What Can We Say About 2016

The Calm Before The Storm

I haven’t posted on this site since July 15, 2015. TWENTY-FIFTEEN! That is an embarrassing amount of time. I have started a number of entries. I began pulling together my top 100 movies of all-time list. I started several posts about how bad the summer of 2016 was (more on that later). I started and stopped a bunch of times but I never finished, until today (or maybe not today, I certainly started those other posts with the intent of completing them so who’s to say that this will be any different, but we can hope). Why today? Because 2016 needs to be commented on, and it needs to be commented
on before Rogue One does to this year what The Force Awakens did to last year. A gargantuan Star Wars movie simply changes the conversation. It is like the boat sinking at the end of Titanic, it is so cool that you forget how bored out of your mind you were for two and a half hours before the iceberg even showed up. After next weekend 2016 will be judged by Rogue One, but I think it is important (in the “not at all important but I like to write about this stuff anyway” kind of a way) to remember the year that actually was before Darth Vader returns to our lives.

So, what can we say about 2016? I can say 5 things about the year that many are saying is the worst year EVER.

1) 2016 Is Not The Worst Year Ever

I get it, the election bummed us all out and the fact that between recounts and Russian hacking scandals the damn election wont go away makes it all the more disheartening. Sex scandals, cops getting shot, cops shooting, mass shootings, pipelines, Julian Assange, fake news, there was a lot of shit out there making us all feel bad basically all year long and if the movies role should have been to rise above the malaise and give us all the kind of welcome escape that would bring light to our lives in the cesspool of darkness we were all living in, then yeah, hollywood failed. But that seems a wholly unrealistic ask. No one is going to argue that, judged in a vacuum, 2016 was a great year for film, hell it probably didn’t even reach the level of “good”, but it would be just as insane to argue that it was the worst year. As a whole 2016 was somewhere between blah and meh. It had some highlights (see the first half of the year), it had some lowlights (see the summer) and it had some just plain old lights (fall into winter), and as a whole it came out worse than average, but not too far off average.

The Best Movie of 2016?

A quick way to compare the general quality of a movie year compared to another year is to take the top ten box office movies and the films nominated for best picture and compare. Since we can’t do the best picture thing with 2016 let’s compare we will use critics top 10 lists (there’s a website the here). Here is 2016 versus 2015:
aggregates all of the major critics top 10 lists and comes up with a master top 10 list, check it out

Critics Top 10
2015 2016
Mad Max: Fury Road Moonlight
Spotlight Manchester by the Sea
Inside Out La La Land
Carol O.J.: Made in America
Ex Machina Toni Erdman
Brooklyn Hell of High Water
The Martian Elle
Room Arrival
Creed Paterson
Sicario Happy Hour

Box Office
2015 2016
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Finding Dory
Jurassic World Captain America: Civil War
Avengers: Age of Ultron The Secret Life of Pets
Inside Out The Jungle Book
Furious 7 Deadpool
Minions Zootopia
The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay – Part 2 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The Martian Suicide Squad
Cinderella Doctor Strange
Spectre Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
As Box Office champs go this is pretty close (bearing in mind that Rogue One will land atop this list). I’d take Civil War over Ultron. Zootopia is much better than Minions. Deadpool is probably the most entertaining movie on either list and Inside Out is the best movie on either list. All in all, while I’d give the edge to 2015, 2016 isn’t that far off. I would end up at roughly the same conclusion on the critics choice list, 2015 wins but 2016 isn’t that far behind. You want to see a bad Box Office year check out 2005:

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
War of the Worlds
King Kong
Wedding Crashers
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Batman Begins
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
And the truth is you could go back and look at lists from the 80’s and they would be even worse. The point is, say WORST EVER is hard, except…
2) The Summer of 2016 was the WORST Summer Ever
Here is the complete list of films that “won” weekends last summer: Captain America: Civil War (x2), Angry Birds, X-Men Apocalypse (x2), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, The Conjuring 2, Finding Dory (x4), The Secret Life of Pets (x2), Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad (x4). That is bad, really, really bad. The 6th or 7th best Marvel movie, the 6th best X-Men movie, the 13th or 14th best Pixar movie, the 5th best Bourne movie, and those are the highlights! And there isn’t much below the weekend winners to get excited about either. Nice Guys was probably the best movie released in the summer of 2016. I liked Nice Guys a lot, but it is still the worst best movie in summer movie history. Ticket price inflation and the late success of Suicide Squad make the numbers not look as dire but make no mistake, the summer of 2016 was really, really, bad.
Speaking of Suicide Squad…
3. If You All Hate DC SO Much Why Do You Go To The Movies
Marvel (MCU): 2 Movies = $1.8 billion
DC (Warner Brothers): 2 Movies = $1.6 billion
X-Men (Fox): 2 Movies = $1.3 billion
I have been talking about this for a while, can we please put an end to the false narrative that DC movies are massive disappointments while Marvel can do no wrong. All you hear is what a failure Batman v Superman was, or how everyone hated Suicide Squad and then you look at the world-wide box office numbers and wouldn’t you know it they are doing nearly as well as the Marvel movies did this year. And, by the way, this has been true for years (in no small part because BATMAN IS IN THE DC UNIVERSE!). Look, in general I like the Marvel movies better too, but let’s stop acting like the gap between the two is the Grand Canyon. And, by the way, neither of these studios made the best comic book movie of 2016, that honor belong to Deadpool (now Golden Globe nominated Deadpool). And, neither DC or Marvel made the worst comic book movie of 2016, that honor belongs to the slog that was X-Men Apocalypse.
Speaking of Deadpool and Batman v Superman …
4) The First Four Months of 2016 Were Amazing
Deadpool, The Jungle Book, Zootopia and Batman v Superman all grossed over $300 million domestically. How crazy is that? Well, in 2014 only 3 movies grossed $300 million all year. In fact, only 2012 and 2015 can boast more $300 million movies than the first half of 2016 ever. Some will argue that January-April of 2016 is missing a great movie (I would say both Deadpool and Zootopia are great and 10 Cloverfield Lane was really good) but many, that is a crazy impressive amount of box office.
Speaking of the lack of great movies …
5) 2016 Is The New Normal, So Get Used To It
You know how you hear old movie snobs talk about hollywood and how they don’t make movies the way they used to? Here is what they are talking about. This is the top 10 box offices movies from 1987:

Three Men and a Baby
Fatal Attraction
Beverly Hills Cop II
Good Morning, Vietnam
The Untouchables
The Secret of My Success
Lethal Weapon
The Witches of Eastwick
One sequel. No animated movies. This was normal in the 1980’s. Blockbusters, when they happened, happened organically, not by plan. Hollywood went for singles and doubles and almost never swung for the fences. It meant a remake of a french farce starring a bunch of TV actors could be the biggest movie of the year. It was a different time.
So, was the normal of 1987 better than the normal of 2016?
The Best Movie of 2016?
The truth is I don’t know. Hollywood didn’t swing for the box office fences because they couldn’t swing for the fences. The improvements in CGI and animation are allowing movies to be made that simply could not have been made 30 years ago. And the numbers are so obscene that you can’t fault an industry for chasing them. I mean, look at those box office totals for Marvel, DC and Fox. Collectively 6 movies = $4.7 billion, 509 movies were released in 1987 and they totaled $4.2 billion. Yes, that is an apples to oranges comparison, but even if you factor in inflation and the relative buying power of the dollar and all of that good stuff and you say that $4.2 billion is really closer to $8.4 billion today it still took you 509 movies to get to that $8.2 billion as opposed to 6 movies getting you to $4.7 billion. International markets (another reason why the comparison was apples to oranges), secondary market sales, all of these factors simply drive too much potential income to tentpole movies, so much so that the studios are chasing tentpoles where tentpoles don’t exist. The new normal of 2016 should be as defined by the failures (Alice through the Looking Glass, Now You See Me 2, Warcraft, etc.) as the successes. Now most o the great dramas are arthouse fare. Every year hundreds of movies are made on micro-budgets, sent to film festivals and only appear if critics create the kind of buzz that gets studios to push for awards or as filler for Netflix and Amazon. Big budget dramas with real star power are HBO shows airing on Sunday nights. The new normal.
Of course, in all likelihood 30 years from now my son will be complaining to his kids about how hollywood has gone down hill artistically and they just don’t make movies like they used to. The next new normal.