The reel deal in 2017

The ‘Post’s’ film critic chooses her top 10 films of the year from both Israel and abroad.

A SCENE from Matan Yair’s ‘Scaffolding.’ (photo credit: VERED ADIR)
A SCENE from Matan Yair’s ‘Scaffolding.’
(photo credit: VERED ADIR)
For the past few years, my top 10 list has been about half Israeli movies, so this year, I decided to split it into two lists, one for Israeli movies and one for movies from abroad. As always, these lists are comprised of movies that played in Israeli theaters in the past year.
Looking back, it’s natural to search for common threads in the year’s movies. The most important trend on the international list is ingenuity. Directors of movies that did not involve superheroes and were not based on video games had to make the most of their small budgets and they did so, substituting originality and heart for special effects and stars.
The trend in Israeli movies is one that has been continuing for years: different voices telling stories that we’ve never seen before. Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between and Maha Haj’s Personal Affairs, both of which look at the lives of Arabs in Israel, while Matan Yair’s Scaffolding tells the story of a tough working-class kid who finally starts to take school seriously. These movies transcend politics and are both entertaining and illuminating. Shmulik Maoz’s Foxtrot was the focus of a political controversy, but it drew attention to itself by its cinematic virtuosity in a way that made even its sharpest political critics – at least those who bothered to see it – agree that it was a brilliant film. It became a flashpoint for so much anger because it was so good that it couldn’t be dismissed, which was true for all the movies on these lists.
The International Top 10
1. Get Out – This film by Jordan Peele was the most original movie of the year, combining horror, humor and pointed political and social commentary.
2. The Other Side of Hope – Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s witty and moving look at Europe’s migrant crisis.
3. The Big Sick – Co-written by standup comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, this low-key romantic comedy was the sleeper hit of the year.
4. Battle of the Sexes – An enjoyable look at a bizarre interlude in American sports, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ film features an amazing performance by Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs and a surprisingly credible one by Emma Stone as Billie Jean King.
5. Moonlight – The surprise winner of the Best Picture Oscar, Barry Jenkins’ brilliant coming-of-age story about a gay African-American boy in Miami was well acted and heartbreaking.
6. 20th Century Women – Mike Mills’ quirky look at a single mother (Annette Bening) and two other women who help raise her son in California in the late ‘70s.
7. The Unknown Girl – Adèle Haenel gives a memorable performance in this story by the Dardenne brothers that combines a mystery with a serious story about a doctor with a troubled conscience.
8. On Body and Soul – Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi tells a truly strange story of a romance between the manager of a slaughterhouse and a government inspector, who fall in love when they dream the same dreams.
9. The Carer – Brian Cox shines in János Edelényi’s story of an ailing Shakespearean actor and his young, foreign caregiver (Coco Konig).
10. Primaire (aka Elementary) – Helene Angel’s realistic and emotional look at the life of a devoted teacher, beautifully played by Sara Forestier.
The Israeli Top 10
1. In Between – Maysaloun Hamoud’s emotional, funny and stylish look at three Arab women living in Tel Aviv broke barriers and won worldwide acclaim.
2. Foxtrot – The most controversial film of the year and the most accomplished, Shmulik Maoz’s film focused on a grieving family and their son, a soldier at a remote outpost.
3. Personal Affairs – Maha Haj’s meticulously crafted and often funny look at a troubled family from Nazareth.
4. Scaffolding – Matan Yair based this compelling drama about a tough kid from a working-class family on his experiences as a teacher and the movie has an authentic feel.
5. The Museum – A look behind the scenes at the Israel Museum that captures the heart and soul of the place, by Ran Tal.
6. The Cakemaker – Ofir Raul Graizer’s lyrical look at love, betrayal and baking, set in a wintry Jerusalem.
7. Saving Neta – Nir Bergman’s offbeat look at several strong women and the man who brings them together.
8. A Quiet Heart – In this film by Eitan Anner, Ania Bukstein gives a lovely performance as a troubled pianist who flees her life in Tel Aviv to take refuge in Jerusalem, where she finds herself at the center of a religious-secular controversy in her new neighborhood.
9. Indoors – Eitan Green’s film stars Yuval Segal as a father whose financial problems drive him to the edge.
10. Conventional Sins – There is nothing conventional about this documentary by Anat Zuria and Shira Clara Winter about sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community.