Monday, January 1, 2018


My favorite films of the year, in the order I saw them:

Written & Directed by Olivier Assayas

Kristen Stewart on a scooter in Paris hitting designer boutiques and trying on sexy harnesses!  But she hates it; she's actually a medium holding out for a sign from her deceased male twin, being haunted by him or other malevolent forces--who relentlessly text her on a train, making for the most improbably tense and suspenseful scenes ever involving a smartphone.  Everyone has a different interpretation of, or puzzles over, the ending, but the ambiguity rather appropriately works in the story's favor.  It's both a psychological thriller and a ghost story.

Written & Directed by Jordan Peele

All I can say is, beware the GIRLfriend who pops Froot Loops dry, one by one, Dude, with a side of white milk.  Terrific mashup of horror, social satire, and comic relief.

Written & Directed by Edgar Wright

Action scenes directed and edited to excellent pop and rock tunes?  A maximalist homage to Walter Hill's classic, minimalist THE DRIVER?  Hell, yes!  

Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan

1. Three story lines (on land, sea, and air) on different time lines that converge!  2. A Chris Nolan film shot in 65mm IMAX!  3.  Tom Hardy and Harry Styles!  In short, not just another WWII movie.

Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

I'd see and probably "deeply love" anything directed by Denis Villeneuve from SICARIO on, never mind with Ryan Gosling.  If you revered the original BLADE RUNNER, as I do, this probably didn't surpass the original for you.  But on its own merits, it's a sci-fi stunner, IMHO. 

Written by Brian Selznick
Directed by Todd Haynes

Past and present converge, and Haynes and his team get the 70s right--screw "The Deuce."   Haynes said at a Q & A, "I just wanted to make a smart, cool movie for kids."  It's also for grown ups.

Written & Directed by Greta Gerwig

Who woulda thunk an Irish actress could nail an American teenager in Sacramento?  Well, det's ecting!  Yeah, I wish why the name she chose for herself would have been revealed, and that title sucks and probably hurt the film's box office, since you initially think this movie must be about Lady Bird Johnson.  But it's a gem of a debut from Gerwig.

Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh

A sheriff dying of cancer, a racist cop who thinks he's Serpico or something, and a "midget" who has the hots for a mad-as-hell middle-aged mother (Frances McDormand) who's projecting her guilt and grief onto everyone.  AND it's a comedy.   McDonagh, who brought us IN BRUGES, is a  flat-out brilliant writer.  Plus, he loves Nic Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW as much as I do, evidenced by the nods to it here and more overtly in IN BRUGES.

Written by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

GDT is a treasure--he makes films like a kid set loose in a candy shop.  They revel in his passions, obsessions, memories...everything that converges in his conscious and unconscious, past and present.  He made the creature from the black lagoon sexy, liberating the Sally Hawkins character from her lonely three-minute morning masturbations.  Need I say more?

Written by James Ivory (from the novel by André Aciman)
Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Guadagnino made two films with Tilda Swinton, the Brilliant Actress with Impeccable Taste.  She's not in this one, alas, but we do have a star-making performance from Timothée Chalamet (who's in at least three films this year), the towering, perfectly handsome Armie Hammer ("Later!"--his version of Gatsby's "Old Sport"), and a monologue from Michael Stuhlbarg (also in three pics this year) that floored me.  Languid, sublime.  A sabbatical in an Italian village  with a highly cultured, empathic family who speak four languages.  Wish they'd adopt me for a summer.  Sigh.  

Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (based on a book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell)
Directed by James Franco

Franco directs himself as Tommy Wiseau, auteur of THE ROOM, widely regarded as the CITIZEN KANE of bad movies.  See this film and the phrase "Oh hi, Mark" is all you'll need to get you out of your deepest funk.  Right?  

Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

PTA said in an interview that he thought he'd be making "pretty good" movies for the rest of his life.  "Pretty good" is such an understatement for the most outstanding filmmaker we have--a true auteur.  Here, influenced by Hitchcock and Losey, the film (which must be seen in its 70mm glory) stuns with some very unique (psycho)sexual politics.  Plus a great piano score from Jonny Greenwood.  Tense and breathtaking--it left me with palpitations!

Written and directed by Ildikó Envyedi

I can't describe the experience of this Hungarian film better than Tom Birchenough of  "It would be an illusion to expect every viewer to be receptive to this remarkable film, but for those who are it sticks in the mind like a shard of broken glass, a jag of ice.  You emerge from it, soul scoured, in silence."

RUNNERS UP:  The Beguild; Detroit; The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected); The Big Sick, A Ghost Story; Wind River; Atomic Blonde; The Florida Project; Molly's Game; I, Tonya; Hostiles; Darkest Hour, The Post, Columbus.

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