Welcome to the Third Annual Zeppo Marx Appreciation Award. For this pointless award, we pay tribute to the films that may have been overlooked in favor of something flashier and more interesting. In some cases, these films exceed the expectations set by those around them. However, to remove these lesser known titles is to sacrifice what is great about cinema. Just like Zeppo Marx, these films have a thankless job that is worthy of further recognition in really arbitrary categories. Join me in honoring 10 films that are better than those films you likely call great and deserve to have more attention.
Why Michael Sheen is Taking a Break From Acting
Winner: Alice Through the Looking Glass
Better Than: Passengers, Nocturnal Animals, Masters of Sex (TV)
If there is one continuing truth, it's that movies haven't always used Michael Sheen to the best of his capabilities. While Masters of Sex has shown him working to his potential on TV (and pretty well in the final season), his filmography in 2016 has been quite the baffling set of options. Whether he's half a robot in Passengers or a "blink and you'll miss it" role in Nocturnal Animals, it does seem like loyal fans will have to sift through some garbage just to see him. Still, the news that he is going on a hiatus from acting is a baffling choice and one that most will not miss despite his immense talents. Still, if one had to guess why this decision is happening now, it's probably because of the abysmal Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is worse than the Tim Burton original yet still could likely pay for most of Sheen's expenditures in his time away from celluloid.
Winner: Popstar:: Never Stop Never Stopping
Better Than: Sing Street
If there was one thing to be thankful for in 2016, it's the movie music. While this could be applied to the musicals Moana and La La Land, it is more interesting to ask ourselves what the best fake band was. While Sing Street featured catchy music, its story was more saccharine, cornball, and timid in ways that its 80's pastiche wouldn't let it escape. Popstar was an unbridled experience of Andy Samberg's comedy music, creating one of the funniest soundtracks since Walk Hard. The lyrics expertly poke fun at the male bravado while also being out and out fun. Sure, there's no "Drive It Like You Stole It" here, but at least Samberg's lampooning feels fun and the film it's based around is a nonstop wall of laughs likely to gain cult following for decades to come.
Michael Fassbender's "Weird" Films
Winner: Assassin's Creed
Better Than: X-Men:: Apocalypse
There's nothing more splendid than when a great and charismatic actor like Michael Fassbender dedicates himself to the most bizarre subject matter imaginable. While The Light Between Oceans was a more conventional tale, his other two films explored a variety of themes that would take paragraphs to properly explain. Instead, it's a matter of comparing the Auschwitz-destroying brilliance of X-Men: Apocalypse to the martial arts mind games of Assassin's Creed. The latter may not make more sense, but it has more fun with its weird moments in a way that may not make it great, but definitely makes it distinguishable as a film having fun with its material. Fassbender is returning to weird territory next year with Alien: Covenant, so get ready for more madness.
Comedy Starring an Oscar-Winning Actress Born in 1946
Winner: The Meddler
Better Than: Hello My Name is Doris
For those looking for a break from the dark superhero movies of the summer, you were in luck with several lighthearted comedies starring some of America's favorite actresses. On one hand was Hello My Name is Doris, whose wardrobe alone is deserving for some Oscar consideration and whose earnestness should make Sally Fields more of an Oscar contender. However, The Meddler featured one of the more heartwarming and funny stories of the summer by turning Susan Sarandon's journey as the mother who can do anything into one of the most memorable out there. It's likely to become a crowd favorite as time goes on, making people wish that she was all of our moms.
Franchise Film Where Multiracial Cast Saves the Day
Winner: The Magnificent Seven
Better Than: Rogue One
One of the most encouraging trends in cinema this year was the sense of community among different cultures. This was very true in major franchise films, including Star Wars' latest Rogue One. To see everyone working together to fight intergalactic turmoil is a great sign of representation in 2016 and more evidence that space is big enough for everyone. However, it was the western The Magnificent Seven that had more fun with this dynamic; choosing to have its cast tag team in creative ways while creating one of the best crowd-pleasing westerns to come out in years. There's so much to love about the film, and the cast's chemistry is a big part of it. Even then, the action is electric and little has to do with racial identity. It's about citizens working together to save the day, and that's all that we could hope for right now.
Film Starring "Gifted Youngsters"
Winner: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Better Than: X-Men:: Apocalypse
It is important to remember that Tim Burton helped to inspired the modern superhero fad back in 1989. Without him, who knows what the modern trend would be. However, it's been awhile since he's been in the game, and one could argue that he's trying to enter the game again with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. To say the least, it's successful in the ways that his latter day films tend to be, even featuring a script by X-Men: First Class (and Days of Future Past) scribe Jane Goldman. It may be too conventional for some, but it definitely has an assurance of tone that X-Men: Apocalypse lacked despite having a more prestigious cast and a memorable scene in which Auschwitz was destroyed. Still, Burton hasn't been this fun in years, so cherish it while you can.
Song About Humbleness
Winner: "You're Welcome" (Moana)
Better Than: "I'm So Humble" (Popstar:: Never Stop Never Stopping)
It is easy to make a joke about being a simpleminded person. However, it's tough to make it stand out as more than cheeky. Both Moana and Popstar expertly do this by skewering genres and inserting a clever sense of humor to every line. While Popstar brags about subpar private jets, the real winner has to be Moana, which manages to do the unthinkable and turns Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson into a Broadway songstress whose bravado carries the song to blissful heights. It's a great work of art which only gets better once it hits the breakdown. If you don't love Maui, you may have trouble at least not liking his song.
Ryan Gosling Holiday Film Involving Driving a Car in L.A.
Winner: The Nice Guys
Better Than: La La Land
This may be a tough sell, if just because Ryan Gosling's two films from this year are brilliant genre films. Even if La La Land is aesthetically and structurally a better film, there isn't a better moment of Gosling driving a car than in The Nice Guys when things go horribly awry and he hallucinates. Yes, the opening number to La La Land is better, but it's more because of everyone else in the scene. In The Nice Guys, it's pure Gosling showing his comedy chops in ways that make the absurd premise work all the better. If nothing else, it'll make you laugh while being grateful that this Canadian refuses to leave Los Angeles.
Alien Invasion Movie
Winner: 10 Cloverfield Lane
Better Than: Midnight Special, Arrival
If you're a fan of looking for extraterrestrial beings, then 2016 was a great year for you. Not only did it have pulpy films full of horror and action, but it had highbrow films that explored humanity's complex structure. The one that blended these ideas together the best is 10 Cloverfield Lane, the unexpected sequel to Cloverfield that found tension in closed quarters and even managed to prove the potential for these films as a franchise. Add in that Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a great performance alongside the charismatic John Goodman, and you get one of the most fun horror films of the year. Yes, the ending is kinda obvious if you judge it against the previous film. However, it's a genius move that expands the universe and finds new potential not only in the franchise, but in how alien invasion movies can be shot.
Reason to Stay Off the Internet
Better Than: Black Mirror (TV)
This may be a cheat, especially since Black Mirror is not a movie. However, it's tough to find a better comparison point for the film that explores the pitfalls of social media than to compare it to the TV series that explores the pitfalls of social media. This is especially true of the episode "Shut Up and Dance," which mirrors themes of Nerve almost note for note. Even then, the Catfish creators give Nerve an authenticity that is fascinating and full of commentary that will be appreciated in years to come once it's accepted as one of the definitive films of 2016. It describes the era better than any contemporary film of this year, or in fact the past few. Also, it gives a good reason why too much time on the internet could be hazardous.