The movie season doesn’t end until the Oscars air, making my 2016 Top Ten list still super relevant and topical. So here’s my list and a few words about each film. And maybe some real mild spoilers for some of the films.
10. Kubo and the Two Strings
The beauty of this film is obviously the first thing that anyone will talk about because maybe it’s not the strongest narrative, but it is one of the best movies I’ve seen take on the scope of an epic in the average running time of an animated film and pull it off. It’s a very simple story existing in this massive world the audience feels a part of. It’s also a film that follows your basic good and evil storyline and delivers a wholly creative and satisfying end.
9. Hell or High Water
A “get in, get out” straightforward neo-western that’s too much fun to actually win best picture. While it at some points haphazardly swings at a theme, it does strike gold on occasion, really legitimizing what had every right to be just a fun cops and robbers flick.
8. Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea plays its drama like mystery, making the audience the detective and offering amazing performances as lil’ clues. It’s a simple story of grief, and characters moving through life after loss, expertly written. A conversation about selling a boat becomes as intense and captivating as any thriller.
Moonlight feels like a classic, and is my pick for pretty much every category it’s nominated for. Every shot in this film you see and feel from the protagonist’s perspective, which is no easy feat as the movie takes place at three vastly different stages in his life. It tells a love story that you feel every moment of through every person who worked on this flick. This is the kind of movie that already feels like a classic. A film people will go back to and ask, “How did Moonlight do it?” Because Moonlight does it all.
This movie is so good it makes me think about everything I do. It’s a tough movie to talk about as a man, but it’s certainly one to reflect on. Every man in Isabelle Huppert’s life displays aggression, some broadly and others in simple actions. Everything is different in the world of a rape victim. Every interaction and decision is different. It’s this realism combined with the well played “who done it” elements that really make this movie.
I don’t think I’ve seen a mystery film as succinct and relevant as Zootopia. Disney builds upon its ability to construct great stories, memorable characters, brilliant world building and weaves it all into a genre film. I’ve rewatched this one the most partly, I think, because of the perfectly fast pace and partly because I just want to be back in Zootopia.
4. Don’t Think Twice
I think I laughed as much as I cried while watching Don’t Think Twice. It’s rare to find a film with an ensemble cast where you care just as much about every character and their story plus the larger story all these characters play into. It forces you to fall in love with this group and then understand why it must be destroyed.
3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I became a massive Taika Waititi fan right before this movie came out and my love was only enhanced. I guess you could describe this movie as an action buddy comedy, but that genre doesn’t have very good association. It’s like those old, old trailers, “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll be on the edge of your seat!” I don’t think there are many films that can pull all of that off anymore, but if there is Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the shining example.
2. Swiss Army Man
Swiss Army Man is the weird movie I wish more people were recommending. The Lobster is a movie I heard a lot about this year, but while The Lobster makes its weirdness alien, Swiss Army Man invited you into its weirdness, paying off its more than fair share of farts in a meaningful and heartbreaking manner. You will cry at a fart.
I’ve heard Sing Street described as a “feel good movie” so many times, even though this movie does not end on the happiest note and I think it’s because you can strongly compare it to another musical that came out this year about making it in an artistic field. But what Sing Street does is perform this fucking magic trick, where the weight of success seems to be heavier and at the same time less important. The characters in Sing Street might actually die if they don’t Make It, but all we care about at the end of the movie is the love we feel between the three characters on the screen. This other musical posits that you can choose love or success, but Sing Street knows that our relationships make us better artists.