Welcome to my top ten films of 2017.
LAst year was dominated by work/fun at two festivals. There was the Osaka Asian Film Festival at the start of the year while I was in Japan and the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2017 during the autumn when I returned to the UK. Both experiences were great because I got to do what I love the most, writing about films. I also got to work with some really great people and made friends. I have to say thank you to all of them. I hope these people stay with me. As far as I’m concerned, they have my loyalty for what it’s worth. Once I got back from Japan, I made sure to take my family to see as many films as possible. Going to the cinema was something we already did as a family but spending more time together is important. As a result of all this activity, I saw lots of films this year. Due to the type of films I cover or circumstances or pure choice, I flit between years so not everything has been released in 2017. Here’s an article on VCinema I contributed to about a year in cinema and here are my top ten for 2017:
I hope you discover something in this list that interests you.
I’ve updated my Top Ten Films page for these entries.
Joint number 1: Blade Runner 2049 (2017) / The Disaster Artist (2017)
From out of nowhere came two Hollywood films. Well, not from out of nowhere. I was aware of the fact that they were being made and was hoping they would be good because I’m a big fan of Blade Runner and I seem to have memories of watching The Room going back around a decade at least so when my mother said she wanted to see this one I hoped it would be funny.
Both were glorious. I wish I wrote review notes for them but I just sat in the cinema absorbed by the world of Blade Runner 2049, the gorgeous detail-packed visuals and awesome score, the great acting. I sat through The Disaster Artist with a big smile on my face and laughed many times but was touched by the friendship and dedication to art at the centre of the story. Both films were great cinema experiences that I had with my family and we’re going to do it again in our local arthouse cinema soon.
2. Mind Game (2004) I have been an anime fan since I was a child but recently I stopped watching anything other than feature films. Then I watched this and fell in love with anime all over again. Masaaki Yuasa crafted a film that urges audiences to seize life and it works because it’s fun and energetic, animated with love and care, and the story is full of characters who you’ll love as they examine their lives whilst stuck in the belly of a whale. It’s sublime, I was left breathless and giggling. As soon as the credits rolled I stood up and led the round of applause. But the story never really ends… I cannot wait to purchase the DVD/Blu-ray.
3. The Long Excuse (2016) Miwa Nishikawa is one of my favourite film directors of all time and this film is a great demonstration why. She writes fascinating and complex characters and puts them in situations that try them and expose all sorts of flaws that you may have or may recognise in others. Through their journeys you learn something about life. As well as being very well-written, it’s brilliantly shot and Nishikawa gets fantastic performances from her actors. I cried during each of the four times I watched this film.
4. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017) Masaaki Yuasa has been mentioned on this blog multiple times over the years and for good reason, he’s a certified genius. 2017 was the year the World woke up to it. I was sat amidst an audience of anime fans when I saw this OH MY GOD, it was GLORIOUS. We whooped and howled and laughed and cried as we witnessed a boozy night in Kyoto turn magical complete with romance and rock operas. It is such a blast. I now have the book it is based on!
5. A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light (2016) My taste in art runs from Impressionists and Old Masters to installations created by contemporary Japanese artists. This film is about one of the leading contemporary artists in the World, Rei Naito. It gives us something of her background and method of work but it goes in depth into how art makes us feel and the connections artists make with the people who view their work. It’s shot in such a cinematic way by Yuko Nakamura that it’s easy to engage with the art and feel how vital art is to life. A very rewarding film!
6. BAMY (2017) I watched this one four or five times. Maybe six. When I should have been watching something else, I jumped straight back into this film and enjoyed it again and again. It’s got a tight running time, it’s got a script that explores it central premise effectively and the supernatural aspects are all perfectly shot. For a hardened horror fan like me, it was a fun subversion of all the ghost stories I have grown up with, particularly those of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but it’s also a great film in its own right and I’m glad I watched it as many times as I did. I want to watch it again!
7. After the Storm (2016) This was the second film I watched in a cinema with my mother and sister following my return from Japan. I cried almost immediately as I recognised locations from my travels/life in Tokyo but what got me most was the journey of the main character and his family, all written perfectly with just the right amount of depth to make them feel real, as they came to accept the faults in their family unit. I think the ending is hopeful. I’ll have to review this at some point.
8. The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017) I watched this film and recognised the Tokyo I lived in – exhausting, energetic, massive, fun, full of people and chances. Sadness, happiness, it’s all there and told through the lives of a group of characters audiences will surely come to care about. Yuya Ishii handles the different narratives well and it’s great getting involved in the lives of ordinary people. I loved every minute of my experience in Tokyo (no exaggeration) and every minute of this film which is why I wanted to start 2018 with it!
9. Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) As a British person, I’m familiar with the Angry Young Man films that emerged in the post-war era but I’m a Japanophile and interested in the Angry Young Woman films that tell tales of women fighting against the strictures of patriarchal society in Japan. Told with such ferocious and messy energy and a verve and style not often seen, this film left a mark and when that mark was examined closely, it told of the unfairness of gender relations. In a year full of scandals that are finally forcing men to examine their behaviour and change it so women can become equal and live safely, this film has a lot to say. Also, Maho Yamada has a small part but she is perfect in it.
10. Poetry Angel (2017) This one is charming. Really charming. It doesn’t aim to do anything massive except tell a story of people trying to communicate what is going on inside them and yet every second spent with the characters is fun and the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxing. You get the sense of community and friendship from this film and that’s a valuable feeling to have. Also Maho Yamada. She’s perfect in everything.
Honourable Mentions: I Am Not Madame Bovary, A Double Life, Zigeunerweisen, Haruneko, Being Good, Neko Atsume House, Dear Etranger, Close-Knit, Daguerrotype, Noise, Rage, Emi-Abi, Slack Bay, Getting Any?, Promises, Yamato (California).