2016’s films ranked

04.27.17: This list is now final. While I may in the future see additional films that were released in the awards year of 2016, no more films will be added to this list. (I may add links to reviews of films listed here.)

This ranking includes only new theatrical releases viewed for the awards year of 2016 (for eligibility for the Academy Awards and the OFCS and AWFJ awards); some films released in the UK without US releases (and so ineligible for those awards this year) may also be included, for my own bookkeeping purposes. Links go to my review. Numbers after each entry are Date First Viewed/NYC Release Date/London Release Date; year is 2016 unless otherwise noted.

other yearly rankings:
2022 | 2021 | 2020
2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003

green light
worth paying multiplex prices for

[5 stars]
Arrival (10.10/11.11/11.10)
La La Land (10.07/12.09/01.13.17)
A Monster Calls (10.06/12.23/01.01.17)
The Lobster (07.16.15/05.13/10.16.15)
Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) (02.22/03.04/03.25)
A Bigger Splash (10.08.15/05.04/02.12)
Miss Sloane (11.20/11.25/05.12.17)
London Road (06.03.15/09.09/06.12.15)
The Girl with All the Gifts (07.26/02.24.17/09.23)
I, Daniel Blake (10.22/12.23/10.21)
Hidden Figures (12.14/12.25/02.17.17)
A United Kingdom (10.05/02.10.17/11.25)
Eye in the Sky (04.07/03.11/04.15)
Moana (11.16/11.23/12.02)
Jackie (12.14/12.02/01.20.17)
The Invitation (10.05.15/04.08/direct to VOD)
Margarita with a Straw (10.19.14/05.20/TBA)
Christine (09.20/10.14/01.27.17)
Green Room (10.13.15/04.15/05.13)
Captain Fantastic (09.04/07.08/09.09)
Weiner (07.04/05.20/07.08)
Hell or High Water (08.18/08.12/09.09)
Moonlight (09.20/10.21/02.10.17)
American Honey (10.06/09.30/10.14)
I Am Not Your Negro (04.14.17/12.09/04.07.17)
Fences (11.28/12.15/02.10.17)
Manchester by the Sea (10.07/11.18/01.13.17)
My Life as a Zucchini (aka My Life as a Courgette) (02.25.17/autumn 2016/06.02.17)
20th Century Women (11.07/12.25/01.20.17)
Paterson (10.09/12.28/11.25)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12.15/12.16/12.15)

[4.5 stars]
Captain America: Civil War (04.25/05.06/04.29)
A Good American (09.17/02.03.17/09.23)
Aquarius (10.28/10.14/03.24.17)
Midnight Special (03.03/03.18/04.18)
The Family Fang (05.10/05.06/direct to VOD)
Certain Women (03.04.17/10.14/03.03.17)
Speed Sisters (02.16/02.10.17/03.25)
Marguerite (03.29/03.11/03.18)
13th (10.06/10.07/10.07)
Zero Days (01.06.17/07.08/01.06.17)
Kubo and the Two Strings (09.04/08.19/09.09)
Loving (12.21/11.04/02.03.17)
Queen of Katwe (10.10/09.23/10.21)
The Divide (04.22/direct to VOD/04.22)
10 Cloverfield Lane (03.15/03.11/03.18)
Sing (12.04/12.21/01.27.17)
Under the Shadow (09.05/10.07/09.30)
Honeytrap (10.18.14/09.23/05.08.15)
The Jungle Book (04.05/04.15/04.15)
Snowden (10.12/09.16/12.09)
Sully (10.08/09.09/12.02)
Bad Moms (08.27/07.29/08.24)

[4 stars]
Star Trek Beyond (07.20/07.22/07.22)
The Dressmaker (11.17.15/09.23/11.20.15)
Lion (10.13/11.25/01.20.17)
The Founder (12.28/12.16/02.17.17)
Tanna (02.25.17/09.16/02.17.17)
Denial (01.27.17/09.30/01.27.17)
Allied (11.17/11.23/11.25)
Deepwater Horizon (09.15/09.30/09.23)
Toni Erdmann (10.08/12.25/02.03.17)
We Are X (09.30/10.21/TBA)
The Edge of Seventeen (11.30/11.18/11.30)
The Unknown Girl (12.02/08.25.17/12.02)
War Dogs (08.11/08.19/08.26)
Swallows and Amazons (08.06/direct to VOD/08.19)
You’ve Been Trumped, Too (10.29/10.28/11.04)
The Shallows (08.09/06.24/08.12)
Don’t Breathe (09.15/08.26/09.09)
Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) (07.22/07.22/10.28)
Tale of Tales (06.30/04.22/06.17)
Girls Lost (Pojkarna) (11.03/direct to DVD/11.04)
The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (11.18/06.10/11.18)
Love and Friendship (05.27/05.13/05.27)
Wiener-Dog (06.30/06.24/08.12)
A Perfect Day (10.18.15/01.15/09.05.22)
Rams (Hrútar) (02.05/02.03/02.05)
Urban Hymn (08.01/05.12.17/09.30)
The Here After (Efterskalv) (02.15/TBA/03.11)
The Eagle Huntress (10.03/10.28/12.16)
Miles Ahead (03.30/04.01/04.22)
Parched (06.11/06.17/TBA)
Little Men (09.18/08.05/09.23)
Ghostbusters (07.11/07.15/07.11)
Sour Grapes (09.13/TBA/09.16)
Into the Forest (07.29/07.29/direct to VOD)
The Secret Life of Pets (06.30/07.08/06.24)
Requiem for the American Dream (04.27/01.29/direct to VOD)
The Survivalist (04.19/05.19.17/02.12)
Sworn Virgin (10.17.15/04.22/TBA)
Miss Sharon Jones! (07.29/07.29/TBA)
Elstree 1976 (11.30/05.06/direct to VOD)
The Birth of a Nation (10.11/10.07/12.09)
Finding Altamira (09.12/09.16/direct to DVD)
Sold (03.31/04.01/TBA)
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (06.11/06.17/direct to VOD)
Sausage Party (08.29/08.12/09.02)
Best and Most Beautiful Things (12.06/12.02/direct to VOD)
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (08.24/08.26/direct to VOD)
Bad Hurt (02.11/02.12/direct to VOD)
Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts (88th Academy Awards) (01.30/01.29/02.05)
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (88th Academy Awards) (01.28/01.29/02.05)
Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (88th Academy Awards) (01.28/01.29/02.05)

[3.5 stars]
Hacksaw Ridge (01.10.17/11.04/01.27.17)
A Man Called Ove (02.26.17/09.30/06.30.17)
Before the Flood (10.14/10.21/direct to TV)
The Intervention (08.22/08.26/TBA)
The Purge: Election Year (08.16/07.01/08.26)
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (07.01/07.22/07.01)
The Brand New Testament (Le tout nouveau testament) (03.31/12.09/04.15)
The Uncondemned (11.07/10.21/TBA)
Blood Father (09.27/08.12/10.07)
Pete’s Dragon (07.28/08.12/08.12)
Jane Got a Gun (04.13/01.29/04.22)
Glassland (04.10.15/02.12/04.17.15)
Sing Street (05.04/04.15/05.20)
A War (Krigen) (12.01/02.12/01.08)
Time to Choose (06.03/06.03/direct to VOD)
The Keeper of Lost Causes (Kvinden i buret) (04.14/06.17/08.22.14)
A Conspiracy of Faith (Flaskepost fra P) (06.01/06.17/TBA)
The Absent One (Fasandraeberne) (04.14/06.17/04.08)
The Girl on the Train (10.05/10.07/10.05)
Holding the Man (04.26/direct to VOD/06.03)
Starving the Beast (09.09/09.09/direct to VOD)
Zoolander 2 (02.10/02.12/02.12)
The Wave (Bølgen) (10.14.15/03.04/08.12)
Hockney (09.22.14/04.22/11.28.14)
Oddball and the Penguins (aka Oddball) (01.31/direct to VOD/02.12)
Black Mountain Poets (04.01/TBA/04.01)
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (08.02/07.08/08.10)
Finding Dory (11.12/06.17/07.29)
The Great Gilly Hopkins (10.02/10.07/TBA)
Boom Bust Boom (03.18.15/03.11/03.23)
Nanny Culture (11.23/TBA/10.14)
The Syndrome (04.18/04.15/TBA)
The Brainwashing of My Dad (03.18/03.18/TBA)
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (09.07/09.16/09.15)
Michael Moore in TrumpLand (10.29/10.21/direct to VOD)

yellow for maybe
worth seeing, but wait for DVD, unless your favorite actor is in it

[3 stars]
Elle (10.11/11.11/02.24.17)
Cameraperson (12.30/09.09/01.27.17)
Jason Bourne (07.21/07.29/07.27)
Money Monster (05.27/05.13/05.27)
Our Kind of Traitor (05.13/07.01/05.13)
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (11.28/08.19/10.28)
Hail, Caesar! (02.17/02.05/03.04)
Julieta (08.27/12.21/08.26)
Florence Foster Jenkins (04.25/08.12/05.06)
Tickled (08.15/06.17/08.19)
Antibirth (09.12/09.02/direct to VOD)
The Accountant (11.01/10.14/11.04)
Microbe & Gasoline (07.01/07.01/11.06.15)
Anesthesia (01.05/01.08/direct to VOD)
Tumbledown (02.05/02.05/direct to VOD)
Anthropoid (08.17/08.12/09.09)
Ali and Nino (11.06/11.18/direct to DVD)
Sunset Song (11.30.15/05.13/12.04.15)
Embrace of the Serpent (02.27/02.17/06.10)
The Program (10.09.15/03.18/10.16.15)
Naz & Maalik (01.20/01.22/TBA)
Lost in Karastan (01.22/TBA/01.22)
I Saw the Light (05.07/03.25/05.06)
The Man Who Knew Infinity (04.13/04.29/04.08)
The Mermaid (Mei ren yu) (03.03/02.19/02.19)

[2.5 stars]
The Handmaiden (04.04.17/10.21/04.14.17)
The Witch (10.11.15/02.19/03.11)
Silence (12.17/12.23/01.01.17)
High-Rise (10.08.15/05.13/03.18)
Patriots Day (01.25.17/12.21/02.23.17)
Gold (12.29/12.25/02.03.17)
Morgan (09.03/09.02/09.02)
Doctor Strange (10.25/11.04/10.25)
Inferno (10.10/10.28/10.14)
All We Had (12.10/12.09/direct to VOD)
Ben-Hur (09.01/08.19/09.07)
Equity (08.23/07.29/09.02)
The BFG (06.15/07.01/07.22)
Cafe Society (09.04/07.15/09.02)
X-Men: Apocalypse (05.16/05.27/05.18)
The Nice Guys (05.17/05.20/06.03)
Trolls (10.15/11.04/10.15)
Bastille Day (aka The Take) (03.24/11.18/04.22)
Risen (02.29/02.19/03.18)
Bad Santa 2 (11.22/11.23/11.23)
Passage to Mars (09.22/09.30/TBA)
Louder Than Bombs (04.29/04.08/04.22)
Emelie (03.03/03.04/direct to VOD)
Eddie the Eagle (02.22/02.26/04.01)
The Finest Hours (02.02/01.29/02.19)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (03.21/03.25/03.25)
The Divergent Series: Allegiant (03.07/03.18/03.10)
Triple 9 (01.14/02.26/02.19)
The Boss (05.31/04.08/06.10)
Bad Neighbours 2 (aka Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) (05.07/05.20/05.06)
Solace (09.28.15/12.16/09.25.15)
A Street Cat Named Bob (11.18/11.18/11.04)
The Boy and the Beast (02.19/03.04/07.07.17)

red for no
give it a miss

[2 stars]
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (11.16/11.18/11.18)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (09.29/09.30/09.29)
Robinson Crusoe (aka The Wild Life) (09.02/09.09/05.05)
Disorder (aka Maryland) (07.25/08.12/03.25)
Operation Avalanche (01.04.17/09.16/direct to DVD)
Ordinary World (aka Geezer) (10.25/10.14/direct to DVD)
Frank & Lola (12.06/12.09/direct to VOD)
100 Streets (09.21/01.13.17/11.11)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (10.13/10.21/10.20)
Bridget Jones’s Baby (09.08/09.16/09.16)
The Conjuring 2 (06.01/06.10/06.13)
Evolution (10.11.15/TBA/05.06)
The American Side (05.03/04.29/TBA)
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (04.05/04.22/04.04)
Bleed for This (10.08/11.18/12.02)
Jane Wants a Boyfriend (03.24/03.25/TBA)
Black (08.17/TBA/08.19)
Nocturnal Animals (10.14/11.18/11.04)
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (01.25/01.15/01.29)

[1.5 stars]
The Magnificent Seven (09.23/09.23/09.23)
Now You See Me 2 (07.04/06.10/07.04)
A Hologram for the King (05.03/04.22/05.20)
Demolition (05.03/04.08/04.29)
Live by Night (12.31/12.25/01.13.17)
Independence Day: Resurgence (06.24/06.24/06.23)
The Light Between Oceans (11.01/09.02/11.01)
The Childhood of a Leader (07.28/07.22/08.19)
The Dreamed Ones (Die Geträumten) (09.19/TBA/12.02)
Zoom (08.31/09.02/direct to VOD)
The Free World (09.19/09.23/TBA)
Storks (10.15/09.23/10.14)
Blair Witch (08.10/09.16/09.15)
Keeping Up with the Joneses (10.22/10.21/10.21)
Ice Age: Collision Course (07.02/07.22/07.15)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (02.11/02.05/02.11)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (05.29/06.03/05.30)
Cardboard Boxer (09.16/09.16/TBA)
The 9th Life of Louis Drax (09.02/09.02/09.02)
Me Before You (05.31/06.03/06.03)
Regression (10.09.15/02.05/10.09.15)
The Angry Birds Movie (05.13/05.20/05.13)
Deadpool (02.08/02.12/02.10)

[1 star]
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (10.08/12.21/03.31.17)
Why Him? (12.26/12.23/12.26)
Mechanic: Resurrection (08.27/08.26/08.26)
Monster Trucks (12.18/01.13.17/12.16)
The Legend of Tarzan (07.06/07.01/07.06)
Free State of Jones (06.22/06.24/09.09)
Assassin’s Creed (01.01.17/12.21/01.01.17)
Fathers & Daughters (11.10.15/07.08/11.13.15)
The Good Neighbor (09.16/09.16/TBA)
Office Christmas Party (12.11/12.09/12.07)
Approaching the Unknown (06.06/06.03/direct to VOD)
War on Everyone (09.06/02.03.17/10.07)
Synchronicity (01.20/01.22/TBA)
Chevalier (07.06/05.27/07.22)
Mojave (03.24/01.22/03.25)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (03.23/03.25/03.24)
Alice Through the Looking Glass (05.15/05.27/05.27)
Autumn Lights (10.25/10.21/TBA)

[.5 star]
The 5th Wave (01.22/01.22/01.22)
Ballerina (aka Leap!) (03.26.17/08.25.17/12.19)
Ride Along 2 (01.20/01.15/01.22)
How to Be Single (02.11/02.12/02.19)
Kill Your Friends (11.02.15/04.01/11.06.15)
London Has Fallen (02.25/03.04/03.03)
Bite (05.10/05.06/direct to DVD)
Ratchet & Clank (04.24/04.29/04.29)

[0 stars]
Suburra (03.29/TBA/06.24)
Exposed (01.19/01.22/02.26)
Welcome to Happiness (05.20/05.20/direct to VOD)
Dirty Grandpa (01.25/01.22/01.29)
Knight of Cups (04.29/03.04/05.06)
Grimsby (aka The Brothers Grimsby) (02.24/03.11/02.24)
Gods of Egypt (05.26/02.26/06.17)
Warcraft: The Beginning (aka Warcraft) (05.30/06.10/05.30)
Collateral Beauty (12.26/12.16/12.26)
Passengers (12.21/12.21/12.21)
The Neon Demon (07.08/06.24/07.08)
The Eyes of My Mother (12.02/12.02/03.24.17)
Suicide Squad (08.04/08.05/08.05)
The Greasy Strangler (08.09/10.07/10.07)

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Tamatha Reed
Tamatha Reed
Mon, Jan 02, 2017 2:18pm

What made Greasy Stranger so bad? I found Suicide Squad and Passengers to be way more disgusting (seeing as they are PG-13 mainstream releases). I am curious to know your thoughts. :-)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tamatha Reed
Mon, Jan 02, 2017 9:48pm

Maybe I’ll get around to reviewing it soon.

Mon, Jan 16, 2017 11:33pm

I don’t understand – are these ratings supposed to reflect an evaluation of the quality of these movies in any constructive sense, or strictly the extent to which the author enjoyed viewing them? The advice to moviegoers implies the former, but the ratings just don’t support it.
You can’t have “The Neon Demon” and “Suicide Squad” in the same category, nor can you have “The Nice Guys” and “X-men Apocalypse” rated equally. I mean you obviously CAN do it, but recommending people whether to watch a movie based strictly on your personal enjoyment is meaningless. Either get rid of the grades/recommendations altogether and have your readers decide what to watch based on the articles themselves, or find something else to do with your life…
Seriously, you’ve rated “The Witch”, which is as measured, deliberate and carefully executed a piece as they come, with the same grade as “Inferno”, which is such a rushed mess that Ron Howard even deviated from basic film-making rules in doing it. Now I didn’t particularly ENJOY “The Witch”, but it’s the superior film by orders of magnitude.
I thoroughly hated “The Revenant”, but rating that movie “0 stars” would be a joke – it’s just too damn well made.
Similarly, I LOVE Star Wars and had tons of fun with “Rogue One”, but I can never twist my tongue to say it’s just as masterful a film as “Arrival” is.
In a way it’s admirable that you have such high opinion of your personal experience with movies, but again – get rid of these categories, grades and recommendations.
“Worth paying multiplex prices for “Zoolander 2”? :D Come on now…

reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 12:01am

This clearly isn’t the right site for you. You should go to the website with all the objective movie reviews.

reply to  Danielm80
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 3:26pm

Did you see me use the word “objective” somewhere? Doubtful…
Anyway, I’ve never seen this site before and don’t intend to stick around.
I’m curious though, if you’re a regular here, did you see “Zoolander 2” in the cinema and how would you rate the reviewer’s recommendation?

reply to  Danielm80
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 4:57pm

Oh, I see, this isn’t actually a film review website…
That was useful, thanks :)
I mean, it’s still not really fair to recommend movies to people when you care about only a single aspect of them, but whatever.
Should have guessed by the fact that the average category’s main deciding factor is whether “your favourite actor plays in it” lol

reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 5:43pm

it’s still not really fair to recommend movies to people when you care about only a single aspect of them

Yeah, she should really stop chaining people to their computers and forcing them to read her site. So totally unfair.

reply to  Bluejay
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 7:08pm

Excellent attempt at a joke my friend. Pray tell – since you clearly have such a great sense of humor – did you watch “Zoolander 2” in the cinema following your reading of the “film review” on this website and what are your thoughts on said recommendation? Would you agree that the story was so well written and involving, that even if none of your favorite actors participated in it, that movie was totally worth the money you paid for admission?

reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 7:38pm

You seem to be obsessing about Zoolander 2. The best place for your comments about that film is at the review link itself.

It doesn’t matter if *I* think it’s worth the price of admission. SHE thinks it is, and it’s HER REVIEW. I can agree or disagree with it as I please. But I won’t pretend — as you are — that my opinion is any more objective than hers.

reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 10:01am

Well the last guy didn’t answer me about Z2, so I just thought I’d ask someone else :)
Seems no one has seen it though – I wonder why that is…
Anyway, I care not for reading the review itself, but that’s besides the point.

And that point is not that my opinion of film is more objective than hers, but that OBJECTIVELY you cannot review films, which as all art aim to be “more than the sum of their parts” by looking only at ONE of the parts.
Even in her own example, skewed as it may be in favor of her personal argument, if you only care about the food you cannot actually review a restaurant. You can only review the food. And honestly you shouldn’t review anything and just eat at home.
Similarly, if you only care about “the story” you should join a literary club, not make a movie review website where you have the audacity to tell people what to spend their money on. Some of the best filmmakers to have ever lived (Lynch, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, etc.) rarely even utilize classical narratives in their work. By the reasoning of this writer here, their movies should be down there with the sorry excrements of the lowest Hollywood hacks. Good job that…

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  omnisemantic1
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 3:20pm

I think it was mentioned to you that this post isn’t really the place to discuss individual films.

I’ve been reading this site for years. For every comment that a given review focuses too much on story, there’s another saying that a review doesn’t focus on story enough.

But didn’t you say that you wouldn’t be coming back? We realize that you don’t find MAJ’s film reviews useful. Clearly regular readers here disagree. And they are film reviews; I don’t what else they would be or what qualifies you as the arbiter of such things. But I think we all wish you great joy in finding film critics who meet your exacting standards on comprehensive analysis. Seriously. Finding film critics who can give you useful information is work. But, there are so few left that narrowing down the list should be easy. And of course you could always start publishing your own criticism, share your wisdom with the world. Though I think you’ll quickly find that there’s no pleasing everyone in that endeavor.

reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 8:24pm

Yeah sorry, I write directly in my Disqus inbox.
Also I can’t go to the Z2 review page, because apparently I’ve exceeded my free views xD

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  omnisemantic1
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 9:10pm

Well, then you can either pitch in and join the community, or you can move on with your life. If you do subscribe, I suspect you’ll find that your initial assessment of the reviews was, well, superficial. I doubt a critic exists who doesn’t find stars, thumbs, color-codes, and tomatoes wholly and frustratingly reductive, and hardly a basis for describing a given film, let alone a critic’s body of work.

Or, maybe you wouldn’t. That’s fine, too – your loss. But I would ask that you think hard about whether it’s really necessary to piss all over the floor on your way out the door. (Hint: it’s not.)

reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, Jan 19, 2017 10:52pm

Nah, this page ain’t for me, pretty sure I explained why enough already.
Plenty of sites out there who neither use stars & marks, nor ask for money, nor claim that movies boil down to one thing and one thing only. Dunno, maybe you should try some of those?
Truth be told, I haven’t really read a movie review in several years now…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 12:45pm

I haven’t really read a movie review in several years now…

And yet you’re the expert on how criticism should be written! Astonishing.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 6:23pm

Ugh… The almighty overlord of the domain woke up from their slumber and decided to act hurt lol
I’ll give you a chance to state the obvious reason how does it work that I both a) haven’t read a movie review in several years; and b) can very well be an expert on how criticism should be written;
Really, you gotta be able to figure that one out, right? :)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 6:57pm

You’re gone.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 12:45pm

That’s not a reasonable excuse for hijacking threads on other posts.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 6:25pm

If you say so. I have no idea about any web-etiquette on hijacking posts, or whatever you mean by that…

reply to  omnisemantic1
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 5:06pm

You seem to want a Zagat review. MaryAnn could take a poll and publish the results.

A lot of the time, when I go to a movie, I end up thinking, “That was a very skillfully made film, and I hated it.” I hated Birdman, because it was based on shallow clichés. I hated more than one of Michael Haneke’s films, because I objected to the central message, or because he went out of his way to avoid some of the basic pleasures of storytelling, like a dramatically satisfying beginning, middle, and end.

Many people would disagree with my opinions. Some of those people are Oscar voters.

If I were going to write film reviews, I suppose, you could argue that I should moderate my opinions to fit the mainstream taste of my readers. That would be tricky, but there are a number of methods I could try:

I could picture a typical audience member and imagine how that person would feel about the movie.

Or, alternately, I could picture some sort of ideal film critic, with more refined taste than mine, and speculate about how she’d like the movie.
I could create a scorecard and give a film two points for plot construction, two points for acting, and so on.

But if I did any of those things, I’d be giving up my faith in my own opinion, and I wouldn’t be writing an honest review.

And I wouldn’t necessarily be helping my readers, because audience members have their own preferences. Some people get so caught up in the acting that they hardly notice the plot mechanics. Some people will forgive a weak story in a comedy film if the jokes work really well. Other people are exactly the opposite. Personally, I’ve enjoyed a few otherwise-mediocre films just because the cinematography was so spectacular.

I’ve written book reviews professionally for a number of years. I do try to note as many different technical aspects of the book as I can. And sometimes I’ll even consider alternate opinions within the context of the review (“Some readers may admire…”). But I’m not obligated to do any of those things, and in some cases they would lead to a weaker review.

I’ve been reading MaryAnn’s criticism for years, and a lot of the time, I value it because she disagrees with mainstream taste. I have a pretty good idea when I’m likely to agree with her about a film and when I’m not, and that helps me decide which films to see. But I also enjoy reading the reviews I violently disagree with. Some of them make me appreciate a film more, even if I still hate it. And some of them make me think about issues that go far beyond the film itself, and give me a perspective on the society that created the film. And that’s more important to me than knowing what some mainstream, cultured, largely imaginary critic would think about the movie.

reply to  Danielm80
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 8:22pm

Fair enough :)
Thank you for taking the time to explain you POV.
And I agree with you that by no means should one write just to fit with the expectations of their readers. That indeed defeats the purpose of writing anything at all.
But no, I don’t want a “metascore” (if that’s what you meant with the Zagat reference), nor do I think that voting solves anything.
I want people to get over themselves and when they recognize certain qualities to give credit where it’s due. You can still write an honest review. You can still be true to your opinion. You can still be useful to your readers without catering to some lowest common, “mainstream” denominator.
But what robs you from that opportunity are the categories and grades esp as they’re being used here. This is why I said in my initial post “get rid of the grades/recommendations altogether and have your readers decide what to watch based on the articles themselves”. It definitely doesn’t help that half of the movies in that ranking didn’t actually have reviews published.
There needs to be a clear line between rating a movie and rating your experience with it. If I go to iMDB and rate Cameron’s “Aliens” and last year’s “Stranger Things” with a 10, what that means is that I had awesome time watching both and my experience couldn’t be any better. But if I have to write a review and approach the movie CRITICALLY I will have to explain for what audience each is geared towards and that no matter how you cut it “Stranger Things” has nothing on “Aliens” in terms of film-making.
I imagine for long-term readers coming here is like asking a friend how they felt about what they watched last night and enjoy the time spent in conversation. But friends are not effectively selling tickets to you, or throwing them in the trashcan, nor are they asking money for telling your opinion (yeah, that subscription prompt really made me facepalm).

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  omnisemantic1
Wed, Jan 18, 2017 9:34pm

At the risk of being pedantic, I count 204 review links, out of 284 films listed. That means she wrote reviews for almost 75% of the films she saw last year.

Nearly every film critic uses a scoring system of some kind (and as I mentioned in another comment, nearly every critic hates it). They reason they all do it is because it provides a quick reference to which films a critic recommends, and which don’t. It’s pure customer service. And it ain’t going away. Why do you think Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and (gods help us all) IMDb user ratings are so popular?

Every professional film critic is asking for money. Many use an intermediary (a newspaper subscription, ad revenues, etc.), though that’s a sadly dying practice.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 12:43pm

I want people to get over themselves


reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 6:24pm


MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  omnisemantic1
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 12:39pm

You’ve never read my work before but you are making demands about how it do it?


reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jan 24, 2017 6:28pm

Yep, wanna know why I can do that? Because you have put these stupid ratings on, and have lined up this mindless list of ALL 2016 movies and have listed the goddamn “Zoolander 2” as a great viewing for EVERYBODY and have found NO REASON to recommend “The Neon Demon” to anyone. I ain’t robbing your actual reviews of meaning – you have done that by yourself.

Mon, Feb 13, 2017 6:11pm

I know you don’t usually do television reviews but did you happen to catch Stranger Things? I really enjoyed it’s knack for showing a character figuring things out without having them need a Watson all the time.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Dent
Wed, Feb 15, 2017 12:12pm

Haven’t seen it yet. Hope to soon. But there are only so many hours in a day…