You need manure to grow good beans and while 2016 sucked in many ways it did produce an above-average crop of films. Here is the continuation of my favourite flicks from the past year:
Best Paranoia Inducer: Snowden
According to Variety magazine, 2016 saw the North American box office take in $11.4 billion in ticket sales, its best year ever. This is interesting because Hollywood keeps telling us how much piracy is hurting its bottom line and using that as an excuse to push an agenda that monitors and controls Internet access. And if that sounds fishy, you are really not going to like Snowden, a dramatized version of the famous American whistleblower that sees Oliver Stone return to form and will make you instantly very nervous about those dick pics on your phone (it's too late, bro, those are out there now).
Best Punk Thriller: Green Room
A D.C. punk band gets booked at a backwoods white supremacy party, sees something they shouldn't, and are instantly and totally screwed. While it never gets into the real horrors of racism (the Nazis are really just a plot device) Green Room is still a tense, dirty, claustrophobically violent flick that isn't doing your blood pressure any favours.
Best Duster: Hell or High Water
The Magnificent Seven was the only noteworthy Western in the traditional sense but Hell or High Water is a contemporary take with the heart of an old Western as two brothers rob banks across Texas to save the family farm. Chris Pine flexes his range in an incredibly well-written script that's both an ode and a swan song to a way of life.
Runner Up: Chili Thom's Fistful of Key (see page 58).
Best Looking: Neon Demon
As a movie, Nicolas Winding Refn's Neon Demon is a bit sparse, more like a visual poem about the art of narcissism, than a fleshed-out cause/effect narrative. That's OK, though, because you spend most of the time trying to figure out how cinematographer Natasha Braier created such beautiful, complex and otherworldly shots. This film does not hold back visually but there's also a lot for the mind to tackle: is beauty really humanity's highest form of currency?
Best Rat-Tail: American Honey
This rambling tale of American youth gone wild (think Kids on the road) was also a contender for best cinematography because of the rich light, continuous motion and decision to shoot it in square-framed Instagram style. Directed by Andrea Arnold, American Honey won the Jury Prize at Cannes but its greatest triumph is Shia LaBeouf's rat tail haircut — a must see. It also contains one of the most tense, nail-biting, creeping doom scenes of the year, when our young heroine finds herself in a mescal-fueled pool party with some cowboys four times her age.
Best Action: Captain America: Civil War
I thought Star Wars: Rogue One had some pretty kickass action but Civil War wins because it's a Smash-Pow! superhero movie that also leaves you with something to think about. Iron Man and the U.N.'s Sokovia Accords (aiming to register and control super-beings for "security reasons") paint scary parallels to the Trump-proposed Muslim Registry, or the registration of Jews in Nazi Germany. And CapAm knows a slippery slope when he sees one. Civil War has a pretty prescient moral message underneath all the explosions and superhero staredowns (although those were good, too).
Best Movie I didn't See: A few
Jim Jarmusch's Paterson is about a bus driver who writes poetry. Martin Scorcese's Silence is about 17th-century Jesuit priests in Japan in what's supposed to be one of the best flicks about faith and doubt ever made (on wide release from Jan. 13). There's a creative process/memoir documentary called Cameraperson that's supposed to be incredible and everyone else seems to love the almost eight-hour O.J. Simpson flick, O.J.: Made in America. I missed them all.
Worst of the Year: Mother's Day
It sucked, but Mother's Day inspired one of my favourite lines of the year: "I'd rather dig a tick out of my nutsack with a grapefruit spoon than force my mom to sit through this nonsense."
Best of 2016: The Wailing
It won "Best Horror" last week and this South Korean mystery/horror/cop comedy wins all the marbles for subverting my expectations and freaking me out. It truly wails.
Runner Up: I liked Shane Black's '70s detective saga The Nice Guys a lot. It's style over substance but man I dig that style.