NBR Awards, Slamdance Lineup, More

The National Board of Review, established in 1909 and now boasting over 100 members, has named Steven Spielberg’s The Post as the best film of 2017. The Post won’t open until December 22 and reviews are embargoed until this coming Monday, but that’s not keeping critics from tweeting their enthusiasm. At IndieWire, Zack Sharf’s collected and embedded a sampling, noting that “the first reactions are mostly glowing, especially in regards to Meryl Streep’s performance.”

As David Smith notes in the Guardian,The Post “dramatizes the Washington Post’s publication of the classified Pentagon Papers, which exposed government lies about the Vietnam war. But while there are well chronicled parallels between the administrations and obsessions of Trump and Richard Nixon, the movie is also provoking debate about the role of media as watchdog—and whether a similar leak today would survive partisan attempts to discredit the messenger.”

The full list of NBR award-winners:

Top Films

Top 5 Foreign Language Films

Top 5 Documentaries

Top 10 Independent Films

More Lists and Awards

“There’s no secret about the key cinephilic event of 2017,” writes Adrian Martin, arguing that “it was David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Return, all eighteen episodes of it, hands down.” Also in Martin’s entry in Geoff Gardner’s “Five Things that Defended Cinephilia in 2017” series at Film Alert 101 are an appreciation of the work of the late critic Sylvia Lawson and informal mentions of some of the best—and a couple of overrated—films of the year.

Time’s Daniel D’Addario writes up a list of the “Top 10 Television Shows of 2017,” and coming in at #1 is Pamela Adlon’s Better Things.

And then, of course, the Grammy nominations. The list is difficult to make out at the busy site, so here’s Danette Chavez’s plain text version at the A.V. Club.

Slamdance 2018 Lineup

Variety’s Dave McNary is the first to have the narrative and documentary feature film competition lineups for Slamdance 2018 (January 19 through 25). He’s got the synopses and cast lists; we’ll add the links (where available):

Narrative Features:

Documentary Features:


    “Paul and I spoke a lot about curses,” Daniel Day-Lewis tells Lynn Hirschberg in W, “the idea of a curse on a family, what that might be like. A kind of malady.” Paul is, of course, Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Phantom Thread. “And it’s not that I felt there was a curse attached to this film, other than the responsibility of a creative life, which is both a curse and a blessing. You can never separate them until the day you die. It’s the thing that feeds you and eats away at you; gives you life and is killing you at the same time.” Hirschberg, who reminds us of the extremes to which Day-Lewis has gone to prepare for his roles, wonders “why a man who is widely acknowledged as the greatest actor of his generation, who has won three ­Academy Awards for best actor and is magical onscreen, would want to walk away from his profession. ‘I haven’t figured it out,’ he said. ‘But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why.’”

    In the latest entry in Reverse Shot’s symposium on time, Jeff Reichert focuses on “a self-contained sequence” in Lav Diaz’s Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess) (2006). “It is here, after seven hours, that it feels like Heremias has begun. Why wait so long? Because Diaz is that rare filmmaker who fully understands the physicality of cinematic time.”

    For the British Council, Ehsan Khoshbakht writes an appreciation of poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad, fifty years after her death. Her “free verse poetry and short documentary film The House is Black (Khaneh siya ast, 1963) were groundbreaking, sophisticated contributions to the visual and literary arts of the Persian-speaking world. . . . An abstract proverbial quality found in her later poetry in particular lends itself to continued artistic interpretation. So when the late, distinguished Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami took the title of a Farrokhzad poem for his celebrated film The Wind Will Carry Us (Baad mara khahad bord, 1999), he not only made reference to an image familiar to Iranian readers, but reinvigorated Farrokhzad’s figurative language for new generations and international audiences.”

    “In 2012, I launched a parody Twitter account in [Michael] Haneke’s name,” writes the Guardian’s Benjamin Lee. “It was an extended joke that reimagined the director as a tween-talking, cat-loving, remarkably petty figure, who spent his time insulting Terrence Malick and bragging about his two Palmes d’Or. He ended every tweet with ‘lol.’” At one point in his recent interview with the director, “I decide to blurt out that it was me, describing it as an affectionate homage. The translator’s jaw drops. He explains to Haneke, who bursts out laughing. ‘It’s true?’ he asks. ‘Congratulations! I laughed a lot about it. I found it very clever.’” By the way, they cover a lot more ground, too: Happy End, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody’s piece on the influence of Haneke’s style on Ruben Östlund and Yorgos Lanthimos (Haneke disagrees), working with actors, and more.

    Also in the Guardian,Phil Hoad argues that Takashi Miike is “living proof that quantity doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing quality.”

    Neil Bahadur’s posted a few thoughts on Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (1985): “From the opening shot, already can we see the collusion of Antoinoini and Ozu that will reach its fullest manifestation in Yi Yi, but to write about an artist such as this one in merely cinephilic terms barely can scratch the surface—if not an outright disservice. . . . Hou Hsaio-Hsien and Tsai Chin work on two levels—as distinct characters, and walking metaphors. This isn’t just a portrait of an entire country in transition—but as Filipe Furtado writes: ‘A monument to all the things left behind during the unforgiving process of forging an identity.’”

    Thor: Ragnarok has been out for a few weeks, and Kristin Thompson notes that director Taika Waititi “did not set out with the ambition to direct a superhero movie with an absurdly high budget. But his career was so full of luck early on that it hardly could have gone better if he had planned it. If you sought a model path to blockbuster fame, you could do no better than to imitate him.”

    Vincent Price “understood better than many other actors that horror in itself is about a ritualistic encounter with the abject,” argues Kate Blair at Vague Visages.

    Goings On

    New York. “British stars Alan Bates and Oliver Reed’s uncharacteristically dialogue- and clothing-free wrestling contest may be the most iconic sequence in Ken Russell’s charmingly deranged melodrama Women in Love (1969),” writes Simon Abrams in the Village Voice. “But the most sensational moments in director Russell and screenwriter Larry Kramer’s thoughtful D.H. Lawrence adaptation hinge on philosophical discussions about personal freedom and marriage, and not generous displays of naked man flesh.” Opens Friday at the Metrograph.

    Los Angeles. In the LA Weekly,Jennifer Swann reports that “after Cinefamily closed its doors in August to launch an internal investigation following allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct—and after the theater earlier this month announced its decision to shut down permanently—[former employee Suki-Rose] Simakis began to wonder if there was space for her after all in the independent film community. At about the same time, she’d heard from another former Cinefamily staffer, KJ Relth, who was creating a new screening series about working women for her current employer, the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Relth enlisted Simakis to help program a segment of the project, which will debut in February with presentation help from the gender advocacy organization Women in Film.”

    Berlin. On Friday, the Volksbühne presents Tony Conrad Completely in the Present with Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), Tyler Hubby, Jochen Arbeit & Ensemble, Jan St. Werner, and more.

    In the Works

    Phil Yu, who blogs as Angry Asian Man, has posted an open casting call for “Chinese actors of various ages who can speak fluent Cantonese and American English to play the series regular roles of Vicky Sun, Tom Sun, Lo Mo, and Johnny Young” in Tong Wars, Wong Kar-wai’s ten-part original Amazon series that “follows the journey of Vicky Sun from a slave girl in turn-of-the-century Chinatown to the richest woman in 1970s San Francisco.”

    “Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez infamously made his first feature, the lauded 1992 indie El Mariachi, for the paltry sum of just $7,000,” recalls IndieWire’s Kate Erbland. “On the upcoming unscripted series Rebel Without a Crew, producer Rodriguez will challenge five filmmakers—including Scarlet Moreno, Alejandro Montoya Marin, Bola Ogun, Bonnie-Kathleen Ryan, and Josh Stifter—to make their own films for just $7,000, with zero crew to be found. It’s a wild enough idea, but one that comes with a real kicker: per a new press release, Rodriguez himself will participate in the challenge and also make a new film for just $7,000.”

    The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth notes that, in a piece for the Washington Post,Steven Zeitchik mentions in passing that there’ll be a second season of Big Little Lies—Jean-Marc Vallée won’t be directing it. He’s still on board as a producer, though.


    On the new Film Comment Podcast (47’42”), Nick Davis, Girish Shambu, Michael Koresky, and Violet Lucca discuss “formative cinematic fascinations—one director who kickstarted cinephilia at a young age, and another who reinvigorated and maybe even recontextualized the passion a bit later down the road.”

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