I'm not too big on traditions, but with the end of the year in sight I do love myself a little recap. 2017 was a fruitful year, with plenty of interesting discoveries and lots of stand-out films. Like always, my list is not based on year of release, instead it's a selection made from all the films I watched this year (that is, the ones I watched for the first time). And if that's not enough inspiration for you, you can always scavenge my top 10s from the previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.
10. Fires on the Plain [Nobi] (2014)
Shinya Tsukamoto's latest isn't all that new anymore, it just a took Fires on the Plain a very long time to reach Western shores. It's a loose remake of a '50s war film, but with Tsukamoto helming the film that's hardly a point of reference. While the cheap, digital look makes it a little hard to get into, it's a veritable descent into madness that made quite the impression. Typical for Tsukamoto's work, it's a bend or break kind of film, but if you're in the mood for something visceral, be sure to give this one a chance.
09. Your Name [Kimi no Na Wa.] (2016)
Makoto Shinkai's Your Name is a phenomenon. It surpassed all of Ghibli's efforts to become the most profitable anime feature in Japan and has been slowly conquering the world ever since, to the point where Shinkai actually became tired of talking about his own film. Its success is easily explained. The film looks wonderous, serves a nice blend of urban fantasy and cultural tradition and wraps it up in a very sweet and comfortable package. An easy recommend, regardless of how familiar you are with anime.
08. See You Tomorrow [Bai Du Ren] (2016)
To celebrate Jet Tone's 25th birthday, Wong Kar-wai commissioned this film. We'll probably never get to see what a Wong Kar-wai directed comedy looks like, but See You Tomorrow gives a nice impression of what we're missing out on. Turns out that's actually quite a lot. With Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Angelababy leading the pack, See You Tomorrow is visually stunning, dramatically poignant, but most of all extremely fun and entertaining film.
07. The Land of Cards [Tasher Desh] (2012)
Most people think of Bollywood when Indian cinema is being mentioned, but there's more than just crazy dance routines and baffling genre mashups coming out of one of the biggest film-producing countries in the world. Qaushiq Mukherjee is one of the best Indian directors I've come across and while the Indian influences are abundant, his films are way more poetic and experimental compared to what Bollywood has on offer. The Land of Cards is an imaginative and sprawling fantasy, but only for those who can get past the cultural barriers.
06. Mother! (2017)
Darren Aronofsky is back. While that is reason enough for celebration, he somehow managed to get his latest film a global-wide theater release. The turnout was dire and general public reviews quickly burried the film, but for those who crave Aronofsky's less than subtle approach to cinema and love a big screen, seeing Mother! in a big movie theater was a once in a decade event. The first half is intriguing and fun, but the inevitable descent into madness is what makes Mother! stand out from the crowd.
05. Swiss Army Man (2016)
There is no proper way to describe Swiss Army Man. It's a film that has to be seen to be believed. Writing down the specifics is doing injustice to the bat-shit crazy concept of this film, not in the least because it makes it sound distasteful and vulgar. The film is anything but though and the ingenuitiy and creativity of the gags far outweigh the objections one might have against this film. It's a prime example of indie comedy done well, a rare feat indeed.
04. Skins [Pieles] (2017)
If you think Swiss Army Man is the maddest comedy in this list, think again. Eduardo Casanova's Skins is crazier, zanier and just absolutely unfathomable. it's also a lot more obscene. But it's not just about the comedy, the film is also extremely stylized. You'll remember Skins as a sea of pink and purple, overflowing with crude comedy and insane ideas. But done so well and with such conviction that it's truly a one of kind film. Here's to hoping this wasn't just a one-off for Casanova.
03. Kizumonogatari III: Reiketsu-hen (2017)
Last year the first Kizumonogatari movie ended up on top of my list. The second one (middle part of the story arc) was slightly disappointing, but the third and final act brings back the genius. Kizumonogatari is part parody, part ode to anime. Some familiarity with the broader genre is definitely a plus and even though the film can be appreciated on its own merits, it helps to know when and where the film pokes fun at the genre by grossly exaggerating some of its more questionable features.
02. Blame! (2017)
Taking the anime top spot this year is Netflix' adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei's Blame! manga. It's not a straight adaptation of the comics, instead the film focus on one of its narrative strands through which it introduces newcomers to the Blame! universe. It's maybe not as cyberpunk and/or gritty as some might have hoped, then again that would be asking a bit too much. The sligthly more accessible plot allowed for a bigger budget, which in turn provided a much more thorough and detailed depiction of its universe.
01. The Whispering Star [Hiso Hiso Boshi] (2016)
Top spot this year goes to Sion Sono's most obscure 2016 film. Getting your hands on The Whispering Star may still prove problematic, but Third Window Films is coming with a proper, English-friendly release next year. The Whispering Star shows a more subtle, less manic side of Sono. It's a peculiar slice of sci-fi/fantasy mashup, lushly shot and aptly scored. Yet more proof that it's practically impossible to pigeonhole this director. It might be a bit slow for some, but personally I believe it's Sono's best film to date.