PRINT December 2017

Film: Best of 2017

John Waters

1 BABY DRIVER (Edgar Wright) The best movie of the year is a popcorn thriller, an art film, and a gearhead classic that grossed over $100 million. It deserved to! Watching the star turn of Ansel Elgort was like seeing John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever for the first time.

Edgar Wright, Baby Driver, 2017, 35 mm, color, sound, 112 minutes. Debora (Lily James) and Baby (Ansel Elgort).
Production still. Photo: Wilson Webb.

2 I, OLGA HEPNAROVÁ (Petr Kazda and Tomáš Weinreb) A hypnotic black-and-white docudrama based on the case of a pretty, twenty-two-year-old chain-smoking lesbian from Prague who in 1973 hopped in a truck and mowed down twenty pedestrians on a sidewalk. Deadpan indeed.

Petr Kazda and Tomáš Weinreb, I, Olga Hepnarová, 2016, 4K video, black-and-white, sound, 105 minutes. Olga (Michalina Olszańska).

3 THE STRANGE ONES (Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein) This brilliantly conceived, slow-to-reveal-itself drama pulls the rug out from under any audience’s comfort zone by asking them questions about adult-teen sexual relationships they’d never even want to consider.

4 NOCTURAMA (Bertrand Bonello) A long, thoroughly irresponsible film about teenage French terrorists who blow up buildings in Paris for no apparent reason, then hide from the police in a luxury mall, where they watch coverage of their exploits on big-screen TVs they wish they could afford.

Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 130 minutes.

5 WONDERSTRUCK (Todd Haynes) Want an IQ test for your cinephile children? Just take them to see this beautifully made, feel-good kids’ movie about the hearing-impaired, starring a little girl who looks exactly like Simone Signoret. If your small-fry like the film, they’re smart. If they don’t, they’re stupid.

6 GRADUATION (Cristian Mungiu) This quietly harrowing tale of corruption and family dysfunction in Romania has the intensity of Bergman and the humor of Fassbinder . . . if he had been heterosexual.

7 THE WIZARD OF LIES (Barry Levinson) A jarringly perceptive portrait of the Madoff family’s behind-the-scenes panic and denial over their greed. De Niro’s performance is restrained to perfection as Bernie, and Michelle Pfeiffer is downright astonishing as his wife. This ain’t no TV movie—give ’em both Oscars.

Barry Levinson, The Wizard of Lies, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 133 minutes. Ruth Madoff (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro).

8 LADY MACBETH (William Oldroyd) The exact opposite of Get Out––here the bad white liberals actually win. Viciously funny and maybe the meanest movie of the decade.

9 WONDER WHEEL (Woody Allen) An impeccably acted potboiler in which Woody channels Tennessee Williams meets The Honeymooners, with a pyromaniac kid thrown in to add a touch of Bad Seed flavor. Say what you will, Mr. Allen has never made a bad movie. This is one of his best.

Woody Allen, Wonder Wheel, 2017, digital video, color, sound, 81 minutes. Carolina (Juno Temple).

10 TOM OF FINLAND (Dome Karukoski) This dirty but dignified, oddly commercial biopic of the artist who inspired the modern-day s/m gay leather scene is now the Finnish government’s official entry in the 2017 foreign-film Oscar race. That’s what I call patriotic penis progress, and I hope it wins.

Dome Karukoski, Tom of Finland, 2017, 4K video, color, sound, 116 minutes.

Filmmaker John Waters’ eighteen-city spoken-word tour, “A John Waters Christmas,” began on November 27 in Chicago.