Jan. 15th, 2017

As I've done in past years, here's my cinematic top ten (well, OK, eleven), Hugo edition. It was an amazing year for animation, but much weaker than 2015 for literary-related works. The top five of this list will be on my Hugo nominating ballot.

Honorable Mention: The Little Prince. A lyrical, charming adaptation-with-framing-device of Saint-Exupéry's classic.

10. Alice and the Extraordinary World. A marvelous bit of animated steampunk, complete with amazing inventions, wild escapes, and engaging characters. Obscure, but recommended.

9. Captain America: Civil War. Its biggest drawback is the downbeat ending, which is, I admit, an unfair criterion, but it's my list and I can be unfair if I want to. Otherwise, big-studio filmmaking at its most skilled. Great cast, and the fight between the two teams was the best action sequence of the year.

8. Moana. Yes, it's a Disney Princess movie, but it's one without even the hint of a love interest, which breaks a major component of the formula. The chemistry between the two leads adds energy to an already-solid script, gorgeous visuals, and ear-catching songs.

7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Proving that Rowling can write scripts as well as books. I liked the people, loved the creatures, and admired the misdirection involving the villain.

6. Ghostbusters. Comedy is subjective, and this one cracked me up several times. Holtzmann is my favorite character of the year.

5. Doctor Strange. This is the one that deserves the Special Effects Oscar. A top-notch cast, and visually beautiful, obviously done by someone who knows and loves Steve Ditko's artistic contribution to the original comics. The script's pretty good, too.

4. Zootopia. There are tons of animated movies where animals are given the intelligence and personalities of humans, and I wouldn't for a moment consider them Hugo-worthy. So why Zootopia? In one sfnal word, worldbuilding. The writers gave careful thought to how a city shared by myriad species, large, small, herbivore, and carnovire, would operate - the neighborhoods, the politics, law enforcement, and more. That elevates a very good movie to an outstanding one.

3. Kubo and the Two Strings. The most original fantasy of the year. Lots of stuff I'd never seen before, which scores major points with me.

2. Arrival. The one major 2016 SF movie based on written SF, and it's quality all the way.

Before finishing, I feel obliged to remind everyone that the rules for the Dramatic Presentation: Long Form Hugo state that it's for a work of "dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects". In the past, this has led to nominations for both Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff. Which is why I'm perfectly comfortable with my top nomination.

1. Hidden Figures. Fascinating, heroic, heartbreaking, and triumphant, this is the only movie on this list that moved me to tears. Do Not Miss This One.



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