2016 Movie Awards

Favorite Films of 2016

We continue our recap of the year in movies with our top 10 list, only a month and half late! But I snuck it in before the Oscars, so there is that. This marks the eleventh year I’ve posted a top ten, which is pretty hard to believe. For reference, previous top 10s are here: [2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

Summing up the year in movies and compiling a list of 10 favorites is an arbitrary exercise, but it’s something I enjoy wrangling with. A couple years ago, I observed that Hollywood had really pulled their shit together and put out a pretty impressive slate of blockbusters. Well, those stars are all misaligned right now, because this was a positively dreadful year for blockbusters, lead in particular by a never-ending series of sequels and remakes that literally no-one was asking for (and which did about as well). The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Now You See Me 2, Mechanic: Resurrection, Inferno, and Ben Hur, just to name a few. Marvel managed a couple solid entries, and there was a decent Star Wars flick, but otherwise things looked pretty bleak. It’s tempting to say we’ve reached “peak sequel”, but that’s just wishful thinking. The real problem this year was that all these sequels were just so bad. In 2015, we at least had movies like Creed or Mad Max: Fury Road (two long-gap sequels no one was really clamoring for, yet which turned out fantastic).

As a result of these underperforming tent-poles, us movie dorks had to put on our archeology hats and dig deep to find the real gems. It usually takes some effort to round out the top 10 by delving into the offbeat and obscure offerings of the year, but this year moreso than others. My favorite stuff tended to be the middle-tier (budget wise) offerings that seem to be an endangered species in our current movie environment, but they’re still there if you know where to look.

As of this writing, I have seen 78 movies that could be considered a 2016 release. This is about on-par for me, more than your typical moviegoer, but less than your average critic. Not exactly comprehensive, but enough such that a top 10 is actually a meaningful segment. Standard disclaimers apply, let’s get to it:

Top 10 Movies of 2016

* In roughly reverse order

  • Tickled – Ostensibly about a journalist’s attempts to get to the bottom of a mysterious ring of online tickling competitions, this documentary quickly pivots to an odd and more relevant exploration of online abuse. While this particular story only covers a tiny chunk of people impacted, it has broader implications. Perhaps not as formally inventive as its subject matter, it nonetheless makes an impression that is hard to shake.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Love & Friendship – Jane Austen period costume dramas are not exactly in my sweet spot, but this movie pleasantly surprised me. I attribute a big part of this to an excellent lead performance from Kate Beckinsale, wry and manipulative. The witty writing from Whit Stillman also deserves recognition, and the movie as a whole is a delight. Comedies, especially unusual ones like this, often get left out of the end-of-year conversation, so I’m really happy to point to this one…

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • Green Room – Jeremy Saulnier’s tense thriller really knows how to ratchet the tension. Excellent performances all around, but the standout is the menacing Patrick Stewart (he didn’t win the Best Villain award for nothing, folks). Not an easy movie, but very well executed.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Taika Waititi is quickly becoming a Kaedrin favorite. This tale of a rebellious kid (a “bad egg”) taking off with his foster-uncle (a gruff-looking Sam Neill) turns out to be a heartwarming treat. Most descriptions make it sound overly familiar or cliched, but while the overarching skeleton may appear that way, the details and execution are on point. It doesn’t come off anywhere near as cliched as you might expect.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Nice Guys – Writer/Director Shane Black didn’t invent the buddy comedy dynamic, but he’s made a career out of tweaking the formula. A pair of irregular private detectives try to locate a missing girl and get wrapped up in a convoluted conspiracy surrounding a murder case.

    The Nice Guys

    Great performances from Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and Black’s sharp script helps too.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Hell or High Water – One of the quiet surprises of the year, this tale of West Texas bank robbers and the policemen on their tale is well paced and clever. Writer Taylor Sheridan produced a real gem here, with the best dialogue of the year servicing a complex and culturally relevant plot.

    Hell or High Water

    This is a prime example of the sort of endangered mid-budget movie I mentioned in the intro, and it would truly be a shame to miss out on movies like this. Well worth your time.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

  • The Handmaiden – Chan-wook Park’s latest and among his best, this tale of a Korean handmaiden attempting to pull a con on a Japanese heiress is twisty and turny in the best way possible. Great performances and visually gorgeous to boot. It’s surprisingly funny too. Perhaps not for everyone, but I loved it.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • Weiner – This portrait of Anthony Weiner’s self-destruction is made all the more remarkable due to the extraordinary amount of access the filmmakers had during Weiner’s doomed mayoral campaign. It’s got its tragic elements, but also enough pathos to soften the blow without shifting blame or sugarcoating anything. An unflinching look at a train wreck.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Witch – An exceptional exercise in verisimilitude… except for one key detail: Witches are real! This actually represents a clever twist on your typical Witch Hunt narrative, one that makes it much more relevant to today’s climate than you would initially think.

    The Witch

    Chilling and fascinating, this is a movie that really stuck with me.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]

  • Arrival – I’m often hard on science fiction films because it’s so rare to see what I love about SF literature captured on screen. What’s more, when you read Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, you are not immediately struck by the story’s cinematic potential. But Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer managed a near miracle in adapting Chiang’s complex tale of language and motherhood. They add some geopolitical wrangling to spice things up, but they don’t devolve into typical Hollywood alien invasion shenanigans and still manage to evoke the same, more personal feelings and questions I had while reading the story. It also arrived at a politically opportune moment, giving it an added dose of relevance. One of the best pieces of cinematic SF of all time, and certainly the best of the year.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner] [Full Review]

Special Jury Prize

Awarded to the movie that doesn’t quite fit the traditional notion of a movie and thus does not make the top 10, but deserves recognition beyond Arbitrary Awards or Honorable Mentions nonetheless.

  • O.J.: Made in America – At almost 8 hours long, it’s hard to consider this documentary a traditional “movie”… and yet, it’s so well done that it deserves some form of unique recognition. It covers O.J.’s life and times leading up to the infamous murder trial, but it also delves into much of the social and political context for the trial. It never feels like pandering, but it doesn’t flinch at difficult subjects either. It’s certainly an achievement and well worth watching.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Honorable Mention

* In alphabetical order

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane – One of the year’s baffling long-gap sequels that no one was really looking for, this one is actually a standalone tale (barely connected to its predecessor) and perhaps that’s why it succeeded where so many other sequels failed. A tense, bottled story, an unhinged villain, and some deft twists make this thriller well worth your time.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Captain America: Civil War – The premise behind this story, while a time-honored tradition among comic book fans, is one of my least favorite tropes. Pitting heroes against one another is fine in isolation, more problematic in context. Nevertheless, Marvel manages to pull it off in fine style here, in part because they are able to acknowledge both sides of the argument and then delve into more interpersonal conflicts. It’s certainly not a perfect movie, nor does it live up to the previous installment in the series, but it was still wildly entertaining, which is all I really need from these movies.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]

  • Doctor Strange – Another Marvel shot in the dark that manages to hit its target, one of the things I love about the MCU is their willingness to take a chance on more obscure or out-there characters like Doctor Strange. As I understand it, they maybe softened the edges a bit too much, but there’s plenty of weird stuff here, some interesting visual cues, and a relatively clever climax that kinda subverts the typical blockbuster explodey ending.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Don’t Breathe – This tale of a group of hoodlums attempting to rob a blind man, only to have him turn the tables on them, is one of the best horror movies of the year. Tense, well crafted, and thrilling, it suffers from a third act twist involving a turkey baster. A little more care in that (rather gross) situation could have easily put this in the top 10, but alas, that was not to be.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Hail, Caesar! – Howard Hawks famously described what makes a good movie: “Three great scenes, no bad ones.” Well, this movie does have three of my favorite scenes of the year: A studio executive discusses God with an assortment of priests and a rabbi. “Would that it ’twere so simple.” And a group of communists calling themselves “The Future” discuss class conflict as it relates to the devision of labor on a movie set. Or maybe the Channing Tatum-led musical number. Or Scarlett Johansson’s synchronised swimming bit. Or about ten other scenes. Nearly a top 10 pick (i.e. Hawks isn’t wrong here), but it falls just short because all these great scenes never really coalesce into more than the sum of their parts. This could change with a rewatch and further consideration, as sometimes happens with the Coen Brothers’ more unruly efforts, but for now, it remains an honorable mention.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Invitation – A man goes to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband. Soon, he starts to suspect something more sinister is going on. Director Karyn Kusama’s deliberate, meticulous thriller builds tension slowly but steadily, lulling you in until violence starts to break out. Then things escalate even further, culminating in the slowly dawning dread of the its final shot. A strong contender for a #10 slot, and on another day, it might have show up there.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Kill Zone 2 – The best action movie I saw all year, this also aspires to a bit more with a script filled with interlocking coincidences and missed connections being discovered. But still, the real reason to watch this is the fight choreography and the execution from the likes of Tony Jaa. I’m not an expert in martial arts, but this is the best action I’ve seen since the last Raid movie.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • La La Land – I’m not a huge fan of musicals and while this movie didn’t completely convert me, I did find myself enjoying it quite a bit. I didn’t find myself taken by the music itself, but rather the filmmaking. The opening number, filmed to appear as one long take. Or the bittersweet montage towards the end of the film. Director Damien Chazelle clearly knows what he’s doing and I have to respect going against the grain like this. That being said, it doesn’t quite stack up against the classic musicals of yore that it clearly intends to evoke.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Manchester by the Sea – A subtle study in grief centered on the notion that someone who is broken by tragedy might not be able to recover, I found myself respecting and admiring this film more than feeling for it. Not an easy movie to shake, and Casey Affleck’s central performance is deserving of praise, but it all left me feeling a bit cold. That’s kinda the point, and I do like the very end, which gives a well earned glimpse of hope. Still not sure it needed to be as long as it was, but writer/director Kenneth Lonergan clearly knows what he’s doing, and even the extraneous bits feel exquisitely observed (in particular, the “band practice” scenes are probably unnecessary, even if they’re brilliantly conceived and executed).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Mermaid – Stephen Chow’s latest certainly fits his particular brand of manic nonsense. It’s funny (I particularly enjoyed the police sketch artist bit), even if some of the gags don’t quite survive translation and the tone (especially towards the end) is a little unsteady.

    The Mermaid

    Still, Chow’s kinetic genius is on full display, and this is well worth a watch.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Moana – Disney continues a strong run of animated hits of late, and this Polynesian-inspired tale of adventure hits the mark. As musical numbers go, this one has more memorable bits than La La Land (if not quite as numerous), and a more exciting story too. It’s a lot of fun.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Moonlight – A character study divided into three sections, titled “Little,” “Chiron,” and “Black,” each a name our protagonist adopts at a different stage of life. It’s strongest in its first third, anchored by Mahershala Ali’s performance as a drug dealer who helps out a kid (“Little”) being chased by bullies. Impeccably crafted and empathetic, this is the critics’ choice of the year, and I can see why, even if these sorts of movies don’t appeal to me as much.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – Comedies get short shrift in the end-of-the-year hustle, but this one seems to have struck a nerve. Another musically inclined film that deserves recognition, and it’s quite funny too. Pleasantly silly and sharp. Well worth a watch.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Sing Street – Of the musically inclined movies of the year, this one is the most joyous and entertaining. Writer/director John Carney has carved out this niche of musicians discovering one another through collaboration, and while this tale of a young boy starting a band to impress a girl might seem cliched, it still works. It was a great movie to catch up with after wading through depressing end-of-year fare (not to mention the election). It’s on Netflix instant and it’s a big ball of fun, watch it!

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Just Missed the Cut:

But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order:

Should Have Seen:

Despite having seen 78 of this year’s movies (and listing out 30+ of my favorites in this post), there are a few that got away. Or never made themselves available here. Regardless, there are several movies here that I probably should have caught up with:

That about covers it! Stay tuned for some Oscars commentary next week, after which we’ll probably return to some SF and books…

2016 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

We announced the official 2016 Kaedrin Movie Award winners last week, but while a purpose of those awards is to throw a spotlight on movies that aren’t traditionally recognized by awards or top 10 lists, the categories don’t always perfectly capture everything they should. Sometimes movies are weird or flawed in ways that don’t fit quite right, but they still deserve acknowledgement. The point of the Arbitrary Awards is to highlight these oddities. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Let’s get to it:

  • The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Suicide Squad. Pretty much anything Rick Flagg says in the movie qualifies, but the real howler is his introduction of Katana: “This is Katana. She’s got my back. She can cut all of you in half with one sword stroke, just like mowing the lawn. I would advise not getting killed by her. Her sword traps the souls of its victims.” Perfectly delivered, cringe-inducing exposition there… As runner up, there are a couple of candidates. Ghostbusters has a “That’s gonna leave a mark” joke, which was tired and hackey, like, 30 years ago (and don’t get me started on “You just got Holtzmanned baby!”). Blair Witch has some of the least deft exposition of the year as well.
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: Blair Witch. Some really dumb stuff here, like taking off shoes to cross a river, or to climb up to the top of the tree to retrieve a broken drone that you know wouldn’t help, or figuring out that facing the corner prevents the Blair Witch from attacking… then turning around to face the Blair Witch for no reason. Sheesh.
  • Best Hero/Badass (Non-Human Edition):The Cloak of Levitation from Doctor Strange. In a year of lackluster heroics, this cape really stepped up. In fact, I’m more excited about this “character” than the one who won the human-centered award. I suppose I could have relaxed the rules and whatnot, but I’ll settle for the Arbitrary Award.
  • Best Long Take/Tracking Shot: La La Land, particularly the opening sequence, which might be one of those things that is a compilation of several long takes assembled in a way to appear like one really big long take, but who cares, it’s delightful.
  • Most Action Packed Long Take: London Has Fallen. Say what you will about this movie’s reactionary sentiments, it still has one of the most thrilling action sequences of the year, as Gerard Butler makes his way towards an enemy stronghold in a single take. Lots of moving parts, a bravura sequence worthy of recognition.
  • Best Historical Reenactment: Sully. The rest of the movie is somewhat tame, exaggerated yet paint-by-numbers drama, but the reenactment of the airplane crash at the heart of the film (seen multiple times, from multiple perspectives) is exceedingly well done and worth the price of admission alone.
  • Biggest Balls Award: Phantasm: Ravager. Ba dum tsss!
  • Best Waitress of the Year: Margaret Bowman as T-Bone Waitress in Hell or High Water. Total scene stealer, one of the best scenes of the year. “Ain’t nobody ever ordered nothing but a T-Bone steak and baked potato. Except one time, this asshole from New York ordered a trout, back in 1987. We ain’t got no goddamned trout.”
  • Best Soundtrack: Sing Street. If you’re into 80s music, at least. I didn’t exactly do a thorough accounting of the year’s soundtracks, but I knew I wanted to recognize this movie somehow and this seemed like the best way to do it. If you haven’t seen it and enjoy 80s music, get thee to Netflix, post haste.
  • Best Alcohol Reference: Sour Grapes. Fascinating documentary about rare wine fraud that is well worth your time, even if you’re not a booze hound.

Let’s give our winners a round of applause. Stay tuned for the top 10 of 2016, coming next week! After that, we’ll wrap of 2016 movie season with some Oscar commentary and whatnot…

2016 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners!

The nominations for the 2016 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced a couple weeks ago. I’m sure you’ve been waiting with bated breath, so today, I’ll be announcing the winners of said awards. Next week, I’ll cover less traditional categories in what we like to call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I’ll post my top 10 of 2016. Finally, we’ll have some Oscars talk (predictions and probably live-tweeting or retweeting funnier people than me) and then it’s on to 2017. Without further ado:

  • Best Villain/Badass: Darcy, played by Patrick Stewart in Green Room. Nothing worse than a calm, collected white supremecist who almost sounds reasonable… before he tries to kill you. There’s an understated menace to Stewart’s performance that really solidified his win in this category.

    Patrick Stewart is not a Nazi

    As for the other nominees, a shoutout to John Goodman’s turn in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a little more unhinged than Stewart, but no less menacing. Stephen Lang did great work in Don’t Breathe, believably blind but still, um, menacing. I seem to be using that word too much. Alas, Lang didn’t quite make the cut, mostly due to the scripted issue of that stupid turkey baster (which really held the movie back for me). Finally, I thought I’d give a shoutout to Black Phillip in The Witch, who could probably have taken this award in a weaker year, despite not even being human.

  • Best Hero/Badass: Wade / Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. Sometimes when I’m figuring out nominees, I have an obvious winner in mind and am just filling in the rest of the slots out of obligation. Other times, I have no idea who will win, like this award. I’m actually a little surprised it came to this. Reynolds is, of course, perfect for the role, mixing the proper degrees of sophmoric humor and self-referential snark, and near as I can tell, he’s capturing what made the character so popular in the source material. Yet I can’t help but think the win here is due to a generally weak year for heroism. Indeed, as Deadpool opines repeatedly throughout the movie, he’s not even a hero! But the competition was pretty scarce this year. As runner up, I was seriously considering Russell Crowe’s bruiser from The Nice Guys. Gerard Butler’s throwback reactionary in London Has Fallen is so inappropriate that he almost crosses through to score an ironic win, but still can’t quite manage it. Sofia Boutella injected a much needed hit of energy into Star Trek Beyond, but the role is perhaps too small to really get there. I’m giving it to Deadpool, but honestly this was the toughest category to pick this year, and it could easily have moved to someone else depending on my mood. Get with the program Hollywood, we need better heroes.
  • Best Comedic Performance: Kate Beckinsale and Tom Bennet in Love & Friendship (tie) A cheat, to be sure, and emblematic of the challenge of this particular award. Standout comedic performances turn out to be somewhat rare. Instead, what we mostly get are great performances as part of an ensemble. In this case, we’ve got Kate Beckinsale schredding up the screen with her wry, manipulative wit, contrasted perfectly Tom Bennet’s delightful oaf. The “peas” scene alone is worth the win in this category.

    Love and Friendship

    Runner up would be Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys, another unconventionally funny performance. Kate McKinnon’s mugging in Ghostbusters could be percieved as too showy, but I really enjoyed it (despite the ill-conceived “You just got Holtzmanned baby!” line, which is just abysmal). Other performances also good, but I was taken enough with Love & Friendship to give those performances the nod.

  • Breakthrough Performance: Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar!. In a movie filled with great moments, Alden Ehrenreich managed a couple of classics. First, you’ve got “Would that it ’twere so simple”, one of the best scenes from any movie of the year. Then, in a more subtle sequence, when Ehrenreich’s character is waiting for his date and pulls out a lasso and starts absent-mindeldy doing tricks with it, it’s just great. He’s going to be a star, and his casting as young Han Solo will probably really cement that in a couple years. Runner up, actually, is Janelle Monáe. She was great in Hidden Figures, but what made me bump her higher on the list was her supporting role in Moonlight. I think she’s going to do well in the next few years too. If I awarded this to the person with the best name, Royalty Hightower would obviously win (and she’s great in The Fits too, I guess). Brianna Hildebrand did a lot with a little in Deadpool, and Tom Holland managed to almost single-handedly save a languishing character with his tangential appearance in Captain America: Civil War. The future looks bright, is what I’m saying.
  • Most Visually Stunning: The Handmaiden. Usually this award goes to an arthouse flick so concerned with making things pretty that they forget to give the movie a story, but not this year. This is one of may favorite movies of the year, and it’s gorgeous to boot.
    The Handmaiden

    Actually not a ton of truly spectacular feasts for the eyes this year, though obviously all the other nominees were visually impressive. I’d probably go with The Witch as runner up, but who knows.

  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Arrival. SF has been making a pretty strong showing in the past few years, but that sort of fell off this year. Then again, the only true SF nominee is winning the award this year. It’s one of the few SF movies to genuinely capture the sense of wonder and conceptual breakthrough that I love so much in SF literature. True, it’s an adaptation of an award-winning novella, but while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it unfilmable, I think the film came out as good as I ever could have hoped for. Runner up is definitely The Witch, which I gather I enjoy more than most people. Indeed, these are probably my two favorite movies of the year.
  • Best Sequel/Reboot: 10 Cloverfield Lane. A generally tepid year for sequels, I think it’s telling that my choice doesn’t have much of a connection to its predecessor. That said, this movie was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. In a year of “Who wanted a sequel to that?” movies, this one actually delivered something solid. I also quite enjoyed Captain America: Civil War and Star Trek Beyond, which are vying it out for the number two slot in my head. Fortunately, we only really award the number one slot, so let’s move on.
  • Biggest Disappointment: Blair Witch. While not the worst movie of the year… or maybe even not the worst movie on this list, it was, in fact, the biggest disappointment. The reason for this is that I had much higher expectations for this movie than for anything else on the list, and I was really, really let down by the final product (i.e. this scored really poorly on Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale). I’ve already laid out my disappointments on this, so I will move on. It’s bad. Runner up is Suicide Squad, mostly because I liked the concept and because those trailers really were fantastic. That being said, my guard was already up after years of DC movie ineptitude.
  • Best Action Sequences: Kill Zone 2. Perhaps an obscure choice and choosing martial arts movies feels like cheating, but this has some really solid action and while Tony Jaa hasn’t turned out to be quite the superstar we expected when he burst on the scene, he’s still fantastic at action. The airport setpiece in Captain America: Civil War is wonderful, though it suffers a bit because I don’t like seeing superheroes fight each other like that. London Has Fallen is worth mentioning for the bravura long-take assault on an enemy stronghold, and I enjoyed the other nominees welle enough as well.
  • Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Arrival. I often try to spread around these awards to different movies, but I can’t help myself here. To complicate matters, the runner up would be The Handmaiden, which also already has an award. I suppose even mentioning that there’s a twist is a bit of a spoiler, but I will refrain from more detailed discussions here. THis was actually a pretty good year for this sort of thing, with the rest of the nominees that too far behind the winner…
  • Best High Concept Film: The Lobster. Look, Yorgos Lanthimos pretty much has a lock on this category. This story is about single people who are sent to a hotel to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or they will be transformed into an animal and sent out into the wild (our protagonist chooses a Lobster). It’s a fascinating movie. Not sure how much I really like it, but whatever you may think of it, it doesn’t get more high concept than that.
  • 2016’s 2015 Movie of the Year: JoyThis category grew out of a specific year in which I managed to catch up with a couple of movies that I truly loved, but too far into the following year to give them any love. The problem is that I normally manage to see most movies that I think I’ll love before the year runs out. So I’m not entirely sure about this category. I did wind up enjoying Joy though. It’s a bit of a mess, but it holds a certain personal connection and has some bits that work pretty well for me, so it gets the award. The other nominees were all worthwhile, but none of the nominees would really break into last year’s top 10…

Up next is the fabled Arbitrary Awards, followed by my top 10 and finally the Oscars. Stay tuned!

2016 Kaedrin Movie Awards

Welcome to the eleventh annual Kaedrin Movie Awards! Eleven years! Over a decade of conceptual continuity! The idea is to recognize films for various achievements that don’t always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we’ll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more freeform. Finally, we’ll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2016 movie (with the one caveat that some 2015 films were not accessible until 2016 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I’ve seen 68 movies that would be considered a 2016 release. Significantly less than your typical critic, but more than your average moviegoer and enough to populate these awards. Obviously this is a personal exercise that is subjective in nature, but the world would be a boring place indeed if we all loved the same things for the same reasons, right? Sound good? Let’s get this party going:

Best Villain/Badass

Another middling year for villainy. I didn’t have any problem populating the list, but true standouts were rare. Special note here to Captain America: Civil War, which blurred the lines between villain and hero enough that I just didn’t include it in either category (I suppose I could have nominated the Zemo character, but… I’m not going to). As usual, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas.

Best Hero/Badass

A moderate year for heroism, but again, standouts are rare. Another nod to Captain America: Civil War, not nominated for reasons already explained. Again limited to individuals and not groups.

Best Comedic Performance

This category is sometimes difficult to populate because comedy so often comes in the form of an ensemble, but we had a pretty great year of comic performances (albeit, mostly unconventional ones), even if I have some duplication going on here.

Breakthrough Performance

Always an interesting category to populate. Sometimes, it’s not so much about someone’s industry breakthrough, but a more personal breakthrough. This can happen even with established actors. This year, we’ve got more of a moderate crop of young up-and-comers. The main criteria for this category was if I watched a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they’ve done (or where they came from). A somewhat vague category, but that’s why these awards are fun.

Most Visually Stunning

Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… and we’ve got a light year here, but still plenty of good choices.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film

I like to give a little love to my favorite genres, hence this category. When I started this category, I always had trouble finding good SF movies, so I had to pad out the category with horror. But we’ve seen an astonishing increase in good SF in recent years, mostly micro-budget independent stuff, but this year has been a bit slower in that respect, even if we’ve got a really solid SF contender!

Best Sequel/Reboot

Often a difficult category to populate, but after a few stellar years of Hollywood output, we dropped off the “they made a sequel to what?” cliff this year. That said, a few things managed to stand out:

Biggest Disappointment

A category usually dominated by sequels, and what do you know, all of these are sequels (or whatever the heck you consider Suicide Squad) . This category is definitely weird in that sometimes I actually enjoy some of these movies… but my expectations were just too high when I saw them. Related reading: Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale (these movies scored especially poor on that scale).

Best Action Sequences

This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film, and this has been a decent but not overwhelmingly awesome year for action.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise

Well, I suppose even listing nominees here constitutes something of a spoiler, but it’s a risk we’ll have to take, right?

Best High Concept Film

A nebulous category, to be sure, but a fun one because these are generally interesting movies. Lots of borderline cases this year, but a few strong standouts…

2016’s 2015 Movie of the Year

There are always movies I miss out on, whether due to availability or laziness, but when I do catch up with them, I’m often taken with them. Sometimes a very difficult category to populate, maybe because I didn’t see much, or didn’t like it, or just plain forgot that I saw it (which, to be fair, probably says something about the movie’s chances). Still, a pretty respectable list this year, with plenty to choose from.

So The Witch leads the way with 5 nominations, with Rogue One, Kill Zone 2, and 10 Cloverfield Lane not far behind with 4 nominations each. The numbers expand dramatically from there, with 9 movies soaking up 3 nominations, and lots of movies getting 1 or 2 nominations. Overall, 43 different movies were nominated this year (not counting the last category, which would put me at 48. Also worth noting that 5 of the 43 were the disappointing movies…) making this a very broad year with few films really standing out… in these categories, at least. Stay tuned for the winners, which will be announced in 1-2 weeks. I still have a few movies to catch up with, so you may even see a winner that wasn’t nominated (it’s happened before!)

* This is the actual title of the movie. Someone actually thought that up, and then more people actually approved it and put hundreds of millions dollars behind it.

Update: So I just saw The Handmaiden and yep, it steps into two awards, easily. You will probably hear more about it later in the Kaedrin Movie Award season…