Well, that certainly was a year, huh?
2016 was, for many, a total shit year. I don’t even have to go into all the details of why that was the case, and so… you know, I won’t. Needless to say, though, much of it was heartbreaking. Much of it was disappointing. Much of it was just plain stupefying. Personally, I even lost a job due to layoffs halfway through the year and spent the better part of my admittedly short period of unemployment thinking I’d finally had a glimpse of the end. (Anxiety and depression is fun, you guys!) The political climate this past election also unleashed in me something unexpected, having grown tired of all the bickering and willful ignorance of any nuance to either side. People I knew were being outright nasty towards people, sometimes even going so far as to disown them. This climate even seemed to spill-over into the world of films, which could no longer, for example, be an exciting new entry in a beloved series that, for whatever its faults, was still a solid entry that was easily enjoyed. No, no… now movies are either perfect or they’re absolute garbage with a political bent that has its crosshairs set on your personal belief system! I was in danger of growing completely misanthropic as a result.
Perhaps that’s why I saw so many movies this year…? Last year, I reached another personal record of 143 films by the end of my 2015 in Review series, which concluded in February. As of this moment in writing, however, between rentals, streaming, and theatrical releases, I have seen a whopping 164 films from 2016, and that’s if I didn’t forget any. And that’s not even going to be the final number, as I traditionally discover a few that intrigue me or that I forgot during my “Films I Didn’t See” subseries and thus follow up on before the end. Yeah, I think I might have a problem…
At the very least, though, because of this, I know that 2016 wasn’t all bad. Personally, I have been enjoying being an uncle to my nephew, who at age 1 already has a huge, delightful personality. My period of unemployment was honestly very brief, despite the issues compounding that, and I found a job that is not only expanding my resume but is also something I’m actually quite good at, and I like the people I work with, too. I turned 30 this year, which… well, at least it wasn’t as painful as I had feared. And, before this, I also made a huge personal milestone by pretty much completely and publicly coming out of the closet… And, so far, despite a few exceptions I made by excluding a few people who I’m certain would make some family members’ lives problematic by knowing this, it’s actually been relatively smooth compared to my expectations. Not… perfect… but much better than anticipated. And, you know, the same can be said about 2016 – at least when it comes to the films released this past year, provided you knew where to look and didn’t put too much stock in every big, anticipated film.
And so, I begin my 2016 retrospective as I do pretty much all of my previous annual retrospectives, by laying out what to expect from this series. I make no promises regarding the promptness, as I have a job and a life outside this blog. However, think of this as a time when you can reflect along with me about what you watched and what you may have missed. I obviously mostly saw films from earlier in the year, regardless of whether it was in the theatre or once it was released. As noted above, I reserve the right to be intrigued by the films I note that I have not seen, to then see them, and thus add them to my review and rankings of films I did see once I reach those articles. As such, I will first begin by recounting the various films I managed to miss over the course of a few articles – covering as many as humanly possible, though I’m sure to miss a few. I will then move on to covering the films that were neither my favorite nor my most hated. Capping off the year in review will then be My Worst of the Year list, followed by a list of My Favorite Films of the year, divided by genre. (Note: Not “THE BEST,” but rather my subjective favorites.)
Here’s a rough outline of how this will all go down:
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – July)
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (August – October)
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (November – December)
- 2016 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Worst Movies of the Year
- 2016 IN REVIEW: My Favorite Films
2016 was a heck of a stupid year, but hopefully the world of film was at least one of many bright spots in all of the darkness you may have experienced. And, if not, I hope we can retroactively change that through this series.
Here’s to 2017. May it not suck.
Alright! Final entry in my 2015 in Review series! Gosh, this was a hard year to review. I broke another record for number of films I saw before finishing this review series: 144 films from 2015, either seen theatrically, streaming, or rental. I don’t think I’ll be breaking that record any time soon, but that’s what I said about 2014, too, so…
Anyway, I’m about ready to start reviewing movies again on an individual basis. I did this series while going through a particularly tough time, personally, which is why it’s taken so long to do. I had the goal of finishing by the end of January, and that simply didn’t pan out, and I was so busy with stuff outside of this site, including doing a bunch of work on the weekends, that I just wore myself out! No worries, though. I’ve finished, and while I know the stuff I wrote was roughly edited, I’m still pretty happy with what’s there.
These movies below are all, in my opinion, good to great, but all of them were pretty much my favorites from throughout the year. As a result, as with last year, I am separating them out, roughly, into genres and then ranking them based on level of their being my favorite from the past year in that genre. (There’s obviously genre overlap, so I have divided based on what I believe is the main draw of the film, such as Jurassic Park being in the Action/Adventure section rather than the sci-fi, ’cause we’re all watching it for the action, right?) As such, you will probably see some admittedly lesser films ranking above objectively better films or films that were generally considered mediocre appearing here because I simply just liked them a lot. Again, they’re my favorites, not necessarily the best – though I did see all the Oscar Best Picture nominees, once again! I have included the Rotten Tomatoes score next to the release date, though, so you can easily compare whether I’m crazy or whether you should see the movie. In general, though, I do believe these are great films, and I hope you enjoy them, too!
But, seriously, I’m glad to move on from 2015 finally…
Produced by: Gary Kurtz
Written by: Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay), George Lucas (story)
Edited by: Paul Hirsch
Cinematography by: Peter Suschitzsky, BSC
Music by: John Williams
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, Jeremy Bulloch, Jason Wingreen, Alec Guinness, Denis Lawson, Clive Revill
Review based on the 1980 theatrical version
It’s all downhill from here, folks. Movie number 2, and I’m already at the best of not just the original trilogy, but the entire saga, and it’s honestly doubtful that even the new sequel trilogy will best the work put forth here. George Lucas still had some say in the story of The Empire Strikes Back, but this is the film that people point to when they want to point out how, even back then, less of Lucas was always a good thing, even if what his diminished presence improves upon is his own creation. Heck, even the subsequent retoolings couldn’t diminish the film’s quality – though sometimes they even improved upon it, as with the enhancements to Cloud City’s ambience and the insertion of Ian McDiarmid’s take on the Emperor in that holoconference scene between him and Darth Vader. Let’s just chalk all that up to the fact that The Empire Strikes Back is just too awesome for its radiance to not influence any such reconfiguring. Read more…
Produced by: Gary Kurtz
Written by: George Lucas
Edited by: Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew
Cinematography by: Gilbert Taylor
Music by: John Williams
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Phil Brown, Shelagh Fraser, Denis Lawson, Gerrick Hagon
Review based on the 1977 original theatrical version
I told myself that I wouldn’t let my reviews of the Star Wars films devolve into insane fandom, and so I will attempt to keep that promise. That being said, let me start you off by letting you in on a secret that not many before now really know about me: A long time ago… I actually absolutely hated sci-fi, fantasy, and everything in between. The object of my particular ire was actually Star Trek, as my friend Tye was actually an insanely fanatical Trekkie, but coming in a close second was, yes, Star Wars. The reasoning? It had the word “star” in it, which obviously meant that it was for nerds, which I did not identify as at the time. (I so was…) Read more…
FINALLY! The moment I’ve been building up to for far too long! It’s been a busy month… and a half… for me, but I’m finally done, and this is my last of my 2013 in Review articles! (Consequently, while none of these are exactly final reviews, many of them may as well be and portions of what is stated here may show up in a future review. For the sake of my sanity and my time, however, I’ve decided to present what I felt the need to write without very many edits!)
The format I’ve chosen for my annual Year in Review articles is a bit insane, I know, but while it’s time consuming, its also quite fun, and it’s just as much about sharing all the films released in the last year (or at least most, as I probably missed some in the sections where I went over films I didn’t get around to seeing) as it is about me locating films that you and I have both overlooked, which is also why a lot of the films I didn’t see this year made repeat appearances, as I couldn’t resist the urge to watch them, and it’s not like I’d be able to do another year in review for them, too, you know? This year, one of those movies I didn’t see at first but did during my writing these articles even made it onto this list, My Top Films of the Year!
So why don’t I call it “The Best Films of the Year”? It’s simple, really – it’s subjective, yes, but it’s also because even I switch around the order at times. I guarantee you that at some point in the past and future, I might have ordered these films differently. It took some time and thought, and this is ultimately what I felt comfortable enough with to publish, but I’ll tell you that this was a hard process, particularly in the top 10.
All of this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominees are on this list. Seriously – I’ve even decided to mark the Oscar nominations this year. They were all very good and justifiably nominated, and while I might have my preferences as to who should win, they’re all remarkable, worthwhile films if you should ever consider watching them. Some of the other movies on this list, however, are also quite awesome, some of which I like better than the films that were nominated, and one of which I’m still very annoyed didn’t at least get the tenth vacant slot in their nominees list, just out of principle for how awesome it was. (I’m just going to tell you now, that movie is Inside Llewyn Davis.) How annoying!
So what of the rankings? Lists like these tend to demand them, so I include them, and I do think they are helpful in making priorities in our very busy lives as to what to see first and give preference to. Since the rankings are so subjective and sometimes even arbitrary, my main rule is to go with my gut on these things. Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a mixture of favoritism, enjoyment, entertainment, and, yes, the actual skill behind the scenes and within them. As such, films that were without a doubt brilliant masterpieces that will go on to receive tons of accolades and be remembered forever may be outranked by flash-in-the-pan popcorn films that have very little to say except, “Hey, look at this awesome thing we did!” but were also very skilled at doing so and are films that I will revisit time and time again whenever I want to be entertained. It’s hard to rank films of these sorts against one another, and if I felt that I could be that much more objective about these things and take out the entertainment factor, I would probably top load this list with all the heavyweight dramas and such. But I don’t think I can, so I don’t put up any airs of being able to do so.
But, you know, I think that’s alright. Variety is the spice of life, you know, and to say that dramas should be exalted at all times above the comedies and action films is, I think, false doctrine when it comes to film criticism and lessens the true value of joy and wonderment that isn’t always found in those serious dramas – so long as that joy and wonderment is done very well, of course.
So, with that all in mind, I feel I’ve prepared you for this eclectic list of my picks for not just the best films of the year, but also the ones that are my favorites, the ones I find most enjoyable, and the ones that blew me away with their spectacle. Read more…
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Gerald R. Molen
Written by: Michael Crichton, David Koepp (screenplay)
Edited by: Michael Kahn
Cinematography by: Dean Cundey
Music by: John Williams
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, B.D. Wong
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton
Year: 1993 (2013 for IMAX 3D)
I know it’s a common sentiment and, therefore, hardly original, but it bears repeating multiple times until that sentiment is driven into the ground about this wondrous, marvelous film: IT’S SO FREAKING AWESOME! Read more…