So, one of my promises in last night’s drinking game was that the Oscars weren’t going to be interesting, a prediction that seemed more or less correct and then turned out to be quite emphatically wrong. A solid but unremarkable Oscars ceremony was abruptly buoyed up by its “producers rushing the stage to rip the Oscars out of the hands of the La La Land producers” finale, four hours into its runtime. Jimmy Kimmel tried to force humanity into an airless program by busing in a bunch of random tourists, but it was La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz’s gracious handing off of the trophies that provided the only truly real moment of the night. We just had to wait until 12:05 AM Eastern Time for it to happen.
The Oscars ceremony always closes out that short stretch every year where my blog bursts to life to create a pile of best-of lists. Since this is the close of award season, I’ll finish this chapter, even though I’m still miles away from finishing my list.
This isn’t that bad a thing – I was hitting the middle of the list, which is always a slog. There’s always about half a dozen movies a year that I watched and went “that was fine,” and moved right along. If you forced me, I could get pulled into a deeper conversation about how to handle a biopic, or what feminism looks like in a broad comedy, or what the direction of the Star Trek franchise is (okay, that one might fall more into small talk than discourse, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a polemic).
We were wandering into that category just now. So let me hit a couple of these films in a row, and try and knock them out all at once.
Movies That Are Fine (But There’s Not Much To Talk About)
It’s a beautifully animated piece of work, and I admire Disney’s willingness to gently wander into darker territory and deeper subject matter, but I never found myself all that connected to the characters or the film’s central plot. The most I could say for it was how much I enjoyed the Frozen easter eggs they kept hiding all throughout the movie.
25. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
This one had a strange path in the press. Early reviews praised it for its surprisingly feminist slant on young women and the confusion of college life. But then there was a backlash to that praise, since the film isn’t that feminist, and lauding it was sending the wrong message. Its Rotten Tomatoes score dipped sharply, since now the film had become Problematic. I hate Film Twitter sometimes.
Ignoring the outer discussion, the film itself is feminist – not dramatically, but more than you’d expect a film where Zach Efron has his shirt off this often to be. More importantly, it’s funny, and loose, and a good time at the movies. Catch it on cable or Netflix someday. I think you’ll be surprised.
24. Eddie The Eagle
This one came out of nowhere. A biopic about an awkward-looking British ski jumper who took the 1988 Olympics by storm despite finishing dead last. Which is I guess, a spoiler? It’s hard to tell with a movie like this, which is much more Cool Runnings than it is biopic, and a much better movie than a story this small has any right to be.
23. Star Trek Beyond
I adored J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek movie and went to the mat in defense of his much sillier follow-up, Star Trek Into Darkness. This last one in the trilogy (everything nowadays is a trilogy, even a movie series that has moved from film to film since 1979, with a pack of television series jammed in the middle) tries to take Star Trek back to its roots, which when you consider the various bizarre places this series has been, means almost nothing.
This film, written by beloved nerd Simon Pegg and directed by less-beloved Fast and Furious director Justin Lin, tries to make a Star Trek movie that feels like a really, really good episode of “Star Trek,” the TV series. Which, I think, it succeeds at – it’s just that those are some low stakes, and it shouldn’t get too much credit for clearing a bar that low.
22. Finding Dory
A very long-awaited return to the world of what is arguably Pixar’s most-beloved film*, Finding Dory is… fine. The animation is miles cleaner than it was the first time around, and the film itself is a pretty good ride. It finished as the third-largest grossing film of 2016, ending up with over a billion dollars worldwide, so there can’t be much to complain about in the Pixar offices.
*If you disagree with this statement, you have never babysat any child, ever.
I just felt like, in the mess of extra endings and bows tied on bows that completed the film, something got lost in the mix. Inside Out showed that Pixar hasn’t lost anything off its fastball. I don’t know why they feel like they have to play it safe with this off-speed stuff.