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Published on January 6th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant

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The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2016

The film critics, writers, and filmmakers in orbit of The Feedback Society give you our best and worst films of 2016. Also, are movies dying?

It’s that time again! Time to talk about the best movies of the past year. Once again, we’ve assembled a crack team of movie geeks and professional critics that have some affiliation with The Feedback Society or orbit us in some manner. It really helps give you a cross section of different types of movies. Before we jump in, it’s worth noting that many of the potential candidates for best movies haven’t been out this way yet, even for some of our Vancouver critics with better screening access. So unfortunately, if we wanted to do a truly comprehensive end of year list, it would come out in March or April.

Each writer was asked about their favourite film of 2016, any runner ups they’d like to mention, and what the worst movie they saw was. We also had an optional question for them this year — was 2016 a bad year for movies? A lot has been said about the death of film in the last year. A better way to put it is that film, especially the middle class of film, is being marginalized. Did our writers feel that pinch in 2016?

So here we go! The Feedback Society’s Best (and Worst) Movies of 2016!

Note: We didn’t include The Lobster or Green Room because they were on our lists for last year, having been released in 2015.

Hank Cruise

Punch TV, Hank & Kelso (@hankandkelso)

My favourite film of 2016 was:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople. 2016 had many bleak and desperate films. Taika Waititi took us away from all that, showcasing his many talents in this spirited adventure dramedy buddy-movie. I loved its odd quirks, fresh scenery, and every line spoken by young Julian Dennison. This film is touching and unique in its style of writing and directing. Combine that with actors who were perfect in their roles and you get a 97/100 from @hankandkelso. ‘Trees. Birds. Rivers. Sky. Running with my Uncle Hec. Living Forever.’

hunt_for_the_wilderpeople_ver3

My honourable mention movies(s) for 2016 are:

Don’t Think Twice. Proves a movie can be fun while acting serious. Elle. A disturbingly abrupt film where Isabelle Huppert gives a true and honest performance worth remembering.

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

The worst film of 2016 is Assassin’s Creed. The film failed by wasting the talents of an all-star cast on a script that did not take advantage of the plethora of plot points already used in the video games.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

2016 had an over abundance of ‘blockbusters’ leaving little room in the release schedule for films with substance.

 

NATHAN RAINE

Vice, The Feedback Society

My favourite film of 2016 was:

Toni Erdmann. I’m now a believer in the power of the Dad Joke. Toni Erdmann is one long [emphasis on the long], awkward, silly, cinematic-dad-joke that somehow manages to be both affecting and hilarious without speck of sentimentality. And for that, this movie is a little bit of a miracle. Maren Ade shapes her film around a father who will go to shameless lengths to crack a groan-inducing joke in order to restore some lightness in his humourless daughter. While Toni Erdmann is certainly a blunt critique on corporate greed, modern globalization, and sexism, it’s most impactful notes hit on the restorative power of humour. The second half, in particular, is incredibly well calibrated, the characters stumbling through a series of gawky comedic sequences [usually involving false teeth, a wig, and a cheese grater], one such sequence being among the most hilarious comedic set-pieces I’ve even seen. Even at a near three hours, it was a movie I wanted to rewatch the moment it finished. Toni Erdmann is a special film; it’s an objection against decorum, a moving father-daughter drama, and a portrait of modern day alienation, told through the blast of a whoopee cushion.

toni-erdmann-poster

My honourable mention movies for 2016 are:

Elle, Dheepan, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Neon Demon, Graduation, Things to Come, The Handmaiden, Moonlight, American Honey

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

A cheap, blow-hardy, relentlessly irritating, gimmicky piece of Hollywood excrement called Deadpool.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

I know Craig has spent time thinking and writing on the state of film, and was likely hoping for a few thoughtful answers. So, I’m here to disappoint: I have no idea. I know the easy answer is “TV good, movies bad”, but I think it’s a false premise to believe the two exist in opposition. There were a lot of movies I loved this year, and young filmmakers like Ade, Refn, and Jenkins suggest movies are going to continue to be pushed in new directions. But, Scorsese says cinema is gone, so I’ll just go with that.

 

Tyler Baptist

Reel to Reel on CFCR, Videonomicon, Bad Monster Films

My favourite film of 2016 was:

Anders Thomas Jensen’s Men & Chicken (Mænd & høns) topped my list this year. This comedy – as only the Danes can do – is a madcap, gut-bustingly funny, and thoroughly bizarre story of two brothers Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) whose father has just passed away, and on his final videotaped message informs them that he was not actually their biological father. Despite already being at wits end with each other, and with the rest of the scarce information provided from the videotape, they travel to a small isolated community to unravel the mystery and things take a left turn when they discover three brothers living in the old family home of their father. It’s overrun with animals who are far from normal, and each of these brothers shares the same unique physical trait as them – a cleft lip. Men & Chicken is a strange beast; a mixture of genres that should not go together – a family drama, a science-gone-mad horror film, and a comedy featuring some Three Stooges-style physical slapstick/violence. All this tossed together should equal disaster, but Jensen’s unique spin and sure-handed direction of this tale of coming to terms with loss, getting to know extended family with seemingly nothing in common, and finding out who you really are is a cinematic marvel that runs the gamut from being touching, outright hilarious, sad, and simultaneously shocking. Dencik and Mikkelsen effortlessly convey their onscreen sibling rivalry with gusto, disappearing into their roles and make-up with the zeal of sheer lunacy. Men & Chicken tosses all its eggs out of the basket directly at the audience, delivering a fun, weird, and unique film full of surprises.

men-chicken

My honourable mention movie for 2016 is:

Was the moon landing faked? A favourite question from conspiracy theorists, but director Matt Johnson plays with this idea in his insanely ambitious Operation Avalanche. It’s 1967 and the space race is on, and four junior CIA operatives are sent undercover to NASA posing as a documentary crew to find a Russian mole. But they also discover that NASA really doesn’t have the technology to actually land on the moon, and decide to forge their own secret mission to fake the lunar landing themselves. Matt Johnson, who also plays the lead role/himself, in this mockumentary-hybrid had his real life crew secretly film at NASA headquarters, with life imitating art, as they stole these shots/sequences without permission officially making it the first movie to film at NASA. Other barriers are broken as Johnson and crew seamlessly incorporate themselves into stock footage, emulate an authentic look and atmosphere of the late 60s through Éclair lenses, digital compositing, and 16mm film transfer, and manage to capture a single-take in-car car chase that rivals the infamous one in Children of Men. And the even more mind-blowing thing: this was Matt Johnson’s thesis film for his film school course. Operation Avalanche is thrilling, exciting, funny, smartly written (even though most of the film was actually improvised), daringly directed, and an all-around feat of cinema magic that gives Hollywood a run for its money and then some! Expect big things from Matt Johnson and Zapruder Films in the future!

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

The Greasy Strangler, a movie about a father and son where the father strips himself naked and covers himself in grease and strangles people, is the most obnoxious, painfully unfunny, excruciatingly grating, and pointless anti-comedy to emerge under the popularity of Tim & Eric/Adult Swim humour. What is literally a 3 minute sketch/joke is stretched out and repeated over and over for 93 laugh-less boringly unending minutes, trying so hard to shock the audience with tasteless nudity, shock value that rips off John Waters, and sheer alienating storytelling. Not just the worst movie of 2016, but the absolutely worst movie of the 2000’s, hands down.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

While I did see some great movies in 2016, I also saw less current/new movies this past year than previous years. There just didn’t seem to be as many films I was interested in, and quite a lot of the buzzed about films this year that I did catch didn’t end up meeting expectations/hype. And if I didn’t make it out to the theatre, even Netflix seemed to disappoint as far as being able to browse newer releases as it just seems to be a lot – A LOT – of TV shows on there now.

 

DAVE SCADDAN

The Feedback Society.com

My favourite film of 2016 was:

My favourite this year was probably Midnight Special, with my next pick as a close second.  With the same sort of charm as Stranger Things and Arrival, we get scares, heart-patter, and a satisfying reveal.  Michael Shannon is an automatic, “I’ll go see that” for me, even after being lured by him to Man of Steel.

midnight-special-poster

My honourable mention for 2016 is:

Arrival.  It’s fresher in my mind than Midnight Special, but I should watch them both again.  Apart from all the “what would you do if?” questions it raises (and maybe, at its best, answers) it’s also my turnabout film for Amy Adams, who pulls off the crucial reluctance/exuberance dance that made the story work.

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

I’m getting pretty good at knowing my own taste and sniffing out new movies that I just know I won’t like, so I don’t very often get hit with a total stinker, but I recently saw Bad Santa 2.  I love the original for its thumbed nose at the whole xmas shmozz, but the sequel is pretty shameful.  In the style of Airplane 2, it ham-handedly tries to regenerate all the successful gags of the first film, which not only creates a disturbing transparency, but also hands us a bunch of jokes we’ve already heard.  It’s almost bad enough to taint the greatness of Bad Santa itself, but as now a remembrance piece for both John Ritter and Bernie Mack, that one still has its place on the Scrooge shelf.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

2016 was a bad year for movies.  None of my favourite living directors (Haneke, Scorsese, Miranda July, P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson) made a film this year, and that put a damper on things.  Maybe reading about some other TFS picks will put some shine on it in retrospect though.

 

Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Vancouver Film Critics Circle, Planet S Magazine, Prairie Dog Magazine, The Canadian Crew

My favourite film of 2016 was:

Arrival. Here is a movie that appeals to your brain, while packing an emotional wallop that only unfolds in the final fifteen minutes. How brilliant is that? Arrival is profoundly intelligent without losing sight film is a visual medium.

arrival

My honourable mention movies for 2016 are:

Runner ups:

  1. The Neon Demon
    3. Manchester by the Sea
    4. Café Society
    5. Silence
    6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
    7. Elle
    8. I, Daniel Blake
    9. Captain Fantastic
    10. Tower

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

Ride Along 2. Lazy filmmaking at its worst. Same script at before, relies on Kevin Hart histrionics without giving him anything to work with.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

2016 was a strong year for movies, but you had to be dedicated. Relying exclusively on the multiplex wasn’t enough. You had to dig, particularly when foreign films, indies, and documentaries were the main sources of quality.

 

Callen Diederichs

Filmmaker, The Roxy Theatre

My favourite film of 2016 was:

Cemetery of Splendour. Apichatpong Weerasethakul is definitely a polarizing filmmaker, and his latest is another mix of the banal and the bizarre, as contemporary Thai culture and politics meet ancient folklore and mysticism. What ultimately set this film apart for me is the way it creates multiple realities by having powerful, sometimes inexplicable images onscreen while the characters are evoking strong disparate images in our imaginations with the dialogue. Saying of a film, ‘there’s really nothing like it,’ is usually a platitude but in this case it’s a huge understatement.

cemetery-of-splendour-poster

My honourable mention movie for 2016 is:

Certain Women by Kelly Reichardt. It’s a grievous indictment of popular culture when the latest work of one of our best contemporary filmmakers isn’t even released in Canada, while the multiplexes are full of redundant empty spectacles. This film is a sad, beautiful tone poem of the Red State lives that will be most impacted by the forthcoming reign of ignorance, greed, and contempt.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

I think it was a typically strong year for independent and art house films. A number of films I enjoyed incorporated high concept, magical realist elements into small scale productions, proving that imagination and craft can transcend budgetary constraints. Conversely, other films told seemingly small, intimate stories with a universal resonance. And finally, while I don’t advocate for affirmative action in the evaluation of art, it was a pleasant surprise to see white male directors being in the minority on my top films list.

 

Skot Hamilton

CFCR’s Reel to Reel, The Broadway Theatre

My favourite film of 2016 was:

The Club (El Club). A collection of disgraced priests who have been politely exiled to a remote seaside property by the church confuse leisure for penance in an idyllic haze, until an addition to their ranks jeopardizes their unjust serenity and the anonymity that keeps them suspended there. To reveal any further narrative strands of Pablo Lorrain’s sardonic and disconcerting meditation would certainly do The Club’s more gleefully manipulative sidesteps a disservice. Suffice to say that if your aversion to bad men has less to do with their deeds than your proximity to them, then there is a bevy of less challenging disgraced-clergy films for you to cozy up to.

el-club

Without the naturally desired distance needed to sufficiently other yourself from the residents of The Club, the audience is lulled in to acclimatizing and even sympathizing with the players whom your every suspicion has long-since damned. This slide is achieved through a masterclass in pacing that crescendos in one of the most stomach churning and emotionally dizzying cinematic tension gamuts in memory, to close what will be a high-watermark in Anti-Redemption cinema for years to come.

The scariest part of all? If I were to include Pablo Lorrain’s 2016 festival entries as proper 2016 titles, he would have three slots on my top ten films of the year easily secured. Lorrain’s talent cannot be understated. Watch out for Neruda and Jackie in the new year.

My honourable mention movies for 2016 are:

Other top drawer fair this year included The Witch, One More Time with Feeling, The Handmaiden, High-Rise, Arrival, Embrace of the Serpent, Men and Chicken, and How to Build a Time Machine.

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2. A harrowingly redundant follow up to an all-but-forgotten late 90’s counter-culture-cash-in, made all the more egregious in that the original SLC Punk was a property that, mercifully, no one has ever celebrated or felt even the slightest sense of nostalgia for. SLC Punk 2 takes after it’s predecessor in that its dialogue is unbearably trite, its characters are uniformly dull, and that there isn’t a second of cultural authenticity in a film that bandies the importance of cultural authenticity ad nauseum. An outing joyless enough to beat the verbatim Cabin Fever remake and two Marlon Wayans send-ups for the bottom slot.

 

Brando Quiring

The Feedback Society, Rock 102

My favourite film of 2016 was:

As unpopular as this might make me, I think Batman v Superman might have been my favourite movie of the year. It was deeply flawed and did a lot of stuff wrong but I still saw it a few times in theatres and am actually watching it as I type this. It is closer to what I like about comic movies, with the grittier feel and more serious undertones. It was way better than people give it credit for and it felt like less of an extended trailer than Civil War did.

batman

My honourable mention movies for 2016 are:

Although on my first viewing I didn’t really like The Shallows, I have since reconsidered and think it was actually a really fun show. Big ups to Steven Seagull. The Conjuring 2 was also super great and I am hoping that series continues. The Other Side of the Door was a little picture I tripped over on Netflix and it turns out its actually super good, check it out.

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

The Purge: Election Year grabbed the bullshit-of-the-year trophy, gave me the finger and ran off with it. It was so catastrophically asinine I didn’t even bother taking the time to crap all over it for the site. The first entry was a neat idea that didn’t stand up, the second was just stupid and this one is insulting to the public and should be avoided at all costs by everyone forever.

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

I think this year was a little below average. With average movies like Deadpool and Civil War giving people Fan-boners and the Ghostbusters reboot hitting all the wrong buttons, setting the world on fire, and then not delivering where it counted. Beyond that, most of what I saw was a prequel or a sequel or a remake or a trailer for 4 other movies…or was a computer generated, 90-minute dick joke. 2017 will be better.

 

Dan Nicholls

The Daily Hive, The Feedback Society

My favourite film of 2016 was:

The one film my mind returns to more often than others is Moonlight from director Barry Jenkins. It’s beautiful.

moonlight-poster

My honourable mention movies for 2016 are:

It’s impossible to narrow down any year to one definitive title, but it’s worth noting that this year was exceptionally good for independent releases. My runner-ups this year are the eclectic indie quartet of Manchester by the Sea, The Witch, Swiss Army Man, and Paterson.

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

Dirty Grandpa. Even the intoxicated scoundrel who snuck into the screening couldn’t sit still during it. Robert DeNiro has given some of cinema’s greatest performances but his lackluster output for the last decade and a half culminated in whatever the hell this is supposed to be.

 

CRAIG SILLIPHANT

Punch TV, CKOM/CJME, CTV, CBC, Planet S, Prairie Dog, The Feedback Society.com, Reel to Reel on CFCR

My favourite film of 2016 was:

I’m going to cheat right out of the gate, but it would be a tie between Midnight Special and Arrival. My problem, as Dave mentioned earlier, is that Arrival is much more fresh in my mind as I saw Midnight Special almost a year ago now. I need to see it again. So I remember that one being very strong, but I really remember coming out of the theatre emotionally affected after seeing Arrival. If push comes to shove I guess I’ll say Arrival. I’m hoping all of this becomes pointless once I catch Toni Erdmann, but we’ll see.

arrival

My honourable mention movies for 2016 are:

Those two aside, my runner up would be Moonlight. While there were some issues I had with the film, the biggest of which probably being hype, it was a beautiful film. There are a few movies I liked as much or more, but I should also mention Elle from Paul Verhoeven, which was one of the more unique and nonconformist movies I saw this year. Isabel Huppert is amazing, as usual. Too bad she didn’t star in Arrival instead of Amy Adams (by mentioning it, did I just create a parallel universe where that happened? Can we go there and see that version of the film? And to be clear, Adams was not bad in Arrival — in fact it almost made me think of her as a serious actress. Almost.). Also, to name a few more in no particular order, The Witch, High-rise, Neon Demon, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Café Society, Don’t Breathe, Tickled, Cartel Land, and Train to Busan. Unlike Tyler, I loved The Greasy Strangler, though only for about ¾ of its running time, when the joke fizzled out.

The worst movie I saw in 2016 was:

I saw a few stinkers this year, and perhaps even movies that were worse or more disappointing than my pick, but Bad Moms sticks out in my mind as the one that made me shout at the screen the most. It was the biggest waste of talent that I saw, more than Ghostbusters, even. It had a good idea, but it got lazy quickly, refusing to mine the premise for the potential it had. It felt like a movie about women written by fratboys, which in 2016 shouldn’t be a thing. Though, I guess if the President-Elect can brag about grabbing women by the genitalia, perhaps I’m a man out of time.

Some other stinkers I hated this year: Independence Day: Resurgence, The Killing Joke, Ghostbusters, London Has Fallen, Batman V Superman, and while many loved it, I found Sing Street to be trite and dishonest. I was also disappointed with I Saw the Light, which featured Tom Hiddleston trying his heart out, only to be let down by a bad script and biopic clichés. The Fits started out brilliantly, then went nowhere (and it’s only like, an hour long).

Do you think 2016 was a weaker year for movies?

Overall, I felt like it was a weak year for movies, but I also recognize that maybe there just wasn’t something that connected with me on a sublime level. As Dave pointed out, none of my favourite filmmakers, except Refn, brought anything to market this year, so I may just be feeling melancholy about that. Jorge mentioned having to dig to find the gems. He’s right — this is increasingly the world we’re finding ourselves in. The problem though, is that some of the best filmmakers are increasingly unable to secure funding. However, I can be a glass half empty kind of guy and there are a few of the big indie movies I still haven’t seen (Toni Erdmann, Manchester by the Sea, and Paterson), so maybe there’s a few redemption films out there.

That said, I do a lot of digging, as do most of the film folks here, but most of what I saw that was being lauded by film-centric podcasts and publications I follow ended up being overhype, like La La Land and even Moonlight to some degree. I liked both those films, especially Moonlight, but it wasn’t quite all it was built up to be by hyperbolic critics and writers. I’d say this was my fault for falling for hype, but how are you supposed to do your research without getting this colour commentary on things?

As Nathan alluded to, there’s a lot of talk being thrown around about TV being the new movies. That film is a 20th century art form that is dying. Not too many middle class movies by the PT Andersons of the world are getting made anymore, or at least, they’re fewer and further between. However, I don’t think movies are dying, at the worst, they’re probably going underground, like poetry or interpretive dance. (And compared to TV or YouTube videos, what IS a movie anyway? That’s a discussion for another day).

Some might think all this talk of dyin’ is crazy, that the box office looks great with movies like Rogue One or Deadpool doing well, but 2016 was a slump year for even multiplex returns. And I think that the public will eventually lose interest in that kind of fare when they get tired those CGI porn tent pole movies (or shitty gimmicks like 3D). I’d love to say, ‘replace it with smart, good movies and you’ll build a great audience,’ but the fact is, we’re heading into dark, dumb times.

However, the pendulum always swings back, so even if movies come out the other end a different beast, we movie lovers will adapt. I have to think that as long as there are cameras and stories to tell, someone will be making good movies. Even though I don’t think this was a great year for film, when we look back on 2016 in a few years, this watershed moment could be as fascinating as the 70s in American film, the rise of Miramax, or any of those success stories in the life of North American film, for the simple reason that it caused a reaction that spun film into whatever direction it’s headed.

 

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About the Author

Craig Silliphant

is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.



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