The problem of looking back at the year in film is that it involves looking at the year 2016, and who wants to do that?
Captain America: Civil War is an unnecessary sequel with one fight scene too many. But the directors, the Russo brothers, caught the national sense of division and of blowback begetting blowback. If liberal snowflakes are threatening to get out of the U.S. now, what does it say that even the Cap decided to head for the hills?
Strange that with all the efforts to retrieve the magic of the studio-era film—La La Land, Rules Don’t Apply, Café Society and Hail, Caesar!—the most original pastiche, The Witch, channeled a silent film from 1922, the Swedish classic Häxan, aka Witchcraft Throughout the Ages. The Witch‘s Georges de la Tour lighting and the ingenious payoff worked its magic.
While it was made for TV, the eight-hour O.J.: Made in America took a long look at this hero’s plummet and the way he allowed himself to be used as a palliative against America’s racism during the white backlash of the 1960s.
Zootopia, Loving and, perhaps the best film of the year, Moonlight did justice to our reeling times in three different approaches to the subject of dangerous liaisons. Fences was a haunting film that showed how post-traumatic slave syndrome destroys a tough, ingenious man.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople seems like a movie that will find its niche during repeated viewings; it’s the one film you can recommend to anyone, even during times of schism.
The kinky and beautifully framed Handmaiden describes the cost of snobbery. And Hell and High Water‘s splashy, sagebrush-rebellion populism is less key to its quality than the way it treats—with wit and fierce excitement—the lives of outlaws.
As for the worst of the year, why search for a more dispiriting movie than Alice Through the Looking Glass? It cost a fortune, it rubbished a great book, and it had the last of Alan Rickman in it, as if to remind us of one more loss in a year of heavy losses.