I’m having my own Oscars: 2016

Best Films

  1. Toni Erdmann (directed by Maren Ade)
  2. Cemetery of Splendour (directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  3. Certain Women (directed by Kelly Reichardt)
  4. Moonlight (directed by Barry Jenkins)
  5. Graduation (directed by Cristian Mungiu)
  6. Captain Fantastic (directed by Matt Ross)
  7. I, Daniel Blake (directed by Ken Loach)
  8. Paterson (directed by Jim Jarmusch)
  9. The Handmaiden (directed by Park Chan-wook)
  10. Our Little Sister (directed by Hirokazu Koreeda)
  11. Sweet Bean (directed by Naomi Kawase)
  12. I, Olga Hepnarova (directed by Tomáš Weinreb and Petr Kazda)
  13. Mina Walking (directed by Yosef Baraki)
  14. Aquarius (directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho)
  15. In the Shadow of Women (directed by Philippe Garrel)
  16. Mellow Mud (directed by Renārs Vimba)
  17. Chevalier (directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari)
  18. 24 Weeks (directed by Anne Zohra Berrached)
  19. Mountain (directed by  Yaelle Kayam)
  20. Family Film (directed by Olmo Omerzu)
  21. Home Care (directed by Slávek Horák)
  22. Our Everyday Life (directed by Ines Tanović)
  23. Death in Sarajevo (directed by Danis Tanović)
  24. Arrival (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  25. Nightlife (directed by Damjan Kozole)

I am quite happy about the fact that films listed above come from no less than 16 different countries: United States (5), Czech Republic (3), Japan (2), Germany (2), , Bosnia and Herzegovina (2), Slovenia (1), Romania (1), France (1), United Kingdom (1), Greece (1), Latvia (1), Thailand (1), South Korea (1), Brazil (1), Afghanistan (1), Israel (1).

Best Woman-Directed Films

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  1. Toni Erdmann (directed by Maren Ade)
  2. Certain Women (directed by Kelly Reichardt)
  3. No Home Movie (directed by Chantal Akerman)
  4. Sweet Bean (directed by Naomi Kawase)
  5. 24 Weeks (directed by Anne Zohra Berached)
  6. Chevalier (directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari)
  7. Mountain (directed by Yaelle Kayam)
  8. Our Everyday Life (directed by Ines Tanović)
  9. Body (directed by Małgorzata Szumowska)
  10. Maggie’s Plan (directed by Rebecca Miller)
  11. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)
  12. A Good Wife (directed by Mirjana Karanović)
  13. The Fits (directed by Anna Rose Holmer)
  14. The Edge of Seventeen (directed by Kelly Fremon Craig)
  15. The Invitation (directed by Karyn Kusama)
  16. California (directed by Marina Person)
  17. The Love Witch (directed by Anna Biller)
  18. As I Open My Eyes (directed by Leyla Bouzid)
  19. American Honey (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  20. Into the Forest (directed by Patricia Rozema)

Most underrated films

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“I’m just a scared, ugly, useless person.”

“But maybe everyone’s a little bit ugly. Maybe we’re all just dying sacks of shit, and maybe all it’ll take is one person to just be okay with that, and then the whole world will be dancing and singing and farting, and everyone will feel a little bit less alone.” (Swiss Army Man)

  1. James White (directed by Josh Mond)
  2. Swiss Army Man (directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) – I get that this film might be a bit over the top and gross for some people, but in all its weirdness it is one of the sweetest, humane films about friendship, partnership and love. It’s about how hard it is for us to connect due to restrictiveness of numerous social norms that trap our true selves and make us ashamed of who we really are beneath the mask that we present to the outer world. It’s sweet and heartbreaking – with some truly laughing out loud moments. Not to mention terrific acting by Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.
  3. 10 Cloverfield Lane (directed by Dan Trachtenberg)
  4. Green Room (directed by Jeremy Saulnier)
  5. Born to be Blue (directed by Robert Budreau) – one of the best but least talked about biopics of the past year. Also one of Ethan Hawke’s best performances to date.
  6. My Revolution (directed by Ramzi Ben Sliman)
  7. Morris in America (directed by Chad Hartigan)
  8. Ghostbusters (directed by Paul Feig) – this film just does not deserve the crap it got this past year. At all. Far from being perfect; but hey, so was the original.

Best Documentaries

  1. No Home Movie (directed by Chantal Akerman)
  2. Life on the Border (directed by the refugee children)
  3. 13th (directed by Ava DuVernay)
  4. Free to Run (directed by Pierre Morath)
  5. Houston, We Have a Problem! (directed by Žiga Virc)
  6. O.J.: Made in America (directed by Ezra Edelman)
  7. Fire at Sea (directed by Gianfranco Rosi)
  8. Weiner (directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)
  9. The Witness (directed by James Solomon)
  10. Janis: Little Girl Blue (directed by Amy Berg)

Best animated films

  1. My Life as a Courgette (directed by Claude Barras)
  2. The Red Turtle (directed by Michael Dudok de Wit)
  3. April and the Extraordinary World (directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci)
  4. Long Way North (directed by Rémi Chayé)

Biggest disappointments

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  1. Everybody Wants Some!! (directed by Richard Linklater) – ode to masculinity, machoism and yes, even misogyny. I had high hopes for this one (I am a huge fan of Linklater after all) and while I get the time capsule concept of the movie, I cannot watch college guys bashing over girls for two straight hours.
  2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (directed by Tim Burton)
  3. Nina (directed by Cynthia Mort)
  4. By the Sea (directed by Angelina Jolie) – this film looks gorgeous, but it is oh so very boring. It definitely had potential, but Jolie’s writing skills are too poor to keep a viewer engaged for two whole hours.
  5. Suicide Squad (directed by David Ayer)

Worst films of the year

  1. Yoga Hosers (directed by Kevin Smith) – I was never really a fan of Smith, but some of his old films – especially Clerks and Chasing Amy – are actually not all that bad. This one, however, is horrendous. The worst film I saw this year.
  2. Sisters (directed by Jason Moore) – as much as I like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, their comedic attempts don’t translate well to film. This film is awful and simply unwatchable.
  3. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (directed by Jake Szymanski) – stupid impro jokes aside, this film tries so hard to come off as progressive… but it ends up being just another comedy that promotes hetero-normativity, monogamy and marriage as a solution to our every problem.
  4. Bad Moms (written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) – because these two guys know so much about motherhood they decided to make a film about it. It’s like Mean Girls, but with grown women, you know? Because women sure can’t function any other way but by forming cliques and competing against each other.
  5. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (directed by Nicholas Stoller) – the first part was stupid. So is the second one.
  6. Me Before You (directed by Thea Sharrock)

Captain Fantastic (2016): power to the people, stick it to the man!

Deep in the woods and far away from American capitalistic society, plagued with culture of consumerism, materialism and narcissism, Ben Cash, a patriarch and a father, is raising his six children. Surrounded by nothing but trees, rivers and mountains, his family is living in an unconventional and self-sufficient micro-utopia, based in their unanimous and unconditional refusal of living in what they call “capitalistic fascism”. Refusing to live in a society controlled by money and material goods, they instead form a highly routinised, but entirely self-sufficient way of living, where nothing but demanding physical routines, exercising of survival techniques and extensive, in-depth learning of maths, physics, literature and philosophy fill their daily schedule.

Ben Cash, who is subtly transitioning between the role of an authoritarian patriarch and that of a gentle, understanding and maternal father, is openly contemptuous toward capitalistic society in which people are ever more aggressively ruled by corporations and where any sense of democracy and socio-environmental awareness is increasingly fading away due to narcissistic alienation of first world’s shopping mall population. It is due to him seeing just how powerless, alienated and numb people are, how unable to see anything beyond the newest fashion or trend and how disinterested in the damage that this increasing consumerism is doing to the planet, that he makes a choice of raising his children in complete isolation from all consumer goods, modern technology, popular music and trashy novels – something that, in turn, also means raising them away from institutionalized school system and religion, nationalistic ideology and patriotism, normative social conventions and socially-constructed gender roles. Their idyllic utopia is representing a world in which good education and the ability to argument one’s opinion is celebrated above all else – and where living in the heart of a wild and unpredictable nature is still considered the safest shelter from the monstrous, to humans and environment always damaging capitalistic system.

But when a tragic news about the death of their mother reaches their ideally constructed family life, they suddenly need to leave their safe-zone and step into the civilization; if only to attend her funeral on the other side of the country. And it is here, with them finally setting foot into chaotic everyday of American urban life, that we can observe first negative signs of their isolated upbringing. Bo, the eldest son who only recently came of age, finds it especially hard when he realizes just how insufficient his knowledge about life is, how difficult carrying a conversation with his peers with absolutely no knowledge about pop-culture references and how confusing to understand the difference between innocent flirting and falling in love for someone who has no experiences with girls whatsoever.

Captain Fantastic, easily one of the best films of the year, is therefore continuously playing with a question: is Ben truly the best father in the world, Captain Fantastic, who is effectively resisting to the system and is enabling his children the best possible alternate way of living? Or does his approach to parenthood also has a somewhat darker, problematic side that at times borders on abuse?

The film actively encourages us to think about the meaning of parenthood and about the role that each parent plays for his children – but it skilfully avoids to either idealize or criticise Ben’s unique vision of what family life should look like. He is a fascinating and superbly written (as well as acted) character that never fells into the trap of a good/bad parent dichotomy. As every person, but even more so as a parent, he is imperfect, he makes mistakes and has lapses in judgement, but all while trying to do the right thing at building the best possible life for his family.

Matt Ross’s feature, refusing to step on either side, therefore recognizes flaws and weaknesses in both lifestyles – in a hippie-inspired communal life in the nature, as well as in life infected by consumer capitalism that has spread through the rest of the Western civilization. Yet when we compare his parenting to that of his sister’s permissive, protective and infantilizing way of raising her kids, our idealistic protagonist still comes across as a somewhat better parent – one who treats his children with respect, who does not lie to them about the cause of their mother’s death and who sees them all as equal, no matter their age or gender.

This road movie, that at times comes across as a mixture of Into the Wild (2007) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006), definitely has quite an unconventional premise: how to sabotage their mother’s funeral and rescue her remains before she gets swallowed by the system to which she resisted all her live for the remaining eternity. But behind this simple, yet very unusual story, is a very straightforward critique of our society, as well as a film about what it means to be a family in a time when all that seems to matter is money and everything that money can buy.

As they return to their secluded home in the middle of nowhere, safely distanced from the aggressive system that at all cost tried to suck them into its depth during their roadtrip, they quickly slip back into their daily routine, but with one important change: Bo, who has outgrown the idyllic utopia his father has built for him and his siblings, leaves the captain’s crew to continue his adventures, broaden his horizons and experience life in foreign countries. Since there is always a limit to what our parents can teach us, there usually comes a time when we need to part ways and go on our own path, to make our own experiences. Their communal self-sufficient way of living cannot go on forever, as each of them will eventually need to leave the nest – but what is important is that they will set their feet into the real world with a completely unique, different set of eyes, free of any hate or prejudice, but full of knowledge and hunger to learn. Bo’s departure therefore gives us nothing but hope that he is off to keep on fighting the good fight; as he chooses to keep on living his life outside of the system, following his own rules, living by his own principles. Or as Bo and the youngest of the six conclude their dialogue: “Power to the people!” “Stick it to the man!”

The Basics:
Directed by: Matt Ross
Written by: Matt Ross
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso
Running Time: 118 minutes
Year: 2016
Rating: 9