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Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Thin White Dude's 10th Annual Awards for the Best and Worst Films of the Year (2016)



There will be no excuses, no "better late than never" quips or comments about the belatedness of this particular article. Frankly, although of course it's coming on about six months late for publication, my personal pet project of late has been myself. Late last year, I came to a point in my life that made me want to incur positive changes. I have done so, and in the process have developed more in the past nine months than I probably have in the past ten years. Physically, I've lost three stone and have got myself into the best shape of my life, and mentally I have learned to discipline, organise and manage all the different things I have going on. I have the strength and capacity to take on all the challenges that come my way, and the interests that I am wanting to pursue. Thus, I am ready to tackle anything, come what may. What can I say, I'm a late bloomer. In my mid-twenties, it's time to get my proverbial shit together! Anywho, excusing that personal diatribe, this blog has always been something that, however inconsistent, remains a presence in my creative endeavours. As such, I've deigned to treat it with the respect that I feel it deserves. So, here goes nothing!

Let's get cracking!

Ground Rules

1. A movie eligible for inclusion must have been released in theatres, on DVD or on-demand in 2016

2. With the odd exception, the number of nominees eligible for all categories are between five and ten

3. The films up for discussion will only be those that I myself have seen in full, from start to finish

4. Most, but not all categories, are arranged by alphabetical order in relation to the film nominated, not the individual

5. Two new categories this year; the Fassbinder Award for Promotion of Diversity in Film, dedicated to the picture that best promotes diversity, be it race, gender, sexual, religious etc.; I've also decided to revive the Straight-To-Video Award and re-brand it as to recognise general 'Home Media Release,' so as to include those films released directly on-demand

6. These are the opinions of a jury of one

7. These opinions and ground rules are not so inflexible that I can't make a change whenever I see fit

8. Feel free to comment, share, subscribe, yadda, yadda, yadda. I do take your opinions into account and enjoy the discourse, I just have no time for shameless self-promotion

9. Expect a rebuttal if you do comment or respond

10. Carpe diem!

Signed

The Thin White Dude


The 10th John Carpenter Award for Best Horror Film of 2016

Don't Breathe (Ghost House Pictures/Good Universe) - Fede Alvarez
Hush (Blumhouse Productions/Intrepid Pictures) - Mike Flanagan
Under the Shadow (Wigwam Films) - Babak Anvari
The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) - Na Hong-jin
The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers


2016 was an exceptional year for horror cinema, certainly the best since the beginning of my work as a writer on film. Over the years, I have seen a real mixed bag of work. The occasional gem would appear out of the ether amidst the general drek of what studios churn out for mainstream audiences. Each of these movies are strong in their own right, but for me the one that stood from this eclectic compendium of terror was Robert Eggers' extraordinary debut The Witch. This was the first film I saw from 2016, and over the course of the year it has remained steadfast among my favourites. This is not a picture built up of jump scares, excessive violence and cacophony of noise, but a slow, masterfully built piece of suspense and dread. I can safely say also that this is perhaps the very best horror film I have seen since Let The Right One In, and that was a fair time ago. An instant classic.

The 10th Kenneth Loach Award for Best Drama Film of 2016

Hacksaw Ridge (Cross Creek Pictures/Demarest Films/Argent Pictures/Pandemonium Films/Permut Productions/AI Film Productions/Vendian Pictures/Kylin Pictures) - Mel Gibson
Hidden Figures (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films) - Theodore Melfi
High-Rise (Recorded Picture Company/Film4/British Film Institute/HanWay Films/Northern Ireland Screen/Ingenious Media) - Ben Wheatley
Jackie (LD Entertainment/Wild Bunch/Fabula/Why Not Productions/Endemol Shine Studios/Bliss Media/Protozoa) - Pablo Larrain
Julieta (El Deseo) - Pedro Almodovar
La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/TIK Films/Imposter Pictures/Gilbert Films/Marc Platt Productions) - Damien Chazelle
Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment/Pastel Productions) - Barry Jenkins

And the winner is... La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/TIK Films/Imposter Pictures/Gilbert Films/Marc Platt Productions) - Damien Chazelle


The drama film genre is perhaps the most consistent every year, in that it is usually expected (and delivered) that there will be at least a few noteworthy pictures. 2016 was no exception, and while I could lean towards one other among these nominees, I deign the winner to be La La Land, Damien Chazelle's latest release and big player at the Oscars. It's a big, grand and glorious tale in the vein of classic Hollywood from the forties and fifties, a terrific addition to the tradition of the American musical, and with a touch of indie filmmaking sensibilities. Buoyant, graceful, incredibly charming and poignant, it confirms Chazelle among the most important of contemporary directors.

The 9th Sylvester Stallone Award for Best Action/Adventure Film of 2016

Blood Father (Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch) - Jean-Francois Richet
Bone Tomahawk (Caliber Media Company) - S. Craig Zahler
Deadpool (Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners' Company/TSG Entertainment) - Tim Miller
Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika) - Travis Knight
Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) - Yeon Sang-ho

And the winner is... Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika) - Travis Knight


Once again, as has been a welcome trend over the past numbers of years, the winner in this category has been an animated picture. Pixar and Studio Ghibli have both created potent works which are past winners, but I think Kubo and the Two Strings from Laika is perhaps the best among that fine class of animated features. In their finest hour so far, Laika really go out on a limb with this one. Artistic, beautiful, heartfelt and very very exciting, it is not only steeped in folklore, but creates it's very own unique mythology. Ostensibly it is a children's film (and a damn good one to boot), but there's plenty here for everyone to enjoy.

The 10th GWB Award for Most Unintentionally Offensive Film of 2016

Bigfoot Vs. Zombies - Mark Polonia: pissed off the aspiring guerilla filmmaker in me who went “shit, I can do better than that!”

Dog Eat Dog (Blue Budgie Films/Arclight Films/Pure Dopamine/Ingenious Media/Shanghai Gigantic Pictures) - Paul Schrader: pissed me off because it reminds me of how great filmmakers from the 1970s such as Paul Schrader struggle for years at a time to get a movie made, much less a good one, which this is not

Fifty Shades of Black (IM Global/Baby Way Productions) - Michael Tiddes: pissed off people because any satirical commentary it has to make is lost in the midst of an abundance of drek

Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (D'Souza Media) - Dinesh D'Souza: pissed off people who watch documentary films and enjoy getting an objective view so they can make their decisions, not having one rammed down their throat

The Neon Demon (Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) - Nicolas Winding Refn: pissed off people who were completely put off by the some of the admittedly grotesque and transgressive subject matter

Ratchet & Clank (Rainmaker Entertainment/Blockade Entertainment/CNHK Media China/Cinema Management Group) - Kevin Munroe: pissed off fans of the classic video games series, which has a lot of potential for a film franchise, with a run-of-the-mill, uninspired adaptation

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm Ltd.) - Gareth Edwards: pissed off those who are already growing tired of the recent Star Wars revival

True Memoirs of an International Assassin (PalmStar Media/Global Film Group) - Jeff Wadlow: pissed off those who just want to see Kevin James go away

Urge (Grindstone Entertainment Group/Blackmrkt Incorporated/Europictures) - Aaron Kaufman: pissed off those drawn in by an interesting premise that fails to deliver

Zoolander No. 2 (Red Hour Productions/Scott Rudin Productions) - Ben Stiller: pissed off fans of the original because it has none of the cunning satirical brilliance of its predecessor. Talk about jumping the shark!

And the winner is... Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (D'Souza Media) - Dinesh D'Souza: pissed off people who watch documentary films and enjoy getting an objective view so they can make their decisions, not having one rammed down their throat

Now, I know a lot has been made of this one. It won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture, received a personal seal of approval from Donald Trump in the run-up to the American presidential elections, and has been widely scrutinized and criticised, often negatively, for the views that Dinesh D'Souza expresses in the film. To be frank, to get offended by the film for these views is to give it more credit than it deserves. No, what offends me is that D'Souza comes across as having a complete lack on comprehension of what he is doing as far as making a movie is concerned and by addressing the audience in a manner of the greatest degree of condescension, as though we are all a bunch of ignorant heathens who have been gullibly swallowing the lies that have been force-fed down our throats about history and the American political system. Anything interesting to be said here is lost by the generally overbearing atmosphere D'Souza creates. Commentator he may be, filmmaker he is not.

The 10th David Fincher Award for Best Thriller of 2016

The Neon Demon (Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) - Nicolas Winding Refn
Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper

And the winner is... Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper 


Not a particularly star-studded year for the thriller genre. The Neon Demon was a standout work and another reminder that Nic Winding Refn has went further down the rabbit hole, but Victoria is a whole other beast altogether. Although it could just as easily be classed as a drama film, I feel personally that it is a thriller film. No picture from 2016 reached the high degree of intensity achieved with the choreography, staging and execution of some of the film’s key sequences. Notwithstanding this, part of the reason that the tension is so palpable, that it cuts you so close to the bone, is because time has spent building up our empathy with the characters. We care about what is happening to them and what they are doing, and thus we have more emotional investment in them, particularly as the film goes on, not dissimilar to Jules Dassin’s Rififi. Just a superb piece of work.

The 10th Philip K. Dick Award for Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film of 2016

Arrival (FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/21 Laps Entertainment) - Denis Villeneuve
Doctor Strange (Marvel Studios) - Scott Derrickson
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm Ltd.) - Gareth Edwards
Tale of Tales (Archimede Film/HanWay Films/Recorded Picture Company) - Matteo Garrone
Yakuza Apocalypse (Django Film/Gambit/Happinet/OLM, Inc.)

And the winner is... Arrival (FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/21 Laps Entertainment) - Denis Villeneuve


Perhaps this is the safe bet, given that this has been the most notable science-fiction/fantasy film in the mainstream since Gravity, but there’s good reason why I am giving this award to Arrival. On the surface Arrival is a science-fiction film, a great one at that, but at its core this is a very powerful, humane and life-affirming drama. Grounded by a stellar lead performance from Amy Adams, it is a film with supreme technical components, but furthermore it is a moody, melancholic, existential work of philosophy that asks us to reflect upon the lives we are living. I found it be heartfelt and wholly transcendent, and not in some wishy-washy manner, but in one that was honest and sincere, and also quite clearly the work of a confident and assured filmmaker in Denis Villeneuve.

The 10th Stan and Ollie Award for Best Comedic Film of 2016

Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee
David Brent: Life on the Road (Entertainment One/BBC Films) - Ricky Gervais
The Do-Over (Happy Madison Productions) - Steven Brill
Everybody Wants Some!! (AnnaPurna Pictures/Detour Filmproduction) - Richard Linklater
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Defender Films/Piki Films/Curious) - Taika Waititi
The Nice Guys (Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/Bloom/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/LipSync Production) - Shane Black
T2 Trainspotting (Film4/Creative Scotland/Cloud Eight Films/DNA Films/Decibel Films) - Danny Boyle

And the winner is... Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee


In an interesting collection of comedic films, I have decided that Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the best comedy of 2016. Adapted from the classical Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes to focus upon gang-related violence in Chicago’s Southside, it is full of cutting humor and ribaldry, but also brings with it potent commentary upon gender, race, violence and sexuality. An engaging ensemble cast lead together what is almost, in a strange but quite brilliant way, a poetic verse musical, which entertains as well as it does provoke. Indeed, watching it, even I, a veteran enthusiast of agit-prop art, was taken aback by the confrontational nature of the film. Although it got nowhere near the degree of attention as some of his other work, I think that Chi-Raq deserves to be considered an equal bedfellow alongside his very best. As politically potent as Do The Right Thing.

The 10th 'I Am Legend' Award for Biggest Disappointment of 2016

Dirty Grandpa (BillBlock Media/Josephson Entertainment/QED International) - Dan Mazer: despite it’s reputation, I wanted to like this, and for the first part of it, I thought it wasn’t that bad. Then the Keystone Cops showed up, and I was plunged into the deepest, darkest abyss a movie has put me in this year

Dog Eat Dog (Blue Budgie Films/Arclight Films/Pure Dopamine/Ingenious Media/Shanghai Gigantic Pictures) - Paul Schrader: Paul Schrader directing an adaptation of Eddie Bunker’s book with Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe as two of the leads should be good, right? However, it's obviously hampered with restrictions and deeply flawed to it’s core

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Cross Creek Pictures/Sierra Pictures/MadRiver Pictures/QC Entertainment/Allison Shearmur Productions/Handsomecharlie Films/Head Gear Films) - Burr Steers: what promises to be a fun, relatively entertaining genre flick is a dull, ugly-looking period piece that seems to think it’s doing everything right that it’s doing wrong

Ratchet and Clank (Rainmaker Entertainment/Blockade Entertainment/CNHK Media China/Cinema Management Group) - Kevin Munroe: not only was I a fan of the video game series, I recognised the great potential for a film adaptation of the franchise, and instead it is completely wasted and will only serve as a big blotch on their reputation

Urge (Grindstone Entertainment Group/Blackmrkt Incorporated/Europictures) - Aaron Kaufman: an interesting premise that in the hands of a David Cronenberg or someone else could have been a Shivers or a Rabid, but instead all of the meaty substance is lost behind the veil of a silly plot that barely hangs together

Zoolander No. 2 (Red Hour Productions/Scott Rudin Productions) - Ben Stiller: in today’s, self-obsessed social media-driven atmosphere having an impact upon our interactions with one another, the time seemed primed for the return of Derek Zoolander. How wrong we were…

And the winner is... Ratchet and Clank (Rainmaker Entertainment/Blockade Entertainment/CNHK Media China/Cinema Management Group) - Kevin Munroe: not only was I a fan of the video game series, I recognised the great potential for a film adaptation of the franchise, and instead it is completely wasted and will only serve as a big blotch on their reputation

Okay, my judgment may be clouded somewhat, given I’m a fan of the video games, but hear me out. For those of you who haven’t played them, Ratchet and Clank is a franchise that follows the adventures of the titular duo across the universe, and is an entertaining hybrid of the science-fiction, action and buddy comedy genres. This is none of them. Despite the fact that Insomniac Games helped with the production (and released a game to coincide with the film’s release, which I understand is very good) and the assembly of a talented voice cast, the film Ratchet and Clank lacks the charm and qualities of the franchise upon which it is based. It is an absolutely terrible picture, but it is a derivative, run-of-the-mill production which has nothing going for it that hasn’t been done before (and better!) by others. A shame really.

The 8th Walt Disney Award for Best Animated Film of 2016

And the winner is... Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika) - Travis Knight

First film to win two awards here! Admittedly, I didn’t see many animated movies in 2016, but in a year when something as disappointing as Ratchet & Clank is released, it restores your hope when a movie like Kubo and the Two Strings comes along. Laika are among the most promising animation studios in the world, and all of their films always come with an engaging and thoughtful story, but they are also known for maintaining the fine tradition of stop-motion animation. They’ve done some spectacular sequences in the past, but as I alluded to earlier, they’ve really stepped up on this one. Travis Knight directs a beautiful, picaresque and wonderfully-realized world with the scope and scale of the epic fantasy works of Ray Harryhausen. Further proof that we are, in my opinion, despite some of the nonsense studios churn out, in the middle of a great animation boom. Kubo and the Two Strings is a standout.

The 3rd Straight-To Video Award for Best Home Media Release of 2016

The Do-Over (Happy Madison Productions) - Steven Brill
Into the Inferno (Matter of Fact Media/Spring Films/Werner Herzog Filmproduktion) - Werner Herzog
13th (Candoo Films) - Ava DuVernay

And the winner is... 13th (Candoo Films) - Ava DuVernay


A lot of people have bemoaned Netflix and the impact that it and other such streaming and video-on-demand services are having upon cinema and traditional theatrical distribution. Now, while I think nothing can beat watching a movie in a dark theatre, I beg to differ that it’s another of these ‘death of cinema’ doomsday things that come along every now and again. I saw a lot of great films by way of Netflix this year I might not have seen otherwise, and because of the original content, I’ve decided to revive this award. What would have been straight-to-video now goes VOD, and Ava DuVernay’s 13th was the best piece of original VOD content I saw in 2016. This format gave DuVernay the opportunity to make an incendiary, engaging and well-informed documentary about the history of race relations and the law in the United States. This was a platform that she took and used to tell what I feel to be an important story, especially given the contemporary political climate and environment in the US. DuVernay is and will continue to be an important filmmaker, and this is a work that deserves to garner her the praise it has received, but also to Netflix for backing the production and distribute it. 

The 6th Sergei Eistenstein Award for Best 'Unintentional' Propaganda Film of 2016

Bigfoot Vs. Zombies - Mark Polonia: for dispelling the myth that you can make a movie on just about anything. Sometimes you just shouldn’t

Criminal - Ariel Vroman: a big ensemble cast of characters and an out-there genre-film plot does not make a cult genre classic

Dirty Grandpa - Dan Mazer: after watching this, it’s hard to look on the entire career of the mighty Robert De Niro the same way again. Thanks for that, Bob!

Fifty Shades of Black - Michael Tiddes: a dumb, moronic spoof film masquerading as a social commentary of the depiction of African-Americans in the media and pop culture

The Green Inferno - Eli Roth: A couple of grotesque sequences do not maketh a great film
 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Burr Steers:  sounds better on paper than it comes across onscreen
Ratchet & Clank - Kevin Munroe: do not automatically assume that with cutesy characters people are going to buy it, even if your movie sucks

True Memoirs of an International Assassin - Jeff Wadlow: another day, another Kevin James film

Urge - Aaron Kaufman: just because you make a glossy picture that depicts excess does not make it sexy and decadent by default

Zoolander No. 2 - Ben Stiller: that a cult classic is automatically grounds for greenlighting a sequel. Not.

And the winner is... Bigfoot Vs. Zombies - Mark Polonia: for dispelling the myth that you can make a movie on just about anything. Sometimes you just shouldn’t


I watched this movie on a night shift, and I admit wholeheartedly to watching a fair propensity of bad movies, but I am also a big supporter of the guerilla filmmaker aesthetic, of simply just picking up a camera and shooting something. In the case of Bigfoot Vs. Zombies, it led me to question my principles and endorsement of this ethos. It’s such a bad and shoddily made piece of work that it isn’t even funny. I can remember watching it and having this shaking sensation of utter shame that somebody would even go out of their way to release something like this. Yes, you can proud of the achievement and the fact that you made a movie, but if I made something this bad I’d lock it away in a vault and have it destroyed upon my death. Mark Polonia may have dozens of films to his name, but stuff like this just makes you wonder why one even bothers. 

The 8th Walter Murch Award for Best Sound Design/Mixing in a Film from 2016

Arrival (FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/21 Laps Entertainment) - Denis Villeneuve
Hacksaw Ridge (Cross Creek Pictures/Demarest Films/Argent Pictures/Pandemonium Films/Permut Productions/AI Film Productions/Vendian Pictures/Kylin Pictures) - Mel Gibson
Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika) - Travis Knight
La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/TIK Films/Imposter Pictures/Gilbert Films/Marc Platt Productions) - Damien Chazelle

Notes on Blindness (Archer's Mark) - Pete Middleton/James Spinney

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm Ltd.) - Gareth Edwards
Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) - Yeon Sang-ho

Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper

The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) - Na Hong-jin



The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers



And the winner is... Notes on Blindness (Archer's Mark) - Pete Middleton/James Spinney

Anyone who has seen this film might be rolling their eyes up and going “uh, he’s going for the easy choice,” but the fact remains that among this varied crowd, all of which feature great sound, Notes On Blindness is the one I feel to deserves this. It’s a very well put together film as a general whole, but sound plays a key part in the narrative, and the ways in which it is integrated are imaginative and innovative. The picture, depicting the writer and theologian John M. Hull and his attempts, through extensive self-documentation, to make sense of his blindness, is immaculately edited and mixed, cobbled together from Hull’s own audio cassette recordings, and sound designer Joakim Sundstrom’s contributions create a meaty aural palette. One of the unique things about Notes On Blindness as that the film, and the sound, has been developed so that as many people as possible, including those with disabilities, can experience it in their own way. In that sense, notwithstanding the artistic credibility, it’s a film that must be respected for it’s achievements.


The 9th Paul Schrader Award for Best Screenplay of 2016



Spike Lee/Kevin Willmott (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee

Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) - Taika Waititi

Noah Oppenheim (Jackie) - Pablo Larrain

Damien Chazelle (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Shane Black/Anthony Bagarozzi (The Nice Guys) - Shane Black
John Hodge (T2 Trainspotting) - Danny Boyle
Park Joo-suk (Train to Busan) - Yeon Sang-ho
Robert Eggers (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins


There’s a solid line-up for this award here, but for all the reasons I had that made me lean towards other movies, Moonlight takes it for one specific reason, and that is because it is a screenplay that works impressively on many different fronts. Director Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney adapt the latter’s unpublished play for this picture. On the one hand, it is a coming-of-age tale telling the story of the protagonist Chiron at three different stages of his life, telling this story with an ear for natural, conversational dialogue, empathy for his characters and a clear gift for narrative storytelling. On the other, it is an existentially-inclined experimental art film (Michael Wood, in his review, alluded to Ingmar Bergman, and I don’t think a comparison is undue) touching upon themes concerning the masculine identity of the black male, absence of father figures, survival, love and sexuality. It is a remarkable film that is sure to become a contemporary American classic, an African-American classic and a classic in LGBT cinema. The superb screenplay is at the heart of all of this.

The 7th Edith Head Award for Best Costume Designs in a Film from 2016

Arrival - Denis Villeneuve
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Zack Snyder
Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson
Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson
Jackie - Pablo Larrain
Julieta - Pedro Almodovar
La La Land - Damien Chazelle
The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn
Tale of Tales - Matteo Garrone
The Witch - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn

Special shout-out goes to the ‘World’s Toughest Terrorist’ in Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse! This is another that will people scoffing, given that the film’s plot is based around modeling in the fashion industry. Notwithstanding the striking brilliance of the costumes, the way in which they, and several other aspects of the mise-en-scene, fit into the story that Nicolas Winding Refn is trying to tell. There is an authenticity to the way in which the fashion industry, but they also fit into the genre film proceedings, in Refn has essentially created a giallo, a violent and at times rather horrific grand guignol. He uses these costumes, and the film’s overall look, in the same way that Kenneth Anger would depict the glories of decadence in his short films. Going further down the rabbit hole, it is obvious from these qualities that Refn continues to explore and push the boundaries of cinema.

The 10th 'Real Steel' Award for Most Surprisingly Entertaining Film of 2016


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (RatPac-Dune Entertainment/DC Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual Films) - Zack Snyder: I felt that warts and all, despite the fact that it is a mess, this a decent picture, not the holy terror everyone seems to think it is

Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee: Spike Lee’s had a real mixed bag of the years, but this is one of his most focused, assured pieces of work

The Do-Over (Happy Madison Productions) - Steven Brill: Adam Sandler and David Spade bring their chemistry to the fore of an enjoyable buddy comedy

Jackie (LD Entertainment/Wild Bunch/Fabula/Why Not Productions/Endemol Shine Studios/Bliss Media/Protozoa) - Pablo Larrain: by no means is this a straight biopic. More akin to a self-contained, baroque chamber drama

The Neon Demon (Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) - Nicolas Winding Refn: could have been a mess, but is a deep, dark, twisted, beautiful tale and deft psychological exploration

The Nice Guys (Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/Bloom/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/LipSync Production) - Shane Black: had the idea that I’d get a good buddy action comedy, but Shane Black gets out of his two terrific leads one of the better comedies of the year. Great fun.

Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) - Yeon Sang-ho: heard good things about it, but by jove was this one hell of an entertaining thrill ride of a picture. At risk of sound like a bad journalist, it’s like Speed with Zombies!

Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper: rare it is that such a daring and complicated concept is pulled off so well, but here it is so skillfully executed

The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) - Na Hong-jin: expected a good, solid film from a country with a thriving national cinema. I was completely taken aback and knocked for six by the places this went

The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers: really swept me up and carried me on an immersive, suspenseful experience unlike any other


And the winner is... The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) - Na Hong-jin: expected a good, solid film from a country with a thriving national cinema. I was completely taken aback and knocked for six by the places this went

When I bought The Wailing in Tesco for a fiver, I went into the picture completely blind. I had never seen any of director Na Hong-jin’s previous work, and didn’t even both to read the back of the DVD case for the story. It was a completely spontaneous purchase. All I knew was that it was a supernatural horror film, and that I expected at least a good watch, even though I was intimidated by the film’s two-and-a-half hour plus running time (to be fair, anything over two hours tends to make me turn by default these days). I was absolutely gripped, and despite the length it flew in, to the point that it was over an hour-and-a-half in before I decided to get up and make my customary trip to the bathroom. I kept thinking to myself “I can’t get up now,” and I was reluctant to break the flow of the piece, which moves and transitions so seamless from one scene to another. It’s a well-told story, and it goes to places that are genuinely unexpected and quite staggering in their delivery and execution. Without a doubt one of the best films of the year.

The 9th Christopher Doyle Award for Best Cinematography in a Film from 2016

Bradford Young (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve
Simon Duggan (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson
Stephane Fontaine (Jackie) - Pablo Larrain
Linus Sandgren (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
James Laxton (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Natasha Braier (The Neon Demon) - Nicolas Winding Refn
Peter Suschitzky (Tale of Tales) - Matteo Garrone
Lee Hyung-deok (Train to Busan) - Yeon Sang-ho
Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper
Jarin Blaschke (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper

Each of the pictures nominated here featured great cinematography, as did numerous others shortlisted, but the work presented in Victoria is exceptional. As an integral element to the film, it is caring and audacious from a conceptual standpoint, given that it consists of a single unbroken take. However, where it really excels is in the staging and execution. Diligent and immaculately choreographed, the guerilla aesthetic not only serves it's purpose, but also succeeds in immersing us into the action onscreen and bringing us down to the ground to engage directly with the characters. We are not objective observers, but active participants in the drama. Notwithstanding the technical prowess, overall it is an extraordinary achievement in cinematography.

The 7th Rick Baker Award for Best Make-Up/Hair in a Film from 2016

Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson
Don't Breathe - Fede Alvarez
The Green Inferno - Eli Roth
Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson
Jackie - Pablo Larrain
La La Land - Damien Chazelle
The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn
Train to Busan - Yeon Sang-ho
The Wailing - Na Hong-jin
The Witch - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn


Upon release, The Neon Demon was a heavily divisive movie. Inspiring both heavy praise and negative criticism, it's nigh on impossible to come out of it without a strong feeling either way. Opinions aside, it is hard to argue with the brilliance of the film's visual aesthetic, and the achievements of the make-up and hair departments contribute greatly to this. Both remaining true to the world of fashion modelling in which it is set and the dreamlike, otherworldly qualities that Nic Winding Refn injects into it, like that of the costume department, it is used to highly expressive and symbolic effect. Furthermore, at risk of teasing a spoiler, when things get nasty, they get particularly nasty. One of many outstanding factors in what I feel to be a highly accomplished film.

The 9th Lucio Fulci Award for Most Excessively Violent Film of 2016

Bigfoot Vs. Zombies - Mark Polonia
Criminal (BenderSpink/Campbell-Grobman Films/Millenium Films) - Ariel Vroman
Dirty Grandpa (BillBlock Media/Josephson Entertainment/QED International) - Dan Mazer
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (D'Souza Media)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Cross Creek Pictures/Sierra Pictures/MadRiver Pictures/QC Entertainment/Allison Shearmur Productions/Handsomecharlie Films/Head Gear Films) - Burr Steers
True Memoirs of an International Assassin (PalmStar Media/Global Film Group) - Jeff Wadlow
Urge (Grindstone Entertainment Group/Blackmrkt Incorporated/Europictures) - Aaron Kaufman

And the winner is... Urge (Grindstone Entertainment Group/Blackmrkt Incorporated/Europictures) - Aaron Kaufman

While Criminal and Hillary’s America are doubtless strong contender, the former for it’s sheer ridiculousness and the latter for the constant barrage and onslaught in the way it hammers itself home, I’m going with Urge on this one. Now, I’m all for ninety-minute genre movies with liberal smatterings of extreme violence, but whenever it serves no real purpose it’s a different matter altogether. Urge comes with an interesting premise on paper, but in execution it flounders. There’s simply not enough meat or substance to justify some of the film’s content. I get what they’re trying to get at, but it just doesn’t work or fulfill what it is setting out to do. It feels like something that is trying to be smart and edgy, making a thematic commentary on hedonism and uninhibited lifestyles, but, like the characters it depicts, it all comes crashing down. Only Pierce Brosnan in a suitably manic performance can get away unscathed, and no amount of Ashley Greene in leather can convince me otherwise.


The 9th Ennio Morricone Award for Best Original Score/Soundtrack of 2016

Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve
Terence Blanchard/Various (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Andy Burrows/Ricky Gervais/Ben Bailey Smith (David Brent: Life on the Road) - Ricky Gervais
Mica Levi (Jackie) - Pablo Larrain
Dario Marianelli (Kubo and the Two Strings) - Travis Knight
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Nicholas Britell (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Cliff Martinez (The Neon Demon) - Nicolas Winding Refn
Nils Frahm (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper
Mark Korven (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle



Again, an obvious choice, and considering I personally own two of the others on this list, I could have went with many others. However, the original score/soundtrack for La La Land is a terrific piece of work. Following on from the work he did on Damien Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash, Justin Hurwitz takes the jazz ensemble aesthetics and applies them to the classical Hollywood romance to great effect in this musical. An integral part to the narrative, the film is full of catchy and engaging songs, each in their own way telling a part of the story from a given character’s perspective. It is a fine example of pure storytelling through music. For creating the foundational base from which everything else in this superb movie emerges, Justin Hurwitz’s musical contributions deserve to be applauded. For those not keeping count, that’s Kubo and The Two Strings, Victoria, The Neon Demon and La La Land all now on two awards apiece.



The 5th Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra (EHO) Award for Worst Original Score/Soundtrack of 2016

Greg Stanina (Bigfoot Vs. Zombies) - Mark Polonia
Keith Power/Brian Tyler (Criminal) - Ariel Vroman
Michael Andrews (Dirty Grandpa) - Dan Mazer
Tone Royal (Fifty Shades of Black) - Michael Tiddes
Manuel Riviero (The Green Inferno) - Eli Roth
Stephen Limbaugh (Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party) - Dinesh D'Souza
Evan Wise (Ratchet & Clank) - Kevin Munroe
Ludwig Göransson (True Memoirs of an International Assassin) - Jeff Wadlow
The Newton Brothers (Urge) - Aaron Kaufman

And the winner is... Stephen Limbaugh (Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party) - Dinesh D'Souza


Two negative awards now for Hillary’s America. Remember how I said that watching Hillary’s America was akin to getting repeatedly hit over the head of the mallet? Well, actually I didn’t, but the point is I didn’t like the movie, right? I might not have actually said that as a fact, but you get what I mean. That’s the kind of self-justifying argument that runs throughout Hillary’s America, and the score is no different. All of the different pieces of music composed for this film sound like they’ve been dug up from the reservoir of generic themes designed to evoke certain emotional responses. The only problem is that is all so plainly transparent that you see right through it, or hear right through it. Whatever. Deceptive Democrats, ooo, let’s make it sound like something conspiratorial, and for the rabble-round Republicans, lets give them something that sound vaguely patriotic. Even the film’s ‘songs,’ if they can be called that, inspire venom and disdain. When a movie makes me start to actively loath singing children, you know something is going wrong.

The 5th David Bowie Award for Best Theme/Song in a Film from 2016

Max Richter: "On the Nature of Daylight" (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve
Nick Cannon: "Pay 4 My City" (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
David Brent: "Free Love Freeway" (David Brent: Life on the Road) - Ricky Gervais
George Michael: "Careless Whisper" (Deadpool) - Tim Miller
Ryan Gosling: "City of Stars" (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Emma Stone: "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Nicholas Britell: "The Middle of the World" (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Julian Winding Refn: "The Demon Dance" (The Neon Demon) - Nicolas Winding Refn
High Contrast: "Shotgun Mouthwash" (T2 Trainspotting) - Danny Boyle 

And the winner is... Max Richter: "On the Nature of Daylight" (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve

And Arrival has now thrown itself into the mix of multiple awards winners. At this rate, I don’t see Mad Max: Fury Road’s record of eight wins being beaten. Shout-out also to the late, great Georgie Michael. I loved your music and you will be sorely missed. Anywho, the reason I picked this particular piece over the other nominees is because, despite the fact that I’ve heard it used in other films (Waltz With Bashir and a mixed version in Shutter Island spring to mind), it is implemented perfectly into Arrival. Used to bookend the film, it is a fine example of how to use a non-original piece of music and have it fit into the narrative frame of an original work. I’m a fan of Max Richter’s music anyway, but this is the best use of it I’ve heard in a film to date, and now anytime I think of Arrival, this track comes to mind.

The 3rd 'Blue is the Warmest Colour' Award for Best Depiction of Sexuality in a Film from 2016

Bone Tomahawk (Caliber Media Company) - S. Craig Zahler
Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee
Deadpool (Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners' Company/TSG Entertainment) - Tim Miller
High-Rise (Recorded Picture Company/Film4/British Film Institute/HanWay Films/Northern Ireland Screen/Ingenious Media) - Ben Wheatley
Julieta (El Deseo) - Pedro Almodovar
Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment/Pastel Productions) - Barry Jenkins
The Neon Demon (Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) - Nicolas Winding Refn
Tale of Tales (Archimede Film/HanWay Films/Recorded Picture Company) - Matteo Garrone
The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment/Pastel Productions) - Barry Jenkins

Now Moonlight has joined the fray of multiple award winners! Split bunch this year. The namesake of this award obviously refers to Abdellatif Kechiche’s spectacular tale of romance between two women, and Todd Hayne’s Carol, also involving a romance between two women, is a previous winner. In this case though, unlike the previous two films in which sexuality is a part of their larger story, in Moonlight, sexuality is the story. It is the key part of the identity of Chirone, the film’s protagonist, as he struggles with his identity over the years. His sexuality is used to explore themes of repression, racial tension, classism and, in particular, the traditional, stereotypical conceptions of masculinity. Chirone is a victim of emotional and physical abuse, and creates an armor around himself, hiding and closing himself away from everyone else and discovering who he truly is. It’s a deft, intelligent, frank and at times tender look at identity, and sexuality is integral to the larger understanding of the character and the film as a whole.

The 8th Dante Ferretti Award for Best Production Design in a Film from 2016

Arrival - Denis Villeneuve
Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson
Don't Breathe - Fede Alvarez
Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson
Kubo and the Two Strings - Travis Knight
La La Land - Damien Chazelle
The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn
Tale of Tales - Matteo Garrone
Train to Busan - Yeon Sang-ho
The Witch - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... La La Land - Damien Chazelle


La La Land breaks out from the pack, clocking up it’s third win! There was a real variety of production design here, in films with a budget range from $3 million to $165 million, but La La Land is the deserving winner here. Like it’s fellow nominee Arrival, it looks and feels like a movie with bigger budget. At $30 million, it still has a relatively modest budget, but even if it lacks the bombast of a studio blockbuster, it has a gorgeous mise-en-scene. The locations and the sets designed are glorious, with a rich tonal palette and colorful splendor throughout, adding to the slightly blown-up, dreamlike quality of this film world. It’s not David Lynch dreamlike, but when you see the characters, walk, sing and dance, you can’t help but feel this sense of wonder, of just being able to bask in what you are seeing (and, of course, hearing). It’s a sensory treat, and the production design has a big part in that. 

The 8th Stan Winston Award for Best Special/Visual Effects in a Film from 2016

Arrival - Denis Villeneuve
Deadpool - Tim Miller
Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson
Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson
Kubo and the Two Strings - Travis Knight
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Gareth Edwards
Tale of Tales - Matteo Garrone
Under the Shadow - Babak Anvari
The Witch - Robert Eggers
Yakuza Apocalypse - Takashi Miike

And the winner is... Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson

A new winner comes to the fray! While I was sincerely tempted to go with one or two others, the fact is the special/visual effects in Doctor Strange are legitimately groundbreaking. At least eight different effects companies, including Industrial Light & Magic, contributed to the general makeup and tapestry on display, and their work clearly paid off, as it is a visual marvel (excuse the pun) to behold. Not only, that, but the contribution it makes to the narrative and it’s use as a storytelling device cannot be disputed. Lots of things are going on, and as the action bounces across different dimensions, often within the same sequence, it maintains a seamless quality which is trippy and mysterious, yet part of a unified whole. Not only that, it also contributes to the mise-en-scene, adding to the already terrific production design, costumes and make-up/hair. Doctor Strange was one of the more interesting installments to come out of the recent glut of superhero films, and the special/visual effects had a big part to play in making it a distinctive picture.

The 1st Fassbinder Award for Promotion of Diversity in a Film from 2016

Arrival - Denis Villeneuve
Chi-Raq - Spike Lee
Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson
Hidden Figures - Theodore Melfi
Hush - Mike Flanagan
Julieta - Pedro Almodovar
Moonlight - Barry Jenkins
13th - Ava DuVernay

And the winner is... Moonlight - Barry Jenkins

One could make the argument questioning as to why this film is being given an award for diversity, given that the racial demographic of the film is all-black. However, even though it’s an argument I myself have posed, it’s one that I disagree with. I feel personally that there is no film from 2016 more deserving of being the inaugural winner of this award than Moonlight. An extraordinary and beautifully made piece of art cinema that became a cinematic phenomenon, the success, both in terms of exposure and of overall film quality, does much to add weight to the debate that African-American cinema deserves to be recognised equally to that of their more prominent counterparts in Hollywood. Furthermore, as a major work in the history and contemporary development of LGBT cinema and issues, it brings something that for a long time has been considered fringe topic matter to the fore. For all of some people saying about the lessening output of films with legitimate substance, that an all-black, LGBT picture can go on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards says a lot about the continuing power of cinema. I like to think this is a film Fassbinder, who all his life embraced and depicted in films such as Katzelmacher, The Merchant Of Four Seasons, The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant and Fear Eats The Soul among others, the downtrodden and society’s outsiders, would have been proud of. Third award too!

The 8th Vic Armstrong Award for Best Stunt Work/Choreography in a Film from 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice - Zack Snyder
Blood Father - Jean-Francois Richet
Deadpool - Tim Miller
Doctor Strange - Scott Derrickson
Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson
La La Land - Damien Chazelle
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Gareth Edwards
Train to Busan - Yeon Sang-ho
Victoria - Sebastian Schipper
Yakuza Apocalypse - Takashi Miike 

And the winner is... Train to Busan - Yeon Sang-ho

And so enters one of the most unique and outright entertaining films of 2016. For those of you who haven’t seen Train To Busan, you’re in for a treat, as it is one hell of a ride. Notwithstanding all of the robustness of the film’s many qualities, the stunt work, choreography and staging involved in the memorable sequences is of a consistent standard of excellence. Maintaining a frenetic intensity of momentum and claustrophobia, we legitimately feel a physical involvement in the struggles of the characters. On numerous occasions, I was loudly exclaiming in reaction to what I was seeing onscreen, so much was my investment in the drama. On defining the film genre-wise, it is the one film from 2016 I found genuinely hard to pin down. The closest thing I can compare it to is Jan De Bont’s Speed, although this is clearly a different kettle of fish. A really terrific piece of work.

The 9th Thelma Schoonmaker Award for Best Film Editorial Work of 2016

Joe Walker (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve
Sabrina Plisco/Wyatt Smith (Doctor Strange) - Scott Derrickson
Eric L. Beason/Louise Ford/Gardner Gould (Don't Breathe) - Fede Alvarez
John Gilbert (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson
Christopher Murrie (Kubo and the Two Strings) - Travis Knight
Tom Cross (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Joe McMillon/Nat Sanders (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Julian Quantrill (Notes on Blindness) - Pete Middleton/James Spinney
Yang Jin-mo (Train to Busan) - Yeon Sang-ho
Olivia Neergaard-Holm (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper

And the winner is... John Gilbert (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson

Another first-time winner in Hacksaw Ridge, one of the big players in this year’s crop of Oscar nominees. A strong and powerful war drama, much has been made, and quite justifiably so, of the film as being a technically superlative picture. John Gilbert, who won an Oscar for his work, is in my opinion the guy who keeps all of the various technical elements under control. Each of them are strong in their own right, but piece together and made into a unified whole, they each add up to more than the sum of their parts. Aurally, visually, aesthetically, we are caught up in the drama and the sensory bombardment during the stunning scenes in the Battle of Okinawa, among the most technically gifted, intense, harrowing and well-staged depictions of the horrors of war I can recall seeing for some time. Mel Gibson has always been a great director with regards to his depiction of violence, but with editor Gilbert, he may have even exceeded himself.

The 10th James Cameron Award for Best Sequel of 2016


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm Ltd.) - Gareth Edwards
T2 Trainspotting (Film4/Creative Scotland/Cloud Eight Films/DNA Films/Decibel Films) - Danny Boyle


And the winner is... T2 Trainspotting (Film4/Creative Scotland/Cloud Eight Films/DNA Films/Decibel Films) - Danny Boyle


Things just keep seeming to get more split out as they go along! For best sequel of 2016, I have not went for a long-running franchise picture, as has often been the case for this award, but rather a follow-up, two decades on, to a modern-day classic, a cultural touchstone of the 1990s, one that may have never seen the light of day, and one, some may argue, may never have been even necessary. Now, while it maintains and recaptures much of the spirit of it’s predecessor, it is a strong movie in it’s own right, existing within it’s own terms. It has a completely different visual aesthetic, and although it is at times outrageously funny, it’s a lot more of a moody, reflective, melancholy and contemplative picture. Time has passed by these characters, and they are forced to look at what they have done with their lives, which also makes the audience like inwardly upon themselves. In a landscape where things are endlessly repeated and threatening to destroy the legacy of their predecessors, it’s refreshing to see something so confidently self-aware of it’s position in the overall scheme of things.

The 9th Werner Herzog Award for Most Ingenious Concept in a Film from 2016

Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee: this adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is a potent, musical and satirical Molotov cocktail that is poetic, spunky, entertaining and insightful in it’s politics and commentary on gang-related violence

Hacksaw Ridge (Cross Creek Pictures/Demarest Films/Argent Pictures/Pandemonium Films/Permut Productions/AI Film Productions/Vendian Pictures/Kylin Pictures) - Mel Gibson: a war film based on the true story of a conscientious objector (Desmond Doss) in the military during the Second World War. A simple but effective hook and premise.

La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/TIK Films/Imposter Pictures/Gilbert Films/Marc Platt Productions) - Damien Chazelle: taking two genres of classical Hollywood cinema, the musical and the romance, Damien Chazelle uses them to tell the tale of two lovers and the American Dream

Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment/Pastel Productions) - Barry Jenkins: an episodic, coming-of-age story following a young black male at three different stages in the course of his lifetime

Notes on Blindness (Archer's Mark) - Pete Middleton/James Spinneyan effective multimodal documentary picture combining the work of actors, sound designers and the musings of John M. Hull himself to depict the subject of blindness

Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) - Yeon Sang-ho: one of the few cases it is hard to put a definitive label on, being an action-horror-thriller with zombies set on a train

Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper: a two-hour and twenty-minutes long continuous take, largely improvised dialogue in multiple languages and lots of ground, literal and metaphorical to cover

The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) - Na Hong-jin: a supernatural horror film that goes to some truly unexpected and quite extraordinary places

The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers: an elegantly told horror film which is essentially about a family going through a religious and spiritual crisis, with all the cerebral qualities of the likes of Suspiria

Yakuza Apocalypse (Django Film/Gambit/Happinet/OLM, Inc.) - Takashi Miike: I think after about half-an-hour I stopped being able to or making an effort to guess where the hell it was going

And the winner is... Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) - Yeon Sang-ho: one of the few cases it is hard to put a definitive label on, being an action-horror-thriller with zombies set on a train


To be honest, it was a toss-up between this and Victoria. Both are strong in this respect for different reasons. I think in terms of overall execution of its concept, Victoria is the better film. However, from the purely foundational standpoint, Train To Busan aims to do a lot of different things, and succeeds in nearly of all of them. As such, it is one of the rare contemporary cases of a film with an identity that is wholly unique and exists outside of the boundaries of the traditional genres of film. It has served it well to no end too, as Train To Busan has become that rare thing, a truly international crossover hit, a global phenomenon. The transcendent and universal qualities have enabled it to become the highest-grossing South Korean film in it’s native country, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and has earned nearly $100 million worldwide. A highly entertaining piece of work that stands head and shoulders amongst the best of the blockbusters Hollywood has to offer, this is how you do high-concept filmmaking. Another multiple-award winner too!

The 7th 'Cemetery Junction' Award for Most Overlooked Film of 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (RatPac-Dune Entertainment/DC Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual Films) - Zack Snyder: it’s an absolute mess of a film, but despite being savaged by both fans and critics, I don’t think it’s a bad one
Blood Father (Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch) - Jean-Francois Richet: a solid b-movie that has the unfortunate timing of being released before it become socially acceptable to admire Mel Gibson again
Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee: unfortunately, because it was released in 2015 in the United States, it missed the bandwagon for the recent revival of interest in African-American cinema
David Brent: Life on the Road (Entertainment One/BBC Films) - Ricky Gervais: despite much coverage on this being ‘a film based upon The Office,’ it’s a different beast, and better for it
The Do-Over (Happy Madison Productions) - Steven Brill: what looks like run of the mill bad Adam Sandler fare on paper is a good buddy comedy with regular cohort David Spade
Everybody Wants Some!! (AnnaPurna Pictures/Detour Filmproduction) - Richard Linklater: I think after releasing two powerful dramas in Before Midnight and Boyhood, people weren’t expecting Richard Linklater to go out and have fun
The Neon Demon (Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) - Nicolas Winding Refn: Nic Winding Refn’s latest venture down the rabbit hole just didn’t click with people in the way that they wanted it to
The Nice Guys (Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/Bloom/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/LipSync Production) - Shane Black: Shane Black does his thing and makes a rip-roaringly funny buddy action comedy which tanks at the box-office, again!

And the winner is... The Nice Guys (Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/Bloom/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/LipSync Production) - Shane Black: Shane Black does his thing and makes a rip-roaringly funny buddy action comedy which tanks at the box-office, again!


I make no bones for the fact that I loved The Neon Demon, and I could have quite easily given this award to it and fawned over. However, I don’t think enough kind words and attention has been paid to The Nice Guys, so much so that I almost overlooked it, which makes it the perfect winner here. There was a time when Shane Black, in his mid-twenties, was one of the hottest screenwriters in Hollywood, with Lethal Weapon, Predator and The Last Boy Scout under his belt. Then, after The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1996, which he also produced, work become more sporadic. His next project to make the big screen 2005’s criminally-overlooked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which he wrote and directed, also tanked at the box-office, but it established a working relationship with a certain Robert Downey Jr., in one of his first lead roles post-rehab. When Downey Jr. shot to superstardom following his successes as Tony Stark in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, he reached out to Black in 2010, and until the director would helm Iron Man 3, a massive box-office success. This would give Black the reign, with Joel Silver producing, to foster The Nice Guys. Although the action buddy-comedy is familiar territory to Black, it is done here with such skill. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are both on top form, Black weaving his diligent dialogue around an intricate murder mystery set in the 1970s. It’s entertaining and engaging, and I can only hope that The Predator gets Shane Black the kind of attention he deserves, because as proven here, he’s a hell of a talent when given the freedom to do what he wants.

The 3rd Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Film from 2016

Bone Tomahawk (Kurt Russell/Patrick Wilson/Matthew Fox/Richard Jenkins/Lili Simmons/David Arquette/Sid Haig/Sean Young) - S. Craig Zahler
Chi-Raq (Teyonah Parris/Nick Cannon/Wesley Snipes/Jennifer Hudson/Angela Bassett/John Cusack/Samuel L. Jackson) - Spike Lee
Hacksaw Ridge (Andrew Garfield/Sam Worthington/Luke Bracey/Teresa Palmer/Hugo Weaving/Rachel Griffiths/Vince Vaughan) - Mel Gibson
Jackie (Natalie Portman/Peter Sarsgaard/Greta Gerwig/Billy Crudup/John Hurt/Max Casella/Beth Grant/Richard E. Grant/Caspar Phillipson/John Carroll Lynch) - Pablo Larrain
Moonlight (Trevante Rhodes/Ashton Sanders/Alex Hibbert/Andre Holland/Jharrel Jerome/Jaden Piner/Naomie Harris/Janelle Monae/Mahershala Ali/Patrick Decile) - Barry Jenkins
The Nice Guys (Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling/Angourie Rice/Matt Bomer/Margaret Qualley/Keith David/Kim Basinger) - Shane Black
Tale of Tales (Salma Hayek/Vincent Cassel/John C. Reilly/Toby Jones/Massimo Ceccherini/Alba Rohrwacher/Shirley Henderson/Hayley Carmichael/Stacy Martin/Bebe Cave/Christian Lees/Jonah Lees) - Matteo Garrone
T2 Trainspotting (Ewan McGregor/Ewen Bremner/Jonny Lee Miller/Robert Carlyle/Kevin McKidd/Anjela Nedyalkova/James Cosmo/Shirley Henderson/Irvine Welsh/Kelly Macdonald) - Danny Boyle
Victoria (Laia Costa/Frederick Lau/Franz Rogowski/Max Mauff/Burak Yigit/Andre Hennicke) - Sebastian Schipper
The Witch (Anya Taylor-Joy/Ralph Ineson/Kate Dickie/Harvey Scrimshaw/Ellie Grainger/Lucas Dawson/Julian Richings/Bathsheba Garnett/Sarah Stephens/Charlie/Wahab Chaudhry/Axtun Henry Dube/Athan Conrad Dube) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... The Witch (Anya Taylor-Joy/Ralph Ineson/Kate Dickie/Harvey Scrimshaw/Ellie Grainger/Lucas Dawson/Julian Richings/Bathsheba Garnett/Sarah Stephens/Charlie/Wahab Chaudhry/Axtun Henry Dube/Athan Conrad Dube) - Robert Eggers


Although there are many others on this list that could be in there, and have a larger cast with bigger names, I’m going with The Witch on this one. Winning it’s second award, I’ve already made my admiration clear for this, but although I think it succeeds as a purely cerebral film, the potency of the tension, suspense and would be non-existent without the strengths of the ensemble cast. As a collective entity, you never for one second doubt that these individuals are a close-knit family, tightly bound together and slowly disintegrating from the inside out. Their internal anxieties and neuroses, brilliantly portrayed by each of the actors, is projected into the group identity, and with all of the outside forces imposing upon them, each small action has a domino effect, affecting each individual member. Every actor of all ages, adult, teenager, children, even bit parts such as the titular character, baby Samuel and the iconic Black Phillip play their part, using their performances to elevate this family drama into that of a contemporary horror classic.

The 9th Katharine Hepburn Award for Best Supporting Role by a Female Actor in 2016

Angela Bassett: “Miss Helen” (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Octavia Spencer: “Dorothy Vaughan” (Hidden Figures) - Theodore Melfi
Sienna Miller: “Charlotte Melville” (High-Rise) - Ben Wheatley
Naomie Harris: “Paula” (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Angourie Rice: “Holly March” (The Nice Guys) - Shane Black
Kim Su-an: “Soo-an" (Train To Busan) - Yeon Sang-ho
Avin Manshadi: “Dorsa” (Under The Shadow) - Babak Anvari
Chun Woo-hee: “Moo-myung” (The Wailing) - Na Hong-jin
Kim Hwan-hee: “Hyo-jin” (The Wailing) - Na Hong-jin
Kate Dickie: “Katherine” (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Naomie Harris: “Paula” (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins


One of the interesting things that you may notice in this category is that if you are in the know or do your research, four out of the ten nominees are child actors. Although their performances are different, I believe that children deserve to be respected equally to their adult peers in the arts. Just a point I’d like to mention. Anywho, Moonlight shoots on with its fourth award here, with Naomie Harris picking up the gong for her stellar performance as Paula. Although overall there is a terrific ensemble cast, it has to be said there are many great individual performances, and I feel that this may be the strongest. Unlike the central character, who is portrayed by three different actors, Harris depicts Paula, Chiron’s mother, over the course of twenty years. Through her character, an emotionally abusive drug-addict towards her son, we see in her the genesis, the origin of a lot of the anxiety in her son’s life. It may it times be high-strung, but it’s not without it’s moments of sublime, tragic tenderness. Harris has a propensity to delivering believable and multi-faceted performances, and this may be her best to date.

The 9th R. Lee Ermey Award for Best Supporting Role by a Male Actor in 2016

John Cusack: “Fr. Mike Corridan” (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Stephen Lang: “‘The Blind Man’” (Don’t Breathe) - Fede Alvarez
Vince Vaughan: “Sergeant Howell” (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson
Hugo Weaving: “Tom Doss” (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson
Mahershala Ali: “Juan” (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Ewen Bremner: “Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy” (T2: Trainspotting) - Danny Boyle
Ma Dong-seok: “Sang-hwa” (Train To Busan) - Yeon Sang-ho
Hwang Jung-min: “Il-gwang” (The Wailing) - Na Hong-jin
Ralph Ineson: “William” (The Witch) - Robert Eggers
Harvey Scrimshaw: “Caleb” (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Ewen Bremner: “Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy” (T2: Trainspotting) - Danny Boyle

Okay, there’s maybe more high-profile, ‘critically-acclaimed’ performances here in Oscar-nominated pictures, and don’t get me wrong, they’re great, otherwise they wouldn’t be nominated. That being said, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the best performance in this category is that of Ewen Bremner in T2: Trainspotting, giving it it’s second win. Why? There’s no doubt that Trainspotting was a cultural phenomenon, but T2: Trainspotting is a different beast, and I would argue that while the original had depth, it was never quite as melancholic or romantic as this new film. Bremner’s Spud, the only uncorrupted member of the group, is the heart and soul of the whole piece. While the rest of the gang are getting up to their antics, we see the honest, simple-minded Spud attempting to put his life back together after years of brain-frying addiction, trying to make sense of everything in the form of his memoirs. His commentary speaks for the group as a whole, and in coming to the fore Bremner delivers a genuinely beautiful performance.

The 7th 'Extras' Award for Best Bit Part in a Film from 2016


David Arquette: “Purvis” (Bone Tomahawk) - S. Craig Zahler
Samuel L. Jackson: “Dolmedes” (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Michael Chiklis: “Carmine” (The Do-Over) - Steven Brill
Glen Powell: “John Glenn” (Hidden Figures) - Theodore Melfi
Priscilla Delgado: “Antia” (Julieta) - Pedro Almodovar
Lena Headey: “Lady Catherine de Bourgh” (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) - Burr Steers
John C. Reilly: “King of Longtrellis” (Tale of Tales) - Matteo Garrone
Kelly Macdonald: “Diane Coulston” (T2 Trainspotting) - Danny Boyle
Irvine Welsh: “Mikey Forrester” (T2 Trainspotting) - Danny Boyle
Keifer Sutherland: “Himself/Orgy” (Zoolander No. 2) - Ben Stiller

And the winner is... Glen Powell: “John Glenn” (Hidden Figures) - Theodore Melfi

I could have went for Samuel L. Jackson’s witty delivery in the recurring commentator role in Chi-Raq, or big Mike Chiklis bursting out of a swimming pool like a raging beast in The Do-Over, but I’m going with Glen Powell on this one. Hidden Figures is a solid film, not great, but solid. However, one person caught my attention, and the same can be said for his more significant role in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, and that was Glen Powell. He has been gradually building up some steam, playing supporting parts after a long time in bit parts. In this bit part though, it is so well-fleshed out that you can’t help but engage with his charismatic astronaut John Glenn. He has all of about between five and ten minutes onscreen, and does a lot with that time. Furthermore, while he has given it his own charming flavor, there’s no scenery-chewing and he plays it straight down the middle, not taking away but rather giving to the leading ladies who are the focus of the story. That is the mark of an intelligent young actor, and I’m willing to put my money on the fact that I think there’ll be bigger and better things in his future career prospects.

The 8th Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film of 2016

Into the Inferno (Matter of Fact Media/Spring Films/Werner Herzog Filmproduktion) - Werner Herzog
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (Saville Productions) - Werner Herzog
Notes on Blindness (Archer's Mark) - Pete Middleton/James Spinney

13th (Candoo Films) - Ava DuVernay



And the winner is... 13th (Candoo Films) - Ava DuVernay


A solid year for documentaries, but notably, once again, a fair degree of these pictures are emerging from Netflix. Many in the film industry have a contentious relationship and indeed frown upon the company and how it’s distribution methods differ and potentially infringe upon the changing business as a whole (just look at the divisive reactions to Netflix’s presence at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival). However, one cannot deny that there is some work of exceptional quality amongst their productions, and 13th is perhaps the best of it’s self-produced and distributed documentaries to date. With Ava DuVernay, a force to be reckoned with within the business for her documentary, narrative and television work, what we have here a polemical commentary on mass incarceration in the United States. Meticulously researched and full of insightful facts, we see the evolution of the racial implications within the American prison system, and this is all channeled with a sublime energy and vibrancy. A powerful statement on injustice and a potential piece of social and political filmmaking, it’s fully deserving of being recognized as the best documentary of 2016. 

The 8th Peter Sallis Award for Best Vocal Performance by an Actor in 2016

Nick Cannon: “Demetrious ‘Chi-raq’ Dupree” (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Teyonah Parris: “Lysistrata” (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Ricky Gervais: “David Brent” (David Brent: Life On The Road) - Ricky Gervais
Werner Herzog: “as Himself” (Into The Inferno) - Werner Herzog
Natalie Portman: “Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Kennedy” (Jackie) - Pablo Larrain
Art Parkinson: “Kubo” (Kubo And The Two Strings) - Travis Knight
Ryan Gosling: “Sebastian Wilder” (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Emma Stone: “Mia Dolan” (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
John Hull: “as Himself” (Notes On Blindness) - Pete Middleton/James Spinney
Wahab Chaudhry: “Black Phillip” (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winners are... Ryan Gosling: “Sebastian Wilder” and Emma Stone: “Mia Dolan” (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle

La La Land has broke out again as the picture with most awards to its name now at four gongs. I’ve decided to split this one because although each of these performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are magnificent individually, I cannot look at one without the other. Gosling’s muted, subdued Sebastian is steeped in moody melancholy, while Stone’s Mia is a shining light, a gifted, bright flower waiting to emerge from the darkness. Both together merge in harmony to create something that is bigger and better and brighter than the sum of each of their individual parts. The technical prowess of their vocals and their knowledge of not only their own character but that of their co-star, has that rare thing of full legitimate chemistry. It is pure synchronicity, and each of them working in tandem, dancing cheek-to-cheek, as it were, elevate each other and are the driving force behind the film as a whole. While Damen Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz in particular add to the collective greatness of the picture, Gosling and Stone, it could be argued, are what truly makes it special. 

The 10th Cate Blanchett Award for Best Leading Role by a Female Actor in 2016

Amy Adams: “Louise Banks” (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve
Teyonah Parris: “Lysistrata” (Chi-Raq) - Spike Lee
Jane Levy: "Rocky" (Don't Breathe) - Fede Alvarez
Kate Siegel: “Maddie” (Hush) - Mike Flanagan
Natalie Portman: “Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Kennedy” (Jackie) - Pablo Larrain
Emma Stone: “Mia Dolan” (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Elle Fanning: “Jesse” (The Neon Demon) - Nicolas Winding Refn
Salma Hayek: “Queen of Longtrellis” (Tale of Tales) - Matteo Garrone
Narges Rashidi: “Shideh” (Under The Shadow) - Babak Anvari
Laia Costa: “Victoria” (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper
Anya Taylor-Joy: “Thomasin” (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Laia Costa: “Victoria” (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper

2016 was a fantastic year for lead roles by female actors. Out of ten years of film writing, I would say that it was the best year period, and that this particular collection of nominees is the strongest to appear in my year-end awards. I could have chosen one of at least four others and not bat an eyelid. However, Victoria picks up it’s third award for Laia Costa’s extraordinary performance as the titular character, in what I feel to be, hands down, the single best piece of acting in all of 2016. Why? I’ve hammered home the concept time and again, but for the entire length of this challenging film, Costa’s Victoria is at the centre of the action, and never once does she falter. Her Victoria experiences what I would say is among the most complex and varying degree of emotional states I can remember seeing in a single character for some time, and doesn’t do it by descending into excessive melodrama and histrionics. She does it through a key understanding of her character and human behavior. Victoria is a thoroughly empathetic protagonist, and we believe in her not as a character on a written page being performed by an actor, but a real human being going through all of this. Doing work to such a high level and making it come across with flawless grace is a marvel to behold. Victoria is a picture with a lot going for it, but this performance is one of the many highlights.

The 10th Kevin Spacey Award for Best Leading Role by a Male Actor in 2016

Kurt Russell: "Sheriff Franklin Hunt" (Bone Tomahawk) - S. Craig Zahler
Ricky Gervais: “David Brent” (David Brent: Life on the Road) - Ricky Gervais
Ryan Reynolds: “Wade Wilson/Deadpool” (Deadpool) - Tim Miller
Andrew Garfield: “Desmond Doss” (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson
Julian Dennison: “Ricky” (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) - Taika Waititi
Sam Neill: “’Uncle’ Hector” (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) - Taika Waititi
Ryan Gosling: “Sebastian Wilder” (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Trevante Rhodes: “Adult Chiron/’Black’” (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Russell Crowe: “Jackson Healy” (The Nice Guys) - Shane Black
Frederick Lau: “Sonne” (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper
Kwak Do-won: “Jong-goo” (The Wailing) - Na Hong-jin

And the winner is... Sam Neill: “’Uncle’ Hector” (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) - Taika Waititi

A tough category to choose, but I’ve decided to go with Sam Neill’s Uncle Hec in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, picking up it’s first award. Hunt For The Wilderpeople, though not without flaws, in a very funny, offbeat and at times moving buddy comedy, driven by the odd couple relationship between Neill’s Uncle Hec and co-star Julian Dennison’s Ricky. The two share great chemistry, and with one being a cantankerous, ill-tempered grouch and the other a juvenile delinquent who idolizes Tupac Shakur, it makes for some interesting scenarios. However, through their collective grief, loss, troubles and trials, they gradually become bonding to one another. It’s a case of who you gravitate more towards I suppose, and I leaned more towards the grumpy old man. It’s always baffled me how Neill, always a fine actor, never became a bigger star. Even in schlock like Omen III: The Final Conflict, in which he plays the adult Damien Thorn, he has the fantastic ‘Nazarene’ dialogue/monologue with an effigy of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to see why he was once scouted to play James Bond, and in his elder years, he still clearly possesses that ‘it’ factor. Hector is a stereotypical grumpy old man, made even more so by his sorrow, but Neill injects him with aspects of his roguish charm, and as such it is a wonder to see cracks in the façade of churlishness. In a career of exceptional performances, this among the very best that Neill has had to offer.

The 9th Akira Kurosawa Award for Best Foreign-Language Film of 2016

Julieta (El Deseo) Country: Spain. Language: Spanish - Pedro Almodovar
Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) Country: South Korea. Language: Korean - Yeon Sang-ho
Under the Shadow (Wigwam Films) Country(s): United Kingdom/Jordan/Qatar. Language: Persian - Babak Anvari
Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) Country: Germany. Language(s): English/German - Sebastian Schipper
The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) Country: South Korean. Language(s): Korean/Japanese - Na Hong-jin
Yakuza Apocalypse (Django Film/Gambit/Happinet/OLM, Inc.) Country: Japan. Language(s): Japanese/English - Takashi Miike


And the winner is... Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) Country: Germany. Language(s): English/German - Sebastian Schipper

There is much to be said for this diverse pack of films. Takashi Miike’s suitably berserk Yakuza Apocalypse is a strong work from Japan, a constant presence in this category. Pedro Almodovar, one of the few filmmakers who today can truly be called ‘international,’ makes an appearance with his Julieta. South Korea has two representatives among the years best in The Wailing and Train To Busan, proof once again that in terms of output for the past twenty years it has been among the most artistically thriving nations in the film industry. Also, Iranian-born Babak Nanvari’s debut feature, Under The Shadow, is by no means under the radar, and is a notable film. That being said, I’m giving the award for Best Foreign-Language Film to Victoria, nabbed its fourth award. In this regard, it was subject to a minor controversy, in that it was one of eight films shortlisted by Germany to be their submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. However, it was disqualified due to the high percentage of English-language dialogue in the film. Indeed, if one was to add it up, English would probably feature more prominently than German, in that it is the common language between the Spanish Victoria and the German group of guys she ends up palling about with. Regardless of how one feels about that, it is a genuinely international that transcends traditional boundaries, and I feel it to be more than worthy of winning this award.

The 8th Orson Welles Award for Most Promising Debut Filmmaker of 2016

S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk): using his enthusiasm for genre work, Zahler creates a hybrid western with a distinct b-movie mentality
Tim Miller (Deadpool): takes the genre and turns expectations on their head, Miller makes a valid argument in favour of R-rated superhero film
Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings): Knight and Laika craft a real labour of love, acting as an homage and a unique spin on Japanese folklore, mythology and culture
Pete Middleton/James Spinney (Notes on Blindness): Middleton and Spinney transcend the traditional boundaries of the documentary film, and in doing so create a fascinating depiction of it's topic matter
Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow): set against the backdrop of the War of the Cities in 1980s Tehran, Anvari creates a solid supernatural horror film with political and social undercurrents
Robert Eggers (The Witch): working from a strong foundational base, Eggers tells, in an almost elegant manner, a cerebral and nightmarish tale of a family haunted

And the winner is... Robert Eggers (The Witch): working from a strong foundational base, Eggers tells, in an almost elegant manner, a cerebral and nightmarish tale of a family haunted


As I have mentioned in the past, I feel there is never enough light shed on the works of debut filmmakers. Although many artists make their best work later on, there is something unique in the immediacy and freshness of a great debut film. Each of these films is striking in that regard, but none more so than the impact of Robert Eggers’ The Witch. Earlier on, I awarded it the Best Horror Film of 2016 and Best Ensemble Cast of 2016, but there is so much more to it than that. It is beautifully, almost elegantly shot with immaculate framing, the original score and overall sound is eerie, atmospheric and at times incredibly jarring. Most importantly though, it comes with a strong, solid, well-developed story with three-dimensional characters to back it up. Wrapped up in religious paranoia and hysteria, we see this family, isolated from society and haunted by what is supposed to be an evil presence in the nearby, challenge and start to tear each other apart. It is tragic and haunting watching this unfold, and in just about every regard, Eggers uses the power of cinema to create an incredibly cerebral experience which broods and creeps up upon the viewer in a way that I found to be deeply disturbing. In doing so, Eggers has given to the audience a film that unlike any of the grot that generally passes for ‘horror films’ these days, and is the best film in that genre probably since Let The Right One In. For a debut feature, this is, to use an old term, near enough as good as it gets.

The 9th Steven Spielberg Award for Best Producer(s) on a Film from 2016


Dan Levine/Shawn Levy/David Linde/Aaron Ryder (Arrival) - Denis Villeneuve
Simon Kinberg/Ryan Reynolds/Lauren Shuler Donner (Deadpool) - Tim Miller
Terry Benedict/Paul Currie/Bruce Davey/William D. Johnson/Bill Mechanic/Brian Oliver/David Permut (Hacksaw Ridge) - Mel Gibson
Travis Knight/Arianne Sutner (Kubo And The Two Strings) - Travis Knight
Fred Berger/Gary Gilbert/Jordan Horowitz/Marc Platt (La La Land) - Damien Chazelle
Dede Gardner/Jeremy Kleiner/Adele Romanski (Moonlight) - Barry Jenkins
Spencer Averick/Howard Barish/Ava DuVernay (13th) - Ava DuVernay
Lee Dong-ha (Train To Busan) - Yeon Sang-ho
Christian Dressler/Jan Dressler/Sebastian Schipper (Victoria) - Sebastian Schipper
Daniel Bexerman/Lars Knudsen/Jodi Redmond/Rodrigo Teixeira/Jay Van Hoy (The Witch) - Robert Eggers

And the winner is... Travis Knight/Arianne Sutner (Kubo And The Two Strings) - Travis Knight

It would be easy to go for one of the big-budget blockbusters, surprise indie hits or awards contenders, but I’ve decided to give Kubo And The Two Strings it’s third gong. I’ve been very fond of the work that Laika have put in over the years, but this film is a real labor of love for the studio, in particular Travis Knight, the Laika CEO who also makes his directorial debut. A “stop-motion samurai epic,” the film is richly steeped in and a loving tribute to Japanese folklore, culture and mythology, but exists as a strong film on it’s own two feet that is distinctly a Laika story. Kubo is another of their sympathetic misfit heroes who go on an adventure that is as much about self-discovery as the physical journey. It is a tale that, while having been done before in some senses, is in execution genuinely moving, humorous and uplifting. The artwork itself is breathtaking to behold. Inspired by the Japanese ukiyo-e wood block style, ink wash painting and origami (which features heavily in the film), it is among the visually unique animated films from a technical standpoint in recent years. At risk of sound overly indulgent in the rhetoric, you could hang up many individual frames that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery. It may not have raked in the kind of money that Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks makes (it grossed $74 million off of it’s $60 million budget), but it is Laika’s crowning achievement thus far and a film for which everyone involved should be proud.

The 10th Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Director of 2016

Denis Villeneuve – (Arrival)
Spike Lee – (Chi-Raq)
Mel Gibson – (Hacksaw Ridge)
Travis Knight – (Kubo And The Two Strings)
Damien Chazelle – (La La Land)
Barry Jenkins – (Moonlight)
Nicolas Winding Refn – (The Neon Demon)
Yeon Sang-ho – (Train To Busan)
Sebastian Schipper – (Victoria)
Na Hong-jin – (The Wailing)
Robert Eggers – (The Witch)

And the winner is... Sebastian Schipper – (Victoria)


As you can see, I’ve decided to include eleven nominees here, as opposed to my usual between five and ten. I just really struggled with the decision and couldn’t narrow it down to ten, as each of these directors deserve recognition for their work. That being said, while all are worthy, it wasn’t a hard decision for me to give the gong to Sebastian Schipper for Victoria (giving the film it’s fifth award). It’s quite often the case that the winner of Best Director doesn’t necessarily transfer and secure Best Film (indeed, my records presently sit at 4-5 of films that won both awards). With the Best Director award, I don’t look for the best film per se, but rather the filmmaker(s) who I feel made the biggest steps and took the biggest risks to make their work something of distinction, someone who was willing to push the boundaries. Nowhere is this more indicative in 2016 than with Victoria. From a conceptual standpoint, it is an incredibly audacious undertaking. Where it stands out though in this regard is the skill with which it is executed. There’s a lot of different things going on, often in real-time, each with their own challenges, and how Schipper deals with all of these elements, tending it right through from pre-to-production-to-post is an exceptional display of directorial intent and flair. It’s one of those films that if one key part goes wrong it could threaten to upset the whole, but Schipper follows through brilliantly.

The Thin White Dude's 6th Championship for Independent/Unique Contribution to Cinema in 2016

And the winner is... The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects) - Robert Eggers

In case you haven’t gathered, I like The Witch. A lot. Anywho, the reason I have selected it for this special award is because I do feel that this is the exceptional example of an independent or unique contribution to cinema in 2016. Robert Eggers was a debutant feature filmmaker, and it could be argued that a gamble was being taken, given that he didn’t play the murder-by-numbers routine when it comes making a contemporary horror film. We’ve seen it happen in the past when people have done this and it hasn’t been profitable. However, grossing $40 million off of a $4 million budget shows the word-of-mouth got round and audiences, contrary to popular opinion, were intrigued to see a horror film that wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill, in your face, loud noises and jump-scares kind of fare. I say it again, it’s a powerful and cerebral experience of a film, not as hard-hitting as, but akin to something like Suspiria, how it works on your mind and slowly delivers suspense. If that isn’t a unique thing then I don’t know what is. Either way, I loved it.

The 8th 'Drag Me To Hell' Awards for 2016's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Dinesh D’Souza (Writer/Director/Lead Actor of Hillary’s America: The Secret History Of The Democratic Party): I’m all for freedom of speech and opinions being expressed, but there’s simply no excuse in this day and age to expect people to swallow a movie that is so outrageously bottom-feeding, overly forceful, propagandistic and narrow-minded in the approach it takes towards it’s subject.

Kevin James (Lead Actor of True Memoirs Of An International Assassin): very nearly inducted into my Hall of Shame this year, I opted to give him a by-ball and a chance to redeem himself. On the evidence of this truly awful piece of work, it may be a decision that I come to regret somewhere down the line. I’m sick and tired of seeing bad Kevin James films.

Robert De Niro (Lead Actor of Dirty Grandpa): in 2014, he was my Male Acting inductee into the Hall of Fame, for his undisputedly great contributions to film over the years. However, Dirty Grandpa is an unmistakable blemish on his reputation, and I find it hard to believe that somewhere down the line he didn’t recognise what a bad film he was involved with.

Marlon Wayans (Writer/Producer/Lead Actor of Fifty Shades Of Black): the parody film has been done to death. Heck, even parodies of Fifty Shades Of Grey are a dime-a-dozen. Just leave it alone. Seriously. As a famous man once said, “that joke isn’t funny anymore…”

The 9th Alfred Hitchcock Award for Most Significant Player (Member of the Film Community) of 2016

Mahershala Ali (Supporting Actor in Hidden Figures and Moonlight)
Damien Chazelle (Writer and Director of La La Land)
Robert Eggers (Writer and Director of The Witch)
Mel Gibson (Lead Actor in Blood Father, Director of Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (Lead Actor in La La Land and The Nice Guys)
Werner Herzog (Writer, Producer, Director and Narrator of Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World and Into the Inferno)
Ryan Reynolds (Lead Actor and Producer of Deadpool, Bit Part in Criminal)
Yeon Sang-ho (Director of Train to Busan)
Sebastian Schipper (Writer, Producer and Director of Victoria)

And the winner is... Mel Gibson (Lead Actor in Blood Father, Director of Hacksaw Ridge)

I make no bones about the fact that I’m a Mel Gibson guy. However, it cannot be denied that in 2016, Gibson re-emerged into the spotlight as a major presence in the industry. Taking an acting gig in the French-made English-language film Blood Father, a good, run-of-the-mill genre flick, was a soft way of reintroducing himself in a low-key manner. Then, by the time Hacksaw Ridge was released, one of the most high-profile and acclaimed film releases of the year, people were prepared, if not to excuse Gibson of his past discrepancies, then certainly respect his abilities as an artist. I remember when Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson’s first film in ten years, was being promoted, on a lot of the material, such as the posters, his name didn’t even make it onto them, so uncertain was it how people were going to receive a new film from Gibson. It’s a testament to his achievements how positive the reception was to Hacksaw Ridge, garnering multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Gibson. Considering how far he fell, it’s impossible to deny the incredible resurgence and significance of Mel Gibson, and his important contributions to cinema. 

The 10th Ed Wood Award for Worst Film of 2016

Bigfoot Vs. Zombies - Mark Polonia

Criminal (BenderSpink/Campbell-Grobman Films/Millenium Films) - Ariel Vroman
Dirty Grandpa (BillBlock Media/Josephson Entertainment/QED International) - Dan Mazer
Fifty Shades of Black (IM Global/Baby Way Productions) - Michael Tiddes
The Green Inferno (Worldview Entertainment/Dragonfly Entertainment/Sobra International Pictures) - Eli Roth
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (D'Souza Media) - Dinesh D'Souza
Ratchet and Clank (Rainmaker Entertainment/Blockade Entertainment/CNHK Media China/Cinema Management Group) - Kevin Munroe
True Memoirs of an International Assassin (PalmStar Media/Global Film Group) - Jeff Wadlow
Urge (Grindstone Entertainment Group/Blackmrkt Incorporated/Europictures) - Aaron Kaufman
Zoolander No. 2 (Red Hour Productions/Scott Rudin Productions) - Ben Stiller

And the winner is... Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (D'Souza Media) - Dinesh D'Souza

Usually, this is a fairly easy decision with the jury of one being out-and-out unanimous on who the undisputed King Of Cinematic Wasteland is for the year. For 2016, I had a triple threat of potential winners. All the nominees are poor films, but I was stuck between a trifecta of terrible. Fifty Shades Of Black, which is a morbidly unfunny film, was for a long time looking like it was going to win. Equally, while Dirty Grandpa has its moments (yes, I did chuckle on occasion), it took me to absolute depths no other film did this year. Looking at them generally though, I have to say that I found them to less offensive than the winner. I know, everyone has been ragging on this film, and no doubt some will say that it’s a politically motivated decision and yadda yadda yadda. However, it can’t be ignored just how rotten and vile Hillary’s America: The Secret History Of The Democratic Party truly is. It’s not the views expressed, it’s the fact that it’s bottom-feeding drivel which plays fast and loose between fact and fiction without a care as to how it is presented. Although Dinesh D’Souza claims the film to be a work that is objective, truth, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and this is one of the most subjectively skewed and warped manipulations of truth I’ve seen on film. Throughout, I felt like I was getting rapped on the head with a wooden ruler by D’Souza, shaking his head, wagging his finger, saying to me, “yes, Callum, you are a fucking idiot.” It’s so condescending, snotty and arrogant tonally that it’s embarrassing, completely losing any point that it has to make. Put it this way, I had a cramp while I was watching this, and I got more enjoyment out of sitting on the toilet. The bombastic pushiness of Hillary’s America was more painful than my bowel movements. Fourth award (all negative) too, making it the biggest loser of 2016.

The 10th Clockwork Award for Best Film of 2016

Arrival (FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/21 Laps Entertainment) - Denis Villeneuve
Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios/40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks) - Spike Lee
Hacksaw Ridge (Cross Creek Pictures/Demarest Films/Argent Pictures/Pandemonium Films/Permut Productions/AI Film Productions/Vendian Pictures/Kylin Pictures) - Mel Gibson
Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika) - Travis Knight
La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/TIK Films/Imposter Pictures/Gilbert Films/Marc Platt Productions) - Damien Chazelle
Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment/Pastel Productions) - Barry Jenkins
The Neon Demon (Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) - Nicolas Winding Refn
13th (Candoo Films) - Ava DuVernay
T2 Trainspotting (Film4/Creative Scotland/Cloud Eight Films/DNA Films/Decibel Films) - Danny Boyle
Train to Busan (Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film) - Yeon Sang-ho
Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper
The Wailing (Side Mirror/Fox International/Production Korea) - Na Hong-jin
The Witch (Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Pulse Films/Special Projects)

And the winner is... Victoria (MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Radical Media/Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)/ARTE) - Sebastian Schipper

Call me a cheat, call me a copout, but I was quite happy breaking my rules to turn my usual ten nominees into thirteen. Each of these films is noteworthy and significant in their own right. However, the best film of 2016 is undisputedly Victoria. I had heard a lot about Victoria’s reputation whenever I picked it up on DVD from HMV (along with Matteo Garrone’s Tale Of Tales). I stayed away from trailers, reviews, promotional material of any sort. For the most part, I like to go into a film blank, unclouded in my judgment. When you get a film as brilliant as Victoria, having that clean slate and just letting the film wash over you is a wonderful feeling. From the opening scene, faceless bodies dancing amidst the lights of a nightclub, music pumping as the camera slowly focuses in upon the face of our lead character, I was absolutely hooked. Okay, it could be dismissed by some as a ‘gimmick’ movie, being all done in one-take, but as extraordinary as that feat is, it’s far more than that. Notwithstanding the extraordinary cinematography, the ensemble cast, in particular Laia Costa, who delivers a spellbinding performance, are uniformly great, the evocative score by Nils Frahm is terrific, the sound design and overall choreography and staging also being noteworthy. It is a film which, although comprised of many individual parts excellent in their own right, is greater than the sum of each of them. All of this is held together by director Sebastian Schipper who, notwithstanding exhibiting a really audacious and bold streak as a filmmaker, is willing to put the proverbial money where the mouth is. Conceptually challenging, it must have been a logistical nightmare, and yet in execution, what we see onscreen is done to perfection. It’s an intense, intelligent, beautiful, thought-provoking and heart-rending dramatic thriller that hits every beat exactly as it should. I loved it, and am more than happy to declare it the best film of 2016.

Multiple Award Winners

Victoria: 6 awards - The 10th David Fincher Award for Best Thriller of 2016, The 9th Christopher Doyle Award for Cinematography in a Film from 2016 (Sturla Brandth Grøvlen), The 10th Cate Blanchett Award for Best Leading Role by a Female Actor in 2016 (Laia Costa: "Victoria), The 9th Akira Kurosawa Award for Best Foreign-Language Film of 2016 (Country: Germany, Language(s): English/German), The 10th Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Director of 2016, The 10th Clockwork Award for Best Film of 2016

Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party: 4 awards - The 10th GWB Award for Most Unintentionally Offensive Film of 2016, The 5th Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra (EHO) Award for Worst Original Score/Soundtrack of 2016 (Stephen Limbaugh), The 8th 'Drag Me To Hell' Award for 2016's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Dinesh D'Souza), The 10th Ed Wood Award for Worst Film of 2016

La La Land: 4 awards - The 10th Kenneth Loach Award for Best Drama Film of 2016, The 9th Ennio Morricone Award for Best Original Score/Soundtrack of 2016, The 8th Dante Ferretti Award for Best Production Design in a Film from 2016, The 8th Peter Sallis Award for Best Vocal Performance by an Actor in 2016 (shared between Ryan Gosling: "Sebastian Wilder," and Emma Stone: "Mia Dolan")

Moonlight: 4 awards - The 9th Paul Schrader Award for Best Screenplay of 2016 (Barry Jenkins), The 3rd 'Blue is the Warmest Colour' Award for Best Depiction of Sexuality in a Film from 2016, The 1st Fassbinder Award for Promotion of Diversity in a Film from 2016, The 9th Katharine Hepburn Award for Best Supporting Role by a Female Actor in 2016 (Naomie Harris: "Paula")

The Witch: 4 awards - The 10th John Carpenter Award for Best Horror Film of 2016, The 3rd Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Film from 2016, The 8th Orson Welles Award for Most Promising Debut Filmmaker of 2016 (Robert Eggers), The Thin White Dude's 6th Championship for Independent/Unique Contribution to Cinema in 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings: 3 awards - The 9th Sylvester Stallone Award for Best Action/Adventure Film of 2016, The 8th Walt Disney Award for Best Animated FIlm of 2016, The 9th Steven Spielberg Award for Best Producer(s) on a Film from 2016 (Travis Knight/Ariane Sutner)

Arrival: 2 awards - The 10th Philip K. Dick Award for Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film of 2016, The 5th David Bowie Award for Best Theme/Song in a Film from 2016 (Max Richter: "On the Nature of Daylight")

Hacksaw Ridge: 2 awards - The 9th Thelma Schoonmaker Award for Best Film Editorial Work of 2016 (John Gilbert), The 9th Alfred Hitchcock Award for Most Significant Player (Member of the Film Community) of 2016 (Mel Gibson)

The Neon Demon: 2 awards - The 7th Edith Head Award for Best Costume Designs in a Film from 2016, The 7th Rick Baker Award for Best Make-Up/Hair in a Film from 2016

13th: 2 awards - The 3rd Straight-To-Video Award for Best Home Media Release of 2016, The 8th Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film of 2016

T2 Trainspotting: 2 awards - The 10th James Cameron Award for Best Sequel of 2016, The 9th R. Lee Ermey Award for Best Supporting Role by a Male Actor in 2016 (Ewen Bremner: "Daniel 'Spud' Murphy")

Train to Busan: 2 awards - The 8th Vic Armstrong Award for Best Stunt Work/Choreography in a Film from 2016, The 9th Werner Herzog Award for Most Ingenious Concept in a Film from 2016

A Word For Those Who Have Left Us

"I hear you crying in my heart
Absent friends shall live by love
Remember places of my past
Absent friends shall live by love
And the dead shall live again
Absent friends shall live by
Love... love... love... love"

Absent Friends, Killing Joke

Finalment

Right well, here it is. If you can get best the terrible formatting on display here, I think you'll be able to make a bit of sense of this and get a decent idea as to my general opinions on the year of 2016 in film. As of writing (and publishing), it is encroaching on 2am. I've to be up again from bed at 6am to get a bus at 7am from Belfast to Stradbally, to work the Electric Picnic festival. Thankfully, the silver lining to this stupid schedule that I am living right now is knowing that things are getting much better. It's all starting to fall into place and I won't have to put up with this nonsense for long. My life has changed for the better, and I can see what truly matters now. As such, there won't be much space left for anything that doesn't involve positivity and the pursuit of my goals. This particular article, in it's own relatively meagre way, is a testament to this will, a statement of intent. I look forward to the future and all that it brings.

"Peace."

The Thin White Dude