Friday, December 16, 2016


It's a cliche & romantic thing for movie lovers/cinephiles to say things like: "this movie year sucked" or "meh...there isn't anything good out..."
That was absolutely not the case in 2016. Anyone who says otherwise didn't go to the movies that much this year or they need therapy for some deeper-seeded issues about their own internal unhappiness.
Manchester By The Sea
This was a great movie year (instead of the standard top 10 we have a top 12 this year). Between Captain America: Civil War & Nice Guys we were given great popcorn entertainment. Zootopia snuck in some serious (yet basic) social/racial commentary, Barry Jenkins made a lot of noise with Moonlight, Kristen Stewart continued to grow & evolve as an actress working with the likes of Olivier Assayas (again) & Kelly Reichardt, and, like Mad Max: Fury Road & Boyhood before it, the entire world seems to be in agreement that OJ: Made In America is a lowkey masterpiece.
The Lost Arcade
This was also a great movie year for me on personal level...
Jim Jarmusch made a return to form with Paterson, Jeff Nichols finally made me a believer (Loving & parts of Midnight Special); Kelly Reichardt directed one of the greatest performances of the last few years (Lily Gladstone in Certain Women), Terrence Malick released two films in one year, and hip-hop on the big screen slowly continues to step outside of its comfort zone with documentaries on artists like AZ & Outkast (although this Tupac movie scheduled for next year is sure to make things slightly stagnant again. I mean seriously - aren't there enough movies on Tupac already?)

Certain Women
Personal Shopper
Anyway, below are my personal favorite films from 2016 broken up in to my usual categories & subcategories. Hopefully this will act as a slightly alternative list to the current top 10/best of lists that are out right now (while I may not have seen Fences or Silence yet, I don't see too many people championing underrated works like The Untamed or Bleak Street so I like to think I bring a little balance to things). And like I do every year, I've already written about a large majority of the films below throughout the year so make sure to click on the title of each movie to be taken to their individual review or podcast discussion.






Films I genuinely liked, loved and/or enjoyed but have some kind of personal and/or biased attachment towards

It wouldn't be right to sum up 2016 with just a small handful of movies. Below are a few more selections that are worth your time...
1-4: SOLID



A few more films from 2016 possibly worth your time...

*Brian Dennehy - Knight Of Cups
*Lily Gladstone - Certain Women
Roberto Farias - The Club
Jared Harris - Certain Women
Naomie Harris - Moonlight
Mahershala Ali - Moonlight
*Ashton Sanders - Moonlight
*Casey Affleck - Manchester By The Sea
*Joel Edgerton - Midnight Special/Loving
Ryan Gosling - Nice Guys
*Abbey Lee Kershaw - The Neon Demon
Tom Bennett - Love & Friendship
Rebecca Hall - Christine
Danny Devito - Wiener Dog
Ellen Burstyn - Wiener Dog
Kate Dickie - The Witch
Isabelle Huppert - Elle
*Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals
*Alice Lowe - Prevenge
Armie Hammer - Free Fire

Bleak Street
The Club
Knight Of Cups
The Witch
The Witch
Batmn V Superman
Voyage Of Time
The Neon Demon
La La Land
Midnight Special
The Untamed
The Empty Box

My fiancee was casually scrolling facebook when she asked me; "Do you know Ab...bas Kiiiiiaaaarrrrostami?" Right then I knew he had passed away. Sure the announcement of a new Abbas Kiarostami movie would ring bells in certain film & art circles but there was no way he would be trending on social media for anything other than his passing. Whenever older/aging arthouse directors are trending on facebook or twitter it usually means that they've passed and my gut was correct about Abbas Kiarostami (late last year Claire Denis was trending on twitter briefly and I almost had a heart attack because I thought it meant she had passed away). I had no idea that Kiarostami was suffering from cancer so his death did come as kind of a surprise to me (sure he was 76 but that's still too early to go). I don't necessarily need to dedicate this little blurb to Kiarostami to show my sudden cinephiliac love & appreciation like so many fake overnight fans do when a legend/veteran passes away, because this very site (along with my twitter feed) has been a platform for his wonderful work going back to day one (Certified Copy was one of the first reviews I ever wrote for this site and I picked Close-Up & Taste Of Cherry to write about for the Criterion Blog-A-Thon last year).
I wouldn't say Abbas Kiarostami was one of my personal all-time favorites, but he was a modern-day master and his (aforementioned) films did leave a lasting impression on me. I discovered Taste Of Cherry at a somewhat low point in my life and I used to watch it religiously at night, and elements of Close-Up acted as a mirror for me in terms of my love of film. Also, not to sound too shallow, but along with directors like Jim Jarmusch & Wong Kar Wai, Abbas Kiarostami was one of the last directors to maintain that "cool" image like Godard other directors before him.


Batman V Superman
The marvel & DC comic universes finally addressing all the civilian casualties & property damage that the avengers & justice league have caused over the years

Adam Beach/Slipknot getting killed off after 4 minutes of screen time (Suicide Squad)

Ben Affleck's dedication to the Batman/Bruce Wayne role

*Cricket noise* (Birth Of A Nation)

The not-so veiled racism in Safari

This empty soulless clueless waste of a person (and the rest of her cowardly trophy hunting family) from Safari...

Thankfully there weren't too many terrible Boston accents in movies this year

Oh. This is a ghost movie? (Personal Shopper)

ESPN confirming that OJ Simpson is a sociopath (OJ: Made In America)

Teenage Shiron finally fights back (Moonlight)

The constant discomfort I felt while watching The Untamed

Forest Whitaker's accent in Arrival (where the f*ck was he supposed to be from?)

Todd Solondz crushing my soul at the end of Wiener Dog, then throwing in one more scene just to twist the knife

Certain Women
Lily Gladstone carrying a large chunk of Certain Women on her back all the way to the finish line

Kate Dickie's scene in Prevenge

The last frame of Prevenge

Alice Lowe's dry humor in Prevenge

The little girl getting thrown though the window in Nice Guys

Lucas' (Joel Edgerton) loyalty in (Midnight Special)

Maybe I liked this movie more than I want to admit. I mean - if I enjoyed Stranger Things there's no reason to dislike this (Midnight Special)

Midnight Special

Sneak attack at the motel (Midnight Special)

Tom ford imitating Tom Kalin imitating Todd Haynes (Nocturnal Animals)

Paula Beer's presence in Frantz

Constantly confusing the Marvel Universe with the Star Trek universe  because they use so much of the same actors

Patrick's smart-assery in Manchester By The Sea

Ilsa Fisher & Amy Adams being the same movie at the same time (Nocturnal Animals)

Missing my Grandma after watching No Home Movie

No Home Movie

Robert Eggers revealing the witch to us less than 15 minutes in to the movie to show us he isn't fucking around

Anya-Taylor Joy's presence in The Witch

The seamless transitions between the past & present in Manchester By The Sea

The seamless transitions between the past & present in The Empty Box

It wasn't a masterpiece but it wasn't THAT bad (Batman V Superman)

Yeah, this was kind of a mess: Suicide Squad

wasn't that bad: The Do-Over

The Do-Over

Jackass award: Anthony Wiener (Wiener)

The crow breastfeeding in The Witch

Abbey Lee's catwalk (Neon Demon)

The movie-themed cat calendar in Keanu

It was good but I didn't think it was THAT good (Deadpool)

Gina Carano's presence in Deadpool

Marvin The Dog (Paterson)


"Heal! Heal, motherfucker! Heal, mother fucker" -  (Wiener Dog)

"JUST NAME A MOVIE!" - Danny Devito (Wiener Dog)


"I have cancer"
"But You're Smoking"
Well, yeah, that's how it happens..." (Nocturnal Animals)

Quietly cheering on Jake in Everybody Wants Some

Everybody Wants Some

The feeling of wanting to go back and do college over after watching Everybody Wants Some

Mad That I Missed: Slack Bay & American Honey

Indifferent About Missing: Hail Caesar, Lion, 20th Century Women & Dr. Strange

Completely Fine w/ missing: Cafe Society & Snowden

Alia Shawkat's presence in The Green Room

The Green Room

The voiceover narration in Knight Of Cups

Jaylah listening to Public Enemy in Star Trek Beyond

Fuck this move: Eye In The Sky

Meh: 10 Cloverfield Land, Green Room, Miles Ahead & Hello My Name Is Doris

Disappointing: Arrival, Keanu & High Rise

Not bad...I guess...: La La Land

Guilty pleasure: Don't Breath

Don't Breath

Ousmane Sembene was kind of a dick (Sembene)

Not a good movie year to be a dog: Wiener Dog & The Club

Sandokan Gets attacked by the locals (The Club)

Ellen Burstyn is visited by her ghostly child-self (Wiener Dog)

Nice to see Keith David is still doing his thing (Nice Guys)

Can we see more of you in 2017?: Lily Gladston, Luke Wilson, Ashton Sanders, Andre Holland, Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Kate Dickie, Alia Shawkat, The Rock, Ruth Negga, Alice Lowe, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern, James Legros, Anya Taylor Joy, Abbey Lee Kershaw

Can we see just as much of you in 2017 as we did in 2016?: Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton

Can we see less of you in 2017?: Adam Driver, Kevin Hart, Armie Hammer

Can we see a lot less of you in 2017?: Sharlto Copley

Friday, December 9, 2016


If you followed me on Twitter (@PINNLAND_EMPIRE) or Facebook this past September then you'd know that The Empty Box was in my top 10 coming out of TIFF (it'll probably be in my top 10 of 2016). But it's one of the only films, along with Prevenge, that I instantly gushed about on social media but didn't actually write about right away like I did with The Untamed, Moonlight, Loving & many more. I needed time to collect my thoughts with this one. It's not that I relate to The Empty Box on any kind of a personal level, but it does deal with certain issues that I'm very passionate about (race, family, the unfair baggage that sometimes comes along with darker skin, etc). This film also reminded me of so many other films & filmmakers that I love without feeling like it stole from or even heavily borrowed...

For those of you that are familiar with Claire Denis' 35 Shots Of Rum, imagine The Empty Box as kind of like the anti-35 Shots Of Rum. Both films do have striking similarities in that they focus on young attractive mixed race female leads (their racial identities do hold some importance in both films which is why I brought it up). Both films are essentially family dramas about the relationship between a father & his daughter (the mother/wife is only mentioned in past tense or shown in flash backs). Both movies are also directed by women. But 35 Shots & Empty Box greatly differ because one (35 Shots) is about the healthy relationship between a father & daughter, while the other film (The Empty Box) is about the unresolved/complicated/contentious relationship between a father & daughter. Our young female protagonist in 35 Shots loves her dad and has no problem trying to take care of him (even though he doesn't need/want anyone to take care of him). The female lead in The Empty Box ("Jazmin") is kind of forced to take care of her father ("Toussaint") because he's in the early stages of dementia and has no other friends or family to look after him.
The most difficult part in all of this for Jazmin is that now that Toussaint has dementia, she'll never be able to convey her past hurts to her father and have them hold the appropriate level of importance given his deteriorating mental state.

But putting the movie comparisons aside, The Empty Box is its own unique viewing experience. It's partially a lucid dream in the vein of Lucrecia Martel or a recent Carlos Reygadas film (oops, there I go with the comparisons again...). The flashback scenes (which make up a nice portion of the movie) are also a little skewed and almost dreamlike. Director/actor Claudia Saint Luce takes us back to Jazmin's childhood (where we see how tough & cold Toussaint was to her), and we also see how her parents met. But given the subtle lucidness of the movie, I'm left wondering if these flashbacks & back stories are 100% true or slightly skewed (dementia, sanity & memory loss are major factors in this movie so it wouldn't surprise me if those things crept in to the structure of the movie). If you happen to be lucky enough to see this, don't feel bad if you don't catch everything or if you feel a little lost. Parts of The Empty Box are meant to be surreal. Going back to Carlos Reygadas for a moment (specifically Post Tenebras Lux) the editing in The Empty Box seamlessly weaves in & out of reality, (possibly skewed) memories and lucid dreams.

It would have been easy to compare lucid surreality to something generic like Tarkovsky, Epstein or even Fellini, but The Empty Box & Post Tenebras Lux really feel like close first cousins in that they're both personal semi-surreal Mexican-based stories that casually touch on issues like race & skin color. I know this is something I say a lot but I feel like both movies exist in the same cinematic universe. However The Empty Box is a little more grounded in reality because it focuses on the specific relationship between a father & daughter and doesn't really veer off in to the deep random corners of the subconscious like Post Tenebras Lux.

The relationship between fathers and daughters can get very muggy & complicated. I know that's common knowledge but still... Even in cases where Fathers want to protect their daughters at any costs (either physically or in terms of instilling important life lessons) there's that invisible barrier that causes friction because they come off as over-protective, overbearing or off-putting (especially to young girls/teens). Even the wisest of men can (try to) instill lessons on their daughters but Fathers still won't experience life as girl and/or women so they'll never fully understand the hormonal/emotional component that comes along with being a woman. And that works both ways. Women will never fully understand how the male brain works no matter how much they sometimes like to think they do just because we may operate on more simplified emotions/cylinders. The protective motherly instinct that kicks in with a lot of women isn't always needed and when their help is turned down, it's taken personally. The Empty Box doesn't touch on all of these things but it does delve in to some of these issues.

This film holds a special place in my heart because Claudia Saint Luce actually acknowledges that Haiti exists. Bottom line - Haiti is misrepresented/damn near non-existent on the big screen. Furthermore, the tension between Haitians & Latinos (specifically Dominicans) is not addressed on any major/semi-major cinematic platform (I saw a short film on it two years ago but it was a kind of amateur-ish). The Latino/Latin American point of view in The Empty Box is Mexican, but a lot of the racial jabs and other hints & implications concerning race & skin color (Jazmin makes a snide remark about her father's dark skin early on in the film) do ring true to the Dominican/Haitian relationship. I've always found it funny when Dominicans act as if they have absolutely nothing in common with Haiti, or just Black people in general, even though they share some of the same DNA right down to the nappy hair, and, in the case of Haiti/Dominican Republic, they share the same land. That isn't to say Dominicans don't have their own separate culture outside of Haiti, Africa or other dark skinned/Black cultures, but their (sometimes) denial of having anything to do with anything Black is both sad & transparent...

The Empty Box - which not only gives Haiti a small voice and quietly addresses issues concerning race - won't get the same kind of release as other major/crossover indie/arthouse films but this is still a start (I don't know what kind of release this movie will get outside of a possible streaming platform and a multi-region DVD release down the line). While this film is based in Mexico, half of the story is told from the perspective of Toussaint who is Haitian. I can't think of too many prominent films with a prominent Haitian protagonist.
It's really a shame that The Empty Box might not get the initial exposure it deserves because it fits in perfectly with the new (somewhat progressive) black film canon made up of movies like Mother Of George, Newlyweeds, Moonlight & Black Venus. If you have the opportunity to see this film I recommend it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Is Alice Lowe's Prevenge the female equivalent of/answer to David Lynch's Eraserhead? The plots to both films are different (Eraserhead is a surreal semi-autobiographical retelling of Lynch's very real fear of unplanned fatherhood, while Prevenge is a very dark comedy about a pregnant vigilante avenging the death of her baby's father), but Prevenge is also about a woman's fear of motherhood (along with the hormonal elements that come along with pregnancy). Alice Lowe is certainly not the first director to delve in to this territory, but she is the first director in quite some time to expose the depression & dark thoughts that can sometimes come along with pregnancy & motherhood in the abstract way that she did. More times than not there's this picture painted in movies where it's the man/husband/boyfriend that isn't equipped to handle parenthood and it just comes naturally to the woman/mother/girlfriend because all women supposedly have a natural motherly instinct. But the main character in Prevenge is in a little over her head. She's depressed, alone & has no support (I do appreciate that the stereotypical idea of what a single mother looks like is challenged in Prevenge without Alice Lowe probably even meaning to make any kind of social commentary).
In Prevenge, Alice Lowe plays “Ruth” - a single mother-to-be whose boyfriend died in a freak rock climbing accident. She's convinced the tragedy could have been avoided so in an effort to get revenge she tracks down all the people involved in the accident and proceeds to murder them one by one (some with ease & some with difficulty). The kicker is that Ruth takes orders/draws inspiration to kill from her unborn baby who talks to her from the womb (of course Ruth is the only person who can hear the voices coming from her pregnant belly).

Prevenge isn't too shabby when it comes to visuals either. Given the premise of the film, folks are bound to be caught up in that and not notice the visual similarities to everything from classic art...

to Chantal Akerman...

I'm not going to say that a man couldn't have directed something like Prevenge but I do think this film succeeded because it was directed by a woman who also happens to be a mother. You can tell this has an abstracted autobiographical quality to it. Prevenge probably comes from the crevices of a very real place. We all know Alice Lowe isn't a serial killer but the naturalistic tone of her film leads me to believe that she's had some understandably irrational thoughts during her pregnancy due to things like hormones, valid fears/concerns and other things I don't really have the right to speculate about. Alice Lowe is certainly not advocating/making a case for pregnant women to commit murder because they're cranky and have swollen ankles, but, much like how Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day is an exaggerated play off of the phrase; “I love you to death”, Prevenge feels like an exaggerated play on the frustrated pregnant woman who utters phrases like; “I hate being pregnant” or “I want to kill everybody right now!” Those are just momentary irrational thoughts (come to think of it, Trouble Every Day & Prevenge would make for an interesting double feature given that both films can be enjoyed at face value, or you could dig a little deeper to find the darker sources that influenced both films).

I also feel like had another director been given the same materials to work with, this would've been an immature gore fest with the sole purpose of nothing more than to gross people out or to be childishly provocative. I mean, on paper there's a lot of immature-sounding qualities about Prevenge. There's plenty of blood, throat slitting (highlighted in a scene involving a surprise appearance from Kate Dickie) and scenes of a pregnant woman getting in to a combination fist/knife fight. But Alice Lowe spreads all those things out. It isn't nonstop gore & violence. And at the end of the day we're presented with a strangely mature story told from a very brave/vulnerable point of view.

Lowe certainly hints at films that kind of paved the way for Prevenge in a subconscious way (Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, Demon Seed, etc) and I feel like her former collaborator Ben Wheatley may have rubbed off on her in more ways than one (Prevenge fits in perfectly with films like Kill List & Sightseers) but this is still very much Alice Lowe's own work that stands out among just about every dark comedy, horror/comedy & psychological thriller to come out in the last few years.

I liked Prevenge so much that immediately after my TIFF screening I reached out to my future sister in law (a mother of two) and strongly suggested that she put this in her queue of movies to watch whenever it becomes available. Prevenge is not for everyone (even some mothers) but given that I kind of know her taste in movies combined with how invested she is in being a mother, I was pretty certain that she, and other moms like her in particular, might enjoy this. Obviously even if you aren't a mother (or just a parent in general) you can still enjoy this. I'm a 30-something year old man with no kids and I consider Prevenge to be one of the best movies of 2016.

Monday, November 21, 2016


James & I had the pleasure of chatting with Bill Sage about everything from his ongoing relationship with Hal Hartley, to his roles in Mysterious Skin, American Psycho, We Are What We Are and so much more. This is definitely a personal highlight of mine.



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