Every year for eleven years now, at the height of list-making season, Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell, or both offer a welcome twist with an entry on the best films that have just turned ninety. This year, Thompson looks back on 1927. “Hollywood dominates this year, with half the list being American-made,” and she explains how that’s come about.
She also explains why Buster Keaton’s The General, though it saw its world premiere in Tokyo on December 31, 1926, really ought to be considered a 1927 film. And: “The consensus among most critics and historians is that The General is Keaton’s finest film. In my opinion it goes beyond the top ten for a year to the top ten, period.”
She then goes on to write about Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother, Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld, F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise, Frank Borzage’s 7th Heaven, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, G. W. Pabst’s The Love of Jeanne Ney, Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt, Vsevolod Pudovkin’s The End of St. Petersburg, and Jean Epstein’s La Glace à trois faces: “Perhaps no other film of the Impressionist movement managed to create a plot that combines the subjective techniques that delve into character psychology with the presentation of events through fleeting impressions rather than linear causality. Most Impressionist films today seem a bit old-fashioned, adhering to the modernism of the era. La Glace seems familiar to aficionados of Resnais or Antonioni.”
Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name tops the list voted up by the writers at the Austin Chronicle. Following the collective ten are the annotated individual ballots, “including plaudits for individual creatives and performers, TV and streaming bests, plus the unmissable worst film list (c'mon, you know you want to know).” Call them by their names: Marjorie Baumgarten, Steve Davis, Kimberley Jones, Josh Kupecki, Marc Savlov, Danielle White, and Richard Whittaker.
The titles of April Wolfe’s top ten aren’t numbered, but they’re not arranged alphabetically, either. The first to be mentioned: “I will never stop thinking about Dee Rees’s Mudbound, a gorgeous, sprawling epic tackling race and class in the Deep South during and after World War II.”
Also at the Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl’s list of twelve is alphabetical. Here’s what he has to say about one of them: “Outside of Wonder Woman, Jordan Peele’s Get Out is the only 2017 studio picture that truly seemed to matter to people who don’t live and breathe for movies. Much can be said about its courage and cleverness, its horror and hilarity, but I’ll leave it to this: In its first moments, Peele got American audiences to accept what white folks still have a hard time admitting: that no It clown house is as scary as the thought of being a black man walking alone at night through a strange white suburb.”
And Bilge Ebiri writes about the “17 Most Overlooked Performances of 2017”: “These are those performances that are among the greatest of the year but that almost nobody is talking about—either because the movies weren’t big or successful enough, or the parts weren’t showy enough, or the names weren’t famous enough. Let’s right some wrongs.”
“We need visions of heroism—real, as in the neighborhood guardians in Whose Streets?, and as in the gallant Gal Gadot,” writes Richard Von Busack in the Pacific Sun. His top ten’s in alphabetical order.
For Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema, “the strongest offerings of 2017 either dealt with the horrors of the past or disillusionment in the present, even while many of these were festival holdovers from 2016,” such as his #1: “Russia’s Andrey Konchalovsky revisits the Holocaust with formidable intensity in his latest, Paradise.” Topping Bell’s list of twenty undistributed films is Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.
Michael Smith lists fifty favorites and writes about each of his top ten. His #1: Twin Peaks: The Return, “David Lynch’s magnum opus—a career-defining work (made on the largest canvas that he’s ever had to work with) that summarizes everything he’s done before while simultaneously also striking out in bold new directions.”
“2017 was a grim and unforgiving trail of frayed nerves, last straws, seething frustrations, angry determination, righteous retributions, downfallen tyrants, and general, brawling discontent. And that was just the queue waiting to get into see the latest Star Wars.” Roderick Heath looks back on the year’s highs and lows at Ferdy on Films.
Topping Alicia Malone’s list of fifty is Call Me by Your Name.
Nadin Mai, who blogs at The Art(s) of Slow Cinema, has spent much of 2017 returning “time and again to the same directors: Wang Bing and Chantal Akerman.”
#1 on Amy Nicholson’s list at Uproxx is Casting JonBenét: “Between Tonya Harding and O. J. Simpson, it’s understandable if you’re tapped out of ’90s crime nostalgia. Luckily, Kitty Green has made something totally different, a heartbreaking documentary about the film behind those films where she interviews Boulder-area aspiring actors eager to play John and Patsy Ramsey in a movie about their daughter’s murder.”
Contributors to Paste write about the “20 Best Movie Performances of 2017.”
On the Very Good TV Podcast (63’28”), Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail joins IndieWire’s Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers to debate which of three shows is the one and only best of the year. Esmail argues the case for Twin Peaks: The Return; Travers is the “Designated Enforcer” for The Leftovers; and Miller fights for The Handmaid’s Tale.
Also . . .
Cineaste has been named “Most Valuable Arts Publication” in the Nation’s “2017 Progressive Honor Roll.” John Nichols: “For decades, this journal has challenged the status quo in the film industry and in our culture—celebrating mavericks and independents, objecting to stereotyping and dumbed-down commercialism, and highlighting the contributions of women and people of color in Hollywood and around the film world.”
The editors and writers of ARTnews are looking back on their favorite books of the year as well.
NPR’s Linda Holmes writes about “50 Wonderful Things From 2017” and then looks back on the year’s highlights on Pop Culture Happy Hour (30’32”) with Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon.
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