By: Henry J. Fromage and Movieboozer Staff & Contributors
Well, here we are, finally looking back on the bountiful cornucopia that was film in 2016. Comment with your own favorites below (or get some debate goin’- even better!)
10. Florence Foster Jenkins: Of course Meryl Streep manages to be great at being terrible, but this makes my list for Hugh Grant’s and (especially) Simon Helberg’s scene-stealing performances.
9. Swiss Army Man: I’m still not 100% certain if I “loved” this movie, but two things are for sure: 1) It was the most original (and bizarre) film I’ve seen all year and 2) I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterward. And that ending!
8. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: One of the funniest (and most underrated) comedies of the year. Spot-on satire. And the songs are great.
7. Deadpool: Just the peg kick in the ass the superhero genre needed.
6. Hidden Figures: Formulaic bio-pic? Perhaps, but damn if I didn’t cry and cheer.
5. Don’t Breathe: A masterclass in terror that toys with the viewer’s perception, this was the little $10M horror movie that could. So good, I can forgive how silly it gets at the end.
4. Moonlight: Beautiful and honest storytelling. Stellar performances. This is one you’ll remember long after it’s over.
3. The Jungle Book: I adored everything about this. Every. Last. Thing. Jon Favreau for all the remakes!
2. Kubo and the Two Strings: Gorgeous, visually-stunning, and touching. Zootopia will probably get the Oscar, but this was the best animated film of 2016 by a mile.
1. Sing Street: By far, my favorite of the year. Not only endlessly re-watchable, but it somehow manages to get even better each time. It’s impossible not to be in a good mood after viewing. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out yet, do it tonight. You won’t regret it. And every song in this movie is better than anything that got nominated for Best Song (Fuck you Trolls!)
10. Uncle Kent 2: My mid life data-mosh apocalypse. A positive, no doubt.
9. The Alchemist Cookbook: Take note, horror movies set in the woods: THIS is how you scare and inform.
8. Elvis & Nixon: An absolute delight. Michael Shannon’s Elvis does a Nixon dressing down / dressing up that we all wish to have been a part of.
7. Weiner: Self destruction, caught on camera. Never before has a series of unfortunate events been so sweetly ironic and ripe.
6. Lemonade: Beyonce is a goddess. Women are goddesses. Be loud and proud.
5. The Greasy Strangler: THE event picture of the year. Endlessly quotable and forever watchable.
4. The Mermaid: Slapstick, environmentalism, humanism, and romanticism. Was made for me.
3. Swiss Army Man: Was the most life affirming movie for a portion of 2016. Adult Swim filmmaking, soulful all the way.
2. Moonlight: THE affirmation of life picture of the year. Made a terrible birthday / election night into something worth celebrating.
1. Kate Plays Christine: Inventive, mesmerizing, and haunting. Kate Lyn Sheil is the definition of brave acting.
10. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
9. Sausage Party
8. Kubo and the Two Strings
7. Captain America: Civil War
2. Sing Street
1. The Greasy Strangler
10. Sunset Song: I wasn’t all too familiar with director Terence Davies before watching this, but now I just might have to go through the man’s entire back catalogue after experiencing this utterly gorgeous, elegant coming of age tale. From a purely aesthetic standpoint it’s a true marvel, but the storytelling and atmosphere of the whole piece really add to its merits as well.
9. Moana: Pure classic Disney fare that manages to update portions of their old school formula without sacrificing a shred of its sincerity or charm. And the company’s 3D animation has never looked better, or done a more impressive job of capturing and depicting a fresh, underseen culture onscreen.
8. Silence: Martin Scorsese’s epic passion project went largely unnoticed by both audiences and awards circuits, but the fact remains that this is an utterly staggering piece of spiritually challenging subject matter, a topic rarely seen on such a grand scale, and with enough shades of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky to please your inner cinephile. For my money, this has got to be the most devastating depiction of man’s futile cries to a silent God since It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
7. Elle: Paul Verhoeven is back with a vengeance, in a work so bluntly satirical that it not only rivals but in some ways eclipses his own genre work from the late 80’s-early 90’s period. Isabelle Huppert shines in this unflinchingly grim and also somehow darkly comical piece of high class trash, if that’s even a thing. Well, it is now, and this film is certainly a piece of it.
6. Hell or High Water: A slick and empowering Robin Hood-esque fable for the modern age, about the economically disenfranchised fighting back against the very system that continues to keep them down in the dirt. Social relevance aside, it’s also a cracking good action thriller, with a handful of fine performances and some of the best cinematography of the entire year.
5. Moonlight: Probably the single-most acclaimed film from last year, and with good reason too. It’s a damn-near revolutionary take on the urban coming of age subgenre (if you can call it that), and features an ensemble of flawless performances giving credibility to the proceedings.
4. The Witch: A modern horror masterpiece, and probably the best of the recent resurgence of low-budget horror fare. The accuracy of the period elements is almost impossibly detailed and the foreboding, casually building tension is unlike anything we’ve seen from the genre in decades.
3. Paterson: A sweet, understated gem dedicated to the brave, heroic act of getting up out of bed every morning. It’s a true celebration of the everyday, common American citizen lifestyle that would make Barton Fink himself proud, and finds Jim Jarmusch at his Jim Jarmusch-iest.
2. Manchester by the Sea: As someone who (similar to the plot of this film) recently dealt with the loss of their brother, this film was always going to strike a particular chord with me, but in addition to the personal connection, this was just an all around wonderfully acted and exceptionally written study on grief and depression, and one that was able to inject a surprising amount of levity into the proceedings. And it’s all centered around Casey Affleck’s grounded, haunting central performance; one of the best of its kind that we’ve been privileged enough to see for quite some time.
1. La La Land: Hype and haters be damned, this remains the single most dazzling and purely joyous film I’ve seen from last year. It feels at once completely modern in its sensibilities and storytelling, while also managing to contain a very classical feel throughout. Forgive my use of cliché, but they truly don’t make them like this anymore, and if/when this wins every Academy Award possible, you won’t hear me complaining.
Honorable mentions: Arrival, The Edge of Seventeen,Hail Caesar!, Indignation, The Lobster, Love & Friendship, Loving, The Red Turtle
Criminally underseen or unfairly maligned: Allied, The BFG, Christine, The Light Between Oceans, The Neon Demon, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Pete’s Dragon, Storks
10. Doctor Strange: if you didn’t need another reason to be in love with BBC Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch then just slap on a cape and give this flick about thirty seconds to do the trick.
9. Kubo And The Two Strings: a beautifully animated fable that makes even Matthew McConaughey relevant outside of a Lincoln ad again.
8. Zootopia: this was the year of animation and Zootopia is a superbly done noir mystery wrapped up in buddy cops and bunny hops.
7. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: a surprisingly good biopic that showcases the more dramatic chops Tina Fey gets to flex whenever Amy Poehler is busy.
6. Office Christmas Party: a pure, popcorn-fueled party machine of fun that says hell no to thinking and hells yes to drinking!
5. Love & Friendship: For all the Far From The Madding Crowd fans your latest period piece featuring a lesser-known Austenian tale is brought to life and laughter by the incomparable Kate Beckinsale. She checks the leather pants and dying Underworld franchise at the door here to steal the retro show.
4. Finding Dory: You might not need to find Nemo any more but Dory brings us back into the heart and soul of everything that we loved about the first film in the superbly swum seaquel.
3. The Purge: Election Year: I don’t care who knows it, I love the Purge franchise for its hidden depths and thinly veiled metaphors about society and the psychology behind inherent morality. Also really bops the current political climate right on the tiny-fisted clown nose.
2. Bridget Jones’s Baby: a truly fantastic end to the triple threat that is the classic everywoman’s trilogy. Plus if you get the chance to bang both Patrick Dempsey AND Colin Firth you fall on that dick for womenkind worldwide. #SquadGoals
1. Moana: Lin Manuel Miranda is everything good in this world and also helped make Moana the best animated (and Disney movie in general) film I’ve seen in YEARS. Funny, witty, and chock full of feels while also still respecting the culture in which it swims, you can’t go wrong with Moana (and also YOU’RE WELCOME).
10. Hardcore Henry: Fun, innovative action movie that reminded me of a 90s First Person Shooter.
9. 31: One of the most deranged, fucked up horror movies I have seen in a long time.
8. Lights Out: Took a YouTube short and made it into a solid feature-length movie, worth a watch.
7. Deadpool: An R-Rated superhero movie that exceeded my wildest expectations, and brought Ryan Reynolds back to the A-List.
6. Don’t Breathe: The best traditional horror movie of the year.
5. Range 15: A zombie movie starring a bunch of veterans, and it happens to be funny as hell. Sign me up.
4. Kubo and the Two Strings: This movie has something for everyone, and is easily the best animated movie of the year.
3. Hell or High Water: Fantastic performances by Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. Just a fantastic thriller.
2. Star Trek Beyond: I fucking loved this movie, just a good old fun Sci-Fi action movie.
1. Deepwater Horizon: One of the most intense movies that I have ever seen. No matter how cliché it was at times, it was still the most engaging movie that I saw all year.
10. Nocturnal Animals: You know you’re playing with the big boys when a fashion designer-turned filmmaker can make one of the most profoundly uncomfortable, beautifully-shot films of the year. One half of the narrative is clearly better than the other half, but both parts work together well and the whole thing wastes no time getting under your skin and staying there.
9. The Nice Guys: Shane Black doesn’t make a ton of movies, but he smashes it out of the park every time he does, and The Nice Guys is yet another reminder of his attention to time period detail and ability to paint sharp, clever characters against a pulpy, neo-noir background. Buddy comedies don’t get better than when Shane Black makes them.
8. Sing Street: “Bullied teen in Catholic school starts a band to impress an aspiring model” could be the premise to a half-hour video available for rental at your church library, but John Carney turns that simplistic premise into a compelling one with great performances, even better original music numbers, and a zippy, energetic style.
7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: These days, the best films seem to be dark, sad, or mean-spirited. Why not have a movie with adult themes that broadcasts a cheerful, quirky, happy message? Hunt for the Wilderpeople is downright cathartic with its simple tale of a delinquent boy and an antagonistic farmer forced to be allies as everyone in the country searches for them across the bush. Movies don’t spin tragedy and fear into camaraderie and delight quite like this does.
6. Arrival: Amy Adams’ performance punctuates Denis Villeneuve’s slow-burn alien-visitation drama as a linguist striving to decipher the language the visitors are using to communicate as neighboring countries interpret the communications as an act of war. It’s an amazingly well-realized reflection of the current state of the world and its countries’ refusal to cooperate with one another, coupled with an absolutely devastating gut-punch of a revelatory finale.
5. Moana: It’s enough that Dwayne Johnson fist-bumps his own sentient tattoo, but Moana goes the extra mile with a fantastic core set of characters, cultural respect, a fantastic soundtrack, and astonishingly beautiful animation. Moana is by turns hilarious, heroic, and tearjerking, and it’s the best damn thing Disney has made in years.
4. Paterson: Jim Jarmusch’s latest film is as simple as they come, but delivers a wonderful slice-of-life narrative following a bus driver and poet named Paterson (Adam Driver) through seven days. That week is mundane for him and his wife, but as Jarmusch frames it, it’s a beautiful look at people who aspire for more, but can still spot the beauty in what they already have.
3. The Greasy Strangler: The cheerfully bizarre, disgusting randomness of The Greasy Stranger, from its weird obsession with grease to Michael St. Michael’s spectacularly gross prosthetic dick, marry perfectly with its off-kilter characters, endlessly quotable dialogue, and a weirdly touching father-son story. It’s also one of the most dangerous movies to suggest to anyone you don’t know very closely, and it’s absolutely part of its charm.
2. The Little Prince: I had to close the door to my room so my housemates couldn’t see me getting more emotional than Ben Affleck getting pimp slapped by the Batman v Superman reviews. The movie drawing a line between growing up and becoming boring, and growing up and staying adventurous, was probably the most hard-hitting message of anything I’ve seen this year, and a clear definition of my personal philosophy: being an adult is frightening, but it doesn’t have to be mundane, and it doesn’t mean you have to forfeit what makes you you.
1. Swiss Army Man: It’s the movie where Daniel Radcliffe plays a talking, farting corpse with a compass boner and a number of other abilities, including becoming best friends with lonely, loser castaway Paul Dano. It’s all at once painfully hilarious, achingly sad, and deeply insightful, as the childlike reanimated corpse learns about human life from the castaway, and the castaway learns from the corpse what it means to live. Something this weird shouldn’t elicit such an emotional response, but the way Swiss Army Man tackles social stigmas, mental illness, sexuality, and gender role/identity—tied together by an amazing soundtrack–is absolutely beautiful.
10. Too Late: I hope you’re walk into “Too Late” with an empty stomach, because you’re about about to be served a whopping film buffet of awesome.
9. Hail, Caesar!: It’s the Coen Brothers for goodness sake! Woefully underappreciated and absolutely marvelous.
8. The Wailing (Goksung): A daft mixture of Coen Brothers-style dark inept humor, eye scorching gore, and a mystery worth chasing after.
7. La La Land: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling pair up for the third time and better than ever. The two’s natural chemistry is unparalleled in young Hollywood, and they don’t disappoint here.
6. Silence: At this screening I noticed a handful of people walking out before it was well over. Most of the time that is an example of a poorly made film, but not always. Martin Scorsese’s latest, Silence, is an example of the latter.
5. Everybody Wants Some!: Here is a film perfect in its slice of time, killer soundtrack, and super talented unknown cast that shouldn’t stay unknown, and perfect in its easy going swagger
4. Hell or High Water: A summer film that feels like it should have been released in awards season. Pine, Foster, and Bridges electrify almost as much as the biting script. A knock-out must-see!
3. Moonlight: Tender and somber among many things, Barry Jenkins Moonlight is hard to quantify but easy to qualify as one of 2016’s best films.
2. Manchester by the Sea: Lonergan’s brilliantly unfolding script and Affleck’s sadness helps to traverse an incredibly deep and profound story.
Drum Roll Please….
1. Arrival: I wept watching this. It arrived at the right time; how cathartic it is for a story to come along that shows the immense benefits reaped from such a noble endeavor that is communication.
Till next time…
10. Everybody Wants Some: It’s classic Linklater: great dialogue, relatable characters, and a helluva good time. Not to mention re-watchable; I’ve watched this film four times already since seeing it in theaters.
9. Lion: A tremendous true story about love and a willingness to not give up. After watching Lion it wasn’t hard to see why it’s up for 6 Oscars. I dare you not to cry while you watch this film.
8. American Honey: Who knew it would take a woman from Britain to capture the essence of the American Midwest. A marvelous meandering journey that’s both beautiful and saddening.
7. The Lobster: A hilarious satirical look at the conception of modern relationships. This is the most original film I’ve seen in a while.
6. Silence: Scorsese’s passion project. This film is not easy to sit through, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s punishing, beautiful, and thought-provoking. Everyone should watch this film at least once.
5. La La Land: A charming original musical about the harshness of LA and those Hollywood dreams. This film will sweep you away for two hours – total escapism.
4. Arrival: I’m becoming a big fan of Denis Villeneuve. This is one of the most intelligent sci-fi films in a long time. It’s 8 Oscar nominations are well deserved.
3. Hell or High Water: Excellent modern Western which speaks to the heart of so many angry Americans. The script is brilliant and the acting is even better. You’ll watch this one multiple times because it’s so good.
2. Manchester by the Sea: A heartbreaking film with genuine comedy inside. Casey Affleck gives his best performance to date. However, with a screenplay so good and a character so meaty it was easy for Affleck to knock this one out of the park.
1. Moonlight: One of the best films of the 21st century. Moonlight will not only move you but it will touch your soul. Everything about this film is beautiful, and I believe this film will end up on AFI’s 100 Greatest Films of All Time list when it’s updated.
10. The Lobster: My surprise favorite of the year. A great satire about relationships in a dystopian world. Excellent writing and acting.
9. Moonlight: A beautiful film with a unique story to it. In some ways the supporting cast was more memorable than the main character. Fantastic cinematography.
8. The Nice Guys: An early favorite in the year for me. A great tribute to noir storytelling that was pretty funny. Gosling and Crowe give hilarious performances.
7. A Monster Calls: A technically dazzling film with a sweet story. Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson are particularly memorable. Check out my full review for more.
6. The Boy and the Beast: I am glad I stumbled across this film because it was well worth the time to watch it. A movie with very pleasing animation, and a great fantasy story to get sucked into.
5. Nocturnal Animals: This movie manages to tell two completely different stories incredibly well, with the fictional story giving insight to a character only seen in flashbacks. Fantastic performances by the whole cast.
4. Hell or High Water: If this is what a Neo-Western is than I want plenty more. The characters and story are very well-developed and I didn’t want the film to end!
3. Zootopia: The best Disney Animation Studios film in over a decade. Impressive world design and manages to make a delightful spin on the buddy-cop story.
2. Arrival: Another fantastic installment in Denis Villenevue’s filmography. A story that sucks you in with great effects.
1. La La Land: I’m a sucker for tribute pieces and La La Land is no exception. It brings back the idea of the classic Musical and hits all the notes it needs to. Best Musical in years.
10. A Monster Calls: I have something to confess; this movie made me cry, and hard. A Monster Calls tells the story of a young boy who is struggling with his mother’s mortal illness, and regresses into fantasy to escape it. The escape attempts fail, though, and instead a monster (voiced wonderfully by Liam Neeson) arrives to help the boy heal during seemingly unendurable trauma. One of the most heartfelt childhood fantasy films I’ve ever seen, with a potent and emotional message.
9. Fences: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprise their roles from the Broadway version of August Wilson’s play, with Denzel directing as well. Denzel plays Troy, an aging Garbage Collector in the 1950s whose demands on himself and his demands on those around him conceal personal demons. Being bound by the restrictions of the film’s origin as a stage play, the movie nevertheless triumphs over this in the hands of Denzel and Viola’s stellar performances.
8. The Witch: The Witch is a stunningly creepy new horror film from director/writer Robert Eggers. A family of Puritans is outcast from their village due to diverging religious beliefs, and makes a home for themselves in a clearing deep into the woods. Strange events begin happening around them which leads to a rise in religious fervor and paranoia which reaches desperate levels. The cast is uniformly excellent, making the Olde-Timey dialogue sound convincing, even if it does approach Shakespeare at his most impenetrable.
7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a quirky and hilarious film from director Taika Waititi, who also wrote the screenplay. In rural New Zealand young Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is delivered to the home of Hec (Sam Neill) and Bella (Rima Te Wiata) by child services as a foster family. After a rough start, Ricky begins to find his place in the household, only for disaster to strike one day. The result of this tragedy leaves Ricky running out into the woods and Hec following close behind, trying to bring him home. Deep in the woods, Hec and Ricky find out that the authorities are looking for both of them, with Hec widely believed to be a kidnapper. The two decide not to return, and instead spend the next few months living off the land together and developing a relationship, while dodging search parties.
6. Green Room: When a struggling but devoted Punk Rock band is short on cash, they accept a gig at a club in the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest, where they are promised the sum of $350.00, which seems more than adequate for their meager needs of the moment. The club, as it turns out, is operated by White Supremacists, and just after their set is done, they accidentally witness something they shouldn’t have, and lock themselves in the Green Room of the club. Meanwhile the leader of the local Neo-NAZI group (Patrick Stewart) is busy planning their disposal. Stewart is an actor capable of big, eccentric performances, and he is uncannily reserved here, which only adds to the menace at hand with his character, as the few moments he lets his fury shine through are more than enough to know that he’s a man to be feared. This is not a movie for all viewers, but I found it incredibly engrossing.
5. Loving: The story of Loving is not of the court case, or even of the Civil Rights struggle. Loving is a story of the life two people live for each other, and build together. There have been numerous films in recent years exploring race relations, but without making any big statements, or speeches, and without demonizing those who oppose them, Loving speaks volumes. There is more power and meaning in one wordless scene of Loving than hours of blustery historical biopics.
4. Lion: Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel deliver incredible performances as the young and adult Saroo respectively. Lion is one of the year’s most emotional films, a human story that pulls all of the right heartstrings without ever feeling overwrought or soapy.
3. Paterson: Director Jim Jarmusch’s film about a week in the life of a bus driver/poet is a quietly humorous look at the creative drive. Paterson (Adam Driver) lives in Paterson, NJ with his wife Laura and their dog. During his daily routine driving the bus for the city, he uses his observations of the day to fuel his writing. Meanwhile his wife stays at home working on any one of several craft projects, always with a new idea. Jarmusch is a master of building a character-driven story around a simple premise, and this might be his most entertaining effort since 2005’s Broken Flowers.
2. Sing Street: Sing Street plows familiar ground and manages to grow something completely & genuinely fresh and new, with killer music, solid performances, and a palpable statement about the daring of youth. The theme of brotherhood, both among friends and actual blood brothers is palpable and universal.
1. Hell or High Water: This movie has the feel of a 1970s road film like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot or The Sugarland Express updated for the present day. The film is full of witty dialogue and humor, but the story can get violent fast, and often unexpectedly. This creates an uneasiness to the story, in that one easily empathizes with the brothers, while also being shocked by the actions they take. One of the truly perfect films of the year.
Henry J. Fromage
Once again, I’m giving you way too much to watch. Sue me.*
Unfairly Maligned or Ignored:
Passengers, Ben-Hur, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Free State of Jones, Snowden, Allied, War Dogs, Knight of Cups, Risen, Bleed for This, Race, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Studies in Pure Entertainment:
Captain America: Civil War, Lights Out, Ghostbusters, The Shallows, Finding Dory, Central Intelligence, Now You See Me 2, Pop Star: Never Stop Stopping, Neighbors 2, Keanu, Elvis & Nixon, The Jungle Book, The Brothers Grimsby, Deadpool, Hardcore Henry, Dr. Strange, Stark Trek Beyond, The Shallows, Don’t Breathe, A Hologram for the King, Midnight Special, The Mermaid, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Band of Robbers, Moana, Storks, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Masterminds, Rogue One, Nerve,
Docs to Watch:
The Seventh Fire, Lenny Cooke, My Love Don’t Cross that River, Tickled, How to Let Go of the World, Pervert Park, Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, My Scientology Movie, They Will Have to Kill Us First, Theo Who Lived, O.J.: Made in America, Accidental Courtesy, Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, 13th, Weiner, Fire at Sea, Holy Hell, Under the Sun, City of Gold, Zero Days, Prophet’s Prey, Into the Inferno, Life Animated, Jim: The James Foley Story, I am Not Your Negro
2016 Movies You Should Watch (in rough order):
Ixcanul, The Tenth Man, High-Rise, Sing Street, Eye in the Sky, H., Hail Caesar!, The Phenom, Hacksaw Ridge, Certain Women, I Am Not a Serial Killer, Birth of a Nation, Deepwater Horizon, Sully, Imperium, The Tunnel, The Little Prince, Videofilia (And Other Viral Syndromes), The Edge of Seventeen, Nocturnal Animals, The Family Fang, Born to be Blue, The Eyes of My Mother, Florence Foster Jenkins, Pete’s Dragon, Morris from America, The Invitation, Krisha, Jackie, Fences, Creative Control, Love & Friendship, The Wave, Everybody Wants Some, Miles Ahead, Loving, The Red Turtle, Zootopia, Neon Demon, Kubo and the Three Strings, Green Room, American Honey, The Handmaiden, Arrival, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Queen of Katwe, The Alchemist Cookbook, Kicks, Patriots Day, Silence, Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women, The Lobster, Things to Come, A Man Called Ove, The Founder, Elle, Toni Erdmann, The Salesman
Another year of marriage, another Best of list from my wife. I’d say our tastes still (largely) align, eh?
8. 20th Century Women
7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
6. Hell or High Water
5. Nocturnal Animals
4. Born to be Blue
3. The Brothers Grimsby
2. The Wailing
1. La La Land
Also, I picked more than ten top flicks, again, because I reiterate, I have no moral backbone whatsoever. I’m not sorry.
10. A Monster Calls/Lion: While it may seem like a cheat grouping these together, both made me cry like a little baby, just in different ways. The former is a highly successful stylization of some very complex emotional territory, a film that feels more true to grief and adolescent angst than any I can remember. The latter is based on a true story and played as naturalistic as possible, leading to a payoff that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house even when you know without it in some form, there’s no movie.
9. The Witch: What an incredibly well-assured horror debut. Robert Eggers creates a meticulously detailed, off-puttingly period-appropriate, and thoroughly terrifying world unlike any other.
8. The Nice Guys: Shane Black is a national treasure, and Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe turn in perfectly complementary comedic performances. Buddy cop Neo-Noir action comedy gold.
7. Demon: That I have another pure horror film ranked above The Witch should tell you how effectively scary this can be, all the more so for how effective the satire and Holocaust/sins-of-the-past themes play as well.
6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: The film two places up may be funnier, but damn if it isn’t awful close. Just a joyous, funny, off-kilter, and very stylish gem.
5. Moonlight: A triumph of humanistic storytelling and filmmaking, and a thrilling calling card to the immense creative talents of all of those involved, this may be the one history remembers longest for 2016.
4. Manchester by the Sea/Louder than Bombs: Another cheat, I know, but both films are devastatingly realistic examinations of the different ways we respond to grief, directed in a stripped down but eye-catching manner with surprisingly effective sense of humor. That one is getting so much more recognition than the other is completely confusing to me.
3. The Wailing: In one way, Demon isn’t my highest-ranked horror film, but in another, this thrilling genre mashup is only part (very effective) horror, and part comedy, drama, thriller, action film, and arthouse masterpiece. It’s genre mastery as only the Koreans seem to even attempt.
2. Hell or High Water: Taylor Sheridan has put quite a stamp on the Western genre in a very short period of time, seemingly taking the No Country for Old Men revisionist template and going bold and incredibly well-realized new directions with it. The genius of this heist film is how it makes you root for all involved in diametric opposition, then breaks your heart when that opposition inevitably comes to violence.
1. La La Land: Hey, I know it. You’re tired of hearing about this film, and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are just too attractive to tolerate and… fuck it. I wasn’t more entertained for a two hour period during the entirety of 2016 as I was by this beautiful throwback to a Golden Age of Hollywood genre I never even much cared for before this. Pure magic.