Welcome to the very first Film Flam Roundtable! Over the course of this week, various members of the Film Flam family (Flamily?) will look back at some of the best, the worst, and the wildest cinematic moments 2016 had to offer. First up, we’ll single out our favorite thespian performances of the year.
She would do anything for love. And she means it. In The Love Witch, Samantha Robinson disappears into the role of Elaine, a brainwashed witch living in a twisted fantasy world, with mortal consequences. Director-writer Anna Biller found the perfect vessel for her absurd feminist feature in Robinson, who carries herself like a china doll with a vicious sexual appetite. Though the illusion never fades, Robinson shows us the real woman lurking beneath Elaine’s carefully crafted witch persona. Her voice has a hypnotic quality as she lures men into her magical world, where the audience has no choice but to follow.
This year was consistently great for horror films, but no one gave a more horrifying performance than John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Menacingly pacing an underground bunker, threatening the very existence of his two captives and an unclear motive, Goodman’s character has you guessing if he’s actually insane or knows more than they do when it comes to why they can’t leave his grasp. The range he gives to this role makes me want to see him in more horror/thrillers that are just as good as 10 Cloverfield Lane. How could you go wrong with Goodman?
W. LOGAN FREEMAN
Trevante Rhodes or Mahershala Ali in Moonlight! Both were utterly beautiful. Oh! Also, Michelle Williams was in like ten minutes of Manchester by the Sea but absolutely stole the show. So somewhere amongst those three was my favorite performance. In a close second is Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man. The emotion and humanity he gave that corpse was quite impressive.
This may sound glib, and I mean no disrespect to the several fine humans who did acceptable work in Hollywood this year, but no performance left as strong an impression on me as Black Phillip in The Witch. Not since the husky dog from The Thing has an animal conveyed such an air of menace and knowing otherworldliness; from his vacant-yet-wise stare, to the seeming thrall he holds over the young twins, to the eventual hell that breaks loose, it is clear from the very beginning that something is not right with this goat. Of course, you could chalk this up to writer-director Robert Eggers, or the film’s animal trainers, or the fact that goats are really fucking weird in the first place when you look at them up close. All of these may be true, but I would argue that they found the exact right goat, which is a feat unto itself. In a year like 2016, Black Philip is the hero we need.
Far and away the best thing about Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater’s otherwise limp ode to baseball, friendship, sex, and weed as he remembers them from his halcyon, early ‘80s college days, is Wyatt Russell in the role of Willoughby (as in, “Next stop! Willoughby!”), a goofily affable, superannuated impostor whose stoned soliloquies and refusal to be exiled from the dubious paradise of youth are genuinely telling and affecting.
TOMORROW: The Film Flam staff discusses the year’s most underrated films, plus Vladimir Wormwood shares his own favorite performances!