The Cord’s top Arts & Life picks for 2017

Allegations

Remember back in 2016 when we all thought 2017 was going to be a breeze? Obviously we were wrong. Nearing the end of 2017, the media was flooded with allegations of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. Of course it staggers you to see how many people are saviours of assault and harassment. Reports of sexual misconduct from famous figures like Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK — to name a few — have been everywhere in the media. However, I’m determined to find the good in everything. So here it is: now, in 2017, we are finally able to speak openly about assault and harassment — it’s scary to see how vile this world can be, but now maybe we can begin to see real change in our society.

  • Shyenne MacDonald

Oscars

One of the most memorable entertainment moments of 2017 was the awful, awkward best picture award at the Oscars. After announcing that La La Land was the winner, a long and tense moment commenced as the cast and crew shuffled up and began their speeches. Like any big winner, there were thanks, inspiring words, and tears. And then it hit them — Moonlight was the real winner. Not a joke, just an awful mistake between two of the frontrunners. Memes for weeks. Conspiracy theories. Replaying the video over and over. History was made. This was an awards show slipup that no one really predicted, but that was certainly the biggest blindside and it eclipsed the rest of the whole show. Rather than going down for its fame and prestige, this will go down in film history for its infamy. It’ll be a long time before the Academy can live that one down.

  • Madeline McInnis

Death

Amidst a growing opioid crisis, rising star and emo-rapper Lil Peep took an overdose of drugs he believed to be Xanax. He passed away only weeks after he turned 21. His death indicates a larger problem relating to the use of prescription drugs — specifically fentanyl. Though reports have not been confirmed, many — including his own family members — have speculated that he was sold drugs unknowingly laced with fentanyl. Peep’s death was met with shock and sadness in the hip-hop community and the media at large. Many believed that Peep was a pioneer in the re-emergence of ‘emo’ music — his major label debut Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1, which was released in August of this year, drew heavily on emo musically, both sonically and thematically. After his death, memorial’s were organized and held across North American and elsewhere.

  • Kurtis Rideout

Cuphead

Is there a game more devilishly adorable than Cuphead? No, there isn’t, because being cute and dealing with the devil is their whole gimmick. It’s a run and gun indie game with some roleplaying elements that keep the game varied and engaging. You play as the title character Cuphead, and must face off with bosses that get progressively difficult in order to pay off a debt with the devil. Cuphead is unique for its visuals that are inspired by the rubber hose animation style popular in the 1930’s. The game is infamous for its ceaseless difficulty so if you’re looking for a challenge this game is the one for you.

  • Shyenne MacDonald

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 provides a compelling narrative, unique competitive approach to multiplayer and provides an unprecedented gameplay experience. As someone who has invested way too much of my study time into both the first and the most recent installment I can honestly say Bungie delivered. However, like many others, it contain problems. To begin, after completing the campaign and reaching the max power level it quickly became boring and fell into a stagnant multiplayer experience with little reward for trying to use weapons outside of the competitive realm — that is unless you spend a billion hours practicing. Overall both this game and its predecessor have a special place in my heart and I look forward to wasting much more time when they release new content simultaneously I also look forward to watching my GPA fall as we enter the exam period.

  • Dominic Asselin

Prey

My favourite game of 2017 has been Prey, by far. For anyone who has played Bioshock, Dead Space, any other space horror/adventure first-person-shooter game, it is a remarkable experience. Visually, it exists as a multitude of zones: most areas are either a blend of 60’s corporate with futuristic aesthetics — lush green gardens, science facilities or traditional space stations. But then, you’re slapped in the face with the quiet magnificence of outer space, as you’re thrust from the confines of a space station into the absolute silence of a vacuum. Impressive first-person gunplay, an entrancing story that branches in multiple directions, and actually allows you to become a true villain if you wish. Its re-playability is dwarfed only by the customizability the game provides, as it gives you the opportunity to replay it using multiple different fighting styles. This game messes with your head in the best way possible.

  • Chris Luciantonio

Roxane Gay

As a fan of Roxane Gay, she certainly did not disappoint with her latest book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. She is an incredibly raw, honest writer who captures her personal experiences with a staggering amount of grace and poignancy. Detailing her struggles with weight, food and how she looks at her body was not only eye-opening, but incredibly powerful. Unshakable emotion resonates through every page, making it difficult not to feel for her and empathize with the anecdotes that she shares. Reading Hunger felt like I was actually listening to Roxane Gay share her thoughts, rather than looking at the words she wrote. Hunger is a book that expertly demands your attention and will strike a chord with audiences who have also battled with their self-image.

  • Emily Waitson

Scaachi Koul

Scaachi Koul is a Canadian writer currently working for Buzzfeed Canada. After an onslaught of harassment and abuse online over a tweet about not wanting to hire more white men to work at Buzzfeed, Koul took a break from writing for her safety and mental health. When she came back, she did so in full force. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is an essay that looks into the racism in Canada, why we’re afraid to address it, and what happens when we uplift marginalized voices and the repercussions of silencing them. Koul is honest, vulnerable and still manages to keep her famous wit while tackling the problems that plague our society. If you feel like we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers, read Koul’s book because it won’t only open your eyes to the underlying issues afoot but it will also remind you that all isn’t lost.

  • Shyenne MacDonald

Celeste NG

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a novel broken into three different stories that, when woven together, ask the hard question of what makes a mother. Is it simply biology? Or is there something more crucial needed, like love? Ng also refuses to shy away from racial tension and the overwhelming gap between the rich and the poor. The novel’s setting, which is 1990 Shaker Heights, Ohio, is crucial. It’s a predominately town of affluence which is where the issues of class and race materialize. This is Ng’s second novel, the first one being the successful Everything I Never Told You.

  • Shyenne MacDonald

Baby Driver

There was no film this year more indulgent to its director’s specific tastes than Edgar Wright’s musically charged heist thriller Baby Driver. Colliding his love of music with his love of seventies car chase cinema at 100 mph along the twists and turns of Atlanta’s streets, Wright made the film he would most like to watch and the enthusiasm on display is too infectious not to fall in love with it all. Tightly choreographed action, audaciously sharp editing and a soundtrack overstuffed with heart racing road songs, Baby Driver exudes energy with every passing frame, hammering your senses until you’re one with the music and vehicular adrenaline. It’s a dizzying passion project that refuses to slow down if you can’t keep up, making it one of the year’s best.

  • Aaron Hagey

Get Out

When I first saw Get Out, I had no idea what to expect. I had little idea what the movie was actually about and I sat down in a crowded theatre with relatively low expectations. To my utter delight and surprise, this movie made its mark and has remained one of my favourite films that I’ve seen this year. I find it difficult to narrow down only a few of the best aspects of Get Out, since Jordan Peele outdid himself in creating a near-flawless addition to the horror/thriller genre. The soundtrack is one of its strongest standouts, along with the expert casting and gripping social commentary that’s woven into an original storyline. From start to finish, I was completely immersed in this film and I have yet to watch any other movie where the entire audience is audibly gasping, yelling and cheering at the screen. The ending had several people standing up and clapping, so I consider that a win in my books.

  • Emily Waitson

Dunkirk

Every so often, a modern movie will come around that we will bring up in every single one of my film studies courses. As soon as it came out, Dunkirk was one of those movies. It’s not just a film, it’s an experience. If you have the opportunity to see it in theatres, do it — as it’s coming back to IMAX. If this movie doesn’t win at least best sound design at the Oscars next year, I’ll know for sure the Academy doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Even if you’re not into history or war films, it’s accessible enough to be considered a thriller, as well. It’s honestly a masterpiece and it will be on film studies syllabi in the near future, mark my words. This will be a film that will stand the tests of time. I would not be surprised if it changes the Hollywood industry with its use of sound technology. It is well worth your time and your money.

  • Madeline McInnis

Bojack Horseman

There isn’t a show better than Bojack Horseman and there’s no point in trying to argue this known fact. Bojack is a brilliant animated cartoon that follows the life of title character and sentient horse, Bojack. There’s a mixture of humans and sentient animals in the show, which can keep things from getting too dark as the show explores some heavy content. At first glance everything seems silly and jovial, but watch one episode and you’ll see that’s far from the truth. The show battles with ideas such as how children inherit their parent’s trauma, but never fully understand it. Bojack struggles with depression and addiction as he tries to navigate his life in Hollywoo. They don’t shy away from subjects that are often difficult to talk about, such as abortion and overdosing. Honestly, I haven’t seen a show better plotted than Bojack but I have seen attempts and nothing is ever as amazing.

  • Shyenne MacDonald

Glow

GLOW (the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) is a Netflix gem that I’m so happy I decided to binge-watch when it popped up in my suggestions list. It has an out-there sounding plot, but it really delivers on the entertainment front. Starring Alison Brie and a supporting cast of hilarious, talented women, it centers on the 1980s syndication of women’s professional wrestling. It’s surprisingly funny and ridiculously empowering, showcasing the talents of women in every shape and form. The characters are ruthless, badass and strong-willed, a blend of likeable and unlikeable that somehow makes you appreciate them all. GLOW highlights the unending sexism that women in the entertainment industry face and the ways in which they defy it by embracing their talents and using them against it. Full of endless quirky charm and a catchy soundtrack, GLOW prevails as a unique and completely original Netflix show that will likely defy all of your expectations.

  • Emily Waitson

This Is Us

I’m not going to lie — This Is Us made me cry. A lot. It does an exceptional job of reaching into your heart and ripping it apart. As a person who relies heavily on character development in determining whether I like a show or not, I had a significant amount of difficulty finding fault with this show. There were so many three-dimensional, well-written characters that you want to like, that it becomes very hard to pick a favourite — no it’s not, Randall is the best. As a show the way in which it weaves between the past and the present is done immaculately in each episode to draw upon the lessons and morals that are represented. If you are interested in something that makes you question things like family, integrity and self-discovery that’s done in a warm-hearted — but not suffocating —manner, then This Is Us is an emotional treasure to experience.

  • Chris Luciantonio

Pure Comedy

by Father John Misty

There’s this indescribable quality to Pure Comedy that somehow makes its dulcet ballads and evocative lyricism seem both timeless and very much inseparable from the present moment. Taking aim at the state of technology, fame, entertainment and the state of the human experience when inundated by these things in this bizarre existence we lead, Josh Tillman brings a confrontational emotional severity in his writing but an uplifting sound to his production which makes his latest Father John Misty album a hard, rewarding listen every time I find myself revisiting. As someone who never heard of his work outside of his role with the Fleet Foxes until last year, the clarity and honesty through which FJM speaks about this moment in our culture borders on the uncomfortable at times. Pure Comedy is biting and depressing but when it rises to a melodic high point you damn sure remember it.

  • Chris Luciantonio

Mourn

by Corbin

For me to be as impressed by an album as I was Mourn is a complete rarity. In this day and age, where attention spans have reached an all-time low — and one of this year’s most popular hip-hop songs consisted of Lil Pump repeating the phrase ‘Gucci Gang’ like 50 times in two minutes — it’s increasingly hard to find an album that pulls its weight the whole way through. Mourn, unlike a growing number of albums these days, contains very few low points, musically. Thematically, there are plenty of lows, but the album’s concept is rooted in post-apocalyptic loneliness, so it fits well. Each song is a unique experience that stands separate from the previous or following track, and that is in reference to more than lyrical content. The production, and the decision to work exclusively with producers D33J and Shlohmo, was incredibly well calculated and timed. When I first watched the striking visual accompaniment that dropped alongside the album, I scrolled through the YouTube comments. The first one I saw read the following: “Drake and 40 are in the studio studying this right now and taking notes.” If they know what’s good for them, they most certainly are.

  • Kurtis Rideout

Everybody

by Logic

Logic’s slogan “peace love and positivity” is fully embodied in his third studio album Everybody. Known for creating concept albums, Logic has done the same for Everybody. Within the album narrative, “God,” played by Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks to Big Von’s character “Atom,” telling him that in order to move to the afterlife he first needs to be reincarnated as every human-being. The album’s third single, ”1-800-273-8255” has been Grammy nominated for Song of the Year, and has brought international attention to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, raising their call percentage by 27% in the first three weeks of the album release. Logic seeks to unite everyone through his lyrics; “I just want to spread the message of equality,” he says on “Take It Back”. Each song on Everybody is written from the perspective of a new person, with their own backgrounds, insecurities, and struggles. Through his imaginative lyricism and rhythmic flow, Logic creates a conceptually brilliant album that dismantles discriminatory or prejudiced narratives.

  • Alyssa Di Sabatino

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