• Misc: My Top Ten Films of 2016

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Sat Jan 7 10:50:15 2017
    My Top Ten Films of 2016
    (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

    Let me start out by saying that this year I have not been in a
    position to see several of the major films. Some of the best of
    the year I am happy to say are still in my future and not my past.
    But this list represents the best of what I have seen. You can
    take these as recommendations, and probably not a list of the best
    films of the year. Major films missing include MOONLIGHT and
    SILENCE, both of which have been recommended to me. In any case,
    this list is the best ten films I saw from January 1 to December
    31, 2016. The films about Black-White race relations were many,
    just at a time when those relations seem to be breaking down. It
    was a continuing theme that obviously was on the minds of many
    filmmakers. I list two of them that make this list.

    The subject is spying in the very high-tech electronics age.
    American intelligence with advanced spying devices, (particularly
    drones), is following a situation involving terrorism in Nairobi.
    But serious moral decisions as to what action to take do crop up,
    and the ability to bring several people in different parts of the
    world into the decision making process only makes ethical decisions
    more difficult. There are legal, ethical, and political
    considerations in making decisions and having advanced technology
    only makes decisions harder. We get to see what the tech can and
    cannot do in a suspenseful situation. Rating: high +3 (-4 to +4)
    or 9/10

    2. ARRIVAL
    Twelve alien craft land at apparently random locations on the
    Earth's surface. This creates a dangerous situation that could lead
    to a third world war. A linguist and a physicist are more or less
    drafted to head up a team trying to find why these apparently alien
    craft are here. Amy Adams gives a compelling performance as a woman
    trying to break the most important and also one of the most
    difficult puzzles in human history. Denis Villeneuve directs a
    screenplay by Eroc Heisserer based on a story by respected science
    fiction author Ted Chiang. This is probably the best science
    fiction film of 2016. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

    Desmond Doss was brutally mis-treated in the WWII army because as a
    religious conscientious objector he refused to even touch a gun. He
    became a medic and then was the hero of a battle for a small piece
    of Okinawa. The film is full of pieces familiar from other films,
    but the realism and carnage possibly even go beyond that of SAVING
    PRIVATE RYAN. HACKSAW RIDGE is based on a true story and directed
    by Mel Gibson. The film is of epic length, 140 minutes, and
    certainly parts are a harrowing experience to watch, not to say
    they are terrifying. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

    4. ADMIRAL
    This is the epic biopic of the career of Dutch naval hero Michiel
    Ruyter who fought against the English and the French in the second
    and third Anglo-Dutch wars, 1665 to 1673. It features several
    exciting cannon battles between ships. The filmmakers frequently
    create spectacular visual effects using CGI like it was meant to be
    used. The historical accuracy is somewhat questionable since it
    covers his successes and skips his mistakes and failures. Still we
    have gone a long time since we had a good sword, sail, and cannon
    sea adventure. And when have we ever had one from the Dutch point
    of view? Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    This is an epic-length five-part documentary 467 minutes long. In
    that length it covers race relations in the 1960s, O.J. Simpson's
    sports career, his television and film career, his relationship
    with Nicole Brown, the capture of Simpson, the murder trial. Most
    of these it covers in detail. Even if you are not interested in
    his sports career (as I wasn't) you can skip over the sports
    section (as I did). The documentary was made for ESPN, but only a
    small proportion of the film is about sports. The best word to
    describe the film is "comprehensive." Peabody and Emmy winning
    director Ezra Edelman will cover tangential topics like the Rodney
    King riots that he then shows are germane to the Simpson story.
    Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    This film is done in old-fashioned stopCmotion animation. It is an
    American fantasy adventure though it is set in a Japanese magical
    spirit world. Kubo, a street entertainer, is on a quest with a
    talking monkey to find the three pieces of an enchanted invincible
    suit of armor. Very detailed and beautiful images fill the screen.
    This fantasy is produced by the Laika Company, the stop-motion
    studio who previously made CORALINE, PARANORMAN, and THE BOXTROLLS.
    The film was directed by Travis Knight and was written by Chris
    Butler and Marc Haimes. It should appeal to all ages. Rating: low
    +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    We have recently had three films about people fighting the awesome
    force of the sea. We have seen IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, THE FINEST
    HOURS, and DEEPWATER HORIZON, all released in the space of about
    ten months. This one nailed my attention to the screen. If the
    most important details were not true this would have been
    melodrama. But since most of what we see was authentic, there are
    scenes and situations that are real jaw-droppers. This is a story
    of a boat that was ripped in half during a storm that made it
    deadly just to be on the water, the men on that boat, and the coast
    guard rescue. The special effects did an excellent job of hiding
    in plain sight. Australian Craig Gillespie directs a script by
    Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy sticking fairly close to the truth.
    Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    There are plenty of films about uneasy father-daughter
    relationships. What adds novelty to this one is that the father is
    God and the daughter is just as normal as her father's profession
    allows her to be. She is supposed to have a brother somewhere but
    the less said about that the better. He has been reduced to a
    statue. God's daughter decides as a prank to let everybody in the
    world know the day they will die. Those who enjoyed the
    theological discussion in BEDAZZLED have a similar vein of humor.
    This is a film chock-full of fun ideas. The film, in French, was
    directed by Belgian Jaco Van Dormael from a screenplay by him and
    Thomas Gunzig. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    In this documentary are the words of James Baldwin on top of
    archival film. It is an illustrated autobiography, which more
    involves the audience as seeing race relations in Baldwin's times.
    Samuel Jackson does the voiceovers. Particularly enjoyable (if
    that can be the right word) are the movie clips. Baldwin's manner
    of putting prose together, his presentation, his posture, and his
    rhetoric are magnetic and help to bring the film to eloquence.
    Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    Shane Black, the director and co-writer of THE NICE GUYS, has
    slipped in under my radar. As far back as 1987 he was scripting
    action films like the "Lethal Weapons" series. He can write a
    crime thriller with some very funny comedy in it and it still
    remains a thriller. Somehow he never made much of an impression on
    me until he wrote and directed KISS KISS BANG BANG. That is one of
    the rare films that get me laughing out loud. THE NICE GUYS is
    just as funny as well as being a crackerjack murder mystery.
    Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper

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