2017 was an eventful year for cinema, with less-than-expected revenues, the Disney-Fox merger, and the Weinstein Allegations all sending shockwaves through the industry. And then there was the embarrassing bungle at the 89th Academy Awards which saw a misplaced envelope crown La La Land, rather than Moonlight, as winner of Best Picture.
While these stories all hint at a volatile and (in some instances) unprofessional industry, for moviegoers, 2017 was a significant improvement over years previous. Every month saw a great film opening in theatres, and many of the releases were far better than most pundits anticipated they would be.
Many movie buffs have taken to their blogs and forums over the past couple of weeks to acknowledge their favourite feature films from the past twelve months, and now this author shall do the same in the only way he knows how: The Fish Called Wanda Awards!
First introduced to the world in January of last year, the Wandas are a unique spin on conventional end-of-year lists – rather than present a countdown of the year’s best films, this imaginary awards ceremony recognises films for individual achievements, much like the Golden Globes or the Oscars, except that the Wandas are sorted by genre.
There are plenty of pictures deserving of praise, but only the greatest of the great will be able to receive a coveted* Wanda trophy. To be eligible, a film must have been released within the past twelve months, and reviewed on this very blog.
While it was difficult to decide which movies most deserved awards, this author is certain that he has made the right choices for each category. Read on to discover which films have been deemed worthy of the industry’s most sought-after* prize.
BEST ACTION FILM
This year’s list begins with the most popular genre for cinemagoers, and the most profitable for film-makers. As has been the case in recent times, 2017 saw a litany of revived franchises and blockbuster sequels flooding theatres, many of which proved mediocre. Thankfully, one action film stood out for being neither a remake nor a sequel, but instead a wholly original screenplay. For choreographing its action sequences to a perfectly-matched soundtrack, and being the thrill that cinemagoers so desperately needed, Baby Driver is the action movie of the year.
(Honourable Mention: Atomic Blonde)
BEST SUPERHERO FILM
All the talk about “superhero fatigue” must have sent studios into a frenzy, because much of the year was spent convincing audiences that the genre could still be fresh and original. First came a quasi-Western about a mutant, then a space-opera about a group of aliens, and then a war picture about a demigod not long after. The one which proved most delightful, though, was Spider-Man: Homecoming, a jovial coming-of-age comedy which happened to star a teenage superhero – and the best iteration of Marvel’s web-slinger yet.
BEST SCIENCE-FICTION FILM
This next winner won’t come as a surprise to anyone who frequents this blog. For the second year in a row, the winner of this category is a movie belonging to a beloved LucasFilm property. As with any good sci-fi flick, it has entertaining action sequences and stellar special effects, but what guarantees its victory is the bold direction in which it takes the characters we know and love. For these reasons, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a worthy recipient of the Wanda for Science-Fiction.
BEST INDEPENDENT RELEASE
As always, the smaller production companies provided plenty of offerings to appease those dissatisfied by the mainstream studios. For this author, the most satisfying of all these releases was Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. Some will find this a perplexing choice, given how polarising its reception has been, but there is a great deal to enjoy, like the performances, clever cinematography, groovy soundtrack and spontaneous moments of comedy. For those wanting an experience of sheer lunacy, Free Fire might just do the trick.
In what may be the most remarkable coincidence in the short history of this blog, this Wanda is again being given to the Academy Award winner for Best Picture – it’s less to do with laziness than it is the belated release dates that we antipodeans so often have to tolerate. In 2017, that victor is Barry Jenkins’ ground-breaking Moonlight. Superbly acted and beautifully told, it’s a picture that deserves to be known for more than the aforementioned Oscar debacle.
BEST WAR FILM
Although interest in this genre has barely waned in the last few decades, it has been some years since Hollywood produced a must-see movie about the Second World War. Back in July, the war film was reinvigorated by an acclaimed director who dared to defy the genre’s conventions (and some of his own) with a non-linear narrative, bloodless action sequences and a British popstar. Despite all the odds being against it, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is undoubtedly the most thrilling war film of 2017.
BEST HORROR FILM
The war genre wasn’t the only one to be revitalised in the past twelve months – the horror genre also has a refresh of sorts, with Netflix’s Stranger Things and Andy Muschietti’s remake of It finding creative ways of frightening audiences. But the feature that stood out most came from the most unlikely of sources: comedian Jordan Peele. While it was advertised to audiences as a social satire, the truth is that Peele’s debut feature is far more effective at scaring people, and for that reason Get Out is the choice for 2017’s best horror release.
It isn’t often that this author finds himself watching romantic comedies, let alone liking one, but for once he feels compelled to make an exception. Rising above the banality is a semi-biogrsphical story from another comedian – this time Kumail Nanjiani – whose script has a level of sincerity rarely seen in the genre. For being smart and sweet without being saccharine, The Big Sick is very deserving Wanda winner, and the type of film that all rom-coms should aspire to be.
BEST BIOGRAPHICAL FILM
Now for another film that takes inspiration from a real-life event, and one which also masquerades as a comedy. Although it isn’t a strict retelling of events as they happened – Nanjiani’s script is probably more factual – there’s more truth to this story than many would believe. It’s also a surprisingly touching picture that speaks to anybody who has ever dared to dream big, with its only fault being a forced conflict between the central protagonists. Housing heart and humour, The Disaster Artist is easily the best biopic of 2017.
(Honourable Mention: Battle of the Sexes)
After just missing out on the accolade last year – it was awarded to Disney’s wonderful Moana – composers Ben Pasek and Justin Paul have upped their game, delivering a soundtrack many times more rousing than their work on La La Land to accompany a film that is even more rambunctious. Benefiting heavily from some truly powerful numbers, The Greatest Showman is 2017’s most enjoyable musical, and the kind of film the public really needs to see more of. Please make it happen, Hollywood!
Unlike the last three winners in this article, the title which earns the Wanda for “Funniest Comedy” was never promoted as such – the marketing material merely implied that this blockbuster might be slightly more fun than its two predecessors. As it turned out, the finished product managed to produce more laughs than any other film featured here (though one or two come close). That product is Thor: Ragnarok, a romp which sees Taika Waititi take home* his second Wanda in two years.
(Honourable Mention: The Lego Batman Movie)
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE
DC’s failure to produce a compelling blockbuster had seen it become a punchline in recent years, and for that reason, this author expected its mid-year release to be an utter bomb. Much to his delight, that assertion turned out to be inaccurate, with the film winning over critics, audiences and even yours truly. With a stellar lead, great supporting cast and upbeat tone, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman ensured that DC’s cinematic universe has a bright future ahead of it.
Whoops, spoke too soon – it looks like our superheroine’s outing may just have been an anomaly, for 2017’s second DC release proved to be less-than-wonderful. Zack Snyder’s follow-up to the haphazard Batman v Superman wasn’t a particularly bad film – much of it is quite commendable – but even though it had made noticeable improvements over its predecessor, Justice League still managed to be underwhelming. It seems that not even a brighter palette and lighter tone can overcome a lifeless villain, rushed pace and poorly-edited first act. Maybe it’s time DC handed the reigns over to someone more competent – Patty Jenkins, perhaps?
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Last year’s Wandas offered proof that animation could match, or even surpass, the standards set by live-action films. On the other hand, 2017 saw the artform enter something of a slump, with most of its releases proving to be good rather than great. Of those releases, it was Pixar’s COCO that proved most enjoyable, with its illustrations, soundtrack, positive message and adoration for Mexican culture all making it so. One can only hope there are more films like it, or even better films, in the next twelve months.
THE FISH CALLED WANDA AWARD FOR BEST FILM
Finally, the time has come to reveal which movie this author considers the best overall release of 2017. While there were numerous films of exceptional quality, there was only one worthy enough to receive a score of Five Stars. It was a movie that needed to tick all the boxes, and did so effortlessly, becoming universally-loved in the process. It had this author in awe from beginning to end, and keenly anticipating the day it would be released on DVD. That film is…
It may not have been as energetic as Baby Driver, nor as hilarious as Ragnarok, nor as heart-poundingly thrilling as Dunkirk, nor as heartfelt as The Disaster Artist, but by golly, no other release came as close to being perfect as Jon Watts’ superhero blockbuster did. It was a film that had action, laughs, drama, romance, and a truly excellent cast, all coming together to create an impeccable cinematic experience that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
In short, movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming are the reason we go to the theatre. If you haven’t already seen the best Marvel movie ever, then you’re missing out.