Hey, it’s the name of the site! I can get away with it!
Last year, just prior to The Bottom 10 Films of 2016 list that I know some of you are wishing I would just get on with already, I presented to you The 1st Official Callum Petch Awards! A two-part semi-celebratory extravaganza filled with prestigious awards of great value and lengthy deliberations, the winners of whom treasure their self-made trophies to this very day, even the winners of the more dubious categories! Well, once again prior to the Bottom 10 list for the year (which starts on Friday), I present to you The 2nd Annual Callum Petch Awards! Today we hand out the first half, and then tomorrow we’ll do the other half, because I am all about stretching the shit out for as long as possible!
2016’s 2015 Film of the Year
Oh, hello, Release Window Disparity Bullshit! How nice(?) to see you again! I haven’t had the chance – well, more accurately, the excuse, anyway – to harp on about the massively irritating and counterintuitive-given-the-state-of-the-world practice of many films, primarily Awards Season contenders, being arbitrarily withheld from UK eyes, such as mine, until the following year for no discernible reason. I’ve purposefully been disqualifying offending films from awards and list consideration for the last 3 years as a result, which unfortunately negatively affects films like Creed. Creed, if it had come out in November of 2015 like it did in America, would have almost certainly been one of my Top 5 Films of that year. It’s a fantastic, heartwarming, inspiring, and just goddamn brilliant film, the best of any of the Rocky movies so far (and I say that as a huge Rocky fan). Unfortunately, Warner Bros. decided to withhold its UK release until January of 2016, so all it can take home is this pithy consolation prize. Boo!
Runners-Up: The Big Short, Room, The Hateful Eight, Goosebumps, The Stanford Prison Experiment
We are, for some reason, getting a Jumanji reboot this coming year, a prospect that I find rather disconcerting even with the promise of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, AND Karen Gillan. More than that, though, a Jumanji reboot is more unnecessary than usual, since the Goosebumps movie effectively filled that slot rather totally back in October of 2015. Not that British people would know it, though, since this specifically seasonal family spookfest didn’t see a UK release until February of 2016. Is there anything Sony’s film department can’t screw up?
2016’s 2017 Film of the Year
So I’m not sure if I’ve banged on enough about it before now, but I got to attend the London Film Festival last year for two wonderful, near-perfect weeks, swanning about London masquerading like I’m some kind of “Critic” or “Journalist.” This also meant that I got to see a whole bunch of films that aren’t due out until this year now, either lacking distributors at the time or just waiting for a release date, so, after stripping out the ones that are Awards Season holdovers for exactly the reason you’re thinking of, I thought I’d quickly highlight a few that should be on your radar these next 12 months. Best of the lot is Bertrand Bonello’s undoubtedly-divisive near-masterpiece, Nocturama, an aggressive, provocative examination of idealess youthful rebellion, of bored children who falsely believe that burning down the very system that they obsess over will magically rally other nihilistic hypocritical youths to their non-cause. It’s incredibly tense, very bleak, and often nasty, but I adored every second of it and have been wanting to see it again for months.
Runners-Up: The Stopover, Prevenge, Women Who Kill, A Quiet Passion, My Life as a Courgette
I gave Women Who Kill the nod on my Best of the Festival list over this, but I only did so because I can guarantee for a fact that Prevenge will get its rabidly-devoted cult audience by year’s end. Did you love Sightseers? Would you like to watch Sightseers but with a pregnant woman serial killer who listens to the vindictive thoughts of her unborn child, and themes of pre-partum depression and uncertainty? If you said yes to both of those questions, and why wouldn’t you, then Prevenge is the film for you! It’s due February 10th, so start planning your trips to whichever of the 6 cinemas that will show it is closest to you!
Needs More Love
Time will tell exactly how Warner Animation Group evolves into a unique animation entity of its own right – specifically: more than 12 months from now, since this coming year is bring 2 different LEGO movies from the studio – but Storks is a positive sign of where the fledgling rebooted studio may end up once they stop milking the LEGO teats dry. On paper, it’s another loud, nonsensical, brightly-coloured, animated kids’ movie that aims to be a passable 90 minutes and nothing more. In practice, it’s a free-wheeling, manic, constantly-on-the-verge-of-collapsing rollercoaster of hilarity which, although still a loud comedy like so many other disposable animated kids’ movies, manages to feel unique through this atmosphere of making-it-up-as-we-go-along. In a way, it’s the closest that Warner have ever gotten to making an updated version of Looney Tunes that is genuinely faithful and works, and if that’s the style that the studio wants to go in for the future, then I am excited to see the results! In the meantime, I’m content to just howl with laughter over much of Storks.
Runners-Up: Bad Neighbours 2, Warcraft, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Nerve, Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids
Holy crap! They actually managed to make a good film out of the utter disaster that was the Michael Bay-produced 2014 dark-n-gritty version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! And they did it by making it actually fun and entertaining with decent pacing, great silly action setpieces, a story that focussed on the Turtles themselves without making them all horrible hateful jackasses, and handing it to the Earth to Echo guy! I can’t wait for them to make more of the-oh, nobody went and saw this one. Sigh, ok, never mind.
I Don’t Get It
Winner: Everybody Wants Some!!
Unlike last year’s “winner” of this award, I actually do understand the appeal of Everybody Wants Some!!. It’s just that said appeal extends maybe no further than 14 members of Richard Linklater’s inner-circle and I can’t see myself having an extended conversation with any of them for longer than 5 minutes without attempting to force a six-pack of beer cans down their obnoxious frat boy throats. The thing about High School/College movies is that the best ones display neither a fawning nostalgia nor a hyper-critical hatred for the lives that they’re depicting, because High School/College were neither the greatest bestest moments of one’s life, nor an endlessly-miserable and bleak soul-sucking dragathon. The best works – which, yes, includes Freaks and Geeks, a series I have finally been watching this year – locate the middle-ground of the two, where the honesty and relatability reside, and therefore have something to actually say about it all.
Everybody Wants Some!! does not achieve that. It is instead 2 endless, insufferable hours of Richard Linklater waxing lyrical about how amazing his College life was, how awesome his bro-buds were, and how the only true connections that one can have are with toxically-masculine dude-bros that enable everybody’s worst, most aggressive, misogynistic, self-centred behaviour. Funnily enough, no idea how you might have been able to figure this out, but I have no time for that shit, especially since there are no jokes here to make up for this fact. I’ve given this award just to Everybody Wants Some!! rather than Linklater in general – whom I currently just do not get, between this and Boyhood – since I saw Frances Ha this year for the first time and really did end up “getting” Noah Baumbach at long last, but I’m still failing to see any appeal in his films so far. Am I really supposed to just watch The Before Trilogy and immediately understand that he’s a visionary genius? Cos even if that is true, it’s still not going to turn Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some!! into anything other than bad, boring, empty movies.
Runners-Up: Nocturnal Animals, I, Daniel Blake, Train to Busan, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Neon Demon
This one is a more literal interpretation of the award name than a “why did we all adore this?” bafflement, although that is a part of it too. I just genuinely do not understand what Tom Ford was trying to say with this film, let alone with why he couldn’t just make a decent straightforward nasty thriller, beyond feelings of male impotency and rampant unchallenged misogyny. Is there anything else here? The whole film is too laboured over and studiously composed to not believe that there is some kind of message here beyond “women are bloodsucking vampires and I wish they would all drop fucking dead,” but I genuinely cannot find any trace of another point.
Best Worst Film
Winner: Collateral Beauty
Oh, dear God, you need to see Collateral Beauty! No joke, it’s one of the best films of the year! An unbelievably stupid and callous film that mistakenly, deludedly even, believes that it’s some kind of uplifting heartfelt weepy! It’s got everything! Actors and actresses of repute giving performances that range from overdone to embarrassed-to-be-here, lines of dialogue that are about as philosophical and insightful as a Tesco Christmas card, random shots that are left unfocussed for absolutely no reason, really massively stupid twists that make no sense even by the lax rules of the film, a confrontation scene where the character realising they’ve been conned appears to only know so by having read the script, and it’s even set a Christmas for maximum hokiness! I had to fight back the urge to collapse into hysterics multiple times for the benefit of the few people in the cinema who were taking this shit seriously, but you shouldn’t have to! Get your best set of friends, get a load of alcohol (if you drink), acquire yourself a copy of Collateral Beauty, and get ready for one of the most entertaining nights of your lives! You’ll thank me after.
Runners-Up: Dirty Grandpa, Allegiant, Norm of the North, Money Monster, Gods of Egypt
If you are a critic who has put Gods of Egypt on your Bottom 10 list of the year, you really need to rethink your criteria for what goes on your Bottom list. Gods of Egypt is technically one of the worst films of the year, sure, but it’s also a friggin’ riot! A litany of awful performances, a needlessly-overplotted narrative, and CGI that’s below the level of a PlayStation 1, I had a whale of a time at this thing!
Winner: The glut of pointless, outdated comedy sequels/sitcom adaptations
For reasons that are lost on me, 2016 was the year that Comedy, perhaps having seen the utter puke-stain it left all over the previous year and recoiled in horrified embarrassment, decided to high-tail it behind a whole bunch of names and characters we already knew and loved rather than trying to come up with actually decent comedies this year. Perhaps the logic was that we’ll be more forgiving of the lazy hackneyed nature of these films, which were mostly unchanged in form and content from the previous year, if we were distracted by a litany of faces from stuff we liked a while back. “Look, everyone! Here’s David Brent again! Remember David Brent? He was great, wasn’t he! And, hey! We also finally made that Zoolander sequel you were begging for! ‘You weren’t begging for it?’ Oh… Well, how about a Bad Santa seq-no? Err… more Bridget Jones? Dad’s Army? We got Bill Nighy in that one! Please just love us again!”
The thing is, of course, that “recognition” does not mean the same thing as “inherently worthwhile,” yet all of these utterly pointless and instantly-outdated movies wrongly believed that it does. Whenever they were failing to produce anything that even slightly resembled a joke, like the dreary Dad’s Army movie, they were turning into the very desperate hateful things they initially set out to mock, as with the ghastly Absolutely Fabulous Movie. All of these were nothing more than cynical cash-grabs and, with the notable exceptions of Ab Fab and Bridget Jones’s Baby, none of them made enough money to justify their existence, like we all mostly expected. So, this begs the question: why? Why fling this much money at garbage that nobody wants, wasn’t going to do well, and is going to get 90% of its audience from desperate offspring with no ideas of what to buy their parents for Christmas, or as something thrown on on Netflix when nobody can be bothered to watch anything engaging?
Runners-Up: Passengers, The 5th Wave, Independence Day: Resurgence, Huntsman: Winter’s War, Netflix continuing to give money to Happy Madison
Now, a sequel, prequel, interquel, or any kind of -quel to the soul-sapping Snow White and the Huntsman is cause for a big old “…why?” as is. But the real reason why I’ve singled out Winter’s War is very simple: in a movie that features Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Jessica Chastain as either Warriors or Warrior-Queens… WHY am I having to follow one of Chris Hemsworth’s most boring characters rather than watching these 3 goddesses in magnificent costuming take turns dining on as much of the scenery as they can get their hands on?! Who thought THIS was the movie that people would rather see?! GODDAMMIT!
Winner: Arrival – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Did you really think that we were going to make it through an article in my Best of 2016 series without mentioning Arrival in some capacity? Oh, you sweet child. Jóhann Jóhannsson has rapidly become to Denis Villeneuve what Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross are to David Fincher, and his work on Arrival is his greatest achievement to date. So vital to the feel of the film and the composition and evolution of its emotions, what starts sparse and reserved and imposing, gives way to wider and more open and more heartfelt soundscapes as the film’s hope and sheer beauty make themselves known. “Kangaru,” especially, is one of my favourite pieces of music from the whole year, the way that the various vocal sounds slowly layer themselves on top of one another, creating a stratospheric lift as the track goes on. Jóhannsson is doing the music for Blade Runner 2049, by the by, so, even based solely on just his work in this movie, there’s at least one aspect of that film we can guarantee is in safe hands.
Runners-Up: The VVitch – Mark Koren, High-Rise – Clint Mansell, Lemonade – Beyoncé, The Neon Demon – Cliff Martinez, Zootopia – Michael Giacchino
OK, I’ll admit it! I didn’t give Lemonade the nod purely because I thought that doing so would be cheating! There, I said it! That’s my excuse! Deal with it and move on!
Return tomorrow for the conclusion of The 2nd Annual Callum Petch Awards!