The Best Performances of 2017

The Best Performances of 2017

JOHN B. MCLEMORE, “S-TOWN” The same charisma, melodrama, eccentricity and melodious runaway-train accent that drew the radio producer Brian Reed to McLemore’s rural Alabama town hooked me on this podcast. Mr. Reed came for a specious tale of murder. He stayed to unpack a life. John B.’s presence diminishes after a couple of the show’s eight episodes. But his personality perfumes the whole production and his contradictions, obsessions and idiosyncrasies tell an ornate story about America that’s deeper, stranger and darker than maybe even “S-Town” knew.


Warren Beatty, at the Oscars in February, explaining the error that resulted in “La La Land” being announced as best picture, rather than the real winner, “Moonlight.”

Kevin Winter/Getty Images


1. Barry Jenkins

2. Jordan Horowitz (what was he supposed to do?)

3. Miami’s Liberty City (and, by extension, black America)

4. Warren Beatty (there but for the grace of God …)

5. The show producer who hunted for the right envelope

6. Jimmy Kimmel

7. Emma Stone (“I don’t mean to start stuff, but … I had that card!”)

8. Janelle Monáe’s outfit (still underrated)

9. The “La La Land” producer who kept on talking

10. Faye Dunaway (her most diabolical work in years)


Laurie Metcalf, left, as Nora and Jayne Houdyshell as Anne Marie in the play “A Doll’s House, Part 2” at the Golden Theater.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

LAURIE METCALF, “A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2,” “LADY BIRD” She doesn’t seem to do much to alter herself from one character to the next. No extreme accents or makeup jobs. Everything with her is energy, posture, eyes, temperature and America. To watch her, in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” collapse to the floor, flat on her back, wearing period finery, stay there and act, or to see her drive a car in “Lady Bird” — haranguing her passenger then, later, with no one to harangue — is to experience a master comedic technician strip away her technique and leave you soaked in tears, both the pants-wetting and heartbroken varieties.

VICKY KRIEPS, “PHANTOM THREAD” No one should try to outdo Daniel Day-Lewis — or Lesley Manville, for that matter — so Ms. Krieps does not. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s not uncomedic conflation of artistic and romantic obsession, she plays a neurotic dressmaker’s new muse. And she appears to derive great pleasure in getting on his nerves. Her vaguely German-accented line readings and dagger stares are often very funny. The real surprise of her, though, is how much the slender body that lures the dressmaker encases Ms. Krieps’s uncompromising soul.

KELVIN HARRISON JR., “IT COMES AT NIGHT” The young shut-in Mr. Harrison plays in Trey Edward Shults’s post-apocalypse tragedy could have been a straightforward study in reclusion. But, boy, does this guy do a lot with quiet and quavering. I had never noticed him before, but he’s too good here to ever forget.


Jenifer Lewis as Ruby, Dre’s mother, in a scene from “black-ish.”

Eric McCandless/ABC

JENIFER LEWIS, “BLACK-ISH” I love me a haughty dame, and Ms. Lewis’s is the haughtiest since Agnes Moorehead on “Bewitched.” Here’s a veteran who still has yet to get her true due. (Hey, Television Academy. Over here!) Her work as Ruby on this show is probably her best in a long career of spiky comedic work. Here, she’s part snooty sorceress, part designated hitter — reducing co-stars to ash one minute, smashing walk-off home runs the next. Maybe you don’t need an Emmy if you can do that.

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