The best films of 2017 so far

We’re half­way through the year – it’s time to take cin­e­matic stock

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Don­ald Clarke

Yes, we do this now. Like ev­ery­body else, we knock to­gether a list of the 10 best films in the first half of the year. Give it a while and we’ll be com­pil­ing th­ese things on an hourly ba­sis. Best al­bums since lunchtime. Best nov­els since I be­gan writ­ing this ar­ti­cle.

Where was I? Oh yes. Such film lists tend, when deal­ing with the open­ing six months, to be dom­i­nated by the sec­ond half of Os­car sea­son. There is a bit of that in your cur­rent cor­re­spon­dent’s chart. But two of the big play­ers, Manch­ester by the Sea and La La Land, just failed to make the fi­nal list. The even­tual best pic­ture win­ner, Moon­light, is there. It will surely ap­pear on most end-of-year lists aligned to UK and Ir­ish re­lease dates.

A few of our com­peti­tors have pub­lished their worst films of the year so far. The Ir­ish Times wouldn’t lower it­self. We will, how­ever, note that iden­ti­fy­ing whether CHiPs or Bay­watch was the more abysmal TV adap­ta­tion is a real an­gels-onthe-head-of-a-pin co­nun­drum.

So in no par­tic­u­lar or­der . . . hang on. I’ve opened the wrong en­ve­lope. La La Land is the win­ner. I’m not jok­ing.

Ac­tu­ally, I am. MOON­LIGHT A sear­ing, poetic med­i­ta­tion on gay and African-Amer­i­can themes. The en­ve­lope mix-up dis­tracted from the fact that Moon­light’s vic­tory at the Os­cars was one of the great­est up­sets in the awards’ his­tory. What else would you ex­pect in the era of Trump, Cor­byn and Brexit? GET OUT An­other crit­i­cal smash from way out of left field. Jor­dan Peele’s satir­i­cal hor­ror film sends a young black man into a ter­ri­fy­ing ver­sion of the sub­ur­ban white plu­toc­racy. Pos­si­bly both the best hor­ror film and the best com­edy of the year. JACKIE The af­ter­math of JFK’s as­sas­si­na­tion seen from the per­spec­tive of an an­ni­hi­lated first lady. Oblique and poetic, the film prof­its from Natalie Port­man’s ec­cen­tric per­for­mance. But the MVP is surely Mica Levi’s ab­stract score. MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE Set in a care home for chil­dren at

Sear­ing, poetic: Alex R Hib­bert in Moon­light

risk, this French an­i­ma­tion proved to be one of the most op­ti­mistic and heart­warm­ing films of the year. There are hor­rors in here. But My Life as a Courgette reveals a rare con­fi­dence in ba­sic hu­man de­cency. LADY MAC­BETH Now that’s what you call mo­men­tum. Florence Pugh is a ty­phoon of right­eous fury in this windy, Northum­brian adap­ta­tion of Niko­lai Leskov’s Lady Mac­beth of the Mt­sensk District. We some­how re­tain sym­pa­thy for an anti-hero who does ter­ri­ble things. KEDI It is a lovely irony that one of YouTube Red’s first high-pro­file fea­ture ac­qui­si­tions is a doc­u­men­tary about the cats of Is­tan­bul. That’s right. It’s a cat video. This beau­ti­ful tribute to the city and its fe­male denizens de­serves to be seen on the big­gest avail­able screen. ELLE One critic de­scribed Paul Ver­ho­even’s trou­bling rape drama as “the most sur­pris­ingly un-booed film” of Cannes 2016. There are def­i­nitely un­com­fort­able turns here, but Is­abelle Hup­pert’s Os­car-nom­i­nated per­for­mance is im­pec­ca­ble. It will be ar­gued over for decades. AQUAR­IUS Kle­ber Men­donça Filho’s sprawl­ing drama con­cerns an ag­ing mu­sic writer bravely re­sist­ing ef­forts to knock down her beach­side apart­ment. Sô­nia Braga of­fers one of the great cin­e­matic por­tray­als of late-life stub­born­ness. It de­served to win all the awards she didn’t win. TONI ERD­MANN Maren Ade surged for­wards af­ter a few un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated dra­mas to de­liver a fam­ily com­edy that some­how man­aged to jus­tify its near-epic length. San­dra Hüller is the long-suf­fer­ing daugh­ter. Peter Si­monis­chek is the em­bar­rass­ing dad. You’re sure to iden­tify with one or the other. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO Grip­ping, fu­ri­ous doc­u­men­tary on the deaths of three black ac­tivists – Medgar Evers, Mal­colm X, Martin Luther King, Jr – told from the per­spec­tive of the writer James Bald­win. An ex­traor­di­nar­ily dis­ci­plined teas­ing out of the racial ten­sions that coloured the 1960s.

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