Drama’s Over — favorite movies of 2017

Here’s my top 15 films of 2017. It was… a year… This originally went up as part of our Patreon as a part of our Best of 2017 XXXtravaganza podcast. Let’s rock.

15. The Evil Within, directed by Andrew Getty — Because awful, fucked up, shitty, meth head mania still means something to me; dammit. Watch a cursed movie, be somebody.

14. 6 Days, dir. Toa Fraser — Jamie Bell waiting at that door racks the tension up so much his character can barely stand it, he has to punch himself in the face so he doesn’t kill someone.

13. War on Everyone, dir. John Michael McDonagh — This isn’t a good movie but I sure as fuck loved it. I love tall, slurring Skarsgaard and Pena’s hyperintelligent dom wife choking him so she can cum, and Paul Reiser’s exasperated captain. It’s mean. I love it.

12. Catfight, dir. Onur Turkel — When the hammers come out, I mean… you’re watching a movie where these oscar caliber actors beat each other with hammers. It has a Devil’s Rejects reference in it. It makes fun of Jimmy Fallon, and has multiple coma cutaways. I am not mad at it AT ALL.

11. The Florida Project, dir. Sean Baker — that song in the opening rules. Willem Dafoe waving at the courtyard is going in his oscar reel. Amazing in the theater, I don’t know how well it would do on another viewing.

10. The Beguiled, dir Sofia Coppola — Inherently racist and gross while still definitely the best movie Sofia Coppola has made outside of Marie Antoinette, I think the strengths and weirdnesses of this film outweigh its weakness. Kirsten Dunst’s rage in her sex scene with Colin Farrell is as real as anything else caught on film this year, and Farrell’s use of his body in a film about women is instructive and hot as fuck. Elle Fanning’s pretty terrible in it, though.

9. Nocturama, dir. Bertrand Bonello — Dawn of the Dead meets La Chinoise. It never really reaches beyond those boundaries, but as those are two of my favorite movies, I’ll give it a little bit of a pass. I think there are some amazing moments in this movie — Willow Smith blaring through the building, the lead pissing himself when he hears gunfire the first time — those stick hard. The way the lead girl wears that jacket. I have a soft spot for callow young french terrorists reckoning with the real world as they run headlong into a murder festival, and this is a great one of those.

8. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele — Definitely better than most of this list, really just suffering from me not having time to rewatch it/me seeing Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread so recently. All this notwithstanding, the first horror movie to be released in maybe a decade without being a pastiche of other horror movies, while still firmly in the tradition of Polanski and Romero and Serling. Really scary, really brilliantly acted/cast, creates its own vocabulary. Great movie.

7. John Wick Chapter 2, dir. Chad Stahelski — Fully creates it’s own universe, fluent in action movies without ever being above them. Keanu Reeves headshotting dudes in lusher and lusher environs. The stylish goth qualities clashing with the video game run and gun aesthetic, creating tension while highlighting the decadence of both genre filmmaking and the unspoken codes of the hyper-rich. Watching Keanu wander into a crowd of rich people and gun down the motherfuckers, picking up weapons of the dead like Chow Yun Fat; he’s murder Orpheus shooting his way out of hell. Beautiful triple tap headshot porn, still in my heart after everything should make it distasteful.

6. Phantom Thread, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson — The hottest movie of the year. Kinky as fuckkkkkkkkkkkk.

5. Call Me By Your Name, dir. Luca Guadagino — Michael Stuhlbarg being a good dad is what sold this movie for me, as shitty as that is. I think it’s beautiful and I think Armie Hammer dancing is great and Timothee Chalamet owns that final scene, but it’s really just one of these coming of age euro sex movies that just doesn’t get made anymore done so beautifully you don’t care there is zero conflict.

4. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, dir. Guy Ritchie — I think I’m kind of in this place where I just love Guy Ritchie? I mean, he’s made bad movies but overall… I have a huge soft spot for the guy. He is one of the few people post-Tarantino/PTA/Fincher who can use music on their level, arguably better than younger guys like Edgar Wright. Ritchie makes movies that are cool, tells stories using characters and characterization (which he actually differentiates). This movie has the funniest cut of the year (“WELCOME TO THE DARKLANDS”), and manages to deliver as both an action movie and a Guy Ritchie movie structured around talky bits. Lots of great performances, great weird cg, emotional sword throwing montage, weird french witch girl, Eric Bana showing up like you forgot his damn name. I liked it. It had no cities of Z in it at all.

3. Personal Shopper, dir. Olivier Assayas — The texting sequence on the train is the most arresting scene in a movie this year. Assayas and Kristen Stewart is the most exciting collaboration of filmmakers in the world at this moment. I love that Assayas is kind of mining stately Euro-horror movies like The Psychic and Don’t Look Now without being a cover band or a remix filmmaker, the way it plays with reality in using real and fake documentary footage, observing Stewart as she does real and fake daily interactions, her tumultuous internal life colliding with banal transitory interactions. The ghost story having almost nothing to do with the real danger she’s facing. It’s a capital G great movie, part of a continuum but fiercely of the moment. Kristen Stewart is the kind of performer you can watch look at a phone for 10 mins and find it hard to catch your breath. She’s a fucking movie star.

2. Good Time, dir. Safdie Brothers — Synth Rampage is a subset of One Crazy Night movie I didn’t know I needed. I love how this movie has a high concept (“get my brother out of jail”) that is thrown out before the first third of the movie is even over. This is a crime drama, but it’s told in the language of a horror movie, an action movie. It’s so completely desperate — Pattinson is ferocious and is mirrored not only by Oneohtrix’s score but the slammed close neon cinematography. Every shot you remember in this film is too close, awash in pink or red. He’s talking, he’s not listening, he’s prying at weak spots in conversations to get his foot in the door. To get you to shut up, to get the money now, to get the acid now. He’s thinking moment to moment and letting the world catch fire behind him. The movie lets you know early that things aren’t going to go well but you still are so off-center, you don’t know exactly how bad things are going to go, or really where any scene is leading into the next. This is derailing after derailing, Connie keeps his head down and everything gets fucked up worse. He’s Michael Meyers in the operating room let loose upon the world.

1.Twin Peaks — The Return, dir. David Lynch — It’s not a movie, but then again Berlin Alexanderplantz isn’t a fucking movie either. I don’t care. It’s not television — or if it is, it’s a variety show or experimental art film or scraped out anti-comedy or american gothic crime drama or spiritual exegesis. It’s fucked up and awesome and incredibly obvious and the most exciting thing that’s ever been available on television. The language of everything that could be described as “Lynchian” from Tim & Eric Awesome Show to Guy Maddin to Wild Palms to Alexander Payne to Tarantino and the Coen Brothers is all dissected and re-metabolized back into the whole, playing minimal and arch, ironic and just plain gross. All of Lynch’s shit is here too — there’s a clip from Sunset Boulevard. There’s an episode-length tribute to Kubrick interspersed with Nine Inch Nails performance footage. There’s goony slapstick comedy with Josh Fadem and Jim Belushi, there’s nightmarish examinations of small town America as a collapsing evil place that turns people against one another for no reason, there’s phantasmagoric special effects that look both perfect and amateurish. It turns your pure hero into a rapist and a murderer, plowing his way through the world unhindered without want or need. It turns him into an idiot re-learning the basic elements of day to day life like a child. It turns him into a dead-eyed avenger re-traumatizing a woman again and again to prove a point. This series made me re-appreciate Lynch but also, I think more importantly, it’s the best thing he’s ever done. I went back and watched the show, watched nearly all of his movies again, this is better. This is the pure, uncut version of the thing. This is lush musical numbers and long stretches of a guy sweeping and stutter-step editing that’s barely coherent. Art made without economic realities or even posterity in mind. Dead and dying actors live, in spite of reality, blending real mortality into a story where time is fractured. Real stakes when 25 years slips between character moments for effect. My favorite scene doesn’t even involve Evil Coop or anything, it’s Otis Redding blaring as Big Ed has his heart ripped out and he takes a moment and finds it again. He wills himself to live, and the world then joins him, all to the sound of the most beautiful desperate heartbreak giving way to true love. Lynch needle drops a piece of live music, the crowd blaring as Big Ed slams the door to his truck, giddy as he’s ever been. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on film. I’ve watched it again and again. The performances throughout the series — Kyle McLachlan, Sheyrl Lee, Laura Dern (who fuckinnnnnnnnnggggg ruuuuuuuulllllles in this), Michael Horse, Harry Dean Stanton, Everett McGill, Balthazar Getty (“You ever see the movie The King and I?”), Robert Forster, Grace Zabriskie, Karel Struyecken, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jim Belushi, Tom Sizemore, Miguel Ferrer, Naomi Watts, even Lynch himself — are the best these actors have ever given. Evil Coop is a brilliant character, wholly motivated by himself and his drives. He’s not just Bob inside Coop, he’s everything driven and awful about that character given form, marching unscathed as he leaves destruction all around him. He has great moments (the arm wrestling scene, the march up the stairs to meet Jeffries) but it’s really the savage blankness of his expression. The final episode — with it’s nightmarish scene after nightmarish scene of sheer normalcy, topped off with the most gut wrenching final moment — is one of the darkest things I’ve ever seen. It’s the work of a lifetime.

Sean Witzke, January 2018