GEORGE’S BEST FILMS OF 2017
Based on seeing 112 films this year. Two films tie for my top spot. I cannot place one film over the other and they could not be more different. Film critic Pauline Kael titled one of her books “I Lost It At The Movies” I lost myself in both these films. The rest of my top ten are in no particular order. Criticism is always personal, even though it comes from watching and studying thousands of films. All the films on my list speak to me in some way.
1) CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
I first saw Luca Guadagnino’s film at the Sundance Film Festival, it was one of my favorites. Eleven months later having recently seen it again, it still holds on top of my list. It is one of the the most beautiful coming of age stories I have seen in a long time. It captures first love with such beautiful intimacy. The film is filled with sensory moments that capture first love in such simple specific detail. The cast is terrific, led by a wonderfully nuanced and star-making performance by Timothée Chalamet. Shot on 35mm (Film is not dead!) in the beautiful part of Northern Italy. It should be experienced on the big screen. Like my other favorite film,The Florida Project, it has a moving and profound climax which includes a beautiful speech given by Michael Stuhlbarg to his son that still lingers in my mind.
1) THE FLORIDA PROJECT
An empathetic and heartbreaking portrait of the outliers of society often overlooked by film and ignored in life. Sean Baker directs his story with
authenticity and not an ounce of sentimentality. It has the feel of a documentary. Many of the performances are by first time non-actors that are so raw and honest. Willem Defoe gives one of his finest and unexpected performances. Six year old Brooklyn Prince as Mooniee ripped my heart apart. I was so emotionally invested in the outcome of her character. The final powerful ending was heart- wrenching. Yes I cried friends. It bought back memories of the great Luis Buñuel film “Los Olvidados”
Set in the American South during WW II, Dee Ree’s has directed an epic and moving novelistic story in the tradition of John Ford. I loved her multiple character viewpoints, rarely seen in films. The depth of humanity is why I loved this film. Beautifully shot by Rachel Morrison (a film worth seeing on the big screen) The best ensemble of the year!
3) LOVING VINCENT
This animated biopic on Van Gogh is an absolutely astonishing achievement. 120 painters working with oil and canvas on approximately 65,000 frames make Van Gogh paintings come to life. A Beautiful and absorbing film, with first-rate character voices. I may be a bit biased, Van Gogh being my favorite painter but I loved this film!
4) GET OUT
Where to I begin with the originality of Jordan Peele film. Is it a horror film
? A comedy? A thriller? A satire? It is all these and none. It takes genre conventions and turns them into a cautionary tale filled with potent ideas and the state of race relations in America. It is smart, provocative. It is a completely different and even scarier experience the second time around. It has my vote as the most original screenplay of the year!
5) PATTI CAKE$
I must preface I am a sucker for underdog music stories. I first saw Patti Cake$ at the Sundance Film Festival and by the end credits standing ovation that continued right until the cast came on stage, I and everyone in the theatre were so knocked out by the performances of Danielle MacDonald (An Aussie playing a Jersey girl) and Bridget Everett. I could not imagine this underdog story working without them. I fell in love with these offbeat characters whose aspirations and dreams seemed impossible. Geremy Jasper’s impressive directing debut even though stylized at times cannot be diminished for his wonderful casting and lived in truth. Wait until you see the performance by Cathy Moriarty. The film reminded me of 8 Mile crossed with Hustle & Flow. Why this film failed at the box office is beyond me. Anyone who did see it loved it. A big-hearted film!
6) I, TONYA
My first reaction was to call this dark comedic tale of figure skater Tonya Harding Scorsese on ice/ Martin Scorsese did not direct it, Craig Gillespie (Lars And The Real Girl) did. It has a kinetic rock n roll energy to it that I dug. From the larger than life performances, to the directing and flawless editing. Funny as hell. Margot Robbie as Tonya is terrific. Totally unexpected. I surprisingly sympathized with Harding by the end. Allison Jenney’s performance blew me away! I went to see the film a second time for her performance alone. Hysterical and frightening a the same time.
Greta Gerwig’s self-assured directing debut at first seems like a charming familiar coming-of- age story. Yet what makes it special is the heartfelt empathy I had for all its characters. It also has one of the most truthful relationships between a mother and daughter. Something I don’t often see in films. Saoirse Ronan’s transformation from adolescence to adulthood right before your eyes was quite wonderful to behold. Tracy Letts speaks volumes with his silences. The real standout from a wonderful ensemble is Laurie Medcalf. She for me was the emotional anchor of the entire film.
8) 😎 THE POST
Steven Spielberg’s relevant film was made with a purpose and you can feel its parallels reminding us of the importance of a free press. It’s a solid thriller told in classic old school style filmmaking. Telling us the story in a straightforward compelling manner. Another outstanding ensemble led by the always terrific Meryl Streep, who plays hesitation beautifully and somehow manages to add dignity to the story.
9) THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
My first impression of Billboards was mixed. I found it a one-note expression of such angry and hateful characters. I thought to myself was the director/writer Martin McDonagh (who writes the best dialogue!) reflecting on our current hateful divide and political climate? Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes had a strong reason, but why are the rest of these characters so angry and Rockwell’s racist baby child character so hateful. I could not see past that. Then I revisited a second time and saw within the anger and hate a wickedly dark comic drama of damaged human beings, redemption and forgiveness. I was profoundly moved. Except for one miscast role the cast was terrific. McDormant’s righteous and unforgettable character was riveting from first frame to last. It felt like a modern day western.
I have always found Chris Nolan’s work emotionally detached. Yet this flawed film that has practically non- existing characters, got to me by its sheer tour de force cinematic craft and sound design. It is truly an extraordinary visual experience. The only way to experience its power is to see it on the big screen. Shot on 70mm film.
CROWN HEIGHTS A powerful fact-based drama about Colin Warner wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years in jail and how friend, Carl King devoted 20 years to proving his innocence. A great story of friendship, that moved me deeply. Adding to its power, Laketh Stanfields beautifully subtle performance.
GOOD TIME The Safdi Brothers knock-out of a crime drama. It grabs you from the get go and never lets you go. I may have wanted it to stop and take a breather but not here. A tense, relentless thriller. You can easily see the Scorsese influence. Robert Pattinson is a revelation from his previous work. Excellent work. The title may not fit the experience, but you won’t easily forget it.
A memorable and moving portrait of Jane Goodall. My favorite documentary of the year!
THE BIG SICK
I first saw this at the Sundance Film Festival and walked out with a big smile on my face. I found it funny, heartfelt and touching. I just loved the chemistry between Kumail Nangiani and Zoe Kazan, you cared about the outcome of this couple even when love faltered. Holly Hunter wonderful and a surprising nice turn from Ray Romano. It could have shaved off some 15 min. Why do comedies insist on being so long? That said, I so enjoyed spending time with these characters.
IT HAPPEN IT LA
Director, writer and star Michelle Morgan, yes she did all three for her feature debut. Quite an achievement if you ask me! Talk about guts! A charming and clever tale of loves tribulations and searching for love in Los Angeles. Morgan’s writing reminded of the best of Whit Stillman and Woody Allen. Unfortunately not many have seen this film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. I can’t wait to see what Morgan does next. Available on iTunes
A taunted and twisted chamber piece of a thriller. Worth your time, just to witness the mesmerizing and ferocious performance of Florence Pugh. I would hire this actress in a heartbeat! Unforgettable.
THE DISASTER ARTIST
James Franco’s funny and poignant film about the making of the cult film “The Room” considered by many one of the worst films ever made. I saw The Disaster Artist before having recently seen The Room, by the request of a couple of friends. It was an experience seeing it with its fan base, but it was worse than I had imagined. James Franco’s take on this hard to believe true story from his direction to his hysterical performance had me laughing more than any film this year. It is a story of friendship and following your creative passion, at no cost.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s hard to embrace, chamber piece made my list because I am still thinking about it and want to see it again. Beautiful painterly compositions, the most gorgeous score by Johnny Greenwood. Daniel Day Lewis again fascinates with his every moment of behavior. Vicky Kreips excellent and Lesley Manville reminded of Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock’s film Rebecca. Anderson’s film perplexed and fascinated at the same time. Ingmar Bergman meets Martin Scorsese’s Age Of Innocence.
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ABOUT GEORGE: George Zaverdas has been a marketing professional-turned-filmmaker with twenty four years in the motion picture industry. Known as George Zaver in the world of film market research, he has managed test and press screenings and moderated focus groups for the leading research films including Screen Engine, National Research Group, ERm, IPSOS, and Worldwide Motion Picture Group. George has worked as a film programmer and film consultant on hundreds of films. He currently works on a freelance basis for various marketing companies as an independent film consultant, and is directing actors for an On-Camera Workshop for Deborah Lemen Studios.
George has directed two award-winning shorts. DAVID & GOLIATH has played in over one hundred film festivals world wide and has won numerous film awards including the Global Audience Award at Manhattan Film Fest. His latest film, UNSPOKEN is currently playing the festival circuit. This film recently won the Best Dramatic Short at the St. Lawrence Film Festival and has also received honorable mentions at the Coronado International Film Festival and WorldFest Houston Film Festival. George has also directed music videos for upcoming artists. Prior to his career and a filmmaker and consultant, George was an actor and studied drama at the California Institute Of The Arts, the Circle in the Square Professional Workshop, and the School of Visual Arts for film. George is a graduate of the High School Of Performing Arts. George is a founding member of the Non-Profit film collective Filmmakers Alliance, Film Independent, and he is a member of SAG/AFTRA.