With Christmas come and gone, and just a few days left of 2016, we’re very nearly at the end of our month-look binge of the best and worst of the year at the movies. We’ve got a couple more features still to come, but despite the thousands of words we’ve already dropped, there’s still lots more to talk about that didn’t quite fit in one of the existing features we already had.
And so comes an annual piece we refer to as the grab-bag: a chaotic, unruly, sprawling look at basically whatever we want, with a particular focus on films, or elements of films, that we haven’t talked about elsewhere. It’s a fun way to start to round off our year-end coverage, one we always enjoy writing, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading. Take a look below.
Short of a Martha Plimpton-starring reboot of “Orphan Black” or a re-release of German comedy “Mostly Martha,” this has to go to “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice”
Plenty of contenders, but our absolute fave came from a man not normally known for his comedy: rap pioneer Nas. In the delightful and underrated “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” he’s is one of a host of celebrity talking heads lamenting the break-up of Conner4Real (Andy Samberg)’s former band The Style Boyz. “I haven’t been that sad since they killed Josh Charles on ‘The Good Wife’,” the rapper mourns, in perfect deadpan: It might be a niche gag, but it’s a good one.
Best Randomly Surreal One-Liner
It’s neither big nor clever, but Ryan Gosling describing a near-sighted woman in Shane Black‘s “The Nice Guys” by saying, “Paint a mustache on a Volkswagen, she’ll say, ‘Oh boy, that Omar Sharif sure does run fast,” made me (Jess) want to go and drink a glass of milk just so I could spray it out of my nose retroactively.
Best Use Of Subtext In A Title Card
“Divine Presence To Be Shot” in the film-within-a-film in “Hail, Caesar!”
Best Elocution Lesson
The “Would that it were so simple” scene in “Hail, Caesar!” Sorry, “Would that it t’were so simple.” Would that it were so simple. Would that it were so simple. Would that it were so simple. Would that it were so simple. Trippingly. Would that it were so simple trippingly. Would that it were so sim…
Worst Movie Location
After lousy Natalie Dormer-starring horror movie “The Forest” and doubly lousy Gus Van Sant drama “Sea Of Trees,” we’d advise against seeing, or making, any further movies that use Aokigahara, the ‘suicide forest’ at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, as a backdrop ever again. Ever.
Worst Plot Twists
In a twist of our own, this is split between two equally awful movies, in part because they have five equally stupid twists between them. Perhaps we could have forgiven Gus Van Sant’s “Sea Of Trees” for deluding itself into thinking that you wouldn’t guess as soon as you met Ken Watanabe’s character that he would turn out to be a ghost. But making you think that Naomi Watts had died of cancer, only to reveal that she survived the cancer but died in an ambulance crash on the way back from the hospital is cruel and sadistic even by the standards of the vast category ‘Awful Things That Have Happened To Naomi Watts In Movies.’ Meanwhile, the first, uh, surprise of “Collateral Beauty” — that the co-workers of grieving ad exec Will Smith have hired actors to pretend to be the manifestations of Death, Love and Time in order to coax him out of depression — is not so much a twist as the actual premise of the movie, but it piles on two more dumbass revelations near the end, where it emerges that not only have Smith and Naomie Harris been pretending not to have been married the whole movie, but also that the actors ACTUALLY ARE DEATH, LOVE AND TIME. Yes, it is a real movie. Special dishonorable mention, too, to Ben Affleck and Jon Bernthal turning out to be brothers in “The Accountant” and, of course, to “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” (see “Most Marthas”).
Best Plot Twists
It’s unusual for a documentary to take this prize, but the excellent “Tickled” easily walks away with this prize this year. Seemingly initially intended to be a fluffier film about the sub-culture of competitive tickling, it quite swiftly goes into darker territory of threats, blackmail and extortion that we won’t spoil here.
Best Icelandic Movie About Rams
“Rams,” an Icelandic movie about rams (or more, accurately, two estranged sheep-farming brothers). It won the top prize at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2015, and it’s actually great!
The Why Is This A Movie Award
Literally years, and thousands of man hours, went into making a movie of “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies,” which, as the title suggests, resets Jane Austen’s classic romance to be set among a zombie plague. Even David O. Russell was going to make it at one point, with Natalie Portman starring. And then we watched the thing, which finally came out this year to a resounding “oh, is that a real thing? I thought it was a SNL sketch. I’ll probably just stay in and chill, to be honest” from the public, and we couldn’t work out who it was aimed at or why it existed, except perhaps as a sinister stealth move to convince you that maybe Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” sucks.
Runner-up: “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.” This sequel to the already fairly random Kristen Stewart Snow White movie is a project that, before it was made, while it was on release, and now in the months subsequently, has always been the fair definition of pointless. It’s a film so forgettable that the most noteworthy thing about it is who it does not star: Kristen Stewart.
Oh, “Zoolander 2.” So many awful cameos to choose from, including the fatal mistake of trying to make Justin Bieber act, and appearances by Susan Boyle, MC Hammer, Anna Wintour and many, many more. But the worst might be an appearance from a proper actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, playing an ambiguously gendered model. With “Star Trek” forehead prosthesis and no joke to the scene beyond ‘lol, some people don’t belong to traditional gender structures,’ it’s not the absolute worst thing in the movie, but only because there’s such stiff competition.
Best Performance By An Animal In A Supporting Role
Some stiff competition here, including Steven Seagull in “The Shallows,” a movie that breaks new ground by having a bird basically play the third lead (behind Blake Lively and the shark), and the horrifying breast-feeding crow in “The Witch.” But it’s the latter’s cast mate, Black Phillip, who was the easy winner. Goats have always been a little terrifying, but the Satanic power of Black Phillip, his whispery temptations of “wouldst thou like to live deliciously,” and his murder of the family patriarch, means that we will now never trust them unless they’re already in a roti.
The ‘We Should Have Taken The Title More Literally’ Award For Feeding Our Snake-Phobia
I (and by “I,” I mean Oli) have a very crippling phobia of snakes, something that occasionally causes issues with moviegoing: I still can’t rewatch “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom,” I’ve never seen “Snakes On A Plane,” and I once jumped over the back of a sofa during “Apocalypto.” Which means that when I saw the great reviews for “Embrace Of The Serpent,” I should have paid more attention to the title, rather than assuming it was metaphor. But, no, almost as soon as it begins, it becomes clear that it isn’t. It’s still one of the best movies of the year, but I did see some of it while hyperventilating.
Most Money Earned While Barely Being Seen In America: “The Mermaid”
You probably didn’t see “The Mermaid.” It made just $3 million in the U.S., less than “Hands Of Stone,” “Don’t Think Twice” and “Denial” did. And yet the movie, by “Kung Fu Hustle” director Stephen Chow, is the 11th-top-grossing movie worldwide of 2016, taking half a billion dollars and outgrossing “X-Men: Apocalypse.” It seems like a nail in the coffin of American cultural supremacy was hammered in by a… tonally wonky riff on “Splash”…?