Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in Film: A Compilation of Superlatives [Contributor: Chelsea]

Image result for moana gif

2016 has been a crazy year to say the least, and film did not escape that madness. Overall, this was a pretty weak year for films — few blew my mind or changed the game. There were, however, plenty of average, fun problematic films that were still incredibly enjoyable. While most of these won’t make my Top Films of the Year list — which will be published as soon as I can see a few more films — I wanted to shed some light on the good and bad films of 2016 that you should still check out. Because sometimes cheesy and silly movies are the best ones. Most of them won’t win Oscars, but they’re still worth your time.


Best Dramas

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
Black Mirror: San Junipero 

Somehow the marketing of a return to the wizarding world and playing with cute creatures turned into the reality of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as one of the darkest installments in the Harry Potter world — and I was here for it. On the flip side, Arrival seemed like another dark alien invasion film but was one of the most hopeful and beautiful films about motherhood and unity around the world. And don’t fight me on San Junipero not being a film. A feature film is classified as being more than 40 minutes and this romantic sci-fi drama was more compelling and grounded than almost anything I watched all year. (Yorkie and Kelly 4EVA!)


Best Comedies

Bad Moms
Dirty 30 

If I have any type in life, it would be female-driven comedies. Each of these films had me crying laughing but also hit me in the feels. People weren’t the butt of jokes and female friendship was at the core of each of these films. Smart comedy that isn’t mean is hard to come by these days, but these films manage to be that, while also being a little deep.


Best Animated Films

Finding Dory

There’s something special about a film that teaches young children about gender politics, and systemic racism, and encourages kids to have empathy for disenfranchised people. Or having a Pacific Island princess film actually cast actors with roots in the Pacific Islands and allowing the cast to shape their performance and dialogue so it would fit with their culture. These films do little, but significant things to show how they respect and care about the viewers. Finding Dory changed the setting and parts of the plot three years ago after seeing the documentary Blackfish and how ocean life has been abused in captivity, while also doubling down on telling a story about disabilities.

Disney usually is just a lot of fun, but they woke up in 2016 and we are better people for it. Plus, the young actress from Moana shares top billing with The Rock — a.k.a. the biggest film star in the world — and that’s a huge deal.


Best Action Films

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Shallows
The Accountant 

It’s so nice when a film comes together with the perfect balance of thrills, story, and over-the-top fighting. Rogue One gives Star Wars fans something different and refreshing, while managing to fit within the larger canon and universe. It was our most diverse space outing yet and releasing it during our current political climate sometimes felt too real, but still gave us hope for what’s to come.

Who knew the only thing I needed to make Ben Affleck engaging was to make him an accountant and pair him with Anna Kendrick?

And my only fear in this world is the ocean (WE DON’T KNOW WHAT’S UNDER THERE), but Blake Lively vs. the murder shark was the most stressful and thrilling thing I’ve watched all year. This was Blake’s Revenant and she deserves an Oscar.


Why Isn’t Anybody Talking About These Great Films? 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Queen of Katwe
First Girl I Loved

Andy Samberg’s mockumentary about the music industry should win Best Picture but nobody bothered to watch it. The marketing for it made it look like just another dumb movie, but it was savage about the entertainment industry and celebrity culture.

Queen of Katwe on the other hand barely had any marketing but has one of the most inspiring stories of the year and the glorious return of Lupita Nyong’o to our screens — not as a CGI alien or animal.

And if there’s one film that I know nobody saw in 2016 that I recommend seeing, it would be First Girl I Loved. It captures a more honest portrayal of what high school was like (sorry John Hughes, but it ain’t what you sold), and that feeling of young love and teenage pressure.


Your Platform Release is Killing Me 

Hidden Figures
Toni Erdmann
20th Century Women

Seriously, these all seem so up my alley but the whole late platform release is killer to the Midwest movie viewers. These films either have complex females in front of the screen or behind the scenes in key production roles, and that’s all I need. Hidden Figures has THREE black women as the faces of this film and they aren’t slaves or maids, but SCIENTISTS. That’s so important.


Surprisingly Great, and I Shouldn’t Have Judged You

Dirty 30
Pete’s Dragon
The Accountant

I am a huge fan of Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, and Hannah Hart, so of course I was excited for them to do another film together after the joy that was Camp Takota. But Dirty 30 is actually super fun and thoughtful. Sure, it’s more fun because they are in it but I don’t just love it because it’s theirs. Watching the Holy Trinity grow as artists and creators is inspiring and makes me want to grow more in my own productions.

And while Pete’s Dragon looks super saccharine and The Accountant looks like every Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington film, they both shocked me with how smart and well-made they were. Pete’s Dragon is incredibly heartwarming and will make you sad you don’t have your own pet dragon.

Affleck gives a real portrayal of Asperger's that isn’t played for laughs (looking at you, The Big Bang Theory) and showed the tics, sensory sensitivity, and social awkwardness that you don’t really see portrayed. More fun and cool things like this please.


You Could Have Been Great But You Dropped The Ball 

La La Land
Hello, My Name is Doris
The Lobster

La La Land could have been my favorite film of the year. I’m a sucker for pretty people and musicals. But when so much of your film is out of focus, especially on those close-ups, you take me out of the experience and make me angry. We can also stop pretending that the white boy is going to save jazz music from John Legend, while the only other black people are relegated to the background and function as props supporting the aforementioned white boy.

Meanwhile, Doris was just so mean-spirited and made me uncomfortable. Sally Field deserves so much better. Why have we failed Mama Gump?

The dog dies in The Lobster and that was so unnecessary. How dare you.


Calm Down, You’re Not That Great

Manchester By The Sea
Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool’s foul-mouthed, ultra-violent anti-hero fell into every traditional superhero film cliché, just on a worse budget. And don’t tell me it's a super feminist film. I don’t do that faux feminism just because a girl is super tough.

Manchester By The Sea is just another sad white guy film that goes nowhere.

I almost feel bad having Civil War anywhere near Deadpool because it was a lot more enjoyable than that film (and SO MUCH BETTER than Age of Ultron), but there was nothing compelling to follow outside of Black Panther and some fun Natasha and Cap moments. It was fun, but not great.

Lights of My Life

Kate McKinnon
Greta Gerwig
Janelle Monae

What did we do to deserve these ladies? Kate gave us Jillian Holtzmann, the most delightful, beautiful weirdo, got us through the election on Saturday Night Live, and dropped into supporting roles in the most random films, making them 1000% funnier instantly.

Greta crushes it in Maggie’s Plan and Jackie, with 20th Century Women coming soon. Plus her Variety Actor on Actor with Mahershala Ali is the best 30 minutes of any TV show or film this year.

We already knew Janelle Monae had the voice of an angel but her performance in Moonlight makes me wonder why she hasn’t been acting all her life, and makes me even more excited for Hidden Figures. She can do it all. These women can do it all.


Pitch Perfect Award for Film I’m Going to Rewatch a Billion Times

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Finding Dory
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

We all have those comfort films that just make us happy when we watch them. For me, it’s always Pitch Perfect, The Force Awakens, or any rom-com with Tom Hanks and/or Meg Ryan. Not all films hold up on the thousandth rewatch but I foresee these films going the distance — at least for me.

What were some of your best and worst films of 2016? Sound off in the comments below!


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