‘Tis the season for various critics groups and professional organizations to hand out their annual movie awards, recognizing various achievements in acting, writing and other areas of film production. These awards are prestigious but ultimately lacking in diversity and what audiences are truly seeking when they go to their local theater. To remedy that, we here at Bullz-Eye have created the Alternative Film Awards, which celebrates some lesser-acknowledged movies and performances that also shone bright in 2016. (Warning: Some mild spoilers follow.)
The airport fight in “Captain America: Civil War”
There were more technically impressive action scenes in 2016, but what the Russo brothers captured so well with this set piece is spectacle and emotion. It highlighted the best parts of serialization and an expanded cinematic universe, and because audiences know these characters and care about them (possibly even siding with both parties as they each make excellent points), they are invested in seeing what happens when they clash. Add to that the fact that the sequence imitated the type of big, splash-page brawls often found in comic books (with multiple skirmishes happening at once), not to mention the admittedly cool sight of Spider-Man and Giant Man squaring off, and it’s no surprise why the moment was hailed as an instant classic among fans.
Runner-Up: The entirety of “Kill Zone 2”
No one really knows if James Mangold’s Old Man Wolverine film will be any good. The first Wolverine solo outing was garbage, and while the second one has its moments, it’s a rather forgettable affair. But already Mangold has audiences clamoring for this movie due to its powerful trailer. Scenes of a desolate future and a broken hero are accompanied by Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” as it seems there’s actually real emotion at work in between all of the rage-fueled slashings. Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart seem to be truly invested in telling this mournful tale of the future of everyone’s favorite Canadian superhero, and the striking imagery is enough to leave audiences intrigued and wanting more. Even if “Logan” doesn’t deliver, at least it gifted us with this excellent trailer before letting us all down.
Runner-Up: “The Handmaiden”
Patrick Stewart, “Green Room”
Despite the abundance of comic book movies, complete with their own supervillains, and a whole host of other antagonists, Patrick Stewart stands far above the rest in his measured and creepy portrayal as the head of a cruel group of Neo-Nazis. In a script that could be seen as eerily prophetic for 2016 with its depiction of the calm, effective new face of the so-called “alt-right” movement (again, Nazis), Stewart shines as a malevolent baddie that dispatches dogs and foot soldiers to do away with the interloping punk band at the heart of “Green Room.” Using threats, lies, calculated moves and disturbingly efficient tactics, Stewart is a force to be reckoned with that oozes with menace even when he’s at his most agreeable.
Runner-Up: The deadly trio in “The Neon Demon”
Horror auteur Mike Flanagan has yet to make a bad movie. “Absentia,” “Oculus,” “Hush” and “Ouija: The Origin of Evil” are all strong horror films populated by great performances, killer sequences and mesmerizing imagery. While most people are probably not familiar with his work (although many people saw “Hush” and the “Ouija” sequel last year, they likely don’t know the director’s name), he has proven his ability to deliver uniquely told stories that are riveting and original forays into the genre. Even within the well-worn territory of home invasion films or the possible danger zone of forgettable sequels, Flanagan always finds something new and scary to say. And he’s managed to do this all without a particularly big budget, so just imagine what he could do with real financing.
Runner-Up: Jeremy Saulnier
The chase so nice they show it twice, during the opening credits and then again midway through the movie. The sequence isn’t particularly inventive, at least when compared to “The Matrix Reloaded” or “The Raid 2,” but it’s a fun moment in “Deadpool” that perfectly blends together the adult humor with the mature sense of brutality that permeates the film. In both versions – the slowed-down CGI exploration in the opening and the sped-up, action-packed sequence in the middle – the stunt coordinators show off their vision and execution of using a small space and unusual weaponry to dole out punishment to the unfortunate henchmen that the Merc with a Mouth dispatches. While most of the memorable parts of “Deadpool” are the various lines and bits of dialogue, this scene stands out as a great showcase for the character and seemingly the spiritual guide at the heart of the film.
Runner-Up: “Captain America: Civil War”
“Hell or High Water”
David Mackenzie’s “Hell or High Water” is a great film to watch with your parents, although be forewarned that there is some violence and one short sex scene. It blends the language of older films (noirs and westerns) with the modern day financial situation to produce a hybrid that is unique and speaks to multiple generations. It also features young actors in the leads (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) as well as a grizzled old cowboy chasing them down (Jeff Bridges), so everyone has someone with whom they can identify with and cheer on. That “old versus new world” theme is very much on the film’s mind as it ponders the current situation of banks’ greed along with the impending retirement of the old-fashioned Texas Ranger who’s trying to make sense of it all. A spiritual successor to “No Country for Old Men,” this is a perfect movie that multiple generations can enjoy together and take different interpretations away from it.
My favorite film of the year is one that I’ll never, ever watch with a family member – especially not my parents. It’s a perfectly executed tale with ingenious twists and turns, brilliant performances, indelible images and a completely original story of women defining their own destinies. Having said all that… it’s just too darn sexy. Putting aside the multiple sex scenes, there’s also the weird erotica readings that are performed throughout the movie and the awkward lusting of the uncle character (and his retribution late in the film). There aren’t enough shades of red to describe the blushing people would be doing sitting down with their parents to collectively watch Park Chan-Wook’s erotically charged masterpiece. So by all means, hurry and see this exquisite film; but for God’s sake, do not do so with your parents.
Runner-Up: “The Greasy Strangler”
2016 brought a bunch of movies based on comic books to theaters (six in total), but only one stood out from the rest: Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange.” Although this Marvel film has similar beats to other origin stories (mostly “Iron Man” and “Thor”), it delivers amazing visuals in its depiction of otherworldly battle. And beyond the spectacular imagery, there’s a lot going on in the script as well. This is a film that takes a moment to have the hero realize (and recant) that he killed a foe in combat and wrestles with the moral implications of that. It is also the only comic book movie that has a unique ending where the hero actually outsmarts his opponent and suffers many defeats in order to seize victory. A brilliant script paired with outstanding visuals, “Doctor Strange” reigned above the rest of the comic book fare this year.
John Goodman, “10 Cloverfield Lane”
There were a lot of incredible performances in 2016 by some exceptionally talented actors, and while most of those roles will be recognized, there are always a few performances that are forgotten as the year wears on, either due to the film’s genre or timing. This year, that performance comes from John Goodman in “10 Cloverfield Lane.” A complicated and complex role that blends patriarchal caring with lustful menace, Goodman’s Howard is a fascinating watch that vacillates between being an unhinged lunatic and the only sane person in the room. Using the audience’s familiarity with Goodman and his ability to project warmth and kindness so easily, the film subverts those feelings with the encroaching dread that comes from his ever-increasing paranoia and need to control. It’s a brilliant performance that probably won’t be formally recognized by any organization, but it’s one that many people will revisit again and again.
Runner-Up: Ryan Gosling, “The Nice Guys”
“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”
Every year, there are a handful of brilliant films that fall through the cracks and never get the critical or commercial success they’re due. Some of these are festival favorites that get a botched distribution, but most are films that just never clicked with audiences the first time out, only to become cult favorites years later. In truth, 2016 had a bunch of comedies like that this year (“The Nice Guys,” “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”), but none will be embraced more than Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” A joyous movie about the families we create and the bonds we forge, it’s a throwback to the Amblin adventure films of the 1980s. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, fun, surprising and infinitely quotable. Hopefully, it will gain that much deserved cult following and people will be talking about the exploits of Ricky Baker for many years to come.
Runner-Up: “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”