Well, that was a year. As much of a slog as 2016 has been, it's actually been an amazing year for movies, tv, video games and music. Normally I'd make a list of all of them, but this year's crop of movies has been so good, the only things that could even break in to my top 10 would be Stranger Things or maybe Supergirl.
So I'll focus just on the year's best movies, of which (I counted), I saw 214 feature-length movies that were released in 2016. I still missed a few, but mostly in the mediocre (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) or truly awful (Criminal) range.
Here we go with the worst:
[hon mention] The VVitch -- a movie I hated that everyone else seemed to love. Atmospheric, but not scary. Creepy, but more in a “it would have been awful to live as a Puritan in colonial America” way. Also, it was the goat? Stupid.
10. Storks -- In a year with some of the best movies made for kids out there, you can't peddle mediocre drivel like this.
9. Independence Day: Resurgence -- The sequel that never needed to be made. And somehow Judd Hirsch ends up driving a bus of schoolkids through the desert being chased by the alien queen? Will Smith was right to skip this, though we'll get to him in a minute...
8. Alice Through the Looking Glass -- Another unnecessary sequel, and this one has Sascha Baron Cohen as the embodiment of time making horrible puns. And Johnny Depp gets worse and worse and worse. No. No. No. No. No.
7. The Angry Birds Movie -- My 8 yr old said it best as we walked out of the theater: "Dad, we didn't need a backstory for why the birds were angry." Yup. Painful to watch.
6. Inferno -- I hope everyone had an amazing vacation in Italy and Turkey because this was just crap to watch. By the end, I wanted them to release the world-ending virus just so I could be sure I'd never have to sit through another one of these movies again.
5. The Light Between Oceans -- I would watch Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz read the phone book. And I'd have preferred to give that to them instead of this boring, ponderous script.
4. The Greasy Strangler -- In retrospect, this is "THE" movie of 2016. "BULLSHIT ARTIST!!" A father-son duo of screwups lead "disco tours" of Los Angeles, and at night "Big Ronnie" gets naked, greases himself up and murders people, only to wash himself in the car wash, complete with full frontal nudity. This isn't one of those "it's so bad it's good" movies, or an homage to Jon Waters. I've seen Pink Flamingos, and you, sir, are no Pink Flamingos. BULLSHIT ARTIST!
3. Gods of Egypt -- Dear movie about Egyptian Gods: please don't cast a Dane, a Scot, and an Australian and expect to not catch all sorts of shit over it. This is not the 1940s. If you're going to appropriate an ancient culture, at least cast people from the right part of the world. Also, try not to make your movie suck so hard. I feel bad for anyone who actually cares about ancient Egyptian culture and gods.
2. Collateral Beauty -- This is what stupid people think Oscar movies are like. Just awful, and there's no excuse for any of the actors involved in this, especially Will Smith. We get it, Will-- you keep trying to make movies to get nominated for awards. Let's just try to make them good next year.
1. Mother’s Day -- The bad reviews on this must have killed Garry Marshall. So sad this piece of garbage had to be his final work. On the bright side, this was the latest in several of these holiday-themed movies that we now have the luxury of knowing we will never get another one of. Sad to say there's a silver lining in the death parade that was 2016, but there it is.
And now, the best:
30. Finding Dory
29. Pete’s Dragon
28. Swiss Army Man
26. Green Room
25. Southside With You
24. Hunt For the Wilderpeople
22. The Jungle Book
21. Star Trek Beyond
20. Triple Nine
18. Eye in the Sky
16. Hidden Figures
15. Manchester by the Sea
12. Doctor Strange
10. [tie] La La Land / Rogue One -- Perhaps the biggest surprise is that these two incredibly high quality film rank so low on my list of favorites this year. Being honest, it might just be my inability to fully enjoy anything that has happened since November. These are two great movies-- but for me, there were 9 better.
9. The Nice Guys -- Shane Black's comedy-noir is the perfect blend of script, acting, and action. Between mustaches and muscle cars, you'll feel back in the 1970's so much you can taste the smog in the Hollywood air. Pure originality, except for the fact that borrows and steals so heavilly from the classics of film noir. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
8. Midnight Special -- A heady film that transcends genres plays on the best of what made kid-centric 80's sci-fi so awesome. The performances are amazing, especially by Michael Shannon as a dad who just wants to protect his superpowered son from religious cults, the government, and everyone else who is after him. While director Jeff Nichols gets more awards attention for his historical drama about interracial marriage Loving, (they even share some of their main cast), the real gem is this.
7. Hell or High Water -- This is both a beautiful modern western as well as a grim indictment of the forces that would make a person so desperate they'd rob a series of banks to save the family farm... or vote for Trump. Jeff Bridges also plays an irascible, racist Texas ranger tracking down our bank robbers and a final showdown between him and Chris Pine has Oscar gold all over it. This is also one of the best screenplays of the year, as well as cinematography that captures the beauty and the bleakness of modern life in West Texas towns.
6. Sing Street -- Boy meets girl, boy forms band to impress girl in 1980's Dublin. As good of a soundtrack as the film itself, it includes period songs from The Cure, Joe Jackson, Hall and Oates and some truly memorable original songs that you'll be singing as you leave the theater. "Drive It Like You Stole It" should be nominated for an Oscar for best song from a movie. And director John Carney deserves more love for this scrappy little picture that somehow flew under the radar.
5. Arrival -- This is perhaps one of the most important movies of the year, and director Denis Villanueve cements himself as one of the most important creative voices in film. The film is both visually stunning and also geniously paced to deliver the maximum impact with its message, and he never resorts to visual trickery of making you want to see more of his aliens or hiding them from you to save for a big reveal. Because that's not what this movie is about. It's rare that a film makes me feel stupid and shallow by comparison. This movie is so deep and so intelligent and has so much to say that it almost does.
4. Moana -- Full of stunning visuals, amazing music, and a great story, only a hair's breadth separate this from the next animated film on this list. And it's only that it feels like Disney has told this same story over and over-- because it has. Even as Moana protests that she is not a princess, Maui corrects her that she is the daughter of the chief and has an animal sidekick. Where this film does outshine its peers is its soundtrack, which both gets Jermaine Clement channeling David Bowie, The Rock singing "You're Welcome!", and the song likely to win Lin Manuel Miranda the last piece of his MacPEGOT, "How Far I'll Go." Extra points for making the ocean herself a living character. That's some amazing animation, only bested by. . .
3. Kubo and the Two Strings -- Something about stop motion animation is just irreplaceable. And Laika knocked it out of the park again, especially with this tale that includes a battle with a fifty foot tall skeleton puppet. This film is both spooky and sentimental. And while Moana has Lin Manuel Miranda, Kubo has The Beatles and one of the best versions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" ever recorded. But at the end, this is a story about families. And magic. If you must blink, do it now.
2. Hail, Caesar! -- All year long, this has been my high-water mark. "Was it as good as Hail, Caesar! ?" I'd ask. In all but a few cases, the answer was always "no." While at the surface level this is just your basic Coen Brothers comedy and a love letter to the Hollywood of yesteryear, it's so much more. It also serves as a satire of sorts of the entire Red Scare and Cold War, while also sending a strong message about the value of art and movies themselves and a commentary on man's purpose in life, faith in god, faith in oneself. . . it's a really deep movie for something that has a six minute song and dance number of Channing Tatum singing about how there are no dames out at sea. Also, this will always be the movie that discovered Alden Ehrenreich for most of us. Would that it were so simple.
1. Captain America 3: Civil War -- This is the movie of the year, and here's why. While a lot of other films attempted to deal with important societal issues, none of them delivered their messages so well and gave us a whole truckload of sugar to help the medicine go down as well as this. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo also managed to take a dozen main characters, including introducing several completely new characters, and give each their due. Everyone had their purpose in script and on screen. Everyone got some good laugh lines, some cool stunts to do. And they managed to juggle all of it-- and make it look effortless. On top of all of that, they divided the team, gave each side nearly equal moral weight, and when they fight, you feel it. Speaking of feeling it-- they should rename this "Ouch-- that looked and sounded like it hurt" the Movie. Every time someone is thrown into a wall or on the ground, it hits hard. And the film doesn't pull its punches either, even down to a final throwdown between Cap, Tony, and Bucky. And while I started as Team Cap (rather loudly and rather continuously, even including a debate at Salt Lake Comic Con in which I and my Team Cap cohorts trounced Swankmotron and his Team Iron Man), the need couldn't be more apparent than now of why we need to be Team Cap. It's time to question the legitimacy and morals of those who pull the strings in our military-industrial complex. Being a good soldier is now a luxury of a bygone era, and it's time to plant ourselves firmly, like a tree by that river of truth and say, No, YOU move. Also, Spider-Man is amazing.
Well, that's it. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section. Here's to hoping 2017 treats us better.
EDIT: Note, after the end of the year, I was able to view a few films that hadn't yet made it here to Austin but were technically "released" in 2016. One of those, A Monster Calls, I would probably put in between Midnight Special and The Nice Guys. Just FYI.