With Wonder Woman rope-wielding her way to box office glory, and the eventual breakthrough that was women speaking out against sexual harassment , it would seem all too easy to hail 2017 as a year where the glass ceiling was cracked in the film industry. Yet the breaking down of some walls also reaffirmed that others continue to exist as solidly as they always have; a Variety cover hailing five white actresses as the year’s representatives for change continuing the marginalisation of minority voices while they continued to be a real creative force for audiences worldwide. Nevertheless, cinema still managed to churn out some hard-hitting views across the year, raising awareness of social issues and stressing the progress made alongside that yet to be achieved.
In a post awards season climate where Moonlight claimed a well deserved and symbolic Best Picture victory at the Oscars, it was only right that the following months continued to shine a light on marginalised stories. March welcomed in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a highly clever and sharply fun social thriller where the “I don’t see race” card was ever shown to be one of the biggest lies of the twenty first century. Girls Trip partied its way to the heart of audiences, surpassing expectations and performing well at the Box Office, taking nearly £150 million in worldwide receipts and consolidating even more that stories from the point of view of women, and even more so, women of colour absolutely have a receptive audience.
If women were making strides, this was no more obvious than Wonder Woman shaking up the DC cinematic universe and bringing forth their biggest critical and commercial success. Perhaps most remarkable, DC managed to one up Marvel where critical bias currently lies, shining a light how in fact poorly treated a character Scarlett Johansson’s black widow really has been. At this point she has already been surpassed by Brie Larson who will be starring in 2019’s Captain Marvel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first female led film.
Independent cinema and international cinema as ever presented much to enjoy. One of the best films of the year and festival favourite, The Florida Project was an incredibly touching visual immersion into themes of childhood and motherhood, convincingly and movingly depicted by raw performances from a cast largely of unknowns. Asghar Farhadi added to his masterful backlog of work which often depict compelling stories centred on themes of humanity and family set in Iran. His latest addition, The Salesman, proved just as impressive and picked up best foreign language film at the Oscars.
This year’s biggest releases also demonstrated that the money thrown behind them needn’t have been a substitute for quality. Hollywood’s increasingly preoccupation with making money and consequent reliance on sequels and remakes brought forward Blade Runner 2049. Nervously anticipated by adorers of Ridley Scott’s original, Denis Villeneuve’s attempt managed to secure overwhelming critical acclaim yet uninspired the average movie goer with less box office receipts studio executives were hoping for. Christopher Nolan proved once again he was the man to deliver technical mastery with Dunkirk. Perhaps not the “war epic” as it has been described, but certainly a stunningly memorable theatrical experience and work of art in its own right. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver thrilled audiences with thrilling and brilliantly soundtracked car chases and It, one of this year’s several Stephen King adaptions became the highest grossing horror film of all time and confirmed that we are currently living through a wave of high quality horror releases.
Currently in the midst of awards season and with some big releases looming over the horizon, the months ahead hold a great deal of promise for cinemagoers. Making waves onto British screens soon will be Lady Bird, rivalling Call Me By Your Name for the position of critic darling and awards favourite. But in the months to follow, Marvel’s highly anticipated Black Panther instalment will pounce front and centre into our consciousness, already an achievement and making history for its predominantly black cast.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi might still feel fresh in cinemas and even still is pulling in inordinate amounts of money. However the New Year has absolutely already begun with a whole lot of film to watch in the months ahead. One can only hope that strides made this past year, particularly in respects to women in the film industry, continue to forge ahead and consolidate change.
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