Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Stairway of 2016 Moving Pictures Both Ways

Happy New Year, everyone, it's time for my annual ranking of the previous year's movies. I don't do it at the beginning of December like some publications, thank you.

I used to do a Best and Worst list but some years ago I decided to simply combine them, including movies I felt more neutral about in the middle, so this is a from worst to best list of new movies I saw in 2016. There are still a few more I'd really like to see, especially Arrival and La La Land, so I may come back and add those later. For whatever else it was, 2016 was actually a pretty good year for movies. I haven't had a chance to write reviews for all these yet, hopefully there won't be anymore celebrity deaths I'll want to write about in the next few weeks.

28. Lights Out

This is the Rebecca Black's "Friday" of movies. It feels like someone adapted a headshot and resume into a horror film. A cast of actors who seemed drawn exclusively from soap operas and Maria Bello, its photo-copy of Japanese monster effects and shallow psychological subtext made this film embarrassingly bad in a way that makes you suspect the people to blame are too coked up to care.

Batman V Superman - Sad Ben Affleck - HD by allthingsonline

27. Batman v Superman (my review)

In spite of its bad writing and tired, derivative visuals, it's still the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman I hate the most about this thoroughly lousy film. But Gal Gadot was also pretty lame as Wonder Woman.

26. Ghostbusters (my review)

If Paul Feig wanted to remake The Mask he shouldn't have called it Ghostbusters. Also, I preferred "Cuban Pete" for the dance routine.

25. Fan (my review)

Shah Rukh Khan's amazing, ambidextrous performance and some truly impressive cgi can't replace a film's story.

24. Absolutely Fabulous (my review)

An adequately entertaining revisit to the classic series with its unique flavour of tastelessness.

23. Star Trek Beyond (my review)

A charming effort with the screenplay by Simon Pegg squeaks through despite some conspicuous studio tampering that saddles the film with a silly, nonsensical ending.

22. The Witch (my review)

Featuring some great, handmade costumes and historical detail those of us who study the 17th century can appreciate, its meandering final act puts this film well behind the films it pays homage to like The Blood on Satan's Claw and Day of Wrath.

21. X-Men Apocalypse (my review)

Falling well short of the high water mark of some previous X-Men films this one still provides an entertaining experience with good performances and the promise of a better Dark Phoenix.

20. Little Sister

It might have been called How to Rebel Against Rebellious Parents. Set in 2008, it's maybe the first real portrait of the struggle the generation of entitled hipsters faced at the time of being too poorly educated and dispassionate to care about anything in particular, I guess.

19. Deadpool (my review)

An exciting innovation in the superhero genre with many genuinely funny jokes. A final act that takes it back into the more mundane territory of superhero films couldn't entirely sink it.

18. Suicide Squad (my review)

What a mess. Who thought we'd want to see a movie about a team of villains that ended with them learning about the power of friendship? But Margot Robbie's glorious, you have to admit it to yourself.

17. Captain Fantastic (my review)

A well-meaning, sweet, wealthy, left-wing dream of how life could be better if brought closer to nature.

16. Midnight Special (my review)

A nice, eerie, subtle film about contact with the strange. Featuring appropriately subtle, good performances.

15. The Killing Joke (my review)

Mark Hamill's surprisingly great delivery of Alan Moore's intelligent dialogue is great but the animation looks ugly and cheap and new plot points and dialogue don't fit with Alan Moore's original tale.

14. Captain America Civil War (my review)

Marvel continues to create effective characters who play well off each other. This one effectively tied that into an argument on the appropriateness of passion for people in power.

13. Zootopia (my review)

Adorable characters developed very well, loads of great cartoon humour, and a plot that's pretty smart when seen from just the right angle.

12. Hell or High Water (my review)

A successful translation of very modern problems into the framework of a great western.

11. Hail, Caesar! (my review)

A very stylised ode to and parody of a version of Hollywood that exists in the dreams of its people.

10. 10 Cloverfield Lane

An amazing, insightful psychological thriller with excellent performances by John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead marred only by a goofy ending.

9. Sausage Party (my review)

A long, hilarious, dirty joke with Seth Rogen's team at its best with its innocently presented complete degeneracy.

8. Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (my review)

Werner Herzog brings his inimitable outsider's perspective to the madness that is the encroaching connected future.

7. Elle

A very surprisingly complex but cohesive film from Paul Verhoeven, this is like Eyes Wide Shut meets The Rules of the Game. A fascinating essay on rape, upper class society, successful women, and the video game industry.

6. The Wailing

The real horror in this film with demons, zombies, and ghosts is its fundamental destabilisation of all institutions in which we place faith for protection; law enforcement, medical science, and religion. It achieves this simply through the creation of characters, particularly a startlingly realistic but thoroughly atypical protagonist.

5. Rogue One (my review)

This is a Star Wars movie that was a long time coming. Finally a film that really felt like it explored another part of the vast universe introduced in the original trilogy while creating characters who felt firmly part of the fabric of the fictional reality. Featuring great cinematography that opens the visual potential of very old and familiar ships and costumes, this film would be ranked better on this list if it weren't for certain depressing cgi decisions.

4. The Mermaid (美人鱼) (my review)

Brilliantly effective, absurdist comedy in the tradition of the Marx Brothers. The inventiveness stalls out a bit in the end which turns the film into an action film that the special effects can't support but before that is some incredibly endearing, ridiculous comedy.

3. I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

There's no way a simply transparency effect on an actress, to make her a ghost, could possibly be scary anymore, is there? Well, this film has a good argument to the contrary, clearly bearing the influence of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, it also manages to be frightening for the kind of intimate terror that makes it a spiritual descendant of Carnival of Souls and The Haunting of Hill House.

2. Toni Erdmann

An incredibly delicate and delightful film that places a very credible rendering of a father and daughter relationship in the context of globalisation in the EU. With lots of nudity.

1. The Neon Demon (my review)

This is a movie about how people seek great meaning from incredible beauty and become increasingly vicious in the frustration of not finding it. So a lot of people sell the movie short for not finding that great meaning without realising that's exactly what the movie's about. It has some gorgeous visual poetry.

Twitter Sonnet #948

The stars were blue the night the crystals left.
Sapphire pulse engaged unclouded sky.
In azure cloaks the heroes were bereft.
Like Delvian or Bolian they fly.
Contracted madness rails in chicken trains.
Through narrow eyes the sharks revolve in space.
In frozen air the dust's what mind retains.
A clatt'ring sound bespeaks the metal ace.
On tracks we kept combined with walls we go.
We venture forth to shorter shops online.
En masse, the traffic stars collude to glow.
The deal has shown us running up incline.
Competing tides comes racing joy and fear.
With "Plainsong" credits born is the new year.

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