(Chinese follows at the bottom of the article)
Look, let’s not beat around the bush: For all intents and purposes 2016 was a shit year where a lot of good people died and a lot of bad fucking people came to power. The year in cinema wasn’t much better, a year mostly deluded by terrible blockbuster films, which all either underperformed or tanked completely. Warner Bros continued to embarrass themselves with their DC Universe films, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – their ‘spin-off’ of Harry Potter – was depressingly mediocre and most of the big sequels released was a complete waste of time. Remember the sequel to Independence Day which didn’t feature Will Smith? Remember the Ghostbusters reboot with an all female cast every piece-of-shit misogynist and sniveling fanboy lost their collective mind over? Remember how Suicide Squad looked promising then turned out to be crap, partly because Warner Bros hired the company behind the trailer to cut the final film?
Across the board 2015 was a much, much stronger year for films and since I didn’t make a ‘Best of’ list in 2015 here’s a few highlights from that year. 2015 saw an astonishing amount of excellent reboots. Ryan Coogler made the best Rocky-film since the original with Creed, Star Wars: The Force Awakens basically remade the original film but with a stellar cast of diverse, colourful characters and of course, Mad Max: Fury Road is a film I’ve seen more than twenty times at this point and still adore.
It was a great year for women as well who for once got a chance to play the lead in some of the year’s best films. While I wasn’t entirely impressed by Ex Machina, Alicia Vikander was brilliant as the imprisoned artificial intelligence, Ava, Tangerine gave a much needed voice to black transwomen, Brie Larsson’s Oscar-winning performance in Room showed the effects of PTSD more effectively than any war film I’ve seen, Jennifer Jason Leigh shined in Tarantino’s divisive western The Hateful Eight as the villain and Emily Blunt’s portrayal of an idealist FBI agent in the haunting thriller Sicario once again showed her to be one of the most capable actors around. The latter film was also the director Denis Villeneuve’ big breakthrough – a director we will return to later in this article.
2016 did have a few notable gems in between what was otherwise an abysmal year and the three following titles would all be worthy of appraisal no matter the overall quality of the year.
Over the years there has been plenty of coverage of Amanda Knox, a young American transfer student who was convicted for the murder of another student in Italy in 2007. However instead of focusing on the vague details of this brutal murder and whether or not this young woman really did murder another person, this documentary is much more interested in the surrounding circumstances of the murder.
From the very first time we see his greasy, smug face, there is no doubt the real villain here is the freelance tabloid journalist Nick Plasa and the industry which made Knox out to be a crazed rapist and coldblooded killer. Playing on her high school nickname ‘Foxy Knoxy,’ publishing the woman’s diary entries from prison and reporting hearsay and rumors as fact, the documentary shows the power of the press and how it can be perverted and mishandled in a desperate pathetic battle for readers’ attention.
It’s a documentary that plays out like a sleazy giallo film, making great use of archive footage and interviews to spin a fascinating tale but is more importantly, a nuanced portrayal of a young woman who time and time again was misrepresented, abused and maligned by a press looking for a sexy story. It will royally piss you off.
Over the past decade Ryan Reynolds has become somewhat of an industry joke when it comes to superhero films. Not only did he stare as the merch with a mouth in an unrecognizable version of the character in the awful, awful XMEN Origins: Wolverine, he was the lead in Green Lantern which was such a colossal failure it basically made the character toxic and unmarketable for the foreseeable future. So when the actor’s pet project which he had tried to get producers behind for over a decade turned out not just to be a success, but tore the box office down and was unanimously beloved by critics and audiences alike, it came as more than a surprise.
In many ways it represents a new chapter for the superhero genre as a whole. Neither following in the footsteps of DC’s overtly dourer, ugly, overly serious tone or the somewhat interchangeable, manufactured feel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Deadpool is a beast all unto itself. The most obvious difference between this and prior films in the genre is of course the fact that it’s an R-rated film, making it the superhero genres equivalent of The Hangover.
There’s an obvious love for the source material and an awareness of Reynold’s previously mentioned debacles, but more than anything, what makes Deadpool work is its attitude. Yes, not every joke lands, and ultimately it’s a rather mundane origin story with yet another forgettable villain, but it shows it all off with such confidence, such gusto, it’s almost impossible not to fall for this silly little film.
Denis Villeneuve may not be a name you recognize but for the past five years or so he has consistently made some of the best, most thought provoking thrillers from Enemy to Sicario and now his cue-de-grace: Arrival. Playing out as a sort of thinking man’s Independence Day, Arrival asks the question: What if our inevitable alien invaders didn’t want to annihilate us, but talk to us? The answer comes in the form of a college professor of linguistics, Louise Banks, who is asked to interpret the alien language and to figure out what their purpose on Earth is after 12 alien spaceships land on Earth.
There is an awe-inspiring quality to the way Arrival shows off its squid-like alien creatures. While it doesn’t have the budget of something like Interstellar, it frequently took my breath away simply by intelligently playing with the narrative structure of the film, slowly but surely showing its hand as Louis becomes more intimate with the mysterious aliens. It’s helped by a fantastic score by the Danish/Icelandic composer Johann Johannson, whose enigmatic combination of whale songs and thunder strikes, adds greatly to the ominous atmosphere.
Going further into the intricate details of the plot would be the crime since Arrival’s big twist is one that seriously made me question the way we make films today. It’s a twist which hasn’t seen an equal since The Sixth Sense.
The alien menace quickly becomes a framing device for a courtroom style drama about the importance of open borders and civil communication between nations. Where other alien invasion films such as Independence Day and Pacific Rim see the cooperation between nations as a given in the face of an outside threat, Arrival takes that idea into serious question. It ultimately shows mankind as a creature capable of brilliance only held back by its unwillingness to show trust in others. In a year where hatred, fear and xenophobia has ruled the day in politics, that’s a message we should all think about long and hard.
讓我們立即切入正題 – 2016年是一個讓人憂傷的年份：因為很多好人都死了，然後很多渣渣都登上了權力的舞台。這個情況在電影的虛幻世界裡面也沒有好一些：很多難看的票房保證電影矇騙了觀眾的眼睛。要麼就是電影沒有原有的預期表現，要麼就 是完全虧本。華納兄弟繼續以DC 漫畫英雄為題的電影來讓自己尷尬不堪；電影『哈利波特』的「續集」『怪獸與牠們的產地』則非常平庸，純粹在浪費時間。還記得沒有Will Smith的電影『天煞•地球反擊戰』嗎？記得重拍一遍的並使用全女班演員的『捉鬼敢死隊』令一眾（男性）捧場客噓聲四起嗎？記得由於華納兄弟聘用制作預告片的公司來剪輯最後版本而令『自殺突擊隊』看起來的氣勢強勁其實後勁不繼嗎？
對於女士們來說，2015也是一個好年份。2015年的女演員們得到不少在優秀電影中演出的好機會。雖然我對於『機械姬』的印象並沒有特別深刻，但是Alicia Vikander演繹被囚禁的人工智能十分出彩；『跨性有話兒』為黑人變性女子那個用力發聲；Brie Larsson在『抖室』裡面的獲獎表演比任何我所見的戰爭電影更能讓人充分理解創傷後遺症；Jennifer Jason Leigh在塔倫天奴的西部電影『冰天血地八惡人』詮釋一個精彩的壞人；Emily Blunt在恐怖片『毒裁者』中飾演的聯邦密探形象再次告知世人她是最適合演繹這題材的演員之一。電影『毒裁者』同時也是導演Denis Villeneuve的一大突破 – 我們將會稍後提到。
鏡頭一開始，我們就看見了自由小報工作者Nick Plasa的充滿油光並痞子一般的臉，他毫無疑問就是本片的壞人：將諾克斯塑造成瘋狂強姦犯和冷血殺手。利用她高中的綽號「Foxy Knoxy」，小報報導她在監獄中的日記、道聽途說的消息並將之弄成事實一般 – 這套紀錄片顯示傳媒的強大力量之餘更彰顯出為了爭取讀者銷量的所有醜陋鬥爭。
這套紀錄片的拍攝具有賈洛 （20世紀意大利恐怖片 ）的風格：利用不少存檔影像和訪問來將一個故事扭曲之餘更將一個年輕女性的形象透過錯誤報道，濫用污衊來達到傳媒尋找引人入勝的報導的效果。這電影絕對令人髮指。
從各方面來說，死侍跳脫了超級英雄電影的風格：他不像DC那些往常逗趣、醜陋、或過分認真的英雄，亦不似漫威電影宇宙裡那些過分人性化的英雄 – 死侍絕對是非同一般的。最明顯的是這套電影是限制級的電影，讓超級英雄電影流於和『醉爆伴郎團』一般。
除了人們本身對漫畫的喜愛和對Reynold之前的多次滑鐵盧令電影受人矚目之外，那是態度讓電影成功了。確實不是每一個玩笑都能成功逗人高興，最悲慘的亦只不過是另一套空無一物的超級英雄電影和一個容易被遺忘的壞蛋英雄 – 但是它的搞笑成分和信心足以讓每個觀眾為之而傾倒。
說到Denis Villeneuve，你未必認得出他是誰，不過他卻在過去五年穩定的拍了不少引人深思的恐怖片注入『雙面危敵』、『毒裁者』和現在給予人會心一擊的『異星入境』。作為『天煞•地球反擊戰』的睿智版本，『異星入境』向我們發出疑問：假設這些不能避免的異形入侵者並不是想要攻陷我們而是想跟我們對話？答案的解答在12艘異形飛船降落地球後，被委派去解譯異形語言並找出它們企圖的大學語言學教授Louise Banks提供。