Old & New: Veronica's Top 10 for 2017
The past year was great for movies in more ways than one. Not only did some truly excellent movies come out in 2017, but some truly excellent movies that came out last year or the year before finally got the distribution they deserve. I’ll be counting down my top ten movies of 2017, but much like Carlo’s anachronistic top ten list, mine will be focusing on movies I saw for the first time this year even if this wasn’t the year they came out.
Honorable mention to The Florida Project (2017) which I didn’t see until 2018 so... look forward to that next year.
Another honorable mention goes out the The Phantom of the Paradise (1974) which, while I technically didn’t see for the first time this year, I did really appreciate for the first time this year. I debated including it in my list as seeing it in a double feature alongside Suspiria on, like, maaaaybe a little bit of acid was an incredible and psychedelic experience, but there are already too many movies to choose from so it was sadly removed. I can only pass along the information that if you ever get the chance to see it under the influence then do it. Right away. Tran-freaking-scendent.
But I digress. Number ten on my top ten movies of 2017 is….
10) Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau) - 2016
A movie about female sexuality wrapped up in a story about a vegetarian student slowly giving into cannibalistic urges? Yes please. The silly hype about people fainting during the movie doesn’t detract from what is a pretty gruesome but narratively substantial film; especially one that features female leads, casually gay characters, and a tightly crafted metaphor about how weird it is to come into your own when the world keeps trying to mold you into something else.
9) Personal Shopper (dir. Olivier Assayas) - 2016
This movie might not have made the list if it wasn’t for the fact that I was able to see it a second time when it came to The Castro over the summer. It stars Kristen Stewart, an actor who I initially and unfairly dismissed, as a medium living in Paris who is trying to make contact with her dead brother. Personal Shopper is part ghost story, part murder mystery, part slice of life. There are long stretches where we’re just watching Stewart do mindless work for her job that she hates, but in the background there’s always a feeling of being watched and of being connected to a variety of worlds in a variety of ways.
8) We Are The Flesh (dir. Emiliano Rocha Minter) - 2016
So if Raw turned your stomach then you may want to skip this one. It’s not as violently graphic as one might think, but it does have some insane visuals and really explicit scenes. We Are The Flesh is a movie out of Mexico about two siblings in what seems to be a bombed out city, who stumbled upon a weird hermit living in a home of his own creation. He offers them food and shelter before he then plunges them into his depraved world.
There’s no real answer or conclusion at the end of this one, which frustrates some viewers, but honestly if you’re willing to sit through a movie where menstrual blood is dripped onto someone’s face then I would hope your tolerance for things not following the beaten path might be a bit higher.
7) Viva (dir. Anna Biller) - 2007
Anna Biller is getting quite a cult reputation for her 2016 movie The Love Witch. Viva is where it all started back in 2007, and her attention to detail plus eye for aesthetics is ever on point. Viva is a simple story about a bored housewife who turns to the counterculture of the early seventies to enhance her life. What makes this movie so striking is how well it’s designed on such a small budget; there’s not a thing out of place, and even the dialogue captures the awkward, unintentionally hilarious conversations of quickly made B-movies from the time. I was lucky enough to see this at the Roxie Theater this year and hopefully it’ll be playing in more theaters in the upcoming year.
6) The Transfiguration (dir. Michael O'Shea) - 2016
This heartbreaking, cleanly made coming-of-age story deserves way more attention than it’s getting. 2017 saw a glut of “kids growing up” movies, as well as derivative TV shows in the same vein. None of them painted the alienation and skewed adolescent perspective of the adult world quite the way The Transfiguration did.
The Transfiguration follows Milo, a young black teen growing up in the projects of New York City. Milo believes himself to be a vampire and even kills once a month to drink the blood from his victim despite the fact that it makes him vomit. The world around him is filled with violence, he struggles to make friends, and he’s clearly suffering from delusions. Still, he’s a sympathetic character who makes an insanely difficult choice in the end and is fatally punished for it. I haven’t seen another movie that presents the question of how can adults teach children about right and wrong when they hardly know themselves done so well and so devastatingly.
5) I, Tonya (dir. Craig Gillespie) - 2017
Alright, I’ll throw mainstream cinema a nod because I loved the shit out of this movie. I doubt I need to explain anything about this one aside from it’s yet another story of an insanely talented woman (guilty or not, sympathetic or not, talent independant of her flaws) who involves herself with bottom feeders that wind up pulling her down. Much like Amy (2015), I, Tonya shows how skill and drive can be leached away by letting the wrong people into your life.
4) The Friends of Eddie Coyle (dir. Peter Yates) - 1973
Robert Mitchum is dead, you say? Don’t ruin it for me; I love the man and his ahead of his time subdued acting. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is late Mitchum for sure, during the time when he’s no longer menacing but still not entirely sympathetic. Coyle is an police informant who is trying to keep his head above water, and his face out of the papers. After a string of bank robberies through the entire state starts to point to some of his old friends, the cops start to press Coyle hard for more information.
This movie certainly has a few great action sequences but it’s a closer cousin to a "talkie" about the human condition, like Remains of the Day, than it is to a heist movie, like Heat. Coyle is a sad, pitiable man who could have been a top notch criminal or an upstanding average schlub, both options being preferable to the life he finds himself in now. Thanks again to The Castro Theater for showing me this wonderful movie forty years after it came out.
3) The Killing of a Sacred Deer (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos) - 2017
Power dynamics and the human need for control (a need, I for one, have never been able to rise above despite many attempts to) are a really fascinating thing to watch. Killing creates a parable where actions are put into motion, with no one at the helm controlling them. It’s anxiety inducing and frustrating; Like Funny Games or Sophie’s Choice, this is a movie where nothing good will happen because the whole point is to think about how you would deal with a situation that has no happy ending. It’s the Kobayashi Maru of the cinematic world.
2) Ingrid Goes West (dir. Matt Spicer) - 2017
Aside from the fact that I think Aubrey Plaza is great, and (Ice Cube’s son) O’shea Jackson Jr. is adorable, this movie really captured that terrible feeling of “how come I’m not as good as everyone else” that social media can instill in people. Plaza, as the titular Ingrid, embarks on an odyssey after her mother dies to find an Instagram star she’s become obsessed with in order to befriend her. Of course, this requires stalking, dog knapping, and all other sorts of shenanigans. It’s a sad, funny, and ultimately kinda bleak movie about making friends as an adult and what a true friendship actually means. Is it having the same interests that makes you friends? Is it sharing experiences, no matter how contrived? Do I have any of the answers for this? No, just see the movie.
1) Good Time (dir. Benny Sadie & Josh Sadie) -2017
We don't give enough credit to Robert Pattinson, who gives an electrifying performance as Connie – a shifty small time crook trying to get his brother out of jail while also not turning himself in like he should. Good Time takes place primarily over the course of one night with Connie using everything in his power, including all the privileges that come along with being a good looking white guy, to save his brother. It’s frenetic and wild; the kind of movie where you’re impressed by what the character can come up with yet disappointed that he doesn’t do the right thing. Connie leaves a trail of chaos in his wake, only showing the slightest hint of remorse towards the very end when he witnesses a hapless co-conspirator’s death. There’s even a small but important line in the very beginning that points to Connie being someone who feeds off the anxiety and manic energy that comes from being a criminal, making the whole disastrous night seem like an event Connie might be enjoying more than he should.
There ya have it. My favorite movies of the year. Wanna fight about it?