Before I unveil my top movies of 2016, I thought I’d spend just a little more time ruminating on the past year in cinema. This time around I’ll look at some of the characters I fell in love with this year. We had a lot of wonderful cinematic characters i 2016, and while there are still some I’ve yet to see, these are the ones that left the biggest impression on me. Whether they made me laugh or almost cry (I don’t cry easy, I’m very manly), or maybe just made me consider some things I hadn’t before, these characters will stick with me for years to come.
Hobie Doyle- Hail, Caesar!
The Coen Brothers have created some of cinema’s most memorable and unique characters over the years. Some of my favourites include Loren Visser, Marge Gunderson, The Dude, and Llewyn Davis- and I think Hobie Doyle fits nicely in that list. He might be the biggest moron in Hollywood, but he’s also an anomaly in the town as he is a kind, sweet and noble bumpkin who stumbled into the picture business. While the rest of show business is looking out for themselves, Hobie is just hoping not to let anybody down.
Best moment: It’s got to Hobie’s first day on the set of his new movie. The high-class prestige picture is a far cry from the Westerns he’s used to, since he actually has to deliver lines. Completely out of his element, Hobie is none the less determined to nail down his one line, “Would that it were so simple”. The back-and-forth between Hobie and the pompus director (played by Ralph Fiennes) makes for the funniest scene of 2016.
Amber- Green Room
I came into Green Room hearing all about Patrick Stewart’s performance as the leader of a skinhead group. While Stewart is effectively chilling in the role, I found myself more interested in Imogen Poots’ portrayal as Amber. We learn very little about her throughout the movie and only get a throwaway line about how she got mixed up with a neo-Nazi group, but she is a definite presence in the picture. She’s realistically scared by the circumstances but has an undeniable toughness to her. I also love how she keeps up her sarcastic jabs and mild contempt for the punk rockers she’s stuck with. They might all die horribly together but that doesn’t mean she has to like them.
Best moment: Crawling out of the sofa, donned in war paint and armed with a box cutter, Amber resolves to put up a right before death. From that moment forward, Amber is a full-blown Nazi-killing badass. The year could have used more characters like her.
Holland March- The Nice Guys
Shane Black at the helm of a wacky R-rated crime caper is a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t skimp on the violence, isn’t afraid of a complicated plot, and has no qualms about making his heroes incompetent buffoons. Such is the case with Holland March. March is Black’s version of Jim Rockford, but more cowardly and easily distracted. Ryan Gosling proves his great gift for comedy with the role but also brings a lot of depth to a man who has been a loser for too long and forgotten how to care about winning. While Russell Crowe’s Healy is a good bit of fun as well, I could watch a whole series of movies centered around Gosling’s smelling-challenged dick.
Best moment: Trying to break into a bar to get some information, March punches a hole in the window, only to slice his wrist and pass out from the sight of all the blood. It’s a perfect Shane Black moment and helps us to quickly understand both March’s stupidity and rotten luck.
T-Bone Waitress- Hell or High Water
A one scene wonder. In such a tight movie as this, I did not expect such a delightful non-sequitur as this. This story of bank robbing brother and the lawmen on their tails gets a nice boost of levity from this amalgamation of every old, no-nonsense waitress who’s ever served you. Almost a fixture of the restaurant itself, this woman is priceless and totally authentic demanding of the cowboys before her, “What don’t you want?” It’s a great moment especially from Jeff Bridges grizzled lawman who is finally willing to shut up and do as he’s told. It’s a small part but it makes an impact and helps solidify that tone of Southern stubbornness.
Best moment: The whole thing last but a moment so no need to single anything out. Just enjoy the bluntness in all its glory.
Captain America- Captain America: Civil War
I’ve been a Marvel fan since my youth, but until recently, I had no interest in Captain America. He was too perfect and not nearly as fun as his more complicated allies. But the MCU movies have done a good job at not only giving us an iteration of Cap that isn’t laughable, but one that fits quite will into the grayness of our current world. The Captain America that was presented in this film is the kind of superhero we need right now. A man who is literally draped in an American flag, but isn’t a blind patriot. He’s not afraid to point out the hypocrisies of his nation and even fight against those in power if the cause is noble. What’s also great about the portrayal is that I don’t really agree with him on his stance, but the movie doesn’t ask you to. Instead, I just cared that he believed he was right.
Best moment: I think one of the most effective moments in the film came during Cap’s tussle with Spider-Man. Cap admired’s the kid’s own determination to fight for a cause and asks him where he’s from. “Queens”, answers Spidey, to which Cap smiles and replies, “Brooklyn”. See Batman V Superman, that’s how you relate superheroes!
Samantha- Don’t Think Twice
Don’t Think Twice flew under many people’s radars which is a real shame because it’s funny, light, accessible and if it was a big hit than Gillain Jacobs would be a big star right now. Jacobs gives such a real and touching performance as Samantha, one of the members of a small improv group. Even though the subject might not be familiar for everyone, Samantha’s actions are universally understood. She found something that makes here happy and gives her meaning, and she doesn’t want anything to change that, even success. While her friends are all desperate to be discovered, Samantha wants to stay right there. It’s not often we see characters like this and I hope Jacobs is given more opportunities like this because she’s a person you just want to follow.
Best moment: Her solo improv show is so sad, but it’s also a little bit heartwarming for the simple fact that she went out there. She took that stage alone because she loves it so much and in that moment you realize that although things have changed for her right now, she knows her passion and will keep it with her no matter what.
Ben- Captain Fantastic
Some people need to like a main character, not I. I need to be intrigued by them and I need to enjoy spending time with them, and when a movie can accomplish that with a character that I ultimately disagree with, that’s the sign of a well-constructed character. In the end, I’m not sure if the movie wanted me to feel one way or another about Ben, but I found him to be arrogant and stubborn to the point of being dangerous. And yet, I could have spent many hours more with him. A lot of credit can go to Viggo Mortensen’s performance which highlights Ben’s more agreeable traits (he’s smart, kind, and a loving father) while not making him some idealistic characterization. I wanted to punch him in the face at times but his journey and philosophies were compelling in a very unexpected way.
Best moment: When questioned harshly by his sister about how he’s raising his kids, Ben puts on a demonstration for her. Bringing in his youngest child, he has his daughter explain the Bill of Rights in a critical and articulate summation. It’s a perfect encapsulation of Ben as a father; he’s providing his kids with such amazing knowledge, but it’s almost as if he’s doing it to stroke his own ego more than anything.
Ricky Baker- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi’s fairy tale-esque movie had a lot of heart and a lot of it comes from Ricky Baker, the trouble-maker with a heart of gold. It’s a difficult character to do right as it could easily come off as annoying if executed poorly, but Waititi and actor Julian Dennison pulled it off beautifully. Unlike most wannabe gangster youths, Ricky is refreshingly naive, not really getting a handle on where the outlaw persona fades and reality begins. But he’s also a really sweet kid who wants a family whether he’ll let himself admit it or not.
Best moment: It’s a small moment that takes place after his foster mom Bella dies. Ricky is alone in the woods with the heating pad Bella would put in his bed every night. He’s heating the pad over his campfire when it bursts, extinguishing the fire. It’s moment that combines Ricky’s sentimental side with his cluelessness. I give props to Waititi for playing it purely for laughs rather than an easy heartstring moment.
Willoughby- Everybody Wants Some!!
Seeing as Dazed and Confused sits comfortably on the list of my all time favourite movies, I had high hopes for its “spiritual sequel”. While this one doesn’t quite reach the charm of Dazed, it is another solid “hang-out” movie and there is no character I’d rather hangout with than Wyatt Russell’s Willoughby. A combination of Dazed’s Slater and Wooderson, he is an immensely likable guy who doesn’t exude the same amount of sleaze as his fellow teammates. The movie is a story of a young man trying to define his future in the first few days at college, but Willoughby has no such existential crisis. He knows exactly what he wants; weed, Twilight Zone and baseball, and the fact that he’s willing to go to great lengths to pursue the latter in his 30s speaks volumes about his passion.
Best moment: His epic bong hit, followed by his very sincere discussion on telepathy sums him up pretty well; eccentric, off-balance but a lot of fun to be around.
Brendan- Sing Street
Sing Street’s Brendan is one of the most unique and well-constructed characters I’ve seen on screen in some time. In the early moments of the film, I feared that he was meant to be another cliche. The stoner, lazy brother who never misses a moment to throw a witty jab at his family members. Of course, you quickly realize that Brendan isn’t insulting his young wannabe-rocker brother, he’s pushing him towards actually achieving his dreams. For the young Conor, Brendan is a tiny bit of solace inside his fractured home without realizing fully what his older brother is trying to do for him.
Best moment: His “I used to be a fucking jet engine” speech is one of my favourite moments in movies this year. It’s a crushing realization that Brendan isn’t just some lazy stoner wasting away in his parents’ basement, he’s stuck there. He had his dream crushed then saw it all slip away from him. And while he’s happy to see his brother perhaps succeed where he didn’t, there’s a part of him that still wishes it was his turn. In this quick flash, he lets out all that frustration and it’s heartbreaking.