The Best Films of 2016

There are many things I can say about the state of cinema this year and not one of them involves the hyperbolic statement, Cinema is dying or is dead.

It’s just evolving, which is what film has been doing since it’s creation.

For many film goers like me, this represents a time when there’s so much entertainment out there and it’s our job to find what compels us the most.

This year there were some films that didn’t enchant me, such as La La Land, the nicely made but narratively empty musical that caused more frustration than awe.

But overall, this year had some wonderful films, some that are classics and some that will be re-evaluated in the years to come.

10. Love & Friendship

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Making a comedy is hard, but it’s even harder to make a witty period piece comedy with a conniving lead.

When I first saw the trailer, the idea of a Jane Austen comedy didn’t appeal to me and the choppy marketing didn’t help.

Luckily, Director Whit Stillman’s confident direction and razor sharp script won me over immediately.

Kate Beckinsale is also in top form here, delivering an icy performance and Tom Bennett gives one of the best comedic performance of the year as the dim-suitors.

09. Make Happy

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Bo Burnham is not my cup of tea, but this summer I decided to give his new concert film a shot.

The first few minutes of this film are of him in sad clown make up and my eyes were rolling. Fortunately, the moment he lands on stage, we are treated to one of the best stand up films ever made.

The production value is executed very well and the lighting effects are stunning, but Bo himself is the real treat here.

My favorite piece of comedy in here is when he sings why country music has lost it’s way. It’s pure hilarity.

However, his brutal honesty about himself, is why this experience shines.

One moment I’m laughing and the next I’m in shock because of how emotional his statement actually was.

Finding happiness isn’t easy, and Bo let’s us know through word play and Pringle cans that it doesn’t get easier when you’re successful.

08. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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In March, I let my admiration for this film be known and nine months later, the film still stays with me.

Dan Trachtenberg made his directorial debut here and never once tries to do something over-eager.  Every scene is composed to thrill, entertain, and subvert the familiar territory the script tackles.

Also, John Goodman gives his best performance here and Mary Elizabeth Winstead excels and proves she needs to be leading more films.

07. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition

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In all my years of watching superhero films, I’ve never seen one as polarizing as this.

I understand some of the criticisms for the theatrical cut, but the Ultimate Edition is another beast entirely.

Added are more brilliant character moments (Batman’s Arkham reference should’ve never been cut) but most importantly, it showed what Superhero cinema should be.

It’s bold, operatic, and features no easy answers because it knows how unforgiving and bleak our world really is.

I will continue to praise this film and I know it will find the audience it deserves in the years to come.

06. Everybody Wants Some

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The best comedy of the year, period.

Richard Linklater is a master of making extraordinary movies out of ordinary people.

The plot revolves around a group of college baseball players, all looking for a good time the weekend before school starts.

It’s simple and filled with laughs, especially from the instantly magnetic Glen Powell.

Over the past few months however, there have been cries that this movie promotes sexism, which is not the case.

This is a film about over zealous, immature college males and Linklater never cheapens them or makes them something they aren’t.

It’s the world Linklater was once in and he shows it in all it’s “glory”.

05. Moonlight

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Moonlight is one of the most visceral films of the year and could be the year’s most important.

One of the biggest downfalls in films with African-Americans and/or Gay characters, is that them being black or gay is the biggest issue in the story.

Moonlight shows it’s possible to tell a HUMAN story regardless of racial or sexual identity and it’s a thing to behold.

Director Barry Jenkins delivers us a world that is vivid yet unkind and tells a story that’s for everyone and emotionally resonant.

04. The Fits

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The Fits is not your average film.

I acknowledge it’s not for everyone and I always give a disclaimer that it’s pretty avant garde at times.

It’s barely over an hour long and has a slow deliberate pace that even tested my patience.

Thankfully, once I gave all my attention to Anna Rose Holmer’s coming of age tale, I was left with a film rich in mood, hidden desires, and the best ending of any film this year.

The story is about a tomboy who joins an all-girl dance group and the dancers soon start experiencing seizures. You can’t make this stuff up.

Every film needs a good ending, not a happy one, but one that caps off the story we just gave our time to. The Fits ends so beautifully, that I had to watch it again the moment it was over.

That’s the testament of knowing HOW to end your story.

03. Manchester by the Sea

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Manchester by the Sea is pure Americana.

One of the few films this year that feels of place and one that instantly burns into your memory, for better and for worse.

The characters are unlikeable yet realistic and the flashback heavy narrative fills in the blanks with emotional gusto. I almost cried twice by the way.

Casey Affleck is reminiscent of Marlon Brando in his prime here and he absolutely deserves to win Best Actor.

Director Kenneth Lonergan has only made three films, but you wouldn’t know that from watching this.  He’s made to make films and I’m honored to have watched this twice in theaters.

Compelling, frustrating, and heartbreaking, Manchester by the Sea is one that will be on your mind long after you leave the theater.

02. Arrival

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This is the film the world needs right now.

Denis Villeneuve has crafted a master work of filmmaking and one that feels urgent and essential.

Amy Adams leads this new science fiction classic with quiet dignity and some of the best work of her career.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the central message is about communicating and understanding one another, something our own world is forgetting.

We’re all so used to being in a bubble and not knowing each other.

Arrival show that maybe it is possible and I love when a film makes me optimistic about my own future.

01. Jackie

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All hail Queen Jackie!

To put it simply, Jackie is a timeless tale of identity and grief and Pablo Lorrain films it with such grace that the whole thing feels like a piece of art.

The cinematography is sweeping yet each frame is filled with emotion and complete control of everything in its frame.

Natalie Portman is not only a revelation here, but she reinvents everything I thought I knew about Jackie Kennedy.

I don’t know why it has taken over a decade to crack the god-like shell we’ve put over the Kennedy’s, but Portman makes sure we see her at all her faults and best of all, shows how  one’s death truly challenges a person’s life.

I was in awe the whole time and it’s a shame that the world hasn’t caught on to this timeless classic yet.

Hopefully in the years to come, this will be known as one of the best biopics ever made, because you don’t get challenging ones like these anymore.

 

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