FILM BIZARRO'S BEST OF 2017
(Posted: 21 January 2018)


If you thought we were late LAST YEAR, we're almost in 2019 before this list came online! What a year it has been... I mean, Trump, right? Hollywoodian perverts, eh? Worst of all, we didn't review much at all in 2017! That said, we've still managed to put together a pretty solid list of 30 titles, as is our tradition. I don't feel like typing more, so here we go!


#30


THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER
Director: Oz Perkins

Unsettling is the best way to describe "The Blackcoat's Daughter". Set inside the empty hall of a private school during the dead of winter. Oz Perkins crafts an oppressive atmosphere where even in the silence is terrifying. More impressive than the atmosphere is what is done with the character of Kat (backed by an exceptional performance from Kiernan Shipka). The handling of her and its take on the concept of possession makes "The Blackcoat's Daughter" a standout supernatural tale with an emotionally poignant ending.

#29


TOKYO IDOLS
Director: Kyoko Miyake

The whole culture of idols in Japan is a fascinating thing that I never quite understood. "Tokyo Idols" helps in that regard, despite not being a documentary that tries to say too much. It does, however, show the world of idols and the people that worship them. The movie kept me going from intrigued to creeped out, which is all part of the charm with this entire culture. As an outsider, as least. At its most interesting, the documentary shows us the hardships of the girls that feel obligated to remain important in the scene, and it can get pretty tragic. Still, it's hard not to see how important the idols are to the fans.

#28


ANIMALS
Director: Greg Zglinski

It's hard to say if the craziness of the script is directly tied into the suicide of the writer of the screenplay, who took his life soon after finishing the script. Either way, "Animals" is a movie that feels twisted and uncomfortable to watch but it never goes too wild. It has a peculiar way of making the characters and the audience question what they are seeing. The movie isn't trying to outsmart the viewer, as many "weird movies" try to do, but brings you on for the ride. If the characters are lost, so are you. Being confused is part of the movie, and not specifically due to you not following. In the end, that's definitely why the movie works as well as it does.

#27


EGOMANIAC
Director: Kate Shenton

Kate Shenton's feature film debut came at a perfect time with the social recognition of what can occur behind the scenes of making movies when you're a woman. She handles the topic with comical precision by finding the right mix of self-deprecation and satire of an unfortunate truth, to create a movie about the absurdity of low-budget filmmaking. With the help of her lead actress, Nic Lamont, "Egomaniac" is humorously morbid that begs the question: "What kind of maniac wants to make movies?"

#26


TILT
Director: Kasra Farahani

You have to admire a movie about insanity that uses everything it has to convey it. "Tilt" is a slow dive into the head of a man that's going nuts, and rarely goes over-the-top. It's one thing to show a character going crazy, but it's a completely different thing to actually make the audience feel it. Director Kasra Farahani managed to bring the best out of Joseph Cross. The main character is a documentary filmmaker who struggles to complete his second documentary. While the movie tackles the idea of being so into your work that you go crazy over it, the actual occupation of the character wasn't as important as the political relevance of what his documentary is about, which ties directly into the reasons why he has to finish his film. Though "Tilt" is not a statement, it does show a maddening reality.

#25


THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
Director: Greg McLean

If you have followed James Gunn's career, you probably heard about this script a long time before it finally got made. With a solid director as Greg McLean of "Wolf Creek" fame as the director, Gunn's script finally found its way onto the screen, with a result that remains true to both filmmaker's styles. It explores an idea that we've seen done before (characters having to kill each other to survive), but with such a great cast and its many tone shifts, this ended up being a quite enjoyable and nasty little flick.

#24


GOOD TIME
Director: Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie

Kristin Stewart has done a significant job of separating herself and her talents from her previous shallow young-adult tales outings with new movies such as "Personal Shopper". Robert Pattinson has been doing the same since 2012, starting with "Cosmopolis". This year, Pattinson is back with another incredible performance in an equally incredible film. With a straight-forward premise of a man trying to free his brother from police custody after a botched robbery, "Good Time" tells an suspenseful and intense story predicated on the bond of two wayward brothers. With each passing minute, and each close call, the audience squirms as Pattinson's desperation leads him to extreme ends on the streets of New York at night. These are not good people and the movie never expects you to sympathize with them. Yet when the ending rolls around, with a climax that should be considered happy, leaves the audience with nothing more than a bitter tragedy.

#23


DAGUERROTYPE
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

When we hear the word haunted, more often than not, we think of ghosts. Everything from the classic bedsheet ghost to a spectral apparition so terrifying that it'll turn your hair white. Yet, in more realistic terms, we are often haunted by our choices, our desires or worse — by our loss. Kiyoshi Kurosawa sets a gothic-romance fable amongst a contemporary setting where a 19th century photography technique is used to capture and retain what was once there. That desire to hold onto the past creates a world where only fear and regret linger and we are haunted by our own misery.

#22


BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
Director: S. Craig Zahler

Everyone took notice of S. Craig Zahler when "Bone Tomahawk" was released and we were no exception since it made our Best of '15 list. Yet, when "Brawl In Cell Block 99" hit the festival circuit, it was brushed off. Who wants to watch a crime-drama starring Vince Vaughn? As it turns out, everybody should. Zahler did something spectacular by juxtaposing a crime-drama with cartoonish, over-the-top violence into one incredibly filthy exploitation movie. Except the difference from other exploitation movies, Zahler gives us well defined characters and violence that has consequences.

#21


GUTBOY: A BADTIME STORY
Director: Nick Grant

In these modern times, society demands that everything must be new and it must be fresh. Even if it means taking something old and remaking and repackaging it. But you have to do it quickly or else it will be dated before it arrives, and if that happens, then it no longer has value. Taking that into consideration, it is a remarkable feat to have a movie that uses traditional marionettes for its characters. Yet even with puppets, everything feels very much alive. "Gutboy" is equally strange and hilarious — with musical numbers too — that manages to engage the viewer in such a way that they forget that they're watching puppets. The strings slowly vanish and all you can see are seemingly life-like characters in a bizarre story with skin stealing conmen, mermaids, and golden giants.

#20


KAILI BLUES
Director: Gan Bi

One of the more disappointing aspects with independent film is the lack of consideration cinematography can be given. These days, it feels too often the "raw" aesthetic of shaking crash-zooms is favored above taking the time to frame shots. Because of that, "Kaili Blues" can be breathtaking as Gan Bi captures the beauty of the province Guizhou. Whether its the villages spread amongst the lush tropical landscapes or the grimy tunnels and trash laden streets. The environment comes alive and captivates the audience as you watch a collection of people as they live.

#19


FREE FIRE
Director: Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley maintains his diverse filmography with "Free Fire" — an action movie distilled into a near 90-minute gun fight. While many action-fans always quip that there's never enough action. It's hard to believe a gun battle that lasts almost as long as the movie does, could maintain interest. Yet it does. Even with only a handful of real character, and a dozen-or-so cannon fodder, Ben Wheatley and his cast keep the movie energetic and entertaining. They're even able to overcome obstacles of misplaced seriousness and having the one and only clear villain live for far too long, and still have a ridiculous and enjoyable movie by the end.

#18


LOST GULLY ROAD
Director: Donna McRae

Indie drama meets "The Entity" in Donna McRae's new feature. It's about a woman running away to a secluded cabin and getting intimate with a spirit that lives there. Her boredom turns to titillation, and finally to terror when she realises the truth. What Donna McRae does here is not new, but she does it completely in her own style that was established with "Johnny Ghost" a few years ago. It's definitely flirting with horror, but never quite sways over from drama/thriller, and for some reason that really sold me on this movie. Too many supernatural movies are afraid to remain subtle from start to finish. Thanks to Adele Perovic really selling the lead role of Lucy as we go through her many personal moments and emotions, it's proof that you can do a lot with a good script and a confident lead actress/actor. It's a well-crafted ghost thriller for everyone who is tired of the jump-scared-focused shit we see nowdays.

#17


RON GOOSSENS, LOW BUDGET STUNTMAN
Director: Steffen Haars & Flip Van der Kuil

The New Kids are back, except this time in the form of a drunk, no-good stuntman: Ron Goossens! Ron Goossens quest to sleep with the most famous actress in the country (to save his marriage) is as stupid as you might expect. That's a good thing! If there is one thing these filmmakers handle well, it's incredibly dumb ideas. "Ron Goossens, Low Budget Stuntman" is god damn hilarious and that's all you need to know. Its plot is far from essential as it just serves as a driving force to get Ron Goossens into more absurd and funny situations. Some movies can be high art, but some movies just need to be entertaining. If you enjoy over-the-top, gross-out, absurd yet sweet comedy then you'll have a blast with this one.

#16

AFTER THE STORM
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

"All that I could be is all that I'll never be," is a lyric from Matt Berry's song "Devil Inside Me" and it's one that remains in the deep recesses of the brain. One that always manages to creep into thoughts during moments of self-reflection. And one of the masters of character pieces, Hirokazu Kore-eda, takes on that very concept in his latest film. Kore-eda has an amazing ability to create likable and realistic characters who have, seemingly, casual conversations that inevitably carry a great amount weight to them. "After the Storm" is a movie that effortlessly explores what it's like to know you're the kind of person you thought you wouldn't be. Or worse, you're carrying on a trait from the previous generation that you thought you would avoid. Using the relationships between three generations of family members, Kore-eda talks about the burden everyone bears of what it means to be an adult, and what it is to be a father and a son.

#15


DESTRUCTION BABIES
Director: Tetsuya Mariko

"Why is this fun," a character asks while he lays on the ground, broken and bloody. Rather than celebrating and romanticizing violent tendencies of nihilistic youth, "Destruction Babies" is about observing. It's not attempting to criticize or glamorize the brutality from its characters. The camera stands back with the rest of the spectators and captures what violence looks like: sloppy, cheap, and unpleasant. There are no heroes or anti-heroes in "Destruction Babies"; just moments of self-destructive behavior and the damage that's left in its wake.

#14


SLEEP HAS HER HOUSE
Director: Scott Barley

How do you rank what's considered "contemplative cinema" — a piece of work that's wholly dependent on the interpretation of the viewer? We're not sure but Scott Barley's "Sleep Has Her House" that's self-described as a moving canvas deserves recognition, regardless of how it's placed. To simply call it a movie feels inherently wrong. "Sleep Has Her House" is more akin to transcendental experience; you are absorbed into a void where only light and darkness become the defining traits of existence.

#13


VALLEY OF THE RATS
Director: Vince D'Amato

In the final installment of the Brivido Giallo Trilogy, Vince D'Amato composes a love letter to the works of David Cronenberg and Jess Franco set to his unique take on the giallo film. Where "Reversed" took us on a mind altering trip of self-identity, and "Glass" peaked into paranoia of lust and isolation. "Valley of the Rats" takes more traditional queues of Italian thrillers as a man sets out to uncover the truth of his ex-girlfriend's murder. His journey becomes a path of perversion as he traverses through a world of sex and violence. As his reality becomes unraveled, so does the film as it transforms into a series of abstract vignettes. Much like the main character, the audience is left to find the truth in a deviant world of excess flesh.

#12


STRANGLED
Director: Árpád Sopsits

This is an Hungarian true crime thriller based on the real murders in the town of Martfü murders in the '60s. It's about the hunt for a sadistic strangler whose lust doesn't stop just because the victim's heart does. Without being over-the-top in its killings, it's still a graphic enough film, but it's in the less graphic stuff that the movie really sells its crimes. It's in how the killer acts, how he mixes up some parts of the killings but remain consistent in some, how the movie always takes a turn when you feel the most comfortable. The central focus is the police investigation, which ends up involving someone wrongfully accused, while the audience catches on early by following the killer himself. One of the major strengths is that it's a convincing period piece overall, one that is appropriately bleak and non-flashy in its production. The period also brings up the political climate of that time, as it's something that drives many of the decisions made by the police. A great movie to feel involved in while watching it. If you've enjoyed the biggest true crime films and series out there, this is the next thing you should check out.

#11


BABY DRIVER
Director: Edgar Wright

That Edgar Wright is a masterful filmmaker for both action and comedy has been evident before, but in "Baby Driver" he makes action art. The story about a kid coming into a world of crime, then deciding to stop, and then finally come back for "just one more job" is a typical setup. In any other case this wouldn't be a movie worth caring this much about. "Baby Driver" makes you forget that the story is not that original, and instead you're pulled in by its amazing use of editing, music and, of course, Edgar Wright's wit. This is a fun movie from start to finish; it constantly moves and creates an absurd dynamic with sound and what's going on in the scene and the car chase scenes are simply beautiful. You can't sit down and watch "Baby Driver" and not be entertained, and sometimes that's all we want. There's a lot that the perverts of Hollywood have brought down in 2017, but Kevin Spacey ain't bringing this baby down!

#10


NOVEMBER
Director: Rainer Sarnet

At times it is hard to decide what's required of a movie to belong in our very top list, but any movie that channels both Švankmajer and Bergman has a good chance to get our attention! "November" is a movie about the human condition through pagan and European Christian mythologies, and it does so by blending fantasy, romance and sci-fi elements. Somewhere between beautiful and filthy, "November" impresses in the ways it skews reality. The stunning photography is enough to pull the viewer in, but it's more than just visual; it's a well-crafted little surrealist movie about soul (in every sense of the word), set in an Estonian village where ghosts, werewolves, metal creatures and strange people live.

#9


IT COMES AT NIGHT
Director: Trey Edward Shults

I've heard criticisms of this film range from being pretentiously slow, to simply not being able to live up to showing what exactly comes as night. Personally, I find this way more intense and intriguing for both of these things. "It Comes At Night" is not about the monsters that go bump in the night, it's about the paranoia and struggles of a family trying to survive during an epidemic. It's about the fright of being attacked by one of your own, or not being able to see the signs that the person the closest to you is next in line to suffer a virus. I am dead tired of horror movies that show the same shitty post-apocalyptic epidemics. "It Comes At Night" is not the only movie to show a more realistic perspective, but it's executed with a suffocating paranoia that is hard to pull off. No one is good, no one is bad, and everyone is just as scared as you are.

#8


GET OUT
Director: Jordan Peele

Much can be said and much has been said about Jordan Peele's African-American nightmare, and we at Film Bizarro are certainly not the right people to invite you all to a deep discussion on racism or politics; what the hell do we know? We just want to watch movies and be dumb. That said, "Get Out" is a movie that deserves its attention no matter which way you see it. Jordan Peele's mission was to make something from his perspective and there is no doubt that not everyone can relate on every level. From my perspective, this is just a damn intense, thrilling and unique horror movie. Daniel Kaluuya has proved his talent in a couple of roles prior to this, but he will never be forgotten after this. His portrayal of the African-American guy who is dating a white woman, and meets her... strange family, is just excellent. There's a reality in him that makes him emotionally relatable, but at the same time he squeezes out the twisted humor that Jordan Peele's script so eloquently hides between the terror. This is a movie that could have failed on both its horror and its views on race because it's such a unique idea, but it became a smashing success. From our point of view, it especially delivers on every single point required to create a horror classic.

#7


LOVE AND OTHER CULTS
Director: Eiji Uchida

Thanks to Third Window Films we get to see more wild movies from filmmaker Eiji Uchida. They are following up their production of "Lowlife Love" with "Love and Other Cults"; a story of street violence and loneliness in the urban world. It's actually not what you would expect it to be though, because this movie doesn't just show a raw and depressing reality. Its main focus is telling a story about people that go through rough times and end up as better people for it. The movie holds up well with Eiji Uchida's previous efforts that we've covered, "Greatful Dead" and "Lowlife Love". I love the way Uchida shows us the worlds of really eccentric personalities in ways that we can all relate to. No matter how hopeless the people in this story might seem at times, there's an undeniable optimism going through "Love and Other Cults". I can't recommend it enough!

#6


GOOD MANNERS
Director: Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas

When I first went into this werewolf movie, I did not expect a tragic drama about a poor nanny and her cursed boss. I did not expect a story this emotional and raw. I certainly did not expect something closer to a fairytale than horror! There is so much love put into the crafting of the story here, that I can't help but admire the effort perhaps even more than the movie itself. Few werewolf movies use the curse in an interesting way. "Good Manners" doesn't care whether you get your werewolf fill, it only cares about telling a great story by using lycanthropy in metaphorical ways, similar to how "Ginger Snaps" used it. This is not a movie that is made for the werewolf fan, but for the fans of stories about life through fantasy. A great addition to Brazilian cinema!

#5


SHIN GODZILLA
Directors: Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi

Any fan of the "Godzilla" franchise should be excited whenever Japan decides to put out their own movie nowadays. We've had multiple Japanese titles over the years that have been of varying quality (although a pretty consistent level of entertainment). There are very few movies in the entire franchise (Japanese or American) that hold up to the original 1954 movie. This year we got a movie that feels like a true successor to the original. "Shin Godzilla" is a weird beast; it's filled with political humor shown through many board room meetings and bizarre interactions within the Japanese government. There is so much focus on the government and how they decide to tackle Godzilla, that many have felt that this is too boring to live up to the franchise. I don't know what they are smoking, as we get some of the most powerful "Godzilla" moments in history in this movie, and the design of the monster alone raises this beyond the majority of the franchise. What people might be forgetting is that "Godzilla" was more than just a huge monster wrecking a city. Long live the Japanese "Godzilla" movies! (...and who doesn't love the googly-eyed baby Godzilla?)

#4


PREVENGE
Director: Alice Lowe

Regardless of the title, to go into "Prevenge" expecting nothing more than a typical revenge thriller is to ignore the incredible comedic work of Alice Lowe. Her directorial debut is one that's been highly anticipated and one that did not disappoint as she subverted genre trappings in order to tell a story that's far more interesting and personal. This is not a movie about revenge and will inevitably leave some audience members wanting due to the lack of bloody violence. Yet Alice Lowe still manages to cut deep as she goes through the emotional turmoil of a character who has to deal with the loss of one life and the creation of another. Through unique and creative directing and Lowe's comedic talents, "Prevenge" is a wonderfully absurd movie that manages to be as dark as it is hilarious.

#3


68 KILL
Director: Trent Haaga

Trent Haaga's voice in cult movies started with Troma and has only gotten more distinct since then. "68 Kill" is only his second movie as a director, but he works with a confidence and control that could only be done by a professional (a very twisted professional). "68 Kill" is a very dark movie, but at the same time it offers some of the biggest laughs of the year. It tells the story of shit-outta-luck Chip and his insane girlfriend Liza as they decide to rob a man for $68,000. If you know Trent Haaga then you can expect this to get crazier and crazier from minute one and never let up. Thanks to the perfectly cast lead actors Matthew Gray Gubler and AnnaLynne McCord, we're treated with one of the most fun movies of the year.

#2


LUCKY
Director: John Carroll Lynch

The famous quote from Orson Wells, "we're born alone, we live alone, we die alone," has been adopted in such a manner that it now seems to be used as a coping mechanism. We're trying to force ourselves to believe that loneliness is what's meant to be. Except that there is a piece of that quote that's frequently ignored: "Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone." In Harry Dean Stanton's final film, a man who's prided himself in his beliefs, now finds himself standing at the edge of the precipice due to his age. And, in a heartbreaking moment, acknowledges the one thing that we all try to ignore: that he's afraid. Throughout the movie, we come to understand that we don't have to face the end alone. That you can overcome that fear if you allow yourself to make connections with those around you. And in the climax, with a final look from Mr. Stanton, we are reassured that while death comes for us all, in the end, it's all going to be okay.



Deciding what deserved the #1 spot this year was hard, but ultimately we decided that the winner needed to be...


#1


OKJA
Director: Joon-ho Bong

Despite getting booed when the movie started at the Cannes premiere due to being a Netflix movie, the movie ended up getting a standing ovation afterwards. It says a lot when a movie is so good that it can change the hearts of pretentious douchebags. Joon-ho Bong created something that fits every viewer, and this is one of the reasons we felt this deserved this spot. "Okja" is a fun, hopeful and very sweet movie, but with some very sad and heavy themes. It's about a huge beast, that was born only to be food one day, and the girl that took care of it. It's impressive enough for one man to have directed such excellent films as "The Host", "Mother" and "Snowpiercer", but it takes skill on another level to juggle everything that "Okja" has to offer while remaining a very easy movie to get into. This is perhaps not his greatest work to date, but it's a testiment to Joon-ho Bong's excellence as a filmmaker. A great movie that is worthy of being our favorite movie of 2017 (which also pulls on your heartstrings!).

 

BUT IT'S NOT ALL OVER YET, WE STILL HAVE SOME MORE AWARDS!

 


COCOLORS
Director: Toshihisa Yokoshima


"Cocolors" is a beautifully animated sci-fi story about a world in ecological ruin. It carries a wonderfully heartfelt tone throughout that quickly pulls you into this world. Though there are predictable elements here, the striking animation and the great characters within it is more than enough to make this a great watch. Both the world as a whole and the relationship between Aki and Fuyu is specifically something I wanted more time with. That "Cocolors" is too short is one of the few problems we had with it, but that just proves how much we enjoyed it!


 





BEST ACTRESS:
KIRIN KIKI (AS YOSHIKO SHINODA IN "AFTER THE STORM")

Even though Dee Wallace is officially Hollywood's mom, Kirin Kiki may have given one of the best and most motherly performances in a film. With the right blend of sincerity and sarcasm, Kiki generates the comfort, warmth, and knowledge that we associate with motherhood. While she loves her son, she won't hesitate to call him out on his bullshit or lay on the occasional guilt trip. And even though she does not disagree with her son when he calls himself useless, he knows that she loves him as he is. Just like she always has and always will. Kirin Kiki's ability to capture that depth in such an unwavering manner made her performance one of the most outstanding ones of the year.



BEST ACTOR:
DANIEL KALUUYA (AS CHRIS WASHINGTON IN "GET OUT")

There were a couple of actors that we had considered for this, but it's hard to deny the amazing performance that Daniel Kaluuya pushes out in "Get Out". Daniel Kaluuya pulls off all the turns that "Get Out" takes, giving us a powerful character no matter if he's showing it through fright, confusion, sadness or happiness. There are moments where he is completely crushed, but he never breaks down from being someone we trust to, truly, get the fuck out of there. One way or another! We can't imagine this movie with anyone else in the leading role, and that's more rare than you might think. Daniel Kaluuya is integral to the greatness of "Get Out".



And that's all for us.
Goodbye, 2017!






 

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Special Feature Archives



 
 
TOP 10 OF LAST YEAR:
1. Okja
2. Lucky
3. 68 Kill
4. Prevenge
5. Shin Godzilla
6. Good Manners
7. Love and Other Cults
8. Get Out
9. It Comes At Night
10. November
Taken from Best of 2017



CURRENT FAVORITE
DISTRIBUTORS:
- Mondo Vision
BFI
- Second Run DVD