Writing a year in review post-mortem report is no easy assignment. In 2016, more so than in any year I can recall in modern memory, filmmakers made fewer quality movies, and attempted to win Academy Awards with such persistence with form over function being the guiding concern. Great movies are organically great, they are not engineered and constructed with the exclusive purpose of winning a statue. 2016 has been an interesting year in filmmaking and I ask you to explore a few trends with me in the forthcoming observational paragraphs.
My first impression is that, regrettably, comic book blockbusters are here to stay. The studios are going bigger, spending bigger, and cramming more nonsensical plotlines down our throats. This means that movies are increasingly less realistic, more reliant on CGI, and there is an aura of invincibility around the stars that prevents any real suspense from being exuded. In particular, Captain America Civil War proved that many of the superhero characters are pretentious, and politics (99% left leaning) are driving the boat. Sometimes the agendas and political templates forced onto the screen are maddeningly meaningless and often border on messaging cum social engineering. Personally, if I ever watch another pointless comic book movie of smash and bash and break, it will be too soon. Self-righteousness is not a healthy ingredient in filmmaking.
2016 brought us what I thought to be (perhaps just an opinion) fewer quality independent films. Studios seem to be going for the major payday in bursts rather than in smaller increments. This development is partially impacted by the expansion of television, including but not limited to the growth of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video. Writers, directors, and actors often prefer a steady paycheck to the one-off independent film commitment. Talent has been lured away. Granted, television has never in my lifetime offered this many great shows, and that provides more opportunities for a greater number of talented people that might otherwise remain in obscurity. I personally have come to prefer 10 hours of footage to 1.5 hours in many cases. Greater exposure and drawn out storylines can be a wonderful thing.
I predict that 2017 will be a rebound year for cinema. There should be more Oscar contenders that are in contention organically, more independent movies, and the overreliance on comic book megablockbusters might be reduced a fraction and open the door for smaller movies with better actors and deeper scripts. Or, perhaps the pattern will continue and television networks (including the aforementioned Amazon, Hulu and Netflix) will continue to prosper and venture forth into new genres and sectors. All in all, I am disappointed by the movies I watched in 2016. I have fewer memories of wonderful moments than I collected in years past.