2016 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
5Jan/200

Forever connected: a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade

I am not a fan of lists, and when I decided to do a list covering the best and worst films of the last decade it became clear that I needed to do the whole thing or none at all.

With that in mind, here it is, a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade. This list covers 2010 to 2019 and, starting from the top, goes from the best on down. Each section is broken up with an image of reviews that reflect my best as a writer or a film that has earned special consideration of some kind.

The exception are my picks for the two best films of the decade, tied at #1, and a brief explanation about why they are at the top. After that, I hope that you'll join me through this decade of writing and growth. I've had stumbles, to say nothing of trying to figure out my voice, and haven't been able to review much recently. But I'm hoping to change and get back on my feet again starting with this overview of the last decade in film.

Let's begin at the top.

Our always-connected age means that we are more directly in contact with one another's feelings than ever before. It's overwhelming. One minute you could be happily watching a puppy play in snow then scroll down to find live camera footage of someone being killed. Scroll further and you'll see someone trying to sell you hair grooming products then further down a friend talking about the crippling pain they live with. It's overwhelming trying to figure out what to do with yourself amidst this never ending deluge of feeling. Good, bad, elated, traumatic - if you want to live in this world there's no way of turning it off anymore.

The best two films of the decade both confront what it's like to live in our always-connected age but take vastly different approaches. Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz's Upstream Color approaches our connection with experimentation and uncertainty. Zack and Deborah Snyder's Man of Steel mythologizes the open nerve of connection with grandeur and spirituality. Upstream Color is the angrier of the two, seeing those that would profit on our pain as aloof emotional vampires. Man of Steel is the more hopeful, watching the savior we don't deserve experience the worst of humanity while still finding the strength to go on by our ability to sacrifice for one another.

It feels impossible to discuss these two films in some kind of neutral state. In Upstream Color's case, the film has so few that have seen it and those that have struggle to find the words for the pain it so directly confronts. For Man of Steel, passions between what it did or didn't do to the legacy of Superman have become so embedded in neverending cultural and political warfare. Neither benefits from languishing in relative obscurity or being the cultural battleground for online liberals and conservatives alike.

Both have exquisite music that highlight our connection while confounding it. Upstream Color's melodies shying away from catharsis as one of Carruth's messy tracks bleeds into the next. Man of Steel never shies away from hope, finding the note to soar even in the most militant-sounding of Hans Zimmerman's compositions. One might seem sonic years away from the other, but in each I hear the same yearning to be felt and touched. To be reminded that what we feel is not what makes us alone.

The images match their conclusions. In Upstream Color, two people huddled in fear that don't understand their connection grow to accept the mystery, and one another, while they reach beyond species to comfort all living things. In Man of Steel, the scared boy who doesn't understand why his sacrifice frightens others grows to draw strength from that sacrifice as he inspires the best in his fellow humans. We are always connected and, many times, we are scared. But there is hope at the end of that painful connection.

Let their examples guide us. Do not accept the vultures that seek to profit off of your misery. Do not accept those in power who would deny the possibility of a messiah because they weren't born in your homeland. Accept that we are all that we are and, even if it doesn't feel like it, we have the capability of inspiring the best of one another in our darkest moments.

The Best

Great

Good

Zone of Indifference

Bad

Wretched

8Apr/191

Patreon Post: Old Stone (2016) and the presumption of decency

Why do critics lean on unearned claims of "decency" in characters when their actions say otherwise? I look at Old Stone to explain why.

You can click the image above or this link to access the post on Patreon.

16Jan/180

Mafia 3 (2016)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Start with his name, "Lincoln Clay."  First name borrowed from the President known for freeing slaves via legislature and the Emancipation Proclamation, last a tip of the hat to Cassius Clay - better known as Muhammad Ali - the greatest sportsman in history with a rich legacy of fighting for Civil Rights.  Neither had it easy, and on name alone the player character of Mafia 3 has mighty expectations to bear on his shoulders.  Whether developers Hangar 13 bothered to think this far with his name or not is irrelevant, this is his name and this is what it invokes.

Had Hangar 13 bothered with nuance in respect to Mafia 3's player character it might have had something interesting on its hands.  Instead, Mafia 3 goes about treating Lincoln and his surroundings with the vaguest understanding of what life was like in the 1960s for black Americans.  Hangar 13 gets the vernacular down just fine with plenty of moments where Lincoln is referred to or calls others the n-word.  But this is like a suburban white kid rapping along with Public Enemy, the energy comes from saying the word instead of understanding the political, social, and economic conditions that make it such a violent slur.

1Jan/180

The Best and Worst of 2017 (+ 2016): Aftershock

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Hard to know where to start after a year as burdened with pain and loss as 2017.  So, let's hop to the beginning.  I was locked in a corporate position leeching off my empathy and hard-work, slowly losing my will to get up in the morning, and having full breakdowns with no immediate cure.

Therapy, slowly altered medications, and giving a long angry, "Ciao," to the insurance industry have left me in a sturdier if still uncertain position looking toward the future.  It's sometimes hard to feel like there is much of a future with some of the best films of 2017 embracing a frozen portrait instead of gradual evolution.  Some films, like It, brought me so close to the trauma I worked hard to make peace with that they seemed impossible to finish.  But here I am in 2018, healthier than I've been in almost five years, with a light wallet and full heart.

I rebooted Can't Stop the Movies in March and it's been a rewarding, if tumultuous, journey to get back to where the site was at its prime.  I'm still nowhere close to the audience we had but, consarnit, I'm going to get there.  Since I missed almost an entire year of film review this list contains every 2016 and 2017 film I've written or podcasted about since rebooting back in March.

Here's to 2017, a year of great and painful change, and thank you all for your support as I regain my place in this world of criticism.

Filed under: 2016, 2017 Continue reading
28Dec/170

That Dragon, Edith Finch, and playing through grief

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

My dalmatian, Beau, was the stinky angel of support during the worst years of my life.  He was hit by a car when he was younger, never fixed, and was a constant source of flatulence.  Eventually he needed to lose weight and went to my grandma's for the summer.  When we arrived he was the healthiest I ever saw him, he ran and ran, then collapsed from a heart attack.  I held him, feeling all the warmth leave his frame, and I wanted to hide from my shame.  I couldn't shake the thought I killed him with my presence, and my grandma's prayers for Beau to be okay didn't help as I sat on the bed failing to disassociate myself from that awful feeling running down my arms, chest, and face of Beau's heat fading away.

Playing 2016's That Dragon, Cancer unearthed that feeling of life slipping away.  I got no respite from any of its chapters, and the moments when baby Joel - diagnosed with cancer at barely a year old - wasn't crying were filled with anxious parents, doctors, and other loved ones chiming in with their feelings.  Their words aren't always of despair or helplessness as there are spiritual and emotional comforts communicated in text, voice, or polygonal frames.  But they served as cold comfort to the tears I could not stop as Joel screamed or his parents, Ryan and Amy, let their doubts and faith spill out onto the canvas of the videogame.