The Year of Watching Aimlessly: Two Critics On Their Favorite Films Seen in 2017

We are in the end days . . . of the year, when everyone and their ticket taker unveil lists of the best films from 2017. That seems outdated, as the number of movie-making sources expands along with the places to screen these works (theaters, sides of buildings, televisions, PC monitors, pads, laptops, cellphones, wrist watches, VR goggles, etc.). Then there are the films from years past that audiences are only now seeing, thanks mostly to streaming.

Weeklings Aimee Murillo and Matt Coker reveal five favorites they saw anywhere, created during any year, so long as they saw it for the first time during 2017.

Get Out. A 100 percent certified-fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can’t be wrong; Get Out is a fine-tuned film, with meaning and subtext inserted within the minutest details, yet still enjoyable for the average movie-goer. If this isn’t the satirical horror film of our times, what is?

Funeral Parade of Roses. This long-forgotten 1969 film needs inclusion in the canon of queer art-house cinema for its experimental techniques, meta interviews, and open depiction of gay and trans spaces in Japan during a period of intense political and social upheaval. It’s breathtaking, inspired and, most of all, affecting with its crisp black-and-white imagery.

The Little Hours. Jeff Baena’s hilarious nunsploitation romp took a cadre of comedic stars (including producer/real-life partner Aubrey Plaza), set them in a 16th-century monastery, and informed them to let loose semi-improvising dialogue, throwing F-bombs and speaking in Valley Girl accents. While some critics felt the contrasting dialect and setting was a tired gag, I haven’t gasped for air laughing that hard in a long time.

Vagabond. It was quite a treat to view this portrait of a young transient woman roaming the French countryside with director Agnes Varda in person at American Cinematheque. The 89-year-old auteur shared her inspiration for the 1985 film was her belief that society can’t stand a person with really bad B.O. (she articulated this more thoughtfully, of course). The film begins with the death of its main protagonist, and the last days of her life are told through the various people she meets in her travels.

We Are the Flesh. This little-seen Mexican horror flick is a gripping indictment of the country’s sex, violence and drug trades, only told with the grimy, foreboding vibe of an acid trip. The plot involves a brother and sister exploring the ruins of an old building where they meet a mysterious stranger, who then enables their descent into madness and perversion.

The Salesman. Master writer/director Asghar Farhadi miraculously pulls off using Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as a play within a movie, as well as its 1949 plot devices as touchstones in this compelling drama about a violent incident driving a marriage off the rails in modern-day Iran.

I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore. Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood carry this dark comedy about a depressed woman and her quirky neighbor getting way more than they bargained for when they confront burglars. Macon Blair, who wrote the screenplay, is now one to watch, thanks to his directorial debut.

Horn From the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story. The white harmonica player from Chicago’s South Side was more about the music and overindulging in between shows than he was about calculating a rising career. That explains why the highly influential bluesman is missing from most retrospectives on the 1960s, which makes John Anderson’s documentary so vital.

When I Was 6, I Killed a Dragon. French filmmaker Bruno Romy, who normally dabbles in fiction, used his camera as a diversion while his daughter Mika battled leukemia. The result is the most effective and personal documentary about dealing with a deadly disease I have ever seen. Bring le hanky.

Endless Poetry. Chilean surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky’s maturity as a storyteller, “psychomagic” guru and human being is evident in what is part autobiography, part polemic against fascism and part homage to his 1970 international breakout acid western, El Topo. Here we see Alejandro (played by Jeremias Herskovits as a teen and the writer/director’s youngest son, Adan, as an adult) break away from his ball-busting dad and out-of-touch mom and fall in with a ragtag collection of artists and assorted freaks.

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