In tribute to the year that was, here is Collage’s list of the ‘Best in 2017.’ Have a read, and let us know if you agree or disagree, and perhaps comment what your favourite ‘something’ was.
Best Book of 2017: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
All ‘best of’ lists ultimately tell you more about the reviewer than the so-called ‘best,’ and my choice for the best book of 2017 is much the same.
The very nature of comparison is somewhat absurd: how can I compare and judge the soaring political passions and heartbreak of Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness to the refreshingly updated and surprisingly amusing retelling of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, or the inspiring and raw story of Sandra Pankhurst in Sarah Krasnostein’s biography, The Trauma Cleaner, to the rightfully lauded Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders?
Nevertheless, La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in the new Book of Dust trilogy by Philip Pullman has undoubtedly been the best reading experience I have had this year. A sequel trilogy to Pullman’s wildly successful and controversial works, His Dark Materials (1995-2000), La Belle Sauvage balances perfectly between familiarity and strangeness, the old and the new, fantasy and reality, terror and joy. Described as The Faerie Queen for teens (in comparison to Materials’ teenage Paradise Lost) by Constance Grady in Vox, Pullman proves once again that so-called children’s and young adult fantasy literature can transcend divides between adult and child, fantasy and reality, and tackle the eternal questions of humanity itself.
— Brydie Kosmina
Best TV Show of 2017: Search Party (TBS)
Okay, I know Season 1 of Search Party technically came out last year, but in my defence it launched right at the end of November so it basically counts.
When Chantal goes missing, the community grieves. No one knows what happened to her. Cue Dory (Alia Shawkat) happening across a missing person sign on the street. She becomes determined to be the one to find this former college acquaintance and she pulls her friends along with her.
Search Party is a comedy noir with Nancy Drew vibes. As Dory and her friends follow a tangle of leads, the plot grows darker and darker. However, it is also very funny. None of the characters are particularly likeable, and intentionally so, but with each episode ending on a cliffhanger you can’t help but be drawn into conspiracy theories as you watch. While the ending does sliiiiightly let the momentum of the first season down, it doesn’t discount the ride that got you there.
Season 2 has just finished its run, and you can catch the whole thing up on SBS On Demand right now.
Best Film of 2017: The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
While 2017 was, as always, a mixed bag of meandering Marvel movies and pathetically unpopular blockbusters from the major studios, it still saw some truly excellent films. Of note was the long-awaited Blade Runner: 2049, which sits as one of the best films that operate in that strange nostalgic space that now exists with the recent spate of reboots and reunions on TV and in the cinema.
However, the top three of this year (at least, in my humble opinion) all fell in that wonderfully morbid tragicomic Horror/Comedy space: Get Out, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Happy End. While each one is radically different narratively, tonally, and formally, all feature that sublimely pleasurable element of cringe-inducing, nauseating hilarity. Managing to be both profound, and profoundly funny, these films speak of the absurdity of modern life, whether that be the racial prejudice of America explored in Get Out, the self-serving classism of the medical profession in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, or the divide between the migrant populations of France in Happy End.
As the real world rapidly descends into madness it’s gently reassuring to know that these films allow us some catharsis: to laugh, cry, and recoil in virulent disgust at the screen is to experience the full gamut of the cinema.
Best Album of 2017: ‘Expectations’ by Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda (Clarity Recordings)
Hailing from Melbourne, Harvey Sutherland (aka Mike Katz) has put out one of my favourite releases of this year. Released on his own new label, Clarity Recordings, this album was recorded live along with his band Bermuda. Taking elements of inspiration from classic Jazz, Funk, Disco, Boogie and House, Harvey has created some entirely new soundscapes that are unlike anything that’s come before him.
The highlight track of the album would have to be ‘Coast 2 Coast’. Commencing with some lush rolling Rhodes, contrasted with a bitey lead synth sound, the track later introduces a classic boogie filter bass sound, crisp live drums played by Graeme Pogson as well as silky live strings by Tamil Rogeson.
Be sure to catch Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda joined by ‘70s Disco King Leroy Burgess at the upcoming Freedom Time festival rolling through Perth, Melbourne and Sydney over the New Year’s period.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some sort of release to come from this glorious collaboration.
— Nick Gencarelli
Best Podcast of 2017: The Adam Buxton Podcast (featuring Zadie Smith)
In a year of predominantly horrible things happening around the world, I found comfort in The Adam Buxton Podcast. For about an hour, I would detach myself from the outside world, and immerse myself completely in the hilarious and relaxed rapport between Buxton and his delightful comedian guests.
However when I saw Zadie Smith’s name appear in my iTunes, my heart sank a little. I actually adore Smith – one of my favourite novels is On Beauty, and I believe she captures human complexity so brilliantly. But Smith was not going to deliver the regular zingers, and as a multi-award winning novelist, perhaps she would have airs. I thought this entire interview would be stilted. I was extremely mistaken. Smith was funny, personal, and human. She talked about the difficulty in balancing writing, teaching and parenting (“the other day I put a hairbrush in the fridge”), sharing a pool with Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides at a literary festival, and reflected on her friendship with David Foster Wallace. Whilst this episode may have lacked the LOL-moments present in Buxton’s other offerings, it was certainly richer and deeply satisfying.
Best Board Game of 2017: Mysterium (designed by Oleksandr Nevsky and Oleg Sidorenko, published by Libellud)
Mysterium was in fact created in Ukraine in 2013, with an English version released in late 2015, but I just discovered it a couple of months ago so it’s going in my best of 2017!
This game has been fairly described as a mixture of Cluedo and Dixit: a murder mystery where clues are revealed not by deduction but through the interpretation of obtuse, fantastic images – dreams and visions sent by the ghost of the murder victim.
One player is the ghost, who cannot speak or communicate except by dealing their ‘vision’ cards. The other players are mediums who receive the visions and work together to try to use their dreams to guess the facts of the murder. Mediums can score extra points by betting on one another’s guesses, which can give them an advantage in the final round.
Similarly to Dixit, the images in Mysterium are so dreamlike and bizarre that trying to use them to communicate concepts can be quite a challenge, but a worthwhile one. With beautiful artwork and an intriguing mystery storyline, Mysterium is a truly engaging experience.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a story about a unique family, an intricate house and a curse which may never end. You play as Edith Finch, a young women returning to the house she grew up in to explore the many rooms of her relatives which had been sealed for her ‘safety’, and learn what really happened to her mysterious family.
Similar to the theme of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, the family’s stories are quite sad and depressing, but have a comedic nature to them. It keeps you from becoming overwhelmed with fatigue and or sadness, as you discover each family member’s unfortunate end through a series of unique and brilliantly told anecdotes.
Exploring the various and sometimes ridiculous rooms and passages in your house, takes you on a journey not only about the curse which has haunted your family but one in which you explore your own perceptions and beliefs surrounding death.
In my very humble opinion, Edith Finch is not only one of the best games of this year, but one of the best narrative driven experiences I have ever encountered. Highly recommend playing in one sitting and with friends and family to see the whimsical looks on their faces throughout!
Best Exhibition of 2017: ‘Life is the Heart of a Rainbow’ by Yayoi Kusama
Let’s be honest, this is no surprise. Kusama and her work have been covered across social media all year, especially with her newly opened museum in Tokyo and a couple of exhibitions currently in Australia or making their way here.
I was fortunate to visit her exhibition in Singapore. Seeing her work in the flesh really puts the scale of her history, creativity, and process in to perspective. I really appreciate the utilisation of mirrors in the infinity rooms. It creates a participatory experience for the visitor by making us the subject of the work, as well as an effective way for Kusama to achieve her vision and transcend her own physical limitations in the labour required to craft the same object thousands of times.
However the most intriguing aspect about her work is the veiled purpose of the repetition. It embodies her own struggles with mental illness, and she has attributed the origin of her repetitive visions to childhood hallucinations, which have occurred sporadically since. Using art as a cure for her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, while it is also simultaneously a symptom of her illness, has resulting in dubbing her work as ‘psychosomatic art’.
‘Life is the Heart of a Rainbow’ is worthy of this title, and I urge you to look her up and visit her exhibitions if you have the chance. Kusama’s work is complex and intriguing all at once, and is a visual spectacle to behold. Photos do not do it justice.
— Rachel Wong
Best Theatre Production of 2017: 1984 by State Theatre Company
There was an almost overwhelming amount of exciting theatre going on in SA this year. Broad themes and styles were covered, from the post-apocalyptic and linguistic marvel of Mr Burns, to Switzerland; an unexpectedly moving celebration of the life and work of Patricia Highsmith. But if I had to pick a favourite out of the plays I saw in 2017, I’d go with the State Theatre’s 1984 (a restaging of a UK production).
The ongoing relevance of the classic story’s themes of privacy and power combined with some innovative and extremely effective production design features to create a truly harrowing show. Satisfyingly, the addition of the reading group which in some ways functioned as a chorus helped to elevate the piece from a fairly straightforward stage adaption to an original, modern creative work of its own.
Best Festival of 2017: Dark Mofo by MONA
After living in Hobart for some time, year after year Dark Mofo always proves to be a favourite of mine. It is held during the winter solstice in June, meaning that not only are the themes of the festival dark, but the encroaching darkness of winter also creates an ominous and mysterious atmosphere.
The crowd it attracts are primarily alternative individuals, and it is guaranteed that you will see something that is considered controversial. I really love the way that people embrace the festival despite the fact that Hobart’s weather ensures that it’s negative one million degrees at night. For this time, people are huddled outside around fire pits and the city of Hobart is bustling even though the days are the shortest and coldest ones of the year.
What made Dark Mofo particularly spectacular this year was the installation ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Chilean artist, Alfredo Jaar. It explored the politics of imagery through Kevin Carter’s story, he who was made famous by his 1993 Pulitzer prize winning photograph, ‘the vulture and the little girl’. He sadly took his own life a few months after the prize was awarded.
Carter was criticised for not helping the child and being the other ‘predator’. Jaar further explored this through an 8-minute film, challenging the viewer, and leaving them stricken with grief . He articulated that the vulture is us, the Western world. We have the resources to feed the world ‘many times over’ yet millions of children die of hunger every year.
If you are ever in Hobart during this time, I cannot highly recommend Dark Mofo enough!
— Corinne Teh
Best Travel of 2017: United States of America
When so much of the planet felt like a nuclear launch button away from falling off the map, 2017 was a great year see the wild world for all its glories. There was no better place to experience all of 2017’s ups and downs (and downs, and downs, and downs) than the boundless skies and diverse landscapes of the good ol’ United States of America. When Trump Land comes to us, than we shall go to Trump Land.
Let’s face it, who didn’t want to be a part of the Million Women’s March on the capital in January, the day after Trump took office? The protest signs alone will have their own retrospective showing at MoMA by the end of the decade – or sooner (Impeachment! Impeachment!). The US is an experience of hotchpotch stereotypes and canny subversion that ensures Amurica will stay on top of the cultural zeitgeist for many years to come. So much of the country is iconic – BBQ, blues, baseball, Boston – just to stay in the B’s. Alongside world-class galleries and museums, the US blooms in its iconic architecture; the glittering skylines of New York and Chicago, gothic plantations of the Deep South, and the swoops and rugged arches of the Wild West.
And, of course, there is the added value that if it all went to shit and the nuclear codes just had to be pushed, we could retreat to the wild and splendid emptiness of the starry US National Parks. Need to have some kind of backup plan, after all.
— Kate Riggs
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