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CINEMA RETROSPECTIVE-2017 EDITION
2018, 2018 MID YEAR, 2017, 2016, 2015
The "Big Tuna" Vito Carli weighs in with Summation of the Year in Film

A Comprehensive Look at 2017 in Film

(012118) It was an outstanding year for Indy films and international films but most of the big budget Hollywood films lacked the spark of genius. I saw fewer films in commercial theatres or critic’s screenings this year, but I caught many of the ones I missed on Netflix or DVD while I was recovering from surgery. At least one of the direct to Netflix films, Mudbound was as good or better than most of the big Hollywood big theatre release films.

I only included movies that opened in Chicago in 2017, so a few films appear here that were on the 2016 lists of other critics. I always thought it was cheating when a film plays a few months early in New York or LA to qualify for awards and then it opens everywhere else in February. It’s possible that the new films by Steven Spielberg, Aki Karismaki or Paul Thomas Anderson will appear on my next year’s top 10 list.

As it is I still missed many critics’ favorites such as Call Me by Your Name, Molly’s Game, All the Money in the World, Good Times, Darkest Hour, Downsizing, Blade of the Immortal, Wonderstruck, God’s Own Country, After the Storm and Wonderstruck.

This year’s big news story in film was the disturbing sexual harassment allegations, After the justified fall of Harvey Weinstein, Jeremy Pevin, Kevin Spacey, and James Franco were all accused of harassment, and their careers suffered to varying degrees (some were accused online in the "Me Too" movement.) Of the three Franco did the best work this year, and he probably did his finest role ever as an incompetent but inspiring director in “The Disaster Artist. “I considered leaving their works off the list but decided the courts or the industry itself was better qualified to determine their fates. Readers can decide on a case by case basis whether they want to support their projects.

I hope that in the brouhaha, people don’t overlook that  this year probably had more fine films directed by female film makers than any year I can recall. I was most impressed with Greta Gerwig who knocked the ball out of the park with her first film, Ladybird. And I can’t forget Patty Jenkins who made perhaps the best ever DC origin film, Wonder Woman, Sophia Coppola (her The Beguiled) rivaled the first classic version for quality), Niko Caro (for the Zookeeper’s Wife), Dee Rees (for Mudbound) and the gutsy Agnieszka Smoczyńska, who made The Lure, perhaps the best ever Polish killer mermaid disco musical (I loved it up until the end.) I left out Agnes Varda’s terrific Faces Places which might have made my top 10 in a less remarkable year, because the movie did not open in Chicago’s Music Box until January. Oh and Wonder Woman was the highest grossing film by a female director ever.

The new Star Wars and Alien films did not make the cut. I thought they were among the weakest films in their franchises (The Last Jedi had no interesting characters or surprises,) but the  Blade Runner sequel was a triumph Now here’s my top ten list with a few dozen honorable mentions ranked in quality (I will probably change my ranking next week.)

1.) Endless Poetry
An visually impressive semi-autobiographical surrealist film by the inventive poet/performance artist/comic creator/film maker Alejandro Jodorowsy  has some of the year’s most memorable dialogue and images. Oh and the same actress (Sandra Flores) plays the poet’s crazy muse/girlfriend and controlling mom. In Spanish with English sub-titles

2.) The Salesman
Emotionally volatile melodrama from Iran about a well-meaning professor (he’s directing a version of Death of a Salesman) whose life begins to fall apart after his wife is sexually assaulted. With this film and “A Separation,” director, Asgahar Farhadi proved he is one of the most vital film makers in the universe.  He did not bother to show up for the Oscars for his best foreign film win to protest American immigration policies. In Persian with English sub-titles.

3.) The Florida Project
An irresponsible and immature mom causes countless problems for a sympathetic paternal land lord (played by Willem Dafoe) and his tenants. This second film by Sean Baker proves he can work well with a bigger budget) his film Tangerine was shot on a cell phone and it is better than Star Wars.)

4.) Silence
Two 17th century missionaries travel to Japan to find their missing mentor. Are the priests saintly figures trying to help others find heaven or are they cultural imperialists? You decide. Director Martin (Taxi Driver) Scorsese is still not quite at the top of his game but he is still better than almost everyone else.  In English and Japanese with English sub-titles.

5.) Paterson
Jim Jarmusch (like Scorsese he’s another veteran New York director) tells a marvelous tale full of simple pleasures of a charming bus driver who wants to be a poet (his verse seems like it was inspired by William Carlos Williams who wrote the great epic poem “Paterson”.) Jarmusch also put out “Gimmie Danger,” a terrific rockumentary about one of my favorite proto punks, Iggy Pop.  Adam Driver (he’s excellent as the poet) is cropping up in more and more of the best films (he was also in The Silence and Hacksaw Ridge.)

6.) Personal Shopper
A tormented woman is haunted by the spirit of her deceased sister. Kristen Stewart (in her second masterpiece in a row with director Oscar Assayas) shows that she is capable of terrific acting once she gets away from that Twilight shit. In French with English sub-titles.

7.) Baby Driver
Fast moving and infectiously energetic tale of an eccentric young man who lives mostly in his head and drives for robbery jobs. This film uses music brilliantly (the main character is always listening to tunes so he has the soundtrack on his head) but it may get overlooked because of the Kevin Spacey backlash (For what it’s worth he’s marvelous as a quasi-sympathetic gangster.) Oh bonus points for using The Damned on the wonderful soundtrack.

8.) I, Daniel Blake
 David Johns (in one of the year’s best performances) struggles to keep his dignity when he pleads with the inhuman British welfare system to get the money that is due to him. A powerful critique of the dehumanizing aspects of government and modern society. Another gritty pro working class film by Ken British film maker, Ken Loach.

9.) Get Out
A young, African American male goes through hell after he agrees to meet his white girlfriend’s family. This film kept me guessing and in suspense every moment, and it plays like a horror version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

10.) 20th Century Women
An eccentric mom (played by Annette Benning) enlists the help of two very different women to help/mentor her depressed son. The film convincingly recreates the 80s punk scene when a young woman (played by the super talented Greta Gerwig) who initiates the protagonist.

Also for your consideration....
Here are 67 more films I enjoyed this year that didn't make the cut for Top Ten but in my opinion are well worth your time and attention:

11.) The Disaster Artist

12.) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

13.) Maudie

14.) Wind River

15.) Ladybird 

16.) Colossal

17.) Beatriz at Dinner

18.) A Quiet Passion

19.) Their Finest

20.) Wonder Woman

21.) Blade Runner 2046

22.) The Shape of Water

23.) Graduation (In Romanian with English sub-titles)

24.) Dark Times

25.) The Big Hurt

26.) Noctorama (In French with English sub-titles)

27.) Staying Vertical (In French with English sub-titles)

28.) I Tonya

29.) Norman: The Rise and fall of a New York Fixer

30.) Mudbound

31.) Chasing Train

32.) The Red Turtle (no dialogue)

33.) Coco

34.) The Lure (In Polish with English sub-titles)

35.) The Beguiled

36.) Okja (In English and Korean with English sub-tiles)

37.) Bad Lucky Goat (In Creole with English sub-tiles)

38.) Ghost Story

39.) Logan

40.) Victoria and Abdul

41.) My Entire High School Sinking to the Bottom of the Ocean

42.) Manifesto

43.) I don't feel at home anymore

44.) Franz (In French  and  German with English sub-tiles)

45.) Whose Streets?

46.) Wizard of Lies

47.) Architects of Denial

48.) I called him Morgan

49.) The Meyerwitz Stories

50.) Thor Ragnarok

51.) Valerian and the Lost Planets

52.) Crown Heights

53.) The Founder

56.) Camera Person

57.) Slack Bay (In French with French sub-titles)

58.) Wilson

59.) Logan Lucy

60.) Harmonium (In Japanese with English sub-titles)

61.) The Ornithologist (In Portugese, Latin, Mandarin, and Marandese with English sub-tiles)

62.) Dunkirk

63.) Raw (In French with English sub-titles)

64.) The Baby Sitter

65.) King Kong Skull Island

66.) The Kingsmen: The Golden Circle

67.) My Journey through French Film (In French with English sub-titles)

68.) John Wick Chapter 2

69.) Mother

70.) Lost in Paris (in English and French with English sub-tiles)

71.) Beach Rats

72.) The Commune (In Danish with English sub-titles)

73.) It Comes at Night

74.) The Zookeeper’s Wife                                                                                                   

75.) Ghost in the Shell

76.) Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2

77.) Girl with the Gift
 

Vittorio Carli, who teaches at area community colleges, a former film reviewer for The Star, www.reelmoviecrtic.com and The Examiner, is an avid science-fiction film fan.

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org

and www.chicagopoetry.org. Look for his poetry book, Tapeworm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor (perhaps Alternate Reality will carry it.) He is also featured in an upcoming documentary titled The Last Hippie Freak-By the Beard of Lee Groban which was directed by Nancy Bechtol. Go to: nbechtol@ameritech.net for updates

 
 
 
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