Despite all evidence to the contrary, that was a year. Sure, democracy, the environment, and all societal structures collapsed around us, but across the world there was universal agreement that some good had come out of 2017: Hell Is For Hyphenates and that video of Agnès Varda dancing with Angelina Jolie at the 2017 Governors Awards. And we agree.
At Hyphenates HQ we had our second ever changing of the guard, as Sophie departed and Rochelle joined. We skirted briefly into ripped-from-the-headlines territory as Sophie attended the Asghar Farhadi protest screening of The Salesman in Leicester Square and shared the audio of the speeches after we looked back at Farhadi’s career. We also managed to achieve a long-time goal, finally featuring a guest who had also been a subject, with this one-two hit happening in successive months.
And we don’t mean to brag, but did you check out the lineup of guests this year?
We welcomed back author and screenwriter C Robert Cargill, exactly five years after his first appearance. We spoke to some of the world’s top film critics from around the world, including Tina Hassannia, Britt Hayes, Scott Weinberg, and Emma Westwood. We were joined by the legendary producer Rebecca O’Brien and rising indie filmmaker Jennifer Reed. We had the amazing comedian and actor Michael Ian Black on Skype, and Oscar-winning animator Adam Elliot in person. We shored up our stable of renowned guests with some of the world’s top directors, including Edgar Wright, Neil Marshall, and Luca Guadagnino. It was a wall-to-wall embarrassment of riches.
And look at the filmmakers we covered! We talked the films of Ken Loach, Asghar Farhadi, Allison Anders, Neil Marshall, Joe Dante, Everett De Roche, Wes Anderson, George Miller, Sylvester Stallone, Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Roman Polanski, and Maurice Pialat. We debated many of the biggest and most interesting new releases in cinemas, and dove into film news topical, trivial and sometimes difficult.
But there’s still some rounding up to do, so continue reading for some solid best-of-the-year action, beginning with a selection of end-of-year posts from Hi4H alumni.
End of Year Lists: Blogs
The contributors at Concrete Playground, including Sarah Ward and Tom Clift, got together to list their ten picks for the ten best films of the year, and Sarah Ward lists the ten best films hardly anyone saw.
Sarah Ward also contributes her personal top ten of the year to Matt Toomey’s roundup of Brisbane film critics’ best of lists.
Ian Barr keeps it low-key, and contains his top ten films of the year to a single tweet.
Thomas Caldwell lists his top ten films of 2017, alongside the runners-up, on his blog Cinema Autopsy.
On Medium, Mel Campbell takes us through the films she loved the most in 2017.
Richard Gray reveals his best films of the year, with an additional focus on Australian and Asian cinema, at The Reel Bits.
Giles Hardie reveals his picks for the best films of 2017, with a variety of interesting sub-categories, over at Nova 96.9.
Britt Hayes shares her ten favourite films of 2017 at ScreenCrush.
Alicia Malone made a Top 50 of 2017 list and posted it on her Letterboxd account.
Drew McWeeny unveils his top ten films of 2017 and shows his work on Tracking Board.
Simon Miraudo lists his top ten movies of 2017 – as well as twenty-five runners-up – over at Student Edge.
Anthony Morris takes us through the year in movies, with his nineteen best and sixteen worst at It’s Always Better in the Dark.
Scott Weinberg runs down his favourite horror films of 2017 at Thrillist.
Paul Anthony Nelson crafts an extensive detailed look back at the films of 2017, featuring his top twenty films, his unearthed treasures, and a whole lot more besides, at his website Cinema Viscera.
Rochelle goes into more detail about her favourite films of the year as she runs down her eleven favourites of 2017 at It’s Always Better in the Dark.
Lee’s rundown of his 15 favourite films of the year, plus an unnecessarily thorough list of every film he watched in 2017, can be found on his website.
And here are some best ofs from filmmakers we’ve discussed on the show: John Waters reveals his typically eclectic and always fascinating top ten of the year; Indiewire features a collation of many directors’ favourite films, with contributions from Guillermo Del Toro and Pedro Almódovar; Steven Soderbergh lists everything he’s seen and read in 2017 at Extension 765.
End of Year Lists: Media/Broadcast
The Triple R film criticism radio show/podcast Plato’s Cave presented the favourite films of 2017 as chosen by Hi4H alum Thomas Caldwell, Cerise Howard, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood.
Garth Franklin made a short video montage of his best films of the year for his website Dark Horizons.
Maria Lewis filmed her own video rundown of her picks for the top ten films of the year, released on her YouTube channel.
SOPHIE, ROCHELLE AND LEE LOOK BACK ON HYPHENATES IN 2017
Top five Hi4H film discoveries (that you hadn’t seen before)?
Sophie: I want to squeeze in a late 2016 pick, because (weirdly) I lean Lean: The Sound Barrier, a 1952 frippery about airplane manufacture, has really stayed with me, for its perfect encapsulation of the assertion of a post-war Englishness resealing around the disturbance of WWII. Call it Brexit nostalgia goggles for the time that the UK had an industry of any sort, but the verve of what could really have just been an industrial training film has lingered and charmed.
Things Behind the Sun (2001), Allison Anders’ most devastating film. I thought I’d seen all of Anders, being a huge fan, but this one – starring Kim Dickens, whose gallery of TV vulnerable tough gals (Deadwood, Treme) had already endeared her to me – seared my eyelids off. It’s extraordinary. If there were ever a film that should be revived as part of the “#metoo” moment, it’s this drama about truth and reconciliation after rape. Double bill it with Ida Lupino’s Outrage (1950) to realise that women have been telling the truth about sexual violence since long before Taylor Swift…
Loaching for January really set the tone for the Trump/Brexitageddon. One we didn’t talk about too much on the podcast but has really stayed with me is Hidden Agenda (1990), not that this year has made me paranoid or anything. Not only does it have the most raffle-in-a-hat cast of all time (Brad Dourif AND Mai Zetterling?! Cult heaven), but it’s dogged determination to uncover one small truth that stands in for the larger corruption of British imperialism just seems to fit 2017. We need more filmmaking like it. Plus I’d already seen my other fave, the sweeter-natured Carla’s Song, a few times…
Props to brilliant critic Tina Hassannia for introducing us to Asghar Farhadi’s pre-About Elly films, especially the twisty Fireworks Wednesday (2006), with its exquisite glass elevator shot and star-making turn by to-be-regular Farhadi performer Taraneh Alidoosti as impressionistic cleaner Rouhi, who becomes an awkward go-between for a warring couple, while pursuing her own romantic dreams. It was a great precursor screening for The Salesman, in which Farhadi similarly leads us into the intimate spaces of the Tehrani middle-class as they rub up against the lives of workers.
The whole existence of Everett de Roche had not really established itself in my mind, despite having seen Not Quite Hollywood, so June was a generally bewildering deep dive into a whole film culture and practice that reminded me just how little I know about cinema, and how many hidden treats remain in local indie film cultures.
- Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) – Believe it or not, I’d never watched this all the way through before.
- Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962)
- We Won’t Grow Old Together (Maurice Pialat, 1972)
- Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, 1976)
- Rambo: First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 1982)
Lee: I’m going to try to keep to one-film-per-filmmaker, which may be tricky given there were a lot of filmmakers this year whose stuff I was already pretty familiar with. I definitely would have included some Asghar Farhadi, Wes Anderson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet if I wasn’t already a fan. Nonetheless, here are my five best brand-new-for-me discoveries:
Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)
Things Behind the Sun (Allison Anders, 2001)
Road Games (Everett De Roche, 1981)
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, 1976)
Under the Sun of Satan (Maurice Pialat, 1987)
(And yes, due to the format of the show, I felt like conferring authorship upon the artist whose career we examined, which is not always the director. Don’t @ me.)
These are the titles that stuck with the most this year, the works I couldn’t shake. I don’t think Things Behind the Sun is necessarily my favourite Allison Anders film (what up, Grace of My Heart), but it’s the one that I’ve thought about the most since seeing it. I can’t get it out of my head.
Which new filmmakers to emerge in 2017 are you most excited about?
Sophie: Yance Ford, director of Strong Island, my documentary of the year, and the eight filmmakers who made Waru, my fiction feature of the year. It is incredible that these are (in various, sometimes complex senses) debut films – and testament to how hard it is for filmmakers of colour to reach the screen with a feature project that gets any kind of distribution. Their work, its intensity and its global reach, are all exciting to me.
Ford was a producer at the documentary series POV, and many of the Waru crew had worked as screenwriters (particularly the terrific Briar Grace Smith) or in production (like Ainsley Gardiner and Chelsea Cohen, who both produced for Taika Waititi) or in TV (like Casey Kaa and – for me, the standout – Paula Jones) or theatre (like Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu, also outstanding). These talented filmmakers with tons of experience needed that one opportunity, and did they ever take it.
Strong Island and Waru both speak to the excitement possible when dedicated film funding finds its way to serious new talents with something incredible to say. Watch their films, and support them to make more.
Rochelle: Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird is really impressive. Can’t wait to see what she does next. So too, Jordan Peele’s Get Out was inventive and fun. Macon Blair’s I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore was uneven and weird, but also fresh, thoughtful and surprising.
Lee: Jordan Peele’s encyclopaedic knowledge of genre conventions and clichés was part of what made Key and Peele the best sketch show in living memory, and the feature film Keanu (which he co-wrote and co-starred in alongside Keegan-Michael Key) was an underrated joy. But even knowing all that, were we really prepared for the greatness of his directorial debut Get Out? It confidently riffed on classic horror tropes, boasted an aesthetic that was somehow classical and subversive at once, and had the unfakeable energy that comes when a filmmaker is burning up with something to say.
Now jump back a few years to when the films of Noah Baumbach sharply improved, at roughly the same time Greta Gerwig appeared as his key collaborator. As star, as muse, and most importantly as co-writer, she was the noticeable ingredient that made his films click the way they’d always promised to, so it’s hardly surprising that her debut as director should be so assured, confident, and note-perfect. The coming-of-age tale Lady Bird is deceptively complex, consistently funny, and never inauthentic. If we could get a new film from Gerwig each year from now until the end of time, I would be grateful.
A debut that impressed me mightily was Julia Ducournau’s Raw. This French cannibalism drama was intense and unusual, a remarkable opening shot that clearly heralds a career to watch. Maybe from behind steepled fingers.
I’ve also been a big fan of Alice Lowe for years (since long before we somehow nabbed her as a Hi4H guest host!), mildly obsessing over her performances in Hot Fuzz and Snuff Box and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, as well as her dual roles as co-writer and star of 2012’s massively underrated Sightseers. So I’ve been psyched for her directorial debut Prevenge ever since it the premise was announced: a pregnant woman is compelled to commit murders by her foetus, who whispers instructions to her from the womb. If that premise wasn’t great enough on its face, it was made greater by the fact that she wrote, directed and starred in the film when she was eight months pregnant. Even if the film hadn’t been brilliant, it would still be a feat to marvel at. But it was brilliant, as it was always going to be, and I hope to live in a world where every time Alice has a new idea, someone backs a truck full of cash up to her house.
I was also able to attend the cast and crew screening of a Melbourne-made modern gumshoe film noir called Trench, the first feature by some guy called Paul Anthony Nelson. I don’t know much about him, other than the fact that he’s clearly going places and I can’t wait to see what he makes next. Also keep an eye out for the film’s breakout star, a Security Guard with no lines. That guy has leading man written all over him.
Which five filmmakers would you like to see us cover on the show?
Sophie: See above re: how many talented filmmakers who are not cismale and/or not white have to work exponentially as hard to get to five. So:
Julie Dash – OK, only one of her films (the epic, just restored Daughters of the Dust) so far has had theatrical release, but she has worked solidly for 25 years and inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers. And Beyonce. I’m just saying: Beyonce for Hyphenates guest?
Merata Mita – when is a film not a film? When it’s a documentary. Apparently. Mita would be an ideal first documentarist for the show (she directed a feature, Mauri, as well), as her films deserve global attention. Look: they named a Sundance award after her. Sold.
Mira Nair – her most recent feature, Queen of Katwe, won hearts and minds the world over. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Salaam Bombay! Time to celebrate this genre-hopping director who celebrates multiculturalism. Just think about how much Donald Trump would hate that.
Amma Asante – Where Hands Touch, due in 2018, will be her fourth feature, and her third in five years, tackling big themes of intercultural romance amid dystopian politics. She’s got dozens more films to make, no doubt – but why not celebrate her while she’s on a roll!
Lucrecia Martel – because seriously: how has no-one picked her yet?! She’s the most important global auteur of the 21st century, and also ineffably cool. Her ambitious new feature Zama is sure to get everyone talking, so it’s a perfect time to pick up her three previous feature films, as well as her docs and shorts.
Rochelle: I’m going to keep it patriotic and name five Australian directors, the majority of them women:
- Gillian Armstrong
- Clara Law
- Jocelyn Moorhouse
- Phil Noyce
- Rolf de Heer
Lee: I try to change these up every year, but I can’t remember what I’ve said in the past and I can’t be bothered looking it up. So right now, based purely on how I’m feeling in this moment, I would be pretty happy it if our 2018 slate included Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron, Stanley Kramer, Kenji Mizoguchi, Federico Fellini.
What are your most anticipated films of 2017?
Sophie: Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, in the hopes that its optimistic portrayal of a vivid, inclusive, hopeful world can literally create a wrinkle in time and take us back to, say, 2016? 2015? Just for a small do-over. Of course, that’s not how the ethics of L’Engle’s story works. But this will be the magical experience that our hearts sorely need, anyway.
Not confirmed for 2018, but fingers crossed: Carol Morley’s Patricia Clarkson-starring astrophysics thriller Out of the Blue. Clarkson plays Det. Mike Hoolihan in a gender-swapping take on a metaphysical investigation that – well. It’s all secret for now. But how can it not be amazing? Jackie Weaver and Yolonda Ross support.
Silas Howard bounces from Transparent to a solo feature, A Kid Like Jake, adapting Daniel Pearle’s play about a child who gets banned from going to McDonald’s. Oh, and is incidentally gender nonconforming. The cast includes Ann Dowd and Octavia Spencer: together at last. Although not as Jake’s parents. Cmon Silas, next film!
Idris Elba’s Yardie. Is directed by Idris Elba. What more do you need? OK, it looks set to revive the 1970s British-Caribbean cinema that energised a moribund UK film culture. Plus, total snap with the revival of 1970s British racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Razzie: It must be a mistake that Lizzie, a film about Lizzie Borden starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, is not directed by Lizzie Borden, of the legendary Born In Flames. Or it’s a criminally missed opportunity. So I’ll be skipping that one.
Rochelle: I’ve already seen and adored Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson), The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) and Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig). I’m very much looking forward to finally seeing Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country, and I’m intrigued by the sound of Garth (Lion) Davis’s biblical drama Mary Magdalene, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus.
Lee: Not to turn this month into an unrelenting Luca Guadagnino love-in, but his remake of Suspiria is damn high on my list. I was incredibly psyched for Gary Ross’s Ocean’s Eight, and that excitement has increased exponentially since that first trailer was released. I’m also hopping from foot to foot in anticipation of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, Haifaa al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley, Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, and Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane.
And yeah, okay, I’m pretty psyched for Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. I dig these films. Whatevs.
Also: in 2014, I listed Martin Scorsese’s Silence as one of my most anticipated films of 2015, because I thought 2015 was when we were getting it. But I’d jumped the gun and the film clearly wasn’t finished yet, so I listed it for 2016 as well. Except that the release date was delayed in Australia, so I ended up listing it for 2017. And yes, the film has come out, and I have seen it, but I can’t bring myself to break with tradition. So my most anticipated film of 2018 is, for the fourth year running, Martin Scorsese’s Silence.
Happy new year, everybody!