Sunday, March 4, 2018

My Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards!

It's Oscars time again.  The 90th Academy Awards are tonight on ABC and with them comes a lot of baggage, most of it political and some of it to do with last year's Best Picture envelope mishap.  Will Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read out the right Best Picture winner this time?  Hopefully.  That would be bad to have a  Best Picture fiasco occur two years in a row, though you have to wonder why the producers thought it would be a good idea to have the same duo present the award again.  Overall though, I am not all that excited for this year's Oscars.  The overtly political nature that will inevitably be a part of this show will make it a bit of a drag for those simply looking for entertainment, then there's the fact that the awards themselves will not yield too many surprises.  As for Jimmy Kimmel, he'll probably be funny, he had some good zingers last year so I'm expecting a few more this year (hopefully he'll include more Matt Damon hijinks).  All in all, I am not expecting a whole lot from this year's Oscars, so I am in a good position to be pleasantly surprised if everything goes off better than I expect.

Anyways, I am not predicting any huge shake ups in all of the major categories in regards to other award shows. While The Shape of Water won the Producer's Guild Award for Best Picture and it has the most nominations, actors make up the majority of the Academy and they really, really loved Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  Then you factor in the female empowerment narrative of Three Billboards, the fact that it won the Best Picture equivelant at the SAG Awards, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs, and I will be very shocked if it doesn't win.  What does that mean for your  viewer at home?  More than likely no movie that a large number of the people watching saw will win an award and that's part of the pretentiousness of the Oscars.  Gone are the days that a Titanic or The Lord of the Rings would actually have a  shot at winning anything.  With Dunkirk being the most financially successful movie nominated for Best Picture, there is a scenario where it could walk away without a single award (a scenario that I don't think will happen, but could).  As for the acting categories, if you've watched any of the other award shows these past few months, you know who's gonna win.  The only real question mark in the major categories is Original Screenplay.  Jordan Peele could win for Get Out, but the safer money is on Three Billboards to win there as well.

Without any more preamble, here's my full list of predictions for tonight:

Best Picture - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Director - Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Best Actor - Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Best Actress - Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor - Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress - Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Best Original Screenplay - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Adapted Screenplay - Call Me by Your Name
Best Animated Feature - Coco
Best Foreign Language Film - A Fantastic Woman
Best Documentary Feature - Icarus
Best Cinematography - Blade Runner 2049
Best Film Editing - Baby Driver
Best Costume Design - Phantom Thread
Best Production Design - The Shape of Water
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Darkest Hour
Best Visual Effects - Blade Runner 2049
Best Original Score - The Shape of Water
Best Original Song - "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman
Best Sound Mixing - Dunkirk
Best Sound Editing - Dunkirk
Best Short Film (Live Action) - DeKalb Elementary
Best Short Film (Animated) - Dear Basketball
Best Short Film (Documentary) - Heroin(e)

So I'm predicting that Three Billboards will win the most with 5 awards, followed by The Shape of Water with 3, and Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, and Darkest Hour each winning 2 apiece.  The rest of the movies listed above will only win one Oscar.  Hopefully I've improved on my lackluster tally from last year when I went 16 out of 24.  Eek.  Maybe I'll have done better this year.  We'll know in a few hours.

Christian's Oscars

Since the Oscars are tonight and very few movies are nominated from 2017 that I would have nominated, I figured I'd take it upon myself to create my own Oscars.  Overall, 2017 was a so-so year of film for me.  There were a lot of good movies, but not many great movies and only about three or four I'll probably still be watching ten years from now.  With that said, in a stale year of film there is still always good craftsmanship on display, and 2017 was no different.  As always, I'm not paid to review movies, so I didn't get to see every single movie released, but I did see all of the major fanboy releases from 2017 as well as a few smaller films, making this perhaps the most eclectic year end list you'll read.  So without further ado, on with the show...


Best Song - "Evermore" from Beauty and the Beast
I always wondered why the Beast never had a solo in the original movie and thankfully that was rectified with the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.  Maybe it's because I have a hard time singing along to a lot of musicals these days, but I relished in a song written for a baritone.
2.) "Remember Me" from Coco
3.) "Guardians Inferno" from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
4.) "Bellbottoms" from Baby Driver
5.) "Immigrant Song" from Thor: Ragnarok

Best Score - Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This was one of the easier choices I had to make on this list.  I'm a John Williams fanboy and he continued to knock it out the park with another classic Star Wars score.  Enough said.
2.) Coco
3.) Wonder Woman
4.) War for the Planet of the Apes
5.) The Shape of Water

Best Make-Up and Hair - Bright
Bright is one of those movies that I feel didn't fully get its due, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to future installments, of course for the purposes here, what really shined in Bright was the make-up and hair work.  From the intricate orc make-up to the elves, the make-up and hair work was top notch and helped sell the story.
2.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
3.) The Shape of Water
4.) Dunkirk
5.) Logan

Best Costumes - Wonder Woman
The costumes in Wonder Woman were a large part of making the movie so immersive.  From the outfits of the Amazons to the World War I-era garb of the world of man, the costumes in Wonder Woman were both historically accurate and beautiful to look at.
2.) Beauty and the Beast
3.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle
4.) Murder on the Orient Express
5.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Sound - Dunkirk
This category was really the tale of two movies: The Last Jedi and Dunkirk.  I give Dunkirk the slight edge because of how integral the sound is to the movie.  There is very minimal dialogue in Dunkirk, but there are tons of bullets whizzing past and explosions that create the aural reality of war.
2.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
3.) War for the Planet of the Apes
4.) Blade Runner 2049
5.) Baby Driver

Best Special Effects - War for the Planet of the Apes
While Dunkirk's use of models and old-school techniques almost got it the top spot, War for the Planet of the Apes' special effects were just too good to not recognize.  It almost seems like WETA Digital keeps on trying to one up themselves, but they did it again with War for the Planet of the Apes.  The CGI/motion capture apes continue to look more and more life-like with each movie.
2.) Dunkirk
3.) The Shape of Water
4.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
5.) Blade Runner 2049

Best Production Design - Coco
I often feel that the crafts work for animated films don't get their time in the sun, but very often their production design can be as amazing as anything in live action.  The environments of Coco are simply breathtaking, with the Land of the Dead being especially imaginative and engrossing.
2.) Wonder Woman
3.) Murder on the Orient Express
4.) The Shape of Water
5.) Beauty and the Beast

Best Editing - Dunkirk
Few movies are better edited than Dunkirk.  As if cut to the ticking clock of Hans Zimmer's musical score, longtime Nolan collaborator, Lee Smith, might have won himself his first ever Oscar with this movie.  Time will tell, but I definitely feel he's worthy.
2.) Baby Driver
3.) Logan
4.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle
5.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Cinematography - The Shape of Water
Few movies look as beautiful as The Shape of Water does.  Seeing this movie on the big screen simply for the visuals alone is worth it.
2.) Dunkirk
3.) Blade Runner 2049
4.) Baby Driver
5.) Logan

Best Supporting Actress - Shira Haas, The Zookeeper's Wife
This might seem like the most out-of-left-field choice on this whole list, but I found Shira Haas's performance in The Zookeeper's Wife the most effective performance in that whole movie.  A 22-year-old actress from Israel, Haas portrayed a teenage girl who was raped by two Nazi officers in a Jewish ghetto before she was hidden by a Polish zookeeper and his wife.  The way Haas portrays her character's PTSD and the subsequent story of her recovery is what made this such a moving performance for me, and it's why it's stuck with me all this time later.
2.) Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
3.) Dafne Keen, Logan
4.) Lucy Davis, Wonder Woman
5.) Carey Mulligan, Mudbound

Best Supporting Actor - Mark Hamill, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
There were really two performances vying for the top spot -- Patrick Stewart in Logan and Mark Hamill in The Last Jedi.  Both actors returned to iconic roles and added new dimensions to them, with Stewart playing an aging mutant with dementia to perfection, while Hamill portrayed a hero who'd given up and was in need of reminding what it meant to fight once more.  Ultimately I went with Mark Hamill, merely because this is the best showcase for his acting talents he's ever had and probably ever will have.  Fans of animation and Hamill's voice acting performances know he's more than just the Luke Skywalker from the original Star Wars trilogy, but his return as Luke in The Last Jedi is a career best for him as an actor and now everyone knows how good he is too.
2.) Patrick Stewart, Logan
3.) Ray Romano, The Big Sick
4.) Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast
5.) Joel Edgerton, Bright

Best Actress - Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman
Let's be honest, Gal Gadot stole 2017.  She was just awesome as Wonder Woman, embodying the DC Comics' character that comic book fans had come to know and love for so many decades now.  Even her turn in Justice League was remarkable.  Gadot just has the compassionate warmth and the fierceness of spirit that fans have come to expect from the character and it's why she was the Best Actress of 2017.
2.) Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
3.) Gemma Arterton, Their Finest
4.) Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
5.) Anya Taylor-Joy, Split

Best Actor - Hugh Jackman, Logan
While a large part of me wanted to go with James McAvoy in Split for how deftly he handled the different personalities of his character and the in-scene transitions between them, I have to go with good ol' Hugh here.  Hugh Jackman's final turn as Wolverine in Logan was his best in the role, and that's saying something.  I think no moment works better than when Wolverine is dying while his daughter, X-23, holds his hand.  Hugh Jackman doesn't overact the moment, one could even say he undersells it, but that's why it was the perfect farewell for such an emotionally complex character.
2.) James McAvoy, Split
3.) Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
4.) David Oyelowo, A United Kingdom
5.) Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Best Ensemble - The Big Sick
From Kumail Nanjiani's likable turn as himself, to Ray Romano's career best role as the father of Kumail's comatose girlfriend, all the way to Holly Hunter, Zoe Kazan, and so many other talented actors that round out the ensemble of this movie, The Big Sick was the best showcase for actors in 2017, allowing them to explore both gut-busting comedy and heart-wrenching drama.
2.) Going In Style
3.) The Shape of Water
4.) Mudbound
5.) Wonder Woman

Best Movie Moment - Crossing No Man's Land in Wonder Woman
This really came down between two moments for me -- SPOILER ALERT -- when Kylo Ren kills Supreme Leader Snoke and teams up with Rey to fight Snoke's guard in The Last Jedi, and when Wonder Woman crosses No Man's Land in Wonder Woman.  Both were spine-tinglingly awesome fanboy moments, but I have to give the edge to Wonder Woman.  It is the iconic moment from that movie that will always be remembered and is truly the moment that Wonder Woman becomes a superhero in the eyes of the audience, which is why it's so impactful.
2.) Rey & Kylo Ren Team Up in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
3.) Miguel Sings "Remember Me" to Coco in Coco
4.) The Death of Logan in Logan
5.) Kumail Bombs His Audition in The Big Sick

The Most Underrated Movie of the Year - Justice League
This is a new category I'm trying out this year, mainly because I see movies all the time that either no one has ever heard of them, or they were box office or critical flops but were actually good movies.  Either which way, that is what qualifies a movie for the Most Underrated Movie of the Year category and the movie I feel got the least fair shake was Justice League.  While Justice League is not The Avengers' killer that Warner Bros. was hoping it would be, it's still a fun movie that is highly entertaining and full of great fan service moments.  Sure, Justice League won't be a movie that comic books fans will probably still be watching even two years from now, but that's belittling everything the movie does right.  It finally nails the character of Superman, it continues to highlight the awesomeness of Wonder Woman, and it introduces audiences to Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, with Flash and Aquaman both stealing the show.  Do yourself a service and at least see Justice League for those reasons alone.
2.) Their Finest
3.) Bright
4.) The Zookeeper's Wife
5.) A United Kingdom

Best Screenplay - The Big Sick
2017 was a unique year in that there actually were a fair few original screenplays produced, with both The Shape of Water and Split being true highlights, but there was no highlight brighter in the world of original screenplays than Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's autobiographical script for The Big Sick.  While the movie falls into the normal trap of using the f-bomb way more than necessary, it's a heartfelt script that loosely tells the true life story of Kumail and Emily's courtship and Emily's mysterious illness that lands her in a coma, and it's both a drama and a comedy.  It's that balance between drama and comedy that makes The Big Sick so engaging.
2.) Split
3.) Logan
4.) Coco
5.) The Shape of Water

Best Director - Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
This was the most difficult category to pick for me.  Guillermo del Toro was very nearly my choice, while Patty Jenkins, Matt Reeves, and M. Night Shyamalan all made strong cases as well, but Christopher Nolan is the director I ultimately felt wowed the most in 2017.  Nolan's Dunkirk really feels like a lost World War 2 epic from the Golden Age of cinema, only if Hitchcock and John Ford combined their efforts and co-directed a tense, but stirring war epic.
2.) Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
3.) Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman
4.) Lee Unkrich, Coco
5.) M. Night Shyamalan, Split

Best Picture - Coco
The best movie of the year was a little tricky to settle on.  It really pains me to not give it to Star Wars: The Last Jedi due to my immense love of all things Star Wars, but there were a few better movies than the latest Star Wars installment and the best of those movies was Coco.  Pixar has made another masterpiece with Coco, telling a story about a young boy in Mexico named Miguel who wants nothing more than to be a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, the only problem is his family forbids music.  On the evening of the Day of the Dead, Miguel somehow finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead where he embarks on an adventure that highlights the importance of family and the passing down of stories.  Like all Pixar movies, there are some heavier themes at play here than in your average kids movie, but Coco more than delivers with the laughs with Miguel's dog sidekick, Dante, garnering the vast majority.  All in all, I loved every last minute of Coco and found it a very engaging movie that was thoughtful, funny, and an imaginative blast from start to finish.
2.) Logan
3.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
4) The Big Sick
5.) Wonder Woman
6.) War for the Planet of the Apes
7.) Spider-Man: Homecoming
8.) Split
9.) Going In Style
10.) The LEGO Batman Movie

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Predicting the 2017 Oscars!

And here we are again, another year, another Oscars ceremony that will probably be filled with controversy, however unlike the previous two years, this controversy is not due to who was or wasn't nominated, but due to who the current President now is.

Whether you agree with my stance on this or not, I really wish actors and filmmakers could really leave their political opinions aside for one night. We at home want to be entertained and enjoy ourselves as the movies of 2016 are celebrated.  We know you don't like the President, and do you really think your acceptance speech is going to change America's mind one way or the other?  No, it won't.  My thinking has always been that politics and entertainment really shouldn't ever collide anyways, especially when it's entertainment made for the general audience at large, which the Oscars ceremony is.  Half of your potential audience probably voted for Trump, while the other half didn't.  By hewing too closely to the thinking of one half, you alienate the other half of your audience, which is why I'm against movie and TV mixing politics and entertainment unless it's a niche movie or TV show where the political ideas are crucial to the story or for the audience the story is designed for.  But I digress, getting back on track...

As is per usual, I like to predict the Oscars each and every year.  Unlike last year, there are very few up in the air categories.  The only real question is:  How many Oscars is La La Land going to win?  That and the question as to which actor will bring home Best Actor, Denzel or Casey Affleck.  The other acting races have all been sewn up for a while.  The only other real surprises could come in the form of Adapted Screenplay (Arrival or Moonlight), and in the tech categories.  The real enigma with the tech categories is figuring out if the Academy will spread the love or if they'll simply mark La La Land for every category it's nominated for, even if it's not the best choice.  I personally think La La Land will have a big haul, but I don't think it will break records like some are predicting.  La La Land will more than likely net 7 Oscars, but I don't think it will do more than 9, even if some of my left field predictions don't pan out.  As for predictions regarding the show itself, well, it's Jimmy Kimmel hosting, so we can at least know it will probably be funny.  He's the kind of guy who makes fun of anybody, so he is the person I am least worried about in regards to making an annoying political statement.

So without further ado, here are my predictions, with a few bold predictions in the crafts categories for fun!

Best Animated Short - Piper

Best Documentary Short - Joe's Violin

Best Live Action Short - Ennemis Interieurs

Best Sound Mixing - La La Land

Best Sound Editing - Hacksaw Ridge

Best Visual Effects - The Jungle Book

Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Star Trek Beyond

Best Costume Design - Jackie

Best Production Design - Arrival

Best Cinematography - La La Land

Best Film Editing - Hacksaw Ridge

Best Original Song - "City of Stars" from La La Land

Best Original Score - La La Land

Best Documentary - O.J.: Made in America

Best Foreign Language Film - The Salesman

Best Animated Feature - Zootopia

Best Adapted Screenplay - Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay - Manchester by the Sea

Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis, Fences

Best Supporting Actor - Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Actress - Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Actor - Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Best Director - Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Picture - La La Land

And those are my predictions!  As always, remember to check back either later tonight or tomorrow for my thoughts on the Oscars ceremony and my personal reflections on how well I did or didn't do with my predictions.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Favorite Movies of 2016!

And so here we are, in celebration of the Oscars and of the movies of 2016 in general, here is my annual top 10 list of my favorite movies from the previous year!  Enjoy!


10.  X-Men: Apocalypse
Kicking off the list is X-Men: Apocalypse, a movie that was unjustly met with a very mixed to negative response upon release, but one that I think is easily one of the finer X-Men movies overall.  Apocalypse is by no means as solid as X-2, but as far as being a fun superhero movie that pays perfect homage to its comic book roots, you can't do much better than X-Men: Apocalypse.  Plus, director Bryan Singer finally let the X-Men don their iconic costumes, even if it was only for a brief moment before the end of the movie.

9.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One is the first Star Wars spin-off movie that Disney has made since purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012.  While Rogue One is not as strong of a movie as The Force Awakens, it is an enjoyable standalone adventure that manages to work primarily thanks to its connective tissue to the original Star Wars from 1977.  The movie essentially translates the opening crawl of 1977's A New Hope and makes it into a two hour movie.  While one would think that would keep the movie from being engaging, the credit is due to the moviemakers in finding little ways to surprise when it's least expected, such as one of the most iconic Darth Vader moments when he chases the stolen Death Star plans down a hallway, slicing and dicing his way through Rebel solider after Rebel soldier.  Sure, Rogue One wouldn't be nearly as good if it were the very first Star Wars movie, but as a companion piece to the rest of the saga movies, it allows you to look at events you thought you knew in a complete new way.

8.  Doctor Strange
In a year full of superhero movies, Doctor Strange was the best of the bunch due to Benedict Cumberbatch's inspired performance as the titular hero and the sheer originality of director Scott Derrickson's trippy visuals.  Every time you turn around there was something new that you'd never seen done in a superhero movie before, and that was the sheer joy of Doctor Strange.  While the movie lost a little of its momentum in the final act, a few missteps are not enough to keep this from being the strongest superhero movie of 2016.

7.  Arrival
Arrival is a pleasant enigma of a movie.  It is a cross between Contact, Independence Day, and The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," with a  little bit of The Prestige sprinkled on top.  It is thinking man's science fiction that also has a surprising heart to it that I found very emotionally involving.  While Arrival is certainly not for everyone, I found its slow burn, less action oriented approach to the alien arrival story trope a breath of fresh air for the type of story being told.  In a way, it's very reminiscent to The Day the Earth Stood Still if that movie were made today.  Plus, this movie has a pretty nice twist near the end that makes it an almost certainty that you'll want to see it a second time.

6.  The BFG
Steven Spielberg is my favorite director of all-time, I think that's a pretty well known fact by now amongst the readers of this blog, so it shouldn't be a surprise that his latest movie is on this list.  The BFG is a fun adaptation of Roald Dahl's kid's lit classic of the same name, about an orphan girl who befriends a big friendly giant.  It is a very simple story that may just be Spielberg's most kid approved movie to date.  The movie is very gentle, very funny, and genuinely fun the whole way through.  It is one of those movies that maybe only appeals to people who love kind of quirky fantasy, but it's a great little quirky fantasy movie that deserved more recognition than it got.

5.  Moana
Disney animation has been experiencing another small renaissance in recent years and Moana has continued that tradition.  While Moana won't go down in movie history books as being a Disney movie on par with the likes of Aladdin or The Little Mermaid (two other movies directed by Moana directors John Musker and Ron Clements), Moana is a fun Disney musical that does a lot new while paying homage to the old.  For starters, Moana does not feature a love story, with no sign of a prince in sight.  On top of that, there really isn't a villain.  As well, this is one of Disney's most thematically complex animated movies they've ever done, with Moana being a movie that is really all about remembering who you are deep down inside, or learning who you are for the very first time, while also being a movie about how we all must leave home at some point in order to grow.

4.  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took us back to J.K. Rowling's wizarding world and we are all better off for it.  With this being Rowling's first ever screenplay, the movie plays exceptionally well.  As a standalone movie, it's a great adventure story, but as a companion to the rest of the Harry Potter world, it's full of tiny little details that help fill in the gaps in the history of the other books and movies.  Still, what makes Fantastic Beasts what it is, is the lovable cast of characters and Rowling's trademark wit and charm in their interactions.  You fall in love with Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, and Tina and Queenie Goldstein, as they traverse across 1926 New York in search of magical creatures that escaped from Newt's enchanted suitcase.  There is no other way to describe this movie other than magical.

3.  The Jungle Book
Disney has been on a hit streak the past few years adapting their animated movies into live action movies, and The Jungle Book is another point in their win column.  While it would be easy to say The Jungle Book is essentially a live action retelling of the animated movie, it's actually more of a hybrid between that movie's approach and the original Rudyard Kipling novel, making The Jungle Book its own movie, while still paying respect to what came before.  The respect is paid mostly in the return of some of the animated movies best songs, woven organically into the story.  Of course what makes The Jungle Book so phenomenal is not just the fact that the timeless story still remains timeless, but in the technological beauty of the movie.  Director Jon Favreau made the whole movie on a Los Angeles soundstage, even though it takes place in the jungles of India.  All of the animals and environments were created with CGI, with the only real element in any scene being Neel Seethi's Mowgli.  Sure, there have been other movies made in recent years that have done this same approach, but none as convincingly as were done here.

2.  Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge is a phenomenal return to form for director Mel Gibson, and the most awesome part is that it's 100% a true story.  It tells the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the congressional Medal of Honor for saving 75 lives as a combat medic during the Battle of Okinawa on Hacksaw Ridge.  The whole crux of the movie is that, due to Desmond's spiritual beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist, he refuses to carry a gun and kill, even so, he wants to serve his country during World War II.  As a Christian, I found this movie especially moving and thought it to be the best faith-based film I've seen perhaps ever.  While the movie is not for the faint of heart, due to the gory battle scenes that realistically depict war, Hacksaw Ridge is an emotional story worth seeing from start to finish because of it's thematic ideas.  At the end of the day, this movie is simply about one man refusing to forsake his beliefs, even when others tell him that he's crazy, and I think that's a great, timely message for a lot of Christians.

1.  Zootopia
When I first read about Zootopia, I was uncertain that anything new could be done with talking animal movies.  Thankfully, Disney managed to prove me wrong.  At every turn, Zootopia did something new.  Whether it be the sloths working at the DMV or the brilliance in how the city of Zootopia is laid out and designed, the movie has original idea after original idea.  Then there are the rich thematic ideas of prejudice and acceptance that run underneath the story that give Zootopia an added depth, but the main reason Zootopia is number one is that it's just flat out funny.  I haven't laughed this hard at any other movie in a long while.  Zootopia is like Lethal Weapon, but made for kids.  It's really a buddy cop movie about the first ever bunny police officer, trying to prove herself by solving an almost impossible case with the help of a conman fox.  The movie follows every trope of the buddy cop movie, while also defying expectations at every turn.  In short, Zootopia is probably Disney animation's best movie they've made since the Nineties, and that is high praise indeed.

2016, Best in Movies

I have done this in the past and am doing it again.  Since I was so busy at the start of the year, I put off my best of 2016 posts till the next appropriate date.  As I got about two weeks into January and still hadn't posted, I realized that the best thing to do would just be to wait till the weekend of the Oscars and kind of turn these into my own mini-Oscars.  So what did I think of the movies of 2016?  Honestly, I thought 2016 was a so-so year for movies.  I'm going to get that out of the gate straight away.  There were a lot of good movies, but very few movies that I think will go down as classics in the grand scheme of things.  Still, there was plenty of stuff to celebrate, so that is what I am doing today.  From the best costumes and make-up, to best acting and directing.  So let's get started on looking back on the year that was...


Best Song - "How Far I'll Go" from Moana
"How Far I'll Go" is the classic Disney princess ballad that pretty much lays out what the main character wants (adventure, etc. and so forth), but what makes this particular Disney princess ballad so emotionally stirring is the way it is continually reprised throughout the course of the movie.   "How Far I'll Go" ultimately comes to encapsulate the theme of Moana, which is quite simply figuring out who one is and discovering that we must venture away from home in order to do so.  It is very potent thematic material that really connected with me at this current moment in my life, moving away from my hometown for the first time ever, and that is why it's the Best Song in a movie from 2016.
2.) "We Know The Way" from Moana
3.) "Something Wild" from Pete's Dragon
4.) "Another Day of Sun" from La La Land
5.) "You're Welcome" from Moana

Best Score - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Michael Giacchino was the movie score beast of 2016.  He did four scores for feature films, and all four of them are as good as his usual output, with Doctor Strange being a particular stand out for its use of electric guitar and off-kilter instrumentation, but I liked his work for Rogue One just a bit more.  Giacchino's long been my second favorite composer behind John Williams, so it's fitting that he did the music for the first major live action Star Wars movie without John Williams composing the music for it.  While Williams had another masterful score this year with The BFG, it was Giacchino's ability to channel Williams that gives Rogue One the top spot.  He perfectly calls back to Williams' themes when called for, while he also created some new themes that sound as if John Williams himself had written them.  All in all, whenever John Williams can no longer do the scores for the main saga films, I sincerely hope Lucasfilm gives Giacchino another call.
2.) The BFG
3.) Doctor Strange
4.) X-Men: Apocalypse
5.) Zootopia

Best Make-Up and Hair - Hacksaw Ridge
War movies wouldn't be possible without good make-up work to sell the realities of war.  While a lot of the gory images in Hacksaw Ridge were unsettling at times, the work was stunning and really made the horror of battle all the more terrifying.
2.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
3.) Star Trek Beyond
4.) Doctor Strange
5.) Sully

Best Costumes - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Recreating period wardrobe is tough, it's even harder when the movie in question is a fantasy film, but thankfully costume designer Colleen Atwood has had plenty of experience with movies such as Fantastic Beasts.  The costumes for Fantastic Beasts were period accurate enough to where I was never doubting that they would be something that someone from 1926 New York would wear, but the costumes had just enough whimsy and fantastical accents to also stand apart from a typical period piece and shout that this movie is a part of J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World.
2.) Hail, Caesar!
3.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
4.) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
5.) Star Trek Beyond

Best Sound - Hacksaw Ridge
From the whizzing of bullets to the rumbling of explosions, all the way to the appropriate balance between dialogue, sound effects, and musical score, the sound of Hacksaw Ridge brought the movie to life.  No movie can exist without the proper balance of all these things and Hacksaw Ridge did it better than any other movie I saw from 2016.
2.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
3.) The Jungle Book
4.) Arrival
5.) Star Trek Beyond

Best Special Effects - The Jungle Book
For me, this and Best Director were the easiest categories to pick.  The special effects in The Jungle Book are what make this movie great.  If you didn't believe in the fully CGI environments and animals acting alongside Neel Sethi's Mowgli, the whole movie would have not worked.  Thankfully, everything did work.  The animals were beautifully rendered, with enough cartoon elements to their facial features to make them look subtly like the actors voicing them, but still always looking like a real animal you might see in the wild.  In short, this movie is what I think the future of movies is going to be more of - movies shot entirely on a soundstage with no location work.  While I know there are many other movies that have done this approach to varying degrees of success, The Jungle Book delivers the most believable and immersive results I've seen to date.
2.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
3.) Arrival
4.) Star Trek Beyond
5.) Sully

Best Production Design - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I thought a lot about the production design work done in other movies in 2016, from La La Land's use of lush colors to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them giving us a glimpse into the American Wizarding World, but for me Rogue One had the most impressive production design.  Simply put, what made Rogue One's production design so stunning was that production designers Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont perfectly recreated iconic environments from the original 1977 Star Wars.  The Death Star sets and the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 looked exactly as they did in A New Hope, while the design work also had room for innovation by giving us the first tropical planet ever featured in a Star Wars movie, as well as the Middle Eastern vibe of the planet Jedha and its fallen Jedi statues.
2.) Zootopia
3.) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
4.) Hail, Caesar!
5.) Arrival

Best Editing - Hacksaw Ridge
If you're sensing a theme here, I thought Hacksaw Ridge was the most technically impressive movie across the board in 2016.  The craft on display was just all top notch and the editing is another part of that exceptional display that stood out.  There is nothing real innovative done here, it's just really sharp editing that creates tension and emotion through the power of each cut.
2.) Arrival
3.) Sully
4.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
5.) Star Trek Beyond

Best Cinematography - La La Land
While I had my issues with the way the story of La La Land ultimately played out, there is no denying that this movie was a master class in cinematography.  From the opening musical number that is all staged and stitched together to look like one shot, to the beautifully rendered Los Angeles environments that almost take on a dream like feel to them, director of photography Linus Sandgren makes this movie soar through the visuals alone.
2.) Arrival
3.) Hacksaw Ridge
4.) Hail, Caesar!
5.) Sully

Best Supporting Actress - Alison Sudol, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Queenie Goldstein was one of the best characters in Fantastic Beasts, and while a lot of that is JK Rowling's writing, a great deal of the character's success is thanks to actress Alison Sudol and her performance bringing Queenie to life.  Queenie is an American witch who is flirtatious, emotionally honest, and can read people's minds.  In the hands of a different actress, Queenie may have come across as annoying, possibly even ditzy.  While Queenie has this effervescent air about her, she is a very wise character and Sudol understands that and relays that in every scene, making Queenie both playful and serious at the same time.
2.) Katherine Waterston, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
3.) Lupita Nyong'o, The Jungle Book
4.) Sofia Boutella, Star Trek Beyond
5.) Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge

Best Supporting Actor - Hugo Weaving, Hacksaw Ridge
Agent Smith himself delivered the most astounding supporting performance of 2016 in Hacksaw Ridge.  What made Hugo Weaving's work as the father to Andrew Garfield's medal of honor winning Desmond Doss so special, was how he made the character sympathetic.  In short, he plays an abusive, alcoholic, WWI veteran, but underneath that he is a man who is suffering from what we now know as PTSD.  It is a phenomenal performance and one that is heartbreaking.
2.) Dan Fogler, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
3.) John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane
4.) Alden Ehrenreich, Hail, Caesar!
5.) Alan Tudyk, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Actress - Ruby Barnhill, The BFG
The BFG would have fallen apart had it not had a good child portraying the part of Sophie, thankfully Steven Spielberg discovered another great child actor in Ruby Barnhill.  Barnhill is sassy, funny, and lovable all at the same time.  She holds her own with some heavyweight actors and sells the special effects in a way that could have only been possible by a child with an active imagination.
2.) Amy Adams, Arrival
3.) Auli'i Cravalho, Moana
4.) Elizabeth Olsen, I Saw the Light
5.) Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane

Best Actor - Tom Hiddleston, I Saw the Light
This is a performance that has gotten vastly overlooked by critics and award shows purely because the movie itself wasn't well reviewed, which is a shame, because not only is the movie better than most said, but Tom Hiddleston really became Hank Williams.  Like when Joaquin Phoenix became Johnny Cash, Tom Hiddleston adopts all of Hank Williams' mannerisms, his accent, and most importantly, his yodel.  After a few minutes, you forget you're watching the guy who tormented the Avengers and think you're watching Hank Williams brought back to life on the silver screen.
2.) Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
3.) Tom Hanks, Sully
4.) Mark Rylance, The BFG
5.) Eddie Redmayne, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Ensemble - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Every performance in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them made this movie soar, and to me that is the mark of a great ensemble piece.  Eddie Redmayne led the ensemble with an awkward, yet lovable performance as magizoologist Newt Scamander, with Katherine Waterston playing a perfect counterpoint to Newt as the all business Tina (and coincidentally, Newt's future wife).  Then there is the aforementioned Alison Sudol as Queenie and Dan Fogler as the lovable No-Maj Jacob, who both tag along on the adventure.  Rounding out the cast are the likes of Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, and Ezra Miller, all giving their roles their all and making Fantastic Beasts an enchanting experience.
2.) Star Trek Beyond
3.) The Finest Hours
4.) Hail, Caesar!
5.) Sully

Best Movie Moment - I Am Moana, Moana
I nearly went with the Darth Vader moment from Rogue One, but I had to go with the sequence that had the greatest emotional impact upon me.  2016 was a good year for movies, but there were few movies last year that had a moment so emotionally awesome it gave me the chills, and Moana was one of the only movies from 2016 that surprisingly did that for me.  This is the moment in the movie where Moana is thinking about giving up on her mission, accepting defeat, and returning home, but that is when she is visited by the ghost of her recently deceased grandmother.  As is usual Disney fashion, they sing a song that reprises many of the movie's better tunes, with Moana's grandmother reminding Moana who she is as the ghosts of Moana's voyager ancestors surround her in the ocean.  It's a moment that might sound bizarre or hokey if not seen, but trust me when I say that it's the most emotionally fulfilling 2016 moment I had with a movie.
2.) Darth Vader's Hallway Rampage, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
3.) Astral Projection Showdown, Doctor Strange
4.) The DMV, Zootopia
5.) Mowgli Saves the Baby Elephant, The Jungle Book

Best Screenplay - Zootopia
It's almost impossible to write a talking animal movie that feels original, but the gang at Disney Animation Studios did just that with Zootopia.  Every single scene in Zootopia does something new with its animal-like humans that I've never seen another movie about anthropomorphic animals do.  On top of that, the movie is just flat out hilarious, with the DMV scene being one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a long time.  To be so funny, so original, and also still have a great moral lesson come through it all, is a sign of great writing, and it is why Zootopia was the best written movie of 2016.
2.) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
3.) The BFG
4.) 10 Cloverfield Lane
5.) Arrival

Best Director - Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book
Jon Favreau deserves an Oscar for The Jungle Book.  There, I said it.  Simply put, to direct a movie like this where almost all of it is reliant on the director's imagination relaying what he wants to the cast and crew is no simple task.  For that movie to be as good as The Jungle Book is, is a sign of a fantastic director who should receive all the recognition he is due.  Jon Favreau has long been one of those overlooked directors who delivered good movies, but he never really had that breakout hit that made him seem more than just a generic blockbuster director.  With The Jungle Book, I think Favreau finally proves to any of the naysayers that he is more than generic, he is a unique talent in the movie industry.
2.) Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
3.) Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
4.) Steven Spielberg, The BFG
5.) Scott Derickson, Doctor Strange


Check back later tonight or tomorrow morning for my list of the my 10 favorite movies from 2016!