See what Newsday's movie, TV, music and theater critics have to say about trends, breakouts and disappointments that made up the year in pop culture.
Breakout: Ann Dowd
Extraordinary veteran actor finally gets her due in ’17, and her awards to prove it — an Emmy for “The Handmaid’s Tale” and a Golden Globes nod for that series as well. As the malevolent cattle prodder Aunt Lydia (“Handmaid’s”) and Guilty Remnant psycho-ghost Patti Levin (“Leftovers”), she embraced the two most memorable characters of the TV season.
Breakout: Tyler Alvarez and Jimmy Tatro
Who and who? If you’re an “American Vandal” fan, you sure know who. Tatro was Dylan Maxwell, the slacker doofus, and Alvarez was Peter Maldonado, his gullible Boswell intent on absolving Dylan of the phallic vandalism attack in Hanover High’s parking lot. The Netflix sendup of “Serial” was one of the year’s breakouts, thanks to them.
Breakout: Sonequa Martin-Green
First, she breaks out during her run at “The Walking Dead,” then breaks out all over again as the sober, smart, mysterious, alluring Michael Burnham on “Star Trek: Discovery.” Not easy relaunching a storied franchise, but with the help of a standout cast, she does.
Breakout: Cardi B
The rapper seemingly arrived straight outta the Bronx ready for the “Bodak Yellow” spotlight. The “Trap Selena’s” stint on “Love & Hip Hop” certainly helped, but Cardi’s distinctive, in-your-face rap flow and bigger-than-life persona were suddenly everywhere in 2017. Her “money moves” took her to No. 1 on the pop chart and made her an in-demand collaborator for everyone from Migos to G-Eazy.
Breakout: James Arthur
The British singer-songwriter behind the inescapable ballad “Say You Won’t Let Go” managed what few other guys not named Ed Sheeran accomplished in 2017 — building a hit around a guitar. His new single, “Naked,” shows that he is no one-hit wonder and that his love of Long Island music scene heroes Taking Back Sunday has served his raw songwriting well.
The teenage R&B sensation brought an impressive honesty to his hits “Location” and “Young, Dumb & Broke,” showing how the genre could be just as confessional as rock or pop. That style has landed him five Grammy nominations, including one for best new artist and one for song of the year for his part on Logic’s “1-800-273-8255.”
Breakout: Hailey Kilgore
Producers of “Once on This Island” scoured the country to find their star, and they came up with a winner in this Oregon teen. Kilgore is simply radiant in the part of Ti Moune, the orphan from the wrong side of the Island who battles gods and the elements to find love.
Breakout: Amy Schumer
It’s always a risk for a Hollywood A-lister to take a chance on Broadway, but for Rockville Centre-raised Schumer, it paid off. In Steve Martin’s “Meteor Shower,” which got mixed reviews from critics, she was hysterically funny, even when not saying a word. And the girl can really rock a bunny hop.
Breakout: Katrina Lenk
What a year it’s been for this not-so-typical ingénue, who charms audiences as the dark, beguiling café owner in “The Band’s Visit,” and who delivered a luminous performance in last spring’s “Indecent.” (That show earned a Tony for director and Port Jefferson native Rebecca Taichman, who deserves a “breakout” shout-out of her own.)
Breakout: Tiffany Haddish
Few expected much from the R-rated comedy “Girls’ Trip,” though it had a solid cast in Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah and Regina Hall as old friends who reunite for a vacation in New Orleans. The show-stealer, though, was Haddish, left, who played Dina, the group’s most free-spirited and sexually adventurous member. (Sadly, her best lines are not printable here.) At the age of 38, Haddish has done most of her work in television, but “Girls’ Trip” has turned her into a star. Vanity Fair called her “The Funniest Person Alive Right Now,” Slate called her performance “awards-season worthy” and the New York Film Critics Circle recently named her best supporting actress of 2017.
Breakout: Timothée Chalamet
The young Hell’s Kitchen actor with the hazel eyes and the cosmopolitan name (his father is French) delivered two star-making turns this year. One is in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” as Kyle, a too-cool rocker who deigns to dally with a Catholic schoolgirl (Saoirse Ronan). The other is in “Call Me By Your Name” as Oliver, a gay teenager whose first real love is a slightly older graduate student (Armie Hammer). Both are terrific performances, but it’s the latter that could win Chalamet the Oscar. He’s already been cast in Woody Allen’s next project, “A Rainy Day in New York.”
Disappointment: Katy Perry
In the rollout for her “Witness” album, she coined the phrase “purposeful pop” to describe her promised combo of politics and dance music. Hey, Katy is woke! Not exactly. Instead, we got the played-out “Bon Appetit” and the petty “Swish Swish,” which both served no purpose whatsoever.
Disappointment: Arcade Fire
The Canadian collective’s satirical marketing plan for its anti-consumerism album “Everything Now” may have seemed like a good idea on paper, but, in practice, flooding social media with fake news and outlandish, diva-like demands just didn’t seem funny. And it scared some people away from a pretty great album to boot. Pictured: Win Butler
Disappointment: The Chainsmokers
The transition from pop chart kings to actual performers can be a rough one, and the duo’s “Saturday Night Live” debut showed just how rough. Not only did singer Andrew Taggart look uncomfortable for most of their songs, but Filter singer Richard Patrick even alleged that he was lip-syncing on the show.
Disappointment: 'Kevin Can Wait'
In the most baffling misfire of 2017, “Kevin” killed off a particularly likable character, Kevin’s wife, Donna (Erinn Hayes, left) and then heard from unhappy fans who voted with their remote. Ratings are off, and so is the show — way off.
Disappointment: 'The Walking Dead'
A deja-vu-all-over-again rhythm has settled in, where all-out war is followed by another all-out-war, which promises to be even more “all” and “out” but is really just more of the same. “TWD” — once one of the great horror series in TV history — has turned into a running gunbattle. It’s numbing more often than suspenseful. Pictured: Andrew Lincoln
Disappointment: '24' / 'Prison Break'
Famous franchises don’t always make for memorable reboots, as we learned last year, when “24: Legacy” was canceled after one misguided season, then viewers forgot about “Prison Break” altogether. “Legacy’s” Corey Hawkins, pictured, never got into a Jack Bauer groove, while the reboot also felt stale and so-yesterday.
Disappointment: 'Justice League'
For years, moviegoers have hated Warner-DC movies but paid to see them anyway. “Justice League” seemed poised to change that, but instead it pushed even die-hard fans to their breaking point. The new superheroes in this ensemble piece — Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash — ranged from inane to irritating, while Wonder Woman got pushed aside so Batman could raise Superman from the dead. It still racked up $572 million worldwide, but the opening weekend numbers — the lowest of any Warner-DC movie yet — suggest that fans’ patience is finally wearing thin. Pictured: Gal Gadot, left, Ben Affleck an Ezra Miller
Disappointment: 'Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2'
Here’s a minority opinion: Despite earning mostly positive reviews and $863 million at the box office, this sequel wasn’t really that great. Yes, it brought back all the things that made the 2014 “Guardians” so enjoyable — the rock soundtrack, the jocular dialogue and a great cast led by Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana — but the ethos here was bigger and louder, not newer or fresher. Granted, it’s hard to resist little Baby Groot (so cute!) and Kurt Russell as the galaxy’s biggest egotist, but in rock and roll terms, “Vol. 2” feels like the proverbial sophomore album.
Disappointment: 'A Bad Moms Christmas'
One of the best surprises in a long while was “Bad Moms” (2016), in which writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore reworked their hit “The Hangover” with Mila Kunis, left, Kristen Bell and a standout Kathryn Hahn as mommies gone wild. Amazingly, the movie was not only funny but rather sweet — so much so that this seasonal sequel, starring Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon and Cheryl Hines as the mommies’ own mothers, seemed to hold promise. Alas, it was the kind of comedy you’ve seen too many times: hastily written, thrown together, more crude than clever. If there’s a threequel, let’s hope the Bad Moms do a little better.
Based on the fizzy French film that made adorable Audrey Tautou a star in 2001, this musical take had an equally winning star (“Hamilton’s” Phillipa Soo, right) and pleasant-enough music, but nothing to get really enthusiastic about. The wig said it all — Tautou’s bob was sharp, attention-getting; Soo’s was mousy, drab. It’s a small thing, but points to how off-track they went.
Disappointment: 'The Parisian Woman'
There were high hopes for Uma Thurman’s Broadway debut, but her performance in Beau Willimon’s play about power struggles in Washington was universally panned. “Shaky and occasionally ill at ease,” read the Newsday review. She wasn’t helped by a weak script from “House of Cards” creator Willimon, who rewrote the play after last year’s election to focus on the first year of the Trump administration.
Disappointment: Early close for '. . . Great Comet'
One of the biggest disappointments in theater circles was the early demise of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” after Mandy Patinkin felt obligated to withdraw from the production. It was announced in July that he’d replace Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who had taken over for Josh Groban. “My understanding of the show’s request that I step into the show is not as it has been portrayed and I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor,” Patinkin said. The producers humbly acknowledged their insensitivity, but the show closed shortly thereafter.
Trend: The sexual harassment scandal
The fallout from disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults on dozens of actresses — and before that, the fallout from the sexual harassment charges that forced Roger Ailes out of Fox News — has shaken the entertainment and TV news industries to their core. So many offending stars have been fired from so many shows that a website (therottenappl.es, or Rotten Apples) has been launched to keep track of them all. The TV news industry has been reordered as well, notably at “Today,” where Matt Lauer, pictured, was fired after a 20-year run as co-host and Charlie Rose was forced off his PBS talk show and “CBS This Morning.”
Trend: The politicization of late night
In the old days, or nights, David Letterman was content to put on a suit made of Alka-Seltzer, then jump in a vat of water. His successor, instead, hammers President Donald Trump night after night, while “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” pictured, has engineered a major turnaround built on the invective. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” — once mostly a politics-free zone — has also jumped and dumped on Trump. The result: big, make that huuuger, numbers. Meanwhile, “SNL” had its best year in decades, thanks to POTUS portrayer Alec Baldwin.
Trend: Streaming TV is about to explode
Disney did not engineer a $52 billion takeover of Fox’s programming and studio assets because it’s a fan of “The Simpsons.” This is the cornerstone of a worldwide assault on Netflix, and one which will inexorably lead to more original content for the web — bypassing cable and broadcast altogether. There have been some bumps in the streaming road so far (NBC’s Seeso, for example, folded this year), but otherwise, the networks — mostly via their jointly owned Hulu — are hitting the accelerator. In addition, “Star Trek: Discovery,” pictured, launched on CBS All Access, which was easily CBS’ most important new series of the whole year.
Trend: Alternate versions
Justin Bieber’s jumping into Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” propelled it to new heights and a crossover that topped the pop charts for 16 weeks. Beyoncé saw the power in this and signed on to J Balvin & Willy William’s “Mi Gente,” donating her proceeds to hurricane relief efforts. She also dropped into Ed Sheeran’s ballad “Perfect,” which is currently climbing the pop charts, and Sheeran has also tapped Andrea Bocelli for another version of the song.
Fueled by huge hits from Kendrick Lamar and Drake, pictured, R&B/hip-hop became the most popular music genre in America, passing rock for the first time, according to Nielsen Music. Hip-hop also took three of the five nominations for the album-of-the-year Grammy — Lamar, Jay-Z and Childish Gambino — marking the first time in decades that no rock or country album was in the running.
Trend: Carpool karaoke
James Corden’s bit for “The Late Late Show” has grown into a powerhouse of its own. Not only has it become part of the rollouts of high-profile albums for P!nk, Kelly Clarkson and Sam Smith, left, who even got to sing with his favorite girl group, Fifth Harmony, during his, but it’s become its own show on Apple Music, where stars get together without Corden, right.
Trend: The age of Trump
You couldn’t get away from references to 45. Beau Willimon basically rewrote “The Parisian Woman” after the election, setting it in the first year of Donald Trump’s administration. In “The Portuguese Kid,” one character insisted on knowing who had voted for Trump. Looking ahead, Alec Baldwin hinted he may bring his “SNL” character to the stage. But for now it’s hard to top the Trump doppelgänger in “Julius Caesar,” pictured, at Shakespeare in the Park. The Roman politician’s brutal end had protesters rushing the stage.
Trend: Quadruple threats
Time was when British director John Doyle was the one guy making performers sing, dance, act and play instruments. These days, it’s common. Like Tony noms Josh Groban (playing accordion), pictured, and Lucas Steele (violin) in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”; Ari’el Stachel (trumpet) in “The Band’s Visit”; Katrina Lenk in “Indecent”; several of the “SpongeBob-ers”; plus nearly all the stars of “Bandstand” (something sadly overlooked in the short-lived show).
Trend: Reverse psychology
Theater’s typical trajectory — from Off-Broadway to Broadway — U-turned this year. Megahit “Jersey Boys,” pictured, closed on Broadway in January, reopening “Off” this fall alongside “Avenue Q,” the first Broadway hit to find extended life in a smaller “Off” theater. Other “Off-ers”: Stephen Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” and “Sweeney Todd” (where the theater resembled a meat-pie shop) and Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song.”
Trend: The horror bonanza
By one report, 2017 was the biggest year ever for horror, with $733 million in ticket sales. Adjust for inflation and the numbers look different, but one thing is clear: Horror is doing bloody good business. From the $175 million of “Get Out” to the $327 million of “It,” pictured — and smaller success stories like “Happy Death Day” and “Annabelle: Creation” — horror movies racked up hefty profits on modest budgets all year. As for Oscar credibility, that might be next: Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” a horror-romance, is a strong contender for best picture.
Trend: Ironic John Denver songs
In what is surely the year’s weirdest trend, the wistful sounds of the late folk singer popped up in at least six movies. “Annie’s Song” accompanied a bloody action sequence in “Free Fire,” a shopping-mall disaster in the fantasy film “Okja” and a heroic death in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” Meantime, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” served as a rescue signal in “Alien: Covenant,” punctuated a miserable road trip in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” and became a thief’s theme song in “Logan Lucky.” In an interview with Uproxx, “Kingsman” director Matthew Vaughn said there was only one explanation for all the coincidences: “We are getting closer and closer to the singularity.”
The Worst: 'Last Day Alive'
When I heard this, I thought it was a joke, but The Chainsmokers really did team up with Florida Georgia Line. And the chorus really does feature a Chainsmoker singing, “The last day alive!” while Florida (or maybe Georgia) sings, “Now or never! It’s now or never!” Just say no.
The Worst: Sappy covers
Look, Julia Stone’s, pictured, tender version of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” wouldn’t be annoying on its own, but as the soundtrack for the New York Lottery holiday commercial playing countless times a day it is tough to stomach. The same goes for Barking Owl’s weak version of The Black Keys’ great “Everlasting Light,” the soundtrack for the Macy’s holiday campaign. And Jon Kenzie’s watered-down take on Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” for Forevermark is even worse.
The Worst: 'Gypsy' (Netflix)
Jean Holloway (Naomi Watts, pictured) is a New York therapist with a superficially happy home life, married to big-shot lawyer Michael (Billy Crudup), then . . . zzzz. Really (zzzz). This stillborn dud never woke up from a long nap, and also rendered viewers and probably even Netflix executives comatose too. (When they woke up, they canceled it.)
The Worst: 'I'm Dying Up Here' (Showtime)
Grimly, joylessly, ploddingly determined to tell a familiar story about a stock figure we think we know — the stand-up comic with the tragic soul who lives hard and dies young (or grows very rich) — “Dying” passed up an opportunity to tell it in an exciting, engaging or at least watchable way. Pictured: Melissa Leo
The Worst: 'Disjointed' (Netflix)
Watch a multicamera sitcom on a family of pot retailers, and you shouldn’t expect much in the way of either coherence, or laughs. But especially baffling was the casting of Kathy Bates, who as matriarch pothead Ruth was literally wasted here.
The Worst: Michael Moore on Broadway
As a crusader, Michael Moore has certainly drawn attention to critical issues — health care, the Columbine massacre. But his attempt to turn his displeasure at the last election into a call for action by bringing it to a New York stage fell flat. Stories we’ve heard before, lame sketches that would have ended up on the cutting room floor at “Saturday Night Live,” this stuff did not belong on Broadway. And those male strippers at the end. Yikes!
The Worst: 'Marvin's Room'
The revival of Scott McPherson’s play (which spawned the 1996 film starring Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and a young Leo DiCaprio) had a strong cast (theater vet Lili Taylor, delightfully quirky Janeane Garofalo), but this intimate tale of sisters facing down illness felt lost on a way-too-huge stage and bizarre set. (We’re still haunted by that shiver-me-timbers pirate bench.)
The Worst: 'Just Getting Started'
Morgan Freeman plays a retirement resort manager whose newest resident (Tommy Lee Jones) becomes his rival for alpha-male status. Despite the presence of those two Oscar winners (together for the first time) and a supporting role by the great Rene Russo, this ostensible comedy by writer-director Ron Shelton (“Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup”) scored a perfect zero: laugh-free, amateurish-looking, cringe-inducing. What happened? If you thought “The Room” was the worst movie ever, this one might change your tune.
The Worst: 'The Mummy'
Where to start? Maybe with the casting of Tom Cruise as a doomed, Gothic version of Indiana Jones? How about the incongruous zombie-comedy moments? And don’t forget Russell Crowe as the paranormal scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll, who — you guessed it — sometimes explodes into Mr. Hyde. “The Mummy,” of course, is Universal’s attempt to turn its classic horror-movie characters into a new “Dark Universe” that will compete with Marvel and “Star Wars.” Next up is “The Bride of Frankenstein,” but the franchise’s future looks about as bright as the inside of a sarcophagus. Pictured: Sofia Boutella
The Worst: 'Transformers: The Last Knight'
Over the past several years, the “Transformers” movies have gone from empty-calorie entertainment to something that’s truly harmful when ingested. This year’s “The Last Knight,” starring the otherwise charming Mark Wahlberg as a small-town inventor, was the franchise’s most noxious yet, a combination of soulless commercialism, hollow jingoism and shockingly graphic robo-violence (which shrewdly replaces blood with motor oil to retain a kid-friendly PG-13 rating). The “Transformers” series may extol the virtues of mankind, but the machines have us beat on one point: They’d never make movies as cynical and spiteful as these.
Halfway through 2017, we can say a couple of things about the movies. One is that the major studios are making a lot of bad ones. The other is that they can make great ones when they try.10 best books of 2017Drum roll, please: We’ve gone back over the year’s book reviews to find the titles ...