From the Archives: Hidden Treasures of 2016

From the Archives: Hidden Treasures of 2016

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

My initial intention for this week’s blog was to make a list of honorable mentions for 2016, but then it occurred to me that said list would be redundant. Between all of the excellent lists that Cinedelphia and the web at large have published, just about anything I could have honorably mentioned has already been mentioned, honorably. So instead, I would like to highlight a few solid flicks from 2016 that may have flown under your radar, but are worth checking out. 

Personal Shopper (Dir. – Oliver Assayas)

I still don’t quite know what to make of this movie plot-wise, but the ambiguities don’t lessen its impact. Keeping with one of the year’s most enduring (and most appropriate) themes, Shopper explores the way in which we process grief, and the extent to which we’re willing to go for assurance that the end of life is not the end of existence. It’s a divisive film, receiving boos as well as rave reviews when it premiered at Cannes, but one thing is certain: Kristen Stewart is a tremendously talented actress, Twilight be damned.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Dir. André Øvredal)

Despite its considerably weaker second half, Autopsy should not be missed. There’s just something about a procedural mystery based around an autopsy that is automatically engaging. Doubly so when the characters at the center of it are so well crafted. While the film eventually abandons its tone in favor of a by-the-books shriekfest (at the expense of potentially strong thematics), it still remains a ton of fun. It also features a fantastic performance from Olwen Kelly . . . as an entirely immobile corpse.

The Wailing (Dir. – Hong-jin Na)

Horror flicks are almost always best when kept short, but The Wailing justifies its 156-minute runtime. Epic in scope, but small in scale, this horror-mystery ticks all of the boxes synonymous with Korean horror: its gruesome, funny, and absolutely heartbreaking. More than a few images from this one have burrowed into my brain only to pop up right when I’m about to shut off the lights – a mark of good horror.

Blood Father (Dir. Jean-François Richet)

As part of my tireless campaign to clear the name of Mel Gibson, I offer Blood Father. It’s essentially his Taken (every beefy actor gets one at the outset of his second career), but what makes Blood Father stand out is just how good Gibson’s performance is. He shows shades of apologetic and reformative, but is no less intense than the early days of Martin Riggs. You just don’t get characters like this from an actor who hasn’t done the work. Gibson always does the work.

Krisha (Dir. – Trey Edward Shults)

The less you know going into this, the better. As far as debut films go, it’s tough to find one so competently paced. The way that Shults parses out story information elevates what could have been a bland hangout movie into an aggressively emotional family drama. From what I understand, much of what occurs is based in the director’s life experience, which makes the honesty on display that much more impressive … and soul-crushing … and funny. Folks who have had the challenge of loving a troubled person (for the sake of the film, I’m being purposefully vague), will find Krisha relatable, as will troubled people who don’t feel deserving of love. Another theme of 2016: forgiveness.

The Greasy Strangler (Dir. – Jim Hosking)

I’m always amazed to see an idiosyncratic sense of humor embraced by a large group of people. It seems unlikely that as many people as it took to make this movie all somehow got the joke. It seems impossible that it found an audience. But it did. And if you’re a member of this audience (see: sick maniacs), then you cannot let The Greasy Strangler pass you by. Part John Waters, part Tim and Eric, and part Old Country Buffet. You will either love or hate this movie. I loved it. I also hated it. But I really loved it.

We Go On (Dir. – Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton)

I want the world to see this movie. Sure, it’s small and low-budget, but it’s scary as hell and has an incredibly clever, nuanced script. The performances are all fantastic, and the filmmaking doesn’t feel limited by the budgetary constraints. This is great material, handled with care by imaginative filmmakers and a pitch perfect cast. Sadly, this is the type of movie that feels doomed to the bottom row of a Redbox. I assure you We Go Onis so so sooooo much better than that. Seek this one out. Hunt it down, dim the lights, and get ready for a real horror treat. Kudos to the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival for putting this one onto my radar so I can spread the word even further. I love We Go On and I am positive you will too.

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