Our "Ballot"

Teresa and I put our heads together, coming up with picks we agreed upon as the best of 2017. Inevitably, some of my favorites and some of hers didn't make the cut--in some cases because of films that one of us didn't see, in others because we disagreed (e.g., she was less enamored of Dawson City: Frozen Time than I am, I refuse to cite an 18-episode TV series as a "film").

Here's what we came up with; "winners" pictured.


Call Me by Your Name
The Florida Project
Get Out
On the Beach at Night Alone
The Square


Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Olivier Assayas – Personal Shopper
Sean Baker – The Florida Project
Ruben Östlund – The Square
Jordan Peele – Get Out


Kim Minhee – On the Beach at Night Alone
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
Saorise Ronan – Lady Bird
Kristen Stewart – Personal Shopper
Allison Williams – Get Out


Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out


Elle Fanning – The Beguiled
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Elisabeth Moss – The Square
Bria Vinaite – The Florida Project


Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Colin Farrell – The Beguiled
Jake Gyllenhaal – Okja
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me by Your Name
Pruitt Taylor Vince – The Devil’s Candy


Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Bong Joon-ho & Jon Ronson – Okja
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Jordan Peele – Get Out


Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Sofia Bohdanowicz – Maison du Bonheur
Yorick Le Saux – Personal Shopper
Philippe Le Sourd – The Beguiled
Alexis Zabe – The Florida Project



I usually don't bother with doing a TV best-of, but given that this past year produced two of the most extraordinary seasons of television I've ever seen, I decided to post a list.

01. The Young Pope
02. Twin Peaks: The Return
03. The Keepers
04. The Handmaid's Tale
05. Game of Thrones
06. Riverdale
07. Master of None
08. Stranger Things
09. She's Gotta Have It
10. Colbert/Kimmel/Samantha Bee/John Oliver/Seth Meyers


Album (Cover) of the Year

A good substitute for Xmas music--available on both Spotify and Tidal!


Top Tens

10 Best Films I Saw in 2017
01. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)
02. 24 Frames (Kiarostami)
03. Get Out (Peele)
04. The Florida Project (Baker)
05. Super Dark Times (Phillips)
06. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong)
07. The Lost City of Z (Gray)
08. The Square (Östlund)
09. Call Me by Your Name (Guadagnino)
10. Mudbound (Rees)

10 Best Films of 2017, based on North American commercial release date
01. A Quiet Passion (Davies)
02. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)
03. The Death of Louis XIV (Serra)
04. Get Out (Peele)
05. The Florida Project (Baker)
06. Super Dark Times (Phillips)
07. Personal Shopper (Assayas)
08. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong)
09. The Lost City of Z (Gray)
10. The Square (Östlund)

01. The Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa
02. Drake - More Life
03. Taylor Swift - reputation
04. Jay-Z - 4:44
05. Morrissey - Low in High School
06. SZA - Ctrl
07. Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm
08. Björk - Utopia
09. Kelela - Take Me Apart
10. Sleater-Kinney - Live in Paris

01. Childish Gambino - "Redbone"
02. Cardi B - "Bodak Yellow"
03. SZA - "Drew Barrymore"
04. Ariana Grande - "Everyday"
05. Aly & AJ - "Take Me"
06. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Cut to the Feeling"
07. Drake - "Passionfruit"
08. Taylor Swift - "Gorgeous"
09. Harry Styles - "Sign of the Times"
10. Selena Gomez - "Bad Liar"


It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

This article points to an important, and disturbing, connection. And this one, to a very telling absence. Which is all the more to say, that Super Dark Times (a must-see) is--in a way that's not on-the-nose obvious or didactic about it--a kind of Garden of Eden story for our current cultural moment, with the two decades in between a Freudian latency period.


That's Not Officially for Sale
Ghost World is on Criterion!!!!!


Vive le Sénégal!

Thanks to the front-to-back fantastic Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa, my love of Afro-pop has fully been rekindled, not least Orchestra Baobab and their reunion masterpiece Specialist in All Styles and Youssou N'Dour's astonishing Egypt, two of the best records of the twenty-first century. The video above, from a concert earlier this year, very seriously begs the question: Is this the world's greatest band?


This ain't for the best / My reputation's never been worse...

Even if I'll always prefer her first three records (and especially the self-titled debut), there's no denying that Taylor 2.0 has her own distinctive charms, and this is the most impressive Taylor 2.0 record yet. When it's good, it's awfully good; reputation's six or seven best songs would hold their own with the six or seven best songs on any recent pop record or, for that matter, any Taylor 1.0 record. That's in part because she sounds altogether more confident in her reinvented persona (never more so than on "Ready for It?" and "I Did Something Bad") than she did on Red or 1989, but in part, too, because, persona aside, she actually hasn't reinvented as much as she lets on: going back to "Our Song" and "Tim McGraw," her greatest strength has always been her laserlike specificity as a songwriter, capturing very particular people, situations, moments, feelings more impeccably, and sometimes devastatingly, than any of her contemporaries. By contrast, she's at her worst when she goes for deep/cryptic/vague, especially when her 2.0 sonics aren't good enough to bail her out. That's why "Look What You Made Me Do" is probably the worst song she's ever released (and seemed like a dreadful portent for the record it was meant to preview). And it's why "Delicate" is her best track in years; and "Gorgeous" and "Call It What You Want" are nearly as terrific. These three, in particular, are perfect adaptations of New Taylor's of-the-moment pop palette to what she's always done best. With more songs as good as these, maybe I won't always prefer Old Taylor.


Just What I Was Feeling at the Time

01. The current NBA season I honestly can't remember a more thoroughly enjoyable time to be an avid pro basketball fan, in terms of the enormity and diversity of talent league-wide, interesting teams, brewing rivalries, and, as a bonus, the bountiful supply of high-quality writing available on All Things NBA, from general profile pieces to stats-heavy analysis to in-depth reports on PB&J preferences. Also, for last night's Raptors/Hornets game, Drake joined the on-air commentators for the entire 2nd half (minus a washroom break)! After the game, he even interviewed Kyle Lowry!

02. Super Dark Times I like Stranger Times plenty and found the new IT much better than expected. But this minor-key masterpiece is a perfect antidote to the resurgence of the cute, clever group of preteen/teenaged boys riding around suburbia on their bikes genre, as, by contrast, these teen boys are much more realistic and naturalistic: kind of dumb, awkward, and gross, not either angelic figures (as in Gus Van Sant, though there are good aesthetic comparisons to be made with Paranoid Park and, to a lesser extent, Elephant) nor lovable, wisecracking misfits engaging in precocious rapport that's funny yet ultimately reassuring to adults. And while it's set in the mid-90s, and does a good, relatively subtle job of evoking that time (when I was about the same age as these kids...), it's not awash in rose-colored nostalgia or rapid-fire period references. It's really one of the best, and most disturbing, dramatic representations of (white, male) teenaged awkwardness and anxiety I've ever seen. It left me shook!

03. On the Beach at Night Alone Hong Sang-soo's latest is one of his very best and Kim Min-hee's performance might be the most impactful I've seen all year; in retrospect, this makes me appreciate Claire's Camera more, as a kind of de facto companion piece.

04. Low in High School Better than World Peace... and Years of Refusal, hence his best in a decade-plus. Roughly half of it sounds surprising (in mostly good ways), the other half sounds exactly the way diehard Moz fans want it to sound.

05. Utopia Fewer surprises (though some), but never ever dull. She remains incapable of making a less-than-very-good record.

06. She's Gotta Have It We're only two episodes in, but this feels like a direct equivalent to Twin Peaks: The Return: Netflix clearly gave Spike Lee the same free rein that Showtime gave Lynch, and the results feel like the maximum-possible iterations of their respective aesthetics.

07. Brock Boeser Reason to believe.
The year's most important piece of film criticism is also one of the best essays on Culture Right Now, full-stop.


"It's fun putting your name in songs!"

Another terrific throwback--here, not just a revisiting but a reimagining--and Miley remembers her words better than Aly & AJ do.


Also This

Is it clear that I'm excited? Though the fact that their forthcoming album is called 10 Years--shockingly, the amount of time elapsed since their last one--kind of makes me feel old. Tempus fugit!

Anyway, Aly and AJ were excellent. As a refresher:

Exhibit A: "Potential Breakup Song" (in its original form)

Exhibit B: "Bullseye"

Exhibit C: "Blush" (their best ballad, which still sounds flawless)

They were well and truly at the vanguard of 2000s teenpop. Around that period, I spent a lot of time and words championing them, Amy Diamond, early Miley Cyrus (!), early Taylor Swift (!!), and Girls Aloud (not teenpop strictly speaking, but its regal godmothers). A decade on, most of it has held up pretty well!


2000s Teenpop Lives (kind of)!

Aly & AJ are back! With a terrific new single! And with a video by Alex Ross Perry, no less. (Also, Teresa just noticed that all-grown-up Aly plays Liv's roommate on iZombie, which blew my mind more than it probably should have.) Now, I'm actively pulling for an Amy Diamond comeback!


Ready to Wear

I like this second Reputation single much more than the first one, and better still when I pretend that it's not a Taylor Swift song at all--but, say, a new Selena Gomez album track, or by some up-and-coming pop ingenue with whom I'm as yet unfamiliar. My lack of interest in Swift-as-Celebrity-Person is equalled by my continuing affection for her first three records, and, to a lesser extent, her full-pop-turn stuff, sans "-country" qualifier. But this is fun and hooky, and where the debut single felt anonymous while purporting to be "personal," this quick-on-its-heels follow-up is unambiguously anonymous, which at least accommodates more flexibility in how we can listen to it. Which is to say, I won't mind hearing it play in clothing stores, etc. from now till the new year.

[Edit, later, same day: Actually, I really just like this, maybe a lot, and especially the slightly drawn-out, just slightly stressed vowel sounds: "see," "do" "dreams."]


KD is a Moz Fan

Who knew?! But Jon Hamm (supposedly) isn't.


This piece by Nate Silver perfectly captures the current state of the NBA, and the narrow path to win within it.


Holy Shit!

After, perhaps, the most quintessentially "Twin Peaks'y" episode of the reboot thus far (i.e., the episode most reminiscent of the original series and its "quirky" charms), the new one might be the most radical hour of American TV ever, and, really, as radical as anything Lynch has done in any medium. It's also, I think, the most legibly "religious"--Christian and otherwise--thing Lynch has made to date. Granted, I have an inclination to read things in a theological/allegorical light, but: the Lazarus-like resurrection of Bad Cooper; the nuclear testing ushering in a new, sinister Age of Man, making new forms of evil possible (like a Tree of Life building to the miraculous birth of Bob!) and/or opening up our world to primordial evils lying in wait, in some other dimension, of which the Black Lodge is a part; Laura Palmer emerging from the (God)head of the Giant and then sent forth into the world; the tramp's message over the radio, which sounded like some cryptic utterance of Jesus, marked out in red lettering; the young woman ostensibly "impregnated" not by her suitor but by some abomination spawned from the nuclear test; the very idea of the atomic/nuclear technology itself being dangerously, even apocalyptically transgressive, in the sense of humans using a kind of modern alchemy to effect destruction and death on a wholly unprecedented scale, in contrast to the previous ages of the world, wherein it was assumed that only G/god(s) could end worlds.

Also: Nine Inch Nails, the Middle School Me's favorite band!