2017 has been a tough year, for a lot of reasons that don’t need to be rehashed here. On the flip side of that toughness, though, is one of the best years I can ever remember for movies and video games. Over the past 11 months, there have been two new entries on my all-time favorites lists for movies and video games* with other possibilities still on the way.
*These lists do not actually exist in any fixed form. Maybe I’ll write them up soon.
When I first saw The Big Sick roughly five months ago, I was positive that it was the best movie of the year—with more than half of 2017 still to come, I was fully confident in my (admittedly early) proclamation. After watching it again last night, it’s now clear that it wasn’t just a gut reaction to the film. Even knowing exactly how everything was going to play out, I was still captivated from minute one. The Big Sick is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, and its delicate, deeply personal balance of romantic comedy, family drama, and entry-level show business provides hit after hit on all fronts.
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s story of their one-of-a-kind courtship, written by the pair and starring Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, is something special. Full stop. I’d never seen anything quite like The Big Sick prior to this year, and I don’t expect to see anything like it ever again.
I loved The Big Sick when I first saw it. I still love it now. But I’m not so sure it’s 2017’s best movie anymore. And that’s all because of Lady Bird.
Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, like The Big Sick, is a poignant blend of comedy and drama. Like The Big Sick, it starts firing early and doesn’t let up. It hit me hard when I saw it at Austin Film Festival last month, and it’s stuck with me since then.
A heartfelt coming of age dramedy, Lady Bird captures an era that doesn’t often show itself in movies. The early 2000s don’t have the same unique aesthetic or romanticized nostalgia as the 1980s, but they’re times I remember all too well, graduating just a couple years after Lady Bird‘s titular character.
Lady Bird captures a moment in time, but more impressive is its capturing of unique, memorable, fully-developed characters. Saiorse Ronan’s Christine/Lady Bird is an original through and through, but her world is full of interesting characters and even more interesting relationships—the most important of which is her tense, uncomfortable relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
I could go on about my love for both of these movies, and it’s remarkable that 2017 saw the two of them release within months of each other. Both The Big Sick and Lady Bird are the kind of movie I could watch again and again forever. They’re both movies I plan to watch again and again forever. They’re intelligent and emotional, yes, but the most important aspect of these movies is that they are authentic. They’re genuine. And they’re truly special.
Horizon Zero Dawn blew me away earlier this year. Part of my reaction to it may be due to it being completely unexpected considering the massive gulf between it and developer Guerrilla’s previous work on the Killzone franchise. Horizon Zero Dawn has all the beauty I expected from the studio, but it has so much more beyond it.
Set in the far future, in a post-post-apocalyptic world filled with primitive tribes and robotic beasts, Horizon Zero Dawn could have settled for looking beautiful and having an interesting concept and twist to its fairly straightforward open world design. It didn’t. Horizon‘s story is intriguing from the outset, a simultaneous exploration of a world foreign to its protagonist Aloy and explanation for how it became what it is. Horizon illuminates its world’s future through its past and present, and every single aspect of it brings something to the table.
The story is interesting, and the optional collectibles along the way feel worth the time invested to collect them. The game is breathtakingly gorgeous and its enemies are unique and able to provide memorable moments more often than not. Its characters, particularly Aloy, are genuine, and its controls make it a game that feels as good to play as it does to look at.
I haven’t even finished Super Mario Odyssey yet, but it’s impossible to write something like this without bringing it into the mix. It’s pure joy from the outset, and every single piece of it seems purposely built for maximum player enjoyment. The level design is top-notch, marrying excellent visuals and clever platforming. Its worlds are varied and filled with elements unique to their settings, and each locale is more vertical than horizontal, providing some quite literal ups and downs in a game that’s otherwise full of nothing but ups.
The addition of Cappy, and his ability to have Mario capture (possess) various enemies and objects throughout the world, takes Super Mario Odyssey to another level entirely. It requires players to think outside the confines of what they’ve been conditioned over the last 30+ years to think a Super Mario game can and should be, and it’s all the better for it. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll actually see the end of Super Mario Odyssey, or how many of its moons I’ll end up trying to collect, but there’s a very real possibility Super Mario Odyssey could overtake Super Mario World by the time I finally put it down.
It would have been remarkable for 2017 to have even one of these titles; the fact that it has all four of them is almost unbelievable. Let’s not forget that it’s also brought us Get Out, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Pyre, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And that’s just what I’ve spent some time with.
2017 has sucked for a lot of reasons, but you can’t count movies and video games among them. Here’s to hoping I’m not done adding to these lists this year.