Mr. Reed’s Metaphysical Neighborhood Presents the Best Technical and Artistic Film Work of 2017

On December 31, 2017, I published my list of best (and worst) films of the year, and then on Friday, January 5, 2018, my list of best actors. Now it’s time to post about the (often) unsung artists and craftspeople who are essential to the filmmaking process: the writers, cinematographers, editors, production designers, visual-effects artists, and music composers. As with my other lists, the hyperlinked movie title will take you to my review, if one exists (or the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, if one does not). In addition, I also hyperlink the artists’ names (mostly to IMDb, but sometimes to their own personal websites), so you can see what other work they have produced over their careers. In the case of the music list, I link to the movie’s actual soundtrack, as well.

In each category, I have chosen only five (however hard that may be – and it is hard), in alphabetical order. These are the films where I thought that the work in that particular area truly enhanced the quality of the movie. If a film is not on this list, I may still really like the work within it, but not as much as my top five. Enjoy, and feel free to leave comments after you look it over!

Best Screenplay (adapted and original, combined):

Best Cinematography*:

[*2 of these are documentaries – Barbecue and Rat Film – which feature beautiful shots that rival any narrative feature.]

Best Editing**:

[**3 of these are documentaries – BarbecueMotherland and Rat Film – which are among the hardest kinds of films to edit, given the huge amount of material to work with, from which one must, somehow, extract a coherent story.]

Best Production Design:


I also want to mention the stellar production-design work in one of my least favorite films of the year – The Book of Henry – by Kalina Ivanov (whom I know, in the interest of full disclosure). Though the movie failed for me completely, her intricate Rube Goldberg-like devices within it were objects of extraordinary beauty.


Best Visual Effects:

[Too many people to mention all, so I have simply hyperlinked, next to the title, to the movie’s crew page on IMDb page, where you can look at the multitude of people involved in the many visual-effects teams.]

Best Original Score:

Mr. Reed’s Metaphysical Neighborhood Presents the Best Film Acting of 2017

On December 31, 2017, I published my list of best (and worst) films of the year, and most actors in most of the narrative (fiction) films on my list turned in admirable performances, at the very least, which makes it hard to select a limited number of them as standouts. As I write every year, I see no need to publish a separate “best directors” list since, if the film is good, I credit the director for much of that quality. A few actors and actresses in films which I did not put among my highest choices still made it onto the list, below, since they were so magnetic (to me), even if the film they were in was less so.

If someone is not on this list, it does not mean that I did not like them; I just liked others even more. What counts the most is how different I imagined the film would be without them. Therefore, the actors and actresses listed below  are those whose work most stands out  within the context of the film they’re in. All movie titles are hyperlinked to my review (if such a review exists) or to the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page. While last year I listed only 5 actors per category, this year I do 10, since I liked so many performances. For Best Actress, I list 12, since I could not cut it down any more without heartbreak. In alphabetical order, by last name within each category, I give you:

BEST ACTRESS

BEST ACTOR

*Note from 1/9/18 – recent allegations about Franco’s sexual misbehavior now complicate such a nomination. It’s still a great performance, however compromised the actor.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  • Elisabeth MossThe Square
  • Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok
  • Madeline Weinstein, Beach Rats [link points to my review of films at the 2017 Maryland Film Festival; scroll down past the capsule reviews of documentaries to the #1 fiction film]

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mr. Reed’s Metaphysical Neighborhood Presents the Best and Worst Films of 2017

[For an explanation of my blog post title, check out my “best of” list from 2013.]

Below you will find lists of my favorite films of the year, divided by documentary (nonfiction) and narrative (fiction) formats. Not all the movies mentioned have received a significant theatrical or online release in 2017, though most of them did; a few may still be looking for distributors after making their festival rounds. Where I have previously written reviews of a movie (whether for BmoreArtFilm Festival TodayHammer to Nail or this blog), the title of that movie is hyperlinked to my original review. In the case of one film (noted, below), I only wrote a brief capsule review of it within a film-festival recap, and I link to that write-up, instead. Where I have not (yet) reviewed a film, I have hyperlinked the title to the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page. If I later write a review (for films not yet out in wide release), I will change that link to my own review.

If a film that you, yourself, saw and liked is nowhere mentioned here, then it is possible that I did not see it (or saw it and liked it, but not enough to include among my favorites, or saw it and, of course, did not like it). As many films as I watch every year, I cannot possibly see everything. If you have questions about any omissions, feel free to comment and/or send me a note. And really, what separates the “Top 10” from the “runners-up” is very little. If you’re in my Top 20, in other words, I like you very much.

Enjoy! Over the next week, I will continue to publish other “best of” lists, for acting and technical/artistic achievements of the year.

Top 10 Documentary Films of 2017 (in alphabetical order):

Top 10 Narrative Films of 2017 (in alphabetical order):

2017 Documentary Film Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):

2017 Narrative Film Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):

*Note from 1/9/18 – recent allegations about Franco’s sexual misbehavior now complicate such a nomination. It’s still a really solid movie, however compromised the director.

2017 Documentary and Narrative Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Worst Films of 2017 (in alphabetical order):

Stay tuned for more posts in the week ahead …

In “Get Out,” Jordan Peele Brilliantly Takes on Racism with Comedy and Horror

Get Out

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

Comedian Jordan Peele – formerly of Key and Peele – makes his directorial debut with a film that is both a delightful riff on the horror genre and a biting, satirical attack on racism and its apologists. Chris, our hero, is a twenty-something African-American man living the good life in New York City, who makes an ill-advised trip with his white girlfriend, Rose, to meet her parents upstate. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks her, just before they leave (cue inevitable, and intentional, comparisons to the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner). She reassures him that race will play no factor in how they treat him, although she does warn him that her father will probably declare how he would have voted for Obama a third time, if he could have. You know, just to prove his liberal bona fides. Somewhat mollified, Chris agrees to go. We, the audience, however, have seen an opening sequence in which another young African-American, walking in a white suburb, is felled by a masked man dressed like many a cinematic slasher. The hunt is on, it seems, though why or by whom is yet to be determined.

Once arrived, Chris and Rose do their best to make themselves comfortable, but Mom and Dad (and brother) have other plans. There’s a general vibe of unease in this house in the woods, compounded by the fact that the two domestic servants are both African-American and possessed of a peculiar set of mannerisms that are anything but normal. At first just awkward, the situation turns eerily malevolent when additional guests – all white – arrive, as if Peele had crossed a movie like Betrayed, a 1988 thriller about going undercover in a white supremacist hate group, with The Stepford Wives, that twice-adapted tale of one small community’s drastic solution to the problem of uppity women. Is it all just in Chris’s head, or are these strange people out to get him?

Peele demonstrates a firm command of cast and story, directing both towards a vibrant mix of  sharp comedy and genuine thrills. The ensemble includes Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario), as Chris; Allison Williams (Marnie on Girls), as Rose; and Bradley Whitford (Josh on The West Wing) and Catherine Keener (Enough Said) as the parents. The film is smart where it needs to be, but never afraid of the dumb laugh. It’s also one of the oddest movies I have seen in a while, both adopting the conventions of its genre and completely ignoring them, refusing to follow narrative expectations. It’s brisk, invigorating and deliriously funny, while also a devastating dissection of the pervasiveness of racism in our society. Kudos to Peele for making an issue film that is blissfully entertaining.

Unfortunately, it’s also visually rather bland. Granted, the shots are exposed properly and the lighting mostly suits the mood of each scene, but the cinematography – by Toby Oliver (The Darkness) – is otherwise uninspired. Given the brilliance of the writing, it’s too bad that the look of the film remains pedestrian. Perhaps it is by design, to show how the seemingly ordinary circumstances of our lives rest atop a fragile infrastructure of civility that can so easily be fractured. Whatever the limitations of camera, however, there is no doubt that Get Out succeeds on every other level, and marks a very auspicious start to this new chapter in Jordan Peele’s life. It is also, given the explosion of virulent hate speech in the post-Obama era, as timely as ever.