And now, the not-so-thrilling conclusion!
Welcome back to The 2nd Annual Callum Petch Awards, a ceremony that is not in the slightest bit egocentric cos that’s the name of the site so hush! If you missed the first half of our, seemingly mostly negative this year, awards yesterday, then you can go find them here! Otherwise, hang in there, cos there really is nothing else separating you from the Bottom 10 list once this is all done, promise.
The Alison Pill Award (Deserves Better)
Winner: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’s entire cast
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates should have been a homerun of a movie. You got Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza playing the leads in a raucous, hard-R comedy with rom-com and sex-com strains running through it. There’s a simple, ridiculous premise to it, a firm structure to build the film around, some of the most talented comic actors and actresses working today toplining it, and Jake Szymanski of the brilliant 7 Days in Hell behind the camera. Now all we need is for the writers of Bad Neighbours, a film that had no right to be as fantastic as it was, to bash out a quality script, or even any script, and that homerun of a movie should be with us any day now! …any day now. … … …any day?
I shouldn’t have been surprised that the extent of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’s script consisted of an ad for a free two-month vacation to Hawaii and nothing else, trying to find an American feature-length comedy with a quality base-script nowadays is like hunting for legitimate compassion in any of Paul Ryan’s monotonously shit-filled speeches. But I am annoyed, all the same, that Mike and Dave leaves the cast to flounder and improv their way through every single scene. It’s not that the film isn’t funny – I chuckled, and occasionally laughed, enough to feel like I hadn’t had my time wasted, mainly because this cast really are just that irresistibly charming – it’s that this cast should have been applying their energies to a solid script rather than having to waste them making one up for themselves, because, dammit, this cast deserves better! Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza both starred in Dirty Grandpa, this year! I’m worried for them, folks!
Runners-Up: ALISON PILL, Emily Blunt’s performance in The Girl on the Train, Hardcore Henry, I, Daniel Blake, Kristen Bell
In her defence, Alison Pill did spend much of this year pregnant and seems perfectly happy and content with her life and career right now – she’s even apparently in Miss Sloane, which I’m hopeful can overcome the whole “directed by John Madden” thing. Still, she always deserves better, and definitely deserves better usage in a Coen Brothers movie than a one-scene Wife cameo where she’s out-of-focus in the shot for the vast majority of it, COME ON!
Winner: Illumination Entertainment
Yes, I have technically given positive reviews to six of Illumination’s six released films so far. Yes, I have enjoyed myself at those three movies, and I have often laughed uproariously at each of them. But, and as I have mentioned several times before, Illumination are coasting, curiously lacking much in the way of imagination, and surprisingly incapable of telling a decently-structured story – go re-watch The Secret Life of Pets and pay attention to just how poorly disjointed and slapdash that whole excuse for a narrative is. They seem positively allergic to unique and distinctive identities, preferring instead to go for the most generic and calculated-for-mass-appeal premises and style as possible. The Despicable Me series is funny but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what separates it from Hotel Transylvania in terms of comedy stylings. The Secret Life of Pets abandons its intimate observational humour within 15 minutes to instead become another loud CG cartoon-fest. And do not even get me started on Sing – it’s not out here for another fortnight but it’s gonna take a goddamn miracle for me to be convinced that it’s not abysmal based on all the evidence so far.
And yet these films make money. Not just money, they make bank. Specifically, The Secret Life of Pets made 12.5x the amount worldwide that Kubo and the Two Strings managed to do. That’s insane, and it means that Illumination are unquestionably one of the big dogs on campus in the Animation game. And I personally believe that that kind of standing in the world should bring with it a sense of responsibility, to try harder, to aim higher, or at the very least to display basic storytelling capabilities, Jesus Christ. There’s nothing inherently wrong with just making joke machines, but the joke machines that work the best and stick around are the ones with actual tangible soul in their constructions and basic narrative ability. Currently, I’m seeing little evidence that Illumination exist for a reason beyond lining Universal’s pockets with dirt-cheap-to-make disposable kids’ movies, and trying to play catch-up to Disney’s merchandising stranglehold on the planet. And now Chris Meledandri (the head of Illumination and former head of fellow indistinct C-tier animation studio Blue Sky Studios) has control of DreamWorks Animation. I’m probably not going to change anything – why make the effort to change when the public already adore the generic slop you’re serving them? – but I wish to high-heaven that Illumination would just try harder. Please. I’m sick of giving them extra chances.
Runners-Up: Blockbusters again, Paramount, The DC Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros.
Scroll down to the 2016 films on this Wikipedia list of films released by Warner Bros. throughout the years. With very rare exceptions, that’s less a release slate and more a goddamn rap sheet. Come on, Warner Bros.! Be less shit! And stop trying to make every fucking movie Batman – Tarzan Batman, Autistic Batman, Frank Miller Batman – for the love of God!
Falls apart at the end (MAJOR SPOILERS)
Winner: Captain America: Civil War
We’re going to properly get into this one later on in this series – which, since there’s only one set of articles left, has probably given the game away somewhat – but needless to say, the ending to Civil War has yet to fail at making me livid. If the film had simply cut to black with Cap dropping his shield and walking away, gone straight to credits, then maybe I’d be sat here talking up Civil War as one of the best films of the MCU so far. Instead, Civil War goes on for another 10 minutes solely so that it can deflate all of the hard tonal work it had put in up to that point with a distractingly unnecessary Stan Lee cameo – in fact, I’m also gonna be that guy who comes right out and says it: Stan Lee needs to stop cameoing in these movies, no exceptions – and then a letter from Cap to Tony in which Marvel proceeds to rub the audience’s faces into the fact that absolutely nothing of what they’ve just watched matters, because everyone will be best buds again by the time Infinity War comes out. Again, I’ve got a full argument about this prepped for later where I’ll be far less reductive, but, yeah, I really have not seen a worse example of a great film face-planting onto its own knife seconds away from the finish line this year. I’m still angry about this!
What hurts most about Swiss Army Man’s complete and total catastrophic collapse during its final 15/20 minutes, is that I cannot see a version of this film that ends any other way. Hank and Manny have to get back to reality, that life-affirming escapism has to brush against harsh reality, the film has to bring up uncomfortable questions and connotations about mental-illness, and the film basically has to systematically destroy everything it spent the previous 75 minutes meticulously creating, save for one brilliant final shot. There’s no climax otherwise, and the film would just have to abruptly end. Even with that knowledge, I really wish it did just randomly stop before the finale, though, because that finale really does bring down everything that came before.
Winner: Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods
“Oh, here we go,” I thought upon entering the cinema. “Here comes a cheapo Asterix movie that’s trying to trumpet its existence purely off of a no-name English dub and the fact that Finding Dory’s already been out for two weeks. This’ll be a drain to suffer through.” But something funny happened as Mansions of the Gods ran on… I was laughing. Properly laughing. I was laughing, I was intrigued by the film’s surprisingly clever social and imperialist satire, I was quite charmed by the animation… I was having fun! Actual fun! Enough fun to wish that the film had maybe handled its race satire better, or didn’t take so long (30 minutes) to find its groove, or that the dub the film was saddled with was actually any good, but these were nit-picks being made out constructive feedback for how a Good Film could have become a Great Film. I was really pleasantly-surprised by Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods, more so than I was by any other film this year – on a ratio of “expected quality:actual quality” – and it’s a nice reminder that sometimes judging a book by its cover can lead to you unfairly writing off damn good experiences without even knowing it.
You have already forgotten about this one, as has sadly everybody else, but Queen of Katwe is a really enjoyable and really sweet underdog sports drama that feels like a throwback to this genre’s heyday in the late 80s and early 90s. Which, you know, of course it is, because it’s a Disney underdog sports drama and those films still hold up today, with Katwe frequently channelling the spirit of Cool Runnings, albeit without that film’s occasionally condescending tone towards its protagonists.
Winner: The Neon Demon
Ugh, this hurts to type. I was gagging for The Neon Demon, full-on gagging for it! I pitched a fit when it didn’t get shown in any cinemas near me, I cursed my overzealous spending habits when I had insufficient funds to go to a special local screening of it, and I pawed at the window of a closed HMV stocking the Blu-Ray of it one time. So, when I finally got around to watching it at the end of the year as part of The Great List Blitz of 2016, after having heard such strong and passionate divisive words from a whole bunch of my friends about it, imagine my disappointment when I threw on The Neon Demon, leaned forward on my sofa with the speakers turned all the way up so that I could properly immerse myself in the newest work from Nicolas Winding Refn, and… was thoroughly, totally, and completely bored.
Like most people, I don’t love all of Refn’s films, although I did adore Only God Forgives for whatever that’s worth, but I have always at the very least found them all interesting watches. There’s normally so much going on in a Refn movie – visually, audibly, thematically, symbolically, or just plain spectacularly – that I’m still engaged even when the film is less than good. Yet, somehow, The Neon Demon did nothing to engage me. The whole thing feels like an uncharacteristic half-measure from Refn: it’s not visually intoxicating enough, it’s not weird enough, it’s not striking enough, it’s not shocking enough, it doesn’t hammer down on its blunt theme of how fame and specifically the fashion industry preys upon young women’s narcissism and self-interest enough… Instead it all just feels empty, disinterested with itself, with every scene (and I do mean every scene) running for at least a minute longer than is necessary for no reason, needlessly pushing the film up to the two-hour mark, the longest of any of Refn’s works to date. You could watch this at 1.5x speed and lose absolutely nothing.
Only another sensational Cliff Martinez score saves this one from being a complete write-off, and that upsets me. In a world currently in the midst of worrying change, I like to have my constants, and I could always rely on Nicolas Winding Refn to make interesting and arresting movies. In no sane world should I be bored by a movie that features Jena Malone fucking a corpse!
Runners-Up: A United Kingdom, Captain America: Civil War, I, Daniel Blake, Kung Fu Panda 3, The Girl on the Train
Kung Fu Panda 3 is nowhere near bad, let me make that abundantly clear, it is a damn solid and often great little film. It’s just not what I personally wanted out of a sequel to Kung Fu Panda 2, one of the best animated films of the decade. It screws with the Comedy:Drama balance and ends up leaning too heavily on the comedy side for my tastes, and whilst it is a perfectly entertaining film and features a nice send-off for the franchise as a whole should they choose it, I personally feel that screwing dilutes the specific appeal which made KFP2 so extraordinary.
As I mentioned… somewhere in the outset of this whole series, my mind spent much of the year preoccupied with things other than movies. Brexit, the US Presidential Election, my dissertation, radio responsibilities, unresolved crushes (which are the worst and I advise against not having them), crippling loneliness, multiple breakdowns of varying degrees of intensity… A lot of stuff occupied my 366 days. As such, many films that I really enjoyed and thought were great slipped my mind completely by year’s end. I had intended to revisit a lot of them for The Great List Blitz of 2016, but my now living at home rather than at university put pay to much of that. So, before we close this out, here are the films I have down as liking at the time, but can’t remember much about and that’s why you didn’t see any trace of them in these pieces outside of some honourable mentions.
The Films I Missed
And FINALLY, 145 eligible films is a lot of films to watch in a year – I often get full-on agog responses whenever people ask me how many films I see a year, true story – but it is nowhere near close to all of the films that are released in a year (or the amount of films I would like to see in a year). Therefore, here are a list of the biggest name films, both good and bad, that I missed out on completely for one reason or another. Feel free to judge me with scorn, I don’t care.
A Bigger Splash, Chronic, Fifty Shades of Black, Jane Got a Gun, Victoria, God’s Not Dead 2, Race, Embrace of the Serpent, Fire at Sea, Tale of Tales, Star Trek: Beyond, Ben-Hur, Tickled, Deepwater Horizon, Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children, The Girl with All the Gifts, Ethel & Ernest, A Streetcat Named Bob.
OK, that’s everything. Tomorrow, we finally begin the countdown of My Bottom 10 Films of 2016.
Callie Petch touches and feels their way through delight.