Celebrating the best films in the (half-ish)Year In Review

by Martin McNamara

CINEMAGOERS have been treated to some terrific blockbusters (Apes) and not-so-great (Transformers) in recent months, but as summer nears its end there’s little but the utter, utter dregs (The Emoji Movie) to look forward to.
So, what better time than to look back on some of the best films of the year, to date? In no particular order …

Jackie (Director: Pablo Larrain)
Those who came expecting historical drama may have left disappointed, Jackie was a character study woven through a series of disorganised moments, bringing a career-best performance for Natalie Portman, and another triumph for director Larrain.

Baby Driver (Dir: Edgar Wright)
A welcome return to form for Wright, this action-comedy-musical-heist mix-tape delivered the most fun you could have in a cinema in years. What it lacked in an original plot, Baby Driver made up for in spades with its genuinely original blend of music, image and action.

Get Out (Dir: Jordan Peele)
Peele’s first foray into feature filmmaking was a horror movie with purpose, wearing its genre-movie influences on its sleeve for all to see while making sure to inflect everything with humorous social and political commentary. Wickedly entertaining, and wildly thought-provoking.

Manchester by the Sea (Dir: Kenneth Lonergan)
Delivering what was easily the most emotionally devastating moment in cinema this year, Lonergan told us a story about profound, unshakeable grief and the arduous road to recovery.
Casey Affleck captivated audiences with a deeply, tragically human performance that was well rewarded last awards season. The film will likely lead many best-of lists in another six months’ time.

The Handmaiden (Dir: Park Chan-wook)
Korean director Park Chan-wook made his first foray into romance with this multi-layered suspense-thriller, maintaining all the masterful framing, bleak humour and brutal violence that has gained his work critical acclaim and cult status alike.
While not for the squeamish, The Handmaiden is a stunningly beautiful tale that mesmerises and devastates in equal measure, encapsulating everything so incredibly unique about its creator, and marks a delicately crafted, intimate epic from a master of modern filmmaking.

Okja (Dir: Bong Joon-ho)
This blend of science fiction and fairy tale from Korean director Bong Joon-ho was anything but a kid’s movie. The story of a young girl and her best friend, a genetically mutated pig-like animal,
Okja was wonderfully endearing – an occasionally heartrending tale that undoubtedly made vegetarians of many.

War for the Planet of the Apes (Dir: Matt Reeves)
Rounding out one of the most consistent franchises in recent years, this decidedly grim sci-fi adventure lived up to its title, evoking epic WWII movies like The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Great Escape. A sweeping adventure, it had more to say about man’s inhumanity to man than most modern war films.

Moonlight (Dir: Barry Jenkins)
This rich and nuanced character study in three acts shone light on the experience of LGBT people of colour, an area rarely accessible on screen for wider audiences.
Superb performances from its three leads made for a uniquely human, often devastating cinematic experience that was well-recognised last award season.

20th Century Women (Dir: Mike Mills)
Mike Mills wove a unique, moving and often deeply funny story around a small, incredibly talented cast; a subtle coming of age narrative that connected with each of its characters, regardless of age.

Dunkirk (Dir: Christopher Nolan)
Both bombastic and lyrical, sweeping and intimate, Dunkirk is a WWII epic that will stand alongside the classics of the genre.
Nolan brought his unconventional storytelling approach to one of the war’s most decisive events, weaving a rich tapestry of multiple narratives and timelines that remains taut, visceral and affecting throughout.

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