As 2017 comes to a close, it’s always good to look back at the year that was in film. This is probably the year where I have seen the most number of movies in my entire existence. It is quite a learning experience that I feel has really made me grow as a filmmaker, hopefully equipping me for my future projects in 2018. Genre wise, this year has been the most vast of all with more genre films in the radar of award giving body shortlists. It only proves that good films are not boxed in by their type or style, 'cause at the end of the day, good filmmaking transcends tastes and preferences.
Let me start with my five best international titles of 2017, based on films that have already been shown in the country, may it be in our numerous film festivals or in a commercial run. This was an easy selection for me 'cause I have rated all of these titles a perfect 5/5 based on how much I wholly enjoyed them in the theater.
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1. Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan. I wrote about this film, dubbing it as Nolan’s best and I sincerely believe it is. The filmmaking style is fresh and original using three different timeline increments as a device to non-linearly tell the story from three also, different viewpoints and geographical locations. The conceit is quite mind-blowing but not overly stylized to dilute the heart of its message. It is poweful yet subdued and would have to be one of the best war movies I have ever seen. I am rooting for this film to be Nolan’s first directorial nomination at the Oscars, which is already most likely, and hopefully bag for him a win, coz cmon, it’s about time.
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri by Martin McDonagh. This film came as a pleasant surprise. It started off quiet and somber and the next thing you know, you’re already laughing your ass off. Rarely can a film be hilarious and heart-wrenching at the same time, and this was just that. Frances McDormand as a grieving mother seeking justice for her raped and murdered daughter is just absolutely sublime in this one, which could actually earn for her a second Lead Actress Oscar after 20 years.
3. Get Out by Jordan Peele. Another surprise hit from this first-time director, is this cleverly written psycho thriller which also delves into prejudice and discrimination. No wonder it’s also gaining some Oscar buzz for Best Screenplay, Actor, and Picture.
4. Bad Genius by Nattawut Poonpiriya. The most successful Thai film in the world to date is another sleeper hit this year, turning the art of cheating into a heist. Why can’t we just have ingenious films like this in our MMFF?
5. Baby Driver by Edgar Wright. This is actually the first and only Edgar Wright I’ve seen, I know it’s preposterous and now I really want to see more. It’s hip, it’s fun, it’s smartly written AF, and it’s just too cool not to be remembered.
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Locally, this was a hard selection. I actually only had the top two in mind and just tried to fill up the rest. Not that this year’s films were lackluster but mostly 'cause there were not really enough memorable gems even in our film festivals, yes, including the MMFF. Hopefully 2018 would provide a better reaping.
1. Respeto by Treb Monteras. Music Video director Monteras successfully transitions to long form with this hip-hop-themed drama with undertones of Martial Law and the current administration’s culture of impunity. I noticed that regardless of taste, this film consistently figures in to any other list of top films this year.
2. Paglipay by Zig Dulay. Though released in 2016 in the Tofarm Film Festival, the film gained second wind this year with a wide release during the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. A quaint and charming story about inter-racial coupling with an outstanding non-actor as its lead, this film’s simplicity won my heart.
3. Bloody Crayons by Topel Lee. Good Filipino thrillers are rare to come by and this is one of them. Though far from perfect, it does provide artful and effective scares along with a competent ensemble of the country’s up and coming, promising young actors.
4. Bliss by Jerrold Tarog. Another thriller of sorts with a complexity like Nolan’s Inception, this blew minds off of a lot of audiences. Though everyone has their own opinion on how it should have been made or portrayed, there’s no denying the craft behind the film with one of the Philippines’s auteurs at the helm. It also earned for the country a Yakushi Pearl Award by Iza Calzado at the Osaka Asian Film Festival.
5. Birdshot by Mikhail Red is our entry to the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category. Though it did not make the cut, the film is still is notable for its atypical storytelling style and visual flair. For 2018, Mik is set to foray in mainstream territory with a horror flick under Star Cinema so that’s something to look out for next year.
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