25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016


Last year, the total number of films I saw reached 1,012. What does that mean for these lists? It means that I really had to make some tough decisions when it came to cutting down on the worst list. It also means that certain films that didn’t make the best list, but were pretty good, still didn’t make the cut for the gems list.

Basically, the same rules as last year still apply:

  1. There is no particular order to the films in these lists. They either made it, or not.
  2. These are not necessarily films that came out in 2016. In fact, most didn’t. These are films that I saw for the first time in 2016.
  3. The gems list are films that don’t make the best list, but I want to put a spotlight on them.
  4. If you disagree with any of my choices. Good! I want people to form their own opinions and think for themselves. But if you care to share those opinions, then be nice about it, or you won’t receive a response from me.
Based On An Untrue Story (1993)

Based On An Untrue Story (1993)

Best:

  1. Girlfriends/Les autres filles (2000)
  2. Particle Fever (2013)
  3. Fighting Back (1982)
  4. Creed (2015)
  5. Wild (2014)
  6. Based On An Untrue Story (1993)
  7. Inside Out (2015)
  8. Spotlight (2015)
  9. The Fear Of 13 (2015)
  10. The Submission Of Emma Marx (2013)
  11. Talvar (2015)
  12. Tokyo Olympiad (1965)
  13. Good Morning, Night (2003)
  14. The Illusionist (2010)
  15. 9500 Liberty (2009)
  16. Cell 211 (2009)
  17. Heaven Knows What (2014)
  18. Night Owls (2015)
  19. Tipping The Velvet (2002)
  20. The Gift (2015)
  21. James White (2015)
  22. Persepolis (2007)
  23. Steve Jobs (2015)
  24. Black Mass (2015)
  25. Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine (2014)
If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971)

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971)

Worst:

  1. I Want What I Want (1972)
  2. Valentine Ever After (2016)
  3. Every Young Woman’s Battle (2014)
  4. The Maze Runner (2014)
  5. Oliviero Rising (2007)
  6. Concussion (2015)
  7. Fantastic Four (2005)
  8. Alpha and Omega 5: Family Vacation (2015)
  9. Vacation (2015)
  10. Interior. Leather Bar. (2013)
  11. The Mask You Live In (2015)
  12. Old Fashioned (2014)
  13. Love (2015)
  14. Dog Gone (2008)
  15. Dancin’: It’s On! (2015)
  16. Love On A Limb (2016)
  17. Trust (2010)
  18. Robot In The Family (1994)
  19. If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971)
  20. The Burning Hell (1974)
  21. Zoom (2006)
  22. Truth (2015)
  23. Anatomy Of A Love Seen (2014)
  24. One Thing She Doesn’t Have (2014)
  25. Bare (2015)
Alice In Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (1976)

Alice In Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (1976)

Gems:

  1. Stalked By My Doctor: The Return (2016)
  2. Alice In Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (1976)
  3. Adam and Eve (1983)
  4. Dope (2015)
  5. The Year Of The Sex Olympics (1968)
  6. XXY (2007)
  7. The Tribe (2014)
  8. The Summer Of Sangaile (2015)
  9. Magic Mike XXL (2015)
  10. Just Sex And Nothing Else (2005)
  11. Dick Tracy (1945)
  12. Riders Of The Whistling Pines (1949)
  13. From The Head (2011)
  14. Bikini Model Mayhem (2015)
  15. Pussy Talk (1975)
  16. 127 Hours (2010)
  17. Super High Me (2007)
  18. Buck (2011)
  19. Whiplash (2014)
  20. Ghost Graduation (2012)
  21. Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)
  22. Mother (2009)
  23. Piku (2015)
  24. Dariya Dil (1988)
  25. Bacchanale (1970)

A Movie A Day #1: Stop Making Sense (1984, directed by Jonathan Demme)


stop_making_sense_poster_originalA pair of immaculate white sneakers, being worn by the lead singer of The Talking Heads, David Byrne, walk out onto a bare stage while an unseen audience applauds.  Byrne places a radio on the stage beside him and says, “I have a tape I want to play for you.”  Accompanied only by a drum machine and an acoustic guitar, Byrne launches into a performance of Psycho Killer that ends with him lurching across the stage like a marionette that is losing its strings.

So begins the greatest concert film of all time, Stop Making Sense.

As Psycho Killer comes to an end, Byrne is joined on stage by bassist Tina Weymouth.  While Byrne and Weymouth perform Heaven, the black-clad stage crew sets up a drum kit behind them.  Drummer Chris Frantz comes out for the third song, Thank You For Sending Me An Angel.  The fourth member of the Talking Heads, Jerry Harrison, appears on stage for Found A Job and is then followed by several touring members of the band, including legendary keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Alex Weir, percussionist Steve Scales, and backup singers, Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt.  It’s not until the concert’s sixth song, Burning Down The House, that the entire band is on stage.

Pieced together from three separate shows performed at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, Stop Making Sense showcases one of the most important bands of the 80s at their absolute best.  Eschewing any candid footage of the band backstage and only occasionally showing any shots of the audience, Jonathan Demme keeps the focus on the music and David Byrne’s amazing showmanship.  Even more than the music, what really makes Stop Making Sense stand out is Byrne’s physicality.  During one instrumental passage, Byrne even runs around the stage in circles before jumping back to his microphone without missing a beat.

Though the entire band is in great form, Byrne is almost always the focus of attention.  The only time he’s not is when he goes backstage during a performance of Genius Of Love by Weymouth and Frantz’s side project, The Tom Tom Club.  During that time, Byrne is changing into the “big suit,” the costume that continues to define the Talking Heads to this day.

Along with Burning Down The House, highlights include Life During Wartime,

Swamp,

Once in a Lifetime,

and Stop Making Sense‘s most famous moment, David Byrne performing Girlfriend is Better while wearing the iconic “big suit.”

Stop Making Sense is a fun, exhilarating, and sometimes exhausting concert film and, given all the bad feelings that exist between Byrne and the other three members of the band, it’s probably as close as any of us will ever get to experiencing The Talking Heads live.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, I’ll be explaining why Blue Chips always makes me think of England.

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For January


2013 oscars

Why are these Oscar predictions “way too early?”

Well, unlike every other movie blogger right now, I am not attempting to predict who and what will be nominated on January 24th.  Instead, with this post, I am attempting to predict which 2017 releases will be nominated next year!  In short, I am attempting to predict what movies and which performers will emerge as Oscar contenders over the next 12 months.

Needless to say, this is more than a little bit foolish on my part.  I haven’t seen any of the films listed below.  Some of these films don’t have release dates and others are coming out so early in the year that, in order to be contenders, they’ll have to be so spectacular that neither the Academy nor the critics end up forgetting about them.  For the most part, the true picture of the Oscar race usually doesn’t start to emerge until the summer.

For now, these predictions are, for the most part, wild guesses and they should be taken with more than just a grain of salt.  Each month, I will revise my predictions.  At the very least, next year, we’ll probably be able to look back at this post and laugh.

(Whenever trying to make early Oscar predictions, one should remember all of the award bloggers who predicted Nicole Kidman would win an Oscar for Grace of Monaco, just to then see the movie make its long-delayed premiere on Lifetime.)

With all that in mind, here are my way too early Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

All Eyez on Me

Battle of the Sexes

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2047

Crown Heights

Darkest Hour

Downsizing

Dunkirk

T2: Trainspotting

War Machine

Again, for the most part, these predictions are a combination of wild guesses, instinct, and wishful thinking.  It’s entirely possible that none of these films will actually be nominated for best picture.  (Some might even end up premiering on Lifetime, you never know.)  Here’s why I think that some of them might be remembered next year at this time:

All Eyez On Me is a biopic of Tupac Shakur.  Assuming the film is done correctly, Shakur’s life would seem to have all the elements that usually go into an Oscar-winning film.

Battle of the Sexes is a film based on a true incident, a 1970s tennis match between a feminist and a self-declared male chauvinist.  It’s directed by the team behind the Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine and it stars two former nominees, Emma Stone and Steve Carell.

The Beguiled might be wishful thinking on my part but, at this point, wishful thinking is all I have to go on for most of these predictions.  The Beguiled is a remake of a Clint Eastwood film and it’s directed by one of my favorite directors, Sofia Coppola!  Much like Battle of the Sexes, its misogynist-gets-what’s-coming-to-him storyline might make it the perfect film for the first year of the Trump presidency.

Blade Runner 2047 is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2017 and it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, who is hot off of Arrival.  The Oscar success of Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a sequel can be a contender.

Every year, at least one contender emerges out of Sundance and this year, it could very well be Crown Heights.  It tells a fact-based story, about a man trying to win his best friend’s release from prison after the latter is wrongly convicted.  That all sounds very Oscar baity.

Speaking of Oscar bait, Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.  If that doesn’t sound like Oscar bait, I don’t know what does.

Downsizing is Alexander Payne’s latest film.  It’s about a man (Matt Damon), who shrinks himself.  It may not sound like typical Oscar bait but Payne is definitely a favorite of the Academy’s.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s big epic for 2017.  Will it be another huge success or will it just be bombastic?  We’ll see.  The Academy has a weakness for World War II films and it could be argued that the very successful yet never nominated Nolan is overdue for some Academy recognition.  (It is true that Inception received a nomination for best picture but Nolan himself was snubbed.)

T2: Trainspotting is probably coming out too early in the year to be a legitimate contender but who knows?  The trailer was great.  Danny Boyle is directing it.  And, much as with Blade Runner 2047, Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a well-made and intelligent sequel can find favor with the Academy.

War Machine is described as being a satire about the war in Afghanistan.  Could it be another Big Short?  With Obama out of office, the Academy might be more open to political satire than they’ve been in the past.

Best Director

Danny Boyle for T2: Trainspotting

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2047

Again, there’s a lot of random guessing here.  Personally, I’d love to see Sofia Coppola receive a second nomination for best director.  Payne and Boyle are always possibilities and, if Villeneuve’s work on Arrival is ignored this year, nominating him for Blade Runner would be a good way to make up for it.  As for Nolan, he’s going to get nominated some day.   Why not for Dunkirk?

Best Actor

Tom Cruise in American Made

Sam Elliott in The Hero

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Logan Lerman in Sidney Hall

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

In American Made, Tom Cruise plays a real-life drug runner.  It sounds like one of those change-of-pace roles that often results in an Oscar nomination.  Gary Oldman has never won an Oscar and has only been nominated once.  The Academy might want to rectify that situation by nominating him for playing Winston Churchill.  And finally, Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in a big budget musical that’s scheduled to open on Christmas Day?  It sounds like either a total disaster or the formula for Oscar gold!

Logan Lerman is one of those actors who appears to be destined to eventually be nominated for an Oscar and, in Sidney Hall, he ages over thirty years.  Finally, Sam Elliott is a beloved veteran who has never been nominated.  If The Hero is a hit at Sundance, it’s easy to imagine the Oscar campaign that will follow.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper’s Wife

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Naomi Watts in The Book of Henry

As of this writing, Meryl Streep does not have a movie scheduled to be released in 2017, which means that another actress will get the sport usually reserved for her.  But who?  Jessica Chastain could be nominated because she’s Jessica Chastain and the Academy loves her.  Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria for a second time in Victoria and Abdul.  The Academy loves movies about British royalty and Dench has already been nominated once for bringing Victoria to life.  Naomi Watts plays a loving but possibly crazy mother in The Book of Henry, which again sounds like a very Oscar baity role.  If Emma Stone doesn’t win for La La Land, the Academy could make it up to her by nominating her for Battle of the Sexes.

As for Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled — well, let’s call that wishful thinking.  My hope is that Sofia Coppola will do great things with The Beguiled and she will get another great performance out of Nicole Kidman.  We’ll see if I’m right.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Carlyle in T2: Trainspotting

Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Experss

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Bill Skarsgard in It

Kevin Spacey in Billionaire Boys Club

Admittedly, the guesses here are fairly random but there is a logic behind each nominee.  Robert Carlyle was great in Trainspotting so he might be just as great in T2.  In Billionaire Boys Club, Kevin Spacey plays a sleazy con artist and that sounds like the type of role with which he could do wonders.  If It is to be a success, Bill Skarsgard is going to have to be a terrifying Pennywise.  If Heath Ledger could win for playing the Joker, surely Skarsgard could be nominated for playing Pennywise.

As for James Franco in The Masterpiece … yes, it’s more wishful thinking on my part.  Franco will be playing Tommy Wiseau, the director of the notorious The Room.  Wiseau is, needless to say, an eccentric figure.  Not only do I think James Franco could give an award-worthy performance in the role but I also just like the idea of someone getting an Oscar for playing Tommy Wiseau.

Finally, we have Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Express.  Why not?  It seems like someone from that film’s huge cast is destined to be nominated so why not Johnny Depp?

 

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Aniston in The Yellow Birds

Danai Guirra in All Eyez On Me

Kelly MacDonald in T2: Trainspotting

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Tilda Swinton in War Machine

These guesses are even more random than my guesses for supporting actor.  Jennifer Aniston and Danai Guirra will both be playing mothers who lose their sons.  A lot of people were surprised when Aniston was not nominated for Cake so here’s a chance for the Academy to make it up to her.  As for Kristin Scott Thomas, she’ll be playing Winston Churchill’s wife and the Academy loves historical wives (i.e., Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech and Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything).

As for the last two predictions, Tilda Swinton is listed because she’s Tilda Swinton.  Kelly MacDonald is listed for the same reason that I put Robert Carlyle down for supporting actor.  She was just so good in the first film.

So, there you go!  Those are my too early Oscar predictions for January!  Will they prove to be accurate?  Probably not.

But we’ll see how things change over the next couple of months.  At the very least, you’ll be able to look back at this post and laugh at me for thinking that … oh, let’s say Battle of the Sexes … would ever be nominated for an Academy Award.

As for me, I’ll be revising my predictions in February.  At least by that point, maybe the Sundance Film Festival will have provided some guidance…

Tommy_Wiseau_in_The_Room

A “Hulk”-ing Disappointment


Trash Film Guru

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Whatever you do, please — don’t call her “She-Hulk” anymore!

In the aftermath of the near-universally-panned (and not without good reason) Civil War II, Jennifer Walters is feeling even less herself than usual. Her cousin, Bruce Banner, is dead (for now, at any rate) and she’s recently spent a fair amount of time comatose, herself (as did most readers, but that’s another matter). So, with no “incredible” Hulk left, the now-adjectiveless mantle belongs to our gal Jen. Except — she really doesn’t want it. And she’s doing anything she can to remain calm and prevent her transformation from triggering. Her “mellowing-out” habit of choice? Watching YouTube cooking videos. I’d get downright sleepy, myself.

Oh, and she’s going back to the lawyering thing, taking on a new gig at a firm that primarily represents super-hero clients. That could be interesting, I suppose. Unfortunately, nothing else about Marvel’s new Hulk #1 is.

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Ch-Ch-Changes On A Budget : “The Rohl Farms Haunting”


Trash Film Guru

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There’s only so much you can do in the middle of BF Wisconsin with a thousand bucks and a hand-held digital cam, but what the hell — in 2013 those limitations didn’t stop writer/director/actor Cordero Roman from figuring he could shoot, and star in, his very own horror flick. And while the fruit of his labor, The Rohl Farms Haunting, is hardly destined to set the cinematic world on fire, it has made it as far as the streaming queue on Amazon Prime, and that’s at least something.

the-rohl_-farm_-haunting-2013-fanart11

Homemade “found footage” efforts like this are a dime a dozen, of course — we certainly talk about enough of ’em around these parts — but this one at least shows something vaguely resembling the generally-accepted dictionary definition of “ambition” : Roman starts out looking to film a “slice-of-life” documentary about his long-time friend, Luke Rohl (who’s also “playing himself”)…

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Music Video of the Day: Ring, Ring by ABBA (1973, dir. Lasse Hallström)


Happy New Year!

I was originally planning to start 2017 off by working through the videos that aired on the first day of MTV. At the last minute, I decided I would do a retrospective of the music videos of ABBA with special days off for certain holidays or events. It is a little tough to do and kind of easy. It is tough because once you get back into the 1970s, then you run into several problems.

First, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether a music video is just a release of a live performance they gave or is what we think of as a music video. This is a particular problem with ABBA since the more and more I look at YouTube, the more and more I become convinced that every performance they ever gave is on there. A good example of this issue is that there is another version of Ring, Ring. The problem is that while it could be released as a music video, it really looks like it was a live broadcast rather than something recorded in advance. I will probably do that though. Another great example is Mony Mony by Tommy James & The Shondells. It could easily be a music video or something they did live. It’s not like A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum or Nights In White Satin by The Moody Blues that are clear-cut music videos.

Second, you really get into the issue of different versions. In the case of Dancing Queen, it looks like there might be four different versions. This also includes the Spanish versions of some their songs. In the case of the song Happy New Year, there are two different versions of the video. They didn’t just dub the video in Spanish. They actually reshot certain things, maybe shot some new material, and rearranged parts of the video. It’s distinctly different.

Third, there are undocumented videos. This is always a problem. Meat Loaf will be a nightmare when I decide to do his 1980s videos rather than just the Bat Out Of Hell ones. In the case of ABBA, mvdbase and IMVDb have them covered pretty well. Also, the ABBA VEVO channel seems to have just about every official video they made, including the one called The Last Video that isn’t documented in either database.

Fourth, there are videos out there that were made after the group either broke up or came into existence years after the song was released. A video for Joy Division’s Atmosphere was made years after the group broke up after the suicide of Ian Curtis. Also, there is a music video for Money by Pink Floyd that sure looks like it was made in the 1970s. It is even listed as having been released in 1973. However, they also list that Wayne Isham directed the music video. Isham would have had to have been fifteen when he made it. When you go to his IMDb page, you can find a big list of his music videos. Money was actually made in 1989.

Finally, there are going to be videos that I can see possibly exist, but I can’t find a copy of to embed. A great example of that is this video right here. According to mvdbase, there is a music video for People Need Love that came out either just before, or after this one. I can find live performances of that song. I can’t find a music video.

In general, I will be leaning towards the conservative side of things. If I come across something later on that I clearly missed, then I will add it.

Now for the video.

This is about as basic an ABBA music video as you are going to get. You have them in a straight line with the primary focus on Agnetha and Frida, and they are all trapped in the white dimension. However, as we go through their music videos, you can see the evolution of the promo film to what we think of as a modern music video.

One of the hallmarks of an ABBA music video is the profile shot. You can also see Hallström played with focus during those shots. My favorite part of the profile shot is when it doesn’t cut from them singing to the guitar, but instead pans down from their faces and changes focus to bring a very close-up shot of the guitar being played into focus.

I also like the part of the video when the video uses a side shot through Agnetha and Frida so we can see Benny on the piano.

I get the strong feeling that Hallström looked at earlier music videos like the one for Hello, Goodbye by The Beatles, and started thinking how he could change that up using different filmmaking techniques. It’s a similar video, but there’s a polish and style missing from it that is in this one. Ring, Ring would become a basis for You Better Run by Pat Benatar in 1981 and other such simple put-the-band-on-a-set-and-have-them-perform videos.

Owe Sandström and Lars Wigenius were costume designers on this music video.

You can watch Sandström talk about ABBA costumes in general below.

Enjoy!