Monday, December 19, 2016

best of 2016: movies

And now it's time for my favorite movies of 2016!  The usual disclaimers before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first released in 2016, but that's when I saw 'em.
  • The first two movies listed were definitely my favorites, but the rest of the list is in random order.  (It's pretty weird that my two favorite movies were both stop motion animation, considering that it's somewhat of a dying art.) 
  • Despite my most fervent wishes, 2016 isn't over yet, so it's possible I'll watch something between now and the end of the year that belongs on here.  If so, I'll update accordingly.
  • I don't know why #3 and #4 on this list look tiny and squinchy; Blogger is being a butthole again.  I've tried to fix it but it's not working, and I lack the time/patience to type this all over again, so my apologies.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Anomalisa:  Michael Stone is alienated from other people to the point that they all look and sound alike to him.  But when he's on a business trip, he hears a woman talking in the hallway of his hotel, and her voice is different, so he runs after her.  Her name is Lisa, and they form a strange and tender bond.

Oh man, you guys, this movie is something else.  It's weird, as you'd expect from a Charlie Kaufman movie, and wonderful and heartbreaking and funny.  The stop-motion animation is incredible (be sure to watch the "making of" featurettes on the DVD to see how much work went into it) and the voice acting is terrific and it's like nothing else I've ever seen.

2. Kubo and the Two Strings:  Accompanied by a sarcastic snow monkey and a beetle samurai, Kubo embarks on an epic quest to find a magical suit of armor.  Absolutely stunning stop-motion animation from the geniuses at Laika, combined with terrific voice acting and an alternately exciting and touching story, made this a perfect afternoon at the movies.

3. The Martian:  A group of astronauts is working on Mars when a storm forces them to leave the planet early.  They think their crewmate Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is dead and they leave him behind, but he's actually alive, and he has to figure out how to signal Earth for help.  Intense and incredibly enjoyable.

4.  The Visit:  Siblings Becca and Tyler are excited to meet their grandparents for the first time, but their vacation turns into a nightmare when Nana and Pop Pop begin acting very, very strange.

I know M. Night Shyamalan's name has become tarnished over the years due to flops like The Happening and the utter cinematic abortion that was The Last Airbender, but I swear to you, this movie was really fucking GOOD.  The acting is great, there are some really funny scenes, and the stuff that's supposed to be scary is tense as hell.  G-Vo and I weren't expecting much from this flick, but we were very pleasantly surprised.

5. Captain America: Civil War:  The United Nations wants to limit what superheroes are allowed to do, and although some of the Avengers are okay with restrictions, others don't like the idea at all, causing a serious rift and some truly badass action scenes.  Immensely entertaining (far more so than The Avengers: Age of Ultron) and am I a Stucky (Steve/Bucky) shipper now?  Goddamn right I am. 

6. 10 Cloverfield Lane:  After a car accident, Michelle wakes up handcuffed to a cot.  A man named Howard walks in and tells her that he rescued her and brought her to his bomb shelter because the world has been decimated by a chemical attack.  Is he really her savior, or something worse?  The ending was a little goofy, but it's incredibly tense and well done, and John Goodman is great as Howard.

7. Room:  Joy (Brie Larson, very deserving of her Oscar) has been confined to a small shed for over seven years by a man she calls Old Nick, along with her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay, not nominated but should have been).  Despite their situation, Joy has given Jack the best life she could, but she's reaching her breaking point.  Very powerful, with terrific performances, and I cried throughout most of it.

8. Eye in the Sky:  A planned drone strike to take out terrorists in Kenya goes awry when a little girl chooses the worst place possible to sell bread.  Very tense, and as you'd expect from a cast that includes Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul, the performances are excellent.

9. Doctor Strange:  After a car accident robs him of the use of his hands, arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange goes to Nepal in search of healing, and a whole new world of superpowers opens up to him.  Just a really fun movie, with some surprisingly good dialogue and trippy visuals that more than justified the extra cost for the 3D experience.

10.  Zootopia:  Despite her size, plucky bunny Judy Hopps manages to become a cop.  She's assigned traffic duty during her first day in the force, but a string of missing animals might wind up being the case that will make everyone take her seriously.  The trailers for this were absolutely awful, so our expectations were very low, but it turned out to be really charming and funny.

SEEN IN THE THEATER:  Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, Lights Out, Kubo and the Two Strings, Doctor Strange

MOST HORRIFYING SCENE:  I can't decide between the arm injury or the boxcutter scene from Green Room, but they both made me gasp.

 No Escape, The Martian, Sherrybaby, Freeheld, 99 Homes, The Good Dinosaur, Ratter (which I know sounds lame as hell, but I can't explain what got to me without massive spoilers, so please just trust me that it's not as lame as it sounds), Anomalisa, The Drop Box, Zootopia, Me Before You, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Jungle Book


WORST MOVIE I WATCHED THIS YEAR:  I was going to say Gods of Egypt or The Darkness, but although they were absolute trash, at least they were mildly entertaining and I wasn't compelled to write two blog entries ripping them apart.  Ergo, my least favorite movie this year was The Neon Demon, which was visually impressive but so stupid and so goddamn pleased with itself that it made me angry.