Greetings and salutations in this year of The Donald/Zuma, also known as 2017. The golden age of TV is still going on strong (yes, SA is part of it, in bits and pieces).
Today I will be looking back at the best and worst of 2016 on the television and film front, whilst also looking forward to the best (we can only hope) that 2017 is going to offer. I shall start here at home. Let's dig in ..
Local e monate
Best Reality Show: So You Think You Can Spin
Although I was introduced to the show after it’s run, it may not have had the same brand acknowledgement or Twitter following as Our Perfect Wedding (which has been my pick for best local reality for the past two years), Love Back or Date My Family but there’s a lot to admire from the guys who gave us Thina Sobabili and the Miway ads moving into the reality TV space.
What a move they’ve made. They managed to raise about R9 million in showcasing South African culture that is up there with dancing and trying to sing R&B better than the Americans - that’s car Spinning. In case you haven't seen it, it's a competition whereby spinners across the country compete for a prize of R250,000.
It was shot on 5 Arri cameras - these are normally used for big budget music videos and feature films - and the guys also threw in GoPros and some drone shots. We have a reality show that would rival anything on Discovery aimed at motorheads.
The group is aiming to enter the Emmys this year and personally I wish them all the best of luck. It's great to see local content putting passion and budgets into the products and not waiting for the broadcasters to put in the money first. Here’s to hoping e.tv does a better job at promoting the second season.
So averaging 800 000 viewers an episode, the guys at Our Perfect Wedding may be like why have we been dethroned? - it's because of the work that the guys have put into the product. You’d think that So You Think You Can Spin is actually the grand daddy of reality TV based on how good their production is rather than the new kid on the block.
2016 is the year that gave us Isthunzi, Igazi ,Matatiele and although Twitter raved on about the shows, I really did not find a local drama that I really connected with.
I found Igazi’s portrayal of sangoma and “witchcraft” as dated as the ideas of cauldron and hocus pocus. I heard a lot of good things about Isthunzi’s retelling of the Oedipus Rex myth.
I got to catch It’s Complicated with my cousins over the holidays and I was impressed at how it got my cousin engrossed. Yet I’m still looking for a local drama that I would follow religiously like I did Yizo Yizo, The Lab and the old season of Hard Copy. So I will give It’s Complicated my honorary mention and ask TVSA faithfuls to nominate their best local drama for 2016.
Best International Drama
We saw the return of Game of Thrones, Fargo, a new season of Doctor Who and Netflix treated us to great Superhero shows in Daredevil and Nick Cage.
Netflix blew our minds with Stranger Things and stole my heart with The Get Down. Amazon delivered with Man in the High Castle, Hulu showed it can also play with the big boys with The Path.
Donald Glover took his childish Gambino creativity into the TV series Atlanta that’s both surreal and hood at the same time without being stereotypical and he scored a Golden Globe award.
2016 was a great year for high concept dramas from The Leftovers even the plot mechanisations of Vikings and there was Westworld and the ever polarising The Walking Dead. Although it didn’t get the highest of viewership and awards, my drama of the year is Netflix’s The Get Down.
Baz Luhrmann and Nas’s love-letter to Hip Hop is a triumph of form following function. It embodies the elements that make hip hop great in its storytelling, fusing different elements of real history, pop culture (kung fu) and the urban jungle mixing it into one melting pot, of breakneck pace, scratches of history study and knowledge of self in this coming of age story of Hip Hop and the crew of teenagers in New York of the 70’s
On the movie front
2016 had great movies; movies divided folks, some just made the mind boggle but most were real treats.
Best Local Movie
In the year that gave us Tell Me Sweet Something, Happiness is a Four Letter Word, Mrs Right, I guess it’s appropriate that my favourite movie for 2016 will be a total opposite of the romantic genre: Noem My Skollie, the true life inspired gang story of kids growing up in the Cape Flats of 1970’s South Africa. Was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.
A film that transcends its language, time and setting and shows there is more that connects us as a people than divides. How can one hate anything that push lessons about agency and the power of creativity?
Best International Movie
In the year that gave us a philosophical Batman v Superman that I loved but a lot of people hated, 2016 also gave us a very competent sequel to The Winter Soldier, an atrociously funny and insightful The Big Short, a beautiful mess in Suicide Squad, a Spike Lee semi-musical in Chi-Raq.
The movie that really stood out for me in 2016 internationaly is a small New Zealand film made by one Taika Waititi (who is directing this year's Thor: Ragnarok) .
He made a beautiful film about friendship, coming of age and showed that you can be hip and indie at the same time in the Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
The film has great performances, a lovely pace and lots and lots of heart - truly my film of 2016, followed closely by the movie Arrival that showed sci-fi can be humane, that sci-fi can still explore great ideas, not just visual effects and exploisions, that sci-fi can help us to inspire us to be better than what our reality tells us.
And what is there to look forward to in the year of The Donald and the retiring Zuma?
On the local movie front there’s the long awaited release of Kalushi, the feature film on the life and times of Solomon Mahlangu that was supposed to have come out last year.
Zola Maseko has adapted Zakes Mda’s the whale caller ,which should be an interesting prospect for Zakes Mda fans to see one of his books adapted and the animation on the whales is not bad.
Kagiso Lediga has a romantic comedy starring Pearl Thusi coming out, Catching Feelings, that should be interesting.
If last year was all about romantic comedies, this year it seems to be all about prison drama. Taking a leaf from Noem My Skollie we have Khalo Matabane’s prison drama The Number coming out. The Hangman, about a father son on opposite sides of deathrow, hits our screens too.
As far as Hollywood is concerned, it’s the year of the sequels (again): Thor: Ragnarok, another Spiderman reboot (Spiderman Homecoming), Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
We also have our first female lead superhero movie in 12 years in Wonder Woman and we say goodbye to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in his final portrayal of the Wolverine in Logan.
Then we have DC trying to get as much mainstream money as possible in their more “fun” take on Justice League. Hopefully it won't be quip after quip like the first two Avengers.
Sci-fi fans are going to be treated to something special with the long awaited sequel to Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, coming out this year and it stars the ever impressive Ryan Gosling and is directed by the world's current hot property Denis Villeneuve.
We wrap the year with yet another Star Wars film. Hope this can build on the greatness of Rogue One and that it's not just another Star Wars greatest hits moment a la The Force Awakens.
On the TV front our local dramas are coming back. Mzansi seems to changing gears just a little with their prison drama Lockdown, SABC has resurrected some of it’s old properties like Hard Copy - I don’t know if it means we may get to see The Lab once more.
The Americans are giving us the second last season of Game of Thrones with only seven episodes instead of the usual 10. This year's season will start later than normal.
The Leftovers showcases its final, third season and I hope it's as rewarding as Season 2. Netflix does its long awaited team up called The Defenders with Jessica Jones, Nic Cage, Daredevil and Ironfist all in one series. This after the Ironfist series that’s coming out in March.
We have return of Fargo (with a new cast), American Crime, The Path and The Man in the High Castle. There’s also some new and interesting adaptations ,one that looks really good is American Gods and Emerald city.
Here’s to a great new year and may it be better than 2016 in every way. By the way yours truly will be launching his first web series in February, but more on that later. Aweh!