2016’s Top 10 “Movies” vs. 2016’s Top 10 “Films” or: “How I learned to stop worrying and love Batman v Superman”

December is an exciting month to be a movie lover, as the awards season moves into it’s final stretch and we eagerly anticipate the release of critics and bloggers “Top 10 movies” of the year.  I’m not a professional blogger, and I’m certainly not a professional critic, but I still mull over my viewings for the year to see if my choices correlate with any of the well-respected writers at the top of their game (translated: I hope mine are the same as well-respected critics therefore validating my own opinions giving me the sense that I could also one day be a well-respected critic…).



When my friends and I post our choices, they are fairly similar seeing as I live in a country where we tend to get superhero movies a week before the Western world, yet smaller, critically acclaimed films generally come out weeks, or even months after their releases in the US.  In 2014, Birdman and Whiplash didn’t come out until after the Oscars, so how was I (legally) supposed to put them in my top 10 of that year?  So not wanting to miss out, I hastily posted a list before seeing all of what 2016 had to offer, which left it looking something like this:



Number 1:

Swiss Army Man



Number 2 – 10 in no particular Order:

Hell or High Water

O.J.: Made in America


Hail Caesar

High Rise

The Witch


The Invitation

Sing Street

Batman v Superman



Now, a few things may seem strange about that list.  The first thing that may seem a little odd is the omission of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. This was due to the fact that it was released in 2015 and made the number one spot last year. It may be the fact that I included O.J.: Made in America, an ESPN TV documentary. But that “film” had a theatrical release in May, qualifying it for awards consideration, therefore it made the cut. I don’t think the choice of Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s obscure, yet haunting Evolution raised any eyebrows.  No, the main issue people took umbrage with was my inclusion of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.



“What?  BvS is an awful film!  How can you have that in there?” “BvS made no sense!” “If you’re going to put a Superhero film in there, why not at least have Civil War or Deadpool?” “Oh my god!  BvS was so joyless and disappointing, what are you thinking?” These were just some of the responses I received.  So what was I thinking? Well, I guess I was simply thnking “I really enjoyed Batman v Superman, so it’s going to go in my top 10 films of the year.”



Now, I need to point out that at the time I released my list there were several films I had yet to see.  La La Land and I, Daniel Blake were still two weeks from release. I had yet to see American Honey. The big three Korean films (Train to Busan, The Wailing and The Handmaiden) were still laying by the blu-ray player unopened.  Moonlight, Arrival and Manchester by the Sea have no release date whereas Toni Erdmann and Elle may well be released sometime soon, but subtitles in the theater prohibit me from seeing them until next year.   Having said that, despite the seemingly strange and somewhat brazen choice to put Batman v Superman in my Top 10 when it sits on 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently making the rounds on several “Worst Movies of 2016” list, I thought to myself “even if/when I see these other movies, I’m pretty sure Batman v Superman will make my top 10”.



Firstly, I don’t care what critics think.  I love end of year lists, but despite my lame attempt at a joke earlier in this article, the real reason I love end of year lists is so I can find out about what films I may have missed.  I rarely read reviews before going to see a film because I want to form my own opinion. I generally see everything I can, but if a name I know and repect is attached to a movie – for example, Dennis Villneuve or Ken Loach – I know I’m going to see the film no matter what. BvS had both Batman and Superman.  I wanted to see it. If I had of read the reviews for Dawn of Justice, I would have stayed far from the multiplex and wouldn’t have had one of the best cinematic experiences of the year. Three times no less!



“But you have to see La La Land! It’s a magical, gorgeous piece of filmmaking.  It’s like those old musicals of the 40s and 50s that they don’t make anymore!  You have to see it, Dean.  You have to!  See it, then tell me you’ll keep Batman in your top 10, three times or not! You won’t!” I presumed La La Land wouldn’t alter my opinion on Batman v Superman, but how would I know until I’d seen it?  So I went opening night (in Asia), and while it didn’t make me want to alter my top 10, it did make me want to create a separate list that distinguishes between “films” and “movies”.  And here’s why.



I thought La La Land was a fabulous piece of filmmaking.  It was joyous, it was vibrant, it was inventive and technically I thought it was brilliant.  How you go from Whiplash (which I also thought was brilliant, better than La La Land, in fact) to creating the shots in La La Land is some feat and shows real skill on the part of Damien Chazelle.  I really, really, liked it. But here’s the thing – I didn’t love it. I would liken it to The Artist or Stranger Things. Just because someone hasn’t made a silent film in a while or you ‘memba the 80s with great fondness, doesn’t necessarily make a piece of nostalgia a great film or TV show.  “Yeah, but La La Land was a film that took elements from 40s and 50s musicals and put them in a modern setting!”  Great.  I’ll go with that, but the film can’t have it both ways.



*The following paragraph contains slight spoilers for La La Land*



Take for example, the moments before Sebastian surprises Mia with a lovely romantic meal. Mia is leaving a voicemail saying she has no idea where he is or when they’ll next talk.  In today’s world, all she had to do is check the band’s tour dates on their website or go on their twitter feed and she’ll know exactly where he is.  Do they not have face time?  Skype?  Is the film setting in present day or not? I did not find this believable.  Whether that was the case or I was being overly critical, I’m not so sure. Also, Mia has a habit on running out on relationships.  Literally running away from her first boyfriend and metaphorically running away from Sebastian despite her declaring him the love of her life, not even taking into consideration he is arguably one of the main reasons for her success.  If they didn’t want to make their relationship work, why should I care during the films finale as we lament what could have been?  There was literally nothing stopping them from having their dream life except for a lack of willingness to try.



*End of those dreaded Spoilers*



But is La La Land a better film than Batman v Superman?  Of course it is.  I’d be a fool to suggest otherwise.  I can see many, and I mean MANY of the flaws the film had.  I know the film was overly convoluted and large parts of the film made no sense.  I know that Superman was a broody character and not the Superman you grew up with.  I know Batman killed people. I know Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor was strange, to say the least. I know the film was a mess. But I also feel that a lot of the smaller criticisms of the film came down to timing, with it being released so soon after the success of Deadpool and coming right before Civil War. I also believe pre-existing predjudices towards Zack Snyder and the DCEU meant that bloggers had unconscious, preconceived ideas about the film which led to general nitpicking which resulted in lazy journalism. “Batman hit superman with a toilet seat! How ridiculous is that?” It wasn’t a toilet seat, it was a sink. “Batman doesn’t kill people!”  Yes he does.  Many times.  Do your homework. “Ok, well batman doesn’t use a gun!” Again, yes he has. Google is your friend. “Oh, it’s the first time Superman and Wonder Woman are on screen at the same time and they don’t even talk to each other!” Yes they do. Superman: “This thing is from another world. My World.” Wonder Woman: “I’ve killed things from other worlds before.” Granted, it was a blink and you’ll miss it moment, but get your facts straight before you criticize because it comes off like you have some sort of agenda.



Now, because I’m going to speak up for BvS, I’m pretty sure this article will seem like I have an agenda myself, which is far from the case. I’m not a comic book guy, I’m just a superhero guy in his early 30s. I think Batman Begins and Spider-Man 2 are the best Superhero films of all time yet have found joy in Superhero films and TV shows since I was child. I loved Bill Bixby as The Incredible Hulk. I saw Supergirl way too many times to count and I even hunted down the old Spider-Man TV show starring Nicholas Hammond. Yes, you kids today have your extended universes, but with cartoons and videos stores, I was never short of anything to watch or school friends to talk with about our obsessions.

Fast forward to the present day, and the with the internet being the platform for everybody to have their say on movies, for all the good things the web has done, it has created a situation where if you like DC more than Marvel or vice versa you’re considered a hater. Or worst of all, a “butt hurt fanboy”, whatever the fuck that means. Just because I loved Batman v Superman more than Civil War, doesn’t mean I am a hater or I have an agenda.  I literally have no audience.  I have nothing to gain from picking one over the other.  For the record, I really liked Civil War and have nothing but praise for the marvel movie machine and what they are doing (and i better had seeing as I’ve worked on a few of them!).



But Batman v Superman did something to me.  Well, several things, in fact.  First, if I’m honest, it confused me.  The first time I saw it in theaters I had no idea what to think.  I wanted to love it, but I just knew that plot was all over the place and made no sense. I knew that it screamed of a studio trying to play catch up, highlighted by the awkward looking cameos – such as Aquaman clearly holding his breath underwater – or cramming in too many stories in an attempt to skip several films.  Doomsday, The Death of Superman, The Dark Knight Returns and the introduction of Wonder Woman?  Why?  Why couldn’t they just take their time?”



But the second time I saw it, I didn’t really care about all these issues and started to focus on the things I did like.  Which, obviously, was every time Batman/Bruce Wayne was on screen.  I think the one universal constant is that Ben Affleck is a great Batman.  But then I also started to love Superman.  Not so much the character, as I’ve always found him slightly boring, but the way Zack Snyder made him move mesmorized me.  For all the criticism Man of Steel and Batman v Superman gets, I think this is the best Superman I have seen when he flies. The sequence in Man of Steel where Zod smashes the ground from under Superman’s feet yet he just hovers in the air like a bird made me feel like a child in the cinema once more.  It’s the same in Batman v Superman.  I’ve read a few complaints about Superman flying, saying that he cracks like a frightening bolt of lightning rather than gliding like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.  But if you have the ability to turn back time with the speed of your flying, surely you’d make a lot of noise, no?



Superman is mopey.  Superman meanders through the film like a spoilt brat.  He’s not the joyful hero that represents hope like he did when you grew up.  Well, you also didn’t have twitter and internet trolls calling you a butt hurt fanboy when you grew up.  People fear Superman in this modern world.  I have no doubt that if Superman were real he would have several Facebook groups calling him un-American, telling him to go home so we can make the world great again. So, if you were a freak or a one of a kind who didn’t know where you came from and had never known your real parents, yet you were trying your hardest to save the world while people burnt effigies of you, I too think I’d people a little bit pissed off.



Upon second viewing, I kind of got what the filmmakers were going for in the “Martha moment”, and as ridiculous as it came out, I believed in it.  Batman hates Superman because he’s an alien and the only thing that would calm him down would be to see him as a human.  I’m pretty sure in the development stage, having their mother’s share the same name seemed like a really good idea. I also got over the fight between Batman and Superman being so short…



…because THE THIRD TIME I saw it, I just basked in the ambiance enjoying every action sequence, jaw open, as they were was some of the best I’d seen in a long time.  Sure, the Civil War airport battle was straight from a comic book, but Batman fighting Superman was straight from a movie.  Pure, cinematic, bliss.  The opening sequence? Amazing. The Knightmare sequence?  Fantastic.  Batman vs Superman?  Wonderful.  The look on Superman’s face when first realizes he’s lost his strength to the moment Batman’s punches cease to have any effect? Priceless.  And in my opinion, the pièce de résistance was the warehouse sequence.  I love both Tim Burton’s and Christopher Nolan’s Batman, but that sequence was something else.  Brutal, violent and choreographed to the nth degree. Many of my gamer friends tell me it may as well been lifted straight out of the Arkham games. And can we please take a moment to praise Hans Zimmer’s score for both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. I believe them to be things of beauty. Don’t believe me? Here, have a listen with your heaphones on.



I suppose all this still doesn’t excuse the ambiguity of the storyline, but because I have friends that are comic book nerds and I speand wayyyyyy to much time on the internet, I knew that they were parademons flying around during Bruce Wayne’s (k)nightmare, alluding to a future appearance from Darkseid. And I knew that it was The Flash who had come back in time to warn him of an upcoming threat which in turn will lead him to form the Justice League.  However, I can’t forgive the fact that without any prior knowledge of these characters or knowing about the upcoming films, you wouldn’t have any clue what was going on in this sequence.



The Ultimate Edition fixes many of the problems of the Theatrical Release. You finally see how Lex Luthor is pulling the strings from behind the scenes and why the bat brand is a death sentence.  It explains why Clark Kent feels more disdain towards The Batman and is out researching him rather than reporting on the Gotham vs Metropolis football game. Scenes in an order which seems to make more sense and the reasons as to why a village in Africa hates Superman now becomes clear. It cannot fix the ticks and tone of Lex Luthor, so it will never be a perfect film, but I do think that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is cinematic bliss.  From the opening sequence of Bruce Wayne driving through the streets of metropolis as we relive the finale of Man of Steel through his POV to seeing Wonder Woman leap at Doomsday, I was enthralled and highly entertained.



If you haven’t seen it, I would highly encourage you to watch Youtuber Nerdwriter1’s video on Zack Snyder’s moments versus scenes titled “The Fundamental Flaw”.  While the extended edition fixes a lot of problems, many still remain, but Snyder put together so many well crafted superhero scenes which blew me away, that I simply cannot ignore the fact that it was one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  Do I judge it differently to something that was deemed the best “film” of year.  I think I do. Yet i believe we all shift our expectations depending on the type of movie or film we see. But is there really a difference between a movie and a film, or is it all semantics?



Film critic David Jenkins wrote in The Guardian that “”Movies”, a compression of “moving pictures”, infers an element of commercialism. Studios make movies, whereas directors make films.” And as for a film? Jenkins again states “Film, meanwhile, is a reference to celluloid. Films also has an academic hue to it, emphasising a connection more to the world of art than of commerce. At (reputable) universities you have “film studies”, never “movie studies””



A sense of snobbery might pervade these statements, but I think there is some truth to them. As I’ve stated, I enjoyed Batman v Superman more than La La Land, but I can agree that the latter is the better film. Ben Affleck even stated that the movie isn’t for critics, which means it was for general audiences which means it was made for cash. However, it still didn’t change my original top 10 list of 2016.  La La Land just didn’t make the cut and once again, people thought I was crazy.



My list changed when I saw Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake – a film that demands to be seen.  Detractors will see it as in your face poverty porn or left wing propagandist tosh – the film is unashamedly anti-Tory – but most of it’s harshest, and sometimes heart breaking scenes, come from real life situations that have been provided by whistle blowers from inside the system.  Did I “enjoy” I, Daniel Blake.  Not particularly.  I don’t enjoy being sad and crying, but I thought it was probably the best film I’d seen all year.  So it went straight to the top of the list sharing the number 1 spot with Swiss Army Man.  A bit of a cheat, but I liked both films in equal measures for totally different reasons.  I still didn’t include La La Land, however, because I thought Hail, Caeser! was another of the year’s best throwback movies, and another (perverted) love letter to films from that era that had songs and set pieces I actually liked. Therefore, Batman v Superman stayed on my list.



I then saw Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. A film which many thought would beat I, Daniel Blake to the top spot in Cannes earlier this year. Again, I thought American Honey was a better film, but I still didn’t like it more than Batman v Superman. And even though I disagreed with the assumption that American Honey should have won the Palme d’Or, (I think Andrea Arnold is a fabulous filmmaker but American Honey isn’t better than Fish Tank, nor is it even better than her Oscar Winning short film WASP starring Danny Dyer, let alone I, Daniel BlakeAmerican Honey is a great film, but more like a series of shorts.  All beautiful to look at, all interesting, all memorizing, but if I took myself out of the theater for 20 minutes, I don’t think I would have come back and felt disorientated with regards to the story.  But is it a better film that Batman v Superman?  Again, Yes.  But would American Honey shift Batman v Superman from my list?  No.  Hence, after catching up with most of the films I can until the end of the year (Rogue One will be released on the 28th, but I can’t see a Star Wars movie making any top 10 list of mine…) I have come to the conclusion that these are my Top 10 Movies and Top 10 Films of 2016.



Top 10 Films



Joint Number 1:

Swiss Army Man / I, Daniel Blake

From the little I heard about Swiss Army Man (I made a point of knowing next to nothing about the film before I went in) I was pleasantly surprised. More than pleasantly surprised. Paul Dano is great and I think “if you don’t know Jurassic Park, you don’t know shit” might be my favourite delivery of any line of dialogue this year. Daniel Radcliffe is equally impressive.  According to the actors, directing duo The Daniels pitched the film as wanting “the first fart to make you laugh and the last fart to make you cry.”  I would say this is a brilliant description.  Spike Jonze-esque. Filled with humour, beauty and hope.  Well, depending on whether you see yourself as a glass half empty of half full kind of person. A brilliant, inventive feature debut that I couldn’t wait to watch again.



And like I mentioned earlier, I, Daniel Blake is simply the most important film I’ve seen this year.  Heart breaking, brutal and in your face.  Another relevant modern masterpiece from Ken Loach.



Number 2 – 10 in no particular Order



Hell or High Water

Gorgeous with strong lead performances that keep you engrossed. Blurs the lines between hero and villain.  Another top notch effort from Starred Up director, David Mackenzie.



OJ: Made in America

I found this documentary absolutely captivating.  It’s not just the story of OJ Simpson, it’s the story of America.



Hail, Caesar!

I still can’t work out what it’s all about, whether there was no meaning or if that was the meaning, but film has stayed with me all year, particularly the image of a stagehand asking Jesus if he is a principal or an extra.  While I don’t think this comes close to the Coen Brothers’ best work, there is a lot going on here that I did love.  ‘Would that it were so simple’ to leave out other films, I would.



High Rise

I watched this on my anniversary. Good choice, eh?  Bit of rape and violence always goes down well after a romantic meal.  But the “problem” with Ben Wheatley’s films is that they are also all very comedic in their own way, which can at times make me feel very uncomfortable, and there in lies the beauty of his films. Ben Wheatley has a way of making me “feel” more than most other filmmakers can.  Whether it be the ending of Kill List or Reece Shearsmith meandering in a Field in England, his films do something to me.  I don’t always like it, but I always appreciate it.



The Witch

On first viewing, I thought this was very, VERY overrated.  And if I’m being honest, I couldn’t really understand most of “ye olde English.” However, upon second viewing, I thought this was creepy and the finale was one of the most unsettling things I had seen this year.  The Witch really does deserve the hype it attracted in 2016.



The Wailing  / The Handmaiden

 Speaking of unsettling scenes, the last 40 minutes of The Wailing is what made me include it on my list.  I’m usually a big fan of Na Hong-jin, with OASIS arguably being one of the best Korean films ever made. And while The Wailing started off well enough, it was far too long. And having lived in Korea, I couldn’t see past the stereotypical “no matter what, it must be the Japanese’s fault.”  But when paired with another film set in Japan, directed by another modern day Korean master, Park Chan-wook, The Wailing combined with The Handmaiden are perfect excuse for me to include them together.  I still prefer Oldboy and Lady Vengence, but Park’s style is demonstrated here to perfection as perspective is shifted in a violent and erotic tale.   As for the third big Korean film this year, Train to Busan, it didn’t even come close to making this, or any other list.




I don’t know what to make of Evolution.  Much like American Honey, it’s an experience, but an unsettling one.  No surprise when you consider that director Lucile Hadzihalilovic was a writer on Enter the Void.  I still have no idea what happened at the end, but I know I want to watch it again.



American Honey

As I said earlier, the film is a piece of art.  It’s a moving picture that has to be praised.



La La Land

The two leads are marvellous and the set pieces are expertly crafted, but to be seen as the best film of the year, I need to be either emotionally connected or visually stunned throughout.  I was neither, but I know that it is one of the best films of the year.



My Top 10 Movies:



Joint Number 1:

Swiss Army Man / I, Daniel Blake

Film or movie, these two won’t change from the joint number 1 spot.



2. Batman v Superman

If you feel like my inclusion of this movie at this spot isn’t justified, then you are simply a butt hurrrrr……sorry, I mean, I respect your opinion and we will have to agree to disagree.



3. O.J.: Made in America

I thought this was fantastic and is going nowhere.



4. Darling

Very David Lynch-esque, and I always need some David Lynch in my life.  Or, should I say, and this is a great compliment to him, very Ben Wheately-esque with it’s use of editing.  I’m a sucker for a good psychological horror that plays with your expectations.  I can forgive some of the acting when you look at the budget, but the editing, direction and script more than make up for it.



5. Hail, Caesar!

I’m beginning to ask myself is Eddie Mannix supposed to be Jesus? Is he taking on the sins of the world so we, imperfect beings, can lead full lives? Would that it were so simple. Wait, watch my mouth. Would that it were so simple.



6. High Rise

Yep, it stays.



7. The Witch

As does this.



8. Evolution

And this.



9. The Invitation

That’s right, The Invitation comes back into play.  I’m sure many expected Green Room to make an appearance if I went down the horror route, but I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the follow up to Blue Ruin. Green Room was good, but another chase/revenge movie. Whereas in The Invitation, I loved the sense of paranoia that lingers throughout and you never clearly know who is right and who is wrong. It’s this main factor, along with the performance from Logan Marshall-Green, that makes it one of the best films of the year.



10. Sing Street

I came very close to including this on my “film” list, but it just missed out.  I loved Sing Street and felt like it had more heart than most of the movies released this year combined.  It helped that I loved the soundtrack, but all in all, it was just a lovely film that left me emotional, yet filled with hope as the credits rolled.



But then that leaves us with the final question, which is “can films and movies be one and the same?” to which I would reply, “of course they can.” The Dark Knight clearly has the biggest argument for this case, and some would argue for Civil War. I would prefer to suggest a film like Edge of Tomorrow be given that distinction. It was clearly a studio film intended to make money, but Doug Liman brought along some of his art house sensibilities and in mine, and a lot of others’ opinions, was crying shame that it didn’t perform better at the box office. So this leads me into my final, combined, Top 10 Movies or Films or Pictures or whatever word you want to use for 2016 because it doesn’t really matter!



Swiss Army Man / I, Daniel Blake

Batman v Superman

OJ: Made in America

Hail Ceaser

High Rise

The Witch


Sing Street

Hell or High Water

The Wailing  / The Handmaiden



I would like to add that I haven’t mentioned The Nice Guys or Zootopia which could have made the cut in either list, but you have to stop somewhere.



While people bemoan politics of the loss of creative talents during 2016, my biggest issue over the last year has simply been that it hasn’t been as good as other years in terms of film viewing. And that’s not something I can really complain about, because in my eyes, one Batman v Superman and one Swiss Army Man accounted for 6 quality viewings that might have taken place in previous years. So thanks to 2016, and let’s see what 2017 has in store.



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7 Comments on “2016’s Top 10 “Movies” vs. 2016’s Top 10 “Films” or: “How I learned to stop worrying and love Batman v Superman””

  1. December 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    You are awesome.

    • December 21, 2016 at 5:19 am #

      Just had a look at your site (kind of as i gotta stay away from anything Rouge One related til the 28th) and YOU’RE awesome. thanks!

      • December 21, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

        Ha! Thanks so much. The 28th?!?! I feel so bad. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait though!

  2. AgentofVendetta
    December 21, 2016 at 5:05 am #

    Dude, you’re cool man. Love the article.

    • December 21, 2016 at 5:17 am #

      Thank you so much, mate! Much appreciated and thanks for commenting. I hadn’t posted in a looooong time, but the end of year topic+BvS got me going again.

  3. ent movie fan
    December 21, 2016 at 6:01 am #

    Great job mentioning the highlights of bvs, totally agree.

    I found that you can’t really judge how much you like a movie until u see it months later, multiple times and clear your mind of any pre-conceived ideas of what you think it should be.

    This happened with man of steel, and now I prefer it over the original superman movie.

    Hans Zimmer’s score for mos and bvs is outstanding too, it adds more weight and emotion to the movies.

    • December 21, 2016 at 6:34 am #

      Agree on every point you. I found this to be the case with The Witch. I loved it second time round after the hype had died down somewhat. I also love Man of Steel and you’re right, the weight of emotion Zimmer’s score brings to those two films is incredible.

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