La La Land is probably going to sweep the Academy Awards. Judging by Civil War and Doctor Strange, it looks like Marvel Studios realizes it no longer needs to try to make a billion dollars. Paul Verhoeven is back. The biggest "bests" and "mosts" this year seem more agreed upon than usual, so instead of celebrating that which we already love, WW's film writers celebrate the goofy idiosyncrasies that stood out in 2016.
Best Pandering to a Fan Base: Terrence Malick
This year saw the release of two Terrence Malick epics, Knight of Cups and Voyage of Time. When combined, they cover all of his non-Sean Penn stylistic trademarks: mysterious voice-overs, gorgeous scenery and actors staring soulfully into the distance. If you see flakes of human flesh floating in the air, it's probably the remains of a Malick geek who spent the year combusting with joy. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON.
Best Attempt to Will a Franchise Back to Prominence by Repeating the Main Character's Name: Jason Bourne
The fifth Bourne film did stop just short of Matt Damon in front of a mirror yelling, "You're the reformed servant of espionage known to audiences as Jason Bourne! Pull it together, man!" But it did reference the man's full name to a level evoking marionette Damon's portrayal in Team America: World Police. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER.
Best Better-Than-Disney Animation: Kubo and the Two Strings
Given the three solid offerings from the Mouse House this year (Zootopia, Moana and Pixar's Finding Dory), local studio Laika's Kubo and the Two Strings flew well under the radar. Pity that. Kubo is the best animated film of the year, a rare original tale packed with martial arts, gorgeous stop-motion characters and, more importantly, a story that speaks to subjects like death and aging in a way that doesn't pander to the sprouts. AP KRYZA.
Best Transubstantiation: Ben-Hur
Even amid the furious current rush to scavenge the gold teeth from every recognizable cinematic forebear, original action-packed blockbuster Ben-Hur resisted all attempts at a 21st-century reboot due to seemingly insoluble complications—interminable length, discursive exposition, iconic title that sounds like a homophobic taunt—until the divine wisdom of superproducer/Trump-wrangler Mark Burnett cut the source material in half and kept only those parts building momentum. Turns out, divorced of larger historical context, Judah Ben-Hur's subjugation as a galley slave works as a training montage, Jesus becomes a coach, and Imperial Rome doubles as USC. The former epic ends up resembling a college football film, just slightly less confusing or religious. JAY HORTON.
Most Gimlet-Eyed Use of Drone Strikes: Eye in the Sky
This utterly odious movie is uninterested in U.S. foreign policy that occurred more than five minutes ago, presenting the moral argument for drone strikes as coming down to a weepy Jesse Pinkman being aesthetically opposed to evaporating a young girl because he's not sure that's how democracy works. Some movie critics praised this film's intellectual sophistication. ZACH MIDDLETON.
Best Hope for Future Generations: Zootopia
Zootopia aims to teach this generation of Disney audiences that every species should not be stereotyped by where it comes from, bringing hope to every parent that they are not raising America's future nightmares, but are teaching the importance of equality and understanding. AMY WOLFE.
Most Lovable Flunk of the Bechdel Test: Everybody Wants Some!!
Boys who love chicks who love boys who love sports, as intellectualized by that great intellectualizer of dopey young dudedom, Dick Linklater. But what sucks the most, maybe even more than the fact that "some" refers to sex and might as well be a cognate for "finely groomed, nubile hot girls" is that this was, start to finish, one of the best feel-good flicks of the year. ISABEL ZACHARIAS.
Best-Looking Movie About How Women Think by a Male Filmmaker:
The Neon Demon
Master of color palettes black, peach and violet, Nicolas Winding-Refn (Drive) seems to think women will fuck, kill and eat one another to appease Hollywood's gatekeepers. Whether a grim commentary on patriarchal obsession with youth and beauty or a gold-smeared, horndog fantasy, The Neon Demon sure is pretty. WALKER MACMURDO.
Best Irish New Wave Fairy Tale: Sing Street
Pleasantly fusing The Breakfast Club's '80s angst and the naive optimism of Almost Famous, Sing Street is the feel-good movie of 2016. If you have any nostalgia for the heyday of Duran Duran, the Cure and Back to the Future, this is a Netflix must-see. NATHAN CARSON.
Best Movie for Changing the Way You Think About "Jingle Bells":