CN&R critic reviews abundant year of movies
Back in June of this year, I wrote a short feature on what I took to be the best films from the first half of 2017. Of the films seen in local theaters, I singled out the following: A Quiet Passion, Graduation, Frantz, Kedi, The Salesman, Toni Erdmann, I Am Not Your Negro, Paterson, Manchester by the Sea, Elle. The latter two were 2016 releases that didn’t reach us until later on, but even without them, the list had the makings of a Top 10 for the entire year.
Much the same might be said of the list I made at the same time for the best of the half-year for new (or new to U.S.) films seen on video: Alexandra (Russia), The Tribe (Ukraine), No Home Movie (France), Eisenstein in Guanajuato (multinational—Netherlands, Mexico, etc.), Amour Fou (Austria), Horse Money (Portugal), Taxi (Iran), Valley of Love (France/U.S.), The Past (Iran/France/Italy), and 99 Homes.
And the picture gets even better (and more complicated) in light of the parallel listings I’ve now made for films seen in the second half of the year. Best films seen in theaters (after June 1): Lady Bird; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Dunkirk; Wind River; Good Time; Logan Lucky; Ixcanul; Maudie; The Midwife; Personal Shopper; Lucky; The Hero; Get Out; and A Ghost Story. Best films seen on video in second half: The Unknown Girl (France/Belgium); Dawson City: Frozen Time; Mudbound; The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected); Slack Bay (France); The Son of Joseph (France/Belgium); Sunset Song (UK); and Things to Come (France/Germany).
As such, the second half of the year looks even more impressive than the first half, and the prospect of paring all that down to a “Ten Best” seems both daunting in practical terms and misleadingly reductive amid so much aesthetic abundance. Better, perhaps, to simply note that it was a very rewarding year, film-wise, and/or to add that even a Top 10 comprising exclusively the gems that came our way via video, but did not play in local theaters, could add up to a very impressive “Ten Best” for the entire year.
And since this list is sounding more like a “Top 40,” maybe the movie year’s special accomplishments are best enumerated through a more eclectic and sprawling kind of listing:
• Exceptional originality: Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time and David Lowery’s A Ghost Story.
• Brilliant, offbeat epics: Dunkirk and Wind River.
• Character and family: The Salesman, Toni Erdmann, Lady Bird, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).
• Great performances: Isabelle Huppert in Things to Come and Elle; Robert Pattinson in Good Time; David Lynch in Lucky; Adam Driver in Logan Lucky and Paterson; Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
• Two brilliant films about poets: Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson.
• Rich and uncommonly soulful tales: the Dardenne brothers’ The Unknown Girl (Belgium), Eugène Green’s The Son of Joseph, A Ghost Story.
• Action dramas of exceptional intelligence and character: Wind River, Good Time, Logan Lucky, Mudbound.
• Star portraits of beloved character actors: Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton) and The Hero (Sam Elliott).
• Straight-up wisdom: James Baldwin, via Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro.
• An exceptional (and unexpectedly soulful) animal documentary: Kedi, Ceyda Torun’s film about the cats of Istanbul.