Juliette's Best of 2017


Happy Holidays everyone! I'm here to kick off our annual set of Review of the Year posts. This post contains a minor spoilery detail about Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, but for the most part I've avoided talking about it as not everyone will have seen it yet!

Usually, I call this post my 'Year in Review', but it's been a good year this year, especially for film. There were so many films I loved that didn't make it on to my Top 10 list – Wonder Woman isn't on there! Guardians of the Galaxy 2 isn't on there! IT isn't on there! There have been so many years that the bottom couple of the Top 10 have been a bit mediocre but they filled out the list – this year, I could have made a Top 20 and they'd all have been brilliant. And it's a wide variety of films too – I've seen great period dramas, comic book movies, fantasy films and sci-fi.

And then there's TV. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the good TV these days, as there's just too much of it – a nice problem to have, but it does mean I'm getting increasingly selective about what I'll give up my time to invest in. But of course, the big news in TV this year is that my beloved Star Trek is back on the small screen for the first time in twelve years. And it's good! Weird, but good. So I think it's safe to say that this really is a 'best of' review of a very good onscreen year.

Film franchise of the year


This award has to go to Marvel. All three MCU films that have come out this year have been great – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok. That last one made the slightly odd choice to make a film about the end of Thor's world a broad comedy, and it was perhaps a bit of a shame that the seriousness of the plot was slightly undermined by all the jokes, but when the jokes are this funny, no one cares.

Having said that, the film that was not only my favourite comic book movie of 2017 but my favourite film of the year belonged to another franchise – Fox's Logan was just wonderful, a tour de force of acting from all the stars and a truly moving, compelling story, a perfect goodbye to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart's Logan and Charles Xavier.

And to be fair to DC, while Justice League may have fizzled a bit, Wonder Woman was really good. I think it's also worth mentioning that it took the DCEU only three films to have one led by a black man (Will Smith in Suicide Squad, though granted Margot Robbie stole the show) and four to have one fronted by a woman, whereas Marvel's first film led by a black man will be the 18th film in the MCU (next year's Black Panther) and the first headed by a woman will be their 21st (Captain Marvel in 2019). I know a lot of people are lamenting the demise of the DCEU, but with some decent stuff in Suicide Squad and Justice League and Wonder Woman being genuinely good, I wouldn't count them out just yet.

Also Star Wars. It was good.

Original film of the year


Here is a complete list of films I saw this year that were not based on a pre-existing film, book, comic book, TV show, well-known children's toy or other property and are not sequels, prequels or anything else:

Passengers
Jackie
La-La Land
The Great Wall
Boss Baby
Colossal
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
The Hitman's Bodyguard
The Man Who Invented Christmas

These have been fairly hit and miss. The Great Wall, Boss Baby and The Hitman's Bodyguard all pretty much walked through the paces you'd expect them to walk through. Colossal was a very odd film which I found a bit too tonally jarring, but it was interesting, while I wasn't as bothered by Passengers as many others – I thought it was rather good, and the morally dubious actions were the point of the film.

La-La Land was the film that finally helped me to understand how so many other people feel about Titanic – I kept hearing about how wonderful it was, but I found it mildly annoying with irritating main characters and a depressing ending. Baby Driver was very good, and I really enjoyed The Man Who Invented Christmas, but it was two other period dramas that blew me away. Dunkirk and Jackie both found new and compelling ways of telling historical stories that really put you in the heart of traumatic historical events and offered a new perspective on well-told stories. My Original Film of the Year is definitely Dunkirk, with Jackie a close second.

Binge-watch of the year


I kept hearing good things about The Good Place, so I binge-watched it towards the end of year. At one and a half short seasons in, it's a quick and easy binge. It also works particularly well in that format, because, unusually for a sitcom, it's highly serialised and each episode ends on a cliffhanger. The first season rewards re-viewing once you've got to the end, but binge-watching is also a good way to appreciate the careful development of the story across the season. Plus, it's really good! Very funny and quirky, with a lot of heart and a really nice group of characters you'll want to spend time with.

The Big Question: Star Trek: Discovery or The Orville?


The two brand new shows I watched this year both related to Star Trek in some way; new branch of the Star Trek franchise Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek homage made by big Star Trek fan Seth McFarlane, The Orville. Discovery, its unfortunate acronym aside, is a great show – a gritty space drama full of moral conundrums and a counsellor who is not only really good at her job, she's also made it all the way to the rank of Admiral. The main drawback to it is that, especially in the early episodes, it doesn't really feel like Star Trek. Over the course of the ten episodes we've seen so far, it does start to feel a little more like it belongs in the Star Trek universe, so hopefully it will continue moving in that direction.

The Orville, meanwhile, was completely mis-sold by its trailers, which implied it would be a broad comedy. It is funny, and the pilot episode has a few more broad jokes than later episodes, but in fact the series is a drama. Its tone is mostly light, but it can go to some dark places – just like Star Trek. It also stars Penny Johnson Jerald (Captain Sisko's girlfriend Kassidy Yates from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), has guest starred Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager's Doctor), has had episodes directed by Robert Duncan McNeil (Star Trek: Voyager's Tom Paris) and Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation's Will Riker) and Star Trek: Voyager producer Brannon Braga produces, directs and writes for the show. It is, quite simply, more Star Trek than Star Trek.

So which one should a devoted Trekkie watch? Well, both, obviously. If you're in the mood for a fix of solid, old-fashioned Star Trek, with an interesting moral dilemma, a good heart and a likeable cast of characters, watch The Orville. If you're in the mood for a dramatic new direction, with gut-wrenching moral dilemmas, violent and sometimes disturbing action and complex, fascinating, albeit not always very likeable characters, watch Star Trek: Discovery. I look forward to both in equal measure and am delighted to be getting more of both of them!

Costume and make-up of the Year



I absolutely love the uniforms on Star Trek: Discovery, which blend the Star Trek: Enterprise look with a military feel and elements of classic Star Trek uniforms. I was also quite fond of Claire's blue dress on Outlander, which is lucky, as it took her quite a few episodes to bother to go shopping for a change of clothes after her change of location halfway through the season. But Costume of the Year has to go to Rob Lowe's look on The Orville, which rendered him almost unrecognisable, but could not conceal his natural charm.

Old favourites


I finally managed to catch up on season 12 of Supernatural and am now almost caught up on season 13, and still enjoying the show as much as ever, despite its apparent severe dislike for anyone British (I can't think of a single British character on the show who isn't evil/horrible. Maybe Gavin). Doctor Who had a good year - I liked Bill more than I expected to and her story in the final two episodes of the season was particularly strong and well done. The Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn Nine Nine still make me laugh and The Apprentice UK and Masterchef are still strangely compelling. I wasn't entirely sure about Orange is the New Black's fifth season, the whole of which took place over three days, but I'm intrigued to see where it goes next year.

Epic Moment of Trolling of the Year


Four words: Ghost Yoda. Lightning Bolt.

On my 'To Watch' list...


I've started watching Outlander at season 4 and am enjoying it, so I should probably go back watch the rest at some point! I need to watch American Horror Story (I'm researching ghost stories - so far I've seen season one, episode one) and want to watch Once Upon a Time, which has been on my 'to watch' list for ages.

Oh, and I still haven't finished Battlestar Galactica...

Top 10 TV episodes of the year


10. The Big Bang Theory: The Confidence Erosion
9. Orange is the New Black: The Reverse Midas Touch
8. The Good Place: Michael's Gambit
7. Brooklyn Nine Nine: HalloVeen
6. Outlander: Surrender
5. Supernatural: Who We Are
4. The Orville: Majority Rule
3. Game of Thrones: The Dragon and the Wolf
2. Doctor Who: The Pilot
1. Star Trek Discovery: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Discovery's time loop episode was easily the best TV episode of the year, and really the only one that stood out as a truly fantastic hour of television, as good as all the others on this list were. I'm so happy that for the first time since I've been doing this, an episode of Star Trek is my top rated episode of the year!

Top 10 Films of the year


10. The Limehouse Golem
9. Jackie
8. Thor: Ragnarok
7. Murder on the Orient Express
6. John Wick Chapter 2
5. Hidden Figures
4. The Death of Stalin
3. Beauty and the Beast
2. Dunkirk
1. Logan

Bonus: I wrote this Top 10 before I saw Star Wars and I really don't want to kick any of these off, and I need time to process Star Wars and exactly where it ranks among all the others. But Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was also very good, and at a later date, I may feel I should have included it!

Have a great holiday everyone!

Juliette Harrisson is a Trekkie, ghost story enthusiast and Classicist with four current ongoing book projects. It's possible that one of them might, someday, get finished.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Great "best of," Juliette!

I gotta say that while I'm very much enjoying new Star Trek, I absolutely can't stand The Orville. It feels to me like a bad SNL Star Trek parody. Maybe I stopped watching before it got better, but I was just so seriously turned off right at the beginning that there wasn't much chance of watching until it got better. And maybe I just take Star Trek too seriously. :)

Totally agree about The Good Place. It's fascinating and just totally different than everything else. And really good.

Mallena said...

Glad you like The Orville, Juliette. I was afraid to even mention it since Billie dislikes it so much. I find it reminiscent of Next Generation. It's not as complex, or well-acted as that one, but it has that charm of exploring new situations and places, and I usually enjoy the ride. It's not Shakespeare, but it's fun.

AHS season one is the only season that I can complete. The others are too bizarre, which is saying a lot since season one is very strange. The story of the Murder House just gets creepier and more interesting as it goes along. I don't think that the series can ever do better than that first season.

The Others with Nicole Kidman is probably my favorite modern ghost story film.

Juliette said...

I love The Others! That's a brilliant film :) That and The Sixth Sense are the two modern classics that spring to mind - and The Woman in Black, which I've enjoyed in every different format!

I love The Orville and I agree that it's reminiscent of Next Gen. The first couple of episodes were a bit broader with the comedy, and there's still some OTT comedy stuff (the practical joke with the leg...) but it's getting more and more like it's just Star Trek as it goes along (it helps that it's written by Brannon Braga!). But I've always preferred the branches of Star Trek that didn't take themselves too seriously, which is partly why Voyager is my favourite. I can definitely understand why those who prefer more serious Star Trek (especially DS9 fans) wouldn't be much into it! Billie, which is your favourite series? I'm sure you've told me but I can't remember!

Billie Doux said...

Definitely Next Gen. It was the fulfillment of everything they never got to do with the original series, and back in the eighties, I was deeply in love with Patrick Stewart.

You're allowed to like The Orville, Mallena. What am I, a dictator? :) I'm just expressing an opinion. Although it's true that I rarely talk about hating something. So okay, a somewhat strong opinion. Let me see, what else do I hate? I'm thinking...

Lamounier said...

Juliette, I still haven't finished BSG either. In fact, it's been so long I stopped watching it that I would have to start from the beginning. Unfortunately, I borrowed the DVDs of the first season to a friend back in the day and we have lost contact. I'm also spoiled about a few people that die or turn out to be cylons or disappear into thin air, and I admit that the fact that many fans disliked the final episode is a bit of a turn-off. But it was *so* good at the time I stopped watching that I might resume watching it one day.

I liked La La Land a lot, but I agree that it was overpraised. And the depressing ending came out of nowhere. It's the case of people behind the cameras believing the sad ending is the superior one and forcing it into the story. That what-if montage was terrific, though.

TJ said...

Thor Ragnarök was great! I was thinking, this is the best Marvel movie to date. Maybe that was just because I loved the evil Galadriel.

I also really enjoyed new Star Trek and The Orville. I was sooo scared that Discovery was going to be a repeat of Enterprise and I am so happy that I was wrong. It has been fantastic so far. I guess that is what to be expected with a wizard as Captain. The Orville was a nice unexpected ST bonus to me.

La La Land was truly awful imho. Sometimes I just don't get the hype certain movies get. To be fair I must admit that I am not a musical fan at all - when people start to sing in the rain at the sound of music I usually find it a bit silly. (Exceptions: Cabaret and Victor/Victoria are two musicals I love...or are they not musicals? just movies with music performed in it?). La La Land was sold to me as a feel good film - I didn't feel good at all.

2017 was a good year overall.