By many metrics, 2016 was not a good year — incredible people died, ice caps melted, politics stunk, terrorists were assholes, Harambe the gorilla...
Within the darkened confines of the movie theatre, however, this past 12-month journey around the sun has been a real treat — Angelina Jolie didn't make any movies at all, but a lot of other people made some pretty kickass ones.
So many were made that I, for sure, missed a lot of the year's greatest flicks. Part of this is due to what a shitty year it was overall, and the rest is because I live in the cinematic wasteland of Squamish. In any case, here are some of my favourites for 2016, with more coming next week:
Best Sequel: Ouija: Origin of Evil
Yes, Captain America: Civil War was good but was it really better than Winter Soldier? This one goes to Oujia: Origin of Evil for not only vastly outshining its predecessor but also dishing up a very solid horror flick with genuine scares and characters worth giving a crap about. That ending too!
Best Cartoon: Kubo and the Two Strings
A tight race because Zootopia is a well-plotted Chinatown-esque mystery, with an easily digestible "be yourself" message that gets me every time (and that sloth scene is probably the top comedy scene of the year). Kubo wins though because it's a legit fairy tale about memory, mourning and death, filtered through ideologies North Americans don't pay enough attention to. And the combination of stop motion, papercraft and CGI is unprecedentedly amazing to watch.
Best Musical: La La Land
Just kidding, musicals suck. I haven't seen La La Land, but Emma Stone is always good, and Gosling, too, so who knows? This one might be like a finger in the butt during sex: you've gotta decide for yourself.
Best Horror: The Wailing (Gokseong)
One of the highlights of 2016 was that I finally made it to the Cannes Film Festival and saw this South Korean epic. The Wailing is a muddy, rain-soaked procedural cop thriller mashed into a ghost/exorcism movie with some creepy stranger on the side. It takes a bit of time to sink its teeth in, but The Wailing is a crazy, screaming, terrifying ride. Runners up: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Light's Out, Don't Breathe, and Blake Lively vs. The Shark (a.k.a. The Shallows).
Best Title: Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping
The movie was OK, but this one coulda just been a poster, the title gave us all we needed.
Best Comedy: TIE
It was a tough year for big laughs. Nothing seemed able to sustain me to the final credits, let alone remember it months later. I guess this should go to Deadpool for at least forging new R-rated ground in the superhero subgenre. And a shout out to Sausage Party for finally proving there is an audience for a movie with a lesbian taco in it. The Lobster was also pretty good if you like your comedy weird and dark. It's hard to single anything out.
Best Family Flick: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
New Zealand director Taika Waititi (What We Do In Shadows, Flight of the Conchords) scores again with this one, a coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water, chase story set in the New Zealand bush. The entire picture hangs on a kid (Julian Dennison) but both he and Sam Neill slay it and the result is a dryly comic and very human film with no explosions, lots of laughs and a dog named Tupac. Runner up: While too unexplainably "quirky" for some, Captain Fantastic is a slick and timely story about the longevity of the tiny-home, back-to-nature philosophy. And Viggo Mortenson goes full frontal.
Best Sci Fi: Arrival
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Incendies) is working on Blade Runner 2049 but his sci-fi card is already laminated thanks to Arrival, which stars Amy Adams as a cunning linguist under the gun to find a way to communicate with aliens that showed up in giant spaceships at 12 spots on Earth. Adams slays in a flick that is epic but also thoughtful and intimate. Runner up: Midnight Special is another very human sci-fi story about a kid with powers running both into and away from trouble. Michael Shannon shines, as always.
More next week, but how can a crap-heap year like 2016 produce so many solid films? One reason might be because art makes sense out of chaos, so the more chaos, the better the art. Another might be that cinema is a mirror of reality, but not today's reality. Cinema shows us the worlds of tomorrow, so hopefully a brighter day is coming. Come back next week and see for yourself. Hello 2017, come on in... please don't kill me.