Heidi Ewing (“One of Us“)
Filmy Stuff I like:
“The Shape of Water” floods new meaning into the concept of a “creature comfort.” This film made me both crave hard boiled eggs AND cry at the same time. Viva Guillermo!
“Chavela”: Gender-bending Mexican songstress gleefully seduces your wife (including Frida Kahlo and Ava Gardner), drinks you under the table the dons a poncho and sings all about it. See this wonderful doc to find out how it all ends (it gets messy).
Patty Jenkins as Wonder Woman: I was already a fan of her excellent work and then she ventures into the Hollywood man cave and emerges with an actual, fair and equitable paycheck for the sequel! I swoon! Git it, Patty, Git it!
“Get Out”: That thrilling feeling you get while halfway through a film you’re like “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?” Best garden party scene ever made. #weirdAF
“Call Me by Your Name”: It’s summer in Italy and two sexy men are riding rickety bikes into town and sneaking furtive kisses in the piazza. Throw in the lush photography and some ripe peaches and, well, what’s a girl not to love?
Greta Gerwig as herself: GG, we’ve been waiting for you to show us all you can do and “Lady Bird” does NOT disappoint. The Globes don’t mean diddly squat so go higher, girl. Git it Greta, Git it!
A few of my favorite non-filmy things :
Stephen King’s Twitter feed: I just love me my daily does of acerbic wit and candid musings from that beautifully verbose fella. Recent example: “The ‘tax cut bill’ is basically a little piece of candy on a long, shit-coated stick.”
Rachel Maddow’s Ubiquitous Black Blazer: The practical un-fussy item that says “I ain’t dolling myself up for you people while Donny boy goes out there sells our country’s magic beans to the Kremlin.” We Wuv the UBB.
“People, Places and Things”: They tried to make her go to rehab and she did and dragged us along with her in this insanely immersive play at St. Ann’s Warehouse. #DeniseGough
My unusually tiny dog: Rico is barely 8 lbs but impresses me every day with his outsized confidence and brio. Just the other day I caught him working on his memoirs — and he’s only a year old! #nervy
Ivanka: She’s a powerful example that blondes do NOT necessarily have more fun.
Bushwick: Where else can you go to a supper club next to a cement factory? Come sip Ilegal mezcal with me at Guadalupe Inn any time. I’m waiting for you!
Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope”)
Photo Courtesy of MACRO, photo by Steve Dietl.
“Get Out” and “Mudbound”
These two films are very different from each other in many ways. One is a contemporary post Obama horror tale, set in an Eastern liberal enclave, and released by a traditional theatrical distributor. The other a post World War II family drama, set in the Jim Crow South, and released by digital distribution disrupter. Yet, I view Jordan Peele’s and Dee Rees’s films as companion works of art that found unique ways to speak about race, class, and privilege. Both subvert and embrace audience expectations of their specific genres to deliver gripping entertainment that speak to our current “post racial” times. Both take the audience on an exploration of the psychological and physical violence that underwrites racism in scary and satisfying ways. Both were told by emerging auteurs reflecting the new American mainstream cinema that embraces the digital and the analog. Jordan and Dee demand that the film experience be about audience engagement and not mere escapism. The films are just the beginning point of a debate about the issues of our times: From how a multicultural society lives together, to ultimately what platform that society will see its filmed entertainment.
Paul Feig (“Ghostbusters,” “Bridesmaids”)
As happened last year, I once again am way behind on all the movies that came out this year and there’s just so much I’ve heard is great that I haven’t seen yet. But since the great Indiewire has once again kindly asked me to weigh in on my favorite ten movies of 2017, here’s this year’s very incomplete but extremely sincere list of my favorite things I’ve watched over the past twelve months:
“Patti Cake$”: Damn, what a movie. Featuring a career-making performance by Danielle McDonald, as well as amazing supporting performances by Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhanangay and Mamoudou Athie, this life-affirming film is the very definition of a crowd pleaser. Writer/director Geremy Jasper tells this underdog story with so much heart and inventiveness that it all felt like much more than just a piece of fictional storytelling – you feel like you’re real life friends with McDonald’s Patti and you suffer and rejoice right along side her as she goes through her life-changing experience. I could not have loved this movie more.
“The Shape of Water”: This movie checked every box for me. The story was engaging and touching, the performances were great across the board, the production design looked way more expensive than I’m sure it actually cost and the direction was beautiful. From the opening credits alone you know you’re in for something special. And it was. Not many things made me choke up this year but the end of this amazing movie was one of them.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: First off, Martin McDonagh is a fucking genius. His scripts are absolutely perfect the way they pay off everything he sets up (In Bruges, anyone?) and his characters are all rich and three dimensional, even when you think he’s setting them up to be one-dimensional. This movie is a tonal masterpiece, a film that you think is going to be a heavy drama and then you find yourself laughing the entire time, even though it is still a heavy drama. All the performances are pitch perfect and you end up caring about characters that most other filmmakers would simply leave unredeemed. Special kudos to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell for two of the best performances of the year. I didn’t want this movie to end.
“Lady Bird”: I don’t think there’s anything that Greta Gerwig can’t do. I’ve been a huge fan of her acting for years but when I saw Lady Bird, I was blown away by her writing and directing. This movie worked on every level and was so sure-handedly made that you would never know it was her very first movie as a filmmaker. Saoirse Ronan should win every award in the world and the rest of the cast should too. Greta Gerwig, I am in awe of you.
“The Disaster Artist”: How James Franco, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg continually reinvent modern comedy will always amaze me. This is the End was such a giant step forward in how you can make an audience laugh and care about the characters even when they’re in an absurd situation. And now they take a real life artistic disaster and turn it into an incredibly funny but even more incredibly touching story about the meaning of art and its effect on the people who make it. Huge congrats to director/star James Franco on killing it in front of and behind the camera.
“Get Out”: This movie is another tonal masterpiece. Jordan Peele walked the line so perfectly between drama and comedy and never subverted the stakes along the way. The movie was tense from beginning to end and did what all great movies should do – made you think while you were being completely entertained. I could watch this movie over and over again and find something new each time.
“Gifted”: I loved this movie for so many reasons. The story was wonderful and touching and Chris Evans turned in such a strong, nuanced performance. But it was young McKenna Grace as the lead actress that took this film to another level. I haven’t heard any Oscar buzz on her and it’s a true shame because she’s one of the most talented actors I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. This is a lovely little film and Marc Webb did a great job directing it. If you want to watch something life affirming and leave all the cynicism of the current world behind, check this one out.
“Do No Harm”: Okay, I hate when critics put lots of obscure movies on their top ten lists because I always think they’re just trying to sound like they’re smarter than the rest of us. But I was one of the judges in a festival of short films by female directors this year and this short by Roseanne Liang blew me out of the water. It’s utterly fantastic. Violent, action-packed, beautiful and emotional, it easily takes its place alongside the best things I’ve seen this year. Roseanne is a huge talent and should be making a lot of movies as soon as possible. For more information about “Do No Harm,” click here.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: Okay, I know it wasn’t a movie but I loved this show so much. Amy Sherman-Palladino did the hardest thing in the world – told a story about people in comedy that was truly funny. Making movies and shows about standup comedy is the hardest thing in the world because it’s incredibly difficult to portray something as funny that is actually funny. It’s usually the on-screen audience laughing at the comedian and we in the real audience are going “Those people are laughing way harder at that joke than they should.” The performances are all incredible and Rachel Brosnahan as Mrs. Maisel is an absolute revelation. And one of the characters in the show is Lenny Bruce! I mean, come on. Devour this show as soon as you can.
“Love You More”: Again, it’s not a movie but since Amazon very stupidly didn’t pick this pilot up to series, I’m going to declare it a short film and demand that you watch it. The great Bridget Everett created the perfect vehicle for herself and her uniquely hilarious voice with this show. Much of her supporting cast is actors with Down Syndrome and they are easily one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a long time. The show is so fucking touching and funny and outrageous and emotional that I’m getting angry all over again that Amazon didn’t pick it up to series. Bridget is a damn genius and so is her director Bobcat Goldthwait and will somebody please pick up this show so we can watch many more seasons of it?
Okay, that’s ten but I want to cheat and add something a bit more obscure but totally noteworthy. To wit:
“Chad: An American Boy”: First of all, this got made in 2016 but I didn’t get to see it until this year, so that’s why it’s on the list. Second of all, there’s no way any of you have seen this because it was a TV pilot for Fox that didn’t get picked up. But it’s one of the best things I’ve seen all year. Nasim Pedrad stars as a 14-year-old boy named Chad and the show is so fucking funny and real and sweet and honest that, like with Love You More, my blood starts boiling when I realize that it never got its day in the public court. Maybe if we all demand that Fox either pick up the show or release it online so we can see Nasim’s amazing work, we can right this wrong. Chad is awesome.
And as a bonus, coming in at number 12 is: Watching Roy Moore get defeated by Doug Jones in Alabama – I mean, if that wasn’t the greatest last minute twist of the year, I don’t know what was.