Top 19 of 2017

2017 was, to put it mildly and flippantly, an utter oddity of a year in so many ways. When I look at my list, the overall quality of the films themselves was perhaps no poorer than in the monumental selections of the past two years, but there was a certain bewilderment, a malaise that put me at a distance. With the exception of Twin Peaks: The Return, there was practically no film where my love was not complicated in some way, and it seems equally due to the films as it is to the year at large.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues (plus a few more) that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2017. It is a snapshot rather than a permanent fixture.

no1

1. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo)

no2

2. The Work (Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)

no3

3. Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR)

no4

4. Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone)

no5

5. Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie)

no6

6. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (S.S. Rajamouli)

no7

7. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)

no8

8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach)

no9

9. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

no10

10. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul W.S. Anderson)

no11

11. The Son of Joseph (Eugène Green)

no12

12. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo)

no13

13. Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda)

no14

14. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)

no15

15. The Post (Steven Spielberg)

no16

16. Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)

no17

17. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson)

no18

18. The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)

no19

19. Downsizing (Alexander Payne)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2017 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. A Touch of Zen (1971, King Hu)
  2. The Terrorizers (1986, Edward Yang)
  3. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
  4. Rio Bravo (1959, Howard Hawks)
  5. A New Leaf (1971, Elaine May)
  6. Ashes of Time (1994, Wong Kar-wai)
  7. Surviving Desire (1991, Hal Hartley)
  8. Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
  9. The Unbelievable Truth (1989, Hal Hartley)
  10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)

2017 “Senses of Cinema” Ballot

Hypothetical ballot for the 2017 Senses of Cinema World Poll. Mostly based on 2017 New York City commercial releases.

1. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, David Lynch)

2. On the Beach at Night Alone (2017, Hong Sang-soo)

3. Three Films From Ten Seconds Into the Future:
The Human Surge (2016, Eduardo Williams)
By the Time It Gets Dark (2016, Anocha Suwichakornpong)
Kékszakállú (2016, Gaston Solnicki)

4. Humanist Documentaries
The Work (2017, Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)
Faces Places (2017, Agnès Varda & JR)

5. Independent Breakthroughs:
Princess Cyd (2017, Stephen Cone)
Good Time (2017, Josh & Benny Safdie)

6. Auteurist Franchise Works
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017, S.S. Rajamouli)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016, Paul W.S. Anderson)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Rian Johnson)

7. “American” Histories:
The Post (2017, Steven Spielberg)
Phantom Thread (2017, Paul Thomas Anderson)
The Lost City of Z (2016, James Gray)

8. Family Dramedys
Lady Bird (2017, Greta Gerwig)
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017, Noah Baumbach)
The Son of Joseph (2016, Eugène Green)

9. French Sensuality:
120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017, Robin Campillo)
Personal Shopper (2016, Olivier Assayas)
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)

10. Old Masters:
Ex Libris – The New York Public Library (2017, Frederick Wiseman)
Song to Song (2017, Terrence Malick)

December 2017 Capsules

A Touch of Zen
The rare film whose greatness is both totally, utterly assured and constantly daring, pushing and probing at its own ambitions to create something more. The opening section alone evokes this seeming contradiction: Hu’s constant camera motions, cutting judiciously to closer and closer views of the central fort, tease out so much of the haunted textures that define roughly two-thirds of the film, but crucially never come close to spelling out the layout of the structure. It is a metaphysical realm even before the priests take the center stage, one defined by the delineation between standard society and the mystical forces that swirl just outside of the town square. Ku moves between these freely, defined by his indecision and complacency, serving as the perfect conduit and viewpoint from which to marvel at these barely superhuman figures. Methodical, explosive, eerie, A Touch of Zen seems to contain all of humanity’s attributes for good and ill, and then goes beyond in its final foregrounding of the mystical, the fundamentally unknowable.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Establishes itself from the outset, with the tactical equivalent of a prank call, to be an exceptionally perceptive, playful and loving subversion of practically every single convention of the closest thing post-20th century culture has to a modern myth. At times, Star Wars: The Last Jedi almost feels like a series of constantly escalating dares that Rian Johnson is issuing over the span of two and a half hours, willfully bewildering and perplexing the viewer with totally unexpected events, structural conceits, and even performance choices. But to reduce such a textually and aesthetically rich film to gambits is foolish: it is as much invested in reinforcement as it is in subversion, and the journey to the former while balancing the latter is rendered expertly.

Like its predecessors (and especially The Force Awakens), the galactic struggles are consistently cast in terms of the personal, focusing on individual reactions and motivations as reflections of a wider movement. The whittling down of the Resistance makes this register even more strongly, but the decision to fracture the narrative into roughly four parts (so jarring at first that I nearly missed just how carefully the movie was edited together, especially in those oh-so-crucial Force conversations) means that the viewer’s grounding must be, even more than normal, in the characters. Their essential uncertainty, their hesitation to stand in the face of monumental events, is what defines them, and the film is willing to lean into these flaws in order to access something deeper, more painful than I could have expected.

Non-Released Features

The feature films I have seen that, for one reason or another, (appear to) have not played in theaters for a week in New York City.

Ajantrik (1958, Ritwik Ghatak)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1979, Delbert Mann)
Almost a Man (1966, Vittorio De Seta)
American Dreams (Lost and Found) (1984, James Benning)
Another Year (2016, Shengze Zhu)
ANPO: Art X War (2010, Linda Hoaglund)
L’Argent (1928, Marcel L’Herbier)
Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed (1968, Alexander Kluge)
At the Top of the Stairs (1983, Paul Vecchiali)
Bad Black (2016, Nabwana IGG)
Bad Seed (1934, Billy Wilder and Alexander Esway)
Barrier (1966, Jerzy Skolimowski)
The Battle of Brazil: A Video History (1996, Jack Matthews)
A Better Tomorrow (1986, John Woo)
Blondes in the Jungle (2009, Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)
Cape No. 7 (2008, Wei Te-Sheng)
A Chinese Ghost Story (1987, Ching Siu-tung)
Close Relations (2016, Vitaly Mansky)
Come Drink With Me (1966, King Hu)
Dead Slow Ahead (2015, Mauro Herce)
Death Proof (2007, Quentin Tarantino)
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017, Sydney Freeland)
Desperado Square (2001, Benny Toraty)
D’Est (1993, Chantal Akerman)
Dil Se.. (1998, Mani Ratnam)
The Distance (2014, Sergio Caballero)
Easy Rider (2012, James Benning)
88:88 (2015, Isiah Medina)
Electro-Pythagoras: A Portrait of Martin Bartlett (2016, Luke Fowler)
Elegy to the Visitor From the Revolution (2011, Lav Diaz)
Empire of the Dark (1990, Steve Barkett)
The Enchanted Desna (1964, Yuliya Solntseva)
Enjo (1958, Kon Ichikawa)
Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema (2006, Lisa Ades & Lesli Klainberg)
Fail to Appear (2017, Antoine Bourges)
The Fate of Lee Khan (1973, King Hu)
Feast of the Epiphany (2018, Michael Koresky & Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman)
Film ist. 1-6 (1998, Gustav Deutsch)
Film ist. 7-12 (2002, Gustav Deutsch)
The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2004, Lloyd Kramer)
Forest Movie (2017, Matthew Taylor Blais)
Forever Young (2018, Li Fangfang)
From Nine to Nine (2017, Neil Bahadur)
Game Change (2012, Jay Roach)
Game of Death (1978, Robert Clouse)
Garrincha: Man of the Jungle (1962, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade)
Glory Sky (1962, Takis Kanellopoulos)
The Goddess (1934, Wu Yonggang)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Isao Takahata)
Green Snake (1993, Tsui Hark)
Grotesque (1988, Joe Tornatore)
Hands Over the City (1963, Francesco Rosi)
High School (1968, Frederick Wiseman)
Hill of Freedom (2014, Hong Sang-soo)
The Hole (1998, Tsai Ming-liang)
Hospital (1970, Frederick Wiseman)
House of Little Deaths (2016, Scout Tafoya)
Hugo and Josephine (1967, Kjell Grede)
In Our Time (1982, Tao Te-chen/Edward Yang/Ko I-chen/Chang Yi)
In the Heat of the Sun (1994, Jiang Wen)
In the Midst of Life (1963, Robert Enrico)
Insiang (1976, Lino Brocka)
Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (1967, Nagisa Oshima)
John From (2015, João Nicolau)
Joseph: King of Dreams (2000, Rob LaDuca & Robert C. Ramirez)
Journey to the Shore (2015, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016, Jonathan Demme)
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993, Alanis Obomsawin)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989, Hayao Miyazaki)
Krivina (2012, Igor Drljaca)
The Land Before Time III: The Time of the Great Giving (1995, Roy Allen Smith)
The Last Clean Shirt (1964, Alfred Leslie)
The Leisure Class (2015, Jason Mann)
Lemonade (2016, Kahlil Joseph and Beyoncé Knowles Carter)
The Lion Hunters (1965, Jean Rouch)
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000, Jim Kammerud & Brian Smith)
Live Freaky! Die Freaky! (2006, John Roecker)
Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010, Dibakar Banerjee)
Ma’ Rosa (2016, Brillante Mendoza)
Magnet of Doom (1963, Jean-Pierre Melville)
The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970, Nagisa Oshima)
Il Mare (1962, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi)
Memorandum (1965, Donald Brittain & John Spotton)
Minotaur (2015, Nicolás Pereda)
The Mission (1999, Johnnie To)
A Month in Thailand (2012, Paul Negoescu)
Mulan II (2004, Darrell Rooney & Lynne Southerland)
Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013, Hong Sang-soo)
On the Occasion of Remember the Turning Gate (2002, Hong Sang-soo)
One-Armed Swordsman (1967, Chang Cheh)
102 Minutes That Changed America (2008, Nicole Rittenmeyer & Seth Skundrick)
100 Years of Japanese Cinema (1994, Nagisa Oshima)
The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976, Radley Metzger)
Orders (2017, Eric Marsh & Andrew Stasiulis)
Our Sunhi (2013, Hong Sang-soo)
Oxhide (2005, Liu Jiayin)
Oxhide II (2009, Liu Jiayin)
Pearls of the Deep (1966, Jiri Menzel/Jan Nemec/Evald Schorm/Vera Chytilová/Jaromil Jires)
Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998, Tom Ellery & Bradley Raymond)
Poem of an Inland Sea (1958, Yuliya Solntseva)
Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997, Karl Geurs)
Pride Divide (1997, Paris Poirier)
Qui trop embrasse… (1986, Jacques Davila)
Radio Mary (2017, Gary Walkow)
Red Cliff Part II (2009, John Woo)
The Rite (1969, Ingmar Bergman)
Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963, Roberto Rossellini/Jean-Luc Godard/Pier Paolo Pasolini/Ugo Gregoretti)
The Room (2003, Tommy Wiseau)
The Rules of Film Noir (2009, Elaine Donnelly Pieper)
Secret (2007, Jay Chou)
The Seventh Continent (1989, Michael Haneke)
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965, Sergei Parajanov)
Shin Heike Monogatari (1955, Kenji Mizoguchi)
Siberian Lady Macbeth (1962, Andrzej Wajda)
Sieranevada (2016, Cristi Puiu)
Signs of Life (1968, Werner Herzog)
Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (2014, Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan)
Sisters in the Struggle (1991, Dionne Brand & Ginny Stikeman)
A Skin So Soft (2017, Denis Côté)
The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (2015, Ben Rivers)
South (1999, Chantal Akerman)
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978, Steve Binder)
The Story of the Flaming Years (1961, Yuliya Solntseva)
Suffer Little Children (1983, Alan Briggs)
Surviving Desire (1991, Hal Hartley)
That Day, on the Beach (1983, Edward Yang)
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978, Lau Kar-leung)
Three Resurrected Drunkards (1968, Nagisa Oshima)
To Lavoisier, Who Died in the Reign of Terror (1991, Michael Snow)
Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967, Peter Whitehead)
Triple Agent (2004, Eric Rohmer)
Troll 2 (1990, Claudio Fragasso)
Troublemakers (1966, Norman Fruchter & Robert Machover)
Turn Left, Turn Right (2003, Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai)
24 Hours in the Life of a Woman (1968, Dominique Delouche)
Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, David Lynch)
Two Lottery Tickets (2016, Paul Negoescu)
Two Plains & a Fancy (2018, Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)
U.S. Go Home (1994, Claire Denis)
Les Vampires (1915, Louis Feuillade)
Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000, Hong Sang-soo)
Wavelength (1967, Michael Snow)
We Will Rock You (1984, Saul Swimmer)
Xiao Wu (1997, Jia Zhangke)
Yesterday Girl (1966, Alexander Kluge)
Yourself and Yours (2016, Hong Sang-soo)

2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Nominations Ballot

Best Picture

  1. On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Faces Places
  3. Princess Cyd
  4. Good Time
  5. The Post
  6. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  7. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  8. Lady Bird
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Director

  1. Josh & Benny Safdie, Good Time
  2. Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama
  3. Eduardo Williams, The Human Surge
  4. Steven Spielberg, The Post
  5. Paul W.S. Anderson, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Best Actor

  1. Robert Pattinson, Good Time
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  3. Claes Bang, The Square
  4. Adam Sandler, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  5. Ben Stiller, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Actress

  1. Kim Min-hee, On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  3. Rebecca Spence, Princess Cyd
  4. Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread
  5. Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  2. Robert Pattinson, The Lost City of Z
  3. Tim Robbins, Marjorie Prime
  4. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  5. Dustin Hoffman, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Elizabeth Marvel, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  2. Lois Smith, Marjorie Prime
  3. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  4. Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
  5. Julianne Moore, Wonderstruck

Best Ensemble Cast

  1. Lady Bird
  2. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  3. The Post
  4. Marjorie Prime
  5. Mudbound

Best Youth Performance

  1. Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck
  2. Oona Laurence, The Beguiled
  3. Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project
  4. Valeria Cotto, The Florida Project
  5. Ahn Seo-hyun, Okja

Best Villain

  1. The texter, Personal Shopper
  2. Fei and Lin, The Ornithologist
  3. Rose, Get Out
  4. Dr. Isaacs, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  5. James Murray, The Lost City of Z

Best Screenplay

  1. Hong Sang-soo, On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Stephen Cone, Princess Cyd
  3. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  4. Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  5. Matías Piñeiro, Hermia & Helena

Best Animated Feature

  1. Your Name.
  2. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Best Documentary Feature

  1. Faces Places
  2. Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
  3. Starless Dreams
  4. Escapes
  5. Rat Film

Best Foreign Language Film

  1. On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Faces Places
  3. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  4. The Son of Joseph
  5. Nocturama

Best Cinematography

  1. Sean Price Williams, Good Time
  2. Darius Khondji, The Lost City of Z
  3. Janusz Kaminski, The Post
  4. [no credit], Phantom Thread
  5. Ed Lachman, Wonderstruck

Best Costume Design

  1. Phantom Thread
  2. Nocturama
  3. Princess Cyd
  4. Good Time
  5. Lady Bird

Best Film Editing

  1. Nocturama
  2. Wonderstruck
  3. Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
  4. Lady Bird
  5. Thirst Street

Best Original Score

  1. Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time
  2. Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  3. Carter Burwell, Wonderstruck
  4. Jon Brion, Lady Bird
  5. Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama

Best Production Design
N/A

Best Visual Effects
N/A