Until the Oscars are presented on March 4, it’s not yet too late to be looking back at the best of 2017. The Village Voice has polled over a hundred critics, and Phantom Thread has come out on top with 348 points—followed by Lady Bird (326), Get Out (318), Call Me by Your Name (305), and The Florida Project (289) in the top five. Lists in all categories run to ten.
Paul Thomas Anderson takes the Best Director top spot, but the fun here lies in watching Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele chasing each other all up and down the page. Lady Bird tops Get Out with single-digit leads in Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, but when it comes to Best Feature, it’s Peele over Gerwig, forty-two to fifteen. It’s as if the critics were responding, “Well, when you put it that way . . .” Because Gerwig isn’t perceived as a newcomer? Hard to say.
At any rate, you can also scan historical Best Film poll results dating back from when Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich was crowned in 1999. The Voice will be spending the rest of the week “presenting a number of reflections on the year in film from different writers,” notes Bilge Ebiri, before posting “the full results, as well as individual ballots” on Friday.
“A shift away from traditional platform distribution was probably inevitable, but the actions of a ‘disruptor’ have no doubt expedited the perception that such a pattern is stodgy and out of step with our what’s-new-right-now culture,” writes Jason Bailey. “No industry player has more fully dominated the conversation about how we see movies now—what, indeed, a movie is—than Netflix. The trouble is, it’s a conversation that so often boils down to the barest, nuance-free basics, a question of good or evil, devil or angel, hero or villain. Netflix will, most likely, neither save nor destroy cinema. But its growing dominance demands that those who think about movies critically hold two thoughts in their heads at once.”
“A number of films that proved popular with critics in the Voice’s annual poll consciously interrogate the figure of the ingenue,” observes Lara Zarum. “What connects Lady Bird and Phantom Thread, the top two winners in this year’s film poll, is the filmmaker’s impulse to take his or her female characters seriously, to invest each with an inner life that may contradict what she looks like on the outside—and to offer the wild suggestion that perhaps the former is more important, and more thrilling to watch, than the latter.”
As Dina in Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish delivers “the type of insane, richly crafted performance in a comedy that’s beyond rare,” writes Odie Henderson. “Haddish evokes the comic fearlessness of the great Carole Lombard, the go-for-broke characterizations of the immortal Madeline Kahn, and the pitch-perfect onstage joke delivery of Richard Pryor. Everything she does, no matter how crazy, is in service to Dina’s character. And as ferocious as Dina is, Haddish also makes her capable of being deeply wounded by the friends she loves so much. It’s no wonder Paul Thomas Anderson wants to work with her; she can easily master his characters’ penchants for swerving between explosiveness and vulnerability.”
“That Night of the Living Dead  is indeed more than a horror movie doesn’t eclipse that it’s also one hell of a horror movie,” writes Eric Henderson. “The film’s function as a key cultural touchstone admittedly keeps it as fresh and urgent as the day it was released, or at least since it went from flash-in-the-pan drive-in fare to Museum of Modern Art-worthy cult sensation. But it sinks its hooks in that very first viewing, just as the mob does to dead bodies underneath those desolate end credits.”
Also at Slant, Chuck Bowen revisits Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991), “a strange and still novel mixture of coming-of-age character study, murder mystery, and Grand Guignol horror spectacle.”
In Other News
War for the Planet of the Apes is the “photoreal feature film winner” of the sixteenth annual Visual Effects Society Awards, scoring four. Coco’s also won four and Game of Thrones leads the television categories with five.
“In another shock to the traditional TV ecosystem, prolific producer Ryan Murphy is moving to Netflix under a record-setting deal valued at $250 million-$300 million.” Variety’s Debra Birnbaum and Cynthia Littleton have details.
New York. On Saturday, Chris Robé, author of Breaking the Spell: A History of Anarchist Filmmakers, Videotape Guerrillas, and Digital Ninjas, will be at Interference Archive in Brooklyn to “show rare, lesser-known protest footage and contextualize the groundbreaking work of AIDS activist group ACT UP New York and the Mexican revolutionary group the Zapatistas,” notes Elisa Wouk Almino at Hyperallergic. “Moving into the present, the focus will shift to digital footage of protests around the world, from Egypt to Portugal to the United States.”
Austin. The Film Society presents Jacques Tati’s Mon oncle (1958) on Sunday.
In the Works
Ioncinema’s launched another countdown of films to look forward to in 2019, this one focusing on American independent productions. Ranking somewhere between #50 and #11 are projects from, for example, Harmony Korine, Matt Porterfield, Gregory Crewdson, Mary Harron, Babak Anvari, Chad Hartigan, Robert Eggers, Reed Morano, Kimberly Peirce, Ritesh Batra, Scott Cooper, and Jody Lee Lipes.
Screen’s Melanie Goodfellow reports on the slate that Wild Bunch is taking to the European Film Market during the Berlinale:
- Louis Garrel’s second feature, A Faithful Man, co-written with Jean-Claude Carrière, stars himself, Laetitia Casta, and Lily-Rose Depp. “The film revolves around the complex relationship between Abel, his former partner Marianne, who left him for his best friend Paul but returns following the latter man’s death, and Paul’s sister, who is secretly in love with Abel.”
- Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters “revolves around an impoverished family, living off petty crime, who happily take in an abandoned girl until an unforeseen incident tests family ties.”
- Yury Bykov’s The Factory is “a thriller about a group of factory workers who kidnap a local oligarch when he declares their factory bankrupt after months of withholding wages, pitting themselves against his ruthless private bodyguards and a police SWAT team.”
- Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern’s I Feel Good stars Jean Dujardin “as free-loading slacker Jacques who cooks up a plan to sell cheap plastic surgery package tours after his parents cut him off.”
- Peter Grönlund’s Goliath is “about the son of a drug dealer torn between the desire to go straight or bow to pressure to take over the reins of his dysfunctional family’s criminal business.”
And more. Wild Bunch will also be showing promo reels for, among other titles, Claire Denis’s High Life.
“Melissa McCarthy is finalizing a deal to star with Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen, the drama on which Andrea Berloff will make her directorial debut,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “The Kitchen is an Irish mafia story set in Hell’s Kitchen, New York in the 1970’s. An FBI sweep catches mob leaders, and while they are under arrest and their criminal enterprise is jeopardized, the mob wives take over. They end up running the illicit business in more vicious fashion than their husbands ever did.”
“Michael Keaton is in negotiations to star in real-life inspirational drama, What Is Life Worth,” reports Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione. “David Frankel is directing from Max Borenstein’s 2008 Black List script that’s based on Kenneth Feinberg’s acclaimed memoir recounting the inside story of the 9/11 Fund and its effort to compensate victims.”
Last October, Tartaglione reported that Renée Zellweger would play Judy Garland in Judy, “the true story of the singer and actress’ final concerts in London.” Now she’s got an update: Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story) and Jessie Buckley (Beast) have joined the cast.
From Deadline’s Peter White: “Entourage and Lost star Bai Ling is back and set to star in Chinese murder mystery The Fatal Contract—her first Chinese feature since she was banned from the country for openly criticizing government officials.” Ling will play a bartender who teams up with a young policeman to investigate the murder of an artist.
“Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are set to star in the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ production of Henry IV,” reports Ariana Brockington for Variety. “Hanks will play the comedic role of Sir John Falstaff. The twenty-four performances will run between June 5 and July 1.”
Norman Lebrecht passes along word that László Melis, who composed the score for László Nemes’s Son of Saul (2015), has died at the age of sixty-four. “At the time of his death Melis was working on a score for Sunset, the forthcoming new movie by László Nemes.” Via Movie City News.
On the new Film Comment Podcast (54’23”), Violet Lucca, Andrew Chan, and Aliza Ma “discuss Chinese film culture, sprawling multiplexes, censorship, and the types of films that do and don’t get made anymore on the Mainland and off.”
Max Allan Collins, Kevin Heffernin, and Andrew Nette join Mike White in the Projection Booth (167’26”) to discuss Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955).
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