2016: A Great Year in Film
What a way to end the 2016 movie season.
A mix-up during the presentation for Best Picture at the Oscars sent the La La Land team up to the podium to accept the award, but after some confusion, it was revealed that Moonlight took home the ultimate prize.
It made for some exciting drama – let’s face it the Oscars usually settle into monotony during the broadcast, especially toward the end – so it was fun to watch something of interest take place aside from names being read from an envelope.
I think Moonlight deserved the award. It’s a film that on its surface is hard and gritty – I imagine it was the least viewed of the nominees because the subject matter is somewhat unsettling. The trailer, which was one of the best trailers of the year, doesn’t exactly make one say “I need to see that!” But Moonlight was a personal, touching film that explored the humanity and the isolation of a black, gay child named Chiron growing up in Miami. His mother is a drug addict and the man he looks to for fatherly advice is the man that sells her drugs. As he grows up (the film takes place at 3 different times in Chiron’s life) he grapples with his sexuality, identity and what it means to be a [gay] man in the inner city. And by the end we see Chrion reconnect with the one person who truly knew him throughout his life at a diner – it’s a beautiful, understated scene, and one of the year’s best.
It’s those flourishes of humanity in otherwise downbeat, melancholy films that are a common theme that runs through many of the nominated films, from Arrival, all the way through the alphabetical list of nominees. Many people would say this year’s movies, aside from La La Land, are depressing slogs through tragedy, and they do appear that way on the surface, but one doesn’t have to look hard to find the uplifting nature of each of these films.
That’s also what made the music for these films so wonderful – and I think this is perhaps one of the best years for movie scores, as well. The music from Moonlight is hauntingly beautiful and when heard while watching the film, impacts you on a level different than most film scores. The same can of the foreboding score from Jackie and even the not-nominated score from Arrival. On the other hand there’s the bittersweet scores such as Lion and La La Land that’ll have you reaching for a tissue.
So it comes as no surprise that I think 2016 will go down as a truly great year for movies. I always view 2007 as perhaps the highpoint of cinema in my lifetime. Films such as No County for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford were movies about tough men dominating their surroundings. Even genre fare such as 300, 28 Weeks Later, Smokin’ Aces and Grindhouse thrilled audiences and scored good reviews with unique approaches. But I think 2016 gives 2007 a run for its money.
The year was packed with movies of elevated quality when compared to previous years. I already wrote an article about how horror got its groove back in ’16, but even other genre films such as Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, The Shallows, The Infiltrator, War Dogs, Blood Father, Doctor Strange and Star Wars: Rogue One were among the year’s best films outside of the prestige pictures aiming for Oscar nominations. And that doesn’t account for the prestige pics such as Nocturnal Animals, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, The Founder and Frank and Lola that were shut out from the Oscars or not as represented as much as they perhaps should have been.
So coming out of the 2016 movie season I’m excited about film again. After a few down years, where generic PG-13 CGI comic book films dominated the landscape, I’m excited for Logan, a hard-boiled R-rated Wolverine film. Hopefully Logan, with last year’s Deadpool, pushes mainstream comic book films into a darker, more mature direction where there are actual stakes and the films don’t resemble Saturday morning cartoons where everyone’s alive at the end and the plot has been reset. And there’s already been well-received films released so far in 2017 – in a season that resembles a dumping ground for movies to boot, such as Split, The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick Chapter 2 and Get Out. These films have already lit up the box office and garnered acclaim from critics – and it’s not even March yet!
So what are your thoughts? Is Moonlight the best movie of the year? Think something else was better? Are you excited for 2017? Let me know on the BSL message board.
Sean is a Baltimore native whose love of the Orioles and Ravens is rivaled only by his love for travel. He’s been to over twenty countries including off the beaten path destinations such as Portugal, Croatia and Montenegro. Sean is a Destination Expert for Baltimore on Trip Advisor and currently lives in New Market, MD.