best film: La La Land from Damien Chazelle
2016 was struggling a little until La La Land came along (debuted at Venice). Chazelle’s Whiplash is brilliant- but it was impossible to see this stylistic sonic boom coming.
- Peter Travers said it best- Chazelle’s La La Land has a “passion for cinema that radiates every frame”. https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/la-la-land-review-magical-modern-day-musical-will-sweep-you-off-your-feet-106357/ This is a major achievement- Chazelle is throwing fastballs here and nothing fails to land.
- There are hints of Jacques Demy with the primary colors and the genre.
- There are also elements of I Am Cuba (or Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights) with the camera tracking through the party and going into the pool- a stunning sequence and shot.
- Gloriously shot in CinemaScope
- Very intentional in the believable color design in the mise-en-scene- green straws at the coffee shop where Emma Stone’s character works. Blue parka she wears, yellow umbrellas, purple trash cans outside her apartment, red light in the corner of their bed.
- Whip pans galore
- The song- “Someone in the Crowd”- the camera is flying through their house in perfect rhythm. This is Scorsese shooting Singin’ in the Rain.
- Ambitious and personal drive—themes consistent from Chazelle’s films—compromises, determination
- Their fight during “Fall” season- no long takes or shared mise-en-scene between the actors- they are edited separately and apart. it is cliché maybe with the editing- but is exemplary. The execution is perfect.
most underrated: It is becoming tiresome to have to mention Nicolas Winding Refn again in this category but here we are with The Neon Demon. It sits at the #39 slot for the year 2016 on the TSPDT consensus list. However, there is a silver lining- it actually jumped up last year which means it is gaining some momentum. Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is the next closest as it sits at #34 on the TSPDT list. This film is as underrated as Dazed and Confused used to be (Everybody Wants Some!! is the spiritual sequel to that 1993 film). This one may take awhile- it took decades for Dazed and Confused to be properly recognized.
most overrated: Toni Erdmann as the number one film of 2016 is a small tragedy. It is a fine story with a unique dramatic/comedic blend, solid writing and performances- but there is no dedication to an aesthetic — nor is there any sort of thundering formal achievement at all.
trends and notables:
- Young talents Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins (both under forty years old- Chazelle’s third film and Jenkins’ second) help buoy a rockier year
- It is worth pausing to admire the year of Jim Jarmusch- Paterson gives him a top ten film of the year in 2016- making it the fourth consecutive decade Jarmusch has had at least one top ten of the year film.
- Mostly here this section is here to accentuate the positives- but it is worth noting the rare semi misfire 2016 was for Martin Scorsese and The Coen Brothers. The expectations are so high so when they fail to come close to a top ten, even in a down year, it does seem to echo a little.
- Finding Dory and Rogue One dominate the box office with Captain America: Civil War not far behind.
- For Nicolas Winding Refn 2016 and The Neon Demon marks the fourth time in the last eight years where he has made one of the best ten films of the year.
- Chazelle already had an archiveable film under his belt coming into 2016 so one could argue, certainly, that Barry Jenkins (archiveable debut here with Moonlight) is the true breakthrough as far as directors go.
- Florence Pugh is the story on that front from an acting standpoint- Pugh seems destined for great things and Lady Macbeth is her first archiveable film
gems I want to spotlight: The answers here in 2016 are Certain Women from Kelly Reichardt and 20th Century Women from Mike Mills and I am not even trying to be thematic in these choices. These films barely missed the top ten of the year and with another viewing could easily land on the back half of that list.
best performance male: Ryan Gosling has already put together an impressive career up to this point in 2016 but it seems unlikely that he will top La La Land. Gosling shows off some impressive piano playing skills- suspending our disbelief- and that Chet Baker-like voice is not bad either. Gosling is pitch perfect for the silent finale where his heart is just about removed from his body- he is stoic, an actor that underplays almost everything. There is no better cotemporary actor for this Steve McQueen “I’ll say it with my face” style. Emma Stone may give the better performance overall– but Gosling wins the big last moment of the best film of the year. Mahershala Ali is a revelation in Moonlight – a character of almost overwhelming goodness in his soul. Trevante Rhodes is one of three actors playing Moonlight’s Chiron/Little. Rhodes brilliantly pulls off playing a shy character– not easy to do. Adam Driver was in so many great films in the 2010s that they may all start to run together– but it is important to mark just how important Paterson was to his career. His first great performance in one of the best films of the year. Shia LaBeouf rocking a rattail slides into the final slot here for 2016- he does the best work of his career thus far in American Honey.
best performance female: Emma Stone gives her second great performance in a major 2010s masterpiece in 2016’s La La Land. The audition scene is Stone’s Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive moment. The comedic talents of both Stone and Gosling are readily apparent. This is their third time working together and their chemistry is undeniable. There’s a sizeable gulf between Stone and anyone else here- but one would be remiss to overlook Kim Min-hee in The Handmaiden, Natalie Portman as Jackie O in Jackie, or Elle Fanning in Neon Demon (with some supporting help in 20th Century Women).
- La La Land
- The Handmaiden
- American Honey
- The Neon Demon
- Hell or High Water
- Everybody Wants Some!!
- Manchester by the Sea
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|20th Century Women– Mills||R/HR|
|American Honey – Arnold||HR/MS|
|Arrival – Villeneuve||R/HR|
|Café Society- Allen||R|
|Captain America: Civil War- Russo||R|
|Certain Women– Reichardt||R/HR|
|Elle – Verhoeven||R/HR|
|Everybody Wants Some!! – Linklater||HR|
|Graduation – Mungiu||R|
|Hacksaw Ridge – Gibson||R|
|Hail, Caesar!- Coen||R|
|Hell or High Water- Mackenzie||HR|
|I, Daniel Blake – Loach||R|
|Indignation – Schamus||R|
|Julieta – Almodovar||R/HR|
|La La Land – Chazelle||MP|
|Lady Macbeth – Oldroyd||R|
|Love & Friendship – Stillman||R|
|Loving – J. Nichols||R|
|Manchester By the Sea– Lonergan||HR|
|Moonlight – B. Jenkins||MS/MP|
|Nocturnal Animals – T. Ford||R|
|Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer – Cedar||R|
|Paterson – Jarmusch||MS|
|Raw – Ducournau||R|
|Silence – Scorsese||R|
|Split – Shyamalan||R|
|Sully – Eastwood||R|
|The Conjuring 2 – Wan||R|
|The Handmaiden- Chan-wook Park||HR/MS|
|The Jungle Book – Favreau||R|
|The Light Between Oceans – Cianfrance||R|
|The Lost City of Z – Gray||HR|
|The Neon Demon – Refn||HR/MS|
|The Salesman– Farhadi||R/HR|
|Things To Come- Hansen-Løve||R|
|Toni Erdmann – Ade||R|
|Train to Busan – Sang-ho Yeon||R|
|Under the Shadow – Anvari||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives