Things to Watch – 2017 Movie and TV Recap

2017 – A Good Year for Movies and TV

I thought I would give some of my thoughts on what TV and movies I liked in 2017. I watch about an hour a day, which, duh, is 365 hours a year. A lot of programming.

Hopefully, I can help you decide whether to invest in seeing if Carrie can stop yet another terrorist attack before she loses her marbles. FYI that is the primary “Homeland” plot. Season 7 begins Feb 11. Answer – you shouldn’t.

Broadly, 2017 was excellent for both movies and TV series. There were some very satisfying original and continuing projects on both the big and little screens. The result is I have some great programs that I would like to call to your attention.

I have four guiding principles in my evaluations:

  • Did the show have great execution?
  • Do I like the genre?
  • Do I like a principal participant?
  • Is there something special going on that merits paying attention?

This year, I found myself enjoying some shows in genres I don’t like (Stranger Things and Get Out). I also revisited series I had given up on (Peaky Blinders). Both additions made because of strong word of mouth from friends. Keeping an open mind is essential to finding great stuff!

Consider Watching These

That’s the point of this post – get you consider some shows you might not be aware of.

I haven’t still seen everything. Admittedly, there are some significant omissions. Some were on purpose because I don’t like the genre (Blade Runner) or the principles involved (Phantom Thread).  Others, like “The Post” “Call Me by Your Name” and “The Shape of Water,” will all be viewed shortly. I expect them all to be on the Oscar nomination list this Tuesday.

In TV, I’m watching “The Handmaids Tale.” It’s compelling, but, can’t comment until I finish. I also plan to get to “This is Us” “Fargo” “Riverdale” and “The Good Place.” Soon.

And there is, “The Leftovers” that ended this year. I know critics love that one. I need to see why.

So, here they are, the shows that you might investigate for future viewing.

Must See Movies

  • Get Out – Part suspense, part horror, and because of Key & Peele’s Jordan Peele is the writer/director – is also a part comedy. Whatever it is, this genre-defying film is terrific and its take on race is original.
  • Three Billboards – This dark dramedy is all about the writing that serves up an original plot laced with dark humor anchored by rich characterizations by three veteran actors (Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell). Golden Globes for McDormand and Rockwell.  A solid A and best picture frontrunner.
  • Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age valentine to Sacramento is sweet, insightful and always surprising. Anchored by an excellent performance by Saoirse Ronan this directing debut by the indie-darling actress/writer signals the arrival of promising new talent. A solid A.
  • The Disaster Artist – Unexpectedly sweet and silly retelling of how “the worlds worst movie” was made. So much of this movie’s charm and the very delicate balancing act employed in its telling is due primarily to a Golden Globe-winning performance by James Franco. It’s flawless. The more delicate balancing act will be Franco’s future career after recent allegations of sexual misconduct.

Should See Movies

  • Wonder Woman – I’m tired of superhero movies but this one, yeah, it’s kind of mesmerizing thanks to Gal Gadot’s heartfelt and credible performance in the lead role. This is not Linda Carter.
  • Wind River – Great storytelling in a rich undercovered milieu with a strong performance by Jeremy Renner. Missed by many for no good reason.
  • John Wick 2 – Not for everyone. For those to whom this loner-badass-who-kills-em-all genre speaks, Keanu is perfect, again. I find this better than the latest round of Liam Neeson vehicles.
  • Logan – I know, another superhero movie? Hugh Jackman here is extraordinary making you genuinely care about the character of Wolverine. Takes the super-hero genre further than any other film.
  • The Greatest Showman – The La La Land/Evan Hansen songwriters deliver some memorable original tunes to showcase Hugh Jackman and director Michael Gracey in this genre pushing musical-on-film. The film is flawed. Musicals may not be your thing. But, several numbers are breathtaking.

Must See Series

  • Game of Thrones – HBO – Epic storytelling of revenge and conquest reached terrific new heights this year with special effects that rival anything on the big screen. This series will be in the top 10 series of all time list, forever.
  • Big Little Lies – HBO – A can’t lose cast (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern) is at times a bit too graphic, but, always keeps you guessing in this year’s big Emmy winner.
  • Mindhunter – Netflix – Fantastic and unfamiliar terrain (the development of the science of serial murderer profiling by the FBI) brilliantly realized by A-list film director David Fincher and an excellent lead performance by Jonathan Groff.
  • Stranger Things – Netflix – Channeling of “Goonies” and 80’s-style horror films, almost every aspect of this series’ second-season was better than first.  Most of all were the shows visuals, the result of a bigger budget. The kids aging might kill part of its charm in season 3. Good for us, these two seasons are already done, and golden.
  • Manhunt – The Unabomber – Discovery – With the success of “People vs. OJ” expect more dramatizing history series like this one that dusts off some cobwebs going into stories we “sort of” followed. The gold here is the singularly fascinating real story of the Unabomber.  A real enigma is given great context in this disturbing series.

Should See Series

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO – Some people can’t stand Larry David. Too bad. This year’s season might be his best. Every word out of Leon’s mouth is hilarious, and the “Fatwah the Musical” thread’s culmination with Lin-Manual Miranda’s two-episode arc is, well, kind of amazing.
  • Bosch – Amazon Prime – Surprised how many haven’t seen this author-involved adaption of Micheal Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels. Now three seasons in. Titus Welliver is perfect as Bosch and the LA locations rich with culture and atmosphere. This is my favorite genre in my favorite city which may explain why it’s listed.
  • Master of None – Netflix – The first season of Aziz Ansari’s series was cute and at times sweet, but this year, he really swings for the fences and as a result ups his game as writer/director/star. What I like most is this story requires all the episodes to tell it. Great cast.
  • Ozark – Netflix – Jason Bateman is perfect in his wholly dramatic role as an accountant on the run. Plus, being chased by gangsters and Oakies for money laundering is unfamiliar.  Great cast that includes Laura Linney.
  • Better Call Saul – AMC – Too quirky and slow-moving for most. What is most noteworthy is Bob Odenkirk’s relaxed performance as Saul.  The Breaking Bad pedigree that continues to unfold may be irresistible to some.
  • Peaky Blinders – Netflix – Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby has been an excellent lead performance by a familiar actor usually in supporting roles. This year’s season kicks into to overdrive with menacing turns by Tom Hardy and Adrian Brody in this six-episode-a-season British series.

Docs and other special mentions

  • Bang! The Bert Berns’ Story – What do “Twist and Shout” “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Piece of My Heart” have in common? The incomparable Bert Berns. Bern’s story is probably unfamiliar to many. This doc tells it in what I would call THE must see in music docs from 2017.
  • The Defiant Ones – HBO – Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine have impressive music stories to tell. Put them together, and, “Boom” – Beats is born and they become billionaires. Another must for music doc fans.
  • Dave Chappell – Netflix – The genius comedian returns with four Nexflix (yes, four) specials that show a storyteller in deep thought and at the top of his game. Fascinating and hilarious as he touches on OJ, #metoo, and why he left show business after the Chappel show.
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – Amazon Prime – I didn’t love this, but I’ll watch anything from Gillmore Girls creators Amy and Daniel Palladino. They completely capture the period, and Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan is fantastic in the lead role.
  • Long Strange Trip – Amazon Prime – I know some folks don’t care for the Grateful Dead (me included). I had my mind changed with this four-hour documentary. As a result of full cooperation from the band, I had new insight into their popularity and legacy in the music business.
  • Jim and Andy – Netflix – This is a documentary of how Jim Carey “got into the character” of Andy Kaufman for the movie, “Man in the Moon.” The film is strange, hard to watch, but for people like me, this is an entirely fascinating story about a train wreck that turned out successful.
  • Icarus – Netflix – What starts off as a “supersize me” type of project (only with steroids and cycling) unexpectedly snowballs into a riveting documentary about Olympic doping. Timely given Olympics are around the corner.
  • Bojack Horseman & Rick and Morty – Two similarly silly animated shows with an edge missing from either the Simpsons or Family Guy. Hilarious at times.

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