2016 In Review: Lisa Picks The 16 Worst Films of 2016!


Well, here’s the time that I know we’ve all been waiting for!  It’s time for me to reveal my picks for the 16 worst films of 2016!

(Why 2016?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers!)

Now, I should make clear that these are my picks.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other writers here at Through The Shattered Lens.  In fact, I know that a few of them most definitely do not!

What type of year was 2016?  It was a pretty bad one.  There weren’t many memorable films released but there was a lot of mediocrity and disappointment.  Do you know why 2016 was so bad?  I think it’s because, if you add up 2 plus 1 plus 6, you end up with 9, an odd number.  For that same reason, 2017 is going to be much better.  If you add up 2 plus 1 plus 7, you end up with 10, which is an even number that can be cleanly divided.

So fear not!  2017 is going to be a great year!

For now, however, here are my picks for the 16 worst films of 2016!

the-girl-on-the-train

16. The Girl on the Train (dir by Tate Taylor)

15. The Fifth Wave (dir by J Blakeson)

14. Alice Through the Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

13. Jane Got A Gun (dir by Gavin O’Connor)

12. Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

11. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir by Burr Steers)

10. The Sea of Trees (dir by Gus Van Sant)

9. Money Monster (dir by Jodie Foster)

8. Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

7. Independence Day: Resurgence (dir by Roland Emmerich)

6. Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)

5. The Purge: Election Year (dir by James DeMonaco)

4. Paradox (dir by Michael Hurst)

3. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir by Zack Snyder)

2. Yoga Hosers (dir by Kevin Smith)

And finally, the worst film of 2016 … drum roll please ….

  1. HARDCORE HENRY! (dir by Ilya Naishuller)

Seriously, Hardcore Henry is one of the few films that I have ever had to walk out on.  I literally got physically ill while watching the film, largely due to the nonstop shaky cam.  Seriously — when your film’s selling point is a technique that literally induces nausea, you’re going to have some problems.  Now, before anyone leaves any angry comments, I did make it a point to go back and watch the rest of Hardcore Henry before making out this list.  Not only does Hardcore Henry feature a nausea-inducing gimmick but it’s also a rather uninspired and dull action film.

Hardcore_(2015_film)

(Feel free to also check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 20132014, and 2015!)

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment and let us know!  And if you disagree, please let me know what movie you think was worse than Hardcore Henry!

Tomorrow, I will be posting my 10 favorite songs of 2016!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy
  5. 2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime

 

Film Review: The Girl On The Train (dir by Tate Taylor)


the-girl-on-the-train

Before I get around to talking about The Girl On The Train, I’m going to tell you a little story about myself.

A few years ago, I used to make a point of riding the DART train.  (DART stands for Dallas Area Rapid Transit.  Large sections of Upstream Color were filmed on a DART train.)  Every weekend, instead of driving out to the Dallas Angelika or the Dallas Museum of Art and contributing to climate change or whatever it was that I was supposedly doing whenever I drove my car, I would hop on the train.  It was a little inconvenient but I was saving the world.  Or something.

It was about a 30 minute ride from my local DART Station to downtown Dallas and I have to admit that I actually used to enjoy it.  I would always look out the window and watch as Dallas passed by.  I got to know all of the buildings and houses on the route pretty well.  Thanks to riding the DART train, I discovered that there’s a house on Forrest Lane that’s been boarded up for five years and counting.  Near Spring Creek, there’s a two-story house that I wouldn’t mind owning.  It’s a two-story glass house and it has a really nice deck that looks out over the creek.  I would always look at those houses and, in my mind, I would make up lurid stories about the people who lived there.  For a while, it was great fun.

(Unfortunately, it eventually stopped being fun but that’s a story that will have to wait for whenever I finally get around to reviewing Ms. 45…)

As I watched The Girl On The Train, I started to think about those times on the DART train.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that every story that I came up with while sitting on my DART train was a hundred times more interesting than anything that happened in The Girl On The Train.

Emily Blunt stars as Rachel Watson.  Rachel is an alcoholic.  She got divorced from Tom (Justin Theroux) after she discovered that Tom was having an affair with their real estate agent, Anna Boyd (Rebecca Ferguson).  Tom and Anna are now married and have a baby.  Rachel, meanwhile, is a blackout drunk who has been unemployed for a year.  She spends her time on a train, drinking and ride back and forth between Connecticut and New York.

Every night, the train stops near Rachel’s old house.  Rachel looks out the window and she stares at her former home.  Occasionally, she sees Tom and Anna celebrating their new life.  Rachel also finds herself obsessing on the house next door.  Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) lives at the house and works as Tom and Anna’s nanny.  As Rachel discovers from looking out the train’s window, Megan is cheating on her husband with a mysterious, bearded man (Edgar Ramirez).

(Rachel has a really good view from her window seat.  Admittedly, I’m notoriously near-sighted so I might not be the best judge, but I could never actually see what was happening inside any of the houses that I stared at.  Rachel, however, must have super vision.  Maybe she was Supergirl before she turned into an alcoholic.  Who knows?)

One day, a drunk-off-her-ass Rachel forces her way off of the train and stumbles towards her former home.  She thinks that she sees Anna jogging and chases after her.  “Whore!” Rachel yells before passing out.  When Rachel regains consciousness, she can’t remember anything that happened.  But she has vague memories of being involved in some sort of struggle…

Eventually, Rachel learns that Megan is missing and presumed murdered.  Even worse, Rachel is the number one suspect.  The main detective (who is somewhat inevitably played by Allison Janney) suspects that Rachel mistook Megan for Anna.  It turns out that Rachel has a history of erratic behavior.  She even tried to kidnap Tom and Anna’s baby!  Seriously, lock Rachel up!

Trying to figure out what happened and clear her name, Rachel approaches Megan’s husband, Scott (Luke Evans) and pretends to be a friend of Megan’s.  It turns out that Scott was an abusive husband.  Soon, he’s both confiding in Rachel and encouraging her to start drinking again.  Rachel starts spending more and more time with Scott and it becomes obvious that she’s trying to live the life that she once imagined that Megan and Scott had.  There’s an interesting subtext to both Rachel’s obsession with Megan and her attempt to start a new relationship with Scott but it’s never really explored.  Instead, it’s brought up and then abandoned a few scenes later.

In fact, as a film, The Girl On The Train never really explores anything.  (It only grudgingly hints at the complexity of the book on which it was based.)  As opposed to similar films like Gone Girl or Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, there’s not much depth or insight to The Girl On The Train.  I’ve read some reviews that have complained that The Girl On The Train is “melodramatic” or “trashy,” but, if that were the case, it would at least be a fun movie to watch.  This is one of those films that thinks it’s a lot deeper than it actually is.

The Girl On The Train was probably doomed as soon as Tate Taylor was hired to direct it.  Taylor previously directed both The Help and a musical biopic called Get On Up.  Tate Taylor is one of those directors who goes out of his way not to challenge his audience (The Help is one of the most positive films about systemic racism that I’ve ever seen) but The Girl On The Train needed a director with more of a subversive edge.  The Girl On The Train needed a director who would embrace the film’s pulpy sensibility as opposed to one who would go out of his way to sand away the story’s rough edges and create an inoffensive and bland product that would be perfect for mass consumption.

And then you’ve got the film’s cast, which is full of talented performers who all seem to be uniquely uninspired by the material that they have to work with.  Emily Blunt did such good work in Looper and Sicario so why is she so boring here?  Why does Justin Theroux seem to be eagerly awaiting the end of the movie?  Why are both Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson reduced to playing characters who feel as if they’ve sprung out of a misogynist’s daydream?  What is Edgar Ramirez even doing in the movie?  Or Lisa Kudrow?  Or Laura Prepon?  Why is it that every world-weary female authority figure has to be played by Allison Janney?  Why?  Why?  Why!?

So, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with The Girl On The Train.  I think I would have been more entertained if I had just hopped on the DART train and let my imagination do the rest of the work.

Embracing the Melodrama #57: Winter’s Bone (dir by Debra Granik)


winters-bone

I can still remember what it felt like, back in 2010, as I stepped out of the theater where I had just watched Winter’s Bone.  I had just spent 100 minutes engrossed in that film’s world and it was somewhat jarring to suddenly find myself back in my world.  The air around me was still.  The clear sky above me seemed to be a totally new shade of blue.  The sounds of passing cars and overheard conversations echoed in my head.  When I walked, I felt as if I was moving at a different, dreamier pace than everyone else, as if I was still only partially back in my world.

That’s the type of film that Winter’s Bone is.  It’s a film about life on the fringes, a portrait of a very real part of America that a lot of people don’t even realize exists.  It’s a film that sticks with you and dares you to try to forget the people who it has introduced you to and the stories that it tells.

Winter’s Bone takes place in the Ozarks, a society and world that is dominated by meth and secrets.  Speaking as someone who still has family who live on the outskirts of the world depicted here, I can say that Winter’s Bone gets both the big picture and the little details right.  Everything from the unbreakable cycle of poverty to the defiant resilience of the people is depicted just as it is.  Make no mistake about it — the people in Winter’s Bone may not have much but they do have their pride.  It’s portrayed best in the scene where meth head Teardrop (John Hawkes) glares down the county sheriff (Garret Dillahunt), letting him know that, regardless of who is wearing the uniform, this is Teardrop’s world.

Teardrop is the uncle of 17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), who is considering joining the army once she graduates from high school but, for now, spends all of her time taking care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings.  Her father, who is one of the county’s best meth cooks, was recently arrested and has a court date approaching.  However, he has apparently skipped bail and disappeared.  When Ree is told that, unless her father shows up for his court date, she and her family will lose their house, Ree sets out to try to find him.

05_Flatbed_1 - JANUARY

Ree, however, knows that her father would never have jumped bail and she also knows that there’s no way he died in a meth lab fire, as some people are claiming.  She knows that her father has been murdered but, unlike Teardrop, Ree has no interest in getting revenge.  She just wants to find his body so she can prove that he’s dead and her family can keep their home.  Unfortunately, even this brings Ree into conflict with the local crime boss.

Taking place on a blasted landscape of dilapidated farms, rusty pickups, and the burned ruins of abandoned meth labs, Winter’s Bone is an unusually powerful piece of Southern gothic. It’s also a film that — unlike a lot of other acclaimed movies — actually gets better with repeat viewings.  When you first see it, you’re overwhelmed by the film’s bleakness.  When it ends, you’re not sure if you should be happy or sad.  The second time, however, you can better appreciate the skill with which director Debra Granik tells her story, the way she frames Ree against the landscape as if Ree was the lone hero in a classic western and how the scenes where Ree searches for her father in a swamp are full of shadows and menace.  The third time, you can better appreciate the performances of characters actors like John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, and especially Dale Dickey.  The fourth time, you no longer have any doubts.  Winter’s Bone is one of the best films that you’ve ever seen.

And, through it all, Jennifer Lawrence is there and reminding you why she became a star in the first place.  She may have won her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook and she may be best known for being the face of The Hunger Games franchise but Winter’s Bone remains Jennifer Lawrence’s best and bravest performance.  Without a hint of vanity or reluctance, Lawrence portrays Ree as a resilient and unsentimental survivor and you can’t help but cheer her on as she refuses to back down to any authority, legal or otherwise.  By the end of the film, you know that Ree is probably as trapped as anyone but you can’t help but hope that she’ll somehow find something better.

If you haven’t seen Winter’s Bone, you need to.

Target Practice

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: The Help (dir. by Tate Taylor)


I actually watched several things last night, including the season premieres of The Bachelor and Intervention.  However, neither one of those is an Oscar contender.  The Help is, so I decided I better take the time to watch the film via OnDemand.

Why Was I Watching It?

I wasn’t planning on seeing this movie when it first originally opened in theaters because, just based on the trailer, it looked like it would be your typical, terribly self-congratulatory mainstream films.  I’ve seen far too many films that promote the same old stereotypes in the name of progress and tolerance, as if good intentions can make up for bad filmmaking.  But, so many of my girlfriends came to me raving about how much they loved this film and then my Aunt Kate just about disinherited me when I told her I hadn’t seen the movie (or read the book that it’s based on) and eventually I realized that I had to see the film.  Add to that, chances are that this film is going to be an Oscar contender.

What Was It About

In segregated Mississippi, aspiring writer Skeeter (Emma Stone) decides to write book about the life of the African-American maids and nannies who work for her best friends.  After some initial difficulty, she wins the trust of two maids (Viola Davis and Octavia Spenser) and gets down to exposing the truth.

What Worked

First off, The Help is a perfect example of a well-made, entertaining mainstream film.  I laughed at the funny parts, I cried at the sad parts, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film, even though it kinda fell apart during the 2nd hour.  There’s a lot of very legitimate issues that you can raise about how the film portrays life in the segregated South but the film itself is entertaining and well-made.

It’s also one the best acted films of 2011 with Viola Davis, Octavia Spenser, and Emma Stone all giving great performances.  Jessica Chastain is funny playing a clueless newlywed and Bryce Dallas Howard does a typically good job playing the type of bitchy Queen Bee that we’ve all know and  have all secretly hoped would end up fat and divorced.  I also thought Allison Janney, who plays Stone’s mother, gave an excellent and underrated performance.

This film was directed with a perfect eye for the details needed to make even the most minor of characters memorable.  If nothing else, I enjoyed watching it just to see what everyone would be wearing from scene to scene.

The film’s first hour is probably as perfectly paced and tonally balanced as any film I’ve seen.  However, things fall apart during the second hour (more on that below).  Luckily, the film’s ending is powerful and partially redeems the film’s uneven tone.

What Didn’t Work

The film is moves along pretty well until the 2nd hour, at which point it smashed into a wall created by the inability of mainstream film to truly honestly deal with racism.  At the start of the second hour, civil rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated by a member of the Ku Klux Klan and I found myself waiting for some sort of expression of anger (or really, any emotion other than stoic suffering) on the part of “the help.”  Instead, we get a scene where both Viola Davis and Emma Stone are watching Evers’s funeral together and both are impressed to see John F. Kennedy show up.  In the next scene, Davis has put a picture of President Kennedy up on her wall next to a picture of Jesus.  So, in other words, this film reacts to the murder of a black man but deifying a white man.  After showing us a clue of violent reality, it’s as if the film can’t figure out how to balance out the ugly realities of racism with the film’s need to appeal to the widest possible audience.  As a result, the next hour of the film feels rather disjointed and uneven.  Even though the film partially redeems itself with one of the best endings of the year, it’s still hard not to feel as if we’re watching a feel good film about something nobody should feel all that good about.

Like a lot of mainstream films about racism, a good deal of this film centers on the friendship between blacks and a few white people who, magically, don’t appear to have a shred of prejudice within them despite the fact that they were raised in the same racist culture as every other white person in the film.  As a result, the racism seen in the film doesn’t really seem like it’s an ingranied part of culture as much as it just seems like the result of a couple of bullies acting like jerks.  As a result, despite its very good intentions, a film like The Help will often unintentionally minimize just what a struggle the fight for civil rights was and is. 

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Needless to say, I totally related to Emma Stone’s character in this film. 

Lessons Learned

It’s difficult to make a feel-good movie about racism.

Here Are The 2012 Critics’ Choice Movie Award Nominees


Earlier today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The BFCA is the largest of the so-called “major” critics’ groups (and, interestingly enough, it’s also the newest and the least prestigious) and it has a fairly good track record of predicting the actual Oscar nominations.  The awards themselves will be handed out on January 12th, 2012 in a self-important, kinda seedy ceremony that will be broadcast on VH-1.   

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney – The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – The Help
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron – Young Adult
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks – Drive
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Sir Andrew Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Hugo
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Thomas Horn – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March

BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry – Extreme Loud & Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
50/50 – Will Reiser
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Eric Roth
The Help – Tate Taylor
Hugo – John Logan
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist – Guillaume Schiffman
Drive – Newton Thomas Sigel
Hugo – Robert Richardson
Tree of Life – Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Artist – Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Production Designer: Stuart Craig, Set Decorator: Stephenie McMillan
Hugo – Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo
The Tree of Life – Production Designer: Jack Fisk, Art Director: David Crank
War Horse – Production Designer: Rick Carter, Set Decorator: Lee Sandales

BEST EDITING
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion
Drive – Matthew Newman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo – Thelma Schoonmaker
War Horse – Michael Kahn

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Artist – Mark Bridges
The Help – Sharen Davis
Hugo – Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre – Michael O’Connor
My Week With Marilyn – Jill Taylor

BEST MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
My Week With Marilyn

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
The Tree of Life

BEST SOUND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Drive
Fast Five
Hanna
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

BEST COMEDY
Bridesmaids
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Horrible Bosses
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In Darkness
Le Havre
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Where Do We Go Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Buck
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Project Nim
Undefeated

BEST SONG
“Hello Hello” – performed by Elton John and Lady Gaga/written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Gnomeo & Juliet
“Life’s a Happy Song” – performed by Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“The Living Proof” – performed by Mary J. Blige/written by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman and Harvey Mason, Jr. – The Help
“Man or Muppet” – performed by Jason Segel and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“Pictures in My Head” – performed by Kermit and the Muppets/written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman – The Muppets

BEST SCORE
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo – Howard Shore
War Horse – John Williams

The BFCA has obviously made a lot of nominations and some of them are interesting but I have to be honest: the BFCA as an organization annoys me with how they’re always bragging about how big they are and how they’re so good at celebrating the conventional establishment wisdom.  So, I’ll just say that its nice to see Hanna getting at least some sort of recognition (even if that recognition is kinda minor.)