Dubious Achievements in Cinema 2016: Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald, alongside several other reviewers, offer some highlights and lowlights of the year.
It’s been a busy year at the movies — and here, in a tradition begun years ago by my friend and predecessor John Hartl (who in 2016 marked 50 years as a reviewer for The Seattle Times!), are a few highlights and lowlights. Many thanks to John, Soren Andersen and Tom Keogh for so ably reviewing movies alongside me all year long, and for chiming in here with suggestions. To the list of Dubious Achievements in Cinema!
Best performance in a lost cause
Kristen Stewart in “Café Society,” Daniel Radcliffe in “Now You See Me 2,” Kevin Hart in “Ride Along 2,” Andrea Martin in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” T.J. Miller in “Office Christmas Party,” Matt Smith in “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies,” Tom Hiddleston in “High-Rise,” Danny Glover (and the rest of the merry cast) in “Almost Christmas,” Robert De Niro in “Hands of Stone,” Renée Zellweger in “The Whole Truth.”
Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers in “Southside With You,” Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in “La La Land,” Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in “Loving,” Hailee Steinfeld and Hayden Szeto in “The Edge of Seventeen,” Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in “Fences,” Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons in “The Meddler,” Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in “The Lobster,” Molly Shannon and Jesse Plemons in “Other People.”
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Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in “The Nice Guys,” Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn in “Bad Moms” (particularly in the scene in which Bell imitates a male body part, which really should win her some sort of Oscar), Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in “Keanu.”
Best chemistry to no avail
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in “Passengers.”
Janelle Monae (though she’s hardly unknown) in “Moonlight” and the soon-to-arrive-in-Seattle “Hidden Figures,” Kate McKinnon in “Ghostbusters,” Logan Lerman in “Indignation,” Julian Dennison in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” Krisha Fairchild in “Krisha.”
Best popcorn movies
“La La Land,” “Finding Dory,” “Doctor Strange,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Ghostbusters,” “Sully,” “Bad Moms,” “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “The Tunnel,” “Deadpool” (though not for the whole family).
Most swoonworthy costumes
“The Handmaiden” (designed by Sang-gyeong Jo), “Love & Friendship” (Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh), “Allied” (Joanna Johnson) and that glittery cape that turns into a flock of golden birds in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” (Colleen Atwood), which really needs to fly right into my closet.
Best performance by an animal
It’s got to be that adorable, action-hero “Keanu” kitty, right? (Or, to be precise, the seven very telegenic tabby kittens who alternated in the role.) Honorable mention: that traveling dachshund in Todd Solondz’s “Wiener-Dog,” whose performance is so soulful it almost doesn’t matter that the movie doesn’t work.
Doctor Strange. In Benedict Cumberbatch’s capable hands, the magical man of mystery transcends his comic-book roots and becomes a character with plenty of genuine dramatic heft.
The cackling Samuel L. Jackson in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” the deliciously evil Charlize Theron in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” the volatile, jittery Josh Hamilton in “Take Me to the River.” And let’s not forget this doubleheader from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”: Darth Vader, with pure evil swirling around him like his long black cape, and The Grand Moff Tarkin — who’s so bad, he defies death itself in the form of the reanimated Peter Cushing (who cast off this mortal coil way back in 1994).
Most disappointing villain
Emily Blunt, slurring through a voice as thick as syrup in “The Girl on the Train.”
Worst performance by a wig
That godawful, red-mushroom-ish thing on Julia Roberts’ head in “Mother’s Day.”
Best evidence that the romantic comedy isn’t dead
Best evidence that the romantic comedy is, in fact, dead
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” a movie so completely without reason for being that its main conflict was whether Toula and Ian’s daughter might — horrors! — leave home and go to college.
Best kid performance
High-school division: Madina Nalwanga in “Queen of Katwe” and Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea.” Middle-school division: Royalty Hightower in “The Fits.” Barely-in-grade-school division: Sunny Pawar in “Lion.” Family division: all those vivid kids in “Captain Fantastic.”
Sting, very briefly, almost saved “Zoolander No. 2,” and a special guest, who I won’t name, momentarily enlivened “X-Men: Apocalypse.” And how was it that Hugh Grant, who isn’t actually in “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” almost managed to steal the entire movie in just one very rakish photograph?
Ralph Fiennes in “A Bigger Splash” and Julianne Moore in “Maggie’s Plan”
Sorry, Ryan and Emma: Channing Tatum, in a brief but glorious tap-dancing moment in “Hail, Caesar,” suddenly demonstrated that he could give Gene Kelly a run for his money.
Alan Rickman’s last on-screen performance, as a military officer in “Eye in the Sky.” “Never tell a soldier,” he says, in those quiet, deliberate tones that seem to pull us into a velvet box, “that he does not know the cost of war.”
Best reason to look forward to 2017 (at the movies, anyway)
Helen Mirren in “Fast 8.” No, seriously, Helen Mirren is in “Fast 8.” They can’t pop the popcorn fast enough.