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Our top films of 2017...

...and hot favourites for 2018

29 December 2017

Did you know our fantastic cinema programme is developed in-house by our Head of Cinema, Alice Black? We asked Alice to pick some of her film favourites from the last year, and share her tips for 2018 - not an easy task, when you've seen as many films as she has! Read on to find out more…

Standout films from 2017

One the best and worst parts of being a film programmer is that I get to see the films which end up on our screens very far in advance of our customers. It is an essential element of my role, to be able to make the most informed decision I can about which films we will show and which films (sometimes regrettably) we don’t have space for. But it can also end up a lonely process, when I come back from a film festival where I’ve seen a movie which I loved and no one else has seen and I begin the long wait (months, occasionally years) until it becomes available for us to screen.

I’ve been quite strict with myself to come up with three 2017 films you might have already seen, but to cover all the bases I'll give you a few of my top tips for 2018 as well!

I find these best-of year end lists really difficult. What makes a film the 'best' after all? Personally, I'm always looking for a filmmaker to either surprise me with their technical abilities, challenge my perceptions, or emotionally move me. Keeping those factors in mind, these are the three films which have stayed with me over all the others in 2017:

Call Me By Your Name 

I wouldn’t say I am a card carrying member of the Luca Guadignino fan club but there’s no denying his ability to capture time and place, repressed emotions, and complex relationships. There’s sumptuousness to his visual style which some find affected and pretentious but I thought it captured so many elements of André Aciman’s beloved novel perfectly. The bravery of the final shot of the film, resting on Timothée Chalamet’s face, was one of those sublime cinematic moments.

My Life As a Courgette

When I saw this film in Cannes, it was given a 15 minute standing ovation and rightly so.  A story about children in care told through the medium of stop-motion animation, I that there would be challenges in explaining to an audience why it was for them.  Unlike other cinemas in the UK, we also made the decision not to show the film dubbed into English but in its original French language with subtitles.  But I was sure, if that if our audience trusted us and came to see it, they would be the ones to help spread the word.  And they did.  It is the only film we’ve shown all year that everyone which had unanimous audience approval – everyone who came to see it, fell in love with little Courgette and his pals and came out smiling.      

Dunkirk

Unlike Courgette, Dunkirk definitely divided audiences, including the cinema team! We had many heated debates about its merits or flaws. It’s rare that I have the time to see a film repeatedly, but I made a point of doing so with this one and to me that speaks volumes. I saw it with my staff, then again with my family, on a buswoman’s holiday on spectacular 70mm at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, then again twice more with our Discovery Film Festival schools screening. Without fail, I would find it difficult not to flinch or for my heart to race in the opening sequence.  Whatever you feel about Nolan, you can’t deny his ability to command his viewer’s attention.

Coming soon in 2018

As we dive head first into Oscar season, there are so many strong titles coming out over the next few months that I found it difficult to only mention a few. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a beautiful concoction which I’ve taken to describing it as Amélie meets Creature from the Black Lagoon. A story that celebrates difference at its core, this film (despite its nostalgic feel) feels totally relevant for our time.

I was charmed by Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird as well. A coming-of-age story, it has just the right amount of eccentricity and never falls into the annoying kooky camp.  Also, it is a prime example of why Saoirse Ronan is one of the most in-demand actors working at the moment - she’s bloody brilliant in everything she appears in. In terms of breathtaking cinematic experiences, Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Countryabout a small community of whites and Aboriginal Australians in the outback circa World War I, was unforgettable. Both brutal and beautiful, this is a filmmaker whose work I admire so much. And although I could go on and on about all the other titles (Journey’s End, A Fantastic Woman, Loveless…), I can’t wait to finally share with you, Ruben Ostlund’s The Square has to top the list. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, this biting satire about the contemporary art world and the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie from the same man who brought us Force Majeure, is pure wicked genius. If there ever was a film more perfect to see at DCA, I haven’t seen it.

Alice Black
Head of Cinema

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