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FIR’S BEST OF 2016

By , • Jan 26th, 2017 •

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By Roy Frumkes

Best Films

# 1 – The Presidential coverage on CNN.

What a brilliant cast of characters, and what an extraordinary episodic teleplay. It seems strange to say it: that it was paradoxically possible for a multi-billionaire candidate to be the underdog/whipping boy for the overwhelmingly biased media. But he was. And it made him sympathetic beyond anything critically valid the media had to say. I may not have voted for him, but I was definitely rooting for him. And I relished every near-inexplicable bounce back he exhibited.

My LA friend Barbara Steele bet me a hundred bucks that Trump was going to win. “When it comes down to it, no guy in this country is going to vote for a woman for President.” A few of my other friends acknowledged the sad truth in that opinion.” When Trump won, I dutifully sent Barbara a check. She called me a few days later and said “What was that check for? Did you win the lottery?” I reminded her of our bet. “You’re the only ethical person left in the country,” she said, laughing, “I had bets with two other people and they both reneged.”

More than anything, the odd, unreal feeling about Trump’s rousing victory that I can’t shake is that it seems like a Ray Bradbury scenario come true, a real-life playout of his great story A SOUND OF THUNDER. Someone goes back in time and accidentally steps on a butterfly, which subtly alters the future. He returns to find that a different (and fascist) candidate has won the presidential race. I wish Bradbury were alive to see this. He would have had some great comments to make about his story having come to pass.

Cast:

Donald Trump relatively inarticulate and embarrassing to listen to for more than several minutes at a time. (Promising that his inaugural speech would be brief was the most merciful thing I’ve heard in the new year.) And yet…his constituency gobbled up his rhetoric as if it were Shakespeare.

If I were to compare now-President Trump with some other entity, it would have to be FORBIDDEN PLANET’s Monster From the Id. Pure venom pouring out of his brain,unfiltered, at the slightest provocation. His followers loved that, too.

Kellyanne Conway her sensual looks, just starting to wilt, made her even more accessible and appealing. She appears to have been the secret sauce in the fast food mix that propelled Trump over the top.

Anna Navarro Plump yet loved by the camera, and exhileratingly adept at the quick character assassination. I wrote many of them down over the months. One of my faves was her description of Trump as a ‘malignant clown.’ She seemed to have more of a personal stake in the proceedings than most of the others, and took the loss first of her candidate, then of her party, rather badly. She never really bounced back, but kept up a game face.

Katrina Pierson part of Trump’s female hit squad, with a visage out of a Robert E Howard Conan novel, who stared, unblinking, at the monitor, hypnotizing us like a cobra.

Jeffrey Lord Smiling, laughing, throwing the spoils of his research at all comers as if it were boiling oil. With his white mane, he conjured up imagery from a much earlier time in our country’s history.

Paul Begala Not far behind Ms. Navarro in terms of crafting words into frontal attacks, though far friendlier for sure. An example, characterizing Trump’s doctor’s note as: “…the charming but insubstantial letter from Dr. Bornstein.” Almost too sweet to be lethal…but off-camera who knows?

Kayleigh McEnany Her lips constantly parted as if fascinated to be hearing the abusive comments about her boss for the first time, her spectacularly rapacious mind would then parry her opponents’ blows with usually unerring accuracy. She and Katrina would be great femmes fatales in a modern Film Noir.

Chris Christy though he was unceremoniously dumped in the wake of the election, his was a laugh-inducing, street-wise and unabashedly insulting style that would have felt right coming out of James Cagney’s mouth if he were mutated with Don Rickles.

S.E. Cupp Chafing at the bit, you could feel her rehearsing in front of the mirror a little more transparently than Anna or Paul, but she was no less intimidating than they, and I’d hate to be on a debating panel against her. Like the others, she knew how to make it vicious yet charming, the perfect narrative drive for a good mini-series.

Ben Fergusan Now there’s a tricky one. Visually I would have cast him as a Southern racist, someone Sidney Poitier would have enjoyed slapping in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, PART 5. But, unlike the others, he grew on me. There’s this mischievous smile that rises out of him and is undeniably endearing.

Chris Cuomo a beautiful speaker and fast on his feet. He would launch the latest episode of the mini-series every morning, like Ed McMann warming up the crowd for Johnny Carson. Or Rudolf Hess warming up the crowd for the Fuhrer.

Kate Bolduan of all the supporting members of the cast, she was the most visually impressive. Like Emma Stone, her emotions can come and go like a rainbow. She was extremely funny in her pantomimes, and I was glued to her appearances, waiting for someone to say something that she could snatch and run with. She could hold her own against opposing points of views when called upon, but I preferred the comic topography of her extraordinary punnum.

Dana Bash Always had a wondrous, middle-earth visage. She’s one of the warmest of the regulars.

John King Got saddled with the so-called ‘Magic Wall’ over the years, but he’s a solid voice in the large cast.

Errol Louis A soft, measured, and well-opinioned antidote to some of the more strident players.

Gloria Borger Like Errol Louis, a user-friendly political voice, who often gets cut off either mid-sentence or when just starting in on a new thought. Very Likeable, plus she grew up in New Rochelle, NY, like I did.

Anderson Cooper He does marvelously well at seeming quietly perplexed by his guests’ revelations. He also officiates a side-bar to all this – the CNN Quiz Show – in which he really shines.

Wolf Blitzer is kind of outside of it all. He’s CNN’s answer to Yoda. A solid, benign, elder statesman’s presence.

Fareed Zakaria is the elitist, intellectual voice of CNN. He’s on twice each Sunday, which is a good thing since, much as I love his show, I usually need to see it twice to understand what the hell they were talking about.

Michael Smerconish is an intelligent, ernest individual who endeavors to rep both sides honestly, making him something of an anomaly in this cast.

As for the newscasters themselves, as Trump became more elusive, and drew closer to his goal, they became (or were instructed to become) more combative, which I have to say I didn’t enjoy. With some of them, their bias shown through too brightly. And biased reporting, as mentioned earlier, almost always skewed dangerously in Trump’s favor, as if the viewers sensed that he were being picked on. In its subtle yet equally significant way, it was as helpful to Trump as the release of Hillary’s emails, though the newscasters really didn’t perceive the Trump-enhancing end results of their anti-Trump fury at the time. They were much too close to the action (and so were we) to see how we, and they, were being played by the billionaire.

After all this, do the runner-ups really matter for much? It wasn’t, after all, a particularly good year at the flickers.

BEST FILMS:

LA LA LAND Ryan Gosling singing and dancing!Emma Stone melting and shape-shifting. A beautifully calculated piece of work.
PASSENGERS It grew and grew on me.Finally, a week later, it was a very sweet and warm memory.
HANDMAIDEN
THE GREEN ROOM The horror treat of the year, with Patrick Stewart (!) as the villain.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
CAPTAIN AMERICA
ELVIS AND NIXON Flawed but fun, and more fun than flawed.

PERFORMANCES:

GOSLING For breaking his uptight mold with both LA LA LAND and NICE GUYS
EMILY BLUNT in THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN.
VINCE VAUGHN in HACKSAW RIDGE
URSULA PARKER in TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

ART DIRECTION:
PASSENGERS
WARSCAPE (Armour & Jewelry)

ANIMATION:
JUNGLE BOOK(if it can be characterized as animation)

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
CAFÉ SOCIETY
LA LA LAND

TITLE SEQUENCES:
DEAD POOL
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

WORSE TITLE SEQUENCE:
End titles for GHOSTBUSTERS

SPECIAL EFFECTS:
ROGUE ONEfor re-creating PETER CUSHING

EDITING:
JASON BOURNE

WORST EDITING:
JACKIE

LOCATIONS:
LA LA LAND

WORST TITLES:
NICE GUYS
HIDDEN FIGURES

EXPERIMENTAL:
THE LOBSTER
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN

FEEL BAD FILM OF THE YEAR:
FENCES

BEST MOMENTS:

Gibson & Gervais at the Golden Globes
“It’s a face…in time…I could sit on.”DEAD POOL
“Or did he?” ELVIS AND NIXON
“Can you move your seat up?” CAPTAIN AMERICA
“Tell it to someone who gives a shit.” THE GREEN ROOM
In a gliding cut, the real Snowden replaces Levitt. SNOWDEN
“Minus one.” JANE GOT A GUN

ON DVD & BLURAY:

VIOLENT COP from Film Movement. Old transfer – Bad. New transfer – Good.
ONE EYED JACKS from Criterion
MAI-CHAN’S DAILY LIFE from Kino/Lorber
THE THING from Scream Factory
JOHNNY GUITAR and/or HIGH NOON from Olive
TENEBRAE from Synapse
DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. from Severin (for the special features)
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT from Criterion
PIT STOP from Arrow
WILLOW CREEK from Dark Sky

BEST CD:

The six-disc score for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Some have said Bernstein’s score is heavy-handed. And so it occasionally is. But let’s be real here: we’re dealing with Cecil B. DeMille and the Old Testament. Would subtlety really have been appropriate?

FROM GLENN’S NITRATE LOUNGE

BEST MOVIE QUOTE OF 2016

By Glenn Andreiev

Every year brings great films, but for me, the film world’s best offering for 2016 was a not a film, but a quote. Martin Scorsese’s quote. “Cinema is gone,” Scorsese said. “The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone. The theater will always be there for that communal experience, there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be?” You know what? Marty is right. It will also be a losing experience for the independent filmmaker.cYears ago, if you gathered enough cash from relatives, friends, and second jobs, you could make a no budget indie film that will play on the exact same big screen that screened STAR WARS and 2001.

Digital filmmaking makes film production possible for almost anybody, but it bombards the market with product. Despite what some web people and web advertisements claim, digital technology shrinks the exhibition venues for a filmmaker. These venues,like social media, laptops, and smartphones lack the ability for a feature film to captivate a viewer. Regardless if it is a big budget Hollywood film or a personal indie funded with credit cards, you need a distraction-free viewing venue, like a theatre. Imagine you work hard to put your story on film, or video, and the viewer watches your film on a tiny screen while waiting for a train. Indie film is moving away from grand outsider art of the past like CLERKS and EL MARIACHI. A result of digital technology is that smaller and much shorter films, like two-minute viral videos, have pushed aside indie features.

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