I’m pleased to note that my three top films of 2016 achieved a striking consensus in this group of cinephiles.
The Great Wall is one of those movies that is more interesting for what it portends and the discussion around it than for what is actually onscreen. Not that what is onscreen, in the most literal sense, is bad or uninteresting.
Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel Silence honors 17th-century Japanese martyrs who sang hymns as they succumbed slowly to grueling deaths. But it also empathizes with, perhaps even exonerates, many who capitulated to official demands for ritual renunciations of Christian faith — typically trampling on images of Jesus or Mary, called fumie, designated for this purpose.
Despite the villainous full-court press, Batman’s victory is so assured that no one is even worried about it. Clearly, something subversive has to happen to kick things out of superhero-movie business as usual and challenge Batman to his core. Would you believe … a giant swirling energy portal in the sky?
One comes, like these Redshirts, as a cultural sightseer to The Leopard, with its palatial grandeur, replete with lavish, painterly images of the bygone glory of the Italian aristocracy: already in their own day semi-mythological figures, as we see in a vignette in which Father Pirrone, tries to explain to the common people the mysterious ways of the nobility: “They live in a world apart, not created by God, but by themselves.”
In a sense every year is a good film year, but some years you have to go further afield than others.
For the second year in a row, my favorite film is a winning love story named for an urban area more or less in my backyard.
The many faces of Jesus at the movies in 2016 were perhaps the most notable trend in a larger pattern of notable religious themes in the year’s films. There were, though, other trends last year worth noting.
I can’t think of another year quite like 2016. To begin with, Jesus himself was on the big screen in an extraordinary number of screen incarnations.
“Some people can’t get over something major that’s happened to them at all,” says filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan says. “Why can’t they have a movie too?”
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.