Welcome back, folks. It’s still the end of 2016, and I’m still coping with the end of yet another year of my life by handing out a collection of Best Of film awards to directors and celebrities who will never notice or care. But I care, dammit. Way too much. Enough so that I couldn’t even fit all of my awards into the conventional big six Best Acting/Directing/Picture categories. That’s just not enough, so here come some more.
First up, I’ll pass out writing awards to the two titles that were the closest contenders for best film of the year over ‘La La Land’. Then I’ll dig into subcategories and subgenres of movies for increasingly obscure awards categories until I’ve given something to all of my favorite flicks of 2016. Why? ‘Cuz I want to. Does it matter? Hell no! Will you read it? God, I hope so. I like it when you read my words. Fun fact: That’s why I write them.
Anyhoo, here’s the final blast of my highly personalized and essentially irrelevant 2016 film awards. Hope you like ’em. Regardless, I’ll see all you fine folks next year (i.e. in a few days).
Best Screenplay: Tie – ‘Manchester by the Sea’ & ‘Moonlight’
Yeah, another tie for two wonderful movies that got so many things right on so many levels, yet all were the result of remarkable scripts. First there’s Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘Manchester by the Sea’, a gut-wrenching tragedy about guilt and an unexpectedly hilarious comedy about the wildly unpredictable nature of life. It’s both of those things at once and so much more. Lonergan somehow seems to only be getting better with every script he directs.
Next up is Barry Jenkins’ beautiful blueprint for ‘Moonlight’, a triptych about life, race, class, sexual identity, and how we struggle with them all in different ways, at different ages, and in different circumstances. ‘Moonlight’ is a remarkably ambitious script rooted in the smallest moments and emotions. It’s the most praised movie of the year and deserves it. I’d single it out for more awards, but it’ll get plenty, so I’ll spread the love around, with the understanding that Jenkins’ flick truly is something special.
Runners Up: ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ (Richard Linklater), ‘Hail, Caesar!’ (the Coen brothers), ‘Gold’ (Patrick Masset and John Zinman), ‘Green Room’ (Jeremy Saulnier), ‘Hello, My Name Is Doris’ (Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter), ‘The Lobster’ (Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou), ‘The Nice Guys’ (Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi), ‘Paterson’ (Jim Jarmusch), ‘Swiss Army Man’ (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), ‘Sausage Party’ (Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir and Jonah Hill), ‘Wiener-Dog’ (Todd Solondz), ‘The Witch’ (Robert Eggers)
Best Animated Feature: ‘Sausage Party’
That’s right, the most searing satire of the year and the funniest fuck jokes all in one place. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg found a sweet spot between ‘South Park’ and Pixar, delivering something smart enough for stoners and funny enough for intellectuals. Scoff if you want, but that’s just proof that you haven’t seen ‘Sausage Party’. Or, if you have seen it and disagree, you weren’t paying attention. A great film. I’m serious.
Runners Up: ‘Finding Dory’, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’, ‘The Little Prince’, ‘Moana’, ‘Zootopia’
Best Foreign Language Film: ‘Elle’
Paul Verhoeven intended ‘Elle’ to be his big American comeback picture after decades away, but no American actress would dare touch this nasty comedic thriller about rape, violence, family and sick psychology. Like all great Paul Verhoeven movies, it’s both a viscerally entertaining exercise in sleaze and a viciously funny social satire. The man loves to push buttons and this one hits some doozies. Not for the faint of heart and not easily forgotten. However, unlike most Verhoeven films, this one has a fascinating human at the center rather than an arch movie character. Isabelle Huppert disappears into a fascinating role that’s impossible to ever truly know, yet all too easy to become intoxicated by. Great stuff for brainy fuck-ups and perverts everywhere.
Runners Up: ‘Age of Shadows’, ‘The Clan’, ‘The Handmaiden’, ‘The Salesman’, ‘Train to Busan’, ‘The Wailing’
Best Documentary: ‘Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’
For years there were rumors of a feature length remake of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ made entirely by children. Some saw a secret underground VHS tape passed around. No one knew the true story. Now there’s a beautiful documentary about childhood, teenhood, friendship and creativity, all told through a unique tale of a bunch of kids who decided to spend their 1980s youth remaking the greatest adventure film of all time with a family camcorder. (Plus, you get to see them age and grow in ambitions over the course of the footage, a la ‘Boyhood’). A special movie that no nerd should miss, especially if you ever had childhood filmmaking ambitions.
Runners Up: ‘The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography’, ‘De Palma’, ‘Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World’, ‘Oasis: Supersonic’, ‘Tickled’, ‘Weiner’
Best First Feature: ‘Swiss Army Man’
There were a number of exciting directorial debuts this year, but only one felt unlike any movie I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few movies in my day). Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s ‘Swiss Army Man’ is both a work of ridiculous absurdism designed to make you giggle at farts and a surprisingly deep exploration of the human condition designed to make you get existential about fart jokes. It’s absolutely remarkable, and even if Kwan and Scheinert were never to direct another film, I’d consider them one of my favorite filmmaking teams. They will make more movies. This is only the beginning, and that’s the most exciting part.
Runners Up: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’, ‘Deadpool’, ‘The Edge of Seventeen’, ‘The Witch’
Best Horror Movie: ‘The Witch’
Speaking of exciting directorial debuts, Robert Eggers’ ‘The Witch’ was such a remarkable flick that even people who don’t like horror movies had to shut up and admit this was impressive. Beautifully crafted in period detail, remarkably performed by an incredible cast, viscerally terrifying, and troublingly thoughtful, ‘The Witch’ was one of the best horror films to hit screens in years. The fact that it came from a man who had never made a horror film before is even more exciting. Eggers has more of these in him. Let’s hope he gets to work soon.
Scariest Horror Movie: ‘Blair Witch’
Apparently I was the only one who adored this ‘Blair Witch Project’ comeback picture. I don’t get it. The last 40 minutes are one of the greatest horror movie rollercoasters to hit screens in years. I don’t know what you were expecting, but this was a fucking blast. Cult appreciation is coming. Mark my words.
Biggest Horror Surprise – ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’
The first ‘Ouija’ was one of the worst studio horror films of the last decade. Thanks to the balls-out talent of writer/director Mike Flanagan, ‘Ouija 2’ is one of the best. That shouldn’t have been possible. Well done, sir.
Best Thriller: ‘Green Room’
If you want to know what it’s like to sweat through a t-shirt in the middle of winter, watch ‘Green Room’. It’s funny too. And Patrick Stewart as a skinhead? My word. What a blast of dirty genre entertainment. Great work, Jeremy Saulnier. Make something new soon, even if it isn’t quite this good. This will be a tough act to follow, but I’m sure you’ll find a way.
Best Comedy: ‘The Lobster’
The English language debut of Yorgos Lanthimos (‘Dogtooth’) is almost indescribably funny and moving. A bizarrely surreal exploration of the pain of loneliness and love, the movie couldn’t be more cynical. You’ll laugh at every aspect of our stupid stabs at connection through Lanthimos’ unique eye and an all star cast of gamely daring comedic performers. Then somewhere near the end you’ll find yourself crying because ‘The Lobster’ taps into profound truths through its completely goofy techniques. A remarkable cinematic achievement to be cherished between the giggles.
Most Inexplicably Hated Comedy: ‘The Brothers Grimsby’
Seriously, this movie is hilarious. Why all the hate? I mean, I know it’s no ‘Borat’ or ‘Bruno’, but Sacha Baron Cohen can’t be expected to reach that level of satiric brilliance without his gonzo reality comedy tactics. This flick was good ol’ filthy, stupid fun that I wish more people would embrace as a guilty pleasure. The elephant scene alone is one for the ages. Gross-out comedy greatness, people!
Best Science Fiction Movie: ‘Midnight Special’
Over the summer, everyone fell in love with a nostalgic ode to that distinctly 1980s mix of science fiction, horror, action, drama and fantasy. Unfortunately, they fell in love with the wrong one. Instead of watching ‘Stranger Things’, you should have gone to the theater to support Jeff Nichols’ amazing ‘Midnight Special’. This is exactly the sort of thoughtful and artist-driven picture that the summer movie season needs more of. But you didn’t go and neither did your friends. Thanks a bunch. This is why we can’t have nice things. Sigh… see it now. Maybe it can at least become a cult classic.
Best Superhero Movie: Tie – ‘Captain America: Civil War’ & ‘Doctor Strange’
Did you see that airport superhero fight? Jesus…
And those mind-bending ‘Doctor Strange’ visuals? Good lord…
Best ‘Star Wars’ Movie: ‘Rogue One’
Easily the best ‘Star Wars’ movie of the year. Did anyone else consider it mildly subversive that Disney released a rousing blockbuster about a group of multi-ethnic freedom fighters on a suicide mission to stop white imperialist oppressors at Christmas? Pretty cool, huh? Plus, X-wings ‘n shit.
Best Remake: Tie – ‘The Jungle Book’ & ‘Pete’s Dragon’
Disney shouldn’t just remake its back catalog and call them new movies. That’s absurdly lazy, even for a massive movie factory out to print as much money as possible. However, if those remakes were all as good as ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Pete’s Dragon’, it would be hard to complain about that greedy decision.
Gentlest Movie: ‘Paterson’
Jim Jaramusch’s latest is the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug accepted while sipping on a delicious mug of coffee by the fire. There was no more gently soothing film last year, and few were quite as beautiful. Plus, all those fuzzy feelings came while staring at the new Darth Vader in nearly every frame. Well done, Jimbo. Keep ’em coming.
Best Hangout Movie: ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’
I wish my college experience was as life-alteringly chilled-out as this flick. Ah well, at least I have this movie to live within instead of those memories I lack. Yet another fantastically human achievement from Richard Linklater that only didn’t get the respect it deserved because it wasn’t ‘Boyhood’.
Most Charming Screen Couple: Tie – ‘Mr. Right’ & ‘The Nice Guys’
If all big screen couples were as charming as Anna Kendrick & Sam Rockwell in ‘Mr. Right’ and all cinematic BFFs were as amusing as Russell Crowe & Ryan Gosling in ‘The Nice Guys’, the world would be a much better place. Let’s work on that, people. Sound good? Good.
Most Underappreciated Movie: ‘Wiener-Dog’
No one saw it. Everyone should have. Why don’t people like Todd Solondz? Don’t you guys like laughing at the most painful aspects of existence? No? Just me? Dammit… Ah well, this movie is still great. Seek it out on Blu-ray, ‘K?
Best Movies That Don’t Count As Movies: ‘Black Mirror’
All of it. Every episode. Charlie Brooker is a genius. Watch ‘2016 Wipe’ for further proof.
Most Coen Brothers Movie: ‘Hail, Caesar!’
Runner Up: ‘Hell or High Water‘ (seriously)