It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.
I saw twenty-five films in theaters in 2017, but four were Best Picture nominees officially released in 2016 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. (Ranking those four from Best to Least Best: Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures, and Manchester by the Sea. Of those four, nothing has haunted me throughout 2017 more than the Attack of the 50-Foot Viola Davis.)
Of the remaining 21 contenders that I saw in theaters, we had eight super-hero sequels or continuations, though one of them didn’t reveal that till the final scene; five non-superhero sequels; one reboot; two adaptations of printed works (one already famously done); one non-superhero animated film (possibly an all-time low for me); and four live-action original works. Obviously you’ll note the following list is far from comprehensive in covering 2017’s release slate. This was such a busy year for us that spare time for theater-going was in much shorter supply than usual, to say nothing of the impact that Netflix’s strong TV-series slate has had on my viewing habits. On the bright side, 21 films is a 10% increase over my total for 2016, which wasn’t much of a year.
(For what it’s worth, I decided to set aside most Oscar-potential films until after the official nominations announcement is made on January 23rd. I definitely plan to get around to Get Out soon, and for light kicks maybe Cars 3 if it ever reaches Netflix, where I noticed the other day they now have Pirates of the Caribbean 5 for any die-hard cheapskate Captain Jack Sparrow fans willing to kill 2½ hours to catch up on his antics. Last year I was not one of those.)
In the meantime, here’s what I didn’t miss in theaters in 2017, for better or worst-of-the-worst. Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the bottom half of the countdown:
Once again it’s National List Month, that only time of year when all of Hollywood buys “For Your Consideration” ads in newspapers to impress the AMPAS over-70 voting bloc. Meanwhile on the internet, where newspapers can’t touch us except when they’re spreading propaganda or puff pieces that their supporters have pre-approved, we dedicated theater-goers can overlook the stars’ campaigns, hash out our opinions free of influence, and vote with our bullet points. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.
I saw twenty-two films in theaters in 2016, but three were Best Picture nominees released in 2015 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. (Ranking those from Best to Least Best: Room, The Big Short, and The Revenant…though throughout the year I mentioned The Big Short in conversations more often than any other 2015 film.) Disqualified from inclusion are four 2016 releases I watched via Netflix, Redbox, or Black Friday Bluray (which are ranked in that entry), because I let convenience and budgetary concerns talk me out of a few extra theater trips.
Of the remaining 19 contenders that I saw in theaters, I saw nine sequels (five of which were super-hero universe expansion packs), one reboot, one would-be big-budget YA series launch, three Based on a True Story (none of which were grade-A), five animated films (two of which were not-great sequels included in said count), one original musical and one original science fiction film. To be honest, 19 may be the fewest films I’ve seen in theaters in any year so far this millennium. Here’s hoping 2017 tempts me out the front door a bit more often, time permitting and quality pending.
Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the lower half of the countdown:
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Once again it’s National List Month, when all of Hollywood runs down to Hallmark and buys “For Your Consideration” cards to mail out to their fifty thousand closest friends. Meanwhile on the internet, where no one sends us free stuff to buy our love, we dedicated theater-goers are forced to make up our own minds, revisit our opinions, and vote with our bullet points. I saw twenty-six films in theaters in 2015, but five were Best Picture nominees released in 2014 and therefore disqualified from this list, even though two of them amazed me, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates…
And now, on with the countdown:
We once lived in a cinematic age when pushing a series to five or more installments was a generally unwise move. Rocky V. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Superman Returns. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. An unwatchable army of various grade-Z horror also-rans that made it to #5 only through the undiscerning benevolence of the direct-to-VHS market. Many of us remain thankful the producers of Jaws and Lethal Weapon quit while they were behind.
Today, sequel failure is no longer a given. X-Men: Days of Future Past and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix may not be the greatest of either franchise, but they’re nonetheless commendable works that furthered their sagas, asked more of their actors, challenged themselves to create their own unique moments, and validated their existence. They confirmed it can be done. Along that same line of logic comes Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Any other series built around any other A-list star might be accused of being a soulless cash-grabbing machine if they repeated a role this many times. Maybe not all the parts are brand new, but the ones that worked before shine up really nicely and fit together into interesting new shapes if you know how to tweak them.