Brawl in Cell Block 99

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This could have been War Dogs, or Pain & Gain. Instead, it’s just a failure.

C

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Favorite Films 2016

I don’t take it as coincidence that the final film I watched this year had a character proclaim that “there is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no God.”
I don’t take this as coincidence because the recurring theme for most of the 133 movies I watched in 2016, either above or below the surface, was a case arguing for the nonexistence of God.
In a year in which madness ruled the world and chaos abounds globally in earth changing events, but also personally with people seeking a way out of their loneliness and giving in to temptation, I used movies to inform me about such sad state of affairs.
From the unparalleled greed found in comedy War Dogs, to the existential despair of the gorgeous Knight of Cups, I saw God in everything. Or rather, I noticed the urgent need for Him. I noticed the need for Him in the sickening sequences of carnage of Hacksaw Ridge and in humanity’s innate inability to communicate with each other in Arrival. I understood that the only sane way to live in an insane world is for everybody else to think you are insane because you follow not in everybody else’s path, but in obedience to the Lord.
But as Sausage Party so bluntly put it, how do you know it’s obedience or just a delusion? Going back to my opening statement, isn’t it much easier to accept the fact that God is dead, as Rosemary’s Baby implies?

Let the following 10 films, 2016’s favorites, give the answer:

1. There Will Be Blood

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The greatest film I watched this year concludes with a preacher denouncing God and calling his faith a superstition. He dies soon after.

2. Steve Jobs

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Utterly spellbinding, I was honestly surprised when the credits rolled because I could have sworn I had taken a seat to watch it not even half an hour before.

3. Never Let Me Go

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Dressed in earnest melancholy from the first to last frame, this movie robbed me of my tears for a solid five minutes after the screen had turned to black. Coupled with at least two other instances during the film in which I had to wipe my eyes for I could not see very well, I never cried as much during a movie in 2016 than I did when watching this one.

4. The Social Network

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I watched this soon after Steve Jobs, can you believe my enormous good fortune?

5. Mustang

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“Their spirit would never be broken”, the tagline reads. It’s just their dreams, and hopes, and hearts and family that shatters completely.

6. Sicario

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As I write this I am back in El Salvador. It has been 20 months since I moved away, and I am just back for the Christmas season. When I was away I had almost forgotten what it felt like to live constantly in fear of violence by gangs and cartels. Sicario reminded me of it. Being back home does as well.

7. Glass Chin

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If anybody is reading this and are intrigued by any film on this list, make this a top priority.

8. Green RoomPrintI think I mentioned before how the suspense is so unbearable for the first thirty minutes that I wanted to stop watching and run away.

9. The End of the Tour

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Stamped on David Foster Wallace’s (Jason Segel) wall is a Bible verse. The man was living in solitude and he ached. Naturally he turned to prayer. It didn’t work. How do we deal with situations like this one, when one believes in a loving God?

10. Spotlight

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While the first film on this list was a denunciation of the faith, the last one can serve as proof that doing that may be the wise thing to do. The heralds of the faith, those who are called to protect the weak, feed the hungry, abide by righteousness and lead by example have turned astray, taking with them a multitude of sad souls. This infuriates me. Belief in God is dwindling not so much because He is silent, but because those who are supposed to speak on His behalf have corrupted his message to theĀ  point of disgust.
What are we to do?
If you have not seen this movie yet, there’s a character that gives an illuminating response on the matter.
I will leave it there.

War Dogs

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You can Wolf of Wall Street or American Hustle me all you want, but the only movie which Todd Phillips War Dogs reminds me of is Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain.
Never mind that both directors hit it big with fare completely different than this; the underlying theme of both movies is not the American Dream, but a depraved sense of greed.

The laughs do not originate because of how zany the scenarios are (a character losing a toe in Bay’s, a chase sequence across Fallujah in Phillips), but because one can perfectly understand how the thirst for money can land someone in such waters.
It’s also why characters like Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) provoke anger in the viewer, followed by pity. There is no remedy for them, because they are actively waving away the cure.
And if we are to never be as wealthy as them, let’s hope we are wiser.

B+