2017 is officially over and frankly, good riddance.
Among the vast amount of awful this past year brought we saw a once lauded political institution (know colloquially as “The United States”) become a world-wide punchline and a seemingly endless stream of celebrities and other men in positions of power get outed as sexual predators (so much so that whenever I saw the name of an artist that I admire trend on Twitter I secretly hoped they were just dead)*.
Also 2017 has been, for me personally, a year of disappointments and creative failures. I found myself physically spent, emotionally drained and financially tapped. I won’t go into details but suffice to say there are a multitude of fans that are covered in copious amounts of shit.
So yeah, 2017 can just fuck the fuck right off as far as I’m concerned.
But as in all times when things are awful and terrible there were occasionally bright spots. These were usually found in various types of entertainment in which one could, at least momentarily, hide from said terribleness. Hooray escapism!
I have come up with several categories and chose one item to represent the best in that particular category – in theory anyway. You may note that there are several, if not all, categories that contain two or more selections. This is for the simple reasons that (a) I am inconsistent (b) I am often unable to make up my mind and (c) this is my blog and I make the rules so I can break them at any time.
With that said, here’s the list:
Best Movie (non-superhero)
Just so good. This is easily the best horror film of the year but also in the running for best film period. Get Out is just a fine, expertly crafted film – well-acted, engaging story and generally chilling at times. And it not only holds up to repeat viewing it practically demands it. The social commentary it provides through the medium of the horror genre is spot on, direct at times and at other times so subtle that you may miss it till several days later when it dawns on you that “Hey! He was talking about me!” (That is of course if you are a white liberal like myself). A great film destined to be a classic. It proves Jordon Peele is one of the best up-and-coming filmmakers and I eagerly look forward to the next thing he does.
Shape of Water
Easily the best love story between a mute woman and a fish person ever made. This is Guillermo del Toro doing what he does best – creating a moody, creepy world filled with grotesque monsters, violence and pain that somehow coveys tenderness and melancholy sadness tinged with beauty. Compelling and fascinating, the best thing he’s done since Pan’s Labyrinth.
Blade Runner 2049
Moody, beautiful, and meditative – Blade Runner 2049 is a fitting sequel to one of the most iconic films in scifi. It not only updates that classic but possibly surpasses it. It takes the questions of identity and the nature of reality posed in the original and takes them to their next logical level – it makes you question who you are and what motivates your actions. It is slow and meditative so I understand it may not be everyone’s bag (if box office is any indication that is surely the case) but if you allow yourself to be engulfed in the atmosphere and beauty of the setting and story it is one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences you may have.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
A movie about a serious academic in a polygamous relationship involving bondage while he creates one of the most iconic comic book characters of all time might not seem like a candidate for best movie of the year – but oh man it is. The subject could have been done in a way to make it seem tawdry and scandalous but the movie makes handles it respectfully and romantically. It is a fascinating story that proves the idea of a perfect relationship is not as cut and dry as you think it is.
Best Movie (superhero)
There were several great superhero movies to choose from in 2017 and a great variety in tone and genre. Logan was a mature Western, Thor:Ragnarock and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 were bright space comedies, and Spider-Man: Homecoming was a coming-of-age teen flick with super powers. All were great in and of themselves but for me without a doubt was:
I found this movie to be a joy. Gal Gadot is charming and sweet and a serious bad-ass all at once. And Patty Jenkins’ direction proves that you can have a female superhero do kick ass stuff, look good doing it and not be exploitative. Who knew? Yes, the third act villain is a bit naff and the final fight scene is a little by-the-numbers as far as comic book films go – oh but that can be forgiven for the ride we get to take to get there. Filled with charm and humor and genuine heroics Wonder Woman is simply a fabulous example of how to do superheroes right in general and female superheroes in particular.
Best Movie (Star Wars)
Yes Star Wars gets its own category because its great and stands alone. Also see reason (c) above.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This movie is fun. Full stop. It is unique and different (as far as Star Wars films go anyway) and adds new life to a franchise that I thought was going to coast on its laurels and fan-boy expectation for the duration of its run. But Last Jedi turns everything about the franchise upside-down and deals with things like failure and disappointment. It shows that the heroes don’t always win and that people – even the ones we think of as untouchable icons – are flawed and make mistakes. And that’s okay. Because in the end they learn – we learn – and better things will come from it. Okay, it is not a perfect film. The casino planet stuff is tedious at times and the pacing is off occasionally, but it’s different – and Star Wars needed different. It’s a good time, what more could you want from a Star Wars movie? Plus the shoulder brush is worth the price of admission all by itself.
When Fox announced it was doing an adaptation of Legion I was a bit underwhelmed. But when Noah Hawley (Fargo) was announced as showrunner I began to have a different attitude. Filled with trippy visuals and told by an unreliable narrator Legion adds something more than a typical superhero show – it keeps you guessing. How much of what we see is real or imagined? By the time you get to the Bolero scene and you’re not convinced this is great television – well you should be.
Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.
Yes, I picked it. This show is a hell of a lot of fun and if you don’t think so you are wrong. I admit that that first season was…let’s say disjointed. But it has been steadily picking up and has been one of the most entertaining and enjoyable shows on TV right now. And last year saw the introduction of Ghost Rider and magic and the current season that just started is set in space so you know, awesome. AoS is the best show you think you hate, but give it a try.
Full disclosure: these books I have chosen are both written by authors I know personally and as such I may be biased but they really are fantastic novels.
A novel in stories by David Hicks. Flynn Hawkins, the hero of the story, is a fuck up. We follow his adventures (misadventures?) from 911 to the present where he loses everything and gets it back – then loses it again. Repeat. Along the way we grow to love this character and hate him and pity him and grow disgusted with him and a multitude of other emotions as well. Because ultimately we know him, he’s us. Flynn is a wonderful character because he is that one thing that is often so difficult to portray convincingly in prose…he’s human. He makes bad decisions, he acts poorly to others at times, but in the end he loves deeply and cares for those around him. His journey is not a straight line and his redemption is not exactly what you think it will be. Kinda like real life.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store
A murder mystery set in a Denver book store written by Matt Sullivan. As we weave our way through the complexities of the mystery at the heart of the story we meet a gaggle of unique and diverse characters that make up the book store where it is set – this includes customers and employees and even the city of Denver itself. Filled with humor and tragedy, sadness and hope Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store is more than a mystery, it is a study in quirky characters and beautiful ideas.
I was going to go with “the entirety of DC’s Rebirth line” but I felt that might have been a bit of a cheat. Still, with very few exceptions it has been phenomenal so I highly recommend if you’ve not a comic book fan and you want to start just pick any title from DC right now – you pretty much can’t go wrong. But my pick for the year is:
The re-imagining of Jack Kirby’s New God/escape artist character from the 70s by writer Tom King. King brings his unique brand of storytelling to this – let’s face it – kinda silly character. I adore Kirby but his stuff can be goofy from time to time and Mr. Miracle is near the top of that list. But in a similar vein as his Vision run, King adds a mysterious tone and darker edge to Scott Free (yes, that’s the alter ego name) that makes him compelling. The story is an interesting psychological mystery that is without slipping into parody or resorting to overt, gratuitous violence. And King’s story is perfectly matched by Mitch Gerads’ art allowing that darker feeling to permeate but still shine with light and splashes of color. Great book – pick it up.
Kong: Skull Island
I will admit right at the start this is objectively not a good film. The plot is clichéd and the characters are standard tropes. There is nothing original about it and most of what happens seems like it’s been recycled from other similar movies. But I’ll be dammed if I didn’t love every frame of this movie. All I could think of was my 8 year old self would have adored this – he would have watched this over and over and pretended to be Kong rampaging through the jungle beating up other monsters while he did it. And that’s how I watched this movie as an adult; I put myself in that wide-eyed boy’s mind (I didn’t actually pretend to be Kong as I watched it, mostly because I was in a theater with other people around). I didn’t over analyze it I just accepted this movie for what it was – fun. Sometimes you just need a silly giant monster movie to make everything feel okay. Kong: Skull Island does that for me.
So that’s my list. Pretty genre heavy I know but that’s where my interests lie these days. Love to hear what you thought was the best stuff in 2017 so leave a comment below.
And have a great 2018 everyone. I looking forward to something much, much better myself – how could it get worse? **furiously knocks wood***
*as an addendum to this comment I just wanted to point out that I think it is right and just that men who have abused their positions and their power for sexual favors are outed and shamed and humiliated for their actions. To paraphrase Sarah Silverman it is like removing tumors from a cancer patient, the process is painful but ultimately we will be healthier for it.