Magazine article Variety

The Year in Movies

Magazine article Variety

The Year in Movies

Article excerpt

Were you thrilled or disappointed in the films this year? In an effort to sum up the themes of the last 12 months of cinema, we posed three questions to a panel of Variety critics and pundits.

1.How do you rate the 2016 slate against those of previous years?

2.What was the biggest scandal or mosttalked-about issue of the year?

3.What aspect of film this year made you stand up and cheer?

Not surprising, there was wild variation among their answers. There were highs ("Moonlight") and lows (the Nate Parker fiasco). Also not surprising: Politics were a big part of the conversation. Here's how our panel weighed in.

ANDREW BARKER

Senior features writer

1 On the whole, 2016 had more than its share of disappointments: unusually soul-crushing sequels, middling attempted Oscar-bait, and some head-scratching misfires from typically reliable directors.

But any year in which moviegoers are treated to a genuine masterpiece from artists they hadn't previously heard of has to go down as a successful one, so thanks to "Moonlight" (1), it's hard to be anything other than grateful for 2016. Barry Jenkins, Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Nicholas Britell: These are names that didn't mean a lot to me last February, but just the thought of seeing them on a future film poster is enough to pique my interest.

2 Aside from Michael Moore's quickie documentary, no film released in 2016 (and probably few scheduled for 2017) was made explicitly in response to the rise of Donald Trump. But rarely has a single historical event helped shift my perspective of the cinematic year on a dime. Some films I'd seen just before the election felt immediately dated; others that hadn't made an initial impact gained sudden relevance. It was shocking how prescient the year's crop of documentaries suddenly felt, none more so than Raoul Peck's James Baldwin study, "I Am Not Your Negro."

3 It was an indisputably great year for film music - I say that even as someone who was left lukewarm by "La La Land" (2) - and I was happy to see that despite the many established composers the Academy could have rewarded, four of the five Oscar-nominated scores came from first-time nominees. Most heartening was the attention for Mica Levi ("Jackie").

GEOFF BERKSHIRE

Associate features editor

1 The Oscar race was a letdown for me, but I'd call the overall year outstanding. Some contenders are worthy of hallof-fame status ("Moonlight," "La La Land"), but who cares what's nominated for best picture when you can sit back and enjoy a diverse menu of great movies that weren't: "American Honey" "The Edge of Seventeen," "Aquarius," "Elle" "Christine" "The Handmaiden" "Loving" "My Life As a Zucchini," "The Lobster" "Sing Street," "10 Cloverfield Lane" "Nocturnal Animals," "13th"

2 The controversy around

"Ghostbusters" was sexist and disturbing - and a foreshadowing of bigger scandals to come in the presidential election. As fanboys whined about a female cast taking over their beloved franchise, the entertainment media feasted on a middling box office performance for a movie that probably should've been better but easily could've been worse. And then Hollywood was able to throw up its collective hands and say "We tried," while going back to business as usual.

3 We take it for granted now, but there was no guarantee "Moonlight" would break out of the arthouse circuit and be the No. 2 most-nominated movie of the year. For the Academy that looked at "Brokeback Mountain" and "Boyhood" and said, "We'll vote for the other one," recognition of Barry Jenkins' sublime achievement would mark a sea change in the kind of movie that can win best picture. No disrespect to "La La Land," but that would be something to sing about.

PETER DEBRUGE

Chief film critic

1 The year delivered a wealth of great cinema - assuming you could find it among the sequel- and superherodominated megaplex culture, that is. …

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