The film business is built around giving consumers what they want. But even today, with the internet tracking our every choice and using the profile created to generate content ever-more targeted to our deepest wants and needs – and yet, still no Married… with Children reunion – “giving consumers what they want” largely boils down to making films in various well-defined commercial genres. And in 2017, a lot of those genres didn’t pay off.
As the year comes to a close there’s been plenty of must-read “years best” movie lists online – see my co-blogger Rochelle’s list here, my co-author Mel Campbell’s list here, Rochelle’s co-podcaster Lee Zachariah’s list here for starters – and while it’s no real surprise to see many of the same films turning up on many of the many many lists internet-wide, what has been noticeable is that many of the films have been roughly the same kind of film.
Usually this would inspire a range of hot takes along the lines of “2017 was the year of the [insert genre here]”. But while it’s possible to make the case for plenty of genres, be it smart social horror (Raw, Get Out) or old dudes part their prime (Logan, T2 Trainspotting) or space opera (Valerian, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), or pretty much any two or more mildly similar films – hey, Manchester by the Sea and Call Me By Your Name both came out in Australia in 2017, it must have been the year of Male Weepies With Long Titles – in 2017 so many of the good films felt like variations on the same “quality” film.
Part of the reason why Get Out seemed like such a big deal – and, I suspect, is why it's at or near the top of many lists – is because it wasn’t a polished slice of self-consciously quality film-making like so many other “good” films in 2017. Get Out was a genre film that had something to say and wanted to say it in a way that went beyond congratulating the audience on their good taste for choosing to watch a quality feature film: [SPOILER ALERT] it was a film about racism that was also about mad scientists doing partial brain transplants - that’s the kind of craziness we needed more of in 2017.
(you could argue we got that with Mother!, except that Mother! was a film way more interested in looking deep than actually having anything deep to say - it wasn’t even as good as Geostorm, a film whose only virtue lies in the fact that “Geostorm” is fun to say.)
Instead what we ended up with in 2017 was plenty of perfectly well-made “quality” films. Obviously that wasn’t the only kind of film being made in 2017 – though I didn’t see any of you at The House – but with most of Hollywood’s blockbusters failing to kindle any serious excitement (remember when Kingsman: The Golden Circle seemed promising? Even Transformers: The Last Knight was only insane in a half-hearted way) the spotlight fell on quality films (and when they weren't around, evil clowns) to lure people into cinemas.
And that’s fine! I like a good quality film as much as the next person - who at the movies I go to is usually some pension-age media hack who thinks it's hilarious to loudly point out how many production company logos there are at the start of a film - and my top ten-ish of 2017 (sorry, that’s what all this is leading up to) has plenty of them on board. But “quality” is as much a genre as any other - we can use the term “Oscar-worthy” if you’d prefer - and it's simply not a great year in movies when one genre dominates over all others.
In 2017 I would have preferred a few more great films that weren’t self-consciously quality films - more films like Girls Trip and Colossal and John Wick 2 and Happy Death Day and War For the Planet of the Apes and Split and even Valerian, which was kind of a mess in a lot of ways – simply because I go to the cinema to feel things (as I am dead inside) and shock and amazement and excitement are as much fun to feel as muted single-tear sadness at the ineffable beauty of life.
But what do I know? I’ve already locked in Brawl in Cell Block 99 as my best film of 2018. Direct-to-DVD in Australia January 31st, everybody! Vince Vaughn beats up a car!
My best of 2017:
*Manchester by the Sea
*Happy Death Day
*Ingrid Goes West
*War for the Planet of the Apes
*The Eagle Huntress
*20th Century Women
*The Edge of Seventeen
*I Am Not Your Negro
*John Wick Chapter 2
My worst of 2017:
*Live by Night
*XXX: Return of Xander Cage
*A Cure For Wellness
*Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2
*The Hitman’s Bodyguard
*A Few Less Men