In anticipation of the Oscars tomorrow, this is my list of my personal favourite films from 2016. Again, late, but I wanted to give myself a couple months to get caught up on some films.
I’ll be 100% honest and say that I haven’t seen every movie that came out in 2016, and I haven’t even seen every film that was nominated for best picture, so clearly this will be a partial and subjective list. But it is a list, and maybe you’ll find a movie to watch from it.
Here they are:
Synopsis: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.This is, without a doubt, my favourite movie of this past year. It’s one of the only ones I saw multiple times, and I thought it was absolutely masterful. There were definitely flaws in it, and it absolutely wasn’t a perfect film. However, the cinematography was incredible, the acting all around was amazing (Amy Adams was snubbed a nom) and the story/directing was incredible. I often found myself trying to look at every corner of the screen to take in everything in each shot because of how beautiful the cinematography was. This was also a film that said something about modern culture, and as a sci-fi film, it’s directly relatable to our lives. Also, the interpretation of the aliens was nothing short of amazing, and I loved that even as a sci-fi film, it felt so relevant and important today.
Synopsis: A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
This may not be my favourite movie of the year, but it is definitely the most important film that came out this year. A story depicting how a black man, growing up in the projects of Miami, deals with learning about his sexuality in such a harsh environment is truly important, and one that deserves to be seen, heard, and remembered. That story, combined with some brilliant performances by the likes of Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Naomi Harris, and the brilliant move by Barry Jenkins to split this story into 3, and have 3 separate characters play the lead in each of those, combines for an amazing film. Jenkins truly has an important, impactful movie that he’s created here, and it would be an absolute shame to miss.
- La La Land
Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
This is a great film. It’s beautiful, fun, and overall relatable. Much like Arrival, though different in every way, the cinematography was nothing short of brilliant. I have my personal gripes with the story and portrayal of jazz in this film, but aside from that this is an extremely enjoyable film. There is a short film within this movie (taking on a meta-narrative) that takes place near the end that, in my opinion, is worth the price of admission alone. Many people think the actors were lackluster, but I think that was by design to match the tone of the film. Not every performance needs to be over the top or extremely diverse in nature to be good acting. There are some beautiful sequences that were incredibly not CGI, and the directing is amazing. While this movie offers nothing to people looking for an applicable message to the world like Arrival does, this film is definitely worth checking out as a piece of art, and will stand apart as an homage to musicals long gone by.
Synopsis: A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humor is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.
I know this takes a bit of a turn from the three academy acclaimed, artistic films, but Deadpool truly was a masterpiece. Everything surrounding this film pointed to it not working, from it constantly being delayed by studios to an extremely limited budget to a risky R rating. But it did. It worked so well that it finished just outside the top 5 biggest box-office successes of the year, and due to budget vs return, it is definitely the most successful. This movie benefitted from a dynamic lead in my man-crush Ryan Reynolds, an incredible, self-depricating, fourth wall breaking writing team, and one of the best marketing campaigns of all time. Yes, this was a great film, which was a lot of fun, and made me laugh. Comedies are probably my favourite film genre. But this movie was also able to make a social commentary on many stereotypes in Hollywood. This was a movie that shouldn’t work, but totally did, and I saw it three times over the course of last year because of those things.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
Synopsis: After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.
I did not expect this movie to be this good, but in director Dan Trachtenberg’s directoral debut, a brilliant, beautiful film was born. All three actors in this film were great, but John Goodman stole the show with looks, with silence, with crazy moments and pure honesty the next. I was worried that I would get bored in this film due to the fact that it’s only in one location and is only three actors, but I never felt as though time was passing slowly. Tension was built beautifully, and apart from a few minor plotholes, this film was incredible from start to finish. I love the title sequence, the sound design, and different feel of the film about 3/4 of the way through the film. I think this film in brilliant because it also showcases the prototype of a character that exists in throngs in the southern states, who voted Trump into power, in Goodman’s character. The paranoid, doomsday, crazy person who believes what they believe, regardless of reason. Again, this is a film that is related through commentary to the modern world.
- Sausage Party
Synopsis: A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.
Well if you were shocked by Deadpool, you’re probably disgusted at me having Sausage Party on the list. You have every reason to be. But it will remain on my list, because it is one of the best movie-going experiences I have ever had. I saw this film with my wife on opening weekend at a midnight showing in Seattle, surrounded by 20-something people just like me who grew up on Seth Rogan and Judd Apatow films. No young kids, no elderly people, just a bunch of people just like me, ready to have a good time. And a good time is what we have. And up to this point, this is probably exactly what you were expecting from my review of this movie. BUT, hear me out, this movie was more of a social commentary than anything La La Land even tried to do. This entire film was built around a commentary on conservative Christianity. And while I’m a Christian who didn’t agree with everything they said, there were moments where I totally agreed, and at least they are engaging with culture instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, and making pretty films that make you feel good instead. There was definite social commentary on the middle east, treatment of Native Americans, and humans terrible treatment of earth. This film is smart, but only if you’re looking for it. But don’t worry, there is still the signature stoner, american pie style humour that you’re looking for if you’ve seen anything Seth Rogan has ever been attached to in your life.
- Eye in the Sky
Synopsis: Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.
This is a movie I almost forgot about because it was so long ago that I saw it. One of Alan Rickman’s two (and arguably the better) movies released posthumously, Eye in the Sky tells the story of modern warfare in a way that has not been depicted on the big screen to this extent yet. Famed Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul plays a drone pilot who lives and works in Las Vegas flying a drone over african countries, with the capabilities of dropping bombs with the press of a button. And that is a completely true sentence. This is a real thing that exists. Post 9/11, this is the way war is executed, by men who get to go home to their wife and children at night after potentially dropping bombs on innocent people. This movie tells this story in a high intensity tension filled film. You may notice that I love movies that actually commentate on modern day, and this film does exactly that. I can’t imagine what kind of a world this will be if Trump decides to start dropping bombs, because he has the ability to do so without putting American lives in immediate danger. This film is truly amazing, and is sympathetic to the innocent african people by only portraying a few as terrorists, and many as innocent bystanders. Some great acting, great writing, and serious tension building all comes together for a great film worth checking out, especially in this Trump-ruled America regime.
Synopsis: In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
Easily the best animated children’s movie I saw all year, Zootopia is able to create an important dialogue and social commentary on race politics in our modern world. A great cast, great, smart writing and the amazing animators at Disney all showcase their talent in this amazing movie. Some genuinely funny moments (not ‘kid funny’ but actually funny) make for a very watchable children’s movie from an adults perspective. The world building is something so many other films could benefit from taking notes from, as it is so clear and yet so creative. As usual, Disney is able to make some great pop references for the adults in the audience as well. I will continue to come back to the importance of race in this movie, because they are able to showcase it so well, but not quite so on the nose, teaching children and adults alike what equality means and looks like, regardless of past or preconceived notions. I can say enough about this great movie, and would recommend you gather all your family members to watch this film.
- Green Room
Synopsis: A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.
This movie was absolutely chilling. A horror/thriller about a band trapped by neo-nazis, this hits on so many things I love in general. A punk band? Check. A reference to modern politics? Check. Incredible suspense? Check. This is definitely not a movie to watch if you have a weak stomach, as it is graphic and wild from start to finish. This film utilizes shadows and darkness incredibly well, and has some great acting by many unknown or little known actors beside Maeby from Arrested Development and Chekov from Star Trek. This year, for me, was the year that movies showcased those with political leanings that don’t typically line up with Hollywood’s ideals, and having none other than Patrick Stewart portray the most sinister neo-nazi is absolutely bone-chilling and enticing at the same time. This is probably the least well known movie on my list, and so I encourage you to check it out if any of this interests you.
- Rogue One
Synopsis: The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
The triumphant return of Star Wars continues, with back-to-back years of a Star Wars film topping the yearly box office. Rogue One was a great film, bridging the gap between the two previous Star Wars trilogies, while being the only Star Wars film so far where a Skywalker was not the centre of the entire movie. Some incredible casting, a sassy robot, and a great bridge between two portions of my childhood is obviously a movie that caters to me, and I’m aware of that. But this film truly was great. I think the biggest issue with it was the the cast was so big, and they only really get this one movie to introduce them, that the audience never gets invested/attached to the characters, versus the other star wars sagas that build up over the course of three films. That being said, the use of a female lead and the racial diversity of the cast is extremely refreshing, and some cool throwbacks for true Star Wars fans make this movie a great watch from start to finish, and makes me excited for more stand alone films that won’t focus exclusively on the Skywalker saga.
What films did you enjoy this year? Do you agree with my list? Drop me a line and let me know!
Thanks for reading!