Last night we got to see what the Academy thought of 2016’s cinematic crop, but the complaint I’ve always had with the Oscars and other awards show is how narrow the idea of best picture is. Which is why my annual Shaynie Awards (which began last year) break down my favourite movies of the year into their respective genres. So without further adieu, I proudly present the 2016 Shaynies.
Favourite Action Movie: In retrospect, The Accountant had a bunch of problems with the story but they were pushed to the back burner by some of the most innovative and entertaining action scenes of the year. Affleck sold his titular character with quiet, stoic conviction and The Accountant was a small action movie that worked across the board as a result.
Favourite Animated Movie: I kept going back and forth between Disney Studio’s two efforts before finally deciding I was going to call it a tie. Zootopia somehow managed to be bright, boisterous, witty, serious, raucous and mischievous all at the same time yet it was also able to successfully embed a powerful moral allegory about tolerance and diversity into a film populated by talking animals. It made you laugh and think at the same time. And any movie boycotted by far-right political groups (the same people boycotting Star Wars because it starred girls) must be doing something right.
Moana meanwhile, was a perfect example of movie myth making. Joseph Campbell would have loved this movie. Watching Moana (voiced perfectly by newcomer Auli’i Caravalho) mature from restless village leader to explorer and heroine was a great ride. The chemistry shared between Moana and the self-centered demi god Maui (voiced brilliantly by Dwayne Johnson) was better than that of most real life actors. The few musical numbers were foot tapping good and carried the story perfectly and I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that Johnson, known to an entire generation of human beings as The People’s Champ and the Brahma Bull, sang. And pulled it off.
Favourite Comedy: As a big fan of the original Ghostbusters, I loved last year’s remake from top to bottom. It was hardly flawless but watching a new generation of ‘Busters strap on the proton packs and duel it out with denizens of the underworld while cracking jokes and one liners was a great time. The chemistry between the four leads was fantastic and watching Chris Hemsworth swap the tables and play the pretty yet insanely stupid secretary was all icing on the movie going cake. It was also the reason I was called a “feminized loser” on the Internet for about a month or so (thanks YouTube comment board). Central Intelligence starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart was a very close second.
Favourite Comic Book Movie: Quick, when was the last time you were excited about a Spider-Man movie? You probably can’t remember but after his appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War fans are drooling over this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming reboot. On top of that, Civil War and Chadwick Boseman did perfect justice to Black Panther, one of my favourite heroes and a big part of the Marvel Cinematic universe moving forward (his solo movie is scheduled for release next February). Civil War checked off all the boxes of a great comic book movie in style. It was exciting, funny and entertaining and it did all of it while continuing existing storylines, reinventing Spider-Man and introducing Black Panther, developing current characters and setting up the MCU for some pretty big stuff moving forward. It had a lot of moving parts that all came together to make a movie that was pure fun.
Favourite Drama: The brilliance of Hidden Figures wasn’t that it only focused on the obstacles people of colour (particularly women) faced in 1961 America, but also on how the characters coped with and overcame that adversity. Whether it was pursuing a promotion or using the public bathroom or even signing out a library book, Figures revealed the wall that kept Black America apart and how a group of women put their fists through it. And it did it all without being patronizing to either the characters or the situation. As an added bonus this was the first time in years I saw Kevin Costner in a movie and didn’t want to poke him in the eye the whole time.
Favourite Horror Movie: While not as good as the original (and with some important story flaws of its own), The Conjuring 2 hit all the right notes for a horror movie. It followed the (fraudulent) adventures of real life paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ted Warren on a rare discussed case in England. While director James Waan used all the tools at his disposal, he went old school to build the tension and suspense instead of relying strictly on CGI and jump scares. Waan, and the flourishing horror franchises under his supervision, are one the things going right for Warner Bros right now and the studio should seriously consider handing him the reins of their fragile super hero universe a la Kevin Feige.
Favourite Popcorn Movie: Of all the movies I saw last year, the one where I was able to simply turn my mind off and just let it wash over me was Star Wars Rogue One. I’ve loved this franchise ever since I was a kid, which is why I was so devastated by the disastrous prequels. But Force Awakens and Rogue One have redeemed the interstellar saga and watching Star Wars get a little dirty in its first standalone flick was a blast. Like I wrote in my review, this was the movie we always made as kids with our favourite toys. No Jedis, no Force and no Skywalkers, just gritty action and bad assery.
Favourite Science Fiction Movie: While I was expecting a smart movie, Arrival pleasantly exceeded my expectations and I was happy to see it receive some Academy recognition with a Best picture nomination. It was refreshing to see the scientists get to play the hero for a change in a movie where communication was the key to success instead of explosions and gunfights. It was definitely the most honest portrayal of what first contact with an alien civilization would look like I’ve ever seen. From how completely different such a civilization would be to how primitive some portions of humankind would react (with fear and violence), Arrival didn’t take any shortcuts. It was made for the grown ups in the room.
Guilty Pleasure: The Huntsman Winter War was not a good movie. There’s really no way to sugar coat it, but it had two redeeming qualities that make it the kind of movie you can watch over and over. The first was watching Chris Hemsworth romp and stomp his way through it like a kid at summer camp while the second was some of the impressive fantasy imagery. There was a scene where Emily Blunt rode an armoured polar bear into battle. An. Armoured. Polar bear. That scene alone was worth the price of admission even if the rest of the movie was forgettable.
Under The Radar: A movie that was criminally under appreciated was last May’s The Nice Guys. Definitely not safe for work, this buddy comedy starred Ryan Gosling as an oblivious private eye and Russell Crowe as a middle age tough guy teaming up to chase a case through the porn industry of 1978 Los Angeles. The on screen chemistry between the two leads was what made this movie hilarious and it fearlessly embraced the seedier parts of the time and place it was set in. It didn’t flinch from the period jokes either (“Mark my words, in five years everyone will be driving electric cars from Japan. Ten years tops.”). R-rated for a reason, it’s definitely worth a look on a lazy weekend afternoon if you have nothing else to do and need a few guilty laughs.
Favourite Scene: No other scene captured my imagination last year more than The Super Hero Battle Royal in Captain America: Civil War. Over ten minutes of watching a bunch of Avengers (with a few newcomers tossed in for good measure) on opposing ideological sides throw down while exchanging quips on the fly. The Russo Brothers should have gotten a directing nod just for pulling this scene off. Words can’t do it justice so just watch the abridged version below.