Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Above Average Awards 2016

Another year gone by, and another successful year of film-watching for this spotty movie blogger! While 2016 may not have been the most impressive film year, it did provide quite a number of pleasant surprises for me, and a surprisingly good film is often more impactful than an expectedly great film. If that doesn't make sense, let me point to low-budget underdog, Moonlight, which surprised enough people to be considered one of best films of the year. While there are a number of things that I enjoy about going to the movies, there is nothing more thrilling than clinging to the hope that a film will sneak up and become one your favorites of the month, year, decade, or all time. In reality, everything you've ever known about movies has the potential to be challenged and adjusted in a 2-hour span of time. If that doesn't excite you, I don't know what will...

In the past, I have done a separate post for my comedy and drama categories, but, this year, I decided to reduce it down to one giant list, in hopes that everyone gets to see my favorites from 2016 and how they stack up against each other. While I don't do much blogging any more, I do still watch a heck of a lot of movies, but, regardless, there is no way that I could ever get to every film that was made this year. So, if your favorite 2016 film isn't on my list, there is a chance that I haven't seen it. Don't be too quick to judge!

Best Actress

Honorable Mention: Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)

#7 - Imogen Poots
Green Room
Honestly, I can't say that I've ever noticed the existence of Imogen Poots before watching Green Room, but I am certainly interested to see where her career heads. Her performance was subtly brilliant among the chaos of a horror/thriller flick, and her name is Imogen, which will always be enough to interest me!

#6 - Rima Te Wiata
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Rima Te Miata's time on the screen was very limited, during Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but her presence was felt throughout the entire film. Her fun, goofy, loving nature was responsible for setting up the successful relationship between Ricky and Hec, which was quite impressive. Although she is unlikely to be remembered by many for this performance, I will never forget!

#5 - Tilda Swinton
Hail, Caesar!
For the second year in a row, Tilda Swinton lands on my best list for yet another great comedic turn. With the large ensemble of Hail, Caesar!, it was easy to lose great performances, but Swinton's really stood out to me. Swinton may be one of the oddest individuals in Hollywood, but she sure can make me laugh!

#4 - Amy Adams
Amy Adams has always been an underwhelming actress, in my opinion, but her performance in Arrival gave me a new appreciation for what she can do. Her subtle, yet emotional, performance brought the drama surrounding Arrival to life, which was quite frightening, considering the subject matter. Thanks Amy, but I like my aliens a little less realistic!

#3 - Michelle Williams
Manchester by the Sea

With Casey Affleck's amazing turn in Manchester by the Sea, the performance of Michelle Williams would have likely fallen by the wayside had it not been Michelle Williams filling the role. Every other filmmaker has to be jealous of Kenneth Lonergan for his being able to get her to fill this role. What Williams did with such a short time on screen was absolutely stunning.

#2 - Melanie Lynskey
The Intervention
In a film that I have a feeling wasn't seen by very many people, Melanie Lynskey gave what was undoubtedly the funniest performance of 2016. Her character was so annoying and oblivious, but I couldn't help laughing at both the character and Lynskey's wholehearted delivery of her performance. The Intervention probably won't be anyone's favorite film of 2016, but I would suggest giving it a shot, if only for Lynsey's performance. 

#1 - Emma Stone
La La Land
For the second time in the history of the Above Average Awards, Emma Stone has found herself on top of my best actress list, making her the only person to top my list multiple times, aside from the great Jonah Hill. Sure, I've always had an affinity for Stone's acting, but she is truly becoming one of the best in the business. La La Land is absolutely driven by her stellar performance and lovely vocals, each of which could alone earn her an Oscar, in my opinion. If you're not an Emma Stone fan, I understand. But, if you are, I think we might just be warming up on her great career!

Best Actor

Honorable Mention: Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Armie Hammer (Nocturnal Animals), Kevin Hart (The Secret Life of Pets), George MacKay (Captain Fantastic), Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic), Will Smith (Suicide Squad), Ben Whishaw (The Lobster)

#9 - Jeff Bridges
Hell or High Water
Jeff Bridges has always had enough character to be a movie star, without even acting a single minute. Thankfully, we have been blessed to see him become one of the great performers of our time, and his turn in Hell or High Water did nothing but further his legacy. The physicality of this performance was so perfect that I couldn't help but enjoy every moment that Bridges was on screen.

#8 - Temple Baker & Glen Powell
Everybody Wants Some!!
The entire cast of Everybody Wants Some!! was great, but the performances of Temple Baker (village idiot) and Glen Powell (wise old leader) really blew me away. These guys were so perfectly cast and had me rolling laughing every single moment that they were around. Could we get a spinoff, maybe?!?!?

#7 - Ryan Gosling
La La Land
Ryan Gosling may not be winning a Grammy anytime soon, but the guy can most certainly act. In fact, Gosling's turn in La La Land earns him his third spot on my best actor list, after previously making it for The Ides of March and The Big Short. In my opinion, there isn't another actor that has made better casting decisions, over the past several years, than Gosling. The guy never picks a dud... ever! If nothing else, you have to respect that.

#6 - Viggo Mortensen
Captain Fantastic
No Oscar nom announcement made me happier than seeing Viggo Mortensen earn a best acting nod for Captain Fantastic. His performance really was quite impressive, and it probably would have shone even more if his supporting cast had not have been so very strong. Kudos to Mortensen for taking on this challenging role and blowing me away.

#5 - Michael Shannon
Nocturnal Animals 
If Ryan Gosling has been the best at picking roles, over the past several years, Michael Shannon is probably a close second. Shannon gets better with every single performance, and the past two years have really taken him to another level. His performance in Nocturnal Animals was so impressive, and he made it all look so easy. I'm fast becoming a believer in Shannon as an anchor for any film in which he might be involved. 

#4 - Alden Ehrenreich
Hail, Caesar!
Everyone will soon know Alden Ehrenreich as young Han Solo, and, if Hail Caesar! is any indication of his talents, young Solo may give old Solo a run for his money! There wasn't a single scene in 2016 that made me laugh more than Ehrenreich's "would if it were so simple" pronunciation snafu. If you don't enjoy Coen Brothers humor, Hail Caesar! may not be for you, but, for me, it worked great!

#3 - Karl Urban
Star Trek Beyond
It isn't easy for actors to shine when reprising classic roles in remakes, but Karl Urban has been praised for his ability to rock the character of Bones in both of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films. However, nothing surprised me more than my sheer fascination with Urban's performance the third time through, in Star Trek Beyond. Urban was not only hilariously likable, but his chemistry with Zachary Quinto and devotion to the character absolutely blew me away. If you've never paid much attention to Urban's performance as Bones, please take this as a challenge to review the most recent Star Trek universe.

#2 - Lucas Hedges
Manchester by the Sea
OscarsoWHITE, OscarsoMALE, and OscarsoOLD... Unfortunately for Lucas Hedges, the last Oscar-fault will likely cost him a supporting actor Oscar that he is 100% deserving of. Hedges absolutely blew me away with his performance in this film, beautifully portraying the very complex character of Patrick. It's easy to brush away the teenage character and performance, but Hedges was confident, heartbroken, caring, selfish, selfless, and funny, creating a brilliant character in a brilliant film. Kudos to Hedges--I can't wait to see what his future might hold!

#1 - Casey Affleck
Manchester by the Sea
We've all used silence to portray our emotions, at different points in our life, but the way that Casey Affleck used the absence of words to speak to his audience was unlike anything that I have ever seen on screen. Personally, I am a sucker for over-acting in scenes that are specifically written to heighten emotions and win acting awards. Subtle acting can absolutely impress me, but Affleck blew me away with his subtle brilliance. His introspective performance felt so tangible, and I just can't say enough to praise his effort in this film. If you haven't seen Manchester, prepare yourself for an emotional experience, brought to life by Casey Affleck.

Best Film 

Honorable Mention: Arrival, Finding Dory, Hail Caesar!

#7 - La La Land
La La Land was undoubtedly the most popular #1 atop everyone's 2016 best lists, and it is likely to take home the Oscar for Best Picture. While it may not be at the top of my list, I must say that the film is quite impressive, particularly considering my distaste for most musicals. La La Land overcame its musical roots with amazing performances by its stars, beautifully designed and directed scenes, and catchy songs that have since required many repeats in Apple Music. The film has several flaws that do turn me off, but, ultimately, it left me thinking for a week or two after I saw it... and that's how a film garners success in my book.

#6 - Star Trek Beyond
As someone who loved both Star Trek and Into Darkness (and anything else made by J.J. Abrams), I was saddened that the trailers for Star Trek Beyond were so very disappointing. Thankfully, the film was beyond impressive, with Justin Lin creating something both entertaining and visually pleasing. If you gave up on Star Trek after Into Darkness, please give Star Trek Beyond a shot--you will not be disappointed!

#5 - Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Based on the critical praise for Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I didn't have much of a choice but to watch the film. Not really knowing what to expect, this film snuck up and blew me away with its hilarious characters and witty sense of humor. This film is likely the most obscure of any film on my best list, this year, but I promise that it is worth a shot. If you have Hulu, you can stream it for free. Trust me... take a chance!

#4 - Everybody Wants Some!!
Everybody Wants Some!! was this year's biggest example of a terribly marketed film. In a world that is lacking in good comedic films, Everybody Wants Some!! had a chance to stand out and become a cult classic, in the same vein as its spiritual prequel--Dazed and Confused. The few that did see it were blessed with a hilarious combination of simple humor, genius dialogue, and terrific acting from a band of misfit baseball players. The 80s nostalgia isn't going away anytime soon, and this film is yet another reason to love that fact!!

#3 - Captain America: Civil War
After what feels like decades of watching films from the Marvel cinematic universe, I feared that the superheroes might have long surpassed their peak likability. Age of Ultron was a mess, and future films are set to focus on obscure characters who I couldn't care less about. Thankfully, Civil War revived the Avengers by (gently) pitting America's favorite team against itself, using a storyline that was actually very well-constructed and not overly predictable. Kudos to Marvel for giving us at least one more great superhero film!

#2 - Captain Fantastic
For most of 2016, I thought that Captain Fantastic was destined to top my yearly best list, and, while it may not have been able to hang on to the top spot, it is undoubtedly the most uniquely interesting film of the year. Viggo Mortensen gives an amazing performance, alongside the near-perfect casting of the six children who are the true heart of the film. Without shoving its ideas in your face, Captain Fantastic presented us with one of the greatest (and most frightening) pictures of the pressures and importance of parenting. What an amazing film!

#1 - Manchester by the Sea
In my opinion, no other 2016 film was as technically sound or as utterly emotional as Manchester by the Sea, and, thinking back, it's hard to remember any other film that contained this much pain and kept from feeling overly dark. Great performances from Affleck, Hedges, and Williams and the detailed direction of Kenneth Lonergan came together to create something absolutely stunning--a film that cannot be ignored by your emotions. So many people have focused in on the sadness of this film, but the humor throughout makes it an absolute delight, even with the moments that are tough to stomach. Honesty is at the heart of Manchester by the Sea, and, from that honesty, the sadness, humor, frustration, and depth of the film are drawn. 

Some people get fairytale endings. Some people get closure in three acts. But, unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. I learned from Manchester by the Sea that pain, guilt, and life aren't always as easy to conquer as most movies make them out to be. And, while that may mean a sad movie for some, it meant something beautiful to me. 

There it is, folks--my favorites in film from 2016! If you haven't seen some or any of the films on my list, please take the time to check out the trailers and the films. They probably aren't all for you, but I promise you will find something that you enjoy...


  1. Great post here, Tanner. Was looking forward to this one, and you didn't disappoint. Especially loved your write-up for Casey Affleck. Such an incredible performance, for all the reasons you expressed. That's one of my favorite forms of acting to see pulled off, the ability to convey so much on the outside while most of the performance is based around what's going on internally for the character. Absolutely loved it. :)

    1. Thanks, Chris! It's hard for subtle acting to impress me, which made my affection for Affleck's performance even more exciting. So glad that he won, last night!

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  3. Great pics! I absolutely adore Melanie Lynskey so I need to see The Intervention right away.

    1. Thanks, Alex! Definitely check The Intervention out. The film has many faults, but Lynsey is hilarious.