Who said awards season was confined to the Hollywood hills? Here at BuzzHub, we pleasure in honouring the finest film and television productions and performances of the past year, with our annual awards. 2016 saw a varied array of entertainment on the big and small screen that caught our attention. Here, we announce what we believe was the year’s outstanding work…
Three seasons in, and Bojack Horseman continues to be the most profound and moving drama on television. Simultaneously, it lives up to its premise as an animated comedy about a cartoon horse, with this 13-episode run featuring a Lost in Translation-inspired underwater journey and Bojack’s attempt to win an Oscar. Will Arnett lends a weary resignation to the perpetually-dour Hollywood stallion, with Alison Brie and Aaron Paul among the stupendous supporting cast. When it isn’t making us laugh with some of the wittiest send-ups of the film industry ever put on screen, it’s breaking out hearts with its quieter moments. Bojack Horseman is a very special show.
Every year there’s one television show that proves why the small screen is the definitive location of our times for important, inquisitive storytelling. In 2016, that show was The Night Of. Co-created by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian (who directs every episode), this 8-part HBO miniseries explores the flaws of the US justice system and systemic culture prejudices through the lens of a murder trial. Riz Ahmed’s Nasir goes home with a girl, takes some pills and wakes up the next morning to find her brutally murdered, with no memory of what happened. The show’s focus isn’t on Nasir’s search for the truth as much as it is on the unfair treatment he receives due to his Islamic background and the effects of a horrific prison environment on his character.
As jail transforms Nasir from quiet academic to hard drug user, John Turturro’s gumshoe lawyer John Stone seeks justice on the streets and in the courtroom. Stone is a tremendous creation, with Turturro presenting a man whose financial motivation is overwhelmed by his emotional investment in Nasir’s case. The part was originally intended for James Gandolfini, then Robert DeNiro, but it’s impossible to imagine either acting giant giving as beautiful a performance as Turturro does. Stone, who spends an absurd but brilliant amount of the show seeking help for his eczema, is a true hero for our difficult times. The show itself plays like a deconstruction of police procedural dramas, forcing the viewer through the cracks that are rarely explored. Ahmed and Turturro are aided by some equally flawless players: Bill Camp as a sympathetic detective, Jeannie Berlin as a determined prosecutor and Michael Kenneth Williams as Nasir’s sole source of wisdom on Rikers’ Island. Shot and scored as startlingly as any David Fincher feature, The Night Of is a true gem in what was arguably a less-than-stellar year for HBO. This is creatively-driven television at its best, with sharp social commentary at its beating heart.
It’s a century-old trick to tell the most critical human stories through anthropomorphising, and Disney’s Zootopia– set, quite simply, in a city of talking animals. The story of social tolerance, set against a backdrop of urban crime and political corruption, is sophisticated and oh-so-important in 2016. The DMV scene, featuring Flash the Sloth, is the year’s best moment of physical comedy.
Retooled and heavily-reedited at the last minute, hopes were not particularly high for Gareth Edwards’ standalone galactic war movie. How wrong we were. Led by a revolutionarily-diverse ensemble cast, Rogue One is a breathless tribute to the unique energy and aesthetic of George Lucas’ 1977 classic, with additional bursts of sophistication; both in terms of story and filmmaking. Often bleak and deeply moving, but with bursts of brilliant comedy throughout, Edwards’ film is that ideal Hollywood blockbuster: lovingly-created and executed with passion and imagination. It may lack the scale and nostalgic thrill of 2015’s The Force Awakens, but compensates with uninhibited emotion and a palpable thirst for Hope.
Nobody was more surprised than us to discover the brilliance of The Lonely Island’s music documentary satire, a bruising indictment of modern celebrity culture… featuring the catchiest pop tunes of 2016! “I’m So Humble”, “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” and “Incredible Thoughts (ft. Michael Bolton)” are magnificent songs, embedded in a film that’s constantly hilarious and uniquely charming.
It seemed unlikely that Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash would live up to that film’s brilliance, but his dazzling musical love letter to the movies is just as stunning and unforgettable. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the enchanting central couple, who throw themselves into the joyful song-and-dance with admirable energy. Chazelle directs with extraordinary energy and enthusiasm, and the film’s narrative structure injects fresh life into the template of the 1950s movie musical. It’s rare to find a film this bursting with happiness. In a year as generally downbeat as 2016, La La Land is to be treasured.
Thanks for reading. Do you agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below. Here’s hoping 2017 is an even better year for film and TV!