Best Films 2017

     2017 brought a lot of discussion about "Film vs Television," although it's difficult to discern why the discussion seems so important to so many. It has something to do with the fear that movies will die at the hands of binge-able, episodic television while cinema-going declines, and cinema culture transforms into something less and less visible. But, is this really happening? Are the movies not as good as they used to be? Is TV now better than films? Should we lament the loss of some communal ideal of cinema-going, and chastise ourselves for curling up on the couch for an auto-play binge? Admittedly, after having watched the whole first season of G.L.O.W. in one forgettable shot this year, recalling only that it was entertaining enough to keep me watching, I did feel a touch of this lament. On the more impressionable side of things, Twin Peaks; The Return was one of the most memorable and surprising TV events this year, while second and third place undoubtedly go to The Leftovers and Fargo. Errol Morris's Wormwood added some fuel to the TV vs Film discussion late in the year, and, like Twin Peaks: The Return, brings some interesting questions about what TV offers in terms of pacing and scope that just isn't achievable in the same way at the movies. Likewise, Paolo Sorrentino's The Young Pope, while sporting some dubious decisions at first glance, was one of the most stunning cinematic events of the year. So, TV got a bit more cinematic this year. Great! It seems to me that TV has everything to gain from the likes of Lynch, Morris, Sorrentino, and the Coens invading it's turf. End of discussion. 

     Ok, one more thing: with Lynch making a number of "Best Films" lists this year, I want to suggest that seeing Twin Peaks: The Return as Television--as a wish for the future of Television--might be a more worthy categorization. Aside from that, the sheer scope of Peaks makes it unable to be contained as a "movie-going experience," which seems to me an obvious part of the design (although attempts will surely be made). In fact, my wish at the end of 2017 is for TV to dare to be as jaw-dropping and unexpected as the now infamous "Got a Light" episode of the new Peaks--without a doubt, my favorite viewing experience of the year. 

     As for the remainder of the cinematic output in 2017, I feel like it was a pretty great year, particularly for all of the women in film who, frankly, deserved more attention amidst the clamor of Patty Jenkin's somewhat lackluster Wonder Woman. The "wonder women" for me this year were Kirsten Johnson, Kelly Reichardt, Anna Biller, Laurie Anderson, Ana Lily Aminpour, and Julia Ducournau, to name only a few. So, without further ado, here's my wish for next year: may the movies in 2018 continue to be as captivating and challenging as this lot. Having already seen two astonishing movies I can't imagine not being at the top of my list next year--Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread--2018 is off to a promising start.

Best Films 2017
Cameraperson   Kirsten Johnson

Paterson   Jim Jarmusch 
Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani

Dawson City: Frozen Time   Bill Morrison

Neruda   Pablo Larrain 
Gael Garcia Bernal, Luis Gnecco, 
Mercedes Morán

Good Time   Benny and Josh Safdie 
Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, 
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Taliah Webster

Certain Women   Kelly Reichardt
Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, 
Jared Harris, Rene Aberjonois, Kristen Stewart, 
Lily Gladstone

mother!   Darren Aronofsky
Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, 
Ed Harris, Michelle Pfifer

Get Out   Jordan Peele
Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, 
Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, 
LilRel Howley

Nocturama    Bertrand Bonello                           
Finnegan Oldfield, Vincent Rottiers, Hamza Meziani, Manal Issa, 
Martin Petit-Guyot                                                

Marjorie Prime    Michael Almereyda                 
Lois Smith, Jon Hamm
Geena Davis, Tim Robbins

The Best of the Rest

David Lynch: The Art Life 
(John Nguyen/Rick Barnes/Olivia Neergaard-Holm
The Love Witch (Anna Biller)
Youth (Paolo Sorrentino)
Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson)
Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)
Raw (Julia Ducournau)
A Ghost Story (David Lowery)
Atomic Blonde (David Leitch)
The Bad Batch (Ana LilyAmirpour)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Death of Louis the XIV (Albert Serra)
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues)
I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)
The Treasure (Corneliu Porumboiu)
The Beguiled (Sophia Coppola)
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd)
Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
Silence (Martin Scorsese)
Fences (Denzel Washington)
Death Race 2050 (G.J. Echternkamp)
La La Land (Damien Chazelle) 
The Handmaiden (Park Chan-Wook)

The Disappointments:

Baby Driver (Wright), Queen of the Desert (Herzog), 
The Last Face (Penn), Wind River (Sheridan), 
Colossal (Vigalondo), Logan (Mangold),
War for the Planet of the Apes (Reeves), 
John Wick: Chapter 2 (Stahleski), 
Alien: Covenant (Scott), Sully (Eastwood)
Victoria and Abdul (Frears)
Ghost in the Shell (Sanders)

The "Just Terrible" (Yes, I liked both The Mummy and Valerian more than these):

The Founder (Hancock), The Comedian (Hackford), 
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Vaughn),
Split (Shyamalan), Live By Night (Affleck),
Lights Out (Sandberg), Rough Night (Aniello)

Night Nurse

William A. Wellman, 1931