2016 Film Roundup

It is award season, and that means there are hundreds of “Best Films of 2016” lists smeared across the internet. Despite the saturation – I’ll throw my two cents into the mix. I’d like to do something different to try and spice up the listicle format. I’ve tried to avoid the typical process of summarizing and heaping on praise for my favorites.  I did that last year. I’ll try to keep it short and (hopefully) engaging.  Since I’ll be forgoing the traditional route – I want to mention at the start, all 10 of these films come highly recommended. If you are looking for a memorable film experience that has true heart and passion behind it – check these out.

10. Silence

Every frame a painting

“I thought it was going to be an action movie…. man, I was wrong.” This was whispered plaintively by a man sitting next to me when the lights came up at the end of the film. He was very, very wrong. I can’t blame him for his expectations – the trailer is pretty misleading. It presents the film as a thriller with a thumping soundtrack and a crescendo of strings. From the studio perspective – I get why they did that, you need to get ASSES IN SEATS. When you are competing against the non-stop tide of superhero films and Star Wars you gotta do what you gotta do. I can’t promise you will enjoy Silence, but if you like thoughtful filmmaking, you will respect it. It can be slow and boring at parts, and it’s a bit overlong, but it’s a beautiful, challenging, and meaningful film that will stick with you.

9. Goksung (The Wailing)

An epic Korean horror film, The Wailing captures that tasty Stephen King vibe but now with the delicious diverse landscapes of Korea. It’s like Asian fusion for your eyeballs. That comes with pros and cons. When I say epic – I mean it. The film is 2 hours and 36 minutes. It’s also epic in scope – it’s about Evil with a capital E. Do not expect a Scooby-Doo mystery or even fully discernible answers to all the questions or thoughts the film raises. It takes the audience on a winding and sometimes convoluted ride. The film introduces you to different characters, red herrings, fake outs, and the symbolic nature of the story has all sorts of possible interpretations. It may have to grow on you, or even warrant a second watching (if you can muster it) but The Wailing is an excellent film, and anyone with the patience and the passion for foreign horror or Stephen King-like stories will be rewarded for seeking it out.

8. The Nice Guys

This is the rare trailer that does a great job of capturing the vibe of a movie without spoiling much. The film balances retro cool, with dark noir, and buddy cop comedy. If the trailer made you laugh or got you curious – you should see the film. Shane Black (Lethal WeaponLast Action HeroKiss Kiss Bang Bang) is a master of the buddy cop movie and violent slapstick. The Nice Guys is his latest effort and it’s bloody good fun.

7. Hell or High Water

My Dad liked this film, so you’ll probably like it too. My Dad is pretty cool.

6. Shin Godzilla

Need I say more?

5. The Witch

MRW watching The Witch

How The Witch was Pitched
– a short fictional retelling of the green-light process on The Witch.

Robert Eggers (writer/director of The Witch) walks into a plush Studio Executive’s Office.

Robert: Yo, I’d like to make the best horror film of 2016, here’s the script.

Executive: We love horror films, they make us MONEY.

He thumbs through the script –

Executive: This seems intellectual and good. People will not like this. They want jump scares and bullshit.

Robert: Pretty sure you are wrong about that. I think people like atmosphere and tension and good stories and characters.

Executive: Hahaha, yeah right. I’ll give you a 3 million dollar budget.

Robert: That’s hardly anything! That piece of garbage, The Boy, got 10 million!

Executive: Yes well, you are making art, and that’s unpredictable and dangerous.

Robert: Fine, I’m still gonna make the best horror film of 2016.

Executive: Sure, good luck bro.

Narrator: And so he made the best horror film of 2016.

4. Manchester By The Sea

Everyone is very, very sad.

The synopsis reads: An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies. While the story may seem familiar, the film turns out to be quietly surprising. Don’t expect any insane plot twists, but the film has a different vibe, it focuses on unexpected parts of this familiar story. There is an authenticity in exploring these smaller moments that create this feeling of quiet surprise. It refuses to resort to cliché or fall into saccharine contrivances. Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan’s personal and authentic style create a quietly mesmerizing film that aches with love and sadness. That should come as no surprise though as Lonergan’s previous credits include writing a single episode of Doug called, “Doug Throws a Party.” Who could possibly forget this incredible episode in which Doug attempts to improve his social status among his 11 year old peers by throwing a sophisticated party. While Manchester may not stack up against Lonergan’s earlier masterpiece, it’s still pretty damn good. I’m not even joking.

3. Nocturnal Animals

Sometimes music can capture a film’s spirit more than any words.  The main theme from Nocturnal Animals, like the film itself,  is haunting, mysterious, romantic, and melancholic. If you find the music mesmerizing, there is a good chance you will enjoy this unique film.

2. Green Room

Patrick Stewart plays a neo-Nazi and it is streaming on Amazon Prime for free.  If that doesn’t get you, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a brutal thrill ride, and you can find it to rent for cheap – just watch it already!

1. La La Land

This may be a predictable choice for number one,
But it’s so charming so fresh and so fun.
I’ve gone gaga for La La and I harbor no shame,
It’s a lovable romp with critical acclaim.
But it’s more than fun and frolic, it shares truths and has heart.
The marriage of beautiful images and music, this is the purest cinematic art.

In an effort to be transparent about all the films that were in contention for my top ten spots – I will list everything I’ve seen from 2016 that didn’t make the cut below in alphabetical order:

10 Cloverfield Lane
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Captain America: Civil War
Don’t Think Twice
Hacksaw Ridge
Hail, Caesar
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
In a Valley of Violence
Kubo and the Two Strings
Midnight Special
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Rogue One
Sausage Party
Sing Street
The Conjuring 2
The Founder
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Handmaiden
The Invitation
The Jungle Book
The Neon Demon

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