By: Henry J. Fromage –
Week four of my 365 Days of Movies Challenge sees me back from a two week stint in Finland and desperately needing to catch up on potential (and as of Tuesday, actual) Oscar nominees and other 2016 standouts. Couldn’t resist the Resurrection of M. Knight, though.
Shyamalan is back, folks, and in a lovely twist, it looks like he’s going to build off of his best film for his next, maybe even next several. Split, whether it becomes part of a Shyaniverse or not, is another Hitchock-indebted thriller with a monster of a performance from James McAvoy.
I’m not surprised this isn’t getting the Oscar love its pedigree would suggest. While beautifully made, it’s a slow, even ponderous examination of faith, in particular faith under tribulation, and the true form of martyrdom that is knotty, hard, and bereft of easy answers, but a rewarding challenge, particularly for a Christian.
After Split, this felt like a mandatory rewatch, especially since I haven’t seen it since it first came out, but loved it ever since. It holds up beautifully- approaching the concept of a superhero from a very grounded, everyman perspective, the element that most superhero fare has been missing. It both feels like a precursor to our superhero-mad movie culture today and a forecast of a more interesting direction in which it may go. Go vote with your box office dollars and it just may.
33. Hidden Figures
This is both as formulaic and as inspiring as you’ve heard. Contrary to a lot of opinions, I actually think the film’s all the stronger for choosing to show how the accomplishments of three extraordinary African American women helped shaped the Space Race, instead of focusing on just one. I wish every woman who toiled unacknowledged like they did for so long could get her own feature segment as they did.
34. 20th Century Women
The comedy of the year in my estimation, this beautifully humane dramatization of writer/director Mike Mill’s late 70s teen years with his mom and the eclectic mix of folks sharing their home matches his Beginners in style, wit, and perceptiveness. My only question is who he’s going to make a movie about next now that he’s tackled both parents.
35. Patriots Day
Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg clearly have a good thing going, and here’s hoping they keep making at least one of these ripped from the headlines visceral, almost cinema verite action films a year from here on out. It’s clearly the best use of their talents. Patriots Day is right in line with Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor, if anything adding even more stomach-churning suspense and pathos with its everyday folks subject of the Boston Marathon Bombing victims. Patriotic film done right- without the Jingoist chaser.
36. The Infiltrator
Unfortunately, this is just as convoluted and unengaging as reported when it hit theaters. Bryan Cranston does a fine job as always as an undercover DEA agent extraordinaire, but isn’t given much support from a script that feels simultaneously underdeveloped and overwritten. Director Brad Furman manages some good, if derivative style, but it’s never a great sign when you think, “Eh, he could probably do an episode of Narcos“. Good show, btw.
37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Listen, I know these films are not made for me, and watching this one hasn’t changed that assessment at all. Oscars-wise, it’s ropey at times visual effects put it alongside The Jungle Book as nominees that got in for “Most” instead of “Best”. I will say one thing, though, Eddie Redmayne’s performance is subtly and unsubtly weird, and that’s the only use I have for Eddie Redmayne- when he’s being gloriously weird. Hanging out with Johnny Depp the next 7 or 9 or 32 years it’s going to take to get through these things isn’t going to help matters, either. If Oscar noms keep forcing me to watch the series, I’ll at least be interested to see how that plays out.
Plus, when’s Pikachu gonna show up?
38. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Probably the most successful video game adaption franchise of all time, both commercially (in total) and, surprisingly, critically, comes to an unfortunately muted end with this bait ‘n switch return to Raccoon City which plays like an attempt to wrap up with a Greatest Hits rundown unfortunately cut together by Crank‘s editor. I’d say for fans only, but A) you’ve basically already seen this film, and B) it might not even actually be the Final Chapter. Yep, they left it wide open.