Best Movies of 2016... So Far
Leonardo DiCaprio had his best year. He had a number-one film, The Revenant. He also won his first, Academy Award for acting in that movie, cementing him as Hollywood's golden boy. His speech at the Oscars was superb and he is a humble and humane gentleman, the classiest environmentalist around.
All that was great, but there was an elephant in the room. After the Oscar nominations were announced, people noticed that all the acting nominees were white people for the second year in a row, and a lot feel like this is unfair and revealing of Hollywood's race problem. There was a huge backlash on Twitter trending #OscarsSoWhite.
Comedian and Oscar host, Chris Rock made a joke at the awards, which offended Asian people. It opened some eyes to the lack or problematic representation of Asian people or culture. It opened two, upcoming films to tough criticisms. Tilda Swinton was criticized for her role in Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson was also criticized for her future role in Ghost in the Shell. Both are white people portraying Asian characters, and reaffirmed the racist history of Hollywood whitewashing.
Ride Along 2 starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube was the only number-one film this year with a black person as the main character. The Jungle Book was number-one for three weeks straight, and that film followed a boy of Indian descent. Big films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Captain America: Civil War have diverse casts of various ethnicity. Yet, the white people are still front and center. Movies where black people or minorities are front and center are continuing to be rare. They exist. They exist every year, but whether Hollywood recognizes them remains the question.
Another thing that is rare is a collection of mainstream films in any year that are directed by women. There are plenty of female directors, but hardly any get to direct major motion pictures, certainly no blockbusters. Jodie Foster did direct Money Monster and Rebecca Miller has Maggie's Plan, but both are mid-level to independent films.
With the all-female Ghostbusters film that's soon-to-be released, the emphasis on more women in front of the camera needs to be matched with an emphasis on more women behind and controlling the camera. For example, who is the female version of Steven Spielberg or Zachary Snyder?
Homophobia is also alive and well. A lot of Hollywood films give lip-service to gay people, but a gay character as the protagonist in a wide-release is practically none. Films like Carol last year and The Imitation Game the year before have potential, but The Imitation Game downplayed its protagonist's homosexuality and still struggled to crack the Top 40 of 2014. Carol didn't even crack the Top 100 of 2015.
Gay characters are relegated to smaller films. Gay characters can be teased in blockbusters like Skyfall or even The Amazing Spider-Man or Deadpool. People can ship comic book heroes in Marvel Studios films but until we see James Bond or Peter Parker lovingly kiss a guy or a Star Wars character have a same-sex relationship, then no real progress has been made. On July 7, it was revealed in an article from Australia that the character of Sulu in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond will be gay but the article says that a big deal won't be made of it, which is the approach that Roland Emmerich took in the recent Independence Day: Resurgence and that wasn't received well because a big deal should be made of it because for too long it hasn't.
It's no surprise why a lot of big-budget, Hollywood films don't make my list of the Best Movies of 2016. Most of my favorites are independent films. With the exception of five, most were not playing in a theater near you. Most of my favorites only play in cities like New York. Thanks to video-on-demand and Netflix, a lot are available online within the click of a button.
Best Theatrical Release
EYE IN THE SKY by Gavin Hood
A WAR [KRIGEN] by Tobias Lindholm
WEINER by Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg
HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS by Michael Showalter
T-REX by Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari
THE FITS by Anna Rose Holmer
DHEEPAN by Jacques Audiard
NAZ & MAALIK by Jay Dockendorf
ZOOTOPIA by Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR by Anthony and Joe Russo
SWISS ARMY MAN by Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
TOUCHED WITH FIRE by Paul Dalio
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE by Rawson Marshall Thurber
BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT by Malcolm D. Lee
BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING by Joseph Graham
1982 by Tommy Oliver
YOSEMITE by Gabrielle Demeestere
Best Overlooked DVD / VOD
THE NEW GIRLFRIEND by François Ozon
BONE TOMAHAWK by S. Craig Zahler
MISTRESS AMERICA (2015) by Noah Baumbach
CUT SNAKE (2015) by Tony Ayres
JOY by David O. Russell
THE SUMMER OF SANGAILE by Alante Kavaite
HOW TO WIN AT CHECKERS (EVERY TIME) by Josh Kim
THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) by Todd Strauss-Schulson
JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS by Sam Liu