It’s pretty much impossible to write a year-end review of 2017 without acknowledging what a tremendously massive shit-show this entire year was. So there it is. Let’s just get that out of the way now. 2017 was awful, but miraculously we’re still here. We haven’t exploded in a nuclear holocaust, no matter how many times we might have begged for the end. It was a stupendously stupid year to be alive. It was a year that began with an openly racist, xenophobic reality show host with signs of dementia being sworn in as President of the United States and ended with an emotional viral video of a bullied kid demanding to know why kids were putting ham in his clothes, only to be outed as a racist who was being bullied because he’s, well… apparently super racist.
Nazis marching in the streets with tiki torches. Dumb Watergate. The deadliest modern mass shooting in US history (for now). A tax bill unapologetically aimed at destroying poor peoples’ lives. Massive fires and hurricanes. A movie about emojis. Fucking Bill Paxton died. Oh, and every famous white male you might have respected or admired is probably a scumbag.
That last part is actually a good thing. In fact, one of the worst parts of finding out Louis C.K. and “Insert Your Favorite Actor Here” are predatory scumbags is the inevitable series of conversations you have to endure with your white friends who want to tell you why non-consensual masturbation in front of a woman or you know, raping someone, is just a character defect and that “we’re all human”. Really, this year taught me the power of unfriending, unfollowing or a good old fashion face to face “Go fuck yourself”. It’s sad but ultimately satisfying to weed out the racist, sexist, scummy people in your life you never knew existed.
Anyway, you came here to read about film or television or just to skim through my list and see what you agreed with or want to call me an idiot for including. That’s okay too! I enjoy writing about film because I love film. Writing, directing, acting, editing, anything creative, I love it. Watching film, analyzing it, talking endlessly about it and alienating strangers in the process of doing so. This year, I saw nearly 100 films released in 2017 (I know, this is why I’m still horribly in debt, it’s okay.) Of those films, I decided to write about 25 of my favorites and then a few others. Below that, there’s some smaller write-ups on some of my favorite series of the year. Maybe you’ll read this far, maybe you won’t. Either way, I hope you see some things you haven’t seen and can maybe discover somewhere down the road.
So here’s a list of favorites that will obviously include Paul Thomas Anderson and “Good Time”. Enjoy.
25. ”Beach Rats”
Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats” could have been a breakout sensation at the Sundance Film Festival in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, but today it got unfairly lost in the shuffle of summer indies. Featuring a breakout, revelatory central performance by Harris Dickinson, Hittman’s slow-burn study of masculinity is a film that feels like another step in the right direction for LGBTQ films in this era. It doesn’t preach or give its central character an obvious arc towards coming out, it gives a stone-cold look at the reality of its protagonist. “Beach Rats” is a defining film in modern queer cinema because of its authenticity, but also its brutal honesty and portrayal of modern masculinity in American culture.
An indictment of upper-class miserabilism and political detachment, the film uses the disappearance of a child to explore the spiteful relationship between a divorced couple and the satisfaction they’ll never receive from life. It’s two of the bleakest hours you’ll ever spend in a theater, but for the patient, possibly masochistic viewer, they’re also two of the most rewarding hours you’ll have all year.
23. ”The Work”
A stunning, harrowing glance into the psyche of men, "The Work" is one of the most insightful and brutally visceral experiences of the year. Filmmakers Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous probe the depths of men's souls through the examination of masculinity in a prison support group that unites inmates and free men. There's a moment halfway through the film where two men embrace, both fighting their own detachment to vulnerability and all the sound nearly cuts out. Their mic's are muffled, muted by their bodies brushing up against one another. Then, you hear something pulsating. It's their hearts, pounding against each others. It's a moment that could only be captured in a documentary and it absolutely floored me.
22. ”Happy End”
Parental poisoning, excess wealth gone wrong, desperate pleas to be murdered and the most depressing karaoke scene ever put on film. Who needs the Marvel cinematic universe when you can have the cynical, sadistic cinematic universe of Michael Haneke? One of the best living directors summoned all of his best skills as a director, including the magnificent brilliance of Isabelle Huppert, and made a greatest hits collection of his nihilistic cinema. It’s pure Haneke and the funniest film of the year.
21. ”God’s Own Country”
Another knockout in a landmark year for queer films, "God's Own Country" also examines the unhealthy relationship between masculinity and sexuality. Seen through the eyes of a bigoted, angry young man battling his darkest demons, director Frances Lee confidently lets the physical relationship between man and their environments speak volumes about the men and their despair. It's an incredibly assured feature debut (at age 48) and a gentle, deeply humanistic look at the way societies teach men to bury their desires and vulnerabilities.
20. ”Rat Film”
Without a doubt, the most original and subversive film to come out in 2017, Theo Anthony's exploration of gentrification and poverty in America as seen through the lens of Baltimor's widespread rat problem is a truly radical piece of filmmaking. Anthony's film is a fascinating 80 minute experimental look at class warfare, American eccentricities and a misunderstanding of how things happen. It's strangely funny, consistently absorbing and haunting.
“The Blair Witch Project” came out at a time when the internet couldn’t spoil it for general audiences. It was released under the guise of being a true story pieced together by documentary filmmakers seeking to know the truth of what happened to three teenagers who vanished in the woods. And in 1999, it worked. Most people bought it and the film could thrive as an experience that couldn’t be tainted by internet spoilers and fact-checking. So how does one attempt to release something like that in 2017?
Dean Fleischer-Camp does something truly unique with “Fraud”. He pieced together hours and hours of footage from a random family’s YouTube account and recut the footage into a quasi-true crime documentary about a family intentionally burning down their home and starting a new life with the insurance money. It’s brilliant because it doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not. It miraculously works on a number of levels, but to me it felt most disturbing as a meta-commentary on how we perceive truth in a digital world. Anything can be doctored and framed to appeal to a specific agenda. Fleischer-Camp takes what is just a series of mundane YouTube videos of a normal American families life and through manipulative editing, turns their lives into a true crime escapade about the limitations of the American dream. It uses the most popular streaming platform in the world to engineer a fake tale of crime and in the process, casts a discerning eye on the failures of American capitalism. Our superficial desire for materialism in excess. More. Bigger. Newer. Better. The film is deceptively brilliant and one of the scariest movies to come out all year.
18. ”Lady Macbeth”
Much like it’s breakout lead actress, “Lady Macbeth” is beautiful, cold and calculating. It’s a film that preys on the viewers expectations of morality and through the brilliant, fierce performance of newcomer Florence Pugh, it’s a film that also operates as a fascinating, chilling character study. William Oldroyd carefully plays his audience, withdrawing sympathy where you usually expect, only to tread down morally murky waters in its second half with a winking, darkly comic nod throughout.
I’m a major advocate of the second viewing for almost any film. The circumstances of watching a film can make or break it in some cases. You can wait in line for hours. You can rush in and miss the opening scene. You can be carried in on the hype train and leave majorly disappointed because you feel like you haven’t seen the film you were told you would. So many factors can contribute to one’s enjoyment of a film.
When I first saw “Dunkirk”, I felt the latter. I saw in the Cinerama Dome in 70MM on opening night with a surge of excitement and I left feeling like I’d seen a different film than most of the population. For months, I wondered if maybe I just didn’t get it or maybe this was another case of “Boyhood”, where no matter what awards and accolades were bestowed upon the film, I simply would never come around to it. But I went back for a second round. I sat in one of the front rows in a half-filled theater on Christmas Day and revisited Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” in 70MM with one of the best sound systems in LA. Everything had changed. The nagging feelings I had throughout my first viewing had dissipated and were replaced by a complete awe of the spectacle I was witnessing. It was fucking bliss.
The “you are there” sound design, the clock-ticking score from Hans Zimmer, the gorgeous blue hues shot by Hoyte von Hoytema. The structure I was frustrated by before became essential to my enjoyment of the film. It was a complete 180 for me. I left in a daze, utterly transfixed and dazzled by what Nolan had accomplished. It was that same excitement you get when you’re a kid being completely transported to another world where you don’t think about the mechanics of the filmmaking. You’re just in it. That was the feeling I was looking for the first time, but it took some distance and time to find it the second time. For whatever reason, everything clicked for me and I now consider it to be Christopher Nolan’s most accomplished film. It’s spare, relentless, devoid of his usual exposition, impeccably acted across the board and didn’t leave me feeling cold. I left alive and inspired and grateful for the gift of cinema.
16. ”A Ghost Story”
Also known as the movie where Rooney Mara eats a pie for five unbroken minutes, David Lowery’s secretive, shoestring budget “A Ghost Story” is so much more than you’re able to grasp in a single viewing. A haunting and mournful look at what it means to be alive and the precious time we’re given on this Earth, Lowery risks being ridiculed by following a dead man under a sheet for 90 minutes and ends up with something truly sublime.
Koganada’s debut feature “Columbus” is a masterclass in silence. The way the film values silence and the spaces we occupy is astonishing, especially for a first-time filmmaker. It’s rare to see a film that can completely enrapture you with its delicate attention to character and setting and actually takes its time. It avoids every Sundance indie cliché every step of the way and gives John Cho the chance to shine in a way he’s never been able to. It’s a force of nature you never see coming.
14. ”The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected)”
Noah Baumbach has become one of the most consistently reliable writer/directors working today as he’s graduated from prodding the internal misery of intellectuals to finding the whimsical, humanistic side of their misery, revealing a much more mture and mainstream director in the process. That’s not to denounce any of Baumbach’s earlier efforts as anything less than exceptional, but Baumbach appears to have found a groove in the last five years that has been the most prolific of his career thus far. “The Meyerowitz Stories” works as well as it does because it finds a way to marry the best of both worlds for Baumbach. It’s filled with disappointment, disillusionment and artistic frustrations, but it’s also deeply human and painfully relatable.
Baumbach also gives an overdue and necessary showcase for Adam Sandler to show off once again that he’s one of the most effortlessly interesting actors in American film. I’ve argued for years that Sandler is one of the most dramatically undervalued actors in the industry, and not just because of his career-crowning work in “Punch-Drunk Love”, but because even in his weakest comedies (and there are plenty) he still possesses an uncanny ability to channel depression in ways most actors can only scratch the surface of.
13. ”Faces Places”
I can’t think of a more winning combination of personalities this year than that of veteran filmmaker Agnes Varda and prolific French artist JR. A film that is teeming with warmth, vitality and wisdom, “Faces Places” is so much more than the best documentary of 2017. It’s a 90 minute travelogue through France that explores generational artistry, the overlooked work forces of the world and the very definition of what art means to all of us. If you’re looking for a bright spot in the shitshow of 2017, look no further than this quietly affecting ode to the journey of life.
12. ”The Beguiled”
Sofia Coppola abandoned some of her earlier defining stylistic qualities and went full trash for her newest, a darkly funny and absurd period drama about a household full of Civil War-era women fawning over the recent arrival of an injured soldier. The result is her best film since “Lost in Translation” and a welcome change of pace in her career.
Few films this year took me on the emotional and intellectual journey that “Nocturama” did. An often mesmerizing, complex, yet frustrating thriller set in the aftermath of a terrorist attack conducted by a team of young Parisians, Bertrand Bonello’s newest outing is a film that might actually work better as a thesis than an actual cinematic experience, but that’s entirely up to the viewer to decide what they take away from it. The film’s handling of mass consumption in a capitalistic society sometimes veers on the obvious side, but Bonello posits questions for the viewer that few films, especially American films, are interested in asking. Employing De Palma-esque imagery with the dread-inducing tension of paranoia thrillers from the 1970’s, Bonello shines a depressingly acute light on a the age of mass-consumerism. A film that’s angry, meditative and ultimately tragic because it skewers our idea of what it means to protest and rally against a system that’s already got us firmly in its grips.
What qualifies as a creative success? There’s the obvious subjectivity of personal taste, obviously. But if a piece of art is able to illicit a passionate emotional response from you, has it succeeded? I don’t know the answer and I’d hate to say that “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a success because it was able to stew negative, outraged feelings inside of me for weeks on end, but it did leave a mark on me. With Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious, pretentious and batshit allegory “mother!”, the patience of millions of viewers was tested. Watching the film, I was utterly transfixed and bowled over by the bonkers display of craftsmanship, comedy and dedication on display, but by the last 30 minutes, I felt exhausted. I felt like I just had Darren Aronofsky beat me unconscious the way an angry group of fans beat Jennifer Lawrence’s central character in a particularly upsetting and unnecessary moment towards the end.
But when the credits rolled and half the audience started boo’ing — something I’ve never actually witnessed in a theater — I realized something… I think I kind of liked it. I think I liked being taken on a ride and laughing at some of the sickest, most sadistic shit ever backed by a major studio. I think I liked the self-aware depiction of male artistry and ego. I think I liked Jennifer Lawrence’s purposefully stilted, melodramatic delivery. I know I loved Michelle Pfieffer’s best performance in more than a decade. I know I just experienced something unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. I know the ending is silly and as pretentious as the scarfs Aronofsky wraps himself up in during press interviews. But… I fucking liked it. It stayed with me. It effected me. It left my friends and I in a state of passionate disagreement for an hour after the film ended. It made people fucking angry. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film cause this much of an uproar and divide people into a love it or hate it camp the way “mother!” did. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a committed film and it owns its mad, fucked up vision. We get bullshit from Marvel and Disney spoon-fed to us several times a year with the same regurgitated arcs and endings and franchise tie-ins. So when we get a gonzo black comedy from one of the biggest studios in the world about the destruction of Earth featuring Kristin Wiig executing people in the midst of the apocalypse, I say thank you.
9. ”Finding Frances”
One of the most compelling and remarkable transformations I’ve seen any series go through is Nathan Fielder’s brainchild “Nathan for You”. Fielder is the closest thing our generation has to an Andy Kaufman type figure that’s impossible to pin down and even harder to separate from his on-screen persona. Over the course of multiple seasons, Fielder has slowly switched focus from satirizing American capitalism to the awkward, lonely life of himself.
“Nathan for You” delivered its usual laughs at the expense of unsuspecting, often shockingly bizarre human beings, but it’s the shows epic, Errol Morris-esque finale that solidified the series as one of the greatest comedic achievements of the 21st century. Fielder made a feature-length documentary on the only man that could make Fielder himself seem normal by comparison. Following a lonely, possibly sociopathic Bill Gates impersonator as he attempts to track down his long-lost love that may or may not exist, the series became something truly magical. “Finding Frances”, the possible series finale of the remarkable “Nathan for You”, is an oddly moving ode at the strange characters that have filled the series for years. Average Americans, unsuspecting and looking for their own version of the American dream. But with "Finding Frances", the show delves past the anti-capitalist themes of the series and becomes exclusively about the strange humans in our world, looking for love and connection. Even if they might be closeted psychopaths.
8. ”BPM: Beats Per Minute”
Robin Campillo’s cinematic gut-punch about the AIDS crisis in 1990’s France is one of the most searing, devastating pieces of filmmaking to come around in a long time. A film that slowly builds you up, inundating you with facts and debates, only to sideswipe you with a hurricane of emotions in the final act. It’s the only film this year I was grateful to watch at home, because it gave me the opportunity to take a step back and breathe in the middle of it. Campillo’s stunningly authentic and compassionate direction is particularly highlighted in the way he lingers on the smallest moments in relationships, knowing that those fleeting moments are the vital memories we cherish the most.
7. ”Lady Bird”
“Lady Bird” is a perfect screenplay. Every line counts. Every character is a fully-dimensional human being that we’ve all encountered in our lives. It makes brilliant use of its 2002 setting, littering the film with just the right amount of specificity and nostalgia. It gives Saorise Ronan another opportunity to prove she’s probably the next Meryl Streep. It’ll give Laurie Metcalf the career recognition she’s long deserved. It’ll make you miss your childhood and wanna hug your mother. It’ll warm even the most cynical of hearts. It will further establish Greta Gerwig as one of the the most unique voices of her generation and make you excited for whatever she does next. And against all odds, it will give you a newfound appreciation for Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash”.
6. ”The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
A calculating, manipulative teenager infiltrates a doctor’s life to seek revenge for his father’s death by psychologically and emotionally blackmailing him, resulting in the funniest spin on “Sophie’s Choice” ever put on film. It also features a monologue about an incestual hand-job and a fetish for anesthetized sex. In other words, it’s another diabolically creepy, savagely funny chapter in the career of Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s gleefully fucked up, keeping you enraptured in his windy road of perversion and sadism for the entirety of its gloriously batshit two hours.
5. ”Blade Runner 2049”
Denis Villeneuve made the most ambitious, intelligent and patient blockbuster in ages and it was completely forgotten. It barely made a dent at the box office and while most critics backed it, it has sadly been ignored and left for dead at the end of 2017. For shame, because “Blade Runner 2049” is the rare sequel that doesn’t feel like a cynical cash-grab. It’s a three hour detective story that faithfully, but organically follows in the steps of its predecessor, without ever feeling like fan-service. It’s the opposite of the new “Star Wars” films. It respects its audience, but it doesn’t indulge in their nostalgic desires. It wants to be its own thing and with Villeneuve on board, the film is its own beast. A visually arresting, surprisingly emotionally adept, dread-filled sci-fi masterwork about existential anxiety that, in my humble opinion, stands head and shoulder above the original.
4. ”The Florida Project”
Sean Baker has been making films for almost twenty years now but you might not know it. In the last several years, he’s began cultivating a distinct eye for stories about people living on the margins of society. In 2012, he focused on the amateur porn industry in the San Fernando Valley with the heartfelt and unexpectedly touching “Starlet”. In 2015, he made noise at the Sundance Film Festival with his first major breakout (shot entirely on the iPhone 5s), “Tangerine” by shining a light on the transgender community in Los Angeles. With “The Florida Project”, Baker’s first major seven digit budgeted feature, he’s made his best film to date. A sun-drenched fairytale grounded in a gritty reality, Baker’s sixth feature film feels like the his coming out to the mainstream in the best way possible. Making the leap from iPhone to anamorphic 35MM, Baker and his superb DP Alexis Zabe perfectly capture a lost summer where fantasy and reality collide, slowly building towards a rapturous, ambitious and controversial finale. A film of infinite, vibrant power and one that will surely solidify Sean Baker as one of the distinguished, exciting voices in independent film.
3. ”Call Me by Your Name”
“Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live, one is the mock-up, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there’s only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there’s sorrow. I don’t envy the pain. But I envy you the pain.”
Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name” will fill your heart and enrapture you with the feelings of love found and lost and then quietly, but severely break your heart into a million pieces. It’s impossible to list off everything that’s so special about “Call Me by Your Name”, but I remember leaving the theater completely refreshed by the fact that I just saw a queer film that was simply a love story. It didn’t trap its characters in the “will they get caught?” sub-plot. We never feel the danger of violent repercussions for their relationship. We’re simply invested in a story of two men who have fallen in love over the course of one summer and know deep down, it must come to an end. Guadagnino’s film is one of striking, incomprehensible beauty. It captures the feeling of falling in love like no other film in recent memory. The excitement, the longing, the carefully timed glances, the silliness of it, the inevitable heartbreak of it all. It made me grateful for the love I’ve felt in my own life, the heartbreak I’ve grown from and unlike any other film this year, it made me happy to be alive.
2. ”Phantom Thread”
There’s a giddy sensation I felt about 30 minutes into “Phantom Thread” when I realized Paul Thomas Anderson had not made the Oscar-friendly, restrained period piece that was hinted at in the trailers. Only a master of their craft can have this effect on you. To lead you down a road, promise you one thing and continue to pleasantly surprise you at every twist and turn. Anderson has been making consistently brilliant films for twenty years now and to see the diversity and range of his skills over that time has been astonishing. From the sprawling, epic ensembles of “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” to the off-kilter love story of “Punch-Drunk Love” and the impenetrable, ambiguous nature of “The Master”, Anderson has zig-zagged through genres, refusing to be pinned down.
With “Phantom Thread”, Anderson has put his own spin on the Merchant Ivory period piece, the costume drama, the artist story and the romantic comedy. Exploring male ego, the demands and obsessions of being an artist and toxic relationships through the backdrop of 1950’s couture London and still managing to put his own definitive stamp on the film is a just another major accomplishment in the career of our generations best. But what’s so thrilling about watching “Phantom Thread” is that he can continue to subvert how we watch films and what we expect from them. Anderson can take us on a journey and write stories that are outside his wheelhouse, but can still subtly sprinkle insights into his own psychology and insecurities throughout.
In “Sydney”, he showed us a man seeking a father figure. In “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”, he showed us a piece of his family and upbringing. With “Punch-Drunk Love”, we get a glimpse of Anderson’s deepest insecurities and battles with rage. With “The Master”, his stubbornness. And with “There Will Be Blood” and “Phantom Thread”, we see his own internal struggle with ego and obsession. Through the eyes of determined men guided by their own self-preservation, we get conflicting, often vulnerable insights into Anderson’s process and artistic ambitions. But in “Phantom Thread”, he acknowledges the weakness of the male artistic ego better than any director has in recent memory. He shows us a man obsessed with his work, his name and his legacy who longs to be loved and coddled and nurtured, but only when its convenient for him. The magic of “Phantom Thread” is that Anderson puts his protagonist up against a stronger woman with equal determination, who understands his games and knows how to win. A period piece, costume drama, relationship comedy and haunted house film all rolled into one, watching “Phantom Thread” is one of the greatest cinematic pleasures of 2017.
1. ”Good Time”
Every year, there’s at least one film that I become borderline obsessed with. In 2010, I watched David Fincher’s “The Social Network” six times in theaters. In 2011, “Drive” was all the buzz. In 2013, “Inside Llewyn Davis” became my ultimate comfort film that I watched repeatedly every night before bed. Last year, “Moonlight” brought life and affirmation to the end of a shitshow of a year. In May, I woke up one morning and watched the trailer for the new Safdie Brothers film “Good Time”. The moment I heard Robert Pattinson‘s spot-on Brooklyn accent utter the words “You’re incredible”, I was on board. Then after a thirty-second intro, the enigmatic voice of Iggy Pop emerges over an immediately haunting piano track from Oneohtrix Point Never. I got chills. The neon-soaked cinematography of Sean Price Williams. The desperation Robert Pattinson oozed on screen. It felt dangerous. More dangerous than any American film in some time. It was love at first sight.
Two and a half months later, I’m sitting in the Arclight in Hollywood watching an advanced screening of “Good Time” with a packed theater filled with middle-age Robert Pattinson groupies who don’t have the slightest inclination of the on-screen transformation they’re about to witness.
Within the first five minutes of “Good Time”, you know pretty much everything you need to know about Connie and Nick Nikas. They’re Greek-American brothers living in Queens, New York who dream of a better life. Nick is mentally handicap and Connie is his protector. They want to escape. They want to be free of the roles society has given them. Victims of circumstance. Victims of their own environment. The next 95 minutes is a race against the clock, all-night descent into madness and late night depravity in the tradition of “After Hours” and “48 Hours”, a grimy and detailed depiction of New York crime and desperation a la Abel Ferrara and a timely indictment of the judicial system and capitalist failures in America.
In short, “Good Time” is a product of its time and a product of its influences. The Safdies have such an infinite, rich knowledge and love of cinema that they bring to the table but they also so clearly have their finger on the pulse of this generation, that everything they put on the screen feels 100% them. Like Sean Baker with “The Florida Project, “Good Time” was the Safdie’s coming out party. It was their announcement to the mainstream. It’s the feeling you might have gotten watching “Taxi Driver” in the 70’s or “Boogie Nights” in the 90’s. You know you’re in the hands of a gifted filmmaker, in this case two gifted filmmakers, who know exactly what they want and exactly how to get it. They’ve made a film that’s instantly iconic and will excite a whole new generation of filmmakers.
Sometimes you hype yourself up so much on a film, it’s impossible for it to live up to your expectations. “Good Time” not only lived up to my highest expectations, it shattered them and reawakened something in me I hadn’t felt in quite some time. It made me excited to make films again. It made me excited to discover films I had never seen like I was a teenager in a video store again. It gave me hope for the future of cinema. “Good Time” is an electric shock of cinema in its rawest and most exciting form. It’s the kind of urgent, uncompromising, bold and relentless filmmaking we need right now. The Safdies represent a new tide in cinema and might just be the future of it.
but really the single best thing released all year was
“Twin Peaks: The Return”
We live in a cultural moment where studios and networks are constantly looking to the past to define the kind of entertainment we consume today. Yes, technology and accessibility is always advancing and changing, but ideas are sparse and nostalgia reigns over originality. Studios like Marvel and Disney profit on the nostalgia of our childhoods. Major networks turn mediocre film properties from yesterday into multi-season television series and revamp 90’s “Must Watch TV” for a quick buck. It’s cynical and profitable.
But sometimes nostalgia can be mined for something truly interesting. Twenty-five years after “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me”, David Lynch returned to the sleepy Pacific Northwest town to finish his story. Or so we thought. Or maybe we didn’t. The beauty of the return of “Twin Peaks” is that nobody really knew what to expect. Would it be a full blown disaster? Would it be a quick cash grab? Of course not, it’s fucking David Lynch.
What most of us didn’t know is that Showtime was going to fork up 50 million for David Lynch to make an 18-hour experimental film with no regard nor interest in tying things up or servicing fanfare. So when most of the shows core fanbase returned, they didn’t get early 90’s David Lynch. They got post “Inland Empire”, no-fucks-given David Lynch. Some rebuked the new vision of “Twin Peaks”, while the rewarded viewer gave themselves over to it and let Lynch take us down an 18-hour rabbit hole of madness, delivering the most insane sequences ever put on TV.
Not much more can be said of the greatness of episode 8, but I’m just here to once again reiterate how absolutely astonishing that hour of television was. I still think its the greatest 60 minutes of filmmaking I’ve seen all year. There was also Kyle McLachlan’s criminally underrated performances. That insane five minute scene featuring Michael Cera as a Brandon-obsessed motorcyclist. The fat woman screaming while a zombie-like child spews vomit all over itself. Caleb Landry-Jones being Caleb Landry-Jones in a David Lynch universe. Jim Belushi being not shitty. The bartender sweeping for four minutes! What a gift the entire season was. It took sky-high expectations and blew them out of the water.
There was really nothing like “Twin Peaks” this year. It was genuinely shocking, nightmarish, laugh out loud funny and ultimately, it was horrifying. Not horrifying because Lynch is a master of conjuring up some truly fucked-up, nightmare-inducing imagery. It was horrifying because Lynch did mine our nostalgia. He took a look back at a world over 25 years old and brought back familiar faces, showing us where they are today. It wasn’t warm and familiar, it was sad. Their faces have aged, but their lives remain relatively the same. They work in the same diners and police stations. They’re still haunted by the same past they can’t escape. Their nightmares are reoccurring and endless. Watching “Twin Peaks” was like being welcomed back into a world we missed and yearned for, only to have the walls close in slowly all around us, eventually trapping us in its grip. You can’t escape the past and you certainly can’t change it. The last moments of the series are still its most chilling because we’re hit with the cold truth that you can’t rewrite history. The words “What year is this?”
THE BEST OF THE REST
“Baby Driver”, Edgar Wright
“A Cure for Wellness”, Gore Verbinski
"Dawson City: Frozen Time”, Bill Morrison
“Donald Cried”, Kris Avedisian
"Happy Death Day”, Christopher Landon
"I, Tonya", Craig Gillespie
“Logan”, James Mangold
“The Lost City of Z”, James Gray
"Okja", Bong Joon-ho
"Spider-Man: Homecoming", Jon Watts
“Stronger”, David Gordon Green
“Strong Island”, Yance Ford