BEST OF 2016: The “Unconventional” Citations of the Year Part 1

Lobster, WGA Awards

Taking in the full year in cinema is quite a task. Considering the very best and worst of film can often correlate to personal feelings at the time. Where were you when you were watching “X” film and could it have been received differently under different circumstances? Film is also subjective. Through and through. The Best of 2016 Series will focus on not just the conventional Oscar categories that we’re used to hearing about, but will also cite other narrative and character functions that don’t always get their proper due. Compare the “Specialty Categories” to the “MTV Movie Awards” in its heyday.

Let’s kick things off with the first wave of “Specials.” This in turn will be followed by a second wave on Wednesday before we get into my personal ballot on Thursday. Friday will cap things off with my personal winners, along with my official Top 10 Films of 2016 list.

On any given day, this could all be received differently. Today, however, this is where we stand.

MOST UNDERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Other People” (Vertical Entertainment)
dir. Chris Kelly

Big studios with big budgets can do just about anything to get their films seen. Chris Kelly’s beautifully intimate “Other People” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016 and mustered just about everything it could with its limited finances. In terms of story and film, the film stands tall next to any large studio effort from the past year. Molly Shannon garnered the lion’s share of praise for the movie, and rightfully so. Shannon’s work is up there with some of the year’s best. What’s been disappointing to see is how star Jesse Plemons, who leads the charge, went virtually unnoticed. He soars in his career best, angling his sensitivity and sadness of a man losing his mother to cancer. Finally, Chris Kelly’s sharp writing and even more witty direction brings “Other People” to a rich, engrossing place of delight. It’s the one film I would beg any AMPAS voter to watch before turning in their ballots.

RUNNERS-UP: You can bang the drum loud for documentaries and animated features getting cited outside of their conventional Oscar categories, but nothing is more frustrating than to see Laika’s “Kubo and the Two Strings” from Travis Knight and Netflix’s “13th” from Ava DuVernay fail in the Best Picture hunt. Next to that, the Cannes Film Festival came and went for Ken Loach’s richly dynamic “I, Daniel Blake” and we haven’t heard too much of a peep since. Shame. You can also take a swing to say that not enough people talked about how profoundly moving Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” is, and it’s once again disheartening that a film about four strong, intriguing female figures went unnoticed. I’ll make the swing.

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A BAD FILM

Emily Blunt in “The Girl on the Train”
(Universal Pictures)

For much of the world, adoring the essence and existence of Emily Blunt is second nature. To see her stretch and expand her abilities in the way she chose to do so in Tate Taylor’s misguided and lifeless adaptation of the Paula Hawkins bestseller is an exercise in patience. Blunt taps into a woman suffering from depression, paranoia and rage to a wonderful resolve. Her self-destructive behavior holds a delicate yet aggressive prowess that we’ve never seen from her before. Though eyes and shrugs were in full force by her surprise SAG nomination, it’s good to see such a keen work get its highlight.

RUNNERS-UP: The near miss for the top spot in this category, Chris Messina‘s overweight partner in Ben Affleck’s mundane and trite “Live By Night” was the film’s largest takeaway. While all the failures were on full display with Paul Feig’s remake of “Ghostbusters,” Kate McKinnon was surely not one of them. Likely because of her secret life as a goddess, Julianne Moore was vibrant in the Woody Allen-wannabe “Maggie’s Plan.” This one is probably for the “overrated” list as well since the joy of “The Nice Guys” flew over my head, but Ryan Gosling hit me square in the heart.

WORST PERFORMANCE IN A GOOD FILM

Nick Kroll in “Loving”
(Focus Features)

Sometimes it’s hard to ding a performer for not being able to transcend what is out of his power. Comedian Nick Kroll had a decent enough year, voicing the hilarious “Douche” in the animated raunchy “Sausage Party.” When it came to him switching things up in the heartfelt drama “Loving,” Kroll failed to melt his comedy persona. Likely unable to take all the blame, it was an unfortunate event of miscasting. Kroll didn’t have the look, demeanor, or acting chops to transcend the “witty lawyer” character beyond its seemingly cheap trick of becoming the comic relief in this historical and moving drama. Just shake it off Nick.

RUNNERS-UP: I love Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker more than most, but it was two slight missteps for him this year: first, with a questionable accent in Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” and the second as the wise, heavy-breathing Vader-like, but good character in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The tears are in full force in “Lion” from Garth Davis but Rooney Mara‘s commitment to conveying those emotions doesn’t do much other than annoy. Laura Linney‘s “woman on the phone” character in “Sully” put me in serious contention for a gold medal in the “eye-rolling” event that is sure to become an Olympic sport someday. You can’t hide a bad performance behind the voice of a really big Orangutan as shown by Christopher Walken in “The Jungle Book.”

MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Love & Friendship” (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions)
dir. Whit Stillman

We have to open this up with a disclaimer: I’m not really a good audience for British period dramas. There are few that can capture my attention and hold it. Whit Stillman’s “Love & Friendship” has a decent enough set up before it’s immediately run into a humor train that passes right by at every turn. While so many praised its witty script, I found it dry and lifeless. The only saving grace at times is the work of Kate Beckinsale, who still hasn’t found the right vehicle yet that gets her to the Dolby Theatre.

RUNNERS-UP: While “Hell or High Water” remains a formidable contender across the board, the “No Country for Old Men” rip-off features decent enough performances (particularly Ben Foster), but nothing like the “second coming” that so many critics sang all season. Another comedy that failed to land was Marvel’s “Deadpool,” which in about 20 minutes flat, overstays its welcome with its over-the-top leading man and desperately wannabe “clever” filmmaking techniques. There was little for me to latch onto when it came to “Green Room” outside of Anton Yelchin. Dare I say it? Yep, I’m going to say it…”La La Land” is just fine. Not great, not revolutionary. Just fine. And that is all.

BEST ON-SCREEN COUPLE

Colin Farrell & Rachel Weisz in “The Lobster” (A24)
as “David” and “Short Sighted Woman”

In a film where love is the main ingredient for its recipe, Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz’s instant connection in the woods of a dystopian future sang to many. “The Lobster” has so many moving parts, zip-tying the dark elements of comedy and drama. We meet the couple so late in the process yet believe their forbidden love as they travel, making out relentlessly on a couch, and losing their “sight” in more ways than one. Not to mention, it features some of their best performances of their already stunning careers.

RUNNERS-UP: The characters “Chiron” and “Kevin” were close to running away with this category. Naming both André Holland & Trevante Rhodes and Jharrel Jerome & Ashton Sanders would be simple. We could easily name all six actors that play them. But in the spirit of title, they’re never “officially” a couple in any sense, rather than distant loves over decades of time. They’re still worth citing, however. An unspoken love in “Moonlight” is the connection between Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Teresa (Janelle Monáe), and with so little words, they exemplify love and family as the two also seem to represent very different life choices. You also can’t talk about love without speaking about Richard and Mildred Loving, played exquisitely by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. The two trailblazed a precedent in American culture that speaks in volumes today.

WORST ON-SCREEN COUPLE

Joe Alwyn & Makenzie Leigh in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Sony Pictures)
as “Billy” and “Faison”

A weird look from a football field, followed by an even stranger makeout session behind a curtain. There are many variables that equal Ang Lee’s war film’s ultimate failure. On prominent display is the misguided and falsely feeling love story, as constructed by screenwriter Jean-Christophe Castelli. Shoehorning a reason for “Billy” to stay behind and not return to war not only disrespects the driving force of our living, fighting soldiers, but plays like a faux sense of purpose, parading around 120 frames per second.

RUNNERS-UP: Ben Affleck managed a double header of love nonsense in his third directorial effort “Live By Night.” His “heartache” for love lost with Sienna Miller versus his future “heartache” for new love gained, then lost again with Zoe Saldana are both bogus. Don’t you love it when a movie sends the message “forget your kids for a while and fall in love with the single hot dad that will just accept you before you’re even divorced?” If not, then you’ll join me in passing on the phony and faulty chemistry between Mila Kunis and Jay Hernandez in “Bad Moms.” An easy target, but doesn’t mean it isn’t right. Superman and Lois Lane’s love story is getting worse by the movie as demonstrated in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” A bathtub with a naked Amy Adams and a clothed Henry Cavill should never feel so erroneous.

Check back on Wednesday for The “Unconventional” Citations of the Year Part 2!

Share your thoughts and distinctions in the comments below!

BEST OF 2016 SERIES

About Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He’s also an active member of New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.
  • Matt St.Clair

    My winners in those categories:

    Most Underrated Film: The Fits

    Most Overrated Film: Hell Or High Water

    Best Performance In A Bad Movie: Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train

    Worst Performance In A Good Movie:
    Brad Pitt, Allied

    Best On-Screen Couple: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land

    Worst On-Screen Couple: Felicity Jones and Diego Luna, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Phill Milner

    Most Underrated: Eddie the Eagle

    Overrated: Moonlight/Hell or High Water

    Best Performance in a bad film: Anya Taylor Joy in The Witch

    Worst performance in a good film: Forrest Whitaker in Rogue One

    • Interesting call on “Eddie the Eagle”

      • Phill Milner

        I think it’s the best movie of the year. I mean… it’s a pretty bad year for movies overall, but Eddie the Eagle left no disappointment and I loved it.

  • Joey Magidson

    I’ll take a crack at this:

    Underrated Film – Indignation

    Most Overrated Film – Elle

    Best Performance In A Bad Movie – Joe Alwyn from Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

    Worst Performance In A Good Movie – Julianne Moore from Maggie’s Plan

    Best On-Screen Couple – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone from La La Land

    Worst On-Screen Couple – Dev Patel and Rooney Mara from Lion

  • Tee

    Underrated Film: While I love the quiet, tender atmosphere that “Indignation” gives to those who were willing to see it, the fact that people aren’t supporting one of the most important films in history like “The 13th” upsets me too much to go unspoken. A quiet little shoutout for “Café Society” as well, but “The 13th” is the film that needs pushed.

    Overrated Film: I didn’t fall head over heels in love with films like “Hell or High Water” or “Deadpool” like most did, but I downright despised “The Lobster”. The pacing is both awkward and slow, with little to display or grab hold of a viewer. The script offers a couple good jokes and a decent Colin Farrell performance, but I can’t help but state my feelings of intense dislike over “The Lobster”.

    Best Performance in a Bad Movie – Ben Affleck surprised me a lot by his great performance in the otherwise dumpster fire of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, and the same could be said of Viola Davis and Margot Robbie in “Suicide Squad”. However, it’s Daniel Radcliffe’s moments of hilarious outbursts and quiet moments that make “Swiss Army Man” more than just “odd”.

    Worst Performance in a Good Movie: From Scarlet Johansson’s wooden Black Widow in “Captain America: Civil War” to the utter waste of Ben Mendelsohn in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, blockbusters taking advantage of fantastic performers is a trend. However, it’s Jared Leto’s flat, outlandish, and terrible role as the Clown Prince of Crime that is causing Heath Ledger to turn in his grave.

    Best On-Screen Couple: Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon share some fantastic chemistry in “Indigation”, while it’s hard to deny the tender moments between Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in “Loving”. But, unsurprisingly for those that know me, it’s Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenburg in “Café Society” that managed to take this top spot.

    Worst On-Screen Couple: Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer have such an awkward romantic arc, but I blame the writing more than the acting. We could also talk about Jared Leto and Margot Robbie’s complete lack of chemistry shown in their very few shared scenes, but the top disservice has to go to the (figuratively) robotic Elizabeth Olsen and the (literally) robotic Paul Bettany in “Captain America: Civil War”.

    • Phill Milner

      I like the mention of Affleck in best performance in a bad movie. He was pretty much the only good take away of that movie.

    • 22cinema11

      So glad that someone else didn’t like “The Lobster” as well. I absolutely don’t know why so many people love that film. Yes, Colin Farrell did a good job, and there was some nice camerawork, but the movie as a whole seemed very strange to me and left me completely disappointed. And a nice call on “Swiss Army Man” as well.

  • Luke McGowan

    I love these sorts of lists

  • Giselle

    oh my god, YES at love and friendship being overrated as hell. I will never get it.

  • Luke McGowan

    Underrated Film: Everybody Wants Some

    Overrated Film: 10 Cloverfield Lane, La La Land, Finding Dory

    Best Performance in a bad movie: John Goodman 10 Cloverfield Lane

    Worst Performance in a good movie: Diego Luna Rogue One

    Best Couple: Blake Jenner and Zoey Deutch Everybody Wants Some, with honourable mention for Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin

    Worst Couple: Cara Delevingne and Joel Kinnanmon from Suicide Squad I am amazed went unmentioned

    • Phill Milner

      The entirety of Suicide Squad was so awful that mentioning it in any kind of list leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • John

    I’ll take a stab:
    Underrated: Demolition
    Overrated: Arrival/Hell Or High Water
    Best performance in a bad movie: Melissa McCarthy – Ghostbusters
    Worst Performance In a Good Movie: Forrest Whitaker – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
    Best On-Screen Couple: Gosling and Stone – La La Land
    Worst On Screen Couple: Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner – Arrival

    • Luke McGowan

      Forest Whitaker keeps getting cited and it hurts me! I liked him in Rogue One and wanted more, it was Luna I thought who gave the weakest performance

    • Tee

      I actually consider Arrival to the film to beat of 2016, and McCarthy is actually the worst part of Ghostbusters for me! Care to discuss?

  • Chris Reynolds

    Underrated: Eye in the Sky
    Overrated: Jackie
    Best Performance in a Bad Film: Portman
    Worst Performance in a Good Film: Kroll

    • Chris Reynolds

      Best On-screen: Grant and Streep
      Worst On-screen: Any two people interacting in Batman v Superman

  • Iso Ns

    In my opinion
    Underrated: Krisha, Edge of Seventeen
    I could put here Silence too, I think it deserves more praise by both critics and audience.

    Overrated: Deadpool, Civil War, Doctor Strange, Rogue One, Jungle Book
    I don’t say that they are bad. They are just fine. However all of them were praised a little bit too much for what they are.

  • Grant Washburn

    Underrated: Nocturnal Animals
    Overrated: Moonlight
    Best Performance in Bad Movie: Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation
    Worst Performance in Good Movie: Vince Vaughn in Hacksaw Ridge
    Best Couple: Gosling + Stone in La La Land
    Worst Couple: Alwyn + Leight in Billy Lynn
    *Underrated Couple: Adams + Renner in Arrival

  • Ryan

    Most Underrated Film: I, Daniel Blake

    Most Overrated Film: Captain Fantastic

    Best Performance in a Bad Film: Dwayne Johnson in Central Intelligence

    Worst Performance in a Good Film: Matthew Broderick in Manchester by the Sea

    Best On-Screen Couple: Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

    Worst On-Screen Couple: Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

  • Matthew Milner

    Most Underrated: Sing Street

    Most Overrated: The Nice Guys

    Best Performance in a Bad Movie: Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)

    Worst Performance in a Good Movie: Forest Whitaker (Rogue One)

    Best On Screen Couple: Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge)

    Worst On Screen Couple: Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn (Office Christmas Party)

  • michaeldal65

    Bravo on your overrated picks although I have to say that Tom Bennett’s performance in LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is a winner (he could still be what you call a WTF?! nomination), along with the beautiful score.
    Most underrated: EYE IN THE SKY (critically acclaimed but I’ll list it here because it seems to have been cruelly pushed to the side this award season for that other war movie)
    Most overrated: LA LA LAND, DEADPOOL, HACKSAW RIDGE, THE LOBSTER, and HELL OR HIGH WATER, a well written, well cast thriller but let’s all calm down.
    Best Couple: Adam Driver & Golshifteh Farahani in PATERSON
    Worst Couple: A Tie: Dev Patel & Rooney Mara in LION (didn’t believe a second of it) and Blake Lively & The Shark in THE SHALLOWS
    Best Performance in A Bad Movie: Steve Carell in CAFE SOCIETY
    Worst Performance in A Good Movie: John Malkovich (doing his usual schtick) in DEEPWATER HORIZON

  • John

    BTW, I can’t believe you would put La La Land and overrated in the same sentence.

    • Luke McGowan

      To be honest I agree and I’m a jazz musician who loves musicals, Emma Stone and Whiplash. The movie should’ve been right up my alley but i just didn’t get into it

  • Calvin Damon

    Most Underrated: The Accountant
    Runner up: War Dogs

    Most Overrated: The Witch
    Runner up: Sully

    Best Performance in a Bad Movie: Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)
    Runner up: Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad)

    Worst Performance in a Good Movie: Neil Casey (Ghostbusters)
    Runner up: Diego Luna (Rogue One)

    Best On Screen Couple: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
    Runner up: Jennifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman (Zootopia)

    Worst On Screen Couple: Cara Delevingne and Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad)
    Runner up: Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge)

    • Luke McGowan

      Hell yes to Sully being overrated. Remember when Aaron’s Eckhart was going to win an Oscar for it?

  • THANK YOU for speaking the truth about La La Land!! It’s not a bad movie, but overrated is absolutely right.

    • John

      Said several people every year for every best picture front runner ever.

  • Dylan Randazzo

    Most Underrated Film: Pete’s Dragon
    Most Overrated Film: Hail, Caesar!
    Best Performance in a Bad Film: Kristen Stewart (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)
    Worst Performance in a Good Film: Christopher Walken (The Jungle Book)
    Best On Screen Couple: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (La La Land)
    Worst On Screen Couple: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (Passengers)

  • Trev

    Most Underrated Film: The Handmaiden, Pete’s Dragon
    Most Overrated Film: Deadpool, Everybody Wants Some
    Best Performance in a Bad Film: Viola Davis (Suicide Squad)
    Worst Performance in a Good Film: Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon)
    Best On Screen Couple: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
    Worst On Screen Couple: Shailene Woodley and Theo James (Allegiant)

  • BTS

    Underrated Film: SING STREET, SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU, DON’T THINK TWICE
    Overrated Film: ARRIVAL, JACKIE
    Best Performance in a “Bad” Movie: Gal Gadot for BVS: DAWN OF JUSTICE
    Worst Performance in a “Good” Movie: Christopher Walken for THE JUNGLE BOOK
    Best On Screen Couple: Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling LA LA LAND
    Worst On Screen Couple: Joel/Cara SUICIDE SQUAD