Friday, December 22, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Films 2017

What can I say? The country has gone to the dogs. Half of the country made clear that they are racists and the government loudly declared that they don't care about the poor people. It's been a miserable year. If anything, it was cinema that got me through the tough and ugly times. It showed me that there is much humanity and beauty in the world still. Even though I watched much less films this year, the quality of the films were nothing short of amazing.

I have to say on record that I am more than happy about cable TV and streaming services chipping away at the dominance of theater going experience and blurring the line among different formats. Cinema should be a democratic experience and accessible. I say this while I can, since Net Neutrality is gone. :sad: But cinema has been alive and well this year. Viva le Cinema!

1. Twin Peaks: The return - David Lynch, Mark Frost
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Soon as the Showtime's 18 part Twin Peaks revival ended at the end of the Summer on Showtime, it was evident to me that I would't see anything that'd come close to being as cinematically audacious as this. The thought of labeling it for either TV series or a film never crossed my mind. Twin Peaks: The Return is without a doubt, the highlight of cinema of this year period (if not of all time), all 18 hours of it.

2. Zama - Lucrecia Martel
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As far as visual aural experiences go, there is no director working today whose greatness comes close to that of Argentine director Lucrecia Martel. Her mastery comes to full fruition in searching for El Dorado story of Don Diego de Zama, a historical epic. Beautifully contextualized and richly textured, Zama is an amazing films to watch on the big screen.

3. Sleep Has Her House - Scott Barley
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Talk about immersive cinema experience, look no further than Scott Barley's Sleep Has Her House. It's his otherworldly beauty of the Scottish Highlands at night and soundscape that pull you in. But however grand and beautiful his images are, there is a familiarity and coziness to them. In Barley's world, an inner-scape and an outer-scape are one in the same. It's his ability to internalize his surroundings that is truly remarkable. Darkness can be a scary and frightening place. Embarking on SHHH might conjure up the image of a Saturn eating his own offspring at first. But once you take a leap and plunge into his shadowy, slowly moving images, the beautiful, mysterious yet familiar darkness envelops you and sucks you in. There is an ebbs and flows to SHHH, like a piece of fine music, like a taste of complex whiskey. It's truly one of a kind experience.

*My interview with Scott Barley

4. By the Time It Gets Dark - Anocha Suwichakornpong
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The film might sound too precious on paper - those too self-aware films in love with themselves. But the result of layers of these slightly connected vignettes and visual metaphors are anything but. Images are democratic- whether it's a trashy, seemingly inconsequential pop culture, the serious historical reenactments, Buddhist temple, disco tech and pixelated visual noise have the same value. It's a very Dostoevskian concept- like a tobacco leaves and fungi, to give them meaning and purpose, these layers Suwichakornpong presents will need to sit and rot. I am just amazed by her wisdom and skills to convey this kind of complicated thoughts through film medium.

5.Personal Shopper - Olivier Assayas
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Assayas operates on his top form with his muse Kristen Stewart in their second collaboration. He uses her nonchalance, youth and this time vulnerability as a grieving young woman unsure of her judgment and emotion. Personal Shopper is a lucid, flowing, deliciously addictive concoction.

*My Interview with Olivier Assayas

6. Visages Villages - Agnes Varda
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You really gotta give it to Agnes Varda: at 89, our pint sized grand dame of French New Wave is still incredibly open, generous and always searching (into both past and present). In doing so she inadvertently raises some interesting questions when it comes to what constitutes public art and what's personal without bombarding us with schoolmaster rhetoric. There are also a lot of reflections in Faces Places on impermanence of human existence, art and mortality. And we need her more than ever.

7. The Florida Project - Sean Baker
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Sean Baker, a director of much praised iphone shot movie Tangerine, digs deeper into the flip side of American Dream with The Florida Project, starring kids and featuring the lives of kids on Route 192, under the shadow of Disney World. As with Tangerine, Baker uses mostly untrained non-actors to portray people on the skid and just have them run with the materials they were given. The result is stunning work of authenticity, brimming with humor, heartache and much humanism. In the end, we know it's a make-believe and that everything is going to be all right. But the final moment of the film, taking place in the real Magic Kingdom, shot on shaky iphone, really got me emotionally. It is, shall we say, pure magic.

8. Dawson City: Frozen Time - Bill Morrison
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Bill Morrison draws fascinating paralleling histories of American prospecting days and early development of film industry and the results are quite explosive. Morrison, known for his disintegrating found footage images, creates hugely entertaining film that is both artful and informative.

9. Wormwood -Errol Morris
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With his journalistic candor, Errol Morris meticulously digs into America's ugly past. A 6-part series on Netflix serves the subject right for the seasoned documentarian to be much more expansive and rigorous. It is one of the most inventive, refreshing cinema events of the year.

*My interview with Actor Christian Camargo

10. Félicité - Alain Gomis
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Félicité is a melding of many conflicting elements. There are documentary like naturalism mixed in with recurring beautiful dream sequence in the woods in near darkness. There is local music (featuring the Kasai Allstars) rubbing shoulders with Kinshasa Symphonic Orchestra playing classical pieces by Arvo Pärt. Félicité's strong willed, modern woman meets Tabu's womanizer and drunkard. The accept each other and continue their amicable relationship. Structurally daring, beautifully down to earth but not gritty, Alain Gomis' gentle touch stands out as the biggest discovery of talent in my book.

*My interview with Alain Gomis

And the rest...

11. Un beau soleil intérieur - Claire Denis

12. On the Beach at Night Alone - Hong Sangsoo

13. The Shape of Water - Guillermo Del Toro

14. The Other Side of Hope - Aki Kaurismaki

15. Lady Macbeth - William Oldroyd
*My interview with William Oldroyd

16. Beach Rats - Eliza Hittman

17. Thelma - Joachim Trier

18. The Day After - Hong Sangsoo

19. A Quiet Passion - Terence Davies
*My interview with Terence Davies

20. Frantz - François Ozon
*My interview with Director François Ozon

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