The movie-going and movie watching landscape continues to grow and evolve, against the industry’s will but for their benefit. 2021 saw the tail end of the extended awards season, while kinda-sorta embracing streaming as a viable option when faced with declining interest in the movie-going experience, which will more than likely become a niche endeavour, instead of a standard event. But across the board, great films continued to be released, here were my favourites from throughout the year.Continue reading “Best in Cinema 2021: Part 1 – The Films”
My list does exclude a few awards season films that are being included due to the extended award season, yet are still 2021 releases. Judas & The Black Messiah, for example, is expected to have a presence at the Oscars this year, but is technically a 2021 film, so expect that to show up round this time next year, but not on this list.Continue reading “Best in Cinema 2020: Part 2 – Individual Achievement”
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of WaterContinue reading “Best Films of 2017: Part 2 – Individual Achievement”
10 Best Films of the Year
- The Shape of Water
It’s no contest. It’s not even a debate that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is the best film of 2017. It represents, top to bottom, the very best of cinema. Guillermo’s vision is a technical and visual marvel that fully pulls you into this world he’s created, the lives of these characters. To the characters, The Shape of Water boasts a supremely impressive cast who make the world pop. Michael Shannon’s Strickland becomes one of cinema’s all time great villains, Doug Jones is at his monster best, and the true star Sally Hawkins effortlessly carries so much of the film with so little done. A silent performance, she pours every thought, every emotion, into every nod, every gesture, every look. Hawkins is perfect.
- Blade Runner 2049
Not to dismiss the rest of the film, because it’s all definitely top 10 material, but the spectacle of Blade Runner 2049 is the headline of the film. The spectacle wouldn’t be near as impressive without the great script and subdued performances, to be fair. But Denis Villeneuve builds upon this world created by Phillip K. Dick and Ridley Scott, and really picks at the over arcing narrative of humanity and what it means to be human, and a lot of that relies on the stunning visual cues, both obvious and subtle. And it’s all built around this really tight mystery the enhanced by the less showy performances from Ryan Gosling, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas and Harrison Ford, turning in probably his finest performance of his long storied career.
- Get Out
There’s a lot to unpack with this film, but all credit where it’s due, this film would have failed in lesser hands. I don’t think anyone other than Jordan Peele could have made Get Out. It’s a sharp, biting film that will be lost on a lot of audiences. And to be honest, as a white male, a lot of it was lost on me, on my first viewing. Peele’s film speaks to issues and experiences, both large and small scale, that I don’t experience, that I don’t see. It was only after hearing interviews with him where he talks about the deeper meanings behind what he was saying, that the real fear behind the film starts to take shape. Normally a film that requires a study guide doesn’t really do it’s job, but this is a case of it doing its job to an exceedingly high level. It works because it makes us take a long look at what it’s saying. It would have failed without Peele. It would have failed without Daniel Kaluuya’s knowing performance.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is perhaps the most un-Coen Coen Brothers film that exists. It keeps the big characters and dark humour, but strips away that very particular Coen cadance. All of this is of course very high praise. It doesn’t come off as a knock-off Coen film, that’s just an easy analogy for people who are unfamiliar with McDonagh’s work, and considering the blank stares I get when I reference In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths, that’s still a lot of people. But for Three Billboards, it’s sold on the power of the two leads, of Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. They just crush it every step of the way.
- The Big Sick
I don’t want to pin an entire movie on one scene… but there’s a scene in The Big Sick with Kumail Nanjiani, playing himself essentially, that just brings it all down. If you’ve seen the film, you know it, if you haven’t, you’ll know it when you see it. But it really brought the whole thing home for me. That’s what makes this romantic comedy work in all the ways most others don’t. That human element from Kumail and Zoe Kazan and Holly Hunter. You can relate to their story, whether it directly applies wholesale or not, there are elements that pluck the right strings. It’s perfectly written and very well acted.
In Dunkirk, we get Christopher Nolan’s most minimalist film, but certainly one of his more intense.
Logan gives us a double rarity in the world of superhero movies: a mature and frank look at them aging, and a character finale. And it does so beautifully.
- Wonder Woman
What sets Wonder Woman (and also Spider-Man: Homecoming) apart from the rest of the superhero pack, is that they celebrate the joy of being hero experienced by people who want to be heroes. She doesn’t see her duty as a burden. She wants to be a hero. And that’s a refreshing take on heroes.
- Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s action/music/comedy Baby Driver is just pure, unadulterated cinematic fun. Is it a popcorn flick trying to be prestige? Is it a prestige flick trying to be popcorn? It’s both. It’s popcorn and prestige.
The fantasy of Okja was wildly fun, with bordering on the cusp of a post-apocalypse. It almost feels like Joon-ho Bong wrote this as a sort of prequel to his 2013 hit Snowpiercer
Robert Eggers – The Witch
Amy Adams – Arrival
Denzel Washington – Fences
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Best Ensemble Cast
Everybody Wants Some!!
Best Original Screenplay
Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water
Best Adapted Screenplay
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Bradford Young – Arrival
Best Production Design
Ryan Warren Smith – Green Room
Best Visual Effects
Robert Legato, Visual Effects Supervisor – The Jungle Book
Ben Cooke, Stunt Coordinator – Assassin’s Creed
Justin Hurwitz – La La Land
‘Drive it Like You Stole It’ from Sing Street
Honourable Mentions: ‘City of Stars’ from La La Land; ‘I’m So Humble’ from Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
10 Best Films of the Year
Arrival was exactly the movie we needed at exactly the right time. We have been offered so many dire, apocalyptic visions of alien contact, in the form of invasion, that it was… well, truly inspiring for director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer to approach the concept from a place of hope. There’s a quiet, unassuming quality to Arrival that reassures the audience that even though it appears, at face value, to be frightening, there is ultimately nothing to fear. Amy Adams delivers a stellar performance that impresses without being showy.
- The Witch
The Witch‘s selling point is the mood. It’s a horror film, but in the classical sense. It’s as tense as they come. And the way writer/director Robert Eggers is able to layer everything together to create such a gorgeous film is damn fine filmmaking. If one aspect of the process didn’t work, it would have thrown everything else off. If one performance was out of place, if the cinematography didn’t quite work. But everything was on point.
- Hell or High Water
What’s great about Hell or High Water is that it doesn’t reinvent the Western. It sort of wanders through the first act unremarkably. But the deeper we get into Taylor Sheridan’s script, the more Ben Foster, a career-best Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges unfold the story, the more they pull you in. They build characters you really care about.
- Everybody Wants Some!!
It’s no secret Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused is my all time favourite film. There’s a brilliance to the film where nothing happens, and everything happens. Much like D&C, Everybody Wants Some!! is about the characters growing. There’s no hero’s arc. There’s no goal to accomplish. It’s just here are these guys in the first week of college. No one does character pieces like Linklater. And the cinematic world is better for it.
- The Nice Guys
I can’t pin down exactly what worked best with Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, but it’s a whole lot of everything. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was the delicious appetizer in his meta-sans-the-wink examination of comedy noir, while The Nice Guys was a fantastic main course. Black plays like a less bleak, not quite as a dark Coen Brother. He toys with your expectations of storytelling, of comedy, of mystery thrillers, and delivers some damn fine cinema.
- Captain America: Civil War
Civil War is as damn near a perfect superhero movie. We get the best aspects of the genre all rolled into one film. The modern era god myths. The political and social allegories. We get fantastic performances, a wonderful, intricatly crafted story. One thing the Marvel films struggled with early on was serving the universe, while still being a great film in their own right, but Civil War perfects that.
- Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier crafts beautiful, tense thrillers. Green Room is a beautiful bottle-episode thriller. He film’s an aesthetically pleasing film that locks its characters in a box with wasps and kicks that box. Every step of the way, Saulnier ups the ante, but it doesn’t feel over the top. The film goes precisely where it needs to go each and every time, and it’s anchored by great performances from Patrick Stewart and the late Anton Yelchin.
- Kubo & The Two Strings
The first thing you notice about Kubo & The Two Strings is how gods damn beautiful it looks. The major animation houses have a great technical appreciation of creating animation, but Kubo focuses on the art of it. Yet where Kubo excels is the amazing family story that’s told. A boy and his family. A son and his parents. Kubo is a glorious marriage of masterful storytelling and gorgeous animation-as-art.
Not to downplay Denzel’s directorial efforts, but this film belongs to the writer and actors (which, Denzel also is among, so he doesn’t escape praise-free). August Wilson adapted his own stage play for the film (though the screenplay was unfinished when he passed over 10 years ago, and was finished by Tony Kushner), and all of the adult cast members reprise their roles from the Tony winning Broadway revival. What we’re treated to is a powerful character study in Troy’s role as a father, a husband, an employee and a black man in 1950s Pittsburgh. Denzel delivers one of his career best performances, then Viola Davis walks on set and puts him to shame.
- Midnight Special
I’ll preface this by saying that there were certainly better films this year than writer/director Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special which could occupy this 10th spot. But I loved this film on a level that it didn’t feel right not including it in the top 10. And really, any of the honourable mentions below could also occupy this spot, but this is one I didn’t feel got a lot of love over the year, getting lost in the shuffle. Which is too bad because it truly is a remarkable film. Netflix gave us a great modern take on the kid-adventure flicks of the 80s with Stranger Things. We got that in the cinemas with Midnight Special. It’s a less whimsical look at E.T. or Flight of the Navigator. Not as dark as Stranger Things. But still a great small scale sci-fi flick with great performances from Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon and the kid, Jaeden Lieberher.
This is the start of more videos. In addition to weekly written reviews, I’ll be posting video reviews, too. This was just a montage “year in review” video. Enjoy.
It’s been a record breaking year for me at the movies. It was my first year as a full fledged professional film critic (doin’ it on the radio). Not only did I break my previous record of 4 for most films seen in theatres in a single 3 day weekend, which is now at 5, but I also broke my record for most films seen in theatres in a calender year. In 2004 I set that record at 70. This year, I destroyed it with a final tally of 103.
And now, because I work in broadcasting and have the means to do this, I present to you, 4 montages of all 103 films, in near sequential order.
The movie posters each represent the best film (with a 2009 release) of each quarter. Clicking them will take you to the audio file of the montages. Below each poster, I’ve provided a sequential list of the movie clips, as well as song info. Enjoy!
Movie Clips: Gran Torino, Bride Wars, Last Chance Harvey, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Slumdog Millionaire, Rachel Getting Married, Taken, Frost/Nixon, Push, He’s Just Not That Into You, The International, Friday the 13th, Fired Up, Watchmen, Race To Witch Mountain, The Last House on the Left, Duplicity, I Love You Man, Monsters vs. Aliens, 12 Rounds
Song Used: Academy Award Winning ‘Jai Ho’ by A.R. Rachman from Slumdog Millionaire.
Movie Clips: Adventureland, Fast & Furious, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Observe and Report, Crank 2 High Voltage, 17 Again, Obsessed, State of Play, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Star Trek, Sunshine Cleaning, Angels & Demons, Terminator: Salvation, Night at The Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian, Up, Drag Me To Hell, Land of the Lost, The Hangover, The Proposal, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Imagine That, The Year One, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, My Sister’s Keeper
Song Used: ‘Sabotage’ by Beastie Boys (was used in Star Trek)
Movie Clips: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Public Enemies, I Love You Beth Cooper, Bruno, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Ugly Truth, G-Force, Funny People, The Collector, GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra, Julie & Julia, District 9, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Post Grad, Inglourious Basterds, H2, Gamer, All About Steve, Whiteout, The Final Destination 3D (ok, didn’t make the clip, but who’s gonna miss it really?), Sorority Row, Extract, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Jennifer’s Body, The Informant, 9, Pandorum, Surrogates
Song Used: ‘Ten Million Slaves’ by Otis Taylor (used in trailer for Public Enemies)
Movie Clips: Zombieland, Whip-it!, Couples Retreat, Where The Wild Things Are, Law Abiding Citizen, Saw VI, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Paranormal Activity, A Christmas Carol, The Men Who Stare At Goats, 2012, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Planet 51, The Blind Side, Coco avant Chanel, Ninja Assassin, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Old Dogs, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Brothers, Armored, Everybody’s Fine, Invictus, The Princess and the Frog, Avatar, Did You Hear About The Morgans?, Sherlock Holmes, It’s Complicated
Song Used: ‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire (used in trailer for Where The Wild Things Are)