101 reasons 2016 wasn't quite as shit as we all thought it was
It's almost over. You almost made it through. You survived 2016. You deserve a medal, but that medal would probably strangle you. We can all focus ahead now on 2017, a year which cannot feasibly be any worse than the 12 months that came before it, at least until that new Keith Lemon & Paddy McGuinness TV show airs on ITV. But let's get Biblical about this. Look back behind you at your footsteps: what do you see? Dogshit and broken glass? Corpses strewn across the road like a Cormac McCarthy novel? No, it's your journey through the adventure that was the experience that was 2016. And was it really all that bad? We cobbled together 101 movie-related reasons why 2016 wasn't quite as shit as we all thought it was. I mean, it was definitely shit, it just wasn't quite as shit as it would have been without all of this.
La La Land at the London Film Festival
Without going into too much detail - I'll save that for the eventual review and 2017's end-of-year 'happy moments' list - there was something immensely comforting about seeing La La Land this year at the London Film Festival. Because, after a pretty poor summer of blockbusters, a hell of a lot of sad deaths and a year so shit that the new thing to complain about in 2016 is how much everyone is complaining about 2016, La La Land might just be the one truly magical cinematic experience I've had all year. Or in many years. It's beautiful, fun, uplifting, funny, wonderful, romantically sad and joyous all at the same time. As if that wasn't all enough, it stars literally the two best people on the planet right now being absolutely brilliant at everything.
There can be no greater compliment for the film, and no greater antidote for this year's horrendous onslaught of terribleness, than to KNOW that 2017 is going to be better purely by having this film released in its first month.
The thought of The Rock maybe one day running for President of the United States of America
If 2016 has proved anything, it's that literally anyone can become President of the United States - even a racist, bellowing scarecrow with a Twitter account. It's of some comfort, then, that Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson refuses to rule out running for office in 2020; not in a delusional way like Kanye West, or in that obsequious self-serving way that Will Smith keeps threatening, but in an actual, honest-to-demigod, let's-People's-Elbow-poverty kind of way. President Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. With one raised eyebrow, Russia retreated from Crimea. With one pec-pop, Julian Assange turned off his internet. I'm picturing President Rock suplexing Nigel Farage into a table, yelling "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT 52% OF THE PEOPLE THINK". I mean, sure, he identifies as a Republican, but you can't have everything.
The Graham Norton Show got better and better
Chat shows feel positively quaint these days, in the era of the Twitter feed and the AMA. The US still runs a strong game in late night celeb chatter, but British chat shows can't shake the genial ghost of Terry Wogan: we don't have shock jocks and we don't make our guests look like dicks, but we do a good line in polite conversation and nervous laughter.
Graham Norton, however, is an absolute master of the art. Not only does he get the best talent ushered straight off the red carpet, he's an expert in putting his guests at ease; with all his guests on his sofa at once, there's a dynamic here that constantly escapes also-rans Jonathan Ross and - shudder - Alan Carr. He always puts on a good show, but the highlight of Norton's 2016 roster was watching Ryan Gosling trying and failing to conceal his laughter as comedian Greg Davies described a massive dump.
Meanwhile, Alan Carr does some of his jokes at someone off Gogglebox and Jonathan Ross fakes a sexual attraction to one of his male guests, again.
Alec Baldwin doing Donald Trump on SNL
I'm not sure what's better: Alec Baldwin doing a solid impression of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, or the fact that it clearly really, really bothers the President elect. It's definitely the latter, obviously. The British equivalent would be David Cameron staying up until 3am writing the perfect scathing tweet to Rory Bremner.
The amazing FW-FW-FWEHHH sound effect from the Office Christmas Party trailer
This Fantastic Coat, and where to find it
It's a coat as brilliant as it would be inversely terrible if I tried to wear it, which is the secret to most great movie coats, I find (see also: Drive's scorpion jacket). You can buy it here. Don't let me.
You can download Netflix and everything
Finally, a whole new way to not watch movies you've been putting off watching for months! Feel guilty about not watching that great new show everyone's been talking about while you're on your morning commute! Fail to summon the energy to watch that critically-acclaimed movie you really should watch on the way home from work! More movies! More TV! Watch them! Watch them. Watch them on the toilet. WAAAATCH THEEEMMM.
Alex Proyas' Gods Of Egypt rant on Facebook
Published with original punctuation and lack of paragraphs.
Than reading reviews of my own movies. I usually try to avoid the experience - but this one takes the cake. Often, to my great amusement, a critic will mention my past films in glowing terms, when at the time those same films were savaged, as if to highlight the critic's flawed belief of my descent into mediocrity. You see, my dear fellow FBookers, I have rarely gotten great reviews… on any of my movies, apart from those by reviewers who think for themselves and make up their own opinions. Sadly those type of reviewers are nearly all dead. Good reviews often come many years after the movie has opened. I guess I have the knack of rubbing reviewers the wrong way - always have. This time of course they have bigger axes to grind - they can rip into my movie while trying to make their mainly pale asses look so politically correct by screaming "white-wash!!!” like the deranged idiots they all are. They fail to understand, or chose to pretend to not understand what this movie is, so as to serve some bizarre consensus of opinion which has nothing to do with the movie at all. That’s ok, this modern age of texting will probably make them go the way of the dinosaur or the newspaper shortly - don't movie-goers text their friends with what they thought of a movie? Seems most critics spend their time trying to work out what most people will want to hear. How do you do that? Why these days it is so easy... just surf the net to read other reviews or what bloggers are saying - no matter how misguided an opinion of a movie might be before it actually comes out. Lock a critic in a room with a movie no one has even seen and they will not know what to make of it. Because contrary to what a critic should probably be they have no personal taste or opinion, because they are basing their views on the status quo. None of them are brave enough to say “well I like it” if it goes against consensus. Therefore they are less than worthless. Now that anyone can post their opinion about anything from a movie to a pair of shoes to a hamburger, what value do they have - nothing. Roger Ebert wasn’t bad. He was a true film lover at least, a failed film-maker, which gave him a great deal of insight. His passion for film was contagious and he shared this with his fans. He loved films and his contribution to cinema as a result was positive. Now we have a pack of diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass. Trying to peck to the rhythm of the consensus. I applaud any film-goer who values their own opinion enough to not base it on what the pack-mentality say is good or bad."
This gif of the BFG jacking it at his desk
We had a quick email poll during the making of this article to decide what the best wanking metaphor to use was, and Becky won with:
I have always been rather cynical of first contact movies. Surely the whole point of a film about meeting extra-terrestrials is that the whole experience is beyond our comprehension? It's not enough for aliens to speak telepathically or via RSS feeds, they should communicate in a way that we can't possibly fathom, like with gravity or hats or something.
Ok, so I can't think of a good example, but that's kind of the point. First contact should be beyond our imagination, and any film depicting this kind of event has that impossible obstacle to overcome. Well, Arrival pretty much nails it.
It's a spectacular, thoughtful movie that focuses solely on the communication issue: how DO we talk to aliens? And yet, it tells a story that shakes cores on a personal, intimate level as well as a global, all-of-mankind scale. Which is fitting because, first and foremost, Denis Villeneuve's tender tale deals with language, the universal tool for unification on a personal, intimate level as well as a global, all-of-mankind scale.
Thankfully, alongside the layered thematic cohesion, we have an incredibly muted yet powerful performance from lead Amy Adams (while Jeremy Renner does a great job of not being Hawkeye as her co-star) and there are visuals that are so breath-taking, they're almost instantly iconic.
Mostly though, this is big epic sci-fi on a deeply emotional level. In portraying first contact with aliens, Villeneuve has given us a film that says more about humanity than every other film on this list put together.
David Brent's new laugh in Life On The Road
Although I think The Office and Extras are both works of genius, it feels like Ricky Gervais is a spent comedic force, so the thought of him rolling out David Brent for a feature-length outing didn't exactly thrill me. The film isn't bad (save your vitriol for Derek: Life Is Magic) but it doesn't cover any ground that the pitch-perfect Christmas specials haven't already touched. Except for one thing: Brent's new laugh.
In the TV series, Brent's laugh was intentionally annoying. Paired with an awkward smile, it sounded like an involuntary exhalation, like someone accidentally parping on a comedy horn. Hehhh! But in Life On The Road, that laugh has taken on a new tone: still slapped onto a pained smile, the corners of Gervais' mouth now barely raised, Brent's laugh is now an extended wheeze that sounds more like pain than pleasure - sort of like the sound you imagine you'd make after getting stabbed. Hehhhhhehhh! Hehhhhehhhh. It's like a Lalo Schifrin orchestral stab.
Every time he laughs, his upbeat facade wobbles a little more. It's really the only thing about David Brent that has evolved since telling Finchy to "fuck off" in the finale. Every time he eyes up the lens and makes that stupid noise, usually in the pursuit of pleasing someone else, Brent's dreams die a little bit more. And from a bloke who still thinks that inappropriate jokes about disabled people are funny, that's a surprisingly subtle note to hear.
Everything about Monster Trucks' existence
The story of the making of Monster Trucks sound absolutely incredible, and thus, has nothing in common with the story of Monster Trucks. Pitched to Paramount by the four-year-old son of ex-studio president Adam Goodman (oh to be a fly on the wall of that round-table), Monster Trucks is quite literal, in that it's about monsters that live in trucks. Sounds like harmless fun, right? Wrong: that kid's idea just cost Paramount a hundred million dollars.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, parent company Viacom are prepared to make a $115 million writedown on the film, which was shot in 2014 and has been sat on the pile marked OH GOD WHAT DO WE DO ever since. Fittingly, it seems like they let Goldman's kid design the poster, too.
The tragedy is that Monster Trucks might turn out to be a little gem of a film: exactly the kind of Amblin-esque kids adventure we've been craving all this years. It might also be exactly as terrible as it looks, but we'll never know, because nobody - not even the people at Paramount - want us to see it, let alone know it exists. You really dropped the ball on this one, kid.
This perfect Gladiator vine
Eric Roberts' amazing year
The last time we checked in with Eric Roberts, he was enjoying the mother of all purple patches with 69 movies (nice) on the slate for 2013/2014. I decided I'd catch up with Eric to see what he's been up to. It's fair to say he hasn't been sitting around with his thumb up his arse.
I can't help but respect an actor like Eric Roberts: his output is the very definition of quantity over quality. If he was to release his own Eric Roberts-branded box of chocolates, it'd be called 'Quantity Street' and it'd come in a massive cardboard box the size of an armchair but would be full of gelatinous brown lumps only vaguely related to chocolate. Eric Roberts doesn't believe in equality, he believes in equantity. Loads more of everything, all the time. Just add more.
That's the Eric Roberts promise. He will make more movies in a calendar year than you will watch. He is human Netflix. Fuck you if you think Eric Roberts isn't on a movie set right now, fully aware of how many minutes it'll be before he isn't. Clock in, hit mark, do acting, cash cheque, clock out and walk home with your pockets full of craft services: that's how he rolls.
2016 was another big year for Big Eric. Not even in my wildest dreams did I hope to stumble upon such a goldmine of entertainment attractions. Though I can't speak for the likelihood that any of them saw release this year, or in what form, just know this: Eric Roberts had 44 movies on the slate for 2016. FOURTY FOUR. That's a number so big I've never had to write it out in full so I'm not even sure I spelled it properly. That is more movies than Marlon Brando made in his lifetime.
When I looked at his IMDb page, I was delighted that the movies marked '2016' continued below the page fold; I let out a giggle when I had to do another full scroll to take them all in; then, when I'd seen the last of them and hit a cache of movies with no marked release year, I sighed, then burst out laughing when I saw another fresh batch of '2016' underneath, almost like he'd just updated the page while I'd been looking at it. If you count the movies with no set release, that's a total of 60 movies: more than one a week. Eric Roberts could feasibly release a different movie in every single Picturehouse Cinema around the UK and still have enough left over for a BFI retrospective and a Screen On The Green.
Kudos, Eric Roberts. Enjoy your break while you only film 34 movies in 2017.
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld
Look, right, whatever you think of Westworld, there's no denying that Anthony Hopkins is an absolutely mesmerising actor when he's in full flow, and Westworld benefited endlessly from countless Hopkins dead-eyed monologues, all punctuated with spiky little micro-smiles, like he's been fucking with you the whole time. His acting style here is a bit like the snake in The Jungle Book doing the hypnosis thing with his eyes, only Hopkins does it with words and a bit Welsh, and also he's mainly talking about robot cowboys achieving sentience, but it's pretty much the same thing, just trust in me.
That moment the Wonder Woman guitar solo kicked in on Hans Zimmer's Batman Vs Superman score
Don't act like you didn't love it.
Jeff Goldblum's hole-noticing abilities in ID42
I hope you haven't actually been waiting 20 years for Independence Day: Resurgence because it's a very shiny turd: a nostalgiabuster that's bigger for the sake of being bigger, and all the dumber for it. It is the winner by some distance of this year's award for Most Characters Whose Names You'll Forget By The End Credits. The one bit that made me laugh, though, was when Jeff Goldblum's character David, who is now Earth Defence Director (read: Chief Science Nerd), almost accidentally falls into a hole, which - as we discover when we cut to a wide shot - is actually a ravine about a mile in diameter. Way to notice giant holes in the ground there, nerd!
Woke Lindsay Lohan livetweeting Brexit
Everyone (okay, wanky reviewers such as myself) has been harping on about who the natural successor to Hayao Miyazaki will be, as if only one studio was solely responsible for churning out amazing anime for the past 30 years. But for argument's sake, lets just say Makoto Shinkai could possibly be heir apparent when Miyazaki closes the doors on Studio Ghibli, if Your Name is anything to go by.
The opening 20 minutes are baffling as we try to find our feet with the emo body-swapping teens who are both yearning for something more and find it in each other – despite the fact they don't (or can't) meet. It's like The Lake House meets Dawson's Creek by way of Spirited Away. Their impossible romance, played out to great comic effect via smartphones and boob-fondling (when trapped in a girl's body, what's the first thing a teenage boy would do?), is thrown a massive curveball by the introduction of a looming threat that grabs you by the heart and holds on until the end credits.
It's breathtaking, it's haunting and whilst not as whimsical as a Ghibli joint, it's just beyond lovely.
The year's good-not-great genre movies
Vince Mancini, FilmDrunk
I could write about an awards movie, or how much I loved La La Land (one of my favorite movies of the last five years, maybe 10), but I'm assuming other people, and the awards themselves, will have that well covered. Instead I want to celebrate some of 2016's lesser-lauded works. And to point out that this was a great year for "termite art." Movies like Green Room, Blood Father, Hell Or High Water, The Accountant -- these were simple genre movies, some a little silly (The Accountant), but done beautifully. When I was growing up, I remember action movies being simple and fun, silly, but not idiotic. But then at some point Taken and The Expendables happened and we decided that every action movie had to be the bloodiest, the oldest, the dumbest, the most overstuffed. One of the best things about 2016 is that it proved that making an action movie is sort of like making a hamburger. It doesn't need five patties or eight strips of bacon, it just needs to taste good.
Follow Vince on Twitter at @FilmDrunk.
The crushingly inevitable Star Wars group chat email thing: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
And The Rest