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My Six-Month Film Awards: 2016

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The Lobster poster

“Why a lobster?” “Because lobsters live for over 100 years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and they stay fertile all of their lives.”

Picture:

  1. The Lobster
  2. Weiner
  3. Finding Dory
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. Zootopia
  6. Swiss Army Man
  7. Tale of Tales
  8. The Invitation
  9. Lamb
  10. Elvis & Nixon

All 10 of these films score at least an 80; my #11 film, The Jungle Book, scores a 79. The top 3 films are ****, whereas I had 2 **** this time last year. On the one hand, The Lobster is a weaker #1 film than Mad Max: Fury Road was, but Zootopia is 2 points ahead of last year’s #5 (Spy) and Elvis & Nixon is 5 points ahead of last year’s #10 (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).

Some may feel that The Lobster should be considered a 2015 film, and there’s an argument to be made for that. But since it didn’t receive public release in the U.S. until this year, I count it for this year. (If it had come out last year, it would have been #3 on my year-end list. It’s that good.)

One last note: I saw Green Room, but owing to external circumstances decided I needed to see it again before including it in my rankings. I’ll note where I might have included it in subsequent categories. (Here it probably would’ve come in around #10.)

Director:

  1. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster
  2. Karyn Kusama, The Invitation
  3. Ben Wheatley, High-Rise
  4. Daniels (Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan), Swiss Army Man
  5. Matteo Garrone, Tale of Tales

Kusama does a fine job, but seeing The Lobster a second time, I can’t deny how good Lanthimos’ work is. Wheatley’s work on High-Rise is not to be ignored either; the film itself is problematic (as my #14 of the year, it doesn’t make my Best Picture list – it would have last year, however), but he crafts some striking sequences. Daniels’ inventive oddball fantasy and Garrone’s authentically fabulistic trio of fairy tales also deserve mention.

I should also list my #6-8, all of whom did excellent work in their respective films: Nicolas Winding Refn for The Neon Demon, Dan Trachtenberg for 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Robert Eggers for The Witch. A few other notable directors did solid work but just didn’t rank high enough: Terrence Malick for Knight of Cups (#12), the Coens for Hail, Caesar! (#18), or Jeff Nichols for Midnight Special (#19).

Actor:

  1. John Hawkes, Too Late
  2. Michael Shannon, Elvis & Nixon
  3. Michael Shannon, Midnight Special
  4. Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  5. Ethan Hawke, Born to Be Blue
  6. John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane

I list six since Shannon appears twice. I didn’t much care for Too Late (it’s a mid **½ film for me), but Hawkes really does do a hell of a job, transcending the faux-Tarantino pretensions of the script to give us a credible modern-day noir semi (not anti) hero.

I may be the only person to rank Shannon’s performance as Elvis above his work in Midnight Special, but I just didn’t care for Special (though he is the best part of it by far), and I rather enjoyed Elvis & Nixon, and especially his performance, which was no mere impersonation but a funny and rather poignant portrait of a man whose status as an icon has obscured his sense of self.

A few other performances worth noting: Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man (#7), Russell Crowe (#8) and Ryan Gosling (#12) in The Nice Guys, Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool (#11), and Tom Hiddleston in High-Rise (#13).

 

Actress:

  1. Oona Laurence, Lamb
  2. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane
  3. Rachel Weisz, The Lobster
  4. Carmen Ejogo, Born to Be Blue
  5. Kate Beckinsale, Love & Friendship

Laurence is an easy winner here – her work in Lamb is extremely impressive even regardless of her youth. The list drops off somewhat after that; you could definitely argue that Weisz is a supporting role as she does not appear onscreen until the second half of the film, but as her narration is a major part of the film before then, I just nudge her into the lead. Beckinsale I had hoped would rank higher, but like her film I appreciate her work without really loving it.

Imogen Poots in Green Room would probably rank #3 here.

Supporting Actor:

  1. Daniel Radcliffe, Swiss Army Man
  2. Luke Evans, High-Rise
  3. Tom Bennett, Love & Friendship
  4. Jeremy Irons, High-Rise
  5. John Gallagher, Jr., 10 Cloverfield Lane

Many would make the case for Radcliffe as a co-lead, but I put him for three reasons:

  1. The film is really centered around Dano’s journey; he has an arc of his own, but it’s clearly in support of Dano.
  2. He has less screentime than Dano.
  3. He gives this category a slam-dunk winner.

Not to slight Evans, who brings one man’s fearsome journey to life, or Bennett, who’s incredibly funny (“How jolly! Little green balls…what are they called?” “Peas.”), but Radcliffe’s depiction of a multi-talented corpse trumps them all.

Also worth mention: Ben Whishaw (#6) and John C. Reilly (#9) in The Lobster, Kevin Spacey (#7) in Elvis & Nixon, and two actors who were by far the best part of their dreadful films: Sharlto Copley in Hardcore Henry (#16) and Chadwick Boseman in Gods of Egypt (#20).

It should go without saying that Patrick Stewart would rank no lower than #2 for Green Room.

Supporting Actress:

  1. Jena Malone, The Neon Demon
  2. Angourie Rice, The Nice Guys
  3. Sienna Miller, High-Rise
  4. Elisabeth Moss, High-Rise
  5. Ariane Labed, The Lobster

Malone brings by far the most depth and humanity to a film which otherwise lacks both; she might not even make my year-end top 10 here, but so far this year hasn’t given me much to work with for supporting actresses.

Rice steals her film (which I confess I was less fond of than others), Miller gives by far the best performance I’ve ever seen from her, and Moss is reliably solid. Labed is quite good (and her costars Olivia Colman and Léa Seydoux are close behind at #6 and #8 respectively), but she’s only this high because of the lack of competition.

Also worth mention: Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee in The Neon Demon (#9 and 10), Sarita Choudhury in A Hologram for the King (#12), and a double appearance for Emayatzy Corinealdi: #14 for The Invitation and #19 for Miles Ahead.

Vocal Performance- Actor:

  1. Idris Elba, The Jungle Book
  2. Ed O’Neill, Finding Dory
  3. Bill Murray, The Jungle Book
  4. Jason Bateman, Zootopia
  5. Albert Brooks, Finding Dory

Still working on how best to judge this category. But for now, Elba’s wonderfully malevolent Shere Khan ekes out the win over O’Neill’s sardonic septopus.

Vocal Performance- Actress:

  1. Ginnifer Goodwin, Zootopia
  2. Ellen De Generes, Finding Dory
  3. Sloane Murray, Finding Dory
  4. Lupita Nyong’o, The Jungle Book
  5. Kaitlin Olson, Finding Dory

I was far fonder of Dory and De Generes’ work than I ever expected (Dory is hardly my favorite part of Finding Nemo), but I can’t deny how great Goodwin is as Judy Hopps. Murray is the voice of young Dory; she’s very endearing.

Ensemble:

  1. The Lobster
  2. High-Rise
  3. Love & Friendship
  4. The Invitation
  5. Captain America: Civil War

Another new category I’m still adapting to. The Lobster is a prime example of an ensemble which soars higher as a whole than in its individual performances (though there are certainly excellent performances in it), as is Love & FriendshipCaptain America: Civil War may seem an odd choice, but the various Avengers, along with the new characters on hand, work together so well (and produced so entertaining a film) that they deserve to rank this high.

Original Screenplay:

  1. The Lobster
  2. Zootopia
  3. Swiss Army Man
  4. The Invitation
  5. The Nice Guys

The Lobster is an absolutely brilliant script and by far my #1; I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t in my year-end top 5. Zootopia and Swiss Army Man are both very strong scripts in their own right, though they both fall a bit short of greatness.

The Nice Guys, I confess, is a distant 5th; many have embraced the film, but to me it falls uncomfortably between being an homage to the 70s and a spoof of them, ultimately not quite succeeding as either. It’s still a good film and one I enjoyed watching, but it seems to be gaining a cult as we speak and I don’t completely understand why.

Hail, Caesar!, decidedly a lesser Coens effort, is my #6; Popstar is my #7.

Adapted Screenplay:

  1. Finding Dory
  2. Captain America: Civil War
  3. Lamb
  4. Love & Friendship
  5. Tale of Tales

Another easy winner: Finding Dory is wonderfully written, as one would generally expect from Pixar. Captain America is no slouch either, and Lamb is quite a fascinating, if moderately contrived, study of two lost souls on an ill-advised adventure. I had really hoped Love & Friendship would be my #1, given my regard for Whit Stillman, but it was adapted from a lesser Jane Austen work and shows (and I’m not a great fan of Austen to begin with).

As good as High-Rise is, the script is definitely one of its weaker elements; it comes in at #9, behind The Jungle Book, Deadpool, and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Factually-Based Screenplay:

  1. Elvis & Nixon
  2. Born to Be Blue
  3. Francofonia

Just not a whole lot to choose from so far. Francofonia barely gets on. Miles Ahead earns the same score as Francofonia, but the script is such a mess I can’t even sneak it in.

Cinematography:

  1. High-Rise
  2. The Neon Demon
  3. Swiss Army Man
  4. The Invitation
  5. Tale of Tales

The top two are very closely matched. After that it drops off a bit, though I feel obliged to mention The Lobster (#6), Knight of Cups (#8), Hail, Caesar! (#9), and the 35mm lensing of Too Late (#12).

Editing:

  1. The Invitation
  2. Finding Dory
  3. The Lobster
  4. Weiner
  5. 10 Cloverfield Lane

This category posed with a bit of a dilemma. Based solely on the assemblage of sequences, I would probably give the edge to Finding Dory (the shifts in time between the present and Dory’s childhood are superbly done)…but as an animated film, it’s not really edited in the same way as a live-action piece. As such, The Invitation remains my (hardly unworthy) #1.

I’d like to mention Weiner while we’re here, since this is the only other nomination it receives. It’s an incredible documentary about Anthony Weiner and his attempt to resurrect his career by running for mayor of New York, and how the mistakes which ended his Congressional career still haunt him. Weiner himself is a fascinating, maddening figure (if it was a dramatic film, he’d have won Best Actor in a landslide), and the film is beautifully assembled from what I’m sure were thousands of hours of footage, hence the nomination. I strongly, strongly recommend it.

My #6-9 is none too shabby: Swiss Army Man, High-Rise, Captain America: Civil War, and Deadpool.

Production Design:

  1. High-Rise
  2. Tale of Tales
  3. Hail, Caesar!
  4. Men & Chicken
  5. Swiss Army Man 

A marvelous top 5. The titular building in High-Rise is a magnificent creation, Tale of Tales is a superbly executed medieval fairy tale, Hail, Caesar! recreates 50s Hollywood, Men & Chicken features a great ruined mansion, and Swiss Army Man has all of Hank’s ingenious recreations of the inhabited world, built out of whatever is at hand – trash, branches, you name it.

The Lobster is my #6.

Costume Design:

  1. High-Rise
  2. Love & Friendship
  3. Tale of Tales
  4. Hail, Caesar!
  5. The Lobster

The early 19th-century garb of Love & Friendship and the medieval dress of Tale of Tales would be enough for most, but my own preference is for the superior work in High-Rise, featuring not only fashionable 70s dress, but that same dress deteriorating along with the high-rise itself, and the elaborate 18th-century fashions at Ann Royal’s costume party. What High-Rise does right, it does very right.

Also worth mention: the deliberately tacky suits and dresses worn by the Hotel’s guests in The Lobster.

Makeup:

  1. Swiss Army Man
  2. The Neon Demon
  3. Tale of Tales
  4. Deadpool
  5. High-Rise

Swiss Army Man and The Neon Demon are practically tied here. The corpse makeup on Radcliffe is perfectly executed, as is Dano’s stranded dishevelment. But the high-fashion gaudiness (and later, bloodiness) of The Neon Demon is pretty impressive as well. For now, the tie goes to the film I like better, but it’s a very close race. And you can’t overlook the great work in Deadpool (“You look like Freddy Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah”). I’m torn between Men & Chicken and High-Rise for the #5 spot, as both have strong work in their own right, but for now I’ll give the edge to the chaotic spatters of the latter, though the clever, subtle work in the former should not be overlooked.

Score:

  1. The Neon Demon
  2. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  3. The Invitation
  4. Swiss Army Man
  5. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

I had mixed feelings about The Neon Demon (it has its moments but doesn’t come off as a whole), but the score is delightful. And yes, despite my feelings about it, I have to admit that Batman v. Superman has quite a good score.

Song:

  1. “Montage”, Swiss Army Man
  2. “I’m So Humble”, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  3. “Gone 2015”, Miles Ahead
  4. “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)”, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  5. “Equal Rights”, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Popstar was made for this category, and all three of these songs are hilarious; there are more where those came from, but these are the songs I took particular notice of while watching the film. Despite that, the absurdly catchy “Montage” comes out on top. But this is a very good category (“Gone 2015” is quite a lovely song as well), especially coming off what may have been the worst-ever year for original songs.

Sound Mixing:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. The Invitation
  3. Finding Dory
  4. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  5. The Neon Demon

Sound Effects:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. The Jungle Book
  3. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  4. Swiss Army Man
  5. Finding Dory

Sound is quite tricky to rank, but I think I got these fairly right. Captain America obviously has the benefit of a huge budget, but the work in The Invitation (the way the sound rises at the end of certain scenes) and Swiss Army Man (like the all-important farting) is worth mentioning.

Visual Effects:

  1. The Jungle Book
  2. Captain America: Civil War
  3. Swiss Army Man
  4. X-Men: Apocalypse
  5. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

There’s a line near the end of the credits which sums it up: “Filmed in downtown Los Angeles.”

I’d like to mention the practical effects in Tale of Tales (my #7), especially the giant flea and the sea serpent. In this era of CGI, it’s always nice to see some “flesh-and-blood” trickwork.

Best Film to Receive No Nominations: The Witch

It’s really a pretty solid film (it’s my #15 of the year), and it comes in 8th for Director, 6th for Actress, 8th in Supporting Actor, 9th in Ensemble, 10th in Original Screenplay, 7th in Costume Design, 8th in Makeup and 6th in Score. It’s just not a great film; honestly, it feels more like a display of Robert Eggers’ directing abilities than anything else. So it falls just short across the board.

Worst Film to Receive Any Nominations: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

A hot fucking mess, as I explained at length. But the score and special effects warranted nominations – though it comes in 5th both times, so don’t expect it to stick around long.

Totals:

  • Swiss Army Man: 11 nominations/3 wins (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Makeup, Score, Song, Sound Effects, Visual Effects)
  • Finding Dory: 10 nominations/1 win (Picture, Vocal Performance – Actor (x 2), Vocal Performance – Actress (x3), Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Effects)
  • High-Rise: 10 nominations/3 wins (Director, Supporting Actor (x 2), Supporting Actress (x 2), Ensemble, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup)
  • The Lobster: 9 nominations/4 wins (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Ensemble, Original Screenplay, Editing, Costume Design)
  • The Invitation: 8 nominations/1 win (Picture, Director, Ensemble, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Score, Sound Mixing)
  • Tale of Tales: 7 nominations (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup)
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane: 7 nominations (Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Effects)
  • Captain America: Civil War: 6 nominations/2 wins (Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble, Sound Mixing, Sound Effects, Visual Effects)
  • The Jungle Book: 5 nominations/2 wins (Vocal Performance – Actor (x2), Vocal Performance – Actress, Sound Effects, Visual Effects)
  • The Neon Demon: 5 nominations/2 wins (Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Makeup, Score, Sound Mixing)
  • Love & Friendship: 5 nominations (Actress, Supporting Actor, Ensemble, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design)
  • Zootopia: 4 nominations/1 win (Picture, Vocal Performance – Actor, Vocal Performance – Actress, Original Screenplay)
  • Lamb: 3 nominations/1 win (Picture, Actress, Adapted Screenplay)
  • Elvis & Nixon: 3 nominations/1 win (Picture, Actor, Factually-Based Screenplay)
  • Born to Be Blue: 3 nominations (Actor, Actress, Factually-Based Screenplay)
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: 3 nominations (Song (x 3))
  • Hail, Caesar!: 2 nominations (Production Design, Costume Design)
  • Weiner: 2 nominations (Picture, Editing)
  • The Nice Guys: 2 nominations (Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay)
  • Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: 2 nominations (Score, Visual Effects)
  • Too Late: 1 nomination/1 win (Actor)
  • Deadpool: 1 nomination (Makeup)
  • Men & Chicken: 1 nomination (Production Design)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: 1 nomination (Visual Effects)
  • Miles Ahead: 1 nomination (Song)
  • Francofonia: 1 nomination (Factually-Based Screenplay)
  • Midnight Special: 1 nomination (Actor)

27 of the 35 films I’ve seen this year get nominations, 20 of which receive multiple nominations. Interestingly, my top 5 films account for just 8 wins, while as many awards go to films I don’t even nominate for Best Picture!

I now have 22 categories (a suitable number, for various personal reasons), and Swiss Army is nominated in precisely half of them. There’s no greater meaning, just an interesting little coincidence.

Overall Ranking:

  1. The Lobster
  2. Weiner
  3. Finding Dory
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. Zootopia
  6. Swiss Army Man
  7. Tale of Tales
  8. The Invitation 
  9. Lamb
  10. Elvis & Nixon
  11. The Jungle Book
  12. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  13. Born to Be Blue
  14. High-Rise
  15. The Witch
  16. Deadpool
  17. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  18. The Nice Guys
  19. Love & Friendship
  20. The Neon Demon
  21. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
  22. Independence Day: Resurgence
  23. Hail, Caesar!
  24. Men & Chicken
  25. X-Men: Apocalypse
  26. Knight of Cups
  27. A Hologram for the King
  28. Miles Ahead
  29. Francofonia
  30. Midnight Special
  31. Money Monster
  32. Too Late
  33. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  34. Hardcore Henry
  35. Gods of Egypt
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2 thoughts on “My Six-Month Film Awards: 2016

  1. – This is a very exciting lineup. Many titles are very intriguing, I can’t wait to see them released in France: Weiner, Miles Ahead, …
    – I’ve never heard of “The Invitation” before.
    – I’m not fond of The Lobster; but it was up for 3 Movie Parliament Awards and won two: Original Screenplay & Supporting Actress (Weisz). So, obviously it’s loved by many.
    – I think I liked The Neon Demon more than you did. NWR is already the first director we’ve nominated twice (and he won for Drive): I can see him nominated again this year. But the true locks for this film are the cinematography (first female DP we would nominate) and, like you said, Jena Malone.

    Among the films you didn’t mention, these are my favorite films of this first half of 2016; I hope you can check them out: Kaili Blues, Julieta, Being Good.

    • – Miles Ahead is a bizarre film. I respect Cheadle for realizing his vision (and his own performance is pretty good), but the basic conceit doesn’t really work for me, and in the watching I found it to be somewhat tough going at times.
      – The Invitation is a strong little thriller. I don’t think it got the attention it deserved. It probably won’t crack my year-end top 20, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.
      – I get why one would not like The Lobster. To me it was a joy, even more so on the second viewing. As I said, I get why one would put Weisz Supporting, but for my own reasons I put her lead.
      – At least I liked The Neon Demon more than Only God Forgives (though I really should go back to that film). I still think Refn hasn’t found the ideal balance between his style and his material, but he comes a lot closer here than there.
      – Kaili Blues sounds fascinating. I’ll need to read up more on the other two.

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