So we’re more than halfway through 2018, and it occurs to me I still didn’t do my movie write-up for last year. In “brief”:

Best: Wonder Woman

I grew up on a diet of ass-kicking women. If I was picking up a controller, it was to play Chun-Li, Sonya Blade or Lara Croft. If I was turning on the TV, it was to watch She-Ra, Xena, Buffy or Alias. There are few things I’d rather watch on screen than a strong female lead, and – so predisposed – watch Wonder Woman I did: multiple times at the cinema, and a whole bunch since on blu-ray. But it would be selling it short to label WW as “the female superhero movie” and not discuss its cultural impact: that in an industry which rarely affords the opportunity to either, a female-led, female-directed picture was the highest-rated superhero movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes and the highest-grossing superhero origin movie ever. (Black Panther – equally, but differently important – has since taken the titles, but WW is still firmly in 2nd place.)

Hollywood has always viewed the issue with female superhero movies as something inherent to the genre; overlooking the fact that their critical and commercial failures have invariably been a result of complete mishandling; leaving them in a no-man’s land where their general ineptitude is a hard sell to audiences of any gender. (The fact that I love Halle Berry’s Catwoman is not a compliment: merely evidence that placing her opposite a supervillainous Sharon Stone empowered by radioactive moisturiser results in a movie that can only be enjoyed by gay men.) Wonder Woman was able to buck this trend because it was taken seriously by its writing team, director and cast; it didn’t rely on over-sexualisation (indeed, the only nudity in the entire movie belongs to Chris Pine); and Gal Gadot’s pitch-perfect, immediately-endearing balance of earnest conviction and ass-kicking prowess carries the film from beginning to end; shattering Nazis, glass ceilings and blockbuster records in the process.

An image that stands out as the perfect metaphor for the entire film’s creation is Diana marching through the trenches of WWI and declaring that she will cross the unbridgeable warzone known as No Man’s Land (!) to free the occupied Belgian hamlet of Veld. “It means no man can cross it,” rebukes Chris Pine’s character, as – moments later – she emerges for the first time in full Wonder Woman regalia, deflecting machine gun and cannon fire, carving a path for the troops and declaring, in an unspoken echo of Éowyn before her: “I am no man.” Director Patty Jenkins reportedly faced pressure to remove the scene on account of executives failing to understand its importance, and the fact that it not only remains in the finished product but is arguably the most iconic, empowering scene of the whole piece is surely evidence, as if more was needed, that studios don’t always know what’s best for them.

As the sole redeeming factor of Batman v Superman, it’s a shame that the character of Wonder Woman couldn’t carry the DC Expanded Universe over its next stumbling block in Justice League; but the movie has already served as a vanguard for future entries in the pantheon of superheroine cinema (paving the way for Captain Marvel and more to come), and embodies the spirit of female empowerment that continues to sweep through Hollywood today.

Honourable Mentions:

Spoilt for choice, I’d probably narrow it down to Moonlight, Lion, A Monster Calls and Hidden Figures, with top honours going to the all-round excellent Call Me By Your Name.

Worst: La La Land

That this trash-heap of a movie was nominated for any Oscars is inexplicable to me, but least of all for best sound editing when I was struggling to discern if the opening number had lyrics. Especially disappointing because I love both musicals and Emma Stone, neither of the leads ultimately had the vocal or dance skills to carry the picture, and the filmmmakers’ subsequent statement that “it was never supposed to be perfect. And I think it would have lost some of its charm and also its accessibility to those who watch it if it had been absolutely perfect” is a stretch at best. Amost an hour into the movie – as we watched Ryan Gosling’s increasingly detestable character mansplain jazz to Emma Stone – John turned to me and asked, “Can we leave?”

We did, and I’ve never been more grateful.

(Dis)honourable Mention:

It Comes At Night. Unless the eponymous “it” is a) the film’s plot, or b) the inexorable sense of my impending death creeping closer as the minutes I waste on this film tick by, I think I missed the point.

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