The Tracking Board’s Best And Worst Films of 2016

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It has been an eclectic year in the film. There were, of course, superhero films and remakes galore, as seems to be the new norm, but there were also quieter and very affecting films in 2016 as well. Genres were explored in new ways and there emerged several names to be on the lookout for, from to screenwriters and . They’re creating for a compelling — and refreshingly diverse — awards season, although there’s also still enjoyment to be had from the blockbusters and films that reach more mass appeal as well.

Our Top 5 Best Films of 2016

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Moonlight

By far one of the best films of the year is Barry Jenkins’ three-act drama Moonlight. It deftly explores the narrative of a gay black man in Miami, Florida through three stages in his life as depicted by three different . The entire film is a triumph — its story and performances are arresting, the cinematography is breathtaking, and the sheer experience of the film is unlike that of anything else this year. It’s also a marvel by the mere fact that it tells the story of a character who has rarely been given the spotlight by mainstream media before. And while Moonlight may tell a tender, yet dramatically intense journey of a gay black man, but you don’t need to be a person of color or gay to be affected by this story of strength, struggle, and love.

Amy Adams (right) as Louise Banks in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures Pictures

Arrival

The astonishing thing about Denis Villeneuve’s latest film Arrival is that it’s a drama film with sci-fi elements, not strictly a science-fiction film, something that may have taken audiences by surprise at first, but has since won them over, both critically and financially.

From our review: “It focuses on communicating and listening rather than resorting to violence — a method that is often difficult for humans to understand. More than that, it brings it down to a human level, and with the exception of some very “Hollywood” moments, many of the events that transpire feel fully grounded in reality. Villeneuve brilliantly takes a soulful approach to the film without compromising the genre, making it one of the best and smartest sci-fi films to come out in the past decade.”

The LobsterA24

The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist dystopian film was one on the smaller hits of the year, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving to be on this list. The film about a near-future society that prizes coupledom above all else — to the point where single people are sent to a hotel where they must find a romantic partner after so many days or be turned into the animal of their choice — seemed perhaps too out there at first, but the lead performances from Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz brought necessary humanity to the feature and made it one of the most enjoyable and unique films of the year. While it likely won’t win any big prizes, it’s a testament to the fact that original ideas are out there and worth exploring.

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La La Land

Damien Chazelle’s original musical, set in modern-day but feeling like something out of Classic Hollywood, has been a critical darling since it first made the festival rounds and is now a frontrunner for Best Picture. It’s easy to dismiss films like this sometimes — but in the case of La La Land, that would be to your detriment. The film is an absolute wonder, from its lush and vivid appearance, utilizing the neon lights and color of L.A. wonderfully, to the soaring music of composer Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Pasek and Paul, and the charisma of lead Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. While there may be predictable elements to the film, it ultimately does astonishing and new things with a genre and story you think you already know. Needless to say, it’s a triumph and worth of the accolades raining down upon it.

zootopia-bannerWalt Disney Pictures

Zootopia

It’s been a good year for Disney — between their Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar properties, they’ve had a tremendous amount of success. On the homefront, at the heart of the company, the animation has also seen its share of achievement this year, most recently with Moana, but best of all with this year’s earlier original animated feature Zootopia. Set in a world of anthropomorphized animals, the film unexpectedly and skillfully explored themes like racial profiling and stereotyping. Its subversive nature made it soar above the rest of the animated films this year, in a genre that is increasingly exploring all that it can be capable of, and hopefully people will start paying more attention.


Our Top 5 Worst Films of 2016

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

This is, perhaps, the movie that stands out most from this year in terms of its divisiveness. It has set the stage for the expanding DC Extended Universe and has left half its audience less than thrilled. Batman v Superman was many things — a slog, incoherent, messy — but more than anything else it was a poorly constructed film that respected its characters and mythology very minimally and proved, in combination with Man of Steel, that Zack Snyder is not the one who should be steering this ship.

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Ben-Hur

From our review: “Even though this film is pushed as “different” from the original, it’s nothing but an off-brand version of the 1959 classic — and that’s a shame. Bekmambetov, who has directed some wildly action-packed movies like Night Watch and Wanted, could have flipped this movie completely on its head into something crazy different, but instead, it turned out to be a boring, uninspired Cliff Notes version of the superior original.”

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Zoolander 2

From our review: “Zoolander 2 is stacked with so much nonsense, there seems to be no other possible outcome but for it to topple over. It plays out like a B-movie that would have been made by Cannon Films in the ’80s. It’s garish, tacky, tasteless, and forcefully funny. The only difference is that Cannon Films would have made it watchable. Sure, you can make movies that are awesomely bad. This is not one of them.”

suicide-squad-groupWarner Bros. Pictures

Suicide Squad

This is strike two for Warner Bros. Pictures’ DC division this year. Following the hectic mess of Batman v Superman, there was still excitement and promise threaded in the villain-driven Suicide Squad. Unfortunately, it was quickly realized upon the release of the film that it was another failed experiment.

From our review: “Sure, it has humor and a little more soul, but it still lacks the touch of someone who cares with all his/her comic book-loving heart. Ayer and Snyder seemed more concerned with making a totally awesome pic for guys who used to beat up on nerds rather than a movie that has a deep-seated affection for the rich history of these beloved characters.”

gods-of-egypt bannerSummit Entertainment

Gods of Egypt

The now largely forgettable Gods of Egypt was rightly accused of white-washing, posing the film for failure from the get-go. Combine that with the fact that it’s also a bloated, over-the-top film that is truly bad, but also commits to its badness. There’s something fascinating about but unfortunately in the midst of its giant budget and all of the CGI, the film instead simply becomes a messy blur with questionable performances and a completely incoherent yet oddly cohesive structure.

Yesterday we discussed our best and worst picks for television in 2016 and tomorrow we’ll be looking at the best film rights of the year, followed by the all-time best of the year, as well as what to look forward to in 2017.

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