This is my top 5 list for 2017. In no particular order. Music, Comedy, Movies, Podcasts and Politics are all covered. You may agree and you may disagree but hopefully you will find something new in here that you didn’t know about before.
So let’s get going. We’ve not got much time left.
1. Movie – Get Out
I can’t talk enough about how great this movie is. This list is not in any particular order but if it was, and it isn’t, Get Out could very well likely be number one, if I had a number one, which I don’t (but this is probably it, sssshh). Get Out is not just a great horror movie but a great thriller, comedy, suspense, social commentary and documentary. If you’re a fan of Horror Movies you will love this, if you don’t like Horror movies you can still enjoy it. But what’s definitely true is that this is an important movie for everyone.
Jordan Peele has made a remarkable film that while challenging the unconscious racism that many white people exhibit (Bradley Whitford telling Daniel Kaluuya that he would have voted for Obama for a third term is one particularly great moment) also does so with grace and humility. Where most Horror movies make people squirm with blood and gore, this does so with the face palm inducing comments that come from the white characters. It could have been very easy to make an angry movie about race but Jordan understands that while racism is not something that is light hearted, coming at it with the idea that white people are the enemy is not helpful.
It’s less than we deserve but it’s this Grace that makes this a movie that could genuinely give your racist Uncle some food for thought.
I was the only white person in a sold out showing and I needed to watch this movie with this audience because I saw through their reactions, a minute percentage of the casual and systematic racism that people of color experience every day.
This movie deserves Oscar nominations for everyone involved but in particular Jordan Peele, Daniel Kaluuya, and Allison Williams have made something incredible which unfortunately, still has important lessons that white people still need to learn today. If you haven’t seen Get Out, you need to.
Honorable Mention: IT. Any other year this would have made the cut. Seeing Pennywise untangle and remove himself from a fridge is still one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a Horror movie.
2. Music – Biffy Clyro Live in St. Andrews Hall, Detroit.
It just dawned on me the significance of probably Scottish’s biggest current band playing in a venue that shares the name of the patron Saint of Scotland. But when I saw one of my favorite bands from the last 15 years play in a venue that anywhere in the UK or Europe would be seen as an intimate show from a band who are used to headlining major Festivals and Arenas, the significance was not lost.
Biffy Clyro are a band who have worked hard and tirelessly to get where they are, so it should have been no surprise to see them play in front of an American audience who knew every single lyric and who shouted “Mon the Biff!” at every opportunity. Still, it caught me off guard. They know this band like I do and it felt amazing to experience. I can’t imagine what it felt like for the band.
This was also a particularly emotional gig for me as I witnessed the band I’ve loved for so long, from the country I spent a significant time of my life living in, playing in a venue I’ve come to love in a city I now call home. Everything seemed to align that night in April making this one of my favorite gigs I’ve been to in a long time. “Mon the Biff” indeed.
Honorable Mention: Protomartyr. Detroit band Protomartyr’s new album, Relative In Descent appeared to me by chance. I’m not a big fan of discovering new music but this Mark E. Smith, Nick Cave, even a hint of MeWithouYou sounding band are a definite exception.
3. Comedy – Maria Bamford Special – The Special Special Special.
I can’t quite remember where I first heard of Maria Bamford but hot off the heels of finishing the first season of her Netflix comedy show Lady Dynamite, I was delighted to find out she also had a new live special.
Maria may not be for everyone but she has the material to go along with a truly unique stand up premise which begins with her performing exclusively for her parents in her living room and also includes a stand up routine to some folk sitting on a park bench.
Everything about this is not what you expect.
What makes Maria’s work so great is her ability to not just say the things we’re all thinking but to say the things we didn’t realize we were thinking. Quirky is a word that I am sure has been used to describe Maria and her shows in general but even that seems to be slightly too mundane a description for Maria. Maybe the experience is the best descriptive.
If you’re looking for an original type of stand up special that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still smart and thought provoking in only the way that Maria can, you’re in for a treat.
Honorable Mention: Patton Oswalt: Annihilation. How do you write a stand up special after the love of your life passes away and you are left to bring up your young daughter alone? Patton Oswalt shows us, producing not just one of the best comedy specials in recent years but one that will literally having you laughing through the tears.
4. Podcast – My Favorite Murder
2017 will be remembered as the year I started going to live podcast shows. Have you often wondered where you can go to hear about true life murders while having a good laugh along the way? Then My Favorite Murder is the podcast for you. Mixing descriptions of infamous and not so infamous murders with comedy may sound like a grim premise but the aptly named Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Harstarck help bring stories of some of the craziest murders and cases to life. With some humor to boot.
Why we’re so enamored and intrigued by murder is a timeless question but it could be the idea that it’s not just the evil almost celebrity murderers we all know about that are intriguing but the stories of ordinary people driven to murder that drive home the realness of true life crime.
I’ve always been fascinated by the darkest elements of humanity and so this podcast has quickly become a fixture of bed time listening for Brittany and I. With their twice weekly podcasts and popular live shows where they retell true life murders from that night’s city, My Favorite Murder is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but for those who are into this stuff, just be careful who made your tea.
Honorable Mention: Lore. Aaron Mahnke the creator, writer and presenter of Lore is like the smart history teacher who understands that just because something happened centuries ago doesn’t mean it’s not relevant today and makes it exciting. Never really knowing whether these stories actually happened or just tales told round the camp fire, handed down from century to century is why Lore is one of the best podcasts from 2017.
5. Politics – Doug Jones
Look, we all know 2017 has kind of sucked. But towards the end, a glimmer of hope came in the form of Doug Jones, the first Democrat to be elected as a Senator in Alabama in 30 years. What was truly special about this, was not that a Democrat won in a majorly traditionally Republican state, but that a powerful man accused of sexual misconduct against young girls did not. That this was ever in doubt just shows the craziness of the last couple of years in Politics.
This was a moment of light in a pretty dark year for Politics but what made this all the more poetic, was was the fact that the votes of the black community saved the day against a man who has questionable at best, views of minorities.
Where 2016 ended in disbelief and 2017 began in fear, the election of Doug Jones proved that Hope can win, there is still a lot of work to do but ultimately the light is still shining.
Honorable Mention: Women
2017 could well be described as the year of women. Sure, Hillary may not have become President, but millions of women showed that they were not going to just sit by, despite a man who has openly boasted about groping women being elected President. Instead, women all across the country took to the streets to march. Women also bravely stood up and spoke out against powerful men who had taken advantage of them, giving courage to those who may have been afraid to speak up. It’s to my individual and our collective shame that it took this for many men to really sit up and take notice.
So there it is. My favorite things of 2017. Let’s do it all again tomorrow.