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First of all, I’m late. Everyone else did these 2016 film and tv lists in January. It’s February 2nd. So in the interest of not repeating three thousand other lists (and also in being, well, interesting), I’m going to attempt to focus on the 2016 film and tv that you might not be seeing.
Yes, you should all see Moonlight, Hidden Figures, The People vs. O.J. Simpson – basically everything but La La Land (disclaimer: I haven’t even seen it, I just know I’ll hate it). But let’s not forget these lesser gabbed about gems that also made their mark on 2016.
And when it comes to my worst of 2016 film and tv, feel free to take me to town. There’s bound to be some disagreement – is Hardcore Henry the best thing that’s happened to cinema since the long take in Touch of Evil? (it’s not) – but also, I hope, some mutual understanding.
And as always, I appreciate a reason to rethink my initial impressions. So if you’ve got good crit on any of my worst picks (or the best ones), send it over. You just might change my mind.
Best of Film
Zootopia – One of the year’s best attempts at getting people to understand racial insensitivity. A cardinal example of Disney animation that is not really for children, but for their parents.
Elvis & Nixon* – I think Liza Johnson’s film went under a lot of people’s radar this year, but with Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon, it was one of my most anticipated. The humor – and the authentic strangeness – did not disappoint.
Arrival – A film that simultaneously breaks down the importance of language, the feminine’s innate ability to understand without speaking, and what it means to “give life,” not take it away. A beautiful film, inside and out. Hope to give this a full breakdown later this month.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot* – Another film that seemed to get lost in the flurry (2015’s Spotlight maybe nabbed all the available attention for good journalism). Tina Fey is funny, Margot Robbie is biting, and the story is important. Appreciated a war film that was about those covering it – and was unafraid to be honest about the sometimes callous attitudes the lifestyle of a war reporter cultivates.
The Legend of Tarzan* – First off, I love the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies (thanks, Dad). They’re campy, fun, and complicated (race! gender! issues!) I didn’t see this in a theatre precisely so I didn’t have to deal with any 3D nausea, and I didn’t have overly high expectations (just give me Tarzan). What I did not expect was a film that, while flawed in many ways, had its pulse on racism, colonialism, and whiteness in general. It deserves your attention (and it’s pretty fun).
- Keanu – George Michael FOREVER.
- Deadpool – It was better than expected.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane – because John Goodman.
- Midnight Special – Not Take Shelter good, but a good weird.
- The Invitation – Karyn Kusama is back.
- Ghostbusters* – I’ll take all my remakes with Wiig and Jones.
Best of TV
Insecure – When they told me Issa from RatchetPiece Theatre was gonna have her own show, I was there for it. Then I was there for every episode and cannot wait for more. Best music, best friends, best comedy on HBO.
Channel Zero: Candle Cove – Every year my Mom recommends a SyFy show. Every year I ignore her. This creepy AF, H.R. Puf-n-Stuf inspired nightmare-fuel was the exception. Fiona Shaw is a highlight, as is the uncanniness of every actor’s performance. Absolutely bizarre.
O.J.: Made in America – Everybody talked about The People vs. O.J. Simpson for good reason. Less were talking about this three-part ESPN documentary that broke the entire saga down, with a heavy focus on how it was affected by, and subsequently effected, race relations in America. It succeeds on the quality of its interviews – Fuhrman still has some incredibly weird and awful things to say – and director Ezra Edelman’s empathic juxtapositions.
Lady Dynamite – You can be funny AND have a mental illness. You can be funny BECAUSE of your mental illness. You can have your pugs, and your drugs, and eat them (?) too. This was the best television absurdism since Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
The Night Of – Give Turturro an award. Give Riz Ahmed an award. And give Poorna Jagannathan, who played his incredibly relatable mother, all of the awards. Never has eczema provided a clearer metaphor for the state of the American Justice System (or made me feel so itchy – went through a lot of body butter while I watched this).
- Bates Motel – Norman finally did it this year (you know).
- Baskets – Chip Baskets is every artist in 2016.
- One Mississippi – The hospital toilet scene.
- The O.A. – Marry me, Brit Marling.
- Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday – Joe Manganiello’s best role.
The Worst of Both Worlds
Don’t Breathe – I am sick of horror that is not horror, but suspenseful torture thrillers. And I am even more sick of horror that relies on the sexual assault of women. Done.
The Boy* – This is terrible, save for the end when *spoiler alert* a grown man/doll bursts out of a sad family painting and kills people. Equal possibility this is a great film of our time.
Hardcore Henry – I didn’t see this movie. But I saw enough of its torturous trailer to know that the 90 minutes of first person POV would have made me puke. Also, thanks for ruining a good Queen song.
Stranger Things – We devoted a whole group conversation to this one, with specific attention to its poor treatment of women. Let me take it an *unpopular* step further: it wasn’t good. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t original, and the acting was so-so. Winona worked too hard on this, and I’m honestly sad they’re giving it a second season (so sue me!)
The Good Place – Some of you will hate me for this. But you already hate me for Stranger Things, so here goes: this was badly written. It’s overly conceptual, rips its aesthetic from Dr. Seuss (badly), and doesn’t make a whole lotta sense to me. Can we get Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in something else?
- The Fundamentals of Caring – why did Netflix hype this shit?
- The Nice Guys – disappointingly boring work from Shane Black.
- The Conjuring 2 – what did I expect?
- Damien – could have been Bates Motel, but no.
- The X-Files – WHYYYYYY?
Got beef with my list? Give it to me in the comments.
Thoughts of your own? Those, too. I want to know every one of your favorites and hate-its of 2016 film and tv.