2016 in Review: The Best Films of the Year

Jackie, Nocturnal Animals, Arrival, and The Apology rank among 2016's best films.

And so another year comes to an end. 2016 is an odd year at Cinemablographer is a year of highs and lows at Cinemablographer. The smaller coverage at this blog is in part due to new commitments and opportunities at POV and in part due to bartering time in the current climate of film coverage. I’m definitely at a crossroads of wondering where I fit in wondering what purpose this blog serves at the end of the day.


2016 in Review: The Best Performances of the Year

Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Isabelle Huppert and Jeff Bridges give some of 2016's best performances.
Say what you will about the movies of 2016, but these last few days end a year for great screen performances. This year also marks an improvement in great parts for women as the list for lead performances is overwhelmingly stacked towards great female roles. Here are’s picks for the top ten supporting and lead performances of 2016.


Cameraperson: Not Just a Fly on the Wall

(USA, 102 min.)
Dir. Kirsten Johnston
Courtesy Films We Like
There’s a notion in documentary that positions a filmmaker to a fly on the wall. It comes up with observation and verité, and while the image offers a fair likeness for the vantage point with which a camera sees action, the phrase doesn’t do justice to the people behind the lens. Cameraperson offers an intimate personal odyssey as camera operator Kirsten Johnson proves that, unlike flies, cinematographers aren’t merely observers. They are a part of the action as much as they are a witness or recorder of it.


Contest: Win 'Tumbledown' on Blu-Ray!

Love is in the air this holiday season as Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis team up for the warm, winning cottage country romance Tumbledown. Tumbledown comes to home video on Tuesday, December 27th from VVS Films and Cinemablographer has Blu-rays to give away! Cinemablographer Claus has one more gift to giveaway before tumbling down the chimney—answer the trivia below for your chance to win Tumbledown!


Who Knew the Google Could Be So Soul-Searching?

(Australia, 118 min.)
Dir. Garth Davis, Writ. Luke Davies
Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar
David Wenham, Dev Patel, and Nicole Kidman in Lion, an Entertainment One release.
Photo: Mark Rogers

The extraordinary homecoming of Saroo Brierley gets a lively adaptation in Lion. This take on Brierley’s A Long Way Home gets an enthralling jolt of life under the director of Garth Davis and in the care of some gifted actors. Brierley’s memoir reads more like a series of collected blog posts than it does a book, which is fine since it tells a great story, but A Long Way Home lacks a magical spark as the author’s prose simply recounts the events in here’s-what-happened fashion. Lion, however, gives Brierley’s story a pulse as Davis makes the viewer feel Saroo’s story to experience his loss and then his sense of peace while finding his way home.


2016 in Review: The Best Canadian Films of the Year

It’s time to tap the trees and pour the maple syrup. The year for Canadian film ends on a much-needed high note as Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World makes the Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film and puts Canada back in the Oscar race. This vindication for Dolan’s film highlights that there are more great Canadian films this year than most people say there are. While the overall output of Canadian film might have be lower and, comparatively, weaker than previous years, there are easily two dozen Canuck films from 2016 that go beyond. More would be better, but let’s celebrate the good.


Canada Advances in Oscar Race

Nathalie Baye in Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World.
Shayne Laverdière, courtesy of Sons of Manual
The shortlist is in and we're on it! Congratulations are in order to Canada's Xavier Dolan for finally making the Oscar shortlist with our submission It's Only the End of the World. This year marks Dolan's third time representing Canada after 2009's I Killed My Mother and 2014's Mommy did not advance in the race. (The latter of which was a heavy favourite.)

2016 in Review: The Worst Films of the Year

In a year more defined by letdowns than bad films, Voyage of Time, Suicide Squard, and others take the cake.
It’s now time to start bidding adieu to 2016 here at Cinemablographer. It’s been a fun year, but also a tougher one for various reasons. One upside, and to some extent silver lining, of being so busy and dealing with accelerated aggressiveness from a number of publicists is that there simply wasn’t enough time or energy for this blogger to review everything. The bad films are often the first ones to go since there isn’t much pleasure or point in writing a negative review when there’s a huge pile of okay-to-great movies waiting for write-ups. However, 2016 is not without its duds.

Notes from the Screener Pile: 2016.4

More notes from the screener pile as we move through films! (A good batch!)

(Chile/Agentina/Spain/France, 108 min.)
Dir. Pablo Larraín, Writ. Guillermo Callderon
Starring: Luis Gnecco, Gael García Bernal
Pablo Larraín is having one heck of a year. The Chilean director opens his third feature film of 2016 after The Club and the outstanding Jackie with the artfully impressive Neruda. This film, which is Chile’s hotly tipped contender in the Best Foreign Language Film race, is an unconventional biopic about the famed/notorious Latin American poet. As with Jackie, Neruda doesn’t take a by-the-numbers approach to its iconic subject. Instead, it explores into the essence of Neruda’s persona and his complexities. It’s only fitting to create a work of poetry in order to depict a poet.


Notes from the Screener Pile: 2016.3

More award season catch-up: cranky blogger edition!

I, Daniel Blake
(UK, 100 min.)
Dir. Ken Loach, Writ. Paul Laverty
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires
I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake might be the weakest film ever to top the Cannes Film Festival. It’s absurd to think that this ham-fisted sob story netted Ken Loach his second Palme d’Or if one considers that Elle, Toni Erdmann, and The Handmaiden were all in competition. Hell, even It’s Only the Endof the World is better.

Toronto Film Critics Announce Canadian Film Noms

How Heavy this Hammer
The Toronto Film Critics Association announced the three finalists for the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. TFCA kept the contenders within a small radius by nominating three Toronto filmmakers: Kazik Radwanski's engrossing character study How Heavy this Hammer, Hugh Gibson's raw and powerful The Stairs, and Matt Johnson's found footage film Operation Avalanche. The latter nomination is arguably as much (or more) a vote of confidence for Johnson's outspokenness about the state of Canadian film. The winner will be announced at the TFCA awards in January and nets a prize of $100 000 with the runners up receiving $5000.


Oscars Predictions: Round 2 - Golden Globe and SAG Edition

Sorry for neglecting these! Oscar predictions and commentary have kind of flatlined here, simply because I've been trying to see all the films. Here are updated Oscar predictions with quick stabs at the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations coming out this week. La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester by the Sea are sitting about even with each of them taking a major critics' prize last week. However, the recent waves of critical kudos are products of debate. Voters in these groups don't sit around a room and form a consensus whereas the critics' groups are forming a narrative in which Moonlight is becoming a champion for diversity in addition to being an overall great film. I think Moonlight has the most to prove here given that it's the film that critics are generally rallying behind, but it might be a victim of over-hype. Arthouse audiences love it too, so can it break out and be the little film that could? On the other hand, bigger films like Arrival should show their strengths and shake things up. Remember: at this point in recent years, The Social Network, Zero Dark Thirty, and Boyhood all seemed like the films to beat.


Contest! Win 'Florence Foster Jenkins' on Blu-Ray!

Meryl Christmas, dear readers! The great Meryl Streep returns in Florence Foster Jenkins and gives one of her best and funniest performances to date as the aspiring singer who can’t carry a tune. (Read the Cinemablographer review of Florence Foster Jenkins here.) Florence Foster Jenkins comes to home video on Tuesday, December 13th from eOne Films and Cinemablographer has a Blu-ray to give away as a holiday gift! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win Florence Foster Jenkins!


The Sneak Attack

Miss Sloane
(USA/UK, 129 min.)
Dir. John Madden, Writ. Jonathan Perera
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow
Jessica Chastain stars in Miss Sloane.
Courtesy VVS Films.

“All you’re missing is a dick,” says a sly Congresswoman (Christine Baranski) to cocksure lobbyist Madeleine Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain). Liz Sloane might be the most badass character of the year, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that her strength comes from her masculinisation. She’s simply a driven career woman who cuts through the bullshit and looks wickedly good in a pantsuit. Jessica Chastain is ferocious as the often unlikable lobbyist, and Miss Sloane offers audiences the new icon of Pantsuit Nation for the era of “nasty women” and rotten politics.


Dark and Stormy Waters

Manchester by the Sea
(USA, 137 min.)
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol
Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea.
Photo by Claire Folger, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions

Manchester by the Sea is a beast of burdens. There’s enormous weight to this new film by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me and the embattled Margaret) and it’s a lot to bear. The film, painful and often authentic with its life-like emotions and hunger, crushes and moves a viewer. In the vein of Todd Field’s raw and devastating New England nightmare In the Bedroom, Manchester by the Sea shows how grief cripples, transforms, and ultimately heals a person.


'The Swamp Has Risen': John Madden Talks 'Miss Sloane'

Jessica Chastain stars in Miss Sloane.
Courtesy VVS Films
Academy Award nominated director John Madden (Shakespeare in LoveThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) returns in top form with Miss Sloane. Miss Sloane is an explosively topical thriller that stars Jessica Chastain as a cutthroat lobbyist named Madeline Elizabeth Sloane who takes on the unlikeliest competitor of all—the gun lobby—in the case that will define her career. Coming out on the heels of the upset defeat of Hillary Clinton in this year’s American presidential election, Miss Sloane is an ironically cutting look at how women must fight to survive in an environment traditionally dominated by men.

TIFF Names Canada's Top Ten

Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves.
Courtesy of K Films Amerique
Nine out of ten features. Not a bad head start for seeing the north.


Notes from the Screener Pile: 2016.2

Longer reviews are coming soon, but here are some more cap-cap-capsule notes from the screener pile as award season bingeing continues!

(USA, 120 min.)
Dir. Antonio Campos, Writ. Craig Silowich
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Timothy Simons
Before Howard Beale became the mad prophet of the airwaves, a local news reporter in Sarasota, Florida blew her brains out on the evening news. It is believed to be the first suicide on live TV. This tragedy gets a fully-loaded dramatization in Christine, which brings a wallop of a performance from Rebecca Hall as the ill-fated Christine Chubbuck.


'Not Another Camelot...'

(UK, 99 min.)
Dir. Pablo Larraín, Writ. Noah Oppenheim
Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt
Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie.
  Photo by Pablo Larrain. / 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“I believe that the characters we read about on the page end up being more real than the men who stand beside us,” says Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) to Life magazine reporter Theodore White (Billy Crudup). Jackie Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy, Jackie O, or however one recalls her, is one of those American figures like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe who is known more as an icon than as a person. Jackie completely humanises the First Lady with the pink pillbox hat and it does so in the most unexpected ways.