LJ Best Books 2017

It's time again for LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry and literature, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles.   SEE WHO MADE THE LIST

Best Media 2017: DVDs

LJ video reviewer/Fast Scans columnist Jeff T. Dick sticks to feature films for this annual best-of, listing more independent and international titles with greater diversity in genre and format—best exemplified by
The Red Turtle, which is both animated and, except for music and sound effects, mostly silent. The oxymoronic term instant classic best describes this too-­little-seen multi-award ­nominee.

CLASSIC FILM
Barry Lyndon. 2 discs. 185+ min. Stanley Kubrick, Criterion Collection.
DVD ISBN 9781681433714; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681433707. Rated: PG
.
An opportunistic Irish rogue (Ryan O’Neal) rises in 18th-century British society only to fall hard in this lush 1975 adaptation of William Makepeace ­Thackeray’s 1844 novel. Every frame looks like a painting, especially in this glorious 4K restoration. (LJ 12/17)

Blow-Up. 2 discs. 111+ min. Michelangelo Antonioni, Criterion Collection.
DVD ISBN 9781681432670; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681432663.

While shooting in a park, a swinging-­Sixies London fashion photographer (David Hemmings) apparently captures a murder in an epistemological mystery focused on interpreting a blown-up 35mm frame. Sharply restored and remastered in 4K. (LJ 6/15/17)

Seven Days in May. b/w. 118+ min. John Frankenheimer, Warner Archive.
Blu-ray UPC 888574488604.

During the Cold War, a hawkish general (Burt Lancaster) mounts a secret military coup fought tooth and nail by a patriotic colonel (Kirk Douglas). This tense 1964 conspiracy thriller is lent paranoid credibility by its stark docudrama style.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? 2+ hrs. Sydney Lumet, Kino Lorber.
DVD UPC 738329216597; Blu-ray UPC 738329216603. Rated: PG.

In this 1969 drama, debuting in HD, desperation drives the contestants in a ­Depression-era dance marathon in which a manipulative emcee (Gig Young) puts couples (e.g., top-billed Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin) through an endurance test. (LJ 11/1/17)

FOREIGN FILM
Cinema Paradiso. 2 discs. 174+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles.
Giuseppe Tornatore, Arrow. Blu-ray UPC 760137976981. Rated: R.

Middle-aged Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) rekindles an adolescent romance thwarted by his film projectionist mentor Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) in a previously omitted story line restored in this high-definition extended cut of the 1988 cinema homage. (LJ 3/15/17)

Frantz. color & b/w. 113+ min. In French & German w/English subtitles. François Ozon, Music Box. DVD UPC 751778950867; Blu-ray UPC 751778950874. Rated: PG-13.
A French infantryman (Pierre Niney) grieves for his German counterpart killed in World War I, befriending the soldier’s fiancée (Paula Beer) and even the man’s distraught parents before finally coming clean in this tangled story of guilt and forgiveness. (LJ 8/17)

Heal the Living. 103+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Katell Quillévéré,
Cohen Media Group. DVD UPC 741952838296; Blu-ray UPC 741952838395.

The beat goes on for the donated heart of a 19-year-old boy left brain dead by a car crash after his parents agonize over removing life support, offering a new lease on life to a short-of-breath middle-aged woman whose own organ is inexorably dying. (LJ 10/15/17)

Pelle the Conqueror. 150+ min. In Danish & Swedish w/English subtitles. Bille August, Film Movement. DVD UPC 859686006147; Blu-ray UPC 859686006154. Rated: PG-13.
The young son (Pelle Hvenegaard) of an aging widower (Max von Sydow) comes to realize the need for his independence after both flee Sweden for a better life in Denmark just to end up as indentured servants in this restored 1988 Oscar winner. (LJ 7/17)

INDIE
Always Shine. 85+ min. Sophia Takal, Oscilloscope. DVD UPC 857490005356;
Blu-ray UPC 857490005363.

Two actresses (Caitlin FitzGerald, ­Mackenzie Davis) whose friendship has been strained by professional jealousy reunite for a weekend getaway that ends with a fateful clash in this provocative psychological thriller blurring reality and fiction. (LJ 4/15/17)

Get Out. 104+ min. Jordan Peele, Universal. DVD UPC 191329005750;
Blu-ray/DVD UPC 191329005767. Rated: R.

A white gal (Allison Williams) brings her black boyfriend (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet the folks in a satiric horror film taking on racism best described as a mashup of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Stepford Wives, and Rosemary’s Baby.

The Lost City of Z. 141+ min. James Gray, Broadgreen. DVD UPC 191329023266;
Blu-ray UPC 191329023242; DVD/Blu-ray UPC 191329028711. Rated: PG-13.

Early 20th-century British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) discovers remnants of an advanced civilization in the Amazon jungle only to be met with skepticism that spurs him to repeated forays culminating in his disappearance. (Trailers, LJ 6/1/17)

The Red Turtle. 81+ min. Michaël Dudok de Wit, Sony. DVD UPC 043396499881;
Blu-ray UPC 043396499874. Rated: PG.

A man shipwrecked on an island builds a raft only to have his escape repeatedly thwarted by a giant turtle who eventually provides him with a mate. A hand-drawn animated fable sublimely told with sound effects and music but no words.

Their Finest. 117+ min. Lone Scherfig, Lionsgate. DVD UPC 031398265948;
Blu-ray UPC 031398265979. Rated: R.

A plucky female scriptwriter (Gemma ­Arterton) on an alpha-male British Ministry of Information film production fights to tell the story of two sisters who rescued soldiers at Dunkirk in a humorous ode to morale-building, wartime moviemaking. (LJ 10/15/17)

Wind River. 107+ min. Taylor Sheridan, Lionsgate. DVD UPC 031398274681;
Blu-ray UPC 031398274711. Rated: R.

In a thoughtful thriller directed by the writer of last year’s Hell or High Water, a novice FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) pairs with a game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the suspicious death of a Native American girl on a remote reservation.

DOCUMENTARY
City of Ghosts. 92+ min. Matthew Heineman, Broadgreen. Blu-ray UPC 191329029220. Rated: R.
Armed only with smartphone cameras, Syrian citizen journalists bear witness to the atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State militants against terrorized civilians in the city of Raqqa. Shot with unflinching immediacy by the maker of Cartel Land.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. color & b/w. 94+ min. Daniel Raim,
Zeitgeist c/o Kino Lorber. DVD UPC 738329225483; Blu-ray UPC 738329225490.

A funny, poignant, and revealing portrait of storyboard artist Harold Michelson and his film researcher wife Lillian, who worked on hundreds of movies in roles little known to moviegoers in what could alternatively be called “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (LJ 1/18)

I Am Not Your Negro. color & b/w. 93+ min. Raoul Peck, Magnolia.
DVD UPC 876964011891; Blu-ray UPC 976964015493. Rated: PG-13.

Still-relevant James Baldwin (1924–87) takes no prisoners in fluently addressing the complicated subject of race in America, as powerfully presented through inter­views and notes for a proposed book he sadly didn’t live to finish. A 2017 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary (Feature). (ow.ly/qJUN30h1sN4)

Kedi. 79+ min. In Turkish w/English subtitles. Ceyda Torun, Oscilloscope.
DVD UPC 857490005431; Blu-ray UPC 857490005448.

Feeding off the kindness of strangers, seven temperamentally varied stray cats wandering the streets of Istanbul touch the lives of locals enriched by their feline interactions even as the objects of their affection retain a certain mystery. (LJ 1/18)

Obit. 96+ min. Vanessa Gould, Kino Lorber. DVD UPC 738329216993;
Blu-ray UPC 738329217006.

The obituary writers at the New York Times celebrate life more than announce the death of newsworthy people as they carefully research, interview, and discuss apt word counts and coverage while working on tight deadlines. (LJ 1/18)

Tower. color & b/w. 83+ min. Keith Maitland, Kino Lorber. DVD UPC 738329211981;
Blu-ray UPC 738329211998.

The day of terror in 1966 when a sniper on the Austin campus of the University Texas killed 16 and wounded 31 is vividly re-created by combining archival footage with animated reenactments and recent interviews with survivors and first responders in this innovative document. (LJ 2/1/17)

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