Scandal and drama: The 2017 movie review
- Credit: Archant
This year was a year of contrasts and contradictions at the cinema. The headlines were made by what was happening off screen rather than what was on it. Arts editor Andrew Clarke takes a look at 2017 and asks what will go down in the history books?
Some trends you can see coming a mile off: more superhero franchise movies, more tepid action movies from Tom Cruise, who appears to be desperate to convince us he’s still as youthful as he was in the 1980s and ‘90s, and a host of instantly forgettable, intellectually insulting, lazy rom-coms.
What was less predictable was the events happening off the screen. 2017 proved to be an unexpectedly good year for movies with gay characters or gay subject matter with a wealth of popular and critically acclaimed movies revitalising our screens. Elsewhere, the horror genre got a new lease of life this year but the biggest story of the year has to be The Weinstein Scandal followed by the #MeToo campaign which saw big-name stars like Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
A story, which some initially thought would be a short-lived piece of juicy gossip, has revealed itself to be a huge, industry-changing revelation. The more people speak out, the more excesses are revealed. Nothing will be the same again. Thank goodness.
Hollywood is being forced to take a long-hard look at itself and the way it works. Some changes have all ready come into force – new safety-first guide-lines on the way that sex scenes are filmed, for example – but others will undoubtedly come along.
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The role of women in the film industry is also being examined, studios are looking at boosting the number of women writers, directors and producers it employs, and this should have an effect on the type of films that are produced.
One thing is certain that the ramifications of the Harvey Weinstein accusations will carry on for years to come. The last time Hollywood experienced a scandal of this magnitude was the Fatty Arbuckle manslaughter/rape trial in 1921 which resulted in the introduction of the Hays Code, which regulated the morality of the movies for the next 30 years.
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Hopefully, the changes which the Weinstein Scandal will undoubtedly prompt will benefit both film-makers and audiences. It should make the film industry a safer place to work and hopefully offer more opportunities for more people.
An indication that this is starting to happen can be seen in the string of mainstream movies with a gay theme which have received critical acclaim this year. The year kicked off with Moonlight eventually winning the Best Picture Oscar, after a mix-up with La La Land, this told the story of a young black man growing up on the mean streets of Miami and discovering who he is and how he fits into the world.
This was followed with equally well reviewed Italian gay drama Call Me By Your Name, which also happened to be the most original and entertaining rom-com of the year, then came Battle of the Sexes, ostensibly a sports-bio-pic about tennis star Billie Jean-King but is equally about her repressed sexuality.
Like any hetro-sexual drama, sex and sexuality doesn’t have to be the main subject but it can provide colour and insight into a wider story. Britain supplied a gruff, Yorkshire gay love story in the excellent God’s Own Country while the LGBT community adopted Wonder Woman as their very own super-hero.
This year was also the year of The Handmaiden. The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the big success stories on TV this year and Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden was the largest grossing foreign language hit of the year in British cinemas. This erotic thriller, based on Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, was a complex and compelling rollercoaster that dazzlingly complex and totally compelling. It was also a movie that made sure the sex actually was relevant to the story and actually moved the narrative forward rather than being set dressing which is all it was in 50 Shades Darker.
Hollywood’s blockbuster mentality continued unabated this year with endless superheroes crossing over between movies in their Marvel or DC universes. It seems to me that you need a degree in comic books just to keep up with 101 fractured storylines that weave themselves across our cinema screen throughout the year.
The best two movies Wonder Woman and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine spin-off Logan were the best of their kind because they had something to say about the real world and could be viewed as stand-alone movies. Both were well-made and had at least one eye on character development rather than just being concerned with special effects and action sequences.
British national treasure Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It) came up with the best British movie of the year in The Death of Stalin, brilliantly funny, incredibly dark this celebrated both great writing and superb acting. In fact the cast list read like a who’s who of British Equity.
If intelligent blockbusters like Bladerunner 2049 failed to live up to box office expectations then a true story about young, black female human computers told in Hidden Figures was the sleeper hit of the year. It told the story of young women whose calculations enabled the Apollo programme to go to the moon.
It was an inspirational movie which showed not only how important these great female mathematicians were but what ridiculous prejudice they had to rise above not only in the outside world but also within NASA.
Tackling prejudice was also the subject of the most surprising horror hit of the year Get Out. Actor/writer/director Jordan Peele came up with a crowd-pleasing movie that managed to defy boundaries and expectations. It was a genuine jump-out-of-your-seat chiller that also worked as a laugh-out-loud comedy and amazingly also worked as a thoughtful treatise on how racial prejudice could still exist in seemingly liberal, good-intentioned white families.
It was genuinely genre-busting and hugely entertaining and therefore film of the year.