Wednesday, February 15, 2017

All 32 films I've seen in 2016 ranked from best to worst

1. Eye in the Sky, Gavin Hood-Extremely economic storytelling and theatrical in its execution, provocative in its dedication to showing the nuance of a military strike. If it was released at a better time of year, it could have been remembered years from now as the definitive film of the military-via-drones era.

2. Hello, My Name is Doris, Michael Showalter-Sally Field's sweet spinster character is the perfect remedy to check our own ageist tendencies but this is also a bit of a psychological thriller wrapped in a misplaced comedy of errors. This lady is really on a collision course with an embarrassing truth bomb and you can't look away.

3. Don't Think Twice, Mike Biribiglia-The film has a great balance between its ensemble and really captures that world (although why they couldn't just say "SNL" is beyond me). A very loving film with characters who organically reach their stories' endings in a variety of unexpected way.

4. Hidden Figures-An uplifting film but one that’s generally earned despite a couple moments where the film erroneously steers towards schmaltz. It walks that fine line between historically faithfulness, go-for-broke sentimentally and grittily realism. Taraji P Henson deserves accolades here

5. Hell or High Water-A great exercise in genre experimentation: Tackling the housing crisis by moving the Western forward in time 120 years.

6. Mascots, Christopher Guest-The best thing about this film is that it exists at all if you read the news article a few years back that Guest didn't feel he had anything more to give to the genre he practically created. This isn't a game changer but it's a joy to see so many rich comic stories merge together like this for the first time in a decade.

7. Lion, Garth Davis-The first half had a really dark look at life in the streets of a third world country like 1990s Calcutta. The second half could have done a better job or picking and choosing which scenes were most relevant and God bless Dev Patel for finally getting an overdue Oscar nom from Slumdog, but this felt like a casting mistake: He just had too much swagger and self-confidence to fit the narrative. I would assume what motivated him to find his family was a feeling of being an outsider but he seems like the most popular kid in class and picks up Rooney Mara as a girlfriend within minutes of meeting her. Still, this is the most emotional film I’ve seen regardless so the sentimental effect overflowed past any sloppy positioning.

8. Fences, Denzel Washington- Does Troy represent the popular image of the African-American man? Is he to blame for his ill fortunes or is he a product of society? The fact that he and his situation are complex enough that you can argue so well either way makes this such a provocative work of art. The film embodies what’s best about theatrical adaptations from the poetry in the dialogue to the thoroughness with which the actors do their legwork. The film also boasts the year’s best ensemble.

9. Star Trek Beyond, Justin Lin- Very much enjoyed the smaller scale in story as it allowed the characters more quiet moments of character development and pairings that showed new angles. This was balanced by special effects that wowed me in an era where every blockbuster has a budget larger than many 3rd world countries

10. La La Land-The romantic plot between the numbers felt kind of empty, but damn, the musical numbers were amazing. I still support it for a best picture win. It was extremely innovative and extremely thematically coherent and smart. Nearly every second is visually thoughtful and it is very clear that Damien Chazelle and his team used an encyclopedic knowledge of movie musicals to fashion its commentary.

11. Aquarius-It's a foreign film (I watch very few foreign films so this disclaimer is needed) about a woman in her 60's struggling in Brazil against a corporation who wants to tear her house down. A very solid character piece that like "Hello My Name is Doris" is a celebration of an elderly woman in defiance of the way society tries to (literally and figuratively) make her obsolete

12. Popstar: Never Stop Popping, The Lonely Island team- The film sails by more on cameos and side jokes than the character-based humor of Connor 4 Real but laughter speaks: It was just plain hilarious. Lonely Island can get random and scattered in 3-minute clips, so it works to their advantage to be able to develop their riffs over a longer running time.

13. The Lobster: Satirizing both the problems with pressure to couple up and overly conservative societies, the film has thematic currents against both sexual obsession and sexual chastity which is really interesting. Colin Farrell is really interesting and the ensemble is filled with all kinds of interesting characters. Has some wierdly dark moments.

14. Alice Through the Looking Glass: It’s kid-oriented, but surprisingly coherent and complex storyline-wise and works on a kid’s level. Visually quite wonderous.

15. Deepwater Horizon: I have a soft-spot for a good disaster film and consider the genre a form of art with a slightly higher purpose than the typical "things go boom" fare. Like "Captian Phillips"the film gets full-on emotional in the last act as its hero, Mark Wahlberg, starts suffering PTSD. Both films redefine the image of the hero in a larger way then the traditional view thats restricted to members of the military, inspirational teachers and fireman/cops.

16. Arrival-Didn’t appeal that much to me beyond the deep sciencey premise. If you buy Amy Adams’ performance, then you’ll feel the film on an emotional level

17. Now You See Me 2-Sleight-of-hand magicing is a great way to reinvent the heist genre (like adding history professors as in National Treasure). The story twisted and turned too much for me to care and the sexual chemistry between Lizzy Caplain and Dave Franco was forced (I don't think either of the Franco brothers has an easy time with romance) but it was pretty fun along the way.

18. Ghostbusters, Paul Fieg-Serviceably funny. It might be a bold statement here but a side-by-side comparion of this quartet of characters to the original shows how the UCB generation of comedy really goes a step beyond in developing comic characters from the inside out.

19. Tallulah-A Netflix film with Ellen Page and Allison Janney. I thought it's most interesting element was that this despicable character played by Ellen Page is unapolagetically the protagonist. The movie is kind of a ticking time bomb. You have no idea how long she'll get away w/this ruse of stealing someone else's baby but you're bracing for the explosion.

20. The Bronze-As an Olympics enthusiast, I enjoyed the exploration of what happens to Olympics stars after their big movement. The love story was sweet and I liked that Melissa Raunch's character had to grow but she never really had to bend her own personality that much to get to a happy place w/her dad, her gymnastics and her boyfriend. Some of the humor's bread and it had the grossest sex scene I've seen in a while

21. Special Correspondents-Ricky Gervais is curiously nowhere near as bold in film (Ghost Town, Invention of Lying, this) as he is with his TV work. I would be interested in reading an essay as to why, but I can't say that these films aren't pleasant if you don't take away the high expectations. Besides Gervais'

22. Sing Steet, John Carney: Not as memorable as the last Carney film I saw ("Begin Again") but a pretty sweet film about a kid reinventing himself through creating an 80's band. It has a strong sense of place backed by the authenticity of on-location shooting, and a sweet love story. The film has a bit more empty space (both in the band's logistical scenes and the love scenes) than ideal.

23. Captain Fantastic, Matt Ross-Stretches reality a little bit in the form of this superdad who can keep his kids extremely isolated and turn them into extreme geniuses with abnormal levels of obedience (except one of the six kids) but an interesting film. Some might call it artsy, but I found the camera work obnoxious.

24. Race: A pretty generic sports film but with a lot of chemistry between the characters and interesting historic detail

25. Batman vs Superman, Zach Snyder-I'd classify this as not awful. Tonally it was pretty consistent. Batman's kind of dark and Superman kind of got there too and Jesse Eisenberg was nice and playful with his part. I don't know if the film had much to say though but I've seen worse...

26. Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher-Pretty generic with a few sweet moments. The film curiously cares very little about history which is odd because the actual historical facts of Eddie the Eagle would have made a better movie. Taran Eagleton plays a mostly asexual klutz well and has just enough charm to keep this from being completely by-the-numbers. Also, Lake Placid is all wrong.

27. X-Men Apocalypse, Brian Singer-Because it is the sole superhero series I’ve ever gotten into as a kid, I watch every X-Men film as a general rule. Still, my loyalty doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to rip on it. Still, they are going through the motions here. Some of the criticisms of X-Men 3 (needing to decrowd the landscape) would hae been wise here and Apocalypse lacked personality. Why waste Oscar Isaac’s valuable time (as well as that of the make-up department) for something so lifeless. hey needed to decrowd the landscape a bit and have given Acopalypse some personality. Special-effects wise, Psyloche was one of the highlights.

28. Gold-The film's big twist had no foreshadowing and came way too late in the movie for me to care. The first hour of the film had no real point to make? The film could have at least tried to make the gold trade interesting but instead, it is capitalism porn: the stuff found in Wolf of Wall Street, Boiler Room and American Hustle.

29. Zootopia-I heard it had an interesting message but I wasn't really interested in being preached to by a Pixar-like cartoon. Found it uneventful with a few spare jokes here and there

30. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot-Is anyone else getting tired of Tina Fey playing Tina Fey? 40ish woman feeling down on herself bc she's on the verge of no longer being able to meet Mr. Right in time to have kids who is always surrounded by idiots. And this is supposed to be about a serious war film and not an episode of 30 Rock?

31. Keanu-I like Key and Peele a lot but this felt like swing and a miss for me. They've done stuff way more nuanced and complicated than here. So they're forced to act like gangsters?  That's a 5-minute skit, guys, not a movie.

32. Suicide Squad-Oh, the horror! Why did I watch this. It felt like a violent video game specifically made for 12-year-old boys. When the dialogue seems like filler to get to the action and the action seems like filler to get to the dialogue, you know you’ve got a problem. Still, Margo Robbie manages to dazzle and Jared Leto gives a brave performance.