Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:03 pm 
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Chris Knipp's 2017 Movie Best Lists

Still from Nolan's Dunkirk

These lists are in progress as I see more of the films. Additions Jan. 1, 2018: Phantom Thread (Best Features) and On the Beach at Night Alone (Best Foreign).

This didn't seem to me (so far) such a great year as many are now declaring. There wasn't a whole list of five or ten films that I'm really excited about.* Only the top couple of films awoke real feeling for me. I was most excited by Dunkirk. It seems to me a work of absolute genius, outwardly familiar perhaps, but in fact wholly original. I now know what all the fuss is about: Chris Nolan is brilliant and his films are enormous works.

Call Me by Your Name is different, just a richly satisfying film and an enjoyable and accomplished one, and it brings together all Guadagnino's capacity for lush physicality in spades and is his best yet, he's at the top of his game. The collaboration with James Ivory on the screenplay from André Aciman's novel is a triumph. Everyone seems to love this movie (except I assume, homophobes, since it's a gay love affair).

After those two, though, less excitement. Kaurismäki's film though seems just deeply good, morally. LIkewise The Son of Joseph, though some are just put off, or think the boy is mean; he only starts out that way, but it's about moral development. I have hated or been left cold by Yorgos Lanthimos, but this one is bold and thrilling. You have to love Lady Bird because it's an exceptionally warm and specific girl's coming of age movie. Greta Gerwig has a generous spirit and is a talented writer. BPM records a beautiful moment, like the moment recorded for US (New York) ACT UP in David France's documentary, How to Survive a Plague. But by this point I'm really not as moved or excited. Blade Runner seems like a really good job, lacking the panache of the original, also too long, but very beautiful, and I love Harrison Ford in it; in his few scenes he blows away Ryan Gosling, who seems wimpy next to him. Faces Places is an amazing performance. How old did you say Agnès Varda was? She's unstoppable, and this is a smooth, seamless effort. It seems a tiny bit fake to me, not showing the underside of the places visited. As for The Florida Project, my inclusion is a homage to the majority of film critics who have listed it in their top ten and usually higher up. It is distinctive; it really sticks in you mind. Or is it craw? But Sean Baker is good, and an original.

Going down to the Best Foreign, I loved the Egyptian films. Actually The Nile Hilton Incident is by a guy born in Sweden, and not really shot in Cairo but, alas, in Casablanca, but it is in Egyptian Arabic - and got a very warm critical reception in Paris. Clash truly, amazingly, was shot in Egypt; who knows if that can be done again, the way things are going there. I am a fan of Bertrand Bonello, and each time he does something cool and new. So, Nocturama, which even is bold because it could offend locals. Of the other lists: the one thing I've got that others don't is that every fall I spend a few weeks in Paris, and see as many new movies as I can. So, I can list Barbara which probably won't go over well here, but is a unique film, and the new Claire Denis film, which is excellent - but that was shown in the NYFF - and Le Carré, and Lynne Ramsay's amazing You Were Never Really Here, another Joaquin Phoenix virtuoso display, released in France about six months before the US release. But mostly I saw mediocre to good French films that won't play well here. It is still easier and more fun to see movies in that particular part of Paris than it is in Manhattan.

P.S. Don't forget that we're also in a new Golden Age of TV. Too many series to watch, but I loved the Norwegian teen series "SKAM," a global hit online, which I recently wrote a long comment on (see the link); and I richly enjoyed the first season of the new David Simon (and George Pelecanos) "joint" "The Deuce," and am working my way through the dark, moody, paranoid 3rd Season of "Mr. Robot," which a friend commented is like "The X Files." Only up-to-date, and its paranoia more terrifyingly justified.


1. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)
2. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
3. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
4. The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki)
5. The Son of Joseph (Eurène Green)
6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos)
7. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
8. BPM (Beats per Minute) (Robin Campillo)
9. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)
10. The Florida Project (Sean Baker)

11. Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR)
12. Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman)- in the French version, "La passion Van Gogh"
13. Ghost Story (David Lowery)
14. Get Out (Jordan Peele)
15. All These Sleepless Nights (Michal Marczak)
16. Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd)
17. Menashe (Joshoa Z. Weinstein)
18. The Lost City of Z (James Gray)

Abacus (Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman 2017)
The Challenge (Yuri Ancarani)
City of Ghosts (Matthew Heineman 2017)
Cries From Syria (Evgeny Afineevsky)
Human Flow (Ai Weiwei)
I Am Not Your Negro ( Raoul Peck)
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk)
Jane (Brett Morgen)
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (Griffin Dunne)
May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Judd Apatow, Michael Bonfiglio)
Strong Island (Yance Ford)
Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan)

BEST FOREIGN (alphabetical)
4 Days in France (Jérôme Reybaud)
Clash (Mohamed Diab)
L'enfant secret (Philippe Garrel) [1979]
Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
Heal the Living (Katell Quillévéré)
The Nile Hilton Incident (Tarik Saleh)
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sangsoo)
The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues)
Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont)
The Square (Ruben Östlund)

BEST UNRELEASED (alphabetical)
Barbara (Mathieu Amalric)
Le Carré/Plot 35 (Eric Caravaca 2017).
Let the Sunshine In/Un beau soleil intérieur (Claire Denis) (Apr. 2018 release)
The Rider (Chloe Zhao) (Apr. 2018 release)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) (Apr. 2018 release)


Columbus (Kogonada)
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) (seen)
Ex Libris (Frederick Wiseman)
A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio)
Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev) (seen)
Wormwood (Errol Morris) - 6-part TV series
[*Maybe when I get to see all of these, it'll look like a much better year. But these lists were initially completed Dec. 6, 2017 to be listed in the Indiewire poll.]

Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie)
The Human Surge/El auge del humano (Edoardo Williams)
mother! (Darren Aronofsky)
A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)


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