Here is a list of what I believe to be the best films of 2017; or, more specifically, the first half of my list of best films from 2017 along with one honorable mention for a grand total of 51 films. A mix of features and shorts, theatrical and online releases, anywhere from Mubi, Festival Scope, NoBudge, Vimeo, Flix Premiere, Topic, or Refinery29 (including one from our own website). Streaming links provided in some instances.
Yesterday saw the publication of what I believed to be the standout male performances from 2017 while today’s list is a rundown of the most impressive female performances of the year. And, much like yesterday’s list, this overview will also feature a number of omissions for various reasons, mainly my inability to see certain films. Cynthia Nixon in Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion comes to mind and one that I have seen show up on several lists.
As always, I’m sure there are a number of performances missing from my list due to the simple fact that I have yet to see them, performances such as Timothée Chalamet’s role in Call Me by Your Name or Gary Oldham’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. I’m sure that these two specific performances, along with others not mentioned here, will be discussed and praised sufficiently that their lack of inclusion will be overlooked.
With Paul Taylor being a cinematographer, working on recent releases such as The Winds That Scatter and Wake Me When I Leave, it is not surprising that his first foray into directing would focus exclusively on visuals in order to convey his narrative, ridding the film from the constraints of dialogue effectively redirecting all focus onto the movements and body language of the actors in an attempt to present an unadulterated production of visual storytelling, stripped bare of the extraneous proving the power of purified imagery.
Tension abounds in writer/director Theodore Collatos’s latest feature, Tormenting the Hen, as nearly every discussion and/or interaction is laced with potential avenues providing offense and/or judgments, even the more inconspicuous and trivial subjects up for discussion harbor the possibility of illuminating surprising truths and viewpoints. With his script, Collatos has crafted a proverbial minefield for his characters to navigate, one that is laden with opportunities to weaponize any and all words and the hazards of crafting conclusions about others with incomplete information.
In his debut, Cameron Bruce Nelson has managed to present an effective portrait of humility in slow burn, a case study on the matter of adaptability as the nature of Sal’s situation remains in a constant state of flux, trying in earnest to readjust until finally realizing that he may not belong or be able to make do as nature decisively states its dominance emphatically. A bittersweet tale occupying the margins of the in between, in between the dusk of unrealized, cast off dreams and the threshold of promise and new beginnings.
A diptych on the inner lives of supporting characters, each afforded the lead in their own half of the film, is how writer/director Joyce Wong decides to explore the ups and downs of the people that usually occupy the margins of a film in her debut, Wexford Plaza. A series of interactions, both intimate and social, taking place within the vacant spaces of a strip mall tilting towards dereliction, of well-meaning intentions unraveling the frayed strands of two lives to differing degrees.
The warmth and gentleness at the center of Sylvio is swaddled in creativity, layers and layers of inventive, joy-inducing DIY creativity. The film is a testament to the wide-ranging powers of imagination and to see these ideas so lovingly crafted and produced on-screen is an absolute delight. Whatever the reasoning, the sight of Herbert Herpels sinking jumper or planting a tree, with his hands on display like a surgeon awaiting gloves warms my heart. Also, I’m still not sure why an anthropomorphized gorilla displaying genuine kindness and affection through simple hand gestures, muted grunts, and positive posture moved me so, but it did nonetheless.
Back towards the end of June, I covered Christopher Jason Bell's left for my For Future Reference feature and, now, I am happy to announce the online premiere of that film right here at Film Pulse. The film is available for free and streaming at the bottom of the page. I also had the chance to conduct an interview with Bell about the making of his film and his thoughts on online self-distribution.
Erica Genereux Smith clearly has a thing for telephones. And, office spaces. Or, I should say telephones in office spaces operated by women, to be more specific. It was the focal point of Are You With Me?, her short film from 2016 that landed on my year-end review of shorts last December.
Grief and loss can push people to extremes, and Nathan Silver’s Thirst Street, co-written with C. Mason Wells, showcases a psychological character study of a flight attendant named Gina (played by Lindsay Burdge) who decides to make a new life for herself in Paris. A one-night stand with bartender Jérôme (Damien Bonnard) precipitates this decision, and her adoration for him leads to some undesirable outcomes.