2017 in Film and TV
I saw 48 movies and 38 TV series in 2017. I missed the Milwaukee Film Festival so my picks are fairly mainstream indie (we have 5 Landmark Theater screens within 1 miles of our home) and occasional big box office. I get to watch a lot being a social introvert and traveler who spends most nights at home and a lot of time on flights, in hotel rooms, etc. Thought I’d compile and review what I saw in 2017:
10 Best Films
- The Big Sick: Kumail Nanjiani’s true-life love story was that awesome blend of humor and drama that I most enjoy. And I loved Holly Hunter’s performance.
- Call Me By Your Name: A gay coming of age love story among American expats in 1980s Italy with great performances.
- Darkest Hour and Dunkirk. Most World War 2 books/films I’ve read/seen begin after Pearl Harbor. I enjoyed these two films about how, against all odds and opposition, Great Britain – from average citizens to Churchill – stuck their necks out with steely resolve to fight the Nazi German empire.
- The Florida Project. The feel bad movie of the year, but it stuck with me. The realism is stark and tragic both on film and in real life.
- Get Out: So well done. Had no idea where it was going, and the performances, plot, suspense, and social commentary all hung over me afterward.
- Lady Bird: Great coming of age tale. Saoirse Ronan was great, and Laurie Metcalfe (who I had never seen until her long monologue in Horace and Pete) was especially amazing.
- The Post. Very Spielberg. Dramatic story pulling all the levers with John Williams score and an amazing cast led by Hanks and Streep and oh so relevant today.
- The Shape of Water: Del Toro called it Beauty and the Beast where the Beast doesn’t change, and a commentary on outsiders and a time period. The most interesting love story of the year. Still have questions…
- Wonderstruck. I really enjoyed this story of two deaf children in different times whose lives and stories parallel and intersect.
- I Am Not Your Negro: I left the movie theater wishing I had a pause button, so I could process. The second viewing allowed that. So deep and necessary now.
- Long Strange Trip: Not a traditional rockumentary of the Grateful Dead. Instead, it is a story of a reluctant leader who was obsessed with Frankenstein as a child, then basically became Dr. Frankenstein and built a monster that eventually killed him. Jerry Garcia’s anti-leadership was his undoing.
- Coco. Just loved it. Fun to see all of those symbols and icons of the Mexican Day of the Dead and the world they represent come to life.
- Loving Vincent. Beautifully and amazingly animated in the style of Van Gogh as a mailman’s son explores his final days and the mysteries of his life, work, and death.
Best Action and Adventure
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Sorry haters, I don’t see all the plot holes after two viewings and loved the anti-hero message – impulsive men who want to be individual heroes/saviors or give up when they can’t be individual hero/saviors are the problem; team-oriented, deliberate women are the solution. Ready for #3.
- Wonder Woman. DC finally won my best superhero film of the year, and I loved the character story. I liked it better than Thor, Spiderman or Logan (although I liked all 3 of those, too, especially the re-launched Spiderman).
Other films I enjoyed
- Battle of the Sexes Saw the PBS documentary on Billie Jean King last year and was inspired. This film reinpired with her courage, and Steve Carrell was great.
- Detroit. I’ve read good critiques about who tells this story, but I think the story is important to our continued understanding of race, poverty, and policing.
- The Disaster Artist. It is just so hard to believe until you see how true it is.
- A Ghost Story: Quiet, meditative, and yet engaging.
- I, Tonya: Turned what I thought I knew (which wasn’t much) upside down. Great performances, very entertaining, and messages about gender, class, abuse, and how news gets framed.
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer. WTF? But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
- Last Flag Flying. Great ensemble of Cranston, Carrell, and Fishburne and the pain of unnecessary loss in an unnecessary war.
- The Meyerowitz Stories. I found the characters and their family dysfunction both maddening and compelling.
- Mudbound. Brutal and important story post World War 2 on the racism facing a returning African American soldier in Mississippi.
- Phantom Thread. I just find Daniel Day Lewis so mesmerizing, and even moreso as this is reportedly his last film. Vicky Krieps holds her own with him. About control with a twist.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri: A stellar performance by Frances McDormand in a film that needed editing and a better last third.
- Wind River. Jeremy Renner is great in this mystery that takes place on a Native American reservation.
- The Little Hours, a joke I just was not in on. Promising up front, but just got worse and worse.
** Films still on my list I plan to see soon (I wish good films were released more evenly throughout the year): All the Money in the World; Blade Runner 2049; The Incredible Jessica James; Okja; A Quiet Passion; and The Square. May update my lists after these. Anything else I should see?
First a rule: I think every show should have to begin their next season within 12 months of the previous season. I hate all these shows that are taking 18-24 months to show the next season and then don’t have a really good “what happened last season” reel before you jump back in.
Best TV I watched this year:
- Master of None: Aziz Ansari killed it. What felt more like a smart confection in the first season was funny, dramatic, lovely, inspirational, and socially critical in 2017. From the first black and white episode in Italy to the amazing episode following three very different outsider New York experiences, the episode on his friend and co-writer’s experience growing up gay through Thanksgivings, and his trans-Atlantic love story, I enjoyed it all. And his inauguration weekend monologue on SNL just killed.
- Better Things: Pamela Adlon is just great. Her character, her daughters, the topics, the edginess. So original and fresh and direct.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm. Started slow, thought Larry was playing a parody of his parody of himself, and wasn’t sure about the Fatwa or Jeff’s storyline. But it picked up steam and began peaking around Namaste and the last two episodes were the best. Excited it is coming back again! Oh yeah, foisted…accidental text on purpose…outfit tracker…and more Curb-isms entered my lexicon.
Favorite New Shows
- The Handmaid’s Tale: Binge watched on a flight to Australia and couldn’t stop. Powerful at this time.
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: I enjoyed all the performances, and found the period, plot, and humor rewarding
- Patriot: Well, it starts in a fictionalized version of Milwaukee, and just is so quirky and had me laughing and intrigued about where it was going and delivered.
- Series of Unfortunate Events: Started the year with this one, and it was so much fun. Best family show of the year.
- Friends from College, Glow, Mindhunter, Ozark, Sneaky Pete, and The Tick all have promise, and I’ll be back next season.
- Better Call Saul: Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, and Rhea Seehorn are so great, and I love how this prequel actually works.
- The Crown: How on earth have I come to sympathize for the Queen of England? Claire Foy is how. Matt Smith’s Prince Phillip was also great in being not great.
- Detour: Jason Jones just goes over the top, way over the top, but somehow lands. His wife played by Natalie Zea is hilarious, and those kids!
- Fargo: I watched all three seasons this year for the first time and loved them – don’t know how I missed it before with the critical raves, etc.
- Game of Thrones: Ice dragon zombies…Daenerys in the Spoils of War! Maybe best thing was watching Seth Meyers watch that episode with Leslie Jones. Can’t wait for final season.
- Mr Robot: Last year, I thought I was not smart, hip, or cynical enough to get it, but finally dug back in and enjoyed the arc of the third season and the performances (although the secret daddy reveal felt cliche even though it made sense).
- Silicon Valley and Veep: Love when these are back to back – both great ensembles. I think SV will be fine without TJ, though he played a great awful character.
- Stranger Things: Season two did it again. Love the characters, and I came to somehow like Steve!
- Twin Peaks: Confounding, especially at the end, but mesmerizing throughout. Can’t recall a show where I cared less about understanding the narrative while I cared so much about spending time with the characters.
- Some other I enjoyed or have thoughts on: The Americans (interested to see end game), Baskets, Blackish (“Lemons” episode with Dre monologue on Trump victory), Genius, Girls (episode where Desi reveals his addiction was amazing), House of Cards (I’m good with Kevin leaving, and its absurdity was less absurd this year sadly), Insecure (the race equity critique of nonprofits sadly not fictional), Portlandia, Transparent (not a great season overall, and it got Jesus Christ Superstar stuck in my head), and Tracy Ullman Show.
- Viet Nam. I learned so much, and was just mesmerized, especially by the veterans’ narratives.
- John Oliver and Samantha Bee Smart, funny as hell, and feed my resistance with a healthier humorous way to process my rage at what is going on.
- Chris Gethard’s Career Suicide was a remarkably honest, authentic, passionate, and very funny exploration of his experience with alcoholism and mental illness. Both entertaining and instructive.
- I may have to get Hulu to see Sarah Silverman’s “I Love You America.” The clips seem amazing.