Faves of 2017: Graham Skipper, Actor and Filmmaker

Graham Skipper has appeared in films like Almost Human, The Mind’s Eye, Beyond the Gates, and Downrange. He also starred as Herbert West in Re-Animator: The Musical. Most recently, Skipper wrote and directed the sci-fi/horror/romance film Sequence Break, which will be screening on Shudder in 2018. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrahamSkipper.

My top 10… everything of 2017. What the hell do I write about? I saw lots of movies, so maybe that? Listened to a lot of music, too… Also saw some plays…

I decided to list my favorite “thing” in 10 different categories. And I’m sure this will change in about an hour. It was a weird year for a lot of reasons. But it’s also been an awesome year in a lot of other ways.

Let’s look at the awesome, shall we?

Best Wide Release Movie of 2017

Easy. Get Out. This movie is a seismic punch to the gut of the American racial divide, a perfectly balanced horror/comedy that features some of the very best acting in any movie this year, and by far the most powerful message. This movie is vital, it’s necessary, and it does what all great socially-conscious movies do: it sneaks its message up on you without you seeing it coming. It’s perfect.

Best Festival Movie of 2017

I was lucky enough to tour the film festival circuit this year with my film Sequence Break, and thus saw a ton of amazing movies that haven’t yet (or are very close to) come out for the general public. That said, my favorite of those I saw is Joseph Kahn’s kick-in-the-chest rap battle epic, Bodied. It’s a much-needed commentary on PC culture, the power of language, and the danger of outrage, but it’s also incredibly fun, to the point of standing at your seat and cheering. It’s wonderful. Get yourselves ready.

Best Classic Film Re-Release of 2017

Synapse Films have absolutely crushed it with their 4K re-release of Dario Argento’s technicolor classic Suspiria. The Blu-ray is exquisite, but seeing this movie in a theatre, Goblin’s landmark score bleeding through the speakers in glorious surround sound, re-mixed like never before…it was a singular experience. Argento’s best film has never looked or sounded so good.

Best Album of 2017

This is not an album released in 2017, but it’s my favorite that I’ve listened to this year, so fuck it, I’m going with it. Tom Waits’ Blood Money. This album is so good: gravel-voiced, calliope-laden, weirdo punk smoke. Supposedly originally written as a soundtrack to a production of the play Woyzeck, this album is a trip.

Best Immersive Event of 2017

This was my second time attending, but it was too good an experience to not list here: New York City’s incredible Sleep No More. A haunted house-meets-dance show re-telling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it takes place in the massive McKittrick Hotel in midtown Manhattan. The scale of this show is just unbelievable, allowing audience members to roam freely—all silent, all wearing masks for anonymity and premium voyeur creepiness—at will throughout the night.

You can follow one character all night, or sit in one spot and have the story play out around you. Or search through a single room’s endless drawers for clues all night. It’s up to you. And no matter what you choose, it’s equally magical.

Best Whisky of 2017

I love Scotch whisky, and this year I had the chance to travel to the tiny island of Islay off the coast of Scotland. Whisky connoisseurs will know this is where the smoky, peaty, intense Islay Single Malts come from. I enjoyed all the whisky we tried on the island, but the Ardbeg Kelpie took the cake as the most unique, new flavor I’d yet to try. Smoky, fiery, with notes of salt and seaweed (the latter due to the fact that it is aged in oak barrels with wood harvested from the coast of the Black Sea), it’s beautiful. And perfect for a cold Scottish night.

Best Play of 2017

In Los Angeles I had the chance to see Sacred Fools Theatre Company’s production of Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, and it absolutely floored me. It takes place in three spaces, through which the audience travels over the course of the play.

Act 1: Theatre in the round, sitting around a small campfire in the woods sometime after the apparent end of the world. The characters try to remember an old episode of The Simpsons before we learn the shocking truth about just what happened to the world. Act 2: Seven years later, we sit proscenium in a warehouse watching the same characters rehearsing a performance of said Simpsons episode. Apparently entertainment is a hot commodity in the apocalypse. Act 3: 75 years later, in a grand opera house.

I won’t spoil just where it goes, but suffice to say we learn the true nature of idolatry, and the vital importance of a shared cultural experience to link all us humans together in a more profound way than we could ever have been aware. It was beautiful and mind-blowing.

Best TV Show of 2017

I mean, how can I not say Twin Peaks? David Lynch runs wild, giving us his nightmarish, hilarious, sweet, oddball, surreal, bonkers vision of the universe through the lens of arguably the greatest set of TV characters of all time—it’s just wonderful to see. It’s been really amazing to see artists like him given such insane free reign in this ever-changing and evolving entertainment landscape. May we see much, much more.

Best Art Exhibit of 2017

Definitely Guillermo del Toro’s At Home With Monsters. For any fan of horror, fantasy, sci-fi, moviemaking, or just general creativity, it is a stunning experience and a chance to peek into the mind of one of our greatest living filmmakers. His endless creativity is apparent, as are his intense love of art and his deep respect for the “magic” of filmmaking and of creation. If you have a chance to see this exhibit, go.

Best Cultural Moment of 2017

This is happening right now as I write this, so I’m sure that’s why it’s at the front of my mind, but I am endlessly fascinated by the debate over the phenomenal Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I personally thought it was wonderful, inventive, and breathed desperately needed fresh air into my favorite film series. But obviously there are LOTS of people who vehemently disagree.

Why do we care so much about a movie series? Why does a work of art spur such intense debate? Maybe it’s just a symptom of the Internet being as freeing a soap box as it is, but I think it speaks more to the power of art, and how we have made these myths for ourselves without really knowing what we were creating. We call them “movies,” but really they’re as powerful as Odin was to the Norse. Or Zeus to the Greeks. We need them. We idolize them. We use them as our cultural compass. No wonder we care so much when they don’t act the way we expect!

I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make here, aside from that I think it’s really fascinating, and kind of awesome that art continues to impact us in the way it does, even in this age of staring into individual iPhone screens and not communicating with someone sitting across the table from you.

As maddening as much of this debate over Star Wars has been, it’s also weirdly given me a kind of hope. We do care about things. We have not slipped into blind nihilism. And even if it’s to argue the merits of a sci-fi fantasy epic about Space Wizards, it’s so wonderful that we’re actually talking to each other. I wish we could chill out a little and enjoy these things a little more without needing to argue about them, but I’ll take what I can get. Now excuse me, I’m going to go watch Christmas Vacation. It is the holidays, after all!

Happy New Year, everybody!

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