I guess you could say spending New Year’s Eve getting screened in the Middle East by United States Border Patrol officers is the perfect ending to the political experience of 2017. At least I got some champagne and dessert afterwards.
Part of the flight, I re-read one of my absolute favorite pieces of film criticism ever written; Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review of Bela Tarr’s Satantango. It reassured me that the great cinema is not something that should be assumed to be lost on most people. That there is always an audience for a great film no matter how unwieldy, ambitious, or downright unappealing in appearance it may be. Rosenbaum is always great at scanning cinema and all its aspects of writing, directing, production, distribution, and consumption through the lens of a “power of the people” mantra. It’s a political philosophy which prioritizes access regardless of demographic models and it undoubtedly needs to be made more aware of because of the sectarian means by which cinema (and culture in general really) is showcased in America. So this too was a perfect capping of 2017.
This year, I continued my habit of the past couple years of just saying “fuck it” to trying to watch new releases just for the sake of watching them. Selectivism over volume, hurrah. Out of the dozens of remakes, sequels etc. that got churned out at the detriment of much more interesting material that could easily have taken it’s place, I saw but a few (War for the Planet of the Apes and BladeRunner 2049) and they were both rather underwhelming, especially in comparison to their own predecessors.
Looking at my Best of 2017 list, there is a dearth of American movies (also possibly due to the ambiguity of Hollywood vs. UK produced film). The three that end up on there are all, unsurprisingly, original films, one a major blockbuster by a well-known celebrity director, and the other two, small indie films by relatively new filmmakers. These movies are becoming rarer in a distribution cycle which is slowly and surely being overtaken by whatever sells in China, Hollywood’s largest market. Outside of Star Wars which remains quintessentially, an American-exclusive loved franchise entity, everything else from Marvel to DC to Fast & Furious to Monster Movies to whatever the hell James Cameron comes out with next is going to be seen by more Chinese paying customers more frequently than any other nationality of movie-goers on Earth.
But I consciously hoped to allow this list, like the ones I made in the past, be a representation of the diversity of cinema that is still existent in the nooks and crannies of cinema-halls in the U.S., if you care to search and look for them. Movies are always going to be there even with Netflix and Chinese-centric marketing models because there are always artists who are going to be making them. If not in the U.S, then elsewhere. It’s a huge world, and it’s connected closer and faster than ever. Fascism and nationalism are rising, but so is everyone’s desire to see things outside of their own box. Maybe 2018 will be about that.
Anyway, here’s the list of my Favorite Films of 2017. (click on the title of each film to be taken to a full review of the film) :
- The Other Side of Hope | dir. Aki Kaurismäki (Finland)
2. The Florida Project | dir. Sean Baker (U.S.A.)
3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer | dir. Yorgos Lanthimos (U.K.)
4. Let the Corpses Tan | dir. Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (France/Belgium)
5. Clash | dir. Mohammed Diab (Egypt)
6. Dunkirk | dir. Christopher Nolan (U.K./U.S.A.)
7. Vazante | dir. Daniela Thomas (Brazil/Portugal)
8. Kedi | dir. Ceyda Torun (Turkey)
9. Endless Poetry | dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky (Chile)
10. Brigsby Bear | dir. Dave McCary (U.S.A.)
Best “Past Discoveries” of 2017:
The Turin Horse | dir. Bela Tarr (Hungary, 2012)
I Stand Alone | dir. Gaspar Noe (France, 1998)
Twin Peaks (Season 1) | dir. David Lynch (1991)
The Panic in Needle Park | dir. Jerry Schatzberg (1971)
The Sopranos (Seasons 1-6)| (1999 – 2005)
Night and Fog | dir. Alain Resnais (1956)
The Spirit of the Beehive | dir. Victor Erice (1973)
The Werckmeister Harmonies | dir. Bela Tarr (2000)
The Forbidden Room | dir. Guy Maddin (2015)
Shin Godzilla | dir. Hideaki Ano & Shinji Higuchi (2016)