There are still lots of movies I want to see that came out in 2016 but haven’t had a chance to, or haven’t gotten around to yet, but here are my ten favorites out of what I’ve seen. And I’m just glad that there were some damn good movies that came out this year because holy shit was 2016 shitty. Jesus fucking Christ what an awful, awful year from hell.
Barry Jenkins’ film adaptation of the play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney is incredibly powerful stuff. It’s one of those movies you see popping up on everyone’s best-of lists and you wonder, “Is Moonlight really going to be that good?” Yes. The answer is yes. It’s stronger in parts than as a whole (some of it doesn’t congeal together from one segment to the next), but some moments of the film are so strikingly beautiful, or just so absolutely perfectly written that it more than makes up for some of its very, very minor shortcomings. Mahershala Ali’s performance, in particular, is the stuff that super-stardom is made of.
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is the nerdiest movie I’ll admit to just loving with absolute joy. It had Spider-Man in it! It was just fun, from beginning to end. The Russo brothers are goddamned wizards when it comes to taking something that sounds like a mess and making it all work–they somehow juggle introducing new characters, giving enough screen time to established players, creating a threat, dealing with old threats, and not making it a confused mess. It all comes together in that amazing airport battle that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Success couldn’t happen to a better filmmaker than Taika Waititi. What We Do in the Shadows is a modern day masterpiece, one of the best comedies of any generation. Not to confine himself to something so particular, he really branched out with Hunt for the Wilderpeople and made a movie that had actual charm to it. It had real heart. It was thrilling, it was emotional, and it was funny as hell. Taika Waititi has a real knack for wringing drama and conflict from character-based decisions… everything that happens feels so human.
The Nice Guys
When you see the line-up of The Nice Guys, when you see that it’s starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and it’s written and directed by Shane Black, I don’t know… I, personally, become cynical when seeing that much talent and assume they’re going to fuck it up somehow. How can all that work? Well, it does. The Nice Guys is an awesome time at the movies. It takes what Shane Black does best (the buddy comedy) and gives everything a twisted edge to it. Pound for pound, my favorite segment is the one where Ryan Gosling, doing something relatively minor in the movies, accidentally severs an artery in his wrist.
The Love Witch
Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is too long, it’s incredibly self-indulgent and plays like pastel-plagued 1960s nightmare. And I loved it. I really, really did. The Love Witch is not without its faults, but it’s got this earnestness to it that makes it all work. You can tell that writer-director Anna Biller adores her creation. And Samantha Robinson as the titular love witch chews the scenery in every scene that she’s in. Everyone involved is clearly having a great time. It doesn’t always click, but when it does it’s a great cohesion of everything. I hope Anna Biller makes something even better on her next time out.
There are some movies that you watch and the first, I don’t know, twenty minutes or so you’re like, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” The Invitation was one of those movies for me. It had a rough start. The acting seemed stilted. The dialogue wasn’t good. But then, somehow, the movie found a groove and kept going along and building and building, getting better as it goes along. I was glued to the seat. The movie had me guessing what was going to happen next, and then it would pull the rug out from under me. It was a great time. Toby Huss (best known, maybe, as Cotton Hill) has a brief-but-awesome role.
The Witch is one of those movies where, depending on who you ask, you’re either going to hear someone gush over it, or tell you it’s a boring piece of shit. Don’t listen to the people who tell you it’s a piece of shit. It’s fantastic. It’s a leisurely-paced journey into hell. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfect in the lead role, as a girl who finds herself at war with nature, her family and whatever it is that’s lurking in the woods. Even if you do think it’s boring or too slow, you’ll have to admit that those last 15 minutes are just about perfect.
Sometimes it’s refreshing to see a movie tell a story without the aid of swearing, nudity or violence. There is one F-word in Arrival and if it had been cut, the movie would be just about G-rated. I’m not uptight about those things, but sometimes it’s nice to see someone concoct a story that leaves you anticipating where it’s going to go, sometimes in a completely unexpected direction that’s at turns suspenseful and emotional, without having to resort to cheap thrills. Arrival is pure story. It’s pure imagination. It’s an awe-inspiring sight.
The Neon Demon
My reaction, what I said to my girlfriend when the movie was over, to The Neon Demon, was, “I kind of liked it?” with a definite question mark on the end.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s work is so wildly divergent in quality, you never know what you’re going to get. I can absolutely understand thinking that The Neon Demon is far and away one of the worst movies to come out this year, but it’s grown on me. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it at all, but it stuck with me, stayed in my brain, and now I’m pretty sure that I love it. Maybe I’m in an abusive relationship with the movie, I don’t know. It’s just an oddity to me that such a beautiful movie could contain such ugliness on its surface and deep, deep down within in.
A friend of mine said a movie is like a person and they’ve all got personality. The Neon Demon is a good person that’s perhaps a bit too open with some of the weird things it thinks.
I was really surprised to find that I enjoyed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as much as I did. Everything about it seemed like an attempt to cash in on both Star Wars and dark and gritty movies studios are nuts about these days. It just figured like a natural idea to smoosh ’em together, and wind up with some weird, Star Wars-ish kind of thing that thinks it’s much edgier than it really is. That wasn’t the case with Rogue One at all. It delved into some interesting ideas, explored them organically, and never seemed to be anything other than sincere with the darker elements it was handling. Some of what happened took some real guts, and I’m surprised Disney signed off and let director Gareth Edwards get away with them.