Annihilation is far from being a perfect movie, but goddammit is it good. It’s derivative as all hell (imagine if Aliens had a baby with The Thing and that baby married Tarkovsky’s Stalker), but never in an ostentatious way. This isn’t a film-lover’s masturbation fantasy of references. It’s a story-lover’s genuine affection for the craft, lovingly cherishing details, even cliches, and archetypes and running wild with them instead of having to subvert every expectation. Sometimes allowing a story to reach logical conclusions unto itself is satisfying enough without having to show off how clever you are.
I have a long history with the original Blade Runner. I first saw it when I was seven-years-old, I think. Harrison Ford was on the cover, it looked futuristic and cool, in an action-packed sci-fi sort of way, given the, I don’t know, “space pistol” he was holding. Blade Runner, it turns out, is not appropriate for children. Not because of the violence, sex and nudity (though for some that may be a valid reason), but because it is a slow, ponderous movie that is more concerned with the philosophical notion of humanity than with action.
I’ve seen Blade Runner maybe about a dozen times—including the theatrical version, the director’s cut and the “final” cut. I understand Blade Runner is a masterpiece, and while I do like it, it’s just something that resonates with my on any sort of personal level. I can ooh and ah over the visuals, which are no doubt incredible. The movie spawned countless imitations. I know the history of the film pretty extensively. I just don’t really give a shit about it.
There are still lots of movies I want to see that came out in 2016 but haven’t had a chance to, or haven’t gotten around to yet, but here are my ten favorites out of what I’ve seen. And I’m just glad that there were some damn good movies that came out this year because holy shit was 2016 shitty. Jesus fucking Christ what an awful, awful year from hell.
Barry Jenkins’ film adaptation of the play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney is incredibly powerful stuff. It’s one of those movies you see popping up on everyone’s best-of lists and you wonder, “Is Moonlight really going to be that good?” Yes. The answer is yes. It’s stronger in parts than as a whole (some of it doesn’t congeal together from one segment to the next), but some moments of the film are so strikingly beautiful, or just so absolutely perfectly written that it more than makes up for some of its very, very minor shortcomings. Mahershala Ali’s performance, in particular, is the stuff that super-stardom is made of.
The Blair Witch Project is the first movie I can recall in my life that was immensely popular and, as a result, became very popular to hate. The reasons were usually sort of samey: The camera shakes too much, it made the viewer feel nauseous, nothing happens, it’s boring, it’s this, it’s that, it’s whatever. Most of all, the people who hated it just didn’t think it was scary.
What people find scary is going to vary from person to person, so if The Blair Witch Project doesn’t do it for you, it’s not going to do it for you. But for those who enjoy the movie as much as I do, there’s a lot there for the viewer. It’s a real treat. It’s a real rarity in the world of films that it was such a huge, just phenomenal success at the box office and immediately became a piece of our pop culture fabric.
Nicolas Winding Refn has always been a visual storyteller, to the degree that he sacrifices dialogue in order to convey action, mood and emotion through visual cues. The way he figures it, why say something when you can show it? Sometimes this works to great success (Drive) and sometimes to mixed results (Only God Forgives).
The trouble with Phoenix is that we’re a city full of failures. It’s cool, I am too. But the fact is, we couldn’t make it anywhere else, not in a “real” city so we settled here. The result is that we’re a melting pot filled to the brim with people who couldn’t cut it anywhere else and that’s what we’re stuck with. The result is that we’re stuck with aggressive, unfriendly assholes.
This morning on my way to work, the trouble with Phoenix was completely personified with one person. I was driving to work and this guy almost crashed into me. Instead of stopping in the turn lane, he was driving in it and clumsily trying to merge. He tried to merge right in front of me so I honked at him to let him know, hey, I’m right here. Please don’t crash into me. How he responded was by literally trying to force me off the road. He pulled up next to me and motioned for me to pull over so he could, presumably, kick my ass.
The Jazzy Vegetarian is the craziest bitch on television today. What I mean, really, is that she’s mentally fucking ill and needs to be put away. She constantly refers to feeding her husband in the past tense, and if she claims to feed him the food that she makes on her show, she clearly murdered him years ago and his mummified corpse is the only company she has in the house.
At this point in its life, I always thought of The Simpsons as more of a symbolic show to be on than anything else, in that no one really WATCHES it–you maybe you watch an episode here or there or see clips online, but hardly anyone religiously watches it week after week. It’s just there because it’s comforting knowing that it’s on because its original 10 or 11 great seasons had enough goodwill behind them that they can now float through anything.
With Harry Shearer, the voice of Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers, Mr. Burns, Otto, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Lenny, Dr. Hibbert and many others, now gone–FIRED–from the show, it’s clear that there’s no heart to the show anymore. It isn’t simply coasting by on its past glory or some duty to nostalgia, it’s a moneymaking, soulless machine that can’t even be bothered to slow its roll for the sake of one of the most important cogs in its wheel.
Mike Nichols was one of the greatest directors of his or any generation, past or present. He had a way with actors, much like the equally gifted Sydney Lumet. He was never one for flashy visuals or obnoxious set-pieces… he was all about the performances and what they brought out in order to service the story.
He lived a talented life and left a legacy for all of us to enjoy. Beginning with his satirical comedy days with Elaine May, he moved into film directing. Below, are some of my favorites.