It’s been a tumultuous year. But despite all the scandals, messes and blame games, 2017 had plenty to offer in the entertainment arena. Streaming platforms went mainstream and their productions earned accolades. Television took on new standards of quality and great film performances meant we were not shortchanged at the box office. Here are our favourites this year in no particular order.
If there was one film that defined the ’90s, it would have to be Trainspotting. Danny Boyle’s translation of Irvine Welsh’s book that looks at the manic, harrowing and disastrous lives of heroin users made it a cult classic. But his blending of comic, sorrow and betrayal would have been ineffective without a brilliant cast. Their return has been talked about for 20 years. But T2 Trainspotting was a perfectly timed film as it reminded the public of an ongoing public health issue that is opioid addiction. It doesn’t glorify drugs at all, no. It simply shows it in gritty, painful detail. If film is meant to hold a mirror up to society, Boyle’s sequel does exactly that. 20 years later, this problem has only gotten worse, and it needs attention.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It would not be possible to ignore the massive space opera film franchise that is Star Wars. For the last 6 months, it’s been buzzing and fans have been analysing every single tidbit of information on who Rey’s parents are and who is Snoke. Spoiler alert: turns out neither of those things are important cos Snoke dies. But Rian Johnson’s take on Star Wars’ development is both fresh and a revival of the repeated themes of the entire film franchise. That includes rising up and fighting for a cause, love, saving what’s important, sacrifice and redemption. Much of it can be taken to mirror our world today, but it’s the new range of characters who are now in the lead that create promise. In a real sense, it’s a new rebellion, built on the lives of the former leaders. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you’ll certainly want to watch this. I will say however, Rian’s repeated use of the deus ex machina is a little annoying. But that’s me.
The story of Diana, princess of the Amazonians, told through a female director’s vision of what an action film should be, demonstrated that superhero movies didn’t just have to be about explosions, bigger CGI effects and A-list actors in the credits. It is also a relief to have a superhero movie in which Stan Lee doesn’t have a pointless cameo. Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman is both striking for her ability to demonstrate individual love despite being an eternal, and the appreciation of humanity in its entirety. At the same time, her innocence and naivete about Mankind and gender roles makes Wonder Woman a perfect role model for the ongoing fight for gender equality, across the world. It’s the right story at the right moment.
A film that comes at a time when we need it the most, to remind us of the importance of an investigative news media. One that isn’t sycophantic to institutions in order to ensure transparency and truth-telling, to hold the powerful accountable. We’ve not seen a movie like this for a couple of years, since Spotlight was released. Ben Bradlee, then executive editor of the Washington Post in 1971, fought the Nixon administration to release the Pentagon Papers. The documents demonstrated numerous lies the Johnson administration had delivered in public to justify the US involvement in the Vietnam war. It was also the first significant time a whistle blower inside the government had revealed and released confidential information pertinent to the public, and made the pseudonym Deep Throat an icon among journalists.
The Post begins screening Dec 22.
A movie about a genetically modified super pig that doesn’t crap a lot, grows to immense sizes and is a friendly domestic pet. I mean, this is Babe, supersized. But in a far more enchanting way, with a diabolical evil corporation that only wants to breed the super pig for food and delicious bacon. It covers everything from greedy institutions to animal cruelty and a society that’s changing. It’s art-housey enough and mainstream enough, and it also brings up real-world issues we are facing today. Netflix’s Okja won critical attention for its style and to be honest, not all of Netflix’s films have been great. (TV series are another matter.)
The Big Sick
An Amazon production, it takes a real-life story of comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani and how he met his wife into film. While one might think this a typical rom-com, it’s not. It deals with a number of other issues. The complexities of cultural differences. How migrant families try to hold on to their identities while integrating with a foreign country. Dealing with in-laws. Dealing with your own family. Generational divides. All of which are remarkably common today, in a world that changes so rapidly it’s impossible for any one generation to keep up. Let alone multiple generations.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel with the same name and suddenly doesn’t seem so important. The series by Hulu considers the cruel subjugation of women and the prevalence of misogyny. While not literally true, the real issue of male patriarchy on a global level does exist and continues to prevail. Atwood’s novel reminds us that all it takes for something horrific to happen is simply for others to watch instead of act. And to allow slowly deteriorating levels of normality to descend. Until it consumes us entirely. It’s something that’s utterly relatable and also thoroughly real.
Two members of the cast include Madeline Brewer (Janine, left) and Elisabeth Moss (Offred, right). Photo by George Kraychyk/Hulu.
We often talk about how technology is continually enroaching in on our lives and the impact it creates. But not till 2017 has there been proper in-depth examination of just how serious an issue it is globally. With the number of tech executives and social media leaders now joining in the conversation. Some have abandoned these platforms in their own lives. Others disallow their families from using it too much. Technology as a tool has been proven to be important. But technology with unbridled use can be debilitating. That’s what Charlie Brooker attempts to show in each episode of Black Mirror. Each is a look at what happens when you let technology (that exists today) seep too far into your life. And many are too real for my comfort.
This Is Us
For some time, This Is Us had been a screenplay meant for a movie that was abandoned. That is, until NBC picked it up and turned it into a series. It’s one of the few programmes to ever rack up a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s won 10 nominations this year, with Sterling Brown taking home the lead actor Emmy. It’s uplifting and charming while navigating numerous complex sub-plots, from adoption and addiction to inter-racial relationships and family drama. It champions the idea that family can overcome many challenges, while questioning just how much truth any one can handle at any moment.
On the other side of inter-racial relationships is slavery and control and that’s where Get Out stands and stands out. Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut featuring Bradley Whitford is a horror film about post-hypnotic control. Its cruel premise comes from the pursuit of longevity and subjugation and it is incredibly compelling. If you have not seen it yet, you need to. You may never feel the same about hypnotherapy again.
Check out part 2 of our best of 2017 in entertainment here.