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Thread: My Favorite Movies of 2016 (so far)

  1. #16
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    The Effect of Cheap, High-tech CGI on the Current cinema: the case of Captain Fantastic

    Rapid technological innovation of systems to generate images in the computer has a substantial effect on televisual as well as cinematic production. The relative low-cost of sophisticated technology is a major reason for stylistic blending or perhaps amalgamation of the aesthetics of TV and Cinema. There used to be a clear difference between them because of budget and screen size. Now it's easier to do TV that requires special effects because they are cheaper and easier to carry out. And the most popular shot in movies is the TV-friendly "tight single" (a close view of a single character) that lasts only a few seconds and is captured with a roving camera. David Bordwell coined the term "intensified continuity" to refer to this "contemporary conventional" style so well suited for legibility on small screens by spectators with short attention spans.

    One of the lesser but still consequential effects of cheap, high-tech CGI is the use of special effects for purposes of generating spectacle, often at a cost I may qualify as "artistic", if you think of art as having relation to the imitation and examination of nature or reality or truth. These thoughts come to mind following a screening of Captain Fantastic, a well regarded 2016 theatrical release that had all the makings of a film I would like, and it remains a film of merit and hence worth mentioning but certainly a "mixed bag" for me. I find myself reacting incredulously to a few scenes that challenge the verisimilitude of the narrative and characterize the protagonist as a madman. The weight of his ideas take a beating because they are made to seem so extreme and irresponsible. I noticed that these ill-advised scenes exist because CGI make it possible to show realistic-looking scenes involving such phenomena as the removal and consumption of a beating deer heart and kids scaling a vertical cliff like pros. There is an element of flamboyant hysteria at play, like in the scene when a dramatic confrontation between the survivalist, “hippie” captain and his bourgeois father-in-law resolves with the latter shooting an arrow close to the head of the protagonist as he scurries away. Captain Fantastic is terribly uneven and it feels like a wasted opportunity because a substantial number of scenes are effective, engaging and thoughtful.

  2. #17
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    I loved Captain Fantastic. It's a meaningful, emotionally satisfying film and one of my favorites of the year, bar none. Didn't see those flaws. Don't think CGI mars the movie, and think Ben's (Viggo's) excesses are intentional and based on Matt Ross' actual experience of utopian communities. Much of the fun has to do with the ensemble work of wonderful band of child and youth actors, not any physical effects. The cast underwent rugged training, and the interesting thing is that they actually do a lot of the challenging feats depicted in the film, not that they are falsified with computers.

  3. #18
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    They are falsified by computers though. The director may have witnessed rock climbing, but the film shows little kids on a computer-generated vertical cliff that would give pause to the most experienced adult climber. Other scenes also show a lack of restraint that seems to parody the whole idea of alternative lifestyles and resistance to the status quo. Still I also enjoyed the ensemble work in several scenes.

    Then I watched Love & Friendship, the adaptation of Jane Austen's "Lady Susan" by Whit Stillman. Because the novel is epistolary, the adaptation involved a thorough transformation. The most peculiar and challenging aspect of the film is that it introduces by name about 15 characters in the first 5 or 6 minutes. However, the film is the shortest of all Austen adaptation to film that I know. It moves too fast at first, but then it settles into a peppy but more reasonable pace. Love & Friendship exhibits a respect for words and idiomatic phrases and for the performative aspects of language, as it should. It is also rather cynical in its worldview compared to other better-known, beloved selections from Austen's oeuvre. There's nothing warm and fuzzy about Lady Susan's machinations and strategies to procure herself and her daughter with suitable husbands. Not a great film, but certainly a good one.

    I still have only 7 films in my 2016 Top 10, with the addition of Toni Erdmann to the 6 above mentioned.

  4. #19
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    I saw the director at an extensive Q&A in San Francisco at the Kabuki Cinemas and read a lot about the making of, and the kids in Captain Fantastic went through extensive training together and learned outdoor skills. I don't know specifically about the rock climbing, though. However Matt Ross made a big effort to be realistic, actually, while making the action also fun. I don't understand why you undercut this delightful and thought-provoking film. I'm a huge Whit Stillman fan for obvious reasons given who I am. As I said in my review a Jane Austen adaptation by Stillman is a bit redundant since his early films are full of dialogue that is closer to Jane Austen than any contemporary movie. Love and Friendship is surely more than merely "good" though I'd agree it falls short of "great" but so do most movies in most years.

    My Best Lists for 2016 as given on Indiewire are HERE. Love and Friendship and Captain Fantastic are numbers 3 and 4 on my top ten list, respectively.

  5. #20
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    Love & Friendship provides a rather extreme example of concentrated exposition, a narrative strategy to present a great deal of plot information and introduce all the important characters rapidly at the very beginning of the text. I don't have strong feelings or fandom towards Stillman. I think the device is used rather clumsily here because it's done in a way that fosters confusion. I also think he often writes great dialogue. We can agree on that, and your Jane Austen allusion. I'm sure all the films on your list are worth seeing. I always have an affection for the films of Ken Loach, by the way, which reflects the love the filmmaker conveys towards proletarian characters like Daniel Blake (on your list).

  6. #21
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    FROM AFAR won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2015 and received an extremely limited theatrical run by Strand Releasing in 2016. The film had a US box office of $30 thousand. That's it. It's a Venezuelan film about the relationship between a middle-class 50 year old guy and a 20 year old hoodlum. The film presents a challenge to the spectator because of distancing devices, an elliptical and fragmentary narrative structure, and a dearth of dialogue that explains behavioral motivations. Divisiveness is a typical effect of films that defy conventions about filling information gaps in the plot in order to provide resolution closure. No matter how brilliantly executed and performed, there is a segment of the critics and audiences who reject art that is challenging to consume conventionally (as we have been socialized to do). Director Lorenzo Vigas can now join other directors who practice a cinema often regarded pejoratively as "minimalist": Lucrecia Martel, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Julia Loktev, Lisandro Alonso, Albert Serra, Pedro Costa, and others. FROM AFAR is fascinatingly open-ended; engagingly partial and on the verge of becoming something else with every cut. It's one of the Top 10 Films of 2016, but few have seen it.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 02-17-2018 at 10:26 PM.

  7. #22
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    From Afar - I did review it, you know, right HERE I liked it quite well and was not among the great unwashed you allude to who are too unperceptive to appreciate it. Those other directors you list seem to have nothing in common except that you think they are cool. "Minimalist" isn't really a school of filmmaking as it is in Seventies art (Donald Judd, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, et al.)

  8. #23
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    Thanks for the link to your review.

    How do you define a "school of filmmaking"? What do you mean by bringing it up? I stated that these filmmakers get called "minimalist" by critics who don't like them ("pejoratively"). I took a look at the film's reception an

    I'm glad you liked From Afar. One think I like about it is its potential to elicit interesting discussions about the nature of sexual desire, and about class issues too. Did it make your Top 10? I don't recall. I should post a Top 10 of 2016 by now. I don't think I have done that. Anyone interested? It's hard to ascertain what readers think because no responses are allowed except by the 5 or 7 of us who signed up a long time ago....
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 02-18-2018 at 10:29 AM.

  9. #24
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    Don't accept "minimalist" from "those critics" if it's "pejorative," and using it for a list of directors suggests, to me, a school, which it is not. No such thing exists. I'm glad it's not your definition, but so then why not just drop it? As for From Afar and my lists:
    2016 IndieWire Critics Poll: Chris Knipp



    Dec 5, 2016 8:21 pm
    2016 IndieWire Critics Poll:
    Chris Knipp
    Filmleaf
    FULL RESULTS: 2016 IndieWire Critics Poll
    Best Film
    1. Moonlight
    2. Manchester by the Sea
    3. Love & Friendship
    4. Captain Fantastic
    5. Hell or High Water
    6. American Honey
    7. I, Daniel Blake
    8. From Afar
    9. The Salesman
    10. Loving

  10. #25
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    Thanks for the list. I'm reaching the conclusion that I've largely "caught up" with 2016. American Honey is thinly movie from your list I haven't watched yet. I am going to write a journal essay that goes into the narrative strategies of From Afar as well as Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet and Martel's Zama. I have a great deal of interest in the reception of From Afar in particular. One can learn quite a bit from it. Issues of narrative comprehension and closure are salient. The ending totally surprised me, and I have see Breathless recently.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 02-19-2018 at 10:25 AM.

  11. #26
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    Procrastinator's Special.
    I am ready to officially announce my 2016 Top 10 (or so) ...drum roll...It comes well into 2018. I think I did a better job of keeping up with the 2017 films than the previous year. But here, finally, it feels right to list the films (officially?) released in 2016 in the US that had the greatest impact on my life and constitute great achievements in the art of film.

    2016 (Alphabetical)

    CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR
    THE FITS
    FROM AFAR
    I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
    THE MEASURE OF A MAN
    MOONLIGHT
    MY GOLDEN DAYS
    PATERSON
    TONY ERDMANN

    Highly recommended: Arrival, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Salesman, I,Daniel Blake, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water.

    That's 9 in the Top 10, I know. I am tempted to include Arrival because it's great but also too commercial for critics to list even though they grant it "universal acclaim" (81 points) at metacritic and 94% "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes. But I'm going to stop being too liberal (wink wink) and leave it out for now. Actually I thought that the films directed by Denis Villeneuve that I had previously seen (Incendies, Sicario) were interesting but certainly not quite as great as claimed by many critical evaluations. The success of Blade Runner 2049 proves his greatest fit is tinkering with the conventions of science fiction drama.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-11-2018 at 06:22 AM.

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