATCHPHRASE OF THE YEAR: "Here we are again!" (The Limehouse Golem)

INSULT OF THE YEAR: "Jesus Christ, did Coco Chanel take a shit on your head?" -
Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs) isn't impressed with Georgy Malenkov's (Jeffrey Tambor) new haircut in The Death Of Stalin

GAFFE OF THE YEAR: Bringing in Joss Whedon to finish Zack Snyder's Justice League, resulting in an uneven shambles that somehow failed to play to the strengths of either filmmaker

ON SECOND THOUGHTS... OF THE YEAR: Casting Kevin Spacey in your movie. Too late for Edgar Wright's Baby Driver, but Ridley Scott digitally replaced the disgraced actor with Christopher Plummer in scenes for All The Money In The World (out in the UK next week)


*Up next: My favourite films of 2017 #30-21*