Above: A still of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone jubilantly singing and dancing in La La Land.
Some other girl and guy
Would love this swirling sky
But there’s only you and I
And we’ve got no shot.
This could never be
You’re not the type for me
And not a spark in sight
What a, waste of a lovely night.
The barriers are coming down. It must be the age. “One more time unto the breach”, say feelings, emboldened by my falling defences. Where I would once scoff, I now sniff. I must be getting old. There’s a track in Shame that moved me even in my younger and more cynical days. I’d listen to it incessantly whenever I got on the Delhi metro because the track played in the movie when the protagonist was on a train himself. Similarly, there’s a track featured in Arrival that gives me goosebumps, makes my hair stand on end, and all that shebang. Imagine going to a movie and starting to cry within the first minute. Oh, what a wonderful thing. (That’s the age talking).
[Abrupt transition] [[Entering the warp drive]]
Movies of 2016 that I rated 4 and above: Midnight Special, Everybody Wants Some, Finding Dory, Zero Days, Love and Friendship, The Handmaiden, The Shallows, 13th, Under the Shadow, Personal Shopper, Graduation, Indignation, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Hell or High Water, Arrival, Pete’s Dragon, La La Land.
Movies of 2016 that I rated lower but gave a heart* to: The Nice Guys, Divines, Eddie the Eagle, The Invitation, Knight of Cups.
The actual list:
Under the Shadow
Love and Friendship
Hell or High Water
Everybody Wants Some
La La Land
Arrival is definitely no.1 but there’s no no.2. The next 7, and the 4 after, are in no particular order either. My apologies for being so… non-discerning. Let me make it up a little by telling you something scandalous. I have Paterson on the list but I haven’t even seen it. Am I trippin’? No, you be trippin’. From everything I’ve read about the movie and all the clips and trailers I’ve seen, I’m convinced it would’ve made the list- but that’s beside the point. What I’ve done is wrong, and thereby scandalous.
Why have all the movies rated 4 and above not made the list? For various different reasons. Take Midnight Special, for instance. Why’d I give it a 4? Did I find it cute in its polyester suit? How much of it is because of the partiality I have towards Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon and Adam Driver and Paul Sparks? Is the movie any good? Would I recommend it to anyone? It could’ve been shining just for me. Or take Eddie the Eagle, a movie I gave a heart* to. Easily one of the most heartwarming movies of the year but whilst it succeeds in tugging at the right strings, it’s in many ways like the cheap corner store liquor that manages to give you a buzz but you still wouldn’t want to pour that out for guests.
Movies I feel I missed out on: Paterson, Edge of Seventeen, 20th Century Women, Jackie, Your Name, Cameraperson, Patriots Day. Patriots Day has music composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, only and enough reason for it to be on here. Jackie is the one with the best actress nomination for Natalie Portman, 20th Century Women is the one with a possible best actress nomination for Annette Benning- but more importantly both of these movies have Greta Gerwig.
Unlikeliest film to have made the list: The Shallows. What’s a Blake Lively shark film doing on a year-end best-of list, you might be wondering. Exactly.
Most divisive movie on the list: Arrival. Is the movie complicated? Not in the least. It’s not even the most complicated Amy Adams movie of the year. So why the diverse reactions? Aliens that come in peace throw the populace that grew up on films like Independence Day off kilter?
A word on the rest of the movies on the list: Hell or High Water is a heist movie set in trigger-happy small towns of West Texas. We don’t get nearly enough Chris Pine movies where there are things to appreciate in addition to his blue eyes. Consider this a welcome exception. Love and Friendship is a breezy adaptation of a Jane Austen novella bursting with wit and rapid repartees, all hallmarks of a Whit Stillman movie.”Begone Sir, or I’ll have you whipped.” That’s my favorite line of the year right there. Everybody Wants Some is another movie set down in the south, but it has more of a first week in college during the ’80s as seen by Richard Linklater vibe going on. A spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, they’ve labelled it.
Best action movie of the year: Hacksaw Ridge.
Best comedy movies of the year: Elle and The Nice Guys. (The Lobster was on the main list last year).
Horror movies I took a shine to: Under the Shadow, The Witch, Lights Out. This must be the first year two horror movies made the main list.
Documentaries of the year: 13th, about racial discrimination, available on Netflix, has already made the list. OJ Simpson: Made in America, the six-part six hour documentary is probably a lock for the Best Documentary at the Oscars. I’ve only seen an hour of it. Zero Days is a doc made by Alex Gibney. The dude makes at least two docs a year. He’s like the Woody Allen of docs without the success of the ’70s. Zero Days deals with an interesting subject- State sponsored cyber-terrorism. Most of it is devoted to unmasking the Stuxnet attack by Israel and USA on the Iranian nuclear centrifuges. Fascinating. Weiner is a documentary about the dick-pics sending Democrat senator. Watch it for his wife Huma Abedin. She has a face made for the cameras. Cameraperson is a critical darling that I haven’t had the chance to see.
Indies worth checking out: The Invitation, Wiener-Dog, The Little Sister, The Divines. I recommend the latter two with some reservations but The Invitation, you should definitely seek out.
You got the invitation
You got the right address
You need some medication?
The answer’s always yes.
But I digress. Wiener-Dog is probably going to be a miss with a lot of you. It’s from Todd Solondz, after all. Who’s Todd Solondz, you ask? Watch a movie called Happiness, curse me, and stay away from the rest of his films. Now this is where you interrupt me for making assumptions on your behalf.
You say there’s nothing here
Well let’s make something clear
I think I’ll be the one to make that call
Foreign movies: Under the Shadow, The Handmaiden, Personal Shopper, Elle, Divines, Your Name, Graduation, Toni Erdmann. Toni Erdmann is probably taking the Oscar. Having not seen it, I don’t have a take on it however. Elle missed out on the Oscar shortlist altogether, much to the consternation of many. Oscar or no Oscar, I thought it was one of the funniest movies of the year, and it’s not even a comedy. Divines, available on Netflix, about a pair of teenage girls is no Respire but is distinctly French. Fed on American films, you wouldn’t see the end coming. Personal Shopper is a Kristen Stewart movie. Full disclosure, I rate K-Stew highly. In this movie, she does her own stunts, like driving through the chaotic traffic of Paris on a moped. Take that, Tom Cruise. Graduation is a Romanian talkathon that gives us a glimpse of how entrenched corruption has become in that society. Indians may relate. The Handmaiden is a Park Chan Wook film, and one of 4 Korean films to have made some noise this year; the other three being The Wailing, Age of Shadows and Train to Busan. I left The Wailing in the middle, have no interest in Train to Busan, and a little unfulfilled interest in Age of Shadows, the one out of the 4 that Korea chose to send to the Oscars. Anyway, back to Handmaiden. It’s rated-R, it’s explicit, but most importantly, it has a story to tell. Not many movies of that sort these days. Under the Shadow is a horror film set during the Iran-Iraq war. Take a break from white suburban America, watch a middle-eastern woman and her daughter get haunted instead.
The Oscar frontrunners: La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, (Lion?). I should’ve seen La La Land a fewer number of times and Manchester by the Sea at least more than once, because right now as things stand I don’t have a favorite/ a horse in the race/ skin in the game. My trouble with Manchester was I went in expecting to see a sad sad movie and wasn’t prepared at all for some of the scenes that felt like they belonged in a Ben Stiller movie. I’d have to see it again to verify how much of my disappointment in it is actually warranted and how much of it is down to prior expectations. I’ve seen La La Land so many times I can recall the movie scene to scene. It’s the kind of movie you can watch again and again, thanks to the cast and the songs, even if you don’t think it’s that great. Which I don’t. Moonlight is a taboo subject in Modi’s India. Lion is a crowd-pleasing tale, backed by the Weinstein brothers, of an Indian boy who loses his way home and ends up in Australia and then grows up to use Google Maps to find his way back home. I’m not kidding. It’s based on a true story.
And maybe this appeals
To someone not in heels
Or to any girl who feels
There’s some chance for romance
But, I’m frankly feeling nothing
Is that so?
Or it could be less than nothing
Good to know
So you agree?
[Sebastian and Mia]
What a waste of a lovely night
*A Letterboxd^ convention.
^A website, like Goodreads- but for movies.