Hey guys, Jana here,
I know these “Best of 2017” lists should technically be published in 2017, but why would I start 2018 any differently than I lived the majority of my adult life: Procrastinating and underachieving. What can I say? That’s my wheelhouse.
For a year that put a spotlight on some of the shittiest behavior by some of the Hollywood elite, it was actually a good year for TV and movies. I didn’t limit myself in number because as I moved on with the brackets, I felt like I was making ‘Sophie’s Choice‘ on some of these, so they’re all getting in! I’m feeling my inner-Oprah here, You’ve made the list! You made the list! EVERYBODY made the list!! In order to spare myself any arguments, I’m stating up front that my picks for the “Best of 2017” are not edited in regards to scandal or hideous human behavior.
This shouldn’t be a surprising choice to anyone in the year of girl-power or anyone that knows of my unwavering love and devotion to, not only, Diana Prince, but DC Comics in general. Gal Gadot kicked so much ass and this film was heavy on the moments that gave me goosebumps. DC, you did this movie right. Too bad I can’t say the same for ‘Justice League‘, fail to the degree of epic.
I’m usually later than everyone else in watching brand new movies, maybe it’s the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere? Anyhow, there was a ton of buzz generating around this movie after it’s release and my own daughter tried to ruin the ending for me before I got the chance to sit down with it, she’s an evil child. I was expecting some comedy or laughs of some kind because of who wrote and directed – Jordan Peele (‘Key and Peele‘). I really expected there to be a twist worthy of brilliant comedic timing, but I did not expect the twist that was right up there with Shyamalan when Shyamalan was a good director to be compared to. Speaking of Shyamalan…
This is not the same writer and director that brought us ‘Lady in the Water‘, this is the guy who made a name for himself and his films with the twist that undoubtedly came somewhere towards the end of his movies like ‘The Sixth Sense‘. Honestly I try to pretend ‘Lady in the Water’ was a fever dream, I never really wrote him off the way others did, just because I knew he had greatness still in there waiting to find the right movie to come out through. He came back with ‘The Visit‘, then proved he was worthy of playing in the major league with ‘Split‘. James McAvoy was just…wow. Yeah, wow.
I was unsure what to expect of this one when I cued it up, but I was not expecting ‘Jerry Maguire‘ levels of awesome. I’m a Tom Cruise fan to begin with so I look at his movies with a ton of forgiveness and look simply to be entertained, I don’t need something to make me think, just make me forget about my back pain and the electric bill for a few hours. There’s something about a true story, no matter how loosely based, that intrigues me, so I looked forward to this one for quite a while. It was a little reminiscent of ‘Blow‘, but overall fresh, great storytelling and above all – entertaining.
I can’t talk about ‘American Made‘ without taking a common thread and running to the next with it. That common thread is Caleb Landry Jones. This was one of the greatest movies of the year, easily in my top 5, probably would come out at number one. I can’t even say enough good things about the cast, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and the one that surprised me most – Sam Rockwell. I’m like anyone else when I watch a movie, I try to figure out who did it and why. I was wrong every time I turned around, and I loved that about it! I could identify with McDormand’s character, I was destroyed by Harrelson’s, but Rockwell’s knocked me out cold. It was brilliantly written, an intriguing topic and was just amazing.
At a super-close second comes what felt like a soundtrack put in back-to-back video form. I have a real love for anything around the topic of crime and I adore action movies in a way that’s hard to put onto paper. This flick had such a stellar cast and they worked so well together, or against each other, as it went. I was disappointed when it was over and couldn’t wait for the chance to re-watch it. This one starred Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, and Kevin Spacey, plus the poster was pretty awesome. From Kevin Spacey, we move on to…
This biographical drama tells the story of budding author J.D. Salinger. Screenwriter Danny Strong (‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler‘) makes his directorial debut with a re-telling of the life of the reclusive Salinger. Nicholas Hoult was brooding and amazing. Spacey was an outward dick-head with a heart of gold for his prize pupil. I’m a sucker for a good biography and found this one riveting surrounding the whirlwind of talent that was apparent in Salinger’s writing.
Writer director Greta Gerwig has created a movie that, in a genius and intricate way, tells the story of self-named Lady Bird and her ascent into adult-hood while trying to maintain her own sense of self with a mother who is equally flummoxed in how to give Lady Bird room to grow, while trying to keep from losing touch with the woman she’s becoming. It was a bit of a slice-of-life picture that gave us just enough history to understand the family dynamic. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf pulled no punches with their characters and you could feel for each person. This film was brilliantly executed in that it showed flaws and strengths of the characters without your losing compassion for either.
This film tells the story of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding and that pivotal Nancy Kerrigan attack that would forever be attached to their names. I love the tongue-in-cheek re-telling where the director shows us the truth of the events based on who’s telling the story, and what the public has deemed real. Allison Janney and Margot Robbie embodied the mother-daughter characters of Lavona and Tonya in such a way they didn’t just appear on screen, they jumped off it and had a bitch-slap contest in your living room. Harding’s roots growing up in a less-than modest income trailer-park are splashed across the screen setting the stage for the ballsy, in-your-face attitude that seemed to embody Harding as the quintessential Bad Girl.
Jeremy Renner anchors the cast of this crime drama that includes Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, and Jon Bernthal. Sometimes movies like this delve too deeply in the ugly details and forget to tell a real story that captures the viewer’s interest, this was not the case here. I was entranced by an amazing story from scene to scene, it was beautifully edited and each scene was relevant to the story being told. Writer director Taylor Sheridan, known to me as Deputy Chief David Hale from ‘Sons of Anarchy‘, has proven he’s got more than a little talent for story-telling, no matter which side of the screen he’s on. His screenwriting credits include ‘Sicario‘, ‘Hell or High Water‘, and an in-progress Sicario sequel. Do not miss this one.
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for horror movies, they’ve progressively gotten more intense over the years, and in some cases all too predictably so. I’m intrigued by the famed demonologist couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, so I look forward to any kind of film that comes from ‘The Conjuring‘ universe. This film, in and of itself, is unremarkable. The reason it stayed with me was the giant loop that it made back to the first ‘Annabelle’ at the end. That was a genius piece of film-work and I love it.
In another piece of biographical celluloid comes this story about the ultimate well…Battle of the Sexes. Billie Jean King was goaded and basically dared into a one-on-one against aging has-been Bobby Riggs, she relented, they played, she kicked his ass. It was a good watch and it showed the boundaries that were being broken in leaps and bounds by King. And to think, it all got started with $1.
This one came out of nowhere for me. I had seen the title and the poster forever and never really got any kind of interest from what I’d seen to make me think I wanted to watch it. I finally watched it and was blown away by the heart-felt moments, pain, and just the realistic elements that were woven together to make this film the sleeper hit it is. In the world of under-rated movies, this might just be king. Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are held together by the true star of this movie, Kumail Nanjiani. The real story being told is heartbreaking, and funny, and remarkable. I was blown away by the actors, but one that really surprised me is Romano. I grew up on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond‘ and when I think of him, I think of the goofball he was. To see him with real acting chops just makes my heart happy.
When it comes to TV shows this year, there were a lot of new series, mini-series and returning series. Every network has their own outlets and creative teams that are working brilliantly together and that’s resulting in amazing TV watching everywhere you look. It was hard to narrow down my list because I’d love to just put everything on here. Some that got left behind are ‘Claws‘, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘, ‘Mr. Mercedes‘, ‘Ozark‘, and ‘What Would Diplo Do?‘
Neil Gaiman’s incredible novel on the small screen was a perfect match. I’m learning more and more towards TV series being where I prefer my favorite books be adapted. So much gets left out when you have to compact it to a 2 hour film. It’s really a crime when some of the greater aspects of a book are dropped for nothing other than time constraints. This series showed there was enough time for good character development, amazing effects and superb storytelling. Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, and Pablo Schreiber were perfect matches for these well-rounded characters. Upon this series’ reception it’s no surprise that ‘Good Omens‘ has been picked up and adapted as well. I can’t wait for that one!
Every old-school gamer got excited when we heard that ‘Castlevania‘ was going to be adapted to series by Netflix. The network has really proven to be a major competitor when it comes to development of original programming. I grew up playing the game on my NES as did tons of others. My only complaint on watching ‘Castlevania‘ is that it was too short! I know there will be a second season and that helps, but I felt like a junkie when I got to the end of the last episode, I wanted more! Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, and James Callis were excellent choices to voice this series.
Like I said earlier, I’m a sucker for true stories, biographies, true crime and serial killers are incredibly fascinating to me. I’ve been sick of the constant deluge of ‘Law & Order‘, ‘NCIS‘, ‘CSI‘ shows, they’re everywhere and nothing feels fresh any longer. This one grabbed my attention. I know it’s because of the true crime aspect and what is known and unknown about the case. I didn’t look to this for entirely factual events, but that it’s based on real events and that Edie Falco starred didn’t hurt, either. This mini-series was well paced and I hope it’s the opening salvo in a series of true crime mini-series.
‘Midnight, Texas‘ was based on a trilogy of novels written by Charlaine Harris, the same Harris that gave us the titillating ‘True Blood‘ series on HBO. When I saw this series was going to TV I made sure I read the books beforehand so I could judge the adaptation quality. I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I kind of enjoyed some of the additional things the series added that the book did not, but the flip-side of that coin is that I was disappointed about some things being taken from the book that weren’t on screen. François Arnaud, Dylan Bruce, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Arielle Kebbel, Jason Lewis, and Peter Mensah truly took on their characters and became the inhabitants of Midnight, Texas. It was full of fantasy, drama, and a great mystery to boot. I was beyond impressed with this and it was one my whole family got into.
Following the drama, mystery and thriller genres comes ‘Taboo‘, straight from the brain of Tom Hardy and his father Chips Hardy. Tom Hardy had this to say about his character, “I wanted James Delaney to be like a classical hero, a man of action, but someone who also has a depth of depravity to him and this great ability to say ‘fuck off’.” How can you not like a character like that? Throw in the time period of London during the 1812 war and you’ve got a period drama that has gripped my attention. There is a season 2 coming and thank God for that!
This story comes from novelist Liane Moriarty and I was just as intrigued by the series as I was by the book. The casting was A-list all the way and worked together even better than the characters did in my mind. I wasn’t the only one to be impressed by this series as was evidenced by the accolades being heaped on the series, 6 Golden Globes nominations alone. The on-screen chemistry of the actors was pivotal to making this show a success, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern were just brilliant. The mystery that shrouded each episode was so intense and I’m glad my life as a mom of a first grader was not this exciting.
Ryan Murphy did it again with ‘Feud‘. He based the first season of this anthology series on the real-life rivalry of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were amazing in the leading roles with a supporting cast that was understated but unique. Judy Davis, Jackie Hoffman, Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Kathy Bates worked together like a well-oiled machine. When season 2 premieres, it will focus on the relationship between Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
This series was a big contender with the Teen Choice Awards and is set up to entice a younger generation of viewers, but I was impressed with the setting and the storyline, not to mention the cast the network put together to bring the 2-dimensional world of Riverdale to life. The breakout star was K.J. Apa as Archie, Lili Reinhart as Betty , Camila Mendes as Veronica, and Cole Sprouse was really awesome as Jughead. Throw out everything you think you know about Archie and Jughead because none of it fits in here. The series has already began a season two run and deservedly so. If you love the Riverdale world, be sure to watch for ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘ from Netflix. Sabrina will take place in the same world and be a darker coming-of-age story about Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
If you’ve read this far, I can’t tell you how impressed I am with your stamina. Really, a Standing O for you, and if you’ve read all this, you know I love true crime and serial killer-based shows. ‘Mindhunter‘ fit like a glove for what I wanted to see in a series. The exploration taking place from two FBI agents attempting to set up a whole new set of parameters for detective work surrounding murders was a bigger thing than I had ever known. As education progressed and the criminal mind was dissected more deeply the change in how to catch a killer was not met by all with excitement. The characters are defined, but it feels like the real star of the show is the sociopathic mind. It permeates every scene and has become a part of the background. It’s really seamless and brilliantly done.