The Year That Was: Films in 2017



Hello everyone and welcome along to the ByTheMinute recap of the past year in film. I'm @hannakin__ and I'll be going through all the biggest blockbusters (and some flops) of 2017. Let's get started, shall we!

As we entered the New Year, Hollywood mourned the loss of two of its brightest stars, with Carrie Fisher, and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, both passing away after Christmas. In addition, the industry was still coming to terms with the election of Donald Trump, leading to an awards season that was noticeably more politically charged than in previous years.

The Golden Globes rolled around, and there was little question as to the frontrunner for the big prizes. ‘La La Land’ (dir. Damian Chazelle) captured the hearts of audiences the world over, harking back to the grand Hollywood musicals of the mid-20th century, and, sure enough, the film swept the board, winning all of the seven categories in which it was nominated, including Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director, and Best Actor and Actress (Musical or Comedy) wins for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Elsewhere, French thriller ‘Elle’ took home two awards, whilst the groundbreaking Barry Jenkins drama ‘Moonlight’ was named Best Motion Picture (Drama).

Despite a few more critical re-appraisals in the weeks after the Golden Globes, ‘La La Land’ remained the film to beat at the Oscars. There was also another development in the time between the two awards shows, with Trump unveiling his ‘not-a-ban’ Muslim immigration ban. The impact of the ban could be seen even at the Oscars, with the eventual winner for Best Foreign Film, Iranian Asghar Farhadi, prevented from attending the ceremony. So in amongst all this, it was particularly poignant to see Mahershala Ali win Best Supporting Actor for his role in ‘Moonlight’, becoming the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. The 89th Academy Awards panned out largely as expected: Best Actor – Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Best Actress – Emma Stone (La La Land), Best Director – Damian Chazelle (La La Land). No surprises there. Then came the time for the final award of the evening. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, had the honour of presented the Oscar for Best Picture to…..La La Land! Everything seemed to be wrapping up, until...‘There’s been a mistake…Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture’. The accountants had handed out the wrong envelope, leading to the most monumental Oscars cock up since Crash beat Brokeback Mountain. Moonlight was a deserved winner, it’s a truly astonishing movie and I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already.

Awards season over, let’s see how the rest of the year in film panned out: January! In the UK, the first month of the year tends to see the release of the Oscar contenders which made waves in the US at the end of the previous year. So audiences here finally got to see what all the hype was about for a number of titles, including ‘La La Land’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, and ‘Manchester By The Sea’. The major new release in January was ‘Split’, the latest offering from M. Night Shyamalan, starring James McAvoy as a Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with 23 different personalities. The film was a big commercial success, and went down pretty well critically too, though questions were raised over its possible stigmatisation of mental illness.

February saw the latest instalments of two major franchises: ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ and ‘Fifty Shades Darker’. Not sure how much of an overlap those two had in audiences. More importantly, February is Black History Month, an occasion that, this year, saw the release of two different, but nevertheless equally timely and incisive films exploring the African American experience. The documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, explored racism in the US through the views and ideas of civil rights activist James Baldwin, whilst ‘Get Out’ wowed audiences by framing social commentary on issues of race, and in particular white liberal ignorance regarding racism, in the horror movie genre. Despite being released early in the year, ‘Get Out’ is a strong contender going into awards season.

March was a strong month for adaptions and revivals. ‘Logan’ marked Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as the Wolverine. The film was the first major superhero movie of the year, and the darkest of the genre since the Dark Knight Trilogy. Extra credit for the excellent use of the Johnny Cash version of ‘Hurt’ in the trailer. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson starred in the surprisingly entertaining King Kong reboot, ‘Kong: Skull Island’, which also took major cues from a number of 20th century Vietnam War films. The much-anticipated sequel to ‘Trainspotting’ was finally released, and Ewan McGregor also appeared in the distinctly more child-friendly live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Elsewhere, the release of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ reignited debate over Hollywood whitewashing, with fans of the original manga series criticising the casting of Scarlett Johansson as an originally Japanese character.

The biggest release of April was the latest Fast & Furious instalment: ‘The Fate of the Furious’, starring Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (who I love). F8 was the first of the franchise not to star Paul Walker and on its release set the record for the highest-grossing box office opening of all time. My two favourite films from April were ‘Free Fire’; a 70s shootout movie with a cracking ensemble cast (Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy), filmed almost entirely in a Brighton warehouse, and ‘Colossal’. On the surface, ‘Colossal’ is a sci-fi movie about a monster wreaking havoc on the city of Seoul, but dig a little deeper and the film’s plot actually serves as an allegory for the impact of alcoholism. Finally, a special mention for Japanese anime film ‘Your Name’, which got its Western release in April. Go watch it before the upcoming live action remake inevitably ruins its magic.

May. More sequels and reboots! Some successful. Some not so much. First up, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol.2.’ Just as much fun as the original, with an equally killer soundtrack. We’ll be seeing the Guardians in 2018 as part of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and I, for one, can. not. wait. The latest Alien prequel, ‘Alien: Covenent’ was also released. Not universally loved by fans, not the worst thing Ridley Scott has ever done. Less successful offerings included a ‘Baywatch’ remake even The Rock (who I love) couldn’t save, an ill-advised ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequel and a truly tragic attempt to retell the legend of King Arthur by Guy Ritchie.

June was a pretty good month as far as films go. The biggest release was the highly anticipated ‘Wonder Woman’, a film which proved DC can still make good superhero movies, and also firmly disproved the idea that female fronted superhero movies don’t make money. Three other great movies from May: ‘The Big Sick’, a rom com written by Kumail Nanjiani that explored how interracial couples face cultural differences; ‘Okja’, a Netflix release that will turn you Vegetarian for at least a couple of hours; and finally, ‘Baby Driver’, a heist movie in which the on screen action is almost entirely choreographed to the film’s soundtrack. Also probably the last movie to star Kevin Spacey. That was June, the less said about Transformers and The Mummy the better.