HOLLYWOOD—Many are glad to see 2016 go, but no one can deny it was a great year for movies. Transcendent performances from some of Hollywood’s best talent bolstered a year of strong writing and directing. I’ve not yet seen all the films getting good buzz (for instance I’ve heard great things about “I, Daniel Blake,” “Fire at Sea,” and “Jackie”) but of those I have seen these were the standouts.
Barry Jenkins masterpiece is the best and most important film of the year. This outstanding coming of age story is one of the best movies about drugs, addiction, and the mother-son relationship I’ve ever seen. A transcendent cast, superb cinematography, and a brilliant screenplay are highlights of this new classic that explores many different kinds of love. Not only do I predict this will be viewed as a classic of romance and LGBT cinema, but one of the great movies of our time.
The best sci fi movie in years. Amy Adams’ performance was amazing, and director Denis Villeneuve was bested only by Jenkins in 2016. This unique take on language, time, and first contact may be a bit cerebral for some viewers, but it is well worth the effort. I greatly admire the risks this innovative film successfully took. If this is the bar for science fiction films now I’m extremely excited to see what comes in its wake.
One of the most underrated films of the year. This fantastic thriller proves the talent and maturity of Daniel Radcliffe. The under broached subject of white supremacist terrorism is addressed here with chilling clarity. One of the best thrillers of the year, I was especially compelled by its timely exploration of the power of words.
“Hell or High Water”
This tremendous anti-western featured a screenplay by Taylor Sheridan that’s competitive with gems like “Moonlight” and “Arrival.” Memorable dialogue, a well-paced plot, and great acting from Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster put this film on any decent 2016 list. The great locations and fascinating deconstruction of classic western tropes only elevate David Mackenzie’s standout film.
“The Red Turtle”
Studio Ghibli gave the us another masterpiece in 2016. Featuring gorgeous animation and a touching story, this beautiful meditation on life and death was unique for its lack of dialogue. It will likely lose to “Zootopia” at the Academy Awards, and that’s a shame as it is the best animated film of 2016.
“Manchester by the Sea”
The allegations against Casey Affleck have marred this film. I’m a big advocate of forgiveness, but it has to be earned. I would expect Affleck to show a great deal of atonement before he is given any more awards. This being the case, I still must say it is a great film. Director/writer Kenneth Lonergan created an honest and touching depiction of trauma, depression, and grieving. Realistic, sad, and subtly hopeful without full catharsis it is a film that will stay with you.
Alex Gibney’s stunning documentary on the Stuxnet virus and cyber warfare is comparable to greats of the genre like “Inside Job.” An admirable amount of reporting went into this. Don’t take this to mean it’s ponderous. It’s a better spy story than any Bond film I’ve seen. Thrilling, supremely well made, and greatly informative, it is a thought provoking examination of an issue that has come to dominate the headlines.
Director Mel Gibson has a checkered history, and like Casey Affleck he will need to show more in the way of atonement before the industry can morally award his work. That being said this film is outstanding. There is a one-dimensional nature to a lot of the characters, and some of the symbolism is obvious. All the same Andrew Garfield’s tremendous performance and the brutal, brilliant battle scenes put this film on the list.
“Star Wars: Rogue One”
It has flaws sure, but it’s a fun, exciting, and distinctively dark entry in the beloved series. The fantastic battle scenes and special effects deserve special praise.
While not as good as “The Red Turtle” it is no doubt a charming film. Sure to go down with movies like “Frozen” in our repertoire of modern animated classics, it features a fun plot, great humor, and surprisingly interesting social commentary.
This solid, well-made documentary will be familiar territory for those familiar with American history and prisons. However, this excellent exploration of the prison-industrial complex will be the go to for those interested in the subject.