There were a lot of great films in 2017. So many, in fact, that this year I have decided to do a top 20 list instead of my usual top 10. It means more writing, but trust me, this is a problem any movie buff loves to have.
2017 was a good year for superheros and small indie films, for action and drama and comedy alike, sometimes all within the same movie.
I have gotten used to, in my time as a film and television enthusiast, the entertainment I support being consigned to the “also ran” bin. My favorite TV shows get cancelled. Many of my favorite movies have been ignored by critics and audiences alike. If they are nominated, they are the window dressing for the film or show that gets the glory.
For me, 2017 goes in the books as the year when we don’t have to comment on special effects anymore. In major motion pictures, they are almost universally good now, and if they aren’t, it’s because the studio purposely cut corners. As such, several blockbuster science fiction movies find spots on my list, starting with the year’s most pleasant surprise.
We’re living in a historical transitional period for TV, as streaming services compete with traditional networks and cable/satellite channels for our entertainment dollar. As such, television has never been better, regardless of how it gets to us. Appropriately, my list of the year’s best shows consists of half network shows and half others, and kicks off with a streaming series.
1. “The Witch”– This horror film set in Colonial America delivers a striking sense of time and place (so much so that you might want to put the subtitles on to grasp the language), with life-threatening poverty as an omnipresent invisible character. On top of that, it invokes another layer of foreboding horror: The religion-fomented fears are so real to this family – including Anya Taylor-Joy in a breakout turn as teenager Thomasin — that they become real to us. Against this backdrop, the idea of “living deliciously” as a witch becomes a viable — although still creepy as hell — escape hatch. (Full-length review)
1. “Atlanta” (Season 1, FX) – Donald Glover’s brainchild is a crazy mix of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-esque wry observations (Earn’s inability to order a kids’ meal), envelope-pushing storytelling choices (the pundit roundtable parody) and outright horrific violence (Earn witnesses a murder, then moves on like it’s just another day in the ATL). It comes together as an on-point – albeit still crazy — portrait of being a dead-broke young adult on the backstreets of a collapsing American city.
1. “Spotlight”— This chronicle of the Boston Globe’s 2001-02 probe of rape allegations in the Catholic Church is a thank-you letter to the dying art of investigative journalism. An all-star cast of actors including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber does a marvelous job of capturing the small details of how reporters live and behave – particularly Ruffalo, whether he’s boiling hot dogs for dinner of scrounging through his bag for a pen. Meanwhile, the case itself works as a meat-and-potatoes procedural potboiler. (Full review.)
1. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Season 1, The CW) – In blending musical numbers, broad comedy and genuine character drama about a troubled 20-something, Rachel Bloom’s brainchild is the most ambitious show of the year. By doing all three of those things well (particularly the musical numbers, which are consistently clever and catchy in the way they explore Rebecca’s and other characters’ neuroses), it’s also the best show of the year. I’ll be following whatever Bloom does next, but I hope this series defies the low ratings and sticks around awhile, at least long enough for an official soundtrack release. (Here are my 10 favorite songs so far.)
1. “Dumb and Dumber To”– Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels effortlessly slip back into Lloyd and Harry’s born-of-stupidity mistreatment of animals and their fellow man, but this isn’t merely a reunion tour. The sequel has lots of great new hits, like Harry getting into Arizona State and being mistaken for an eccentric genius and Lloyd being attracted to Harry’s daughter. (It’s not like he’s going to go out with someone his own age — “Gross!”) (Full review.)
1. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (Season 6, Netflix) – “The Clone Wars” saves the best for last with arcs delving into the Order 66 brainwashing, Palpatine’s manipulations to take over the galactic banking system, and Yoda’s surprising encounter with a dark avatar and his first communication with a beyond-the-grave Qui-Gon. Even the “Jar Jar in Love” arc works due to the Gungan’s odd-couple banter with Mace Windu. While Ahsoka is certainly missed in this straight-to-Netflix season, she nonetheless feels like the absent center of this canceled-too-soon series. We can only hope that the storylines will continue in books, comics or “Star Wars: Rebels.”