BEST OF 2016: The Unconventional Citations of the Year Part 2

Visual Effects Society

We’re moving right along with the “BEST OF 2016,” naming the unconventional attractions that graced that are worth talking about.  Yesterday, I dabbed into some of the overlooked and underrated gems of the year.

This time, it’s good to get into some unconventional specifics.  When MTV was at its prime, recognizing both music and movies, they had a keen and eclectic eye for sniffing out the films that made a cultural impact on audiences.  Look at past winners like “Seven” and “Menace II Society” for prime examples, while also going into territories like Best Kiss or Villain.  That’s where the inspiration came for naming some of these key moments from 2016.

Let’s take a look:

BEST KISS

Jessica Chastain and Jake Lacy in “Miss Sloane” (EuropaCorp)

dir. John Madden

I don’t hide the fact that this category is utterly superficial.  I’d argue there’s more to a successful kiss than just being too very hot individuals.  The story that surrounds them usually have to lead up to said “kiss” and land with its audience.  For that reason, that’s why the effectiveness of Jessica Chastain and Jake Lacy hold so much value in John Madden’s taut thriller “Miss Sloane.”  Elizabeth Sloane is buried in her career, ignoring all the human conditions that palpate in our everyday lives like family, friends, and love.  It’s in her interaction with an Forde, an escort who manages to uncover something we don’t see in any other moments in the film, that we really see the vibrancy of Jonathan Perera’s script.  It also helps that arguably two of the hottest people on the planet are entrenched in a passionate, steamy moment in a secret hotel room.  Call it a victory.

RUNNERS UP: The snapshot of a real relationship and marriage is framed perfectly in one single scene in “Manchester by the Sea” when Casey Affleck returns from a fishing trip, smelly, dirty, and a little drunk, and climbs on top of a congested Michelle Williams to give her a deep connection of marital love.  Touching.  Already stealing the “Best On-Screen Couple” prize, Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz’s full blown makeout session in front of “Loner Leader’s” (played by Léa Seydoux) family in “The Lobster” is one of the film’s true highlights.  The final dance following a grueling examination of an assassination shows Natalie Portman’s devotion and love to her husband, played by Caspar Phillipson.  Finally, love-making near a lighthouse never looked so elegant as it does in “The Light Between Oceans” thanks to real-life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.

BEST VILLAIN

Issey Ogata as “Inour Masashige” in “Silence” (Paramount Pictures)

dir. Martin Scorsese

“Bad” takes different forms as an adjective, adverb, and noun but it takes a whole new and vivacious shape in Martin Scorsese’s stunning masterpiece “Silence” as played by Issey Ogata.  Playing the treacherous but weirdly intoxicating Inoue Masashige, Ogata dives into it and naturally drew comparisons to Christoph Waltz’s Oscar-winning performance in “Inglourious Basterds.”  While Waltz’s performance definitely signifies the art of bad, Ogata gives it an arc and heft we haven’t seen in recent years.  He taps into the spirit and argument of one’s thoughts, challenging said individual to question their own morality and thought process before nearly abandoning them to his provactive contemplation on life and religion.  All this mixed in with total fear of his powers and what he is capable of accomplishing in one slice.

BEST ACTION SEQUENCE

Darth Vader Light Saber Battle from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Walt Disney)

dir. Gareth Edwards

You can’t define “badass” for the rest of eternity without thinking of “Darth Vader” standing in a dark corridor, heavy breathing ensuing, before slowly unveiling his red light saber, and finally unleashing the fury and rage of the dark side of the force.  No words, feelings, or anything of the sorts will be able fully capture the excitement and palpable frenzy of the world premiere audience that experienced it for the very first time.  I am privileged to have been a part of it.

RUNNERS UP: A ticking time bomb suspends the reality of peace but doesn’t meet the conventional “action” that viewers are used to but “Arrival” does it all really well.  Mel Gibson’s war epic “Hacksaw Ridge” features a battle sequence that is right up there with “Saving Private Ryan.”  The talk of message boards was the high-flying and action-packed sequence at the airport in “Captain America: Civil War.”  Rolling cars never looked so fun with a stand up commentary in Marvel’s “Deadpool.”

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE

Andy Samberg as “Connor” in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” (Universal Pictures)

dir. Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

You can also label this under “Underrated Performance” for sure but call me crazy but I often think about how marvelous Andy Samberg was in the hilarious mockumentary “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.”  He tackles the musical personality of “Connor4Real” with a mix of Justin Bieber meets “2Gether.”  Adapting while reinventing his own comedic persona that made him so successful for seasons on “Saturday Night Live,” where he released dozens of digital shorts, Samberg has shown himself to be a considerable talent.  The Lonely Island remains an interesting farce to watch unfold and in “Popstar,” the trio develop a modern day cult classic.

RUNNERS UP: In the realm of what “regulars” consider comedy, and not the HFPA’s loose definition of “Comedy or Musical” that can include “Her” and “Take this Waltz,” it was hard to not look past the brilliance of Paul Dano‘s fart-riding turn in “Swiss Army Man,” but how can you talk about him without citing the equally compelling work of Daniel Radcliffe.  Nick Kroll may have had a misstep in “Loving” but he hit it out of the park with his voice work in “Sausage Party.”  The movie may feel stiff and try hard but there’s nothing stiff about Ryan Gosling‘s work in “The Nice Guys,” a comedic natural.

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE (MALE)

Dave Johns in “I, Daniel Blake” (Sundance Selects)

dir. Ken Loach

A man who has been running through British television and finally gets the lead in a Ken Loach film shouldn’t be expected to bring the nuance and complexity that Dave Johns does in “I, Daniel Blake” and yet, here we are.  Vibrantly funny and touching, Johns’ dedication to Daniel’s stubborn yet heartwarming affection towards a single mother and her children, while quietly still mourning the loss of his late wife is downright sensational.  With nothing else on the horizon for the actor, there’s no telling where his career may go but it would be a damn shame to not treat this acquisition of talent like a gift from the cinematic gods.  Truly remarkable.

RUNNERS UP: Mahershala Ali‘s Juan in “Moonlight” seems strange to recognize since we’ve learned about him beginning with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2008 but partnered with “Hidden Figures,” he had an outsstanding year.  two of the year’s impeccable highlights but don’t feel conventionally “breakthrough” as other newcomers on the beat.  In the realm of child performers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the vocal and aura of young Markees Christmas in Chad Hartigan’s “Morris from America” or Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea.”  One of the best things I learned this year is never underestimate the power of the non-vocal people in America.  That bridges into everything bought into the performance of Trevante Rhodes in “Moonlight,” who with so little said, says so very much.

 

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE (FEMALE)

Janelle Monáe in “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox) and “Moonlight” (A24)

dir. Theodore Melfi and Barry Jenkins

Two dynamite performances were littered within the body of Janelle Monáe in both “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.”  In the former, she gets utilize spunk, sass, and a determination that actresses only hope to exude on one of the first go-rounds.  In the latter, it’s persona, blended with love and affection for a boy who is not her own.  Monáe’s acting trajectory is a very promising one as she doesn’t rely on her musical talent to remain relevant in the conversation, rather than just another check on the box on her long list of abilities.  Can’t wait to see her helm her own project in the future, as she’s likely someone we need to keep an eye on for years to come.

RUNNERS UP: It’s always difficult to talk about “established” actors who are known for a different medium or just had a really good year in cinema.  Ruth Negga‘s Mildred Loving in “Loving” feels a bit off in recognizing but it’s still a signficant feat in the year of cinema.  I’m so glad I now know who Sandra Huller is thanks to “Toni Erdmann” and Krisha Fairchild thanks to “Krisha,” both personally moving films with different messages displayed across the board.  Lucy Boynton was one of the single best parts of John Carney’s compelling “Sing Street” as our reciprocation of love.

BEST MUSICAL SEQUENCE

“Sweet Child O’Mine” from “Captain Fantastic” (Bleecker Street)
dir. Matt Ross

You want to see the tears roll down your face, watch a group of children, sing at their mother’s cremation service, that they orchestrated, to backdrop of Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 hit song.  What Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, and Shree Crooks achieve is pure perfection, layered with an already stunning performance from Viggo Mortensen.

RUNNERS UP: Because there were countless masterful moments involving music, I’ve expanded this runner up section to ten with either the clip or vocal tracks of the film.  Let them just wash over you.

“Another Day of Sun” from “La La Land” (Summit Entertainment)

“The Great Beyond” from “Sausage Party” (Sony Pictures)

“True Colors” from “Trolls” (DreamWorks Animation)

“We Know the Way” from “Moana” (Walt Disney Pictures)

“Intro Song” from “Swiss Army Man” (A24)

“Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” from “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” (Universal Pictures)

“The Greatest Love of All” from “Toni Erdmann” (Sony Pictures Classics)

“Epilogue” from “La La Land” (Summit Entertainment)

“Audition (Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land” (Summit Entertainment)

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