2016 – YEAR IN REVIEW

Another year has come to an end, which means it’s time to go over my favorite and least favorite films of 2016. A lot of people have been claiming 2016 was a weak year for films, but I disagree. If you mostly watch the big Hollywood tentpoles, that may be true, but the amount of fantastic smaller and independent films were certainly in no short supply. Even some of the worst films this year didn’t irritate me (no Jurassic World’s this year), so that’s a pretty good sign. Some folks constantly lament the end of quality filmmaking and good storytelling, but the reason we never talk about most bad films of old, is because we focus on the great ones. The exact same thing happened in 2016, 2015, 2014, and will happen for years to come. I truly believe that there are a few films each year that will resonate with people for generations. That’s what art is all about.

DISCLAIMER: I have yet to see some of my most anticipated of 2016, such as Elle, Hidden Figures, Lion, Live by Night, and Manchester by the Sea. They could very well make it onto one of these lists.

 

10 Favorite Films of 2016

 

10. Eye in the Sky

There are numerous films that discuss the ethics of warfare, but none have had the chance to delve into the kind using drones. Taking place in multiple locations around the world, as different military leaders debate on whether to carry out a drone strike or not, the film is tense from beginning to end. You’re not just in suspense, but questioning your own morals and stances, as well. Provocative in all the right ways.

 

9. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Following the adventures of a juvenile delinquent and his cantankerous foster father through lush New Zealand environments, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a simple delight. While most obnoxious child characters are meant to be irritating, twelve year old Julian Dennison is so charmingly hilarious, that you can’t help but love him and root for him. Pair him up with the classiest of acts, Sam Neill, and you get one of the most funny and heartfelt buddy comedies in years.

 

8. Hell or High Water

A bank robbing Western for the modern age, Hell or High Water tackles themes of family relationships and personal views of justice with fantastically layered, realistic characters. The performances are terrific all around, with Jeff Bridges demonstrating that he’s still one of the best actors working today. Chris Pine and Ben Foster also knocks their respective parts of the park, portraying a heartfelt, yet heartbreaking, brotherly relationship. A true, blue American character drama.

 

7. Don’t Breathe

You don’t always need a deep story, with completely developed characters exploring themes about life, death, and their pursuits of happiness. Sometimes all you need is a great concept executed pretty much flawlessly. Writer/director Fede Àlvarez delivers a relentlessly tense thriller, with clever twists and turns throughout, that will make you cheer, and then squirm in disgust. A wonderfully frightening romp.

 

6. La La Land

A beautiful film about love, hope, and the foolishness within us all that drive us to pursue our dreams. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make for a wonderful pair, guiding you through a sweet love story filled with laughter and music. While it didn’t completely work for me as a musical, I couldn’t help but marvel at all of the great technical skill involved, as well as being moved by the story and honest characters.

 

5. Arrival

Amy Adams delivers the best performance of her career in this marvelously engrossing sci-fi drama. The gorgeous cinematography and fantastic directing draw you in, making you feel the exact same sense of wonder as the characters. Instead of focusing on bombastic action and explosions, we get an incredibly thoughtful story about how communication, instead of fear, can move us further as a species.

 

4. Hacksaw Ridge

We often get war films, especially based off World War II, but they’re rarely ever iconic. For every Saving Private Ryan, there are five other films that have all the action, but none of the dramatic impact. Mel Gibson returns behind the camera, giving us a very personal and introspective look into one man and his ultimate crusade for peace in a time of violence. Throughout all of the beautifully horrific chaos, Andrew Garfield’s endless optimism and hope ends up making us truly inspired.

 

3. Sausage Party

I’m not ashamed. I don’t care. I thought this was one of the most creative and fun films of the year, and above all, absolutely hysterical. When I wasn’t crying from laughter, I was able to take in the gorgeous animation, filled with seemingly endless little gags. Pepper in some themes of religion and acceptance in a film that has a talking lesbian taco, and you have yourself one of the most unique animated films ever.

 

2. The VVitch: A New England Folktale

Although horror is my favorite film genre, I can admit that a majority of what gets released is garbage. However, I believe there are a few great horror films that get released each year. 2016 surprisingly had quite a few decent offerings for us bloodhounds, but The VVitch: A New England Folktale is truly something special. While not really scary, first time writer/director Robert Eggers injects a constant sense of unease and tension throughout, making the viewer disturbed by this small family slowly losing their minds. A horror film people will talk about for decades.

 

1. Moonlight

Chronicling the life of a homosexual black man growing up in the ghetto, Moonlight is a beautiful film that vividly captures the confusion and isolation an outcast can feel. Absolutely flawless direction, writing, performances, cinematography, music, and everything else; this is what filmmaking is all about.

 

Honorable Mentions: Allied, The Brothers Grimsby, Green Room, Imperium, Kubo and the Two Strings, Loving, The Nice Guys, The Shallows, Swiss Army Man

 

5 Least Favorite Films of 2016

 

5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

What do you get when two of comic books biggest icons finally clash on the big screen? Why, a big mess of course! Ben Affleck confidently leads this tour de force of convoluted, comic book fan pandering storytelling. The “plot” is non-existent, the characterization is inconsistent, and for a majority of the running time, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. An incoherent chore of a film from beginning to end.

 

4. The Legend of Tarzan

Like The Lone Ranger, producers continue to dig up old relics of Hollywood’s past and attempt to sell them to the younger generation with lifeless action movie fare. It tries to be clever with its many classic Tarzan references, but at the expense of a laughably bad film. Who cares about Tarzan anyway?

 

3. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

I love watching Tom Cruise running around doing crazy stunts, but when he’s paired with lazy, unimaginative filmmakers, the charisma only goes so far. No film that has Tom Cruise saying dialogue like, “Maybe I’ll rip your arm off and beat you to death with it,’ has any right to be this boring.

 

2. Masterminds

I honestly already forgot pretty much everything about this movie. It felt cheap, thoughtless, and was a fantastic showcase of how some great comic actors can be horribly utilized. A film that will endlessly play on Comedy Central for years to come, I sure.

 

1. Blair Witch

After bringing us such fantastic genre hits like You’re Next and The Guest, promising horror filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett got roped into making a cheap cash in sequel to the iconic horror film. Unfortunately, none of their flair was to be found, as we got nothing more than just another tepid found footage film, that only proves that the horror subgenre is dead. A supreme waste of talent.

 

Dishonorable Mentions:  Goat, Hail, Caesar!, Nocturnal Animals, Sully, Triple 9

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