Every year the cinema landscape manages to intersect in the most unusual ways – with several unconnected films containing the same oddly specific elements. 2017 was weirder than most – forget Marvel’s shared universe, these films make us think that all movies exist in the same alternate dimension.
But, be warned, MASSIVE SPOILERS follow pretty much immediately.
Seriously, SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS.
Still with us? Good, because what follows gets pretty strange…
Old men who are really good with blades teaming up with young women and being super grumpy about it
A legendary old man who’s retired from his former life of adventure is hiding in the middle of nowhere, when a young girl comes to find him because she needs his help. The old man, who’s excellent with blades and is surprisingly resilient, angrily resists at first, but eventually agrees to assist – facing down impossible odds in order to save the day.
We’d say there was something in the water in Hollywood, but Blade’s from Japan, so we’ll have to mark this one down to the zeitgeist.
Headf**k movies that involve heart surgery
Killing Of A Sacred Deer opens with a shot of a beating heart, during professional surgery, mother! opens shortly after an amateur foray into open-heart surgery.
Both movies are based on classical texts involving Gods (Iphigenia and The Bible), and both mess with your mind in the most stressful / unpredictable ways possible. And we saw them both in the same week. We’re still not fully recovered, tbh.
Winston Churchill movies
We’re not sure what made Winston such a significant figure in 2017’s multiplexes. Perhaps producers scrambled to make patriotic movies to pull in the post-Brexit crowd, perhaps there was just something in the air (Trump does currently appear to be trying to start World War 3) – but Churchill followed his brief cameo (via newspaper) at the end of Dunkirk with not one, but two biopics.
Darkest Hour saw Gary Oldman play Churchill under heavy prosthetics, and Churchill saw Brian Cox playing him under a heavy frown. But if you only watch one, make it Dunkirk – which best captures the spirit of Churchill’s most famous speech, without actually having him utter it.
Kick-ass women who are spies beat people up using really long takes in super-confusing films
Both Atomic Blonde and The Villainess are equally exciting / confusing – with overly-convoluted plots being used as a framework for extended single-take sequences in which a female protagonist with a hidden agenda beats up rooms full of bad-guys. It’s one of the more specific trends of the year, and also one of our absolute favourites.
Actors staying in character to play weirdos
In Jim & Andy, Jim Carrey plays Andy Kaufman, an eccentric oddball who operated at the fringes of comedy. In The Disaster Artist, James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, an eccentric oddball who operated at the fringes of filmmaking.
And that’s where the coincidences start to get weirder – both Jim and James stayed in character throughout the making of their movies. Jim & Andy is a documentary about that process, while The Disaster Artist is a biopic in which Franco played an actor/director in a film that he stars in and directs. Talk about meta!
All we can hope is that a James & Tommy doc gets released by Netflix in the next decade or so.
Poor kids trying to survive
A lot of cinematographers found themselves crouching in 2017, capturing the ground-level perspective of children in serious need. Whether it was the (multi-generational) drama of Moonlight, the block horror of The Transfiguration, or the candy-coloured humanism of The Florida Project, struggling children in urban environments were put centre-stage in some of the very best films of the year.
The fact that two of these movies were set in Florida (Moonlight and The Florida Project) and two of them featured the exact same POV shot of a kid being chased by bullies (Moonlight and The Transfiguration) adds to the feeling of synchronicity.
Award-winning gay cinema hits the multiplex
Three of the most significant films of the year – Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name and God’s Own Country – were beautifully made explorations of gay characters from a positive perspective. There were struggles to overcome in each, but all three were ultimately uplifting.
That’s not weird from a real-world perspective, but in terms of yearly trends, we can’t remember the last time so many optimistic examples of the gay experience broke free from the arthouse to fill multiplexes.
None of them will rival The Last Jedi in terms of box office, but in terms of lasting legacy, they’ll be on an equal footing.
British farms are bleak
In The Levelling, a woman returns to the family farm, following the death of her brother. In God’s Own Country, a man is stuck on the family farm, following his father’s stroke. Both have difficult relationships with their patriarch, and both see their own depression contrasted by the rugged beauty of their surroundings.
Both end on an intensely emotional note. Both are incredible. We won’t say much more than that, because we’re assuming you haven’t seen them yet.
Franchise icons dying at the end
Okay, so remember when we said this article would contain spoilers? Well, here they come.
In both Logan and War For The Planet Of The Apes, our heroes have overcome huge odds to defeat their enemies – but it comes at a cost, with the respective franchise’s leads both lying down to die in front of a tree. That’s almost too specific!
Killer women (in the past)
We’re going to keep this vague too – but three incredible 2017 films feature a killer woman using her sexuality to take down men, and they’re all set in the past.
We’ll only name the one that has murder in the marketing – The Love Witch certainly looks like it’s set in the ‘60s / ‘70s, but features cellphones and modern cars, so it’s basically as hard to date as its lead character. Still, 2017 was a great year for strong women in cinema – and that’s a trend we’d like to see continue.
The biggest movie plot holes of 2017
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