Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Screentest Awards

Last time, I wrote about the biggest disappointments/worst movies, but luckily, there was actually a pretty long list of great movies as well last year, so I found it very difficult to make a Top 10 list. I will deliver one anyway, but first, in order to honour some of the great films that didn’t quite get there, I’m also going to give out a few tailor-made awards, so here we go:

Best Double Feature
If you were like me, but rich, you’d be in the cinema constantly, sometimes several times a day. And if there ever were any two completely unrelated films that should be watched together, it’s these two:

War on Everyone & The Nice Guys
Both John Michael McDonagh and Shane Black have the gift of a completely unique and recognisable voice. McDonagh skirts the line between absurdly funny and darkly serious like no one else and Black is a master of setting up and subverting expectations. How great then, that they both decided to take on the somewhat fossilized buddy cop genre in the same year. War on Everyone might be a bit darker, while The Nice Guys is funnier, but these films blend into each other seamlessly when it comes to the elusive “atmosphere” they capture.                 War on Everyone is incidentally also the best film of 2016 that nobody saw, at least according to the audience at the screening I visited.

Best use of licensed music
The Oscars award their Award for the best original song, but a well-placed licensed piece of music can be just as effective. Early in the year, 10 Cloverfield Lane changed the way I listened to “I think we’re alone now” forever, Anton Yelchin and his crew get into big trouble for their cover of “Nazi Punks, Fuck Off” by the Dead Kennedys, Kubo and the Two Strings ends with a brilliant cover of “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”, but the price ultimately goes to

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” in Captain Fantastic

Not only is it a great cover, the way it plays in the movie is simply one of the most beautiful things I experienced in the cinema all year. Sadly, it’s not on Spotify, otherwise it would be in all my playlists. Alas, a link to Youtube will suffice.

Best Soundtrack
Since we are already talking about music, there was one Soundtrack this year that captured me more than any other, especially since I haven't even seen the film yet.


I haven’t even seen the film, and I refuse to do so, because there are no original language screenings anywhere and I already tried and failed to sit through the German version of Frozen. But oh, that Soundtrack, I just can’t get enough of it. With the words of absolute musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda and New Zealand musician Opetaia Fo’ai, it’s a soundtrack that consists of nothing but highlights. I haven’t been able to get You’re Welcome out of my head for weeks now, it’s that good. The whole thing is on Spotify, so check it out, it's amazing.

Best Standalone, no strings attached, just sit down and enjoy yourself, Blockbuster film
After the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, every studio wanted to have a cinematic universe of their own, which so far has resulted in a slew of bad comic book movies and an apparently serious attempt by Universal to have an interconnected monster-movie universe starting with “The Mummy” this year. Godzilla and King Kong are going to be fighting at some point as well. And as much as I love this, as long as it is done well (that’s the important part, DC), it’s also nice to just be able to concentrate on what’s before me, without worrying about how this adventure relates to a wider universe. And in that sense, one movie stood out to me this year.

The Magnificent Seven

Sure, it’s a remake, and on the internet, you’re not supposed to like those, but Antoine Fuqua’s version is just so much fun. It’s the perfect popcorn movie, with likeable characters and great action. Being a Western, there’s no way for it to fall into the skyscraper-tumbling destruction-porn category of action movies that has become so prevalent these days. And as we were just talking about great soundtracks, here’s an iconic piece of film music brilliantly teased throughout the film until it blasts over the credits at full force.

Best cathartic experience of unspeakable horrors
2016 has marked another great year for horror movies, which seem to be getting better each year. I remember a few years ago I was still kind of sour on the whole genre, because what we got just wasn’t very good, generally speaking. But then things got better and we started to get one or two shining examples of the genre each year. 2016 had at least four. It would feel a little constraining to call Green Room and 10 Cloverfield Lane horror films, because to me, there’s a bit more going on in those films, but The Conjuring 2 continued James Wan’s crusade to make horror movies a prestigious genre valiantly and Don’t Breathe was an amazingly grounded and disturbing little film. But the award for the best horror film has to go to

Lights Out

For any Horror film to be successful, the characters need to be likeable, because otherwise, who cares what happens to them. At the core of Lights Out is a family trying to take care of each other, and who can’t get on board with that? Then there’s the amazing cinematography, built around sharp contrasts between darkness and light. It’s also clearly influenced by J-Horror in the way the monster works, which is always a good way to go as well. 

The Surprisingly not that Bad Award
In a year as underwhelming as 2016, it’s nice when a film surpasses your expectations, even if they were non-existent from the beginning. Therefore, let it be known, that despite a resounding lack of success and the complete absence of any enthusiasm for it by anyone ever,

Alice Through the Looking Glass

is not complete shit. The message is horrible and sadly, Johnny Depp is still in it, even though with less screen-time, but all in all, it’s a fun adventure, and if you go in rooting for the villain, it even makes a bit of sense.

So these are the Screentest Awards for 2016, functioning at the same time as honourable mentions for my upcoming Top 10 list, since not all the movies I mentioned made it onto that list. 

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