My last blog was on my favourite apps, websites and purchases of 2017, this is on my favourite movies, songs and books of 2017. Remember to tell me yours! Here are mine:
Logan There were a bunch of superhero movies out this year. Thor Ragnarok was a send-up of the genre and was very funny. Wonder Woman was finally a good DC movie after series of duds. Spider-Man Homecoming was light but forgetful. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was just forgetful. Then there was Justice League which I wish I could forget. Through all of these, Logan stands out as the fitting finale to the Wolverine character. Gritty, vulnerable and not too much CGI – a classic.
The Big Sick. I’m always on the look-out for a good comedy, but too often they degenerate into Adam Sandler- or Will Ferrell-style crudities. The Big Sick, though, is great comedy. It tells the story of Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with an American-American girl and ensuing culture clash between the families. It’s attention to detail was perfect, and the story swung from comedy to drama at the right time. A gem.
Dunkirk I wasn’t really looking forward to this film – it seemed rather dull. But one can’t miss a Christopher Nolan movie, and boy was I happy I saw it. It has an impending doom feeling about it, and you get totally drawn into the various narrative structures. Visually stunning.
Logan Lucky Obviously I have a thing for movies with the word Logan in the title, but this really was good. It’s a crime caper directed by Stephen Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11, Magic Mike), though one would think it was directed by the Coen brothers (Fargo, Big Lebowski) by the film’s style. The highlight has to be Daniel Craig’s mad performance as a safe-cracker called Joe Bang. Apart from being very funny, it showed he can act rather than just pout as James Bond.
The Fate Of the Furious (or Fast and the Furious 8). I’d never seen a Fast & the Furious movie, so I came in not expecting much. I loved it! In reality, the movie is really a superhero movie with sports cars. The Rock can break through walls, take bullets and has super-human strength. The scenes are outlandish – a Lamborghini in the Arctic being chased by a nuclear submarine. But the best scene has to be the Jason Statham character holding a baby and fighting his way through an aeroplane.
The Salesman. Don’t be put off by this movie being a foreign language movie (persian), the director Asghar Farhadi is one of the best in the world. He makes gripping movies and this is one all the more relevant in a post-Harvey Weinstein/Trump world (it was made before either happened). The plot hinges around a husband trying to find and punish the man who sexually assaulted his wife. She, meanwhile, wants to let the matter pass.
Honourable mentions: Landline (a comedy about the adult children of a family discover their father is having an affair), Trip To Spain (improvised and very very funny roadtrip movie with two British comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) and Get Out (hilarious comedy about racism and bodysnatching! )
Change Agent by David Suarez.
This year, I thought I’d read sci-fi, a genre I’ve tended to avoid. This book was recommended by Silicon Valley guru Kevin Kelly. It’s based in a near-future where gene therapy allows designer babies and even designer adults. Located in Singapore, the plot follows an agent who tracks down illegal gene-adjusting labs, but becomes the target himself. An easy read, and provides a chilling vision of the future.
After Europe by Ivan Krastev.
This has to be one of the better books diagnosing the problems with Europe. It helps that the author is Bulgarian, and so brings a different perspective to the topic than the more conventional “western” views. His insight is that what splits Europe today is an East-West divide, which mirrors illiberality and liberality. Eastern European countries/regions like Poland, Hungary and East Germany don’t have narratives of colonising other countries, but rather of suffering occupation and ethnic cleansing. So waves of refugees elicit a different reaction and a shift to illiberality and ethnic-nationalism.
The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz by Aaron Swartz.
Swartz was a prodigy. At a young age he was instrumental in creating Reddit, Wikipedia and the Creative Commons. But more than that, he was a passionate activist arguing for open access to data and the corruption of governments and large corporations. His chapter on how Congress works is well worth a read. At age 26, he downloaded the archives of JSTOR, a repository of academic journals, to make it freely available outside of a paywall. He was charged with data theft and threatened with jail time. This sadly was too much for him, and he committed suicide.
Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs by Joel Meyerowitz
Not just for kids, but rather a wonderful tour of stunning photographs. Each one is accompanied by text explaining what makes it so good – whether it is the symmetry of the foreground object with the background, the balance of colours and something else one would not have noticed. A coffee-table book you actually will pick up and read.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
A beautifully drawn graphic novel that brings a feminist touch to a fairy tale. In an ancient kingdom, the Cheery and her maid Hero have to tell tales for one hundred nights to escape a severe punishment. The tales they tell are subversive, funny and riveting.
Michael Wolf – Tokyo Compression Final Cut by Michael Wolf
Another image heavy book (there comes a time when reading pages of text gets tiring!). This time, it is photos of people stuck in Tokyo subway trains. I don’t know what it is, but it captures something of Tokyo, a city I love, but also of the corporate world I work in!
Young Dumb & Broke, Khalid
He sounds half asleep, but this could be the anthem for millennials with lyrics like “What’s fun about commitment? When we have our life to live”. And what is it with the name Khalid, there’s this Khalid, there’s DJ Khaled (#1 album “Grateful”) and there’s the famous Algerian singer, Khaled.
Sycamore Tree, Kali Uchis
I love Uchis. This Columbian-American singer defies categorisation with hip hop, R&B and jazz influences. Most importantly, I love the way she pronounces the word “do”!
Sign of the Times, Harry Styles
I know, I know, he was a member of One Direction, but this is a great song. It reminds me of Oasis or even The Beatles. Styles also wasn’t so bad in Dunkirk either. I also quite liked the other One Directioner Zayn’s “Dusk Till Dawn“.
Better Get It Right the First Time, Rhiannon Giddens
When I was younger, I used to be constantly stopped by the police when I was hanging out with my darker skinned friends. This song speaks to how you need to behave differently in the presence of police if you have darker pigmentation. Powerful song by the Bluegrass singer Giddens.
Lesson Learn’d, Wu-Tang Clan
Wu Tang’s debut 1993 album Enter the Wu-Tang has to be the best hip hop album of all time, so I look forward to any new album by them. However, this year’s album The Saga Continues, though technically not an official Clan album, continues the steady descent of their music since the death of ODB in 2004. There is one track I did like; Lesson Learn’d, not least for its brutal honesty “At my age it’s all about bread. Tryna be nice at 40, you can have it all shawty. I’m tryna make history, and history say forget [actual lyrics use a different F-word] rap, I divorced her, the muse [actual lyrics use a pejorative term towards women] bore me”
Deadly Valentine, Charlotte Gainsbourg.
A dreamy and hypnotic song about wedding vows. Gainsbourg also directed the video to show the stages of a relationship. She has to be one of most experimental creatives out there with not only original music but also edgy films (often directed by Lars von Trier like Melancholia).
Jim Song, Dr Dog
Another retro sounding song with hints of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. A heartfelt song about love and loss. Great lyrics like: “Well there’s a weight on my back and there’s a thorn in my side. There’s a stone in my chest where my heart should reside”.
Honourable mentions: Despacito (Luis Fonsi) was a fun song, Boys (Charli XCX) had the best video where men are objectified rather than women, Believer (Imagine Dragons), Symphony (Clean Bandit) and Rockstar (Post Malone) were all catchy tunes.