W. Logan Freeman is part of the Film Flam team at Boston Hassle. They are an artist with a degree in Experimental Media Production who is figuring out how to be a writer.
I hate the debate that has risen around Twin Peaks: The Return.
The whole question of “Is it a movie? Is it a television series?” is a meaningless distinction that ignores the base similarity between ‘movies’ and television.’ They are the same thing. By any working definition, each episode of Kevin Can Wait is film.
So I will measure television and film on the same playing field. Below are the twenty films or television seasons that resonated most with me in 2017. There are plenty more that I would have liked to have seen, but for whatever reason did not. I will intermittently catch up on these over the next fifty or sixty years, so no use hand-wringing. As it stands, these were my favorites!
Top 5 is ranked. Rest is alphabetical.
1. Twin Peaks: The Return (dir. David Lynch)
Twin Peaks: The Return is a master returning to his most popular work and, with dirtied hands, smearing a new masterpiece atop its canvas. By deconstructing the source material, the plague of sequeldom, the expectations of audience on narrative in the era of prestige television — whilst simultaneously delving deep into his usual obsessions — David Lynch has crafted his most impressive work since Mulholland Drive.
Twin Peaks: The Return is more than the best film, or television series, of the year. It is one the premiere audio-visual experiences of the decade. A victory lap completed by one of America’s greatest pop culture artists. It is an immensely funny and terrifying work that succinctly ties together decades of variations in style. I watched it every week with supreme joy. Unquestionably, it is an epic achievement on all fronts.
2. The Leftovers Season 3 (Created by Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta)
The Leftovers stands as the apex of what a traditional, serialized television show can accomplish. It is novelistic in scope, daring in narrative playfulness, and always cohesive and resonant in its dueling themes of love and despair. Anchored by some of the strongest performances to ever grace the little screen, The Leftovers is a science-fiction tale that touches on our struggle to understand the self and the divine. It is also really funny!
3. Nathan For You: Finding Frances (Dir. Nathan Fielder)
The “Adult Swim” comedic stylings of the twenty-first century — detached absurdism, meta-humor, pop-culture reflexivity and critique — has hit what will be its creative peak: Nathan For You’s feature length season finale Finding Frances. This brilliant documentary uses the form to question the portrayed reality of the medium, the ethics of its own existence, the depictions we see of love on television and so much more. It is a dizzying confrontation of realities constructed and true. A stunning achievement from one of comedy’s most distinct and low-key controversial voices.
4. Phantom Thread (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Phantom Thread is a sublime, delirious, romantic, and horrifying film about two codependent maniacs who are obsessed with one another; but, by cleverly placing this tale of desire and toxic passion inside the trappings of mid-20th century English high-society, Paul Thomas Anderson succeeds in crafting an elegantly odd movie of dominance and submission that never overplays its hand. Amazing performances throughout, another excellent score by Jonny Greenwood, and PTA’s assured and idiosyncratic story construction push the film into the realm of his previous four masterworks.
5. Dunkirk (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan’s latest will not stand as his most influential or culturally defining work — that will, for better or for worse, always go to The Dark Knight — but it is undoubtedly his greatest accomplishment yet. This formal experiment in editing and the representation of time sees Nolan at his most succinct and brilliant. Not bogged down by his limits as a writer, this sparse, short war film exists as a distillation of his strengths. Dunkirk is stunningly executed, beautifully shot (for the first time I see why he is obsessed with large-format photography), and complemented by masterful sound-design. It is accessible, yet also experimental. An experiential film in the IMAX theatre that maintains its grip on a laptop screen. Simply: A Masterpiece that reminds us of what a film can uniquely accomplish.
THE REST, accompanied by ASSORTED THOUGHTS
American Vandal Season One (Created by Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda)
American Vandal is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Perhaps my favorite moviegoing experience of the year, this portentous, bombastic, and thoughtful blockbuster completely shocked me and won me over. Blade Runner 2049 reminded me why I love cinema — I sat in the theatre completely immersed and when I left the theatre I felt I was exiting another world. It is a moving, beautiful film that is superior to the original.
Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
A gorgeous, heart-rending portrait of a young man’s first love. The most wonderful aesthetic of the year. The title cards, the framing, the lighting, the statue photography… It’s all *Italian chef kiss emoji*
Dawson City: Frozen Time (dir. Bill Morrison)
With Dawson City, video artist Bill Morrison constructs a portrait of a town by recontextualizing the discarded and decaying films its citizens have left behind. Through this framework, he molds a larger story of human history and our relationship to film. Fascinating stuff!
Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
The movie of 2017. A reminder that film still has a socially relevant place in society. A tight script and classical Hollywood-style direction make Jordan Peele an exciting directorial talent on the rise. What a debut!
The Good Place Season 2 (Created by Michael Schur)
Michael Schur’s latest is in some way a repudiation to his optimistic opus Parks and Recreation. In The Good Place all ideals will fail us and those in charge of constructing the world are evil. Worse, we ourselves are horribly flawed and seemingly unable of change. Despite this, Schur still manages to find the spark of humanity that’s always guided his work, and with The Good Place has forced himself to reckon with the more nuanced wrinkles of his idol’s New Sincerity ‘manifesto.’
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (dir. James Gunn)
The best superhero film of the year! A complex family narrative poking apart trauma and ego. Moving, exciting, and brilliant!
John Wick: Chapter Two (dir. Chad Stahelski)
Go deeper into the mythos… Come out a god. Reflections upon reflections.
The Killing of a Scared Deer (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
This is the funniest film of the year. Nicole Kidman’s most captivating performance since Eyes Wide Shut, and Colin Farrell’s greatest turn yet. Yorgos Lanthimos is the most exciting fresh voice in cinema, and I cannot wait to see where his career goes from here. This one outpaces The Lobster and Dogtooth. It is impossibly robotic, surreal, and horrifying. As if Kubrick directed a script written by a demented AI program.
Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)
Stunning debut! A complex narrative of a young selfish artist coming of age — meticulously precise scene construction. Moments of the year whip by in minutes; before you know it another month has gone by and everything’s different but exactly the same. Heartbreaking match cuts between mother and daughter are powerful.
The Ornithologist (dir. João Pedro Rodrigues)
Just let this one wash over you.
Personal Shopper (dir. Olivier Assayas)
Beguiling and odd! It won’t leave my head.
Song to Song (dir. Terrence Malick)
I live and die for the editing of this film.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson)
Returning Star Wars to its roots in more ways than one, this course correction by Rian Johnson to J.J.’s fun but shallow soft-reboot is the best Star Wars picture since 1980. Kurosawa once again bleeds through the frame! Smartly, Johnson extends the reverence for Japanese cinema forward, blending anime-style editing and sound design to the most striking image Star Wars has produced since Return of the Jedi. I love it all! Canto Bight is the best! Finn’s character arc is fascinating! The sexual tension is bizarre and gripping! A great film — and I feel the need to let my love be known loudly alongside all the braying fanboy misogynists who seek to destroy what I love. Don’t fall prey to their yelps! (Looking at you, J.J. Abrams).
Stranger Things 2 (Created by The Duffer Brothers)
By delving deeper into their beloved characters and branching further away from their influences, the Duffer Brothers have delivered a sequels that exceeds the hype. Stranger Things 2 is beautiful tapestry of characters caught in a web of Lovecraftian horror — Altman’s Nashville by way of Stephen King.
SPECIAL RUNNER UP:
The Young Pope (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
The Young Pope, outside of Twin Peaks, is the strangest thing to air on television this year. Either bombastically stupid or supremely brilliant, this multifaceted work was a confounding viewing experience. Months later, I have no idea what to think of it intellectually — all I have are my feelings of bemusement and admiration. Jude Law is truly incredible, delivering lines no one should be able to say with a straight face (I am the Young Pope) with complete authority and conviction.
NEARLY ON THE LIST:
Fate of the Furious, The Deuce, Good Time, mother!, Insecure, Columbus, Alien: Covenant, Logan, World of Tomorrow: Episode Two, The Meyerowitz Stories, The Big Sick, It. Plenty more I’m sure.
Well. “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”