Hello and welcome to this year’s edition of The Duke’s Best of 2017. Whether you are a media junkie like most of us or a casual purveyor of the entertainment landscape, audiences of all stripes were able to find some truly spectacular (and not-so-spectacular) pieces of art in 2017. With so many great films, movies, TV shows, books and games to choose from, we here at The Duke were overwhelmed with the plethora of options. Please enjoy our selection of our favorites from this past year, starting with our favorite music:
Best Music of 2017:
“Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man –
The best charting song of the band’s career, this poppy, dancey protest anthem was the perfect song for 2017. The music video even attracted the ire of Alex Jones since it featured a band member burning a paper copy of InfoWars. The song itself is just a ton of fun to listen to, with lyrics like “I’m a rebel just for kicks, now/ l’ve been feeling it since 1966, now” acting as a call for attention. It’s political without being heavy-handed. I’ve yet to meet someone that can’t help but sing along.
Beautiful Trauma by P!nk –
With 17 years since her first album, P!nk let it be known, once again, why she is truly still relevant and influential in the music world. Not surprisingly, Beautiful Trauma has remarkable vocals that are from P!nk’s undoubtedly powerful and honest voice. The album mainly takes a look at the trials and tribulations of love, going from the fun of “Revenge” to the tear-jerking heartbreak of “But We Lost It.” Beautiful Trauma hosts a variety of emotions and is honestly one of P!nk’s best albums in her entire discography.
Cigarettes After Sex (self-titled) –
Very rarely am I so surprised and delighted by an artist that I discovered completely by accident, and Cigarettes After Sex continues to be one of my go-to artists for those asking for new music recommendations. Their sound borders on the indescribable, finding a perfect balance between the sultry and haunting that just makes the simple act of listening to their music a wholly unique experience. Definitely check out their work (personal favorites: “Apocalypse” and “K.”), and hopefully you’ll come to appreciate their work as much as I have since that fateful encounter five months ago.
Everybody by Logic –
I would consider Everybody a good album, but in a year with a such fantastic music offerings, determining a best album is of close contention. However, what makes this album stand above the rest is its powerful and much-needed social message. In a time when hate rears its ugly head, this album is a call to action, a call for equality. Everybody asks everyone to care for each other. It is not geared toward one group of people or toward one social issue, but many people and many issues. It’s easy to just be apathetic nowadays, but Everybody offers countless reasons to care again.
“Sleep on the Floor” – The Lumineers, ‘We Don’t Deserve Love” – Arcade Fire, “Can We Hang On?” – Cold War Kids, “Walk It Back” – The National, “Would You Call That Love” – Kelly Clarkson
Best Films of 2017:
Blade Runner 2049 –
Rarely does a film use the power of the lens to so directly ask such direct questions of the viewer as Blade Runner 2049 does. Despite the movie offering broad questions that it certainly can’t answer in 2 hours and 44 minutes (and that’s assuming it even has a definitive answer at all), Blade Runner expertly guides audiences to ideas and concepts that ordinarily are not at the forefront of people’s minds.
Resident Evil: Vendetta –
What do you get when you cross the fun of 2004’s Shaun of the Dead with the action-packed excellence of 2012’s Dredd? Perhaps unexpectedly, the answer is the thrilling third entry of the Resident Evil CG movies. Chris Redfield and Rebecca Chambers are on a mission to stop the spread of a new zombifying virus strain, and they need the help of the very ornery Leon S. Kennedy to prevent a national catastrophe. Vendetta may have been overshadowed by its final live-action counterpart hitting U.S. theaters in January, but this summer sleeper-hit should not be ignored. Grade-A fight scenes, clean writing and just the right touch of melodrama make Vendetta a go-to flick to stream during break.
Atomic Blonde –
Do you love Cold War era spy thrillers? Do you love it when the main lead commits to months learning actual hand-to-hand combat so their fight scenes aren’t all shaky-cam and quick cuts? Then watching Charlize Theron mess up a bunch of dudes while looking debonair AF is for you. Atomic Blonde was hyped up to be the female version of James Bond, but frankly even the master of spy thrillers wishes his movies were this good.
It Comes at Night –
I’m not sure what shocks me more about It Comes at Night: the fact I think it’s a best-of contender or that I was so conflicted about the film after I first watched it. A budget horror film released in the middle of the summer should not be as good as this movie is. But when I look back at It Comes, I can forgive its trite and directionless plot because it was just that darn good. Definitely worth the watch, and it will become a staple of my Halloween-movie diet for years to come.
Best TV of 2017:
BoJack Horseman Season 4 –
BoJack Horseman is excellence distilled into its purist form: Excellent dialogue, excellent acting, excellent comedy, tragedy, characters, settings, themes, you name it. BoJack is quintessential Netflix viewing material and positions itself as the premiere TV show about a washed-up celebrity horse out there.
A Series of Unfortunate Events –
Perhaps the most faithful adaptation possible of Lemony Snicket’s morbidly memorable books, January’s ASOUE Season 1 release is a binge-worthy hit that pushes all the right buttons. Patrick Warburton (Snicket) as narrator and meta-participant in the story’s events is a creative twist that keeps true to the tongue-in-cheek tone of the books. Neil Patrick Harris is an entertaining, sinister Count Olaf who counterbalances the decidedly more charming Baudelaires played by Malina Weissman (Violet), Louis Hynes (Klaus) and Presley Smith (Sunny).
Veep Season 6 –
After her devastating election loss in Season 5, we pick up with now former President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) struggling to adjust to ex-presidential life a year after leaving the White House. Attempting to create a legacy that will overshadow her disappointing eight-month presidency, this season follows Selina and her former staffers through a whole new round of political mishaps and hijinks. Louis-Dreyfus shines in her role as always, but perhaps the star of this season is recently-elected Congressman Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simmons). His blundering attempts to navigate the world of politics as an elected official are downright hysterical. I laughed practically the whole way through the final episode mainly due to his antics. By my standards, this was the show’s best season by far.
Rick and Morty Season 3, Fear the Walking Dead Season 3
Best Games of 2017:
Night in the Woods –
The year has featured strong entries for story-heavy episodic games, with such luminaries as Hiveswap and Life is Strange: Before the Storm topping the year’s best, but it is hard to compete with a polished, complete entry like Night in the Woods. It is a post-coming-of-age story that does not pretend to have answers to life’s toughest questions. Weird, fun, allegorical and relevant, NITW is a beautiful game paired with heartfelt writing.
Hollow Knight –
In this metroidvania, you play as a bug warrior who accidentally releases an ancient plague and must stop it. I cannot emphasis how amazing this game is. The incredible soundtrack follows you as you learn the story of the city, the plague and your relationship to it all. Or you can ignore the story entirely and just focus on the dynamic gameplay with tight controls. I honestly feel guilty for how little Team Cherry is asking for this master piece. Oh did I mention that there are five different endings and two free DLC? Go get this game already.
Breath of the Wild –
I didn’t expect to be reviewing this year’s Zelda entry again, but here we are. Breath of the Wild is still somewhat disappointing seven months down the line. Much of what makes Zelda so special and unique is absent from this entry. However, I’ve beaten it thrice already, something I almost never do with games, and I plan on working through its DLC over the upcoming winter break. Any game that I can keep coming back to, especially so soon after its release, is at least somewhat good, right?
Destiny 2 –
I felt betrayed by the first Destiny. A severe lack of content, coupled with a pathetic excuse for a story, made me feel as if I threw away $60. Thankfully, the sequel rectified its predecessors mistakes, easily making this game one of my favorites. While the campaign is admittedly short, the overall plot, characters and post-game content continue to excite me easily into my 30th hour. Destiny 2 is a perfectly polished first-person-shooter, one that I cannot recommend enough.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Best Books of 2017:
Luna: Wolf Moon –
The second entry in Ian McDonald’s space opera is as compelling as the first. Complex family politics, speculative fiction and unapologetic entertainment collide on the harsh, unforgiving environment of the colonized moon. The once-prestigious Corta family is left to pick up the pieces of its shattered Helium-3 empire. Undeterred, the very-alive Lucas Corta sets a plan in motion to return his family to the reigns and get revenge. Wolf Moon is a heartstopper grafted onto an imaginative universe; McDonald’s third and final entry, Moon Rising, is slated for a 2018 release.
Theft by Finding –
Despite being a diary without much in the way of direction or purpose, Theft by Finding still intrigues with its anecdotes and tales. I greatly enjoy picking up David Sedaris’ newest release every once in awhile to read a handful of entries to pass the time. Theft by Finding is almost refreshingly pragmatic in how streamlined-yet-accessible it remains six months since publishing.
note to self –
Depictions of everything — from elation to absolute despair — feature in this work by Connor Franta. note to self is a compilation of short essays, poetry and pictures that, being more diary-like, expertly portrays Franta’s vivid and complex feelings. I would highly recommend note to self; it truly captured my attention throughout the entire book and enthralled me as a young adult to read about someone else’s struggle growing up in this current age.