After the success of last year's first ever Celluloid Cinema awards, we are back this year to celebrate the top films of 2016. After viewing more than fifty of the films released last year it is fair to say that those that win a Golden Reel truly do stand above their peers. With that being said here are this year's categories:
Best Actress in a supporting role Best Actor in a supporting role
Best Cinematography Best film editing (newly added)
Best Adapted Screenplay Best Actress in a lead role
Best Original Screenplay Best Actor in a lead role
Best Director Celluloid Cinema's Picture of the year
In addition, after the awards section, there will be a small recap on the overall cinema landscape of 2016.
Best Actress in a supporting role
Often, the supporting actress category is deeper than the lead actress category because so many films focus on male leads and the female character in the film only effects the plot enough to be considered a supporting role. This year, while it is difficult to say that Viola Davis was able to steal the thunder out of Denzel’s entire performance as he definitely gave one of the better on screen performances in years, the scenes both actors appeared in made clear how well Davis played her character. Without the intensity that Davis brought to the role, Fences would be outshined by Washington’s performance as there would not be anything else quite on the same level. By Davis upstaging Denzel in several pivotal scenes within the film, Davis proved to audiences that she could hold her own in scenes with one of Hollywood’s biggest actors, which is why Viola Davis’s performance in Fences wins this year’s Golden Reel for best actress in a supporting role.
Best actor in a supporting role
Nocturnal Animals is one of the more interesting films this year in terms of characters. This is not because the film had a female lead who delivered two outstanding performances this year with Amy Adams, but because it had three male supporting characters that gave award worthy performances in Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. While all three of these actors contributed to making Nocturnal Animals such a memorable film, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s performance is what wins the Golden Reel for best actor in a supporting role. Without the fear that Taylor-Johnson’s performance evoked, the film would not have hit the notes it needed to and instead would have felt too melodramatic instead of thrilling. Throughout the entirety of the film, the plot rested on the audience not only being afraid of Taylor-Johnson’s character, but also actively wanting him to be punished. For a supporting character with limited screen time to achieve this task, Taylor-Johnson truly had to capture his character and nail the nuances of his character.
Like I mentioned last year during 2016’s Celluloid Cinema awards, this year the cinematography category is extraordinarily deep. With films like Silence harkening to Kurosawa films of yesteryear, and La La Land providing sweeping angles of Los Angeles highlighting extravagant musical numbers, this decision was not one that was easily made. But because of how great nearly every frame looks in Moonlight, it is impossible not to give James Laxton the Golden Reel best cinematography for his work on the film. The intense colors that seem to flawlessly blend with one another in such a realistic fashion makes Moonlight one of the most enjoyable films to look at in years.
Best Film Editing (Newly Added)
After missing out on the category last year, the Celluloid Cinema awards this year will look at the best film editing of the year. Fortunately in its first year, 2016 provided such a wide array of editing from different genres. While the gun driven action films such as Hell or High Water and Hacksaw Ridge make the editor in me astonished, the way in which Arrival editor Joe Walker was able to manipulate the audiences understanding of editing for story purposes is what wins him this years Golden Reel for film editing. By itself, Arrival is an outstanding sci-fi film; however because of the twist its story takes as a result of how the film’s editing fooled the audience made it a best picture contender. While in most cases good editing goes unnoticed, the way Walker and Co used editing conventions to tell their story is on another level.
Best Adapted Screenplay
This year the adapted screenplay category was diverse in the stories that it told as well as the different mediums that it drew from: short story, novel, and play. However, only one film this year had me walking out of the theater with optimism and hope, which is why Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi win this years Golden Reel for best adapted screenplay for writing Hidden Figures. It is not often that audiences are able to leave the theater after watching a critically acclaimed film, as they often drag them through stories that are emotionally draining, happy. However, Hidden Figures is able to keep audiences optimistic throughout as the characters continually show audiences that no matter how hard the system tries to cheat you, if you keep pushing back you will prevail no matter what race or sex you are. Very few films are able to make audiences cheer at the end of the film and somehow Hidden Figures is one that keeps them cheering throughout.
Best Actress in a leading Role
Unfortunately, this year was not particularly strong for female leads as most of this years prestige films centered on male characters. With that being said, one of the performances that did stand apart from the crowd and further solidified her place as one of Hollywood’s best actresses was Natalie Portman with her role in Jackie. When playing such an iconic figure as Jackie Kennedy, it can be difficult as audiences will be quick to say that her mannerisms are off and that she did not capture Kennedy as they remembered her. However, Portman’s performance as Jackie was eerily perfect, so much so, that several linguistics experts were quick to say that Portman perfectly replicated Kennedy’s speaking patterns. By being able to pull off such a famous character on screen, this year's Golden Reel for Actress in a leading role goes to Natalie Portman for Jackie.
Best Original Screenplay
For about the first half of its runtime I was certain that The Lobster would be nabbing this year’s golden reel for original screenplay as the first half of it was so refreshingly smart and funny, however as the second half droned on for what seemed like an eternity, its chances of winning dwindled. Luckily, as the year was coming to an end the rightful winner of this years golden reel for best original screenplay, La La Land written by Damian Chazelle, won. Normally, I am not a large fan of musicals as for the most part they rely on spectacle over substance, however, La La Land was able to hurdle this concern as it not only made sure that the story of the film was not just a vehicle to show dance numbers, but also because it actually thought to explore thoughtful themes such as sacrifice. In addition, La La Land’s screenplay was crafted in such a delicate way that it was able to operate at both ends of the spectrum in terms of being light and happy as well as existential and dark.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Earlier in the awards I discussed that while Viola Davis stole the scenes she was in, she also made sure that Denzel Washington’s performance would not overshadow Fences. For a film like Fences which relies so heavily on an actor to carry it with lengthy dialogue and limited locations, no one could blame an actor for not being able to make the film enjoyable. Yet, somehow, Washington’s performance in Fences not only keeps the audience awake through the elaborate character study, but also keeps their breath drawn as they nervously wait to see how Washington’s character will respond next. After playing the character on stage for thirteen weeks, Washington brings his stage performance to the screen in an unforgettable performance that wins him this year’s golden reel for best actor in a leading role.
When looking back through cinema in 2016, some very ambitious people attempted to make some really ambitious films. From Barry Jenkins attempting to tell a story about a black gay male, a story not seen in Hollywood, or Mel Gibson, a troubled individual who had to fight for his right to make film after some negative moments in his personal life, telling the story of a pacifist in the biggest war in history, filmmakers pushed the art form. Even those that seem to have cinema figured out like Martin Scorsese was pushed to the limit this year to release his passion project Silence. Yet, once all of the dust settled, there remained one director who executed their vision flawlessly even with studios being weary of his project from the start. The man in discussion here is Damien Chazelle and due to his work with La La Land wins this year Golden Reel for best director. After coming up with the idea to make a musical set in Los Angeles with his college roommate's music, Chazelle was able to bring together every department in order to execute everything necessary for making musicals popular again in film. Borrowing from its predecessors, La La land was able take what films of the past did right while at the same time charting new ground for the genre proving that Chazelle’s part in the film could not be anymore perfectly done.
Celluloid Cinema’s Picture of the Year
After Whiplash, my favorite film of 2014, I thought the young director that was Damien Chazelle had already reached his peak and would forever be chasing the success of Whiplash. However, this year, Chazelle quite possibly may have finally set the bar too high to reach again with La La Land. As someone who deeply cares about the art form and history of film, La La Land is the perfect film. With cinematography second to only Moonlight, its musical numbers are shot in a way that captured Los Angeles, some of the best musical numbers in cinema, and the on screen chemistry of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, which only heightened the polished characters that they played. In terms of presentation and substance, La La Land accomplished what it set out to do and then some. There is no doubt in my mind that La La Land is the best film of 2016, one of the best films of this decade, and this year’s winner of Celluloid Cinema’s Picture of the year award.
Year in Review
At times, critics, audiences alike, and myself in last year’s year in review, like to make it seem that Cinema is dead because of the devotion Hollywood has to adaptations and comic book films that are of lower quality than the classics we can look back on and love. While there is definitely a large surplus in these types of films, 2016 has proven to me that Cinema is still alive with films that push the conventions of Cinema to make us think, laugh, and cry. While the prime motive for studios is profit which is understandable because they are at the end of the day businesses, the current group of filmmakers that is out there expanding film as an art form seems to be finding a way to combine profit and quality in order to make sure that films made today will become classics tomorrow. At the end of 2015, I proposed that television might be taking over cinema’s place for telling stories, but after the last year in film I am confident that, for at least the next few years, there will be filmmakers that maintain cinema’s place as one of the highest art forms.
Thank you for checking out this year's Celluloid Cinema Awards, please leave your picks in the comments below.