Film Reviews - The 2017 Ranking
I was lucky enough to receive 18 DVDs for Christmas in 2016, most of them bought from charity shops for 10p. I pledged to watch and review each and every one of them during 2017: and I did. In alphabetical order. One approximately every three weeks.
Here, in the final instalment of that 20,000 word experience (I hope you’ve been keeping up) I hazard a ranking.
Eighteen to fifteen
Four films were just bad – either dull or slow or silly or some combination thereof. The worst, for me, was Mr & Mrs Smith – it was the only one of the eighteen I didn’t actually finish.
18 – Mr & Mrs Smith
15 –John Carter
Apologies to Brad Pitt, whose work I generally enjoy, but who occupies two of these bottom four slots…
Fourteen to ten
Five good, entertaining films that I enjoyed watching but which in some way shape or form were a little disappointing or flawed:
14 – 9
13 – If
12 – Groundhog Day
11 – 300
10 – Law Abiding Citizen
No apology here to Gerard Butler, in at #10 and #11…
Nine to four
Six fantastic films – funny, clever, thought-provoking; and beautifully acted, crafted or conceived:
9 – Nice Guys – Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling giving it both barrels
8 – Frozen – amazing animation, strong women, tear-jerking song – what’s not to love?
7 – Belleville Rendezvous – weird and wonderful, unsettling and redemptive
6 – Full Metal Jacket – Stanley Kubrick on top, top form
5 – Twelve Monkeys – sublime philosophical weirdness and genuine emotional heft
4 – Platoon – gut-wrenching essay on war and the end of innocence from Oliver Stone
Interesting to see the big war movies making it so high up the list…
And the top three…
3 – Birdman – perhaps just a little too clever for its own good, this is nevertheless a movie that works, and works brilliantly, at every possible level – the narrative arc, the characters, the acting, the music, the design, the metaphors, the message - and includes simply astonishing stuff from Ed Norton.
2 – Life is Beautiful – this film should have been impossible – a comedy about the Holocaust? – but it achieves a miracle. Exquisite, compassionate, clever and very, very funny, it left me asking really big questions about humour, communication, war, life…
1 – Casablanca – quite how I'd not seen this film prior to 2017 is a mystery to me; but, having seen it, I now know what the fuss was all about. Strange and brilliant, practical and metaphysical, humdrum and sublime, almost bristling with an unfathomable static, Casablanca is like no other film I’ve seen – and I still don’t know why. But if there was only one of these eighteen DVDs I’d be allowed to take to my desert island, this would be the one.
Three genuinely life-affirming movies, I think – and two more war-movies to bring it to four of the top six. I’m sure this says as much about me as it does about the movies; and I’m looking forward to finding out what that might be should these words ever be re-read by some future me.
Needless to say, the ranking above is my ranking of the movies. An alternative would have been my ranking of the reviews.
That would mean re-reading them all, of course, which might be a bit self-referential, or even self-absorbed, but I went for ‘self-critical’ and gave it a go.
Turns out the reviews themselves vary widely not only in quality but in both approach and content; and I could see no clear relationship between the character of a review and the subsequent ranking of the movie.
What I did see was five broad types of review – so here’s my favourite one of each of those, just in case.
(Just in case I need it later and can’t find it anywhere else, obvs.)
5 Birdman – integrates a deep review of the film itself with an enquiry into the nature of authenticity
4 John Carter – a review of a truly terrible film that largely ignores the film and tries instead to understand how such a commercial disaster could have come about
3 Twelve Monkeys – a review that gets completely carried away talking about Bruce Willis
2 Frozen – a review that explains why these reviews happened at all and unexpectedly reports on the endless potential for child-like delight
1 Groundhog Day – the longest of all the reviews, this is a broad-spectrum and well-hyperlinked philosophical essay arguing that Groundhog Day provides us with a genuinely powerful and important modern myth, and that the success of the film illustrates the importance of such myths
Anyway. That’s it, hope you enjoyed it, enough already.