To round off our week of MostlyFilm oldies, we revisit Indy Datta‘s 2016 film preview from the start of the year. Well, we called the impact of Arrival and Sight & Sound Top 10 film Nocturama, even if we didn’t have the titles right at the time.
A few rules. Nothing from the 2015 awards season pack, nothing that’s already played the festivals and received hyperventilating reviews, and nothing we’ve already sneakily watched on US Netflix. First category:
Enormo-Budget Franchise Blockbuster of the Year
It’s fashionable to complain about the overwhelming emphasis from the major studios on their never ending franchises, and let’s face it, it’s also completely justified. Hands up, who can remember a single second of Thor 2 or the last Spider-Man film? But the bubble doesn’t look like bursting any time soon, and the critical success of the new Star Wars shows that there’s still an appetite there for big shared moments in moviegoing that can bring generations together over the popcorn. This year’s Star Wars movie will be a spinoff distinct from the main trilogy, which could be fun but surely can’t replicate the impact of The Force Awakens. There’s more Marvel Cinematic Universe stuff coming, of course, and DC getting into the extended universe game too with Suicide Squad, and their Zack Snyder Supes v Batman/chin v chin/charisma-free plank v charisma-free plank mashup, none of which I can really bring myself to care about. Lower down the budget scale, video games titans Blizzard and Ubisoft will surely inevitably fail to launch viable new franchises on the back of sturdy existing properties Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed, despite hiring hot indie directors.
So my pick in this category is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – and not just by default. I was never a Harry Potter fan, but Heyday Films’ stewardship of the franchise was smooth and skilful, and their brilliant Paddington buys them a bit of extra goodwill in my book. With the source material being non-narrative, there’s scope here for the film makers to do something fresh and new, and with J.K. Rowling writing the script herself, who isn’t interested to see if the world’s most successful writer of prose fiction can do it on screen?
Genre Flick of the Year (no explosions category)
Honourable mention here to Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, but my choice is Story of Your Life. Science fiction writer Ted Chiang’s entire published oeuvre runs to less than a story a year, published over the last twenty-five years, about half of which were award-winners. Story of Your Life, his most acclaimed work, could be the basis of a very different kind of alien contact story to the upcoming Independence Day sequel (presumably to feature a scene where Jeff Goldblum is sent into a spiralling rage because either the USAF or the Aliens haven’t upgraded their Macs to Thunderbolt).
Denis Villeneuve, coming off a decent 2015 with Jake Gyllenhaal oddity Enemy and brilliant Emily Blunt cartel thriller Sicario, directs before moving on to the Blade Runner sequel, and the excellent cast includes Amy Adams and Michael Stuhlbarg, than whom I don’t think anyone has been more consistently brilliant since his breakthrough in A Serious Man. Speaking of which…
LOLmungous Comedy of the Year
While it would be foolhardy to bet against the Ghostbusting teamup of Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig, come on, it’s the Coens! Old Hollywood! Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes doing funny! Clooney mugging! SCARJO. Case closed.
Serious World Cinema Furrowed-Brow Guardian Soulmates Date Movie of the Year
Before the festival season gets underway in the next few weeks, there’s usually little information out there about this year’s arthouse/auteur crop beyond the main cast and a one-line plot summary. And sometimes not even that. So, we know that this year should see new Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami, Pedro Almodovar, Dardenne Bros and Cristi Puiu films, for example, but not much more than that.
Keep an eye out, though, for Bertrand Bonello’s Paris is Happening, which comes with straight-from-the-headlines topicality that should guarantee it some attention. Bonello’s last film, the YSL biopic Saint Laurent, never saw the inside of a cinema in the UK, but the one before that, l’Apollonide, an intoxicating and unpredictable portrait of a fin de siècle Paris brothel, remains one of my favourite films of the decade so far.
Heavy-hitting Prestige-swinging Oscar-magnet of the Year
Even if one was, for the sake of argument, of the opinion that Martin Scorsese hasn’t made a good film in 20 years or more, this is a no-brainer. Scorsese’s long-cherished passion project, an adaptation of Shusako Endo’s 1966 novel about Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan, looks like the classiest joint in town whichever direction you approach it from. Here’s a prediction, this is big Liam’s Oscar moment, as part of a Silence sweep.
Depressing British Rural Youth Drama of the Year?
Surprisingly Greenlit Sequel of the Year?
Badly dubbed cheap CGI Eurocrud Kids Film of the Year?
Derek the Movie?
Take it away in the comments section! Should you be so inclined.