Weekend Binge: 2017 was an amazing, path-breaking year for movies. Here’s what that means for 2018 | hollywood | Hindustan Times
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Weekend Binge: 2017 was an amazing, path-breaking year for movies. Here’s what that means for 2018

From rejecting stale franchises such as Transformers and Pirates in favour of Dunkirk and Wonder Woman; from championing indies, representing women and minorities in film and TV, here’s a look back at everything amazing about 2017.

weekend binge Updated: Dec 30, 2017 08:53 IST
Rohan Naahar
Fionn Whitehead in a still from Dunkirk.
Fionn Whitehead in a still from Dunkirk.

Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.

While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.

Despite what everyone says, movies aren’t meant to entertain - at least not exclusively and at least not in this very pivotal moment in world history. They’re meant to evoke emotion - it could be good or bad - and they’re supposed to inspire empathy - towards people and communities and worlds that aren’t necessarily similar to our own.

Like any work of art worth writing about, movies are meant to create dialogue, they’re meant to observe the best (and the worst) tendencies of human beings, and project the findings onto large screens for us to (re) discover. They could be entertaining while they’re at it, of course, but filmmakers need to be held to a higher standard.

And that’s the purpose of this week’s Weekend Binge. We will not be pessimistic. We will not complain. We will, instead, celebrate movies and TV and social movements that gave us reason to cheer in these difficult times. We will hope for the best as we step into 2018. Here are four trends from this year that we hope carries forward to the next.

More representation for women

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Gal Gadot charging through No Man’s Land during a WWI battle scene from Wonder Woman. (AP)

One of the most pleasantly surprising moments of the year (at least for me) came only recently when I realised - a full month after having watched it - that every episode of the new season of Black Mirror featured a female protagonist. No one felt the need to beat people over the head with such progressiveness. No one advertised the show as being feminist. But most encouragingly, no one really noticed the main characters were girls. And having unburdened themselves (and ourselves) from this societal pressure, they let the actors’ work speak for itself, and we appreciated it for what it was.

2017 was a particularly good year for women in film - both in front of and behind the camera. They shone in blockbusters such as Wonder Woman (directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot), Alien: Covenant (Katherine Waterston), Ghost in the Shell (Scarlett Johansson), Girls Trip (Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah, Ragina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith) and Atomic Blonde (Charlize Theron). And then there were indies such as Lady Macbeth (Florence Pugh), Lady Bird (directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan), Beatriz at Dinner (Salma Hayek), The Beguiled (directed by Sofia Coppola and featuring a stunning female ensemble led by Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst), Raw (Garance Marillier), The Villainess (Kim Ok-bin), Okja (Ahn Seo-hyun), First They Killed My Father (starring Sreymoch Sareum and directed by Angelina Jolie), mother! (Jennifer Lawrence), Personal Shopper (Kristen Stewart), Colossal (Anne Hathaway), A Ghost Story (Rooney Mara), The Bad Batch (starring Suki Waterhouse and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour) and The Zookeper’s Wife and Molly’s Game (both starring Jessica Chastain).

In television, we saw large female ensembles at the forefront in shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, Alias Grace, GLOW and Godless

In a year that exposed the worst, most terrible examples of toxic patriarchy, there was a silver lining, however insignificant it might seem. Years later, this will count for something.

Tackling harsh realities

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daniel Kaluuya in a scene from, Get Out. (AP)

If there’s still one glaring difference in the way that we make movies and the West makes movies, it’s in their fearlessness to address real problems. In India, the mere mention of casteism or the slightest whiff of politics can get a film blacklisted. Honestly, the entire fiasco surrounding Lipstick Under My Burkha was an all-time low for us as a nation - more tragic and more shameful, I feel, than the Padmavati row, because there was no longer a need to pretend. The powerful men could, without any trepidation, declare a film to be unfit for certification simple because it chose to tell stories about a gender they could not relate to. No historical inaccuracies were required. No controversial depictions of queens or goddesses. No Muslims.

But while we were regressing, filmmakers in America and the Middle East were tackling real issues head-on. Films such as Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, the shattering Ferguson riots documentary Whose Streets? and Jordan Peele’s Get Out explored what it is like to live as a black man in Donald Trump’s America. Films such as Crown Heights and several Netflix documentaries confronted the broken legal and prison systems. Heck, even The Crown didn’t shy away from peeling the pristine layers off the British Royal Family. And let’s not forget Bright.

Rejection of stale franchises in favour of a bolder Hollywood

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows James D'Arcy, left, and Kenneth Branagh in a scene from Dunkirk. (AP)

But our two worlds were united this year in the manner in which we chose to dismiss tentpole franchises. While Indian audiences made it clear that simply being a ‘Khan’ was no longer a guarantee of success, Hollywood witnessed a similar change.Transformers: The Last Knight became the lowest earning entry of the series, and like Justice League, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales embarrassingly underperformed. Tom Cruise’s The Mummy was supposed to spearhead a new interconnected universe of movies, but its terrible critical reception put a silver bullet in those plans. And most encouragingly, Priyanka Chopra’s Baywatch was declared dead on arrival, hopefully drowning any ideas they might have had for a sequel.

Instead, audiences - at least for the most part - showed support for bold original movies such as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and James Mangold’s Logan.

Indie movies as viable commercial options

This image released by Lionsgate shows Kumail Nanjiani, right, and Zoe Kazan in a scene from, The Big Sick. (AP)

One side effect of this mass rejection of subpar sequels was that small indies saw a revival of sorts. Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick was a runaway success, earning more than $50 million at the box office in a crowded summer movie season while Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River crossed $40 million. Oscar hopefuls such as Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri registered some of the best per theatre averages of the year - of any film.

Now ask yourself, is it OK to complain?

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar