Gunpowder & Sky
1. “The Little Hours”: Hands down my favorite film of the year. It is so inventive and funny and made me laugh…which was really what I needed more than anything this year.
2. “Narcos”: I loved seasons 1 and 2 but whatever was going on in the writer’s room for season 3 was pure gold.
3. “Tarantula”: Carson Mell is a goddamn genius and his new show on TBS is unlike any other animated show on TV. Do yourself a favor and watch it asap if you haven’t seen it yet.
4. “Dunkirk”: Technically the most glorious film of the year.
5. “Lady Bird”: I loved every single choice Greta made. Rushmore for girls! I’m only upset this didn’t come out when I was 16 because I could have used Lady Bird in my life in a major way.
6. “Downsizing”: Alexander Payne…Pitch perfect performances. The fact that this movie got made gives me hope for the film biz.
7. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: I just finished the series last night. Wow. Don’t let the name and the poor font choice scare you away. It is just the right mix of comedy and drama. The writing is perfect. The camera work is perfect. The acting is perfect. The last three episodes are so insanely powerful that I can’t stop crying…in a good way. Trust me. Watch this show.
8. “The Handmaid’s Tale”: Terrifying, gorgeous, and brilliant.
9. “The Square”: I’m still trying to pull back all the layers on this one.
10. “The Florida Project”: Wow wow wow.
11. “A Ghost Story”: Cinematographer (and my BFF) Andrew Palermo outdid himself on this one. Not to mention that the pie eating scene alone deserves an Oscar.
12. “People Places & Things”: This is neither TV nor Film…I happened to see this play on a whim while visiting friends in New York. Goddamn. The actress Denise Gough gave one of the most raw and beautiful performances that I’ve ever seen anywhere. I’m talking Isabelle Huppert/Meryl Streep level…and she did it night after night after night.
Yance Ford (“Strong Island”)
I tried to take a break from docs in my spare time — water breaks in the “marathon not sprint approach.” I’ve seen everything on the short list [Ford’s “Strong Island” is one of 15 films on the Oscar short list for Best Documentary], but decided to leave those off. Here is my unranked list:
“BPM (Beats Per Minute)”
“Carol” (I know it’s not this year but I recently watched it)
“Whose Streets” / “Rat Film” / “Did You Ever Wonder Who Fired the Gun”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Beach Rats” / “Stranger Things” / “Queen Sugar”
Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”)
Top 20 in alphabetical order:
“A Fantastic Woman,” by Sebastian Leilo
“After the Storm,” by Hirokazu Kore-eda
“Alien Covenant,” by Ridley Scott
“Austerlitz,” by Sergei Loznitsa
“The Big Sick,” by Michael Showalter
“Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira and Me,” by Joao Botelho
“Dunkirk,” by Christopher Nolan
“Eight Hours Are Not a Day” (restored re-release), by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
“Faces Places,” by Agnes Varda
“I Am Not Your Negro,” by Raoul Peck
“Logan,” by James Mangold
“Logan Lucky,” by Steven Soderbergh
“The Lost City of Z,” by James Gray
“Mrs. Fang,” by Wang Bing
“On the Beach at Night Alone,” by Hong Sang-soo
“Paddington 2,” by Paul King
“Split,” by M. Night Shyamalan
“Twin Peaks: The Return,” by David Lynch
“The Venerable W,” by Barbet Schroeder
“War For the Planets of the Apes,” by Matt Reeves
Andrew Haigh (“45 Years”)
From the films I’ve managed to see… Other than “Loveless” (my favorite of the year), the others are in no particular order.
“Loveless”: My favorite film of the year and the director whose talent makes me the most jealous.
“The Party”: A scathing and very timely film.
“Phantom Thread”: A period film that never feels constrained by the period. Plus, Lesley Manville is incredible.
“First Reformed”: One of the most interesting US films of the year.
“mother!”: A brilliant piece of cinema and if you don’t agree then you’re wrong.
“Lady Macbeth” and “God’s Own Country”: Two very good debuts.
“Get Out”: The most entertaining film of the year that’s also one of the smartest.
“Threads”: A TV movie from 1984 about a nuclear attack that I finally saw on the big screen (after being forced to watch it as a kid at school). It’s probably the bleakest film ever made and all the better for it.
Alma Har’el (“LoveTrue”)
I haven’t seen as many films as I wanted this year. Life was in session. However the ones I saw left a strong impression on me and I can’t in anyway rate them but I would love to list them. It occurred to me that going to the cinema is now the official remedy to the constant swiping left on Netflix. I also want to say I haven’t seen “Lady Bird,” “Patti Cake$” and “Call Me By Your Name” yet.
“You Were Never Really Here” by Lynne Ramsay: Lynne Ramsay is one of my favorite directors and images from “Rat Catcher” will forever play in my head. I wished the topic of Sex Trafficking would have a female protagonist, but this film proves that through a woman’s eyes, men benefit from a new gaze too.
“Bar Bahar (In Between)” by Maysaloun Hamoud and “Personal Affairs,” directed by Maha Haj: Are two films with strong Palestinian, women directors point of view who shared the top prize at the Haifa Film Festival in Israel. They both capture the heavy intersectional burden of life under occupation and in a patriarchal society in different ways. “In Betweenm” details the lives of three very different young Palestinian woman who live together in a Tel Aviv apartment. When the film opened in the UK, Maysaloun Hamoud spoke about a message she got on Facebook and can’t forget. It said: “I have a question for you: Do you want the bullet in your head, in your heart or between your legs?” Both films can be considered as part of a new Arab, cinematic wave which started after the Arab Spring and gives voice to a younger, underground scene many people in their 20s and 30s around the world will identify with.
“Scaffolding” by Matan Yair: One of my favorite taglines is in the trailer: ”A man under construction.” This Israeli film came from its writer/director’s experience of teaching high school kids from working-class backgrounds. Some of them never return to read any literature, poetry or plays once school is over. It’s an insightful look at education as a privilege and at masculinity in its many forms.
“Mudbound” by Dee Rees: With painterly cinematography from Rachel Morrison.
“Get Out” by Jordan Peele: New ideas about race are rarely packaged in such a popular way. The “Sunken Place” is real.
“Lemon” by Janicza Bravo: Featuring one of my all-time favorite performances from Michael Cera.
“Good Time” by Safdie Brothers: Rob Pattinson is not a vampire.
“Wonder Woman” by Patty Jenkins: Never thought I would cry in a SuperHero movie but seeing Wonder Woman with a Hebrew accent and Robin Wright in FULL armor on horseback after growing up with the beloved and passive ButterCup in the Princess Bride had more impact on me than I could foresee.
“A Ghost Story” by David Lowery: Time, memory and the existential secrets of life. When the lights came up at the end of the film I felt closer to everyone who shared the theater with me. A masterful work of wonder by one of my favorite filmmakers.
“The Florida Project” by Sean Baker: Brooklynn. Prince. Casting is an underestimated art form that deserves its own category in award shows. Carmen Cuba who is known for her casting of “Stranger Things” and almost every Soderbergh film, found another little miracle.
“Kuso” by Flying Lotus: Kuso means shit or bull shit in Japanese and is the term used in East Asia for all the internet’s crap that consists of low brow camp and parody.
Flying Lotus or Steve is a true experimental artist who has a deep dialogue with the meaning of expectations. Expectations of structure, sound, meaning. You can hear it in his music and – if you can get past the body horror – you can experience it in his Cronenberg-Python-Afrofuturism cinema. There’s not a lot of artists that will dare to go into the darkest corners of their subconscious and come out laughing.
One extra from 2016.
“Raw” by Julia Ducournau: It’s everything its title promises. It captures the raw experience of being a young woman, finding her physical and sexual identity in a world that can often see her as fresh meat. It’s also a great genre film that will be hard for many to stomach but before everything, it is an extremely impressive work of cinema. Of filmmaking, full of choices that make your cinephile blood boil with pleasure.