Another year has gone by, and firstly, if you are reading this, congratulations, we have all collectively got through the first year of the Trump Presidency without being blown up, only 3 more to go! Away from the misery of Trump, the French General Election being between a racist and effectively a French Thatcher, and the continuing ‘The Thick of It’ inspired omnishambles that is the department for leaving the European Union, this year has been packed full of great Music, TV and Film. Rudrum Ramblings will now look over the best of the year’s media action.
In Television, Netflix continued its golden era by throwing more new TV shows that it is impossible to keep up with. On the negative side another series of House of Cards brought yet more diminishing returns, and the Spacey allegations may be a blessing in disguise if that show comes to an end sooner rather than later. The Netflix Marvel TV shows also continued to go downhill, although The Defenders was at least better than the woeful Iron Fist. On the upside Netflix brought out a lot of quality, including Making of a Murderer spoof American Vandal and Mindhunter, probably the first TV show based on an academic case study, which is absolutely brilliant, Cameron Britton’s portrayal of serial killer Edmund Kemper being the uneasy highlight.
One of the best Netflix originals has to be Master of None, which its glorious cinematography, the charisma of Aziz Ansari, relatable content of 2017 and even touching on sexual harassment 6 months prior to Weinstein made this comedy drama a much watch. Stranger Things 2 exceeded expectations and was better than its original, being sentimental, funny, well acted, suspenseful and nostalgic in one go. Highlight of this season was the 6th episode “The Spy”, which was near perfection in terms of 45 minutes of TV. Black Mirror also returned yesterday and so far has continued its genre twisting paranoia of technology despite being a show from a technological giant which itself is probably paranoid against. Black Mirror in general does seem to have more of an edge in the Trump era, especially looking back at old episodes such as “The Waldo Moment”.
Speaking of TV Shows which have come at the perfect time in regards to the Trump presidency, look no further than The Handmaids Tale, or as it’s also known, the best TV show of 2017. Depicting a dystopian future where the far evangelical right set up a dictatorship in the midst of a reproduction crisis, the show follows June, played perfectly by Elisabeth Moss, who is forced to bear children for a commander within the new dictatorship. As well as some outstanding episodes (see episode 3 and episode 7 in particular), The Handmaids Tale is, at its core, utterly bleak, but, what it does best, is give every character suitable development and the evidence that every idealist dictatorship falls down at the fact that the leadership can’t stick to its own rules (spoilers). Also on Channel 4 this year, Fargo has been outstanding again, with outstanding performances from Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as well as a show stealing performance from David Thewlis who introduced another top draw villain to Fargo. Homeland continued to punch far above the weight that it did in the Nicholas Brody days.
HBO have had two massive hits this year but both have been patchy. Westworld, although very interesting in concept, and very well shot, was unnecessarily slow the first half a season. This year’s Game of Thrones started off, ignoring the Sheeran massacre of the Riverlands, very good throwing curveballs left right and centre, but ended the season a bit dumbed down and disappointing, and seemed to have lost its killer edge. The loss of Petr “Bae”lish will be missed for any further seasons.
Amazon Prime continued to struggle and have mainly dross on, making itself the ITV of streaming sites. However Mr Robot season 3 was outstanding and it could not be recommended more highly.
BBC, although with lots of very good dramas like Line of Duty, Paula and Broken on its books, didn’t have anything truly outstanding, and only had one very good comedy show in People Just Do Nothing on its books. To be honest, I did not get Taboo, while SSGB felt like the one of the largest cases of squandering an open goal in TV history, in instead of producing a tense thriller based on its content; the BBC production delivered a drab of a TV Show. Dr Who ended its period under Steven Moffat in the same form it has had the last few years, from being sublime one week to being utterly frustrating the next, hopefully it can find some more consistency under a new showrunner. Quick word on Peaky Blinders as well, which upped its ante after a disappointing 3rd season. Adrian Brody made a fantastic villain and the end of season standoff (spoilers!) combined with an actual feeling of jeopardy again gave the show an extra edge.
In terms of films, being both single and having access to Rotten Tomatoes (other review sites are available) means it’s very rare for me to see a bad movie the year it comes out. In fact, saying the worst new movie I saw this year is Trainspotting T2, which is still a 7/10, says a lot. Blade Runner 2049 for example, did the rarity of being better than the original, and an outstanding work of Sci-Fi and filmmaking. Dunkirk, although I don’t agree that its Christopher Nolan’s best film as some have suggested, is a brilliant, tension led film that gives you a strong case on anxiety during the film. The Disaster Artist, based on the making of the best-worst film of all time, The Room, was hilarious as well as surprisingly genuinely moving, surprise package right there. The Death of Stalin, was for an Armando Iannucci project, not as funny as expected, but that is certainly made up by its accuracy to the events it depicts and for its acting and omnishambles qualities.
The best movie of the year however, Kevin Spacey aside, was Baby Driver. Directed by Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Sean of the Dead), Baby Driver has everything, really good cast, filled with great characters, great action set pieces/sequences, a kickass soundtrack, a strong backbone and development, and the right amount of Jon Hamm. One movie I have not mentioned yet is The Last Jedi, which was like every other film Rian Johnson has made, on one hand absolutely brilliant, but on the hand has more holes in its plot than the USS Arizona. (Spoilers) On one hand there is the performances of Mark Hamill and Adam Driver and indeed the final 45 minutes of the film, and on the other hand there is the sheer lack of character development of Snoke, the whole section in the casino and insufficient mourning of Admiral Ackbar.
Finally, 2017 continued the recent trend of odd years being far better than even years for music, with SZA, The XX, Stormzy, Vince Staples, Thundercat, Sampha, LCD Soundsystem, Mura Masa, Marika Hackman, Royal Blood, NERD, Logic, Kelela, Joey Bada$$, Jay Z, Elbow and Depeche Mode to name a few of the artists to bring up 7/10 upwards albums. In terms of the top of the top, The National, a band which I up and until this year felt were a bit overrated, brought out the song of the year in “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and one of the Albums of the year with “Sleep Well Beast”. In terms of Indie albums, the only album better than The National came from Wolf Alice. A band who I have followed since their first EP, Wolf Alice brought out an album which surpassed the first in terms of quality and scope, and included the top drawer single “Don’t Delete The Kisses”, a cinematic shoeglazing anthemic love song. Cigarettes After Sex (awful band name) album opener, “K”, is a brilliant, atmospheric song which hark back with Interpol-esque guitar lines. Unfortunately, the rest of that album was let down by a lack of versatility.
In Hip-Hop, Kendrick Lamar put down his claim for the greatest of all time by following up “Good Kid, M.A.A.D city” and “To Pimp a Butterfly” with arguably his third masterpiece in a row, “Damn”. An album, which includes the variety of proper old school hip hop songs like “HUMBLE” and “ELEMENT”, to political and social commentary with “FEEL” and “XXX”, to capturing the feeling of Lust, in, well “LUST”, to radio friendly bangers like “LOYALTY and “GOD”. Despite the fact I see this album as not quite up to GKMC standards, it is still far better than any of hip hop album this year and cements his place as the greatest.
The best pop album of the year came from Lorde, who’s melodrama, which felt cinematic, young and fresh, has been on repeat for much of the year. Standouts from this album include “Homemade Dynamite” lead single “Green Light” and Kate Bush-esque “Writer in the Dark”. The best pop song of the year however, came from Selena Gomez, who’s Talking Heads sampling “Bad Liar” was unbelievably catchy and included a great vocal performance.
Debut album of the year went to British rapper Loyle Carner, who produced a jazz inspired hip hop album which felt so detached from the rest of the UK scene from its complete rejection of grime to the lyrical content, that it felt simply original. Stand outs from this include “Isle of Arran” and “Aint Nothing Changed”.
There was of course some music this year which was also dreadful. None of what was dreadful was more disheartening than Eminem’s “Revival”, which as a fan, was devastating to see the legend make such a pathetic album. However, this was not the worst album of the year, which went to the much hyped J Hus, who I simply just did not get and saw as junk. Finally, a shout to Ed Sheeran, who went from making well-meaning songs like “A Team” and good pop songs like “Sing” a few years ago to making the David Brent inspired “Castle on the Hill” and the embarrassing parody of Irish culture “Galway Girl”, guess it serves him right for supporting Ipswich.
So, if you are reading this in 2018, long live 2017, and here’s to another year of Rudrum Ramblings.