PRINT December 2017

Film: Best of 2017

J. Hoberman

1 DRUNK (AKA DRINK) (1965) (Andy Warhol) An astounding behavioral performance: Emile de Antonio slugs an entire bottle of scotch and gets hopelessly hammered in real time. This 1965 Factory masterpiece was shown once late last year at the Museum of Modern Art. Rather than being returned to the vault, it deserves to be in heavy rotation.

2 ZAMA (Lucrecia Martel) Latin America’s preeminent director (and one of the world’s most inventive narrative filmmakers) finds an even more violent and absurd—and disconcertingly beautiful—degree of stagnation in an eighteenth-century backwater than in the contemporary settings of her previous three feature films.

Lucrecia Martel, Zama, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 115 minutes.

3 STREETSCAPES [DIALOGUE] (Heinz Emigholz) After decades of film essays on modern architecture, Emigholz turns inward. His script is a transcription of a six-day session with an Israeli trauma specialist, with actors playing both him and his therapist. Part psychodrama, part cinematic autofiction, it’s in several ways something new.

4 THE VIETNAM WAR (Ken Burns and Lynn Novick) And this is something old—a brute, unavoidably flawed, horribly familiar, deeply absorbing chronicle of waste and stupidity. The Dylan song I kept hearing was the one in which he waits “to find out what price you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice.”

5 NOCTURAMA (Bertrand Bonello) Was it George W. Bush or Anna Wintour who, in the aftermath of 9/11, advised people to combat terror by going shopping? That’s one theme in Bonello’s supremely stylish, blithely insolent political tragedy—a movie at once ultracontemporary and haunted by historical ghosts going back to 1848 and before.

6 GET OUT (Jordan Peele) Fusing the interracial romance of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with the interracial mortal combat of Night of the Living Dead, Peele’s brilliant, comic horror film took on additional urgency for being released a month into the Trump nightmare.

Jordan Peele, Get Out, 2017, 4K video, color, sound, 104 minutes. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya)

7 NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER (Joseph Cedar) Cedar’s Jewish fable has Richard Gere (!?) playing a character one can only describe in Yiddish. Norman is a warm-hearted nudnik (pest), who is also a hondler (hustler), a luftmensch (dreamer), and, ultimately, a lamed-vovnik (secret saint).

8 THE FLORIDA PROJECT (Sean Baker) Following his porn portrait Starlet and his cell-phone chronicle of the lives of transgender prostitutes, Tangerine, Baker ponders life in the cheap motels for the otherwise homeless on the outskirts of Disney World.

Sean Baker, The Florida Project, 2017, 35 mm, color, sound, 115 minutes.

9 BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY (Alexandra Dean) The most beautiful star in Hollywood may also have been the most intelligent. An amateur inventor, Lamarr collaborated with the avant-garde composer George Antheil on a frequency-hopping radio guidance system that, while too advanced for its intended purpose (sinking Nazi U-boats), did pave the way for Wi-Fi. The rest of the Lamarr saga was pretty sensational as well.

10 AN ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE (2015) (Ja’Tovia Gary) Installed as part of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s “An Incomplete History of Protest,” Gary’s six-minute cut, paste, scratch assemblage— a percussive, achronological remix covering several hundred years of African American history—provided the exclamation mark at the end of a powerful exhibition.

A frequent contributor to Artforum, J. Hoberman expresses his solidarity with the staff letter of October 26, 2017.