2017 was an amazing, path-breaking year for movies!

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By HT

Despite what everyone says, movies aren’t meant to entertain - at least not exclusively and at least not in this very pivotal moment in world history. 
 
They’re meant to evoke emotion - it could be good or bad - and they’re supposed to inspire empathy - towards people and communities and worlds that aren’t necessarily similar to our own.
 
Like any work of art worth writing about, movies are meant to create dialogue, they’re meant to observe the best (and the worst) tendencies of human beings, and project the findings onto large screens for us to (re) discover. They could be entertaining while they’re at it, of course, but filmmakers need to be held to a higher standard.
 
And that’s the purpose of this week’s Weekend Binge. We will not be pessimistic. We will not complain. We will, instead, celebrate movies and TV and social movements that gave us reason to cheer in these difficult times. We will hope for the best as we step into 2018. Here are four trends from this year that we hope carries forward to the next.
 
More representation for women
 
One of the most pleasantly surprising moments of the year (at least for me) came only recently when I realised - a full month after having watched it - that every episode of the new season of Black Mirror featured a female protagonist. No one felt the need to beat people over the head with such progressiveness. No one advertised the show as being feminist. But most encouragingly, no one really noticed the main characters were girls. And having unburdened themselves (and ourselves) from this societal pressure, they let the actors’ work speak for itself, and we appreciated it for what it was.
 
2017 was a particularly good year for women in film - both in front of and behind the camera. They shone in blockbusters such as Wonder Woman (directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot), Alien: Covenant (Katherine Waterston), Ghost in the Shell (Scarlett Johansson), Girls Trip (Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah, Ragina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith) and Atomic Blonde (Charlize Theron). And then there were indies such as Lady Macbeth (Florence Pugh), Lady Bird (directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan), Beatriz at Dinner (Salma Hayek), The Beguiled (directed by Sofia Coppola and featuring a stunning female ensemble led by Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst), Raw (Garance Marillier), The Villainess (Kim Ok-bin), Okja (Ahn Seo-hyun), First They Killed My Father (starring Sreymoch Sareum and directed by Angelina Jolie), mother! (Jennifer Lawrence), Personal Shopper (Kristen Stewart), Colossal (Anne Hathaway), A Ghost Story (Rooney Mara), The Bad Batch (starring Suki Waterhouse and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour) and The Zookeper’s Wife and Molly’s Game (both starring Jessica Chastain).
 
In television, we saw large female ensembles at the forefront in shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, Alias Grace, GLOW and Godless
 
In a year that exposed the worst, most terrible examples of toxic patriarchy, there was a silver lining, however insignificant it might seem. Years later, this will count for something.
 
Tackling harsh realities
 
If there’s still one glaring difference in the way that we make movies and the West makes movies, it’s in their fearlessness to address real problems. In India, the mere mention of casteism or the slightest whiff of politics can get a film blacklisted. Honestly, the entire fiasco surrounding Lipstick Under My Burkha was an all-time low for us as a nation - more tragic and more shameful, I feel, than the Padmavati row, because there was no longer a need to pretend. The powerful men could, without any trepidation, declare a film to be unfit for certification simple because it chose to tell stories about a gender they could not relate to. No historical inaccuracies were required. No controversial depictions of queens or goddesses. No Muslims.
 
But while we were regressing, filmmakers in America and the Middle East were tackling real issues head-on. Films such as Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, the shattering Ferguson riots documentary Whose Streets? and Jordan Peele’s Get Out explored what it is like to live as a black man in Donald Trump’s America. Films such as Crown Heights and several Netflix documentaries confronted the broken legal and prison systems. Heck, even The Crown didn’t shy away from peeling the pristine layers off the British Royal Family. And let’s not forget Bright.
 
Rejection of stale franchises in favour of a bolder Hollywood
 
But our two worlds were united this year in the manner in which we chose to dismiss tentpole franchises. While Indian audiences made it clear that simply being a ‘Khan’ was no longer a guarantee of success, Hollywood witnessed a similar change.Transformers: The Last Knight became the lowest earning entry of the series, and like Justice League, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales embarrassingly underperformed. Tom Cruise’s The Mummy was supposed to spearhead a new interconnected universe of movies, but its terrible critical reception put a silver bullet in those plans. And most encouragingly, Priyanka Chopra’s Baywatch was declared dead on arrival, hopefully drowning any ideas they might have had for a sequel.
 
Instead, audiences - at least for the most part - showed support for bold original movies such as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and James Mangold’s Logan.
 
Indie movies as viable commercial options
 
One side effect of this mass rejection of subpar sequels was that small indies saw a revival of sorts. Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick was a runaway success, earning more than $50 million at the box office in a crowded summer movie season while Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River crossed $40 million. Oscar hopefuls such as Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri registered some of the best per theatre averages of the year - of any film.
 
Now ask yourself, is it OK to complain?