The Best Films of 2017

An explanation about these two lists. You may notice that one overlaps the other. The world premieres list includes only movies that were first seen anywhere in the world in 2017, in festivals, commercial release or some other type of exhibition. The U.S./Los Angeles list is, as usual, a record of how the U.S. is a laggard in screening many significant world premieres. What this means is that, as usual, U.S. film festivals are much slower than festivals in other parts of the world to screen important, essential movies. So while these (overlapping ) lists may include a lot of …

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AFI Fest 2017: Happy End; Call Me By Your Name; Milla

Happy End

Would Michael Haneke throw a party were Europe to collapse in chaos? The event would likely prevent him from making any more movies—although the clever Austrian does have a way of attracting producers and even Hollywood admirers—but it would confirm all of his worst fears that he’s been packing into every movie he’s ever made, except for his American-set remake of Funny Games. Yet it isn’t difficult to detect in his new movie, Happy End (oh Herr Haneke and his sarcastic/ironic titles), that the whole notion of Continental Drift toward yet another Armageddon is beginning to bore …

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Los Angeles Needs Its Own Wavelengths

I had begun writing about my viewing experience of TIFF’s Wavelengths section for Film Journey with the customary introduction and mini-history of the section and its crucial importance to the world’s largest film festival, followed by reviews/analyses of each of the key films in the program.

Then I looked at what I had written, and thought, “Nah. Scrap that.” It needed something else. I needed to consider this differently. Because I was looking at things differently. Part of this stems from my own work as a writer. Until recently, I’ve devoted my writing to cinema, which I’ve done consistently (and …

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Spray’s and Velez’s Ride to Nirvana

Possibly more than the previous feature and short work produced by Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, which includes the groundbreaking Sweetgrass and Leviathan, Manakamana (distributed by Cinema Guild, opening today at Laemmle’s Music Hall) marks a crucial intersection of the three of the most interesting developments in contemporary cinema.

Stephanie Spray’s and Pacho Velez’ 16mm film (blown up to 35mm) embraces the essence of “slow cinema,” in which tempo and rhythm are intentionally geared to andante and beyond. Just as “slow food” allows the senses and palate to take time to absorb and appreciate flavors and textures, the slow cinema …

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South By Southwest 2

Last month, I served as a member of the jury for the international competition at FICUNAM (Festival Internacional de Cine de Universidad Nacional Autonomia Mexico), where most of the lineup was devoted to in-between cinema such as Luis Patino’s Costa da Morte, Denis Cote’s Joy of Man’s Desiring and Roberto Minervini’s Stop the Pounding Heart. Without identifying itself as such, much of FICUNAM’s programming (conceived mainly by festival director Eva Sangiorgi and the phenomenal Argentine-based critic-programmer Roger Koza) is interested in exploring the interstices of fiction and non-fiction, whether that may be a conversation between highly conceived mise-en-scène

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South by Southwest 1

By Robert Koehler

Marty Jackitansky, a rather foul human being whom you can’t take your eyes off of in writer-director Joel Potrykus’ Buzzard—by many millions of miles the best movie yet screened at South by Southwest—is a feral, degenerated form of the classic grifter of the 1930s. He temps at a bank office, but can barely tolerate anyone around except fellow office staffer Derek (an amusing Potrykus) and finds innumerable ways to make petty cash by bilking people, or just by getting over, like grabbing equipment he’s ordered for the office and returning it to an electronics store for

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