Saturday, February 25, 2017

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!

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