Even as we look ahead to the films we’re hoping to see this year, there’s still some 2017 sorting to do. And let’s begin with Farran Smith Nehme’s refreshing list of some of the older films she caught last year. You’ll want to see her notes on work by Jacques Becker, William Dieterle, and more. The image above is from Satyajit Ray’s The Big City (1963): “Madhabi Mukherjee’s performance instantly became an all-time favorite.”
For the tenth year running, the Notebook has asked dozens of contributors to pair an old film with a new one to create a fantasy double feature. Some, like me, have submitted just one pairing with notes, but others, such as the Ferroni Brigade, have programmed an entire season of films in dialogue with each other.
Reverse Shot has polled its writers and coming in at #1 is “a surprising landslide selection,” Terence Davies’s A Quiet Passion. Chris Wisniewski argues that “one of our greatest living directors has turned in his finest work since 2000’s The House of Mirth.” Here we can also read Julien Allen on Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) (#5), Ashley Clark on Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama (#7), Matt Connolly on Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places (#10), Michael Koresky on Anocha Suwichakornpong’s By the Time It Gets Dark (#9), Chloe Lizotte on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (#6), Nick Pinkerton on Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (#4), Emma Piper-Burket on Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper (#3), Jeff Reichert on Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge (#2), and Imogen Sara Smith on Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck (#8).
Before 2017 was out, Film Comment presented its lists of the year’s best films, released and unreleased. There are quotes from and links to reviews, and now that the January/February 2018 issue is out, the magazine’s added a bonus round. Chloe Lizotte argues the case for Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope (#12), Steven Mears for Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (#13), Molly Haskell for Phantom Thread (#15; the new issue also features Sheila O’Malley’s feature), Teo Bugbee for Alain Gomis’s Félicité (#27), and Robert Horton for Azazel Jacobs’s The Lovers, which evidently didn’t make the list.
Jordan Cronk looks back on 2017’s most vital experimental works, noting that “in a year when arguably the most challenging piece of moving-image art was released as a limited, eighteen-episode television series (David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Return), these past twelve months have hopefully only reinforced the fact that truly singular, uncompromising cinema is being made and disseminated in more arenas and through a greater number of exhibition networks than ever before.”
Laura Kern looks back on the year in horror; it was a good one, with Andy Muschietti’s It grossing more than any other horror movie has ever, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out scoring with audiences and critics alike. “But perhaps the most notable turn of events within the field in 2017 was the sheer number of artier terror-infused stories—all exquisitely made yet variously successful—that came from the minds of tried-and-true directors who don’t usually traverse so deep into horror territory.” Examples include Personal Shopper, Trey Edward Shults’s It Comes at Night, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, and Joachim Trier’s Thelma.
The listing at Film Comment and elsewhere may distinguish between the distributed and undistributed, but what about festival screenings, asks Eric Hynes: “These are events not defined by a distributor’s acquisition or the industry release calendar, and outside of major marketplaces like Sundance or Toronto, they’re distinguished less by duty than discovery. But just because no one’s asking us to rank these screenings doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.” He looks back on some that had the most impact on him last year.
The staff at 4:3 presents a whopping collection of lists and notes.
Presenting lists of fifty with a fresh paragraph for each entry are the Film Stage and Paste. #1 at the Film Stage is Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time, and the site’s also presenting individual lists from contributors Willow Maclay, Mike Mazzanti, Jared Mobarak, Nick Newman, Jordan Raup, Christopher Schobert, Michael Snydel, Jose Solís, Ryan Swen, and Zhuo-Ning Su. And C. J. Prince presents an alphabetical list of the ten best films still without distribution in the U.S.
Andy Crump on Get Out, Paste’s #1: “It’s an exercise in tension, where we can presume what’s happening in the Armitage household without necessarily being on the money, and that’s the fun of the film: It spaces its revelations carefully, building on each to undercut any hint of a twist, while still catching us off our guard.”
Get Out tops the list at ScreenAnarchy, too, where James Marsh notes that “what was most impressive about the ballots submitted was the wide range of films in contention. Between the twenty-seven contributing voters, a total of 151 different films were voted for. Of those, more than 100 different films received a single vote each, including a number of titles I had never even heard of.” Here we also find “J Hurtado's 16 Favorite Indian Films of 2017 (With a Few Bonus Choices)” plus more lists from Eric Ortiz and Jim Tudor.
Jessica Kiang on The Keepers, topping the Playlist’s “Best Documentaries of 2017” list: “Ryan White (who also made the excellent The Case Against 8) took an unsolved cold case and made from it one of the most riveting, energising, enraging and inspiring works of the year.”
From VCinema, “Asian Cinema Highlights of 2017”: “In addition to picking their favorites from this year’s crop of releases, some contributors have taken this opportunity to discuss related experiences—such as festivals, retrospectives, or re-releases.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer and Boyd van Hoeij, both based in Paris, discuss the year in French cinema.
Michael Nordine has Edgar Wright’s ten at IndieWire. No particular order, evidently.
From Kyra Kaufer, “my top 20 movies of 2017 as [record scratch] a vine thread??” Pretty amazing.
James Kang has not only sorted the rankings at Critics Round Up, he’s also posted a list of his own: “The assertion that Twin Peaks: The Return doesn’t belong on year-end film lists is not going to age well.”
Lukas Foerster lists ten new films, ten old ones, six analog film screenings, and one digital one. Alphabetically.
For Zach Campbell, “no media event I’m aware of came within Twin Peaks’ orbit. Lynch and Frost’s effort proved a UFO, as sophisticated and complex as it was messy. Here’s a generative, structured modernist work that was also shaggy, self-effacing, full of deferrals. I don’t blame people for hating it and rolling their eyes at it. I personally am grateful to it. It’s clearly the thing of the year.” He also presents “some simple notes on favorite 20th century films I saw from January through December.”
#1 for Ryland Walker Knight: Nocturama.
Joe Leydon’s #1 is Colossal: “For me, writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s audacious genre mashup was the perfect movie for 2017, a year bound to be forever remembered as the moment in time when the tide started to turn for women who have been intimidated, subjugated and otherwise humiliated (verbally or physically) for far too long.”
Jordan Hoffman’s #1: The Florida Project.
Having listed just about everything else, Phil Concannon wraps it up with the “Best Films of 2017,” twenty-five in all, with notes. #1: Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson. “No other film this year was so alive with humanity.”
You may remember that the New York Film Critics Circle announced their awards at the end of November. Last night, they presented those awards at a dinner, and today, everyone’s talking about the seventeen-plus-minute acceptance speech given by Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip). NYFCC member Alison Willmore got it on video, which you can watch at Flavorwire.
Slate’s Movie Club is on! Host Dana Stevens is talking with K. Austin Collins, Mark Harris, and Amy Nicholson. For just a sampling, here’s Collins:
One of the best things we can do as critics working in the Trump era is to remind people that we don’t always experience history through the art of the moment. At least, we don’t have to. It’s possible that one of the best films on the Trump era is Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, a movie released in 1940. It’s possible that Get Out would’ve been even more suited to the Reagan era—the Willie Horton era—fresh on the heels of blaxploitation, in which case, to Dana’s point, maybe the tragedy of the alternate ending, in which Daniel Kaluuya’s character does get arrested by the police, would’ve been the more adventurous choice. These questions extend to the very art of movies, not just their politics. Despite our best efforts (and despite the hunger of audiences online for only the hottest, most incisive takes), we don’t always understand the true value, whether topical or formal, of the art that’s right in front of us.
“It’s hard to survey the landscape in the middle of an earthquake,” writes A. O. Scott in conversation with his fellow New York Times film critic, Manohla Dargis. The discussion of the year in movies and the industry is naturally dominated by the impact of the #MeToo movement, and Dargis emphasizes that “the revelations of abuse are further proof of what some of us have been saying for a very long time: that the industry’s sexism isn’t in our imaginations. It isn’t a female fantasy or a ‘hysterical’ feminist myth.”
Scott, in the meantime, is Isaac Chotiner’s guest on the I Have to Ask podcast (38’58”), discussing “the year in movies, being a film critic in the age of Rotten Tomatoes, and wrestling with Hollywood in a post–Harvey Weinstein world.”
Back to Film Comment for a moment, where Violet Lucca argues that “the racism and sexism that has habitually plagued the industry cannot be fixed by simply sticking more minorities in the room and thinking the cream will rise to the top. One of the quieter but no less powerful aspects of Ruben Östlund’s The Square is how it reveals the worthlessness of a team that’s ‘diverse’ in name only. Even though Christian’s black assistant Michael and a young, unnamed female associate are present at staff meetings, they have no true influence.” And “we’re still deeply entrenched in a flawed mode of complicity, punishment, and reward. We must consider the mechanisms that have allowed such mistreatment to take place: non-disclosure agreements, what values our culture places on power, and what that power is expected to look like.”
Also . . .
“To commemorate the somewhat sad and strange outgoing year,” Catherine Grant has selected twelve “favorite online film studies items encountered (or re-encountered) in 2017 for your delectation and delight.” The entry at Film Studies for Free features a lecture to watch, a site to explore, a podcast to listen to, some “very very very honorable mentions,” and more to read and see.
“At the end of a monstrous year,” Girish Shambu presents “a personal inventory of some things that were in fact good and life-affirming and precious in 2017.” Again, lots of links here for further exploration.
BFI programmer Geoff Andrew looks back on the “films, music, and other stuff” that brightened his 2017.
Jason Kottke, too, presents the “best of my media diet for 2017.”
“The difficulty, indecision, reluctance involved in saying it—uttering, identifying, labelling—could be traced across many of the representations of gay life that abounded in 2017,” writes Matthew McLean for frieze.
And last for now, but most certainly not least, Barack Obama: “During my presidency, I started a tradition of sharing my reading lists and playlists. It was a nice way to reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world. With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most.”
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