briarwood: Henry Cavil Superman (Superman1)
Morgan Briarwood ([personal profile] briarwood) wrote2017-01-01 02:07 pm

Best and Worst films of 2016

I watch a lot of movies. When I started to compile this list, I started from 65 individual films I saw in 2016. That doesn't include re-watches so I have more than 65 cinema visits, and it's possible that there are a couple of films I missed off my master list. And it was hard to winnow the list down to 20 – my best and worst of the year. So I cheated a little in giving each list a joint 10th, but even then, there are films missing that would normally have made the cut. Neither of this year’s Marvel movies made my top 10, which says something about how much I love those I ranked above them. There are some stinkers that didn't make my bottom ten, but for somewhat different reasons, and there are a number of terrible movies this year that I didn't see. So there are worse films than those on my list - I just didn't see them, and there maybe better films than those I listed that I didn't get to see or maybe caught on DVD release or streaming instead of at the theatre.

These lists are restricted to films I actually sat in a cinema to watch.

My Ten Worst films of 2016

10. Jason Bourne/London Has Fallen

In joint place because they disappointed me for similar reasons. I don't expect much of action movies. All I really want is for them to be exciting, to make sense, not be offensive and to make me give a shit about the outcome, if only for the duration of the movie. These two both failed on at least two out of four. A pity because each is a sequel to a decent action movie.

9. Batman v Superman

I looked hard for reasons to cut this one from the list but in the end I had to include it. My fundamental measure for a movie is how I feel when I walk out of the theatre. BvS left me feeling like I’d been punished for something. For daring to believe Zack Snyder can make more than one good movie, I suppose. (I do like Watchmen.) It does have good things in it, and it did get me writing…but oh, boy did the crap outweigh the good.

8. Me Before You

A romantic story about disability essentially sends the message that the guy in the wheelchair is better off dead. I really thought the world was better than this. Look, I believe strongly in the right to die. I think everyone should be able to check out when they decide they are ready. If the film had done a decent job of examining the issue, I would be fine with it, whether the guy chose life or death in the end. But it skips the hard issues in favour of sickly romance with a heroine who, while apparently broke wears shoes that cost a fortune. (Yeah that detail really bugged me. I have been that broke. I wore crappy shoes and repaired them with duct tape.) But I could have forgiven that except for the death-is-better-than-wheels manifesto.


7. Café Society

I blame myself for wasting time on this film. It’s not like I didn't know what to expect because Woody Allen does this in every single film of his I have ever seen. Good beginning, fantastic characters, beautifully made…and he ends the story in the middle as if just got bored and decided not to bother with an ending. Crappy, crappy storytelling, dude! Like I said, my ultimate measure is how I feel when I walk out of a movie and in this case I felt unsatisified. I think it’s worse when the film starts out good: it’s like being interrupted in the middle of good sex.

6. Collateral Beauty

Saccharine nonsense betrayed by a trailer that actually makes it look good. I like the idea of abstract concepts being personified: Death, Time and Love in this case. But this film does it in such a clumsy way it’s almost the same as Batman V Superman – you know, in the sense that I get the feeling that in different hands this could have been really great. But with BvS I’m sure of that. In the case of Collateral Beauty I may be giving it too much credit.

5. Suicide Squad

Oh, I so wanted to like this film! I was partly soured on it before I even saw it by the stories of Jared Leto’s nonsense on set: I am finding it harder to separate what I know about actors from their work as I get older. But he’s not even close to the worst thing in the film. This time, I can’t even say there's the core of a good movie in there. Good characters, yes, some of them have real potential. But the movie is a hot mess.

4. The Revenant

This became the third film in my entire life that I disliked so much I walked out before the end. Admittedly it was quite close to the end and I left because I didn't want to miss my bus home, but fact remains I cared more about catching that bus than about seeing more relentless torture, suffering and pointless violence. And this piece of shit got awards that should have gone to Creed or Beasts of No Nation (which aren't on my 2016 best of list only because saw them in 2015). Don't be fooled by the awards: The Revenant is no better than torture porn.

3. Now You See Me 2

The original Now You See Me wasn't great cinema but it was a lot of fun, had a twist you don't see coming and did, ore or less, make sense. The sequel thought it was fun, but wasn't, put the twist in the freaking trailer (!) and made no sense at all. It would be number 1 on this list if not for the sleight of hand scene in the vault – that was slick.

2. Criminal

Talking of things that don't make sense… Look I am a sci fi fan. I can buy into the whole mind-swap premise but this plot, if indeed it had one, is utter nonsense. I’d call it bullshit, but I think that sullies the good name of bullshit. Throw in gratuitous sexual violence and that's two hours of my life I really want back.

1. Inferno

Here’s the thing. When your protagonist is supposed to be a super genius, having him behave like a total moron is a bad idea. Throw in a plot premise that makes absolutely no sense and a “twist” that anyone familiar with Chekhov’s gun can see coming from the first five minutes and you have…well, every movie ever based on a Dan Brown novel. This is unbelievably awful stuff.

But the nice thing about having a season ticket to the movies is I don't generally feel bad about seeing bad films. They are outweighed by the good ones and 2016 has been particularly good.

My Ten Best Movies of 2016

10. Another joint 10th: Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)/The Jungle Book

I put these together because they have some things in common: made by Disney, talking animals living in harmony, more or less, and stunning animation. Jungle Book was a tour de force remake of the original, making almost perfect choices in terms of what to ditch and what to keep. People keep calling it a live action remake but it’s not – one human actor and the rest is all animated. The only reason its not higher on my list is because I feel a bit uncomfortable with the film’s underlying message about the human way being superior to the animals. It felt subtly racist...not in terms of the film itself but how it fits into the wider Hollywood canon. Which is why I placed it jointly with Zootropolis which had an amazing underlying message; there are better anti-racist films, but they tend to be angry. I have never seen a better depiction of how easily good people can succumb to and overcome prejudice than in Zootropolis. But there are bits of the film that felt weird and, for me, detracted from that brilliant message. So not top of my list, but still a strong recommendation.

9. The Girl With All The Gifts

A zombie apocalypse movie with real heart, asking some really tough questions about ethics, war and what makes us human and with an ending as unsettling as it is unflinching. It stayed on my mind for quite a while. Difficult to watch, but an excellent film with an amazing performance by Sennia Nanua as Melanie. (I really hate these books and films with “The Girl” in the title when it should be “The Woman” but in this case it's accurate - she's a child.)

8. Eddie the Eagle

I remember the Winter Olympics when Eddie Edwards competed, and he was really amazing. Sure, he was a lousy ski jumper but we always say “it’s not the winning, it’s taking part” and if anyone exemplified that, it was Eddie the Eagle. (I refuse to support the Olymics because they changed the qualifying rules after that games specifically to prevent Eddie Edwards from returning). This film is a fantastic retelling of his journey to the Olympics, sad and funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking. Worth watching if only for the scene where Hugh Jackman, playing Eddie’s coach, tries to explain the sport by comparing it to having sex. So very funny.

7. Ghostbusters

Look, it is not perfect, but neither was the original. The original was misogynist and creepy as well as hilarious. But when I say I judge a movie by how I feel as I leave the theatre…after this one I walked out with the biggest grin on my face. It just plain made me happy and what more can you ask for? Hugely funny women, Chris Hemsworth disco dancing, a good plot that hangs together, laughs, heart, friendship saving the world and the best post-credits scene in movie history.

6. Florence Foster Jenkins

OMG so funny! But not just funny. There is a serious story at the core of this film, about how much people will do for love, about how love of music saved a person’s spirit and about a woman with a huge heart did something impossible. But most of all, so very funny. Meryl Streep as the world’s worst opera singer, Hugh Grant as her devoted husband and Simon Helburg (of The Big Bang Theory) give (excuse the pun) note-perfect performances.

5. Moana

I think this is the year Disney finally gets it. So much of the usual Disney formula has been jettisoned for this film and in a good – no great – way. They have ditched pieces before in Brave (princess doesn't want a prince) and in Frozen (true love is between sisters not the romantic couple), but Moana exceeds them all, for me. Partly it’s the setting. I do have a thing about water and boats. But it’s much more than that. Moana is a “princess” in the Disney tradition but she is also a real complex character. She has faults. She screws up. She has moments of self-doubt. But she is also awesome and strong and knows her own mind and doesn't need a prince to rescue her. When she sings the line “I am Moana” at the climax, it could so easily have been cheesy, but it wasn't. It was powerful. Her demi-god sidekick is great comic relief, the story is heartbreaking and beautiful, the animation is the best I have seen of its type and I have nothing bad to say about it at all.

4. The Shallows

I have a thing about water and boats…but they can be dangerous as well as beautiful. The Shallows is basically woman vs shark. It’s only about 90 minutes but longer would have been too much. It’s intense and brutal and horrifying. Beautifully shot, an amazing performance from Blake Lively. The first thing I did after seeing it was pre-order the DVD. Awesome.

3. Spotlight

Okay, this is a 2015 film for most people but its UK release was this year. The story of the journalists who exposed the Catholic Church child abuse scandal in Boston, in some ways Spotlight feels like an old-fashioned film. It’s about the grind of the investigation, the slow pace of it, the courtroom battle over secrecy. But it’s also about people struggling with how each new revelation affects them personally and it portrays the horror of the child abuse through adult eyes: the victims, the perpetrators, the witnesses all get their say. Mark Ruffalo’s performance is the one the critics latched onto (and he does deserve it) but for me it was Rachel McAdams who made it real: she plays one of the journalists and there’s a scene where her grandmother, a devout Catholic, reads the story in the newspaper with her simply sitting there in silence, knowing she’s written something that is breaking the old lady’s heart…it’s so powerful because there are no words. Between the end of the film and the credits, there is a list of all the places where similar scandals have been uncovered, and it’s a long, long list. If you can watch Spotlight and still trust the institution to do right…you weren't watching.

2. Star Wars Rogue One

What can I say? I could nitpick. There were moments that didn't quite work for me, the odd cheesy line but this was the prequel Star Wars fans deserved. It is incredible. I get what GL was trying to do with the prequel trilogy but I suspect it was doomed to fail because we already knew most of the story. With Rogue One we know, sort of, the end, but the rest is new and it shows a side of the story we haven’t seen on the big screen before. I know there's a wider Star Wars ‘verse with the novels, graphic novels and animated series but I only care about the movies and Rogue One slots in nicely. I managed to see it largely unspoiled. Awesome special effects, great characters – I like the moral grey better than the black/white of Luke v Vader – and so many “wow” moments. Brilliant.

1. Kubo and the Two Strings

It’s a story about storytelling and how stories make life better. The animation is beautifully rendered, the story in the best tradition of fairy tales and fantasy. Maybe it's because I consider myself a storyteller, but this is my top film of the year because it touched me so deeply. Kubo tells stories in the market square, and his magical origami brings his stories to life, literally. Then he embarks on his own story, becoming the questor and hero and there's magic and heartbreak and bravery and its all just beautiful. I don't have a bad thing to say about it. Amazing.

Happy New Year, everyone!


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