Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

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Mike Gebert

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Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 2:14 pm

I like lists as much as the next guy, but it always bugs me that critics make lists according to a narrow view of what qualifies for a list—which is to say, things that played the circuit to which critics belong, so that their lists often have movies that other people won't get to see until April. More than that, their lists are built around theatrical release, and if 2017 taught us anything, it's that the theatrical experience of movies is becoming a smaller and smaller part of what the motion picture art is about. If you're at all like me, going to see movies in a theater is something separated by at least as much, if not far more, of watching TV, seeing old movies newly restored, and finally catching up with things late in the day.

So here's my Ten Best Moving Picture Plays of 2017, seen in whatever format, throughout the year. What are yours?

10. Dunkirk, 70mm, The Music Box, Chicago. Dunkirk was, unfortunately, not as innovative or striking or mysteriously captivating as its own trailers, which promised so much of seeing movies in an entirely new way. Still, seeing Nolan's cerebral, 10,000-foot-view, weirdly inhuman WWII epic in the 60s-David Lean medium of 70mm real film was one of the best experiences of the year, and the criticism of it usually suggested that the viewer simply has lost the ability to watch a story visually, rather than have it explained in dialogue. (I make exceptions for NitrateVille critics, who I trust can watch movies visually.)

9. When Knighthood Was in Flower, Undercrank blu-ray. 20s star making at its most lavish and playful, proof of what Hearst money could buy; 2017 film rescue, proof of what's within the grasp of ordinary people thanks to Jeff Bezos. Both remarkable signs of their times.

8. Dawson City: Frozen Time, which I watched on a screener with logo prominently on screen, but plan to see again on blu-ray. Outwardly a history of gold rush wild west town Dawson City and the silent film find there in the 70s, but Bill Morrison loves decaying nitrate like von Sternberg loved Dietrich's face.

7. Get Out, blu-ray. Sketch comedy might not seem like the natural training for making horror films, but this sharply mordant racial satire finds both the horror and the comedy of embarrassment in its setup and an excellent cast.

6. The Sea Wolf, Warner Archive blu-ray. I had never seen this Jack London adaptation, and it's intense and dark stuff. More here.

5. Call Me By Your Name, currently in theaters. Very mixed feelings about this film about a young man's gay sexual awakening, set in an Italian summer that is little short of idyllic. The best parts are sensitive, moving and carefully thought out in terms of how young people view the world. Yet it's so much from the kid's point of view that nobody else seems quite a real character—the dad gets an intensely moving and wise speech at the end, yet he had seemed a background bumbler until then. Still, I've been wrestling with it for days—art, or really well-made Skinemax?

4. The Shape of Water, currently in theaters. Weirdly parallel to Call Me By Your Name, as both are about a sexual awakening due to the appearance of a tall, sexually ambiguous figure, except one has Armie Hammer and the other the Creature From the Black Lagoon. The mix of boyish enthusiasm for movie monsters and adult understanding of quirks and kinks and sadness and failure is unlike anything else this year.

3. Mindhunter, Netflix. The whole getting into the mind of the serial killer thing has been done to death, and yet David Fincher went back to first principles, telling the story of the FBI unit that first tried to understand dangerously broken minds, and made the most creepily compelling television of the year. Watching it in the digital perfection of my retina display was a perfect melding of medium and subject.

2. The Sound of the Mountain, TCM. Wise, sad Japanese film (by Mikio Naruse) from a Nobel prize winner's book, the kind of thing that they just hide at 2 am on TCM. More here.

1. Behind the Door, Flicker Alley blu-ray. I've waited 35 years to see this, even though Kevin Brownlow spoiled the ending back then. The E.C. Comics fan in me was not disappointed by the 1910s economy of this tale of WWI beastliness and horror, superbly restored by Rob Byrne et al. and scored by Stephen Horne.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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Re: Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 2:33 pm

Haven't seen Coco yet, Mike?

I have come to the conclusion that opinion on movies are like beef: best either very fresh, from a just slaughtered animal, or from a well-aged carcass. If you want the immediate impact of a film, then ask me right after I've seen it, while it's fresh in my mind. If you want to know what I think of it in terms of general excellence, then ten years might be a rushing it just a touch. Stuff from June? I'll start singing "So Near and Yet So Far." I pray thee, let the cares of the moment fade, the passions abate, and perhaps we may cast a cooler eye on these proceedings later on.

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Re: Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 3:58 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:I like lists as much as the next guy, but it always bugs me that critics make lists according to a narrow view of what qualifies for a list—which is to say, things that played the circuit to which critics belong, so that their lists often have movies that other people won't get to see until April. More than that, their lists are built around theatrical release, and if 2017 taught us anything, it's that the theatrical experience of movies is becoming a smaller and smaller part of what the motion picture art is about. If you're at all like me, going to see movies in a theater is something separated by at least as much, if not far more, of watching TV, seeing old movies newly restored, and finally catching up with things late in the day.

So here's my Ten Best Moving Picture Plays of 2017, seen in whatever format, throughout the year. What are yours?

10. Dunkirk, 70mm, The Music Box, Chicago. Dunkirk was, unfortunately, not as innovative or striking or mysteriously captivating as its own trailers, which promised so much of seeing movies in an entirely new way. Still, seeing Nolan's cerebral, 10,000-foot-view, weirdly inhuman WWII epic in the 60s-David Lean medium of 70mm real film was one of the best experiences of the year, and the criticism of it usually suggested that the viewer simply has lost the ability to watch a story visually, rather than have it explained in dialogue. (I make exceptions for NitrateVille critics, who I trust can watch movies visually.)

9. When Knighthood Was in Flower, Undercrank blu-ray. 20s star making at its most lavish and playful, proof of what Hearst money could buy; 2017 film rescue, proof of what's within the grasp of ordinary people thanks to Jeff Bezos. Both remarkable signs of their times.

8. Frozen Time, which I watched on a screener with logo prominently on screen, but plan to see again on blu-ray. Outwardly a history of gold rush wild west town Dawson City and the silent film find there in the 70s, but Bill Morrison loves decaying nitrate like von Sternberg loved Dietrich's face.

7. Get Out, blu-ray. Sketch comedy might not seem like the natural training for making horror films, but this sharply mordant racial satire finds both the horror and the comedy of embarrassment in its setup and an excellent cast.

6. The Sea Wolf, Warner Archive blu-ray. I had never seen this Jack London adaptation, and it's intense and dark stuff. More here.

5. Call Me By Your Name, currently in theaters. Very mixed feelings about this film about a young man's gay sexual awakening, set in an Italian summer that is little short of idyllic. The best parts are sensitive, moving and carefully thought out in terms of how young people view the world. Yet it's so much from the kid's point of view that nobody else seems quite a real character—the dad gets an intensely moving and wise speech at the end, yet he had seemed a background bumbler until then. Still, I've been wrestling with it for days—art, or really well-made Skinemax?

4. The Shape of Water, currently in theaters. Weirdly parallel to Call Me By Your Name, as both are about a sexual awakening due to the appearance of a tall, sexually ambiguous figure, except one has Armie Hammer and the other the Creature From the Black Lagoon. The mix of boyish enthusiasm for movie monsters and adult understanding of quirks and kinks and sadness and failure is unlike anything else this year.

3. Mindhunter, Netflix. The whole getting into the mind of the serial killer thing has been done to death, and yet David Fincher went back to first principles, telling the story of the FBI unit that first tried to understand dangerously broken minds, and made the most creepily compelling television of the year. Watching it in the digital perfection of my retina display was a perfect melding of medium and subject.

2. The Sound of the Mountain, TCM. Wise, sad Japanese film (by Mikio Naruse) from a Nobel prize winner's book, the kind of thing that they just hide at 2 am on TCM. More here.

1. Behind the Door, Flicker Alley blu-ray. I've waited 35 years to see this, even though Kevin Brownlow spoiled the ending back then. The E.C. Comics fan in me was not disappointed by the 1910s economy of this tale of WWI beastliness and horror, superbly restored by Rob Byrne et al. and scored by Stephen Horne.


I don't get the Jeff Bezos reference here....

I agree about Dunkirk. I expected more. I couldn't tell the young unknown actors apart. I liked Mark Rylance a lot though....
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Re: Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 5:02 pm

Alphabetical order:

After the Storm
All the Money in the World
Dawson City: Frozen Time
Dunkirk
Get Out
In the Fade
Logan
The Shape of Water
This Is Not What I Expected
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I think all of them were released theatrically in US at some point during 2017.

I am not including restorations because I had seen them before 2017. Just like I wouldn't include Dickens on a 2017 list of top ten books I read.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 6:27 pm

Well, Amazon owns a piece of Create Space, I think, which Ben sometimes uses. But a glib reference for the parallel between titans of different eras, not meant to give him credit for more than Amazon's place in the whole ecosystem.

And I haven't seen Coco. Haven't seen Inside Out, for that matter. But very much looking forward to Isle of Dogs.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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Re: Ten Best List of 2017, 2017 Style

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 8:13 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Well, Amazon owns a piece of Create Space, I think, which Ben sometimes uses. But a glib reference for the parallel between titans of different eras, not meant to give him credit for more than Amazon's place in the whole ecosystem.

And I haven't seen Coco. Haven't seen Inside Out, for that matter. But very much looking forward to Isle of Dogs.


Gotcha. CreateSpace is about half as good now as it was before Amazon Bezos began to swallow it.....
Ed Lorusso
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