Here begins my countdown of my favourites this year, as unveiled on my BBC Radio London show with Robert Elms. 10 – 1 will come next week.
Bubbling under and deserving mentions are the blockbusters The BFG, Doctor Strange (luvvies doing CGI) and The Jungle Book, which I enjoyed most amid the big budget offerings. I liked French film After Love, London film The Ones Below (both about property and modern living), and Bridget Jones’ Baby, which made me laugh and was a huge hit, much better than summer’s Ab Fab, which, because those firs weeks of Brexit were so horrendous, somehow got away with being really quite spectacularly shit.
I loved Queen of Katwe too, but its terrible box office and support is the year’s great shame, a complete snub for a film about Africa, with black stars and a brilliant female Indian director in Mira Nair. If audiences don’t support such films, there’s no point in bleating on about diversity.
I’m putting these two together for geographic reasons. They’re both set in the Mediterranean, more precisely in the Sicilian islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa respectively, and both deal with the migrant crisis in very different ways.
The first is Luca Guadagnino’s languid, sexy, simmer of a summer holiday pic, with Tilda Swinton doing her silent star thing as a rock goddess resting her vocal nodules at her hideaway villa. Her idyll is shattered by the visit of flamboyant ex Ralph Fiennes, with his tales of rock dissolution and his young seductive daughter in tow.
The second is Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary portrait of life for the islanders of Lampedusa, who now fish migrants out of the sea rather than tuna or sea bass. I loved both films for their rhythms and insights, both capturing an Italian way of life, one sophisticated and entitled and metropolitan and boho, the other hard and rustic and religious and superstitious – with both lifestyles under threat of extinction.
19 Victoria – a film done in a single shot, remarkable for its excitement and fluidity. Sebastian Schipper’s night of crime in Berlin captures the hedonism of youth and the ethnic mix of Europe. Laia Costa stars with Frederick Lau, techno god Nils Frahm does his first soundtrack.
18 Miles Ahead – Don Cheadle excellent as Miles Davis, Ewan McGregor less so as the journo interviewing him. But the music and the idea were strong in a good year for jazz at the movies (Ethan Hawke was Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue) and the soundtrack, compiled with Robert Glasper was experimental and interesting, well-chosen tracks charting Miles’ stages, like the film’s impressionistic structure.
17 Maggie’s Plan – funnier and more tender than I expected for a Greta Gerwig film, directed by Rebecca Miller, the titular plan is to get pregnant from the pickle guy. Ethan Hawke is perfect as the deep, idiotic professor which whom she has an affair while Julianne Moore steals it as a Danish academic.
16 Chi-Raq – Spike Lee’s back with a bang.
15 Little Men – Ira Sachs directs a gorgeous, funny and wise film about New York, family, property and values.
14 The Hard Stop – George Amponsah directs crucial doc about the incidents around Mark Duggan, whose shooting triggered the Tottenham riots. It’s really a look at black male identity through Duggan’s two friends, Marcus and Kurtis, and their blighted efforts to put the past behind them and find a future.
13 Indignation – Philip Roth adapted properly by James Schamus, with a great performance from young Logan Lerman.
12 Eye in the Sky – A final bow for Alan Rickman in a really fine film about modern drone warfare, carefully stitched together by Gavin Hood and showing the chains of thought and command behind a planned drone strike and a hard day’s work at the office for today’s soldiers, commanders and politicians. Really worth a watch.
11 Notes on Blindness – remarkable doc from young Brit film makers James Spinney and Peter Middleton. Pleased to see it’s winning awards – a really fresh approach that owes something to Clio Barnard’s pioneering The Arbor, but takes us into a world of darkness that engulfed academic John Hull, pieced together from his audio recordings. Very moving, but uplifting and constantly intriguing.