Welcome to the Fifth Annual Watched In Theater (W.I.T.) Awards!
The 2017 Oscars are being deliberated, honoring movies that push boundaries, wrench at your heart, and make the audience question their entire existence. While these may be great films, I have not seen most of them. Instead, I present the WIT awards, honoring the movies I have actually seen in the theater. You are welcome to share your own personal WIT awards in the comments below.
The Judging Criteria:
- I have actually seen the film in a movie theater
Following the theory of a good friend of mine, “Would I buy it for my home collection?” To add to this, would I buy it, and then watch it enough times to memorize most of the film, or rewind to watch a certain scene over, and over again?
Round 1: The Movies I’ve Seen In Theater In 2016
Love and Friendship
If you love period dramas and Jane Austen, there are much better films you can watch (BBC’s versions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, for example). There are fun moments, but the overall pacing is flat and the movie never has the full courage to push into the farcical nature of this more obscure Jane Austen story. On a side note, I have read the original novella and there’s a reason this is one of Austen’s lesser known works. It’s fun, but doesn’t have the wit and depth of the four main novels (Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma).
The Jungle Book
This film was a surprise, because it really shouldn’t have worked. However, as I was abandoned in Las Vegas last summer for a few days due to a broken car after my brother’s wedding, I happened to have time on my hands and a movie gift certificate in my pocket.
I found myself charmed and immersed in the film, forgetting these animals and environments are technical feats of animation and green screen. It’s a lush, rich adventure well worth watching on the big screen. I don’t think it’s going to be a long-lasting classic, but it’s still a well-made film.
Star Trek: Beyond
This is a fun, action-packed addition to the modern Star Trek universe. The movie breezes along, hitting a lot of classic tropes but with a needed sleekness verses gravitas. Many Trek fans talk about the more heady elements of the series – issues of ethics and science – but forget Trek can also be fun. I felt this movie was just intellectual enough, giving us some ethical concerns and twists, while giving us some spectacular action pieces. It’s a fun, modern Star Trek film.
Bonus points for Jaala, who is a great addition to the crew, and not just another love interest.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Similar to the rest of the films on this list, Fantastic Beasts is a film an entire franchise’s future depends on. The story itself has a strong mix of danger, fantasy, and sweetness. One of my sister’s pointed out that the main theme of the story is to treat others – whether animals or humans – with kindness. Even one of the major villains is treated with empathy. The four core characters we’ll get to know over the next few films are strong and I’m excited to spend more time with them.
Most of all, this film does a great job of expanding the Harry Potter universe and introducing us to more wonders. The creatures are the main feature of this film and are, as the title says, fantastic. I know I’m not the only one who wants to get their own niffler to take home.
Captain America: Civil War
The Russo brothers have pulled off an incredible feat again with Captain America: Civil War, which makes me excited to see where they’ll take us with the next two Avengers films. This film, in the wrong hands, would have been loud and sprawling, overstuffed with too many characters, and not enough time for a cohesive plot. However, by focusing on the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, while also bringing in more Bucky (and I’m always happy to have more of Sebastian Stan in anything), this film is able to deliver a tight, cohesive plot.
However, by focusing on the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, while also bringing in more Bucky (and I’m always happy to have more of Sebastian Stan in anything), this film is able to deliver a tight story pulling us on a great character journey.
Also, the conflict in this film works because it’s earned. Batman Vs. Superman was trying to give us a similar plot, but was trying to introduce the characters at the same time. With Captain America: Civil War, Marvel has already introduced us to the characters and conflicts which culminate in this film. The film is able to zip along while covering a lot of ground.
Bonus points to the fantastic introduction of Tom Holland’s Spiderman. I’ve never been excited about a Spiderman film before. The Amazing Spiderman looks awesome.
Doctor Strange is a fantastic addition to the Marvel universe. I’d rank this with the best (Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Avengers). What all these films do well is have broad, expansive worlds while centering us around a strong story.
This film, similar to Fantastic Beasts, does a great job of nodding to the prior films while creating room for expanding the cinematic universe of the franchise.
The characters are fantastic – with Dr. Palmer as one of the strongest female romantic interests in the entire Marvel series, and The Ancient One as the rare female character who is simply a strong leader (despite issues of changing the race and gender of the comic book character). Also, the cape itself is a great supporting character. Similar to the Iron Man series, this film is able to have fun while making us care about our egotistical hero and building some fantastic action sequences.
The technical marvels of those sequences are amazing as we’re we’re zipped along through Matrix-Inception-esque scenes. This film is a fun, immersive experience which plays its role as an escapist adventure incredibly well.
For those who follow my blog, you know I have very strong opinions on Rogue One. For many Star Wars fans, this was the grown up, serious action-packed Star Wars film they’ve been waiting for since they wanted to take an e-web blaster to Jar Jar Binks.
Parts of this film are fantastic action pieces, and Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and K-2S0 (Alan Tudyk) are both strong characters. However, altogether, the film has some big plotholes and is so focused on throwing back to the Original Trilogy, we don’t really get a chance to meet the characters before [SPOILER] the Empire sashays in and cuts everyone down.
Again, better than the Prequels, but not as good as the Original Trilogy or Episode VII.*
*I want to add that I think there is a similar divide between those who prefer Empire Strikes Back to Return of the Jedi as those who prever Rogue One to The Force Awakens.
And The Winner Is…
Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Ok – Just kidding, but I really love this movie. I saw it twice in the theater in 2016 and several times on home video, so it definitely earned last year’s title.
And The Actual Winner Is…
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Choosing this year’s winner was a tough deliberation. The final three was down to Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. All of them deliver a great spectacle while having a strong core built on characters. However, only one could be this year’s winner.
Fantastic Beasts edged out the other finalists based on what I mentioned earlier: Kindness.
The film pivots around Newt Scewmander (the Harry Potter’s answer to Doctor Who) seeking to preserve a set of creatures who are misunderstood. As Tina, Queenie, and Kowalski get swept up in his quest, they each are seeking to do the right thing. Even in the darker moments of the film, as we learn more of Credence and the New Salemites, we become more sympathetic to Credence and his dreary life. [SPOILER] The film ends in the tragedy of Credence’s destruction, but has the triumph of restoration in the end.
It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a sweet, magical film, and one that’s great for putting on after a long day and getting swept away into a world of wizardry.
- What was your favorite film from 2016?
- What films are you looking forward to this year?
- Which animal would you want to take home from Fantastic Beasts?
Side Note 1: Movies I Loved But Missed In Theaters
This section is to acknowledge the movies that are really fantastic, but I didn’t have time to see until on DVD/Streaming.
The rare film that deserves all of the hype. It’s clever, works on mutliple layers, and features dancing tigers.
Kung Fu Panda 3
Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2 are better overall, but still a solid addition to the franchise. Best character is still Po’s dad.
The Legend of Tarzan
Director David Yates is great at bringing a spectacle with heart. This is what he did with Harry Potter 5-8, Fantastic Beasts, and this film. It’s a fun adventure which plays on all the classic tropes of its pulp origins. Samuel L. Jackson breaks the period dialogue now and then, but the film works well enough to ignore a few flaws.
A solid and overlooked film which is a great reminder of the sacrifices many women made so I can have the rights I have today. While this covers the more militant Women’s Suffrage movement in England, many of the lack of rights portrayed in this film were the same as the US. If you’re unsure of why women are concerned over rhetoric in modern politics, watch this film. It’s a heavy film, but well done.
Brooklyn is the rare drama which remains warm and light through much of the story while still delivering high-quality performances and a great story. There are no world-altering events, no massive explosions, only a calm progression as a young Irishwoman makes herself a new life in Brooklyn. This film was nominated for three Oscars (Best Film, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay – Adaptation), and deserves the praise. Of all films on the list (including the ones I watched in the theater), this is the best quality film and well worth watching at least once.
Side Note 2:
I also love Queenie and Kowalski’s romance. It’s a sweet, gentle love story where a nice but not-necessarily-handsome-guy gets the girl. I may also be prejudiced because the actress who plays Queenie, Alison Sudol, also had a music career under “A Fine Frenzy”, with a few albums filled with a mix of whimsy and magic. I may listen to these albums a lot while working on my novel.