For the tenth year in a row, Movie Dearest takes a look back and celebrates the year that was with a salute to the best in film, television and the stage with the 2016 Movie Dearest Awards, a.k.a. the "Dearies".
Plus: two new categories for 2016, honoring the Unsung Movie of the Year and Movie Music of the Year!
And the winners are...
Movie of the Year: Moonlight
Justly rewarded with a slew of critic’s prizes (including six Dorian Awards), a Golden Globe and eight Academy Award nominations, we here at Movie Dearest are proud to add to the awards haul of Moonlight, our Movie of the Year for 2016. Directed by and written for the screen by Barry Jenkins (based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney), this heartfelt drama puts you inside the skin of its protagonist; you feel his pain, you share his hope. Trisected into three distinct slices of his life, this is the story of Chiron (once known as “Little”, also known as “Black”) and his inner turmoil, about what it means to be a man, not just a black man but a black gay man as well. In addition to the award winning performances of Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali (as Chrion's mother and father figure, respectively), the film stars a trifecta of fine young talent: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes. Each actor takes on the role of Chiron at different stages of his life, each adding layers to create a seamless characterization that you'll remember long after the moonlight fades. – KH
Man of the Year: Ryan Reynolds
We've long been fans of Ryan for his obvious good looks, but there has always been more going on beneath the Canadian actor's yummy exterior (which, thankfully, he has never been reluctant to display sans clothing). He rose from humble beginnings on soap operas and the sitcom Two Guys and a Girl to movie hits such as National Lampoon's Van Wilder and The Proposal, and he survived the somewhat underrated but big-budget 2011 flop Green Lantern. 2016, however, saw him don another superhero's tights to both critical acclaim and spectacular global box office. Deadpool proved to be Reynolds' perfect match in terms of material, maximizing both his leading man physical prowess and his spectacularly sarcastic comedic timing. Like most stars, he has endured hits and misses during his career but has finally come out on top. Way on top. We're talking $750 million and Golden Globe nominations top. We happily salute Mr. Reynolds, and we hope that he and next year's inevitable sequel Deadpool 2 will explore more of the title character's bisexual leanings. There is little question in our mind who will come out on top then. - CC
Woman of the Year: Kate McKinnon
We’ve had our eye on Kate McKinnon ever since we first saw her on Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show as Fitzwilliam, the precocious little English boy who just wanted a vagina. We knew then that anyone who could come up with that kind of crazy was our kind of gal. It took some time, but the rest of the world eventually caught up to us, culminating in quite the busy year in 2016. She won an Emmy for her inspired lunacy on Saturday Night Live, most virally as both sides of the political spectrum, Hilary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway. Kate was also nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award for her scene stealing role as Dr. Jillian "Holtz" Holtzmann in the all-female Ghostbusters reboot and just won two Dorian Awards, including our “Wilde Wit of the Year” prize. As she so memorably sung on SNL’s post-election show, “Hallelujah”… for our Woman of the Year. – KH
New Stars of the Year: Millie Bobby Brown & Royalty Hightower
Those of us who grew up during the 1980's became well-acquainted with the early works of such directors as Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Joe Dante. This made Netflix's 2016 breakout hit Stranger Things that much more relatable and entertaining. While Winona Ryder was a hoot as the anxiety-ridden, chain-smoking mother of the show's central character, 12-year old Millie Bobby Brown proved to be its breakout star. She captivated us as the mysterious, Eggo eating, gender-fluid Eleven. We can't wait for the Halloween premiere of season two, and it was just announced that she will soon be matching wits with an even scarier beast than a white-pompadoured Matthew Modine, namely the title character of the 2019 sequel Godzilla: King of Monsters! Godzilla and Co. won't know what hit 'em.
Meanwhile, we were equally entranced last year by 11-year old Royalty Hightower. As star of the unusual coming of age drama The Fits (which tied with Moonlight at #3 on our Reverend's best of 2016 list), Hightower danced, mused, plotted, convulsed and ultimately walked on air. Somewhat reminiscent of an African-American Carrie though not as tragic, thankfully, her character Toni learns to embrace her inner power even as her dance teammates go to pieces. All ends well, and Hightower herself has become a star on the rise in an industry that needs all the color and diversity it can get. Keep on flying, girl! We can't wait to see what you do next. - CC
TV Show of the Year: The Real O'Neals
Ever since its debut last spring, this ABC sitcom has been the little show that could. Inspired by the growing-up years of popular sex columnist Dan Savage, the O’Neals are a typical Irish Catholic family… typical as they are as far from that unrealistic picture perfect façade as anyone. While Mom (the always welcome, always brilliant Martha Plimpton) and Dad (hilarious everyguy Jay R. Ferguson) are getting a divorce, middle child Kenny (multi-talented newcomer Noah Galvin) is coming out. From its clever fantasy interludes to its sweet-but-not-sickly-so themes of acceptance and growth (both as individuals and as a family), this show is the Real deal... and Really funny as well. We were delighted when it was renewed for a second season, one that has proven just as good as the first, and with the added treat of a dreamy boyfriend for Kenny. The Real O'Neals recently won the Dorian Award for Unsung TV Show of the Year, but we here at Movie Dearest think it's also the TV Show of the Year. – KH
Stage Show of the Year: Falsettos
Too many young people believe that if HIV/AIDS isn't actually cured, it is at least treatable. While those of us old enough to remember the plague decades of the 1980's-90's are certainly grateful for the medical advances that have been made, truth is that thousands around the world are still dying of AIDS. Broadway took many on a time travel trip back to a time not so long ago when AIDS was a death sentence and LGBTQ equality was still a pipe dream via a top-notch mounting of the late William Finn's musical Falsettos. Originally two separate one-act musicals (March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland) that premiered off-Broadway in 1982 and 1990, respectively, they have since been merged and pack an even more powerful punch. The 2016 revival boasted a great cast headlined by out actors Andrew Rannells and Christian Borle plus Broadway powerhouses Stephanie J. Block, Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe. If you didn't get to see it, never fear: it was filmed for broadcast on PBS later this year. May Falsettos always continue to sing! - CC
Documentary of the Year: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
Their films have covered such disparate fringe subjects as Tammy Faye Baker, Heidi Fleiss and Michael Alig, yet Robert Mapplethorpe may be the most infamous subject yet tackled by documentarians Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. As told in HBO’s Emmy Award nominated Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, Mapplethorpe’s photography elicited just as much conservative revulsion as it did art world accolades. His evocative, often homoerotic and always black and white photographs – everything from white lilies to black penises – became even more of a lightning rod for controversy following his death, but Baily and Barbato are more concerned with the (messy, exhilarating, short) life of the artist. Yet rest assured, you’ll get to Look at the Pictures too in all their arousing, exciting, outrageous, disturbing glory. – KH
Foreign Film of the Year: The Handmaiden
By the time a fully-articulated wooden puppet descends from the ceiling to straddle a geisha-clad young woman while she recites ancient pornography, you’ll know that this South Korean adaptation of the Sarah Waters’ lesbian romance novel Fingersmith is not your typical stuffy period piece. Oldboy director Park Chan-wook crafts a hypnotic, twisted tale of lust and lies, with the powerful, sensual coupling of the handmaiden of the title (Kim Tae-ri) and the lovely lady (Kim Min-hee) she was hired to scam at its center. Thematically reminiscent of Bound with its crosses and double crosses, The Handmaiden also matches the erotic heights of that lesbian classic with its elegant sex scenes. Plush production designs and lush cinematography only add to this Dorian Award winner's richness, a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. – KH
Unsung Film of the Year: Other People
Along with our new Movie Music of the Year category (see below), we’ve added a new Dearie Award designed to shine a spotlight on a movie that you may not have seen (or even heard of) but you certainly should. And there was no shortage of contenders in 2016, with such great “little” movies as Sing Street, The Fits and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but our inaugural winner is… Other People. Alternately very funny and very sad (just like life), Jesse Plemons stars as a gay writer who, while escaping his present day problems, must face old ones when he moves back in with his family to care for his mom (a brilliant Molly Shannon), who has terminal cancer. Nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards, we recommend you fire up your Netflix, gather your people, and watch Other People. – KH
DVD of the Year: Valley of the Dolls
Making a departure from their usually highbrow art house and foreign fare, The Criterion Collection dipped into the cult classic canon with their 2016 Blu-ray release of 1967’s camptastic Valley of the Dolls (as well as the equally campy but sequel in name only Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). Based on the bestselling novel of sex, drugs and scandal by Jacqueline Susann, the notoriously “so-bad-it’s-good” Dolls has become the quintessential show biz cautionary tale, 60’s time capsule and pseudo-feminist guilty pleasure, with a particular draw for gay men of a certain age (ahem). Newly restored picture and soundtrack is just the beginning of the usual treasure trove of Criterion treats on display here, including new critical essays, interviews, vintage featurettes, screen tests and previously unseen footage (you’ll be haunted by the nerve-wracking cackling of Patty Duke at a Castro Theater tribute to her titled “Sparkle Patty Sparkle!”). As Kim Morgan says here in her video essay Doll Parts: “This is good shit”. – KH
Movie Music of the Year: La La Land
From the opening “bop-bop-bop-be-bop” of “Another Day of Sun” to the closing chords of the bittersweet “Epilogue”, the magical, melancholy music of La La Land simply entrances. Composer Justin Hurwitz and main lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul take inspiration from the classic tuners of the past (try not to think of Fred and Ginger during the “No, I won’t fall in love with you” duet “A Lovely Night”) yet create something new, a cinematic sound that will surely be emulated (and parodied) in contemporary movie musicals for years to come. Already Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award winners, and with nominations for Hurwitz’s score and two of the original songs, “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, the trio are poised to take home a couple of Oscars as well. – KH
The Neil V. Cohen Award for Campy Film of the Year: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Our dear departed colleague and friend Neil Cohen was a huge Ab Fab fan, so the choice for our award in his honor was an easy one this year with this long-awaited big screen transfer of the camp classic Britcom. And it was well worth the wait. Just like its two hedonistic leading ladies would want it, Ab Fab: The Movie was big… and big budgeted; we’re talking on location in Cannes, sweetie darlings! Award worthy couture! A-list guest stars from Hollywood and the fashion world! John Hamm, sweetie darling, John Hamm! As their iconic characters Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are as hilariously over the top as ever, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, because that’s what makes the fabulous so absolute. – KH
We hope you enjoyed this year's Dearies and thank you for visiting Movie Dearest in 2016! Here's to 2017...
By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest.