Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Year In Movies: The Runner-Ups List

I posted my top ten favorite films of 2016 yesterday, you can read that list: here

Every year I also like to make a list of Runner-Ups list, movies that made my job of making a top ten most difficult. The movies I love the most that didn't make my initial list. Movies I feel still deserve to be seen even though they didn't make the big list. I don't think a single year can be summed up in just a pack of ten films, no matter how bad the said year was. I see over 100 new releases every year, and I definitely love more than just ten of them, so I figure I like to represent the other experiences in the movie theater worth having every year. This list features films that almost made the top ten, some of these films were on my top ten list for a period, some of them a long period. I think the top four on this list tonight is particularly strong, and I considered making a top fourteen list this year, simply so I could include them. But even though I may not watch the movies on this list as often as the movies on my top ten, I plan to own all of these movies, and I will watch them more than once, I am sure. I am sure you'll agree these were some 2016's other gems.

There are those who say that the superhero genre is deteriorating or that it can't stand the test of time. Then I watch something like "Deadpool" and I can't imagine the genre going anywhere. This is a movie that takes what we've come to expect from the genre, and turns it upside down and pumps it with steroids. It's an R-rated film, its opening credit sequences isn't to be taken seriously, it's overly-violent, it breaks the fourth wall, its vulgar, its foul-mouthed and literally the entire premise revolves around the villain trying to get the hero to stop calling him by a certain name. Its bonkers and totally ludicrous. But that's essentially an issue of Deadpool, and I haven't seen a comic book movie yet that has so essentially adapted the source material. If the superhero genre continues to take chances with material like this and makes it in the same confident stroke as "Deadpool" has, then superhero movies aren't going anywhere.

Park chan-wook has reinvigorated film for many years now. "Oldboy" is a movie you know about even though its a Korean film, and "Thirst" as well as "Stroker" provide evidence that chan-wook does something completely different each time he sits in the directors chair, and also makes provoking, challenging adult material. In "The Handmaiden," a Korean con-man recruits a pickpocket from an orphanage to seduce and eventually trick a Japanese handmaiden out of her inheritance. That's a juicy plot in itself, and its told through Quentin Tarantino-style chapters. But the film unravels in several twists and turns, never once feeling forced or silly. "The Handmaiden" is vastly entertaining, keeps you guessing throughout and is another winner for Park chan-wook.

From its opening credit sequence of a rather dirty, disgusting dance routine to its unforgettable final moments of Amy Adams sitting by herself at a restaurant, "Nocturnal Animals" smears itself into the very fabric of your memory nerves. Lead by Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Michael Shannon and an unbelievable performance by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, this movie is a dark and disturbing tale but told with a wicked elegance. It also redefines what we have come to expect from a revenge story.

 In speaking of Michael Shannon, when he teams up with director Jeff Nichols it seems the duo can nearly not be beaten. Nichols is another director who seems to challenge himself every time he goes to make a movie. In "Midnight Special" a group of people are trying to get a special little boy to somewhere specific, while the United States military is trying to stop them. Is the boy an alien, or an angel or what? Its the mystery of the movie, but clearly our government is interested in him and he seems to have an entire cult of people trying to make sure he accomplishes his goal. I have heard some people compare this to the early days of Speilberg or George Lucas, and that certainly seems like the case in some moments of the film, but "Midnight Special" is definitely something of its own.

 Did you like it when Richard Linklater made "Dazed and Confused," on the first day of summer for a high school and every clique in every grade got together to have all sorts of fun? "Everybody Wants Some!!" is Linklater's college version of "Dazed and Confused." A time-in-the-life of a house of college baseball players and the culture they have carved for themselves while away at college. As someone who still young enough to have several college memories stuck in his psyche, this movie definitely made me feel nostalgic and the cast is brimming over the edge with charisma, telling a humorous and good-looking movie.

Who would have thought Patrick Stewart could be so menacing and vile? "Green Room" is a different kind of siege movie and I absolutely love that it takes a fairy simple story of a band getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that place just happens to be a white supremacist bar. Its a movie that doesn't make its violence cartoonish, milks every bit of atmosphere it can afford and tells a thrilling story with enough intensity to make you break out in a cold sweat. Its also one of the last appearances made by the late Anton Yelchin, who delivers in every moment of the film.

There are many movies I watch out for and look forward to for any upcoming year. There are also moments in each new film that I anticipate and hope to see. But sometimes, I love the inspirational zing of surprise. Nothing surprised me more this year then watching Paul Dano ride Daniel Radcliffe like a speed boat on the ocean, leaving an island, and Daniel Radcliffe is powering this makeshift transportation with his never ending flatulence. If that single sentence disturbs you, then perhaps you should skip this movie. But if you love the look and feel of a piece of cinema daring to be different, daring to separate itself from the rest of herd, finding originality in every venue possible, then "Swiss Army Man" is an experience for you.

8. 13TH
 Good lord, this movie scares me. To learn that slavery never really ended in this country, and that there maybe a sinister reason to why we have such overcrowding in our prison system. To learn that our government has had such a vendetta towards certain races in our country and that racism and bigotry has stood the test of time in various forms, choking the life out of the freedom aspect of our country. Its sad, its convincing and its hard to shake. Ava DuVernay, who made the powerful "Selma" just two-ish years ago, her equally powerful documentary asks us to really re-evaluate who the real criminals are in our United States and to stand for all aspects of freedom.

When these live action versions of classic Disney movies began spilling out a few years ago, I thought we would be in for a long drag. I never understand why we have to touch things that are already so great, why fix things that aren't broken, and nakedly steal cash for no apparent reason. However, "Cinderella" in 2015 was good, and "The Jungle Book" is even better. Now, I am shockingly excited for "Beauty and The Beast" this year. Jon Favreau captures the essence of the original story and the timelessness of the original Disney animated movie, throws in his own signature and blends it into something that is fun, lovable and entertaining. The animals feel just as real as our dear Mowgli and the feeling is ever so vibrant. A true testament of an adaptation that feels like its own thing.

There were lots of animated movies released in 2016, and I enjoyed quite a bit of it. However, these three animated films provided a new outlet for the genre. Something that felt rebellious, revolutionary, almost as if they had pulled off something impossible. These animated spectacles feel so original, so significant and so timeless that I had too much trouble putting one ahead of the other ranking.

"Zootopia" feels like just another entry in Disney animation. It features a cute idea with cute animals inhabiting a city. From the moment it begins, it feels like its going to have the same recycled lessons featured in every Disney movie. So what shocked my system was that its essentially a comment on our society and culture. Its a movie about what it means to be a predator and what it means to be perceived as a predator. Its a movie about our roles in certain jobs and circumstances and how that benefits the world and how they tiptoe between morality and insanity. Its a movie that puts everything that has happened on the news in our society under a microscope, begging us to look in the mirror and ask what we are doing to ourselves. This wasn't at all what I expected from this Disney movie, and when we look back on Disney's animated output during this decade, "Zootopia" will be remembered on a much deeper level than many of their other films.

If "Sausage Party" was just a clever parody on the Disney/Pixar model, that probably would have been a high recommendation by itself. But then "Sausage Party" makes big, clever comments on religious dogma, and how we are conditioned to accept instead of question things, fears that keep people from being who they really are, fear of facing judgement, faith versus proof and how love can conquer hate. For a movie about a hot dog that really wants to have sex with a hot dog bun, the film is surprisingly heavy. 

"Kubo and the Two Strings" is a tremendous leap forward in stop-motion animation. Featuring rich storytelling, fun characters, engulfing music and frame after frame of wondrous adventure. Not only that, but I think the movie tries to do something that Disney and Dreamworks have always seemingly been afraid to tackle. "Kubo and The Two Strings" is a movie about not always getting what you want, even if you try really hard, that life doesn't always go the way we want it to and that we can't win everything. These are life lessons more important than what most children's movies try to communicate, so that makes "Kubo and The Two Strings" even more revolutionary.

This whole week is going to be dedicated to celebrating 2016. I have my two big Best of lists done now. We will dig deeper into what else was significant in 2016, whether its good or bad. I will also discuss the future of 2017 and what to expect from it. Its a brand new year, so we will be celebrating the future and the past in equal measure. Keep checking back for updates!

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